Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 10

Rejoicing in Assurance of Our Anointing

“As for you, keep in your hearts what you have heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the first dwells and remains in you, then you will dwell in the Son and in the Father always. And this is what He Himself has promised us—the life, the eternal life. I write this to you with reference to those who would deceive you, seducing and leading you astray. BUT AS FOR YOU, THE ANOINTING—THE SACRED APPOINTMENT, THE UNCTION—WHICH YOU RECEIVED FROM HIM ABIDES PERMANENTLY IN YOU; so then you have no need that anyone should instruct you. But just as His anointing teaches you concerning everything and is true and is no falsehood, so you must abide in, live in, never depart from Him; being rooted in Him, knit to Him, just as His anointing has taught you to do. …” (1 John 2:24-27, Amplified with brackets removed).

Our anointing: yum! Taste and see that the Lord is good.

From the beginning of our relationship with God through Christ, we receive His Spirit as a gift within us, anointing us and making us whole. We may not always realize this wholeness as it sometimes takes time for experience to catch up with the reality of the Kingdom life we now have in Him. But we are even now fully complete in Christ and made adequate by Him through the power of His Spirit at work in us.

Jesus was fully God, but in His decision to come in the form of the Son—however that was accomplished, scripture teaches He left His rights as God behind to live fully in human form. He was fully God and fully Man, but while on the earth He lived as a Man. That means He grew from infancy to adulthood and knows the weakness of flesh fully because of it, yet without sin. Why is that?

I believe that it is because, as we see throughout scripture to that point, like with the kings and prophets of Old, Jesus was The Anointed One. Though He refused the crown at that moment, He was and still is King. The King was anointed by God with the power of His Spirit to perform. Also Jesus was and is the High Priest. That position is an anointed position. So though He was in flesh by choice and living in that weakness, He was fully anointed by the Father with the Spirit to help and empower Him.

Thus we see that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2). Amazing the spiritual leaders of the day with His wisdom at such an early age, He worked and lived even at age 12 in the power of His anointing. He saw where God was working and joined Him in that place of opportunity as the Spirit anointed His flesh eyes to see in the power of the Spirit and accomplish the work. And He had power to perform because He was fully surrendered to the Father and able to walk in the anointing of His Spirit. And as I reread this paragraph, I am reminded that He often protected His anointing and empowerment of Spirit by refusing to take opportunities presented Him that would lead Him away from the God-head’s designed will for His earthly path.

This, too, is our call and responsibility as we complete the sufferings of Christ. We too must work out of the anointing we have through His Spirit at work in us to overcome the flesh, fulfilling our calling and equipping in the earth. To understand this anointing, let’s take a look at the Spirit of God and His work in and through us. As always, this is a good starting place to grow from.

1. The Spirit of God seals us:

“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

We are sealed into Christ and into relationship with God by the power of His Spirit; a seal that cannot be broken by any man (Romans 8). God gives us His Spirit at the moment of our rebirth into Christ, when we say “I do” to Him as Savior, King and Lord. We become one with Him for all eternity in the power of the Spirit, our promise of eternal hope in Christ. We are sealed and sanctified by the Spirit, never to separate from Him again.

2. The Spirit of God transforms us, bearing the good fruit of the true Vine in us:

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Spirit of God works in us to transform us back into the likeness of God, working maturity in us from one degree of glory to the next. If this is not our experience, something is wrong with our relationship. Either our commitment to Him is not sincere and we are still lost in sin, or we are rebelliously or ignorantly clinging to a sin.

Scripture teaches that those who are truly His will be known by the fruit born out of their lives. Jesus used fruit bearing trees to make this point, saying, “You will know them (those who are God’s as opposed to those who belong to the evil one) by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-23). And what is the fruit that proves us to be His?

“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).

The proof of relationship is seen as we begin to take on the characteristics of God in Christlikeness, by the power of His Spirit at work in transforming us to His image. I believe this is a partial list here in Galatians. We see indications of other flavors of fruit in other passages, such as Colossians 3, Romans 12, and 2 Peter 1. But note that though there are many shapes and flavors, if you will, it is all one fruit, the fruit of the Spirit at work and bearing forth in and through us. If this fruit is not in us, we have need for concern.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans12:1-2).

3. The Spirit of God gifts us:

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

Note in starting his discourse on the spiritual gifts, Paul begins by saying that except by the power of the Spirit in us we cannot truly call Him “Lord”. It is the Spirit that leads and equips us to bow to Him in sincerity, and in bowing to Him, we are entrusted as His servants with spiritual gifts that He can use through us in blessing others and fulfilling His work in the earth in our day.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. BUT TO EACH ONE IS GIVEN THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).

Now there are several lists of gifts that the Spirit gives, and these are believed to be categories of gifts that may have other giftings that stem off of them as part of that category for fulfilling that area. Most studies I have done on the gifts teach that we have a main gifting as seen in verse 28 of this chapter, Romans 12:6-8, and Ephesians 4:11-13. These are areas of gifting that each is said to have one of, and out of this gifting, all other gifts given function. One whose functional gift is that of the prophet may have an underlying helping gift, but as he helps, he will prophesy about how to overcome the issue that requires his help. A helper may prophesy, but it will be with hope of helping the person come up higher in life.

All are gifted and we need to know what our gifts are so we can better function and cooperate with the Spirit as we do our part in the church and in ministry to those in our sphere of influence.

4. The Spirit teaches us:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).

Yes, we can and should learn from one another, but we cannot learn in truth unless the Spirit teaches us. And if we have the Spirit, we have the teacher and are able to learn without the aid of others. You can study the word and learn just as I do. Don’t let the devil tell you otherwise.

“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).

5. The Spirit directs us:

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:13. See also John 14:15-17; Galatians 5).

Jesus gives us His Spirit to take His place as guide. In John 14:18 He tells us that in this way He will not leave us as orphans. The Spirit is here to parent us, leading us not only into all the truth of God, but in His ways and into His individual will for us personally.

6. The Spirit empowers us:

“… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

I shared on my Spark People blog that I am in a season of transition. When I am in such a time as this, I often find myself struggling, unable to get things done well, having little energy, struggling to walk right paths. Why? Because I am hanging on to things and activities that God wants me to give up so I can take hold of some new things. In those times, I struggle in my own strength to keep up. God is not obligated to empower that which is not of Him. So I am reevaluating my proverbial plate and making adjustments so I can flow in His power. We need His power, and we need to realize when we are walking in little power because we are hanging on to things not ours to have.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).

7. The Spirit perfects us:

“…Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? …” (Galatians 3).

It is the work of the Spirit in us that brings us to perfection, reestablishing us to portray the image of God. Mankind was originally created in His image. That image was distorted for all born to flesh because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Jesus came to reveal the true image to us. And by His Spirit at work in us, that image is restored as it was originally intended to be when God created man. We are perfected in Christ by the power of the Spirit at work in us.

But the Spirit, like God, will not force us to His will.

“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).

We can quench the work of the Spirit in us through disobedience to His gentle nudges. Now the seal is unbroken, we are still His in Christ’s perfect sacrifice, but our relationship with God and our power to perform will be hindered as long as we refuse to obey and cooperate with the work of the Spirit in us.

For those truly saved, there will be fruit bearing. If there is no fruit, there is no Spirit in the life of that person. The amount of fruit born to the true believer filled with His Spirit will be hindered by refusal to cooperate with the perfecting work of His Spirit. That is why we can move with strength from Him in one area where we are surrendered to Him, while struggling and floundering in another area of life where we are rebellious. Do not quench the Spirit.

8. The Spirit is our assurance:

“The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (1 John 2:24).

We can know that we are in Him and Him in us by His Spirit at work in us. The Spirit is our assurance. Knowing His presence in us is vital to our stability and faith.

“And now, little children, abide—live and remain permanently in Him, so that when He is made visible, we may have and enjoy perfect confidence, boldness, assurance in Him and not be ashamed and shrink from Him at His coming. If you know, perceive and are sure that Christ is absolutely righteous—conforming to the Father’s will in purpose, thought, and action, you may also know and be sure that everyone who does righteously and is therefore in like manner conformed to the divine will is born and begotten of God” (1 John 2:24-29, Amplified with brackets removed).

Little children that we are, we must walk by the Spirit, for in so doing, we will not carry out the deeds of the flesh. This is our charge in completing the afflictions of Christ. We must overcome the flesh in the power of the Spirit.

“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:24-26).

This life is available to all who will believe, receive, cleave, and proceed in the power and work of the Spirit of God in us. In this way we each can learn, we each can grow strong, we each can be the best “me” God designed and desired, we each may fulfill our purpose. Thus there is no need for jealousy or boasting. Just be as God’s Spirit leads. We all are one in Him, equal of importance in our unequaled roles.

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 9

Dealing with Antichrist, Rejoicing in Relationship with The Father

“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour…” (1 John 2:18-23).

The spirit of antichrist: it is very prevalent in our day. Many cannot see that Jesus is the Christ because He did not come and do as they expected in His first appearance as Savior. Though He fulfills every prophesy spoken concerning the Christ’s appearing, they cannot recognize Him. The spirit of antichrist has blinded their spiritual eyes and hinders their perceptions so they cannot understand to see the truth. Others are snared by belief that the Holy Bible is antiquated and Jesus is the parable. Others approach Him with their own expectations, and, finding things with the Christ not as they think it should be, they quickly turn away. Still others walk into the church and profess Him with their words, desiring some miracle or expecting some magical experience of Him, and finding that lacking, they deny His reality and turn aside to other things. And others come into our midst looking for the Christ in the people, where they should be able to see Him, yes, but not understanding that we are continually being perfected, disillusioned by what they see as hypocrisy or having their feelings hurt, they walk away never having truly believed. Then there are some who come in as a thief in the night, pretending to know Him, and with words that sound right, leading even the elect astray, they form the cults of our day.

We see Jesus dealing with the spirit of antichrist often in His ministry. The Pharisees and Sadducees of the day, misunderstanding the way the Christ would first appear and why, jealous of His renown often came against Him, fooled by the spirit of antichrist working through them. Many who followed Jesus were looking for their own desire of what they would find in the Christ. Jesus revealed this truth in John 4:48, “So Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe’.” And I see in the parable of the seeds sown on many soils a picture of the various ways in which the spirit of antichrist can pull the heart of man from knowledge of the Christ as disillusionment and discouragement pull us from the truth (Matthew 13:18-23). Then we have the words of John, telling of Jesus dealing with this blindness in those of His day:

“There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:9-13).

Still today people cannot accept that we are born anew through Christ, who covers our sins—past, present and future—as we go through the process of growing up as the children of God, made new day by day through the perfecting work of the Spirit of God within us. They cannot understand that it is a work of God. We cannot be good enough apart from His Spirit at work in us. And we can only have His Spirit as we recognize the Christ for who He truly is and put our faith in Him. The spirit of antichrist hinders this faith.

Part of our role as we complete the sufferings of Christ is to recognize the spirit of antichrist at work in our day and to stand against it; not only living in stark contrast to it, but taking every opportunity to correct the understanding of those deceived by it. Anything that leads a people to look for and follow after the christ of their expectation and miss the true Christ is ensnared by the spirit of antichrist. Many rise up among us, believing they know what Christ should look like and how He should be in our lives, and having just enough truth to be believable, they break off from the true church and true faith to lead many astray to a false-christ.

I see this passage in 1 John as proof text of once saved, always saved. Those who truly believe will remain, that is what it says. Why? Because God, through His Spirit, is able to make them stand.

“…They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us…” (vs. 19).

Those who do not truly believe may walk with us for a time and may even appear to be true believers, but eventually the deceptiveness of their understanding will be revealed as they walk away due to one of the previously stated reasons above or some other not covered here. Many of these become the voice of the spirit of antichrist in our midst as they begin to put down those of true faith and the truth professed. These who fall away as our focal passage implies often become a false teacher that, if we are not alert and watchful, can lead even the mature in Christ away from the paths of truth and righteousness.

Scripture warns that even the elect (Matthew 24:24), those who have sincere faith in Christ and a true, growing and strong relationship with Him, even they may be fooled for a time by the lie that has just enough truth in it to be believable. They are still true believers in Christ, but they get on a wrong path because they are not alert and growing in their own understanding in the area of falsehood they have fallen too.

“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth” (vs. 20-21).

From my own experience, I believe that the elect who are fooled for a time but who are sincerely seeking God in Christ will eventually recognize the truth and turn back to right paths. Verse 20 of our focal passage confirms this as it says that we know all truth because of the anointing that is in us, The Spirit of God within us who teaches us all things. But it can be devastating to the lives of those who see the example of the elect who may fall away from truth for a time, as those who follow us, not truly knowing Christ, become snared by the fake because of following the true believer during their time of false understanding. So we, the elect, must be alert and constantly growing in the truth of Christ.

Verse 21 instructs us in how to recognize the false teaching of antichrist:

First, any little falsehood found in a teaching should give us pause. If we are drawn to a new teaching and there is something in it that we recognize as a lie, that is a clue that we need to dig deeper into the so called “new truth” and make sure it is not an old lie behind a façade-christ.

Then the Amplified version of verse 21 speaks to me of another thing we can realize as warning that we need to look closer at a “new truth” before we go running after it. “I write to you not because you are ignorant and do not perceive and know the Truth, but because you do perceive and know it, and [know positively] that nothing false (no deception, no lie) is of the Truth.” As I read this version of this verse I see not only assurance of truth, but I sense the peace of mind and heart that assurance brings to us. When peace is disturbed by a new teaching, it is a signal to look more closely and discern from whom the teaching comes: The Spirit of Christ or the spirit of antichrist.

Another warning of a need to check our facts is what is being said about Christ and the Father (vs. 22-23): “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”

I.e.: any teaching that denies Christ being God with us, Immanuel, God incarnate in the body of One call the Son of God, the propitiation or full price for our sin, is antichrist. And this passage warns that we cannot have the Father without first having the Son in truth. They are a package deal.

The spirit of antichrist is not to be trifled with. It is prevalent in our day and it is the major force of our day that blinds the eyes and deceives the hearts of many. We must seek constantly to know the truth for ourselves, so that we can be used of God in our day to dispel the false.

Before I close, I want to stress verse 23, Amplified: “No one who [habitually] denies (disowns) the Son even has the Father. Whoever confesses (acknowledges and has) the Son has the Father also.”

Note the words, “habitually denies and disowns the Son”. I don’t know about you, but I have experienced times when the devil—the author and perfecter of the spirit of antichrist, has raised a doubt in me about the truth of Christ and even made me wonder about the truth of God. It is what he does. But God always leads me back to truth as I know it from His Spirit’s teaching me, not only from reading it in scripture, but from experiencing it in life.

The word “habitually” is vital for the Christian to remember. We will, because of where we are in our flesh and in the world, fall from time to time to sin. But we do not lose our salvation because of a temporary fall that is not based in habit (Romans 2:1; 1 John 3:6, 9, Amp., scroll down). Habitual sin is seen in those who refuse change, refusing to become like Him; it is the sin that, when recognized, sees us shake our fist in the face of God and, denying the right of Christ to rule that area of our lives, we choose to hold to that habit of sin. If we make a habit of denying that Jesus is the Christ, feigning faith through half-hearted or total lack of obedience to turn away from sin, that falls under the category of habitual sin that proves we do not belong to Him.

An occasional struggle in our faith that is defeated by truth is a temptation to sin. Satan may try to convince those who have such struggle with temptation that they are not of true faith, but Romans 8:1 tells us that God does not condemn us in our struggle against the flesh, the world, the devil, and the spirit of antichrist. Tell that demonic accuser to go away and keep standing on the truth. He will eventually give up.

Now we all have habits that seem constantly to pull us back into struggle with our sin nature in this life. This is what Paul was speaking of in Romans 7:14-8:1. These are habits that we may have struggled with all our lives, hate having in our lives, work to overcome, but often get snared by it despite our stance against it. Such lifelong habits are often hard to break and too easily fallen back into. Realize that when we hate a sin that too easily snares us though we actively struggle against it, Jesus has us covered in our struggle. Every repentance of such sin and new attempt to have victory over it is aided by His Spirit until we find victory in His strength. It is the sins that we do habitually, giving ourselves to it in rebellion against God that is antichrist and can be proof of false faith that is no salvation at all.

So we have to not only watch what is going on around us and realize when a spirit of antichrist is pulling us and others away from true faith; but we also have to watch for that spirit at play in our lives, chaining us to habitual sin. The wisdom of the flesh, the wisdom of the world, and the wisdom of demons are all antichrist in nature. This is our battlefield as we seek to walk with Him, and not against Him. As we choose to follow Christ, daily taking up our cross of self-denial: seeking, finding and standing firm on His truth, we complete the suffering-affliction of Christ in standing against the spirit of antichrist wherever it is found. So walk by faith, rejoicing that by having the Christ, you get the Father also, and take every opportunity to give an account of the hope that is in you.

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:13-16).

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 8

Joyful Cross Bearing

Jesus, in Luke 9:23, said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (NLT).

The Amplified version clarifies the call to “deny self” as “disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself.” And it says of those who choose to respond to Jesus’ “follow Me” as including “cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also.” To me, our passage for today in First John is the call to complete the sufferings of Christ by choosing to take up our cross daily and follow Him.

“Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself]. And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever” (1 John 2:15-17, AMP).

Too often I hear people define the cross we bear as things that are beyond our control: sickness in our bodies that we can do nothing about, wayward children, a philandering husband, etc. That is so far from the truth. Jesus did not have to bear the cross. He chose too. He even told His disciples when they started to fight to save Him from arrest, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (Matthew 26:52-54)

Just as taking up His cross was His to choose, so is our cross. And it is a daily choice of denying self so as to follow Jesus. This passage speaks of one thing that most often hinders our cross bearing. Let’s break it down to discover what that is.

“Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. …”

Love of the world and the things of the word will definitely stand in the way of self-denial and choosing to follow Jesus through cleaving to Him and His ways. When we choose the world and its pleasures, we deny our love for Jesus and choose to love the world over our love for Him and the Father. We cannot love both. That is what this passage is saying.

The world is polar opposite to God and His ways. To choose the world, we must walk away from God. And what is it that the world appeals to in luring us away from our call to bear the cross with Jesus? Self-interest.

“…For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself]. …”

The world appeals to our flesh through our craving for sensual gratification. Don’t mix “sensual” up with “sexual”. Sensual gratification has to do with the body’s sensory systems that love to be pleasured. That includes our taste buds, music preferences, desire for freedom from every form of pain that is too often used to lead us into addictions that cover up that pain, etc. These are the things that appeal to our physical appetites, and yes, that can and often does include our sexual appetites. The world loves to draw us away from God by appealing to our sensual appetites.

This passage also warns of the world’s appeal to us through a particular sensory organ, our eyes—further defined here as the “greedy longings of the mind.” Think on a desire too long and we will give into it.

Take, for example, my Spark Journey. Try as I may, I struggle constantly to find victory and freedom over my desire for sweets. Why? I see one I like, and though I may walk away successfully, my mind will start thinking about how good it tastes, how the texture is on my tongue, etc. The next thing I know, though it may take several days of thinking, I will fall away from my commitment to stay away from the sweets. Once I taste that sweet, it re-enlivens the desire for more and off on a binge I go.

The world and the desire it parades before us is not our friend. It is a pawn in the hand of the enemy of God that wants to keep us ensnared to the sins of the flesh, working hindrance to our relationship with God. And what does that enemy often use to defeat us? Our own sense of pride, rightly defined here as assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things.

Continuing our example above, do you know what knocks me down for the count every time I fall to snacking on sweets? Pride spurred by frustration to say, “I should be able to do this. I am stronger than this pull to sweets. I can do this”; All the while forgetting that though I can do this, I can do nothing apart from Christ, who is my strength.

Then there is the pride seen in the pity party: “Oh, I fell again. I am never going to get this. I may as well quit trying.” Yes, this is a strike against one’s sense of pride as it centers on the failure of one to have power, forgetting where one’s power is found; calling God a liar who says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Does God never give us anything out of the world? Yes, He does. But when He gives it, whatever it is, it is always for use toward our good and His glory. He gives me and you food for the building up of the body so we may have strength to live good days on the earth, bringing glory to Him whom we look to for our provision. But when we love the world and the things in the world, we go after those things for the sake of meeting our sensual appetites and we glorify the world for its bounty. When we seek God first and foremost, what does He say?

“…But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well…” (Matthew 6:25-34). And what is God’s promise in our passage today, given to us who will take up our cross daily, denying self to follow Jesus.

“…he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever.”

Life more abundant and full, with all the provision needed for life, belongs to those who complete the suffering of Christ through denying self, daily, in order to please God alone.

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 7

Delighting in Victory Over Evil

Thus far in our study to cover our role in completing what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings and find the joy of victory in those afflictions, have you noticed as I have that we are finding in that work our calling, equipping and purpose in the earth?

We are called and equipped to be His witnesses, not only repeating what we read in Scripture, but knowing its truth and knowing Him by experience of Him through our faith in Him. We are called and equipped to build up the body of Christ, helping others find their way into the fold, all the while promoting unity in the body. We are blessed to know with assurance of faith our freedom in Christ, freeing us from sin and death. We complete His sufferings through our own walk of obedience, no matter the cost that comes to us as we obey God’s will and accomplish His purpose. And finally we are called to complete His suffering-affliction in our love walk, even and especially when hurting people hurt people in the body of Christ.

As we grow in our ability to successfully do all these things in completing His afflictions, we have a good start in completing the next of His afflictions:

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2:12-14).

“…you have overcome the evil one (the devil).”

Throughout His life, from the womb to His ascension, Jesus was in the business of overcoming evil. The devil was after Him while in the womb, but God led Him to victory through directing the path of His earthly parents. He overcame with every temptation, and believe me, there was more temptation than seen in His wilderness experience. He overcame in His love walk, the speaking of truth, the revealing of the Father, and lest we forget, He defeated sin and death authored by the evil one when He went to the cross and walked out of the tomb to rise again as King of kings over the Kingdom of God.

We complete this aspect of His sufferings in every way when we face evil in life as He did. How? I see numerous avenues by which we walk in this victory with Him in this passage. Looking at the Amplified version, let’s see what is there:

“I am writing to you, little children, because for His name’s sake your sins are forgiven [pardoned through His name and on account of confessing His name]” (vs. 12).

We defeat evil when we confess His name through repentance from sin and walk in assurance of faith. But look at our assurance. Our assurance has not so much to do with our repentance as it has to do with the “for His name’s sake.”

God forgives first and foremost “for His name’s sake.” As we realize that He forgives us fully for the name of Jesus, Immanuel (God with us) who paid the full price for sin, we increase in our assurance that He forgives our sin, great and small. But take it a step further to Isaiah 43:25.

“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.”

God desires relationship with His people. Just as He chose for His own sake to forgive Israel even while they were still in sin, doing so for His own sake so that He could fulfill His purposes in building the lineage of the Christ; in like fashion He forgives us for His own sake in completing the work of Christ, leading us to assurance and trust in our relationship with Him while He builds for Himself a people for God’s own possession.

And note the exciting thing about Him choosing to forgive for His sake instead of for ours alone. He promises that He will remember our sin no more.

Now God is not forgetful, is He? I don’t think so. He leads His prophets to recite the sin of Israel before them as reminder several times in scripture. What this means to me is even though it may cross His mind as we keep doing like or same things over and over in our journey to freedom, He does not remember it in ways that bring it up in condemnation.

Condemnation is not from God. For His own sake more than ours, He chooses to forgive so He can continue to strive toward a Kingdom of strong relationships with a people of His possession. When we walk in assurance of such a grace as this, we are encouraged to walk in victory as He is victorious over evil. Our walk with Him is strengthened through this trust and we are equipped by it to walk free of sin and stand firm as His servant. And when we do sin, our relationship is protected by the assurance we have in His forgiveness and commitment to help us walk free in victory.

“…I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know (recognize, be aware of, and understand) Him Who [has existed] from the beginning…I write to you, fathers, because you have come to know (recognize, be conscious of, and understand) Him Who [has existed] from the beginning…” (vs. 13a, 14a).

Here we see a growing relationship with God that is not only aware of Him, but grows strong in its ability to be conscious of His presence in our here and now lives. We not only recognize that He is, but we realize He is with us. We are aware, alert and conscious of Him. And we grow in this knowledge of Him to understand Him and His ways. When we come into this knowledge we are equipped to walk in victory against the schemes of the evil one. For what does it say of those who hear Him in John 10, being alerted to His presence and led forward to follow only Him?

“When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers” (vs. 4-5).

The better we know Him, the more easily we recognize His voice—the way He talks to and leads us. And the better we know His voice, the easier it will be for us to recognize that of the stranger who would lead us astray. We know victory over the evil one as we grow to know Him, becoming fathers of the faith in our maturity.

“…I am writing to you, young men, because you have been victorious over the wicked [one]…I write to you, boys (lads), because you have come to know (recognize and be aware) of the Father…” (vs. 13b).

In growing in our ability to know and recognize and trust Him, we come to know Him as “Father.” Walking close to our Father, learning to emulate Him, we find victory over evil.

“…I write to you, young men, because you are strong and vigorous, and the Word of God is [always] abiding in you (in your hearts), and you have been victorious over the wicked one” (v. 14b).

Learning to listen to God as Father and follow hard at His heals as a child that wants to be just like Daddy not only pleases the heart of God, but it wins the victory over evil. As we listen to and learn from God, treasuring His word, we have our weapons and armor in place and at the ready for any battle that may ensue. Each victory won strengthens us to win the next with greater ease.

Like Jesus, our growing faith in and reliance upon God grows us strong in the ways of God so that we can then “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). There is a lot to learn from Romans 12 on overcoming evil. We won’t go into great detail—I will leave it to you to read the passage, but just to do a quick run by these truths, we overcome evil:

  1. As we present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice to God (vs. 1).
  2. By refusing conformity to the world and choosing instead transformation of mind to God and His ways (vs. 2).
  3. By not thinking more highly of self than we ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, according to our measure of faith (vs. 3).
  4. Through unity as His body, learning to serve one another through our giftedness (vs. 4-8).
  5. Loving without hypocrisy (hypocrisy says one thing while doing another). Vs. 9-11 give us a picture of a proper love-walk.
  6. Abhorring evil, but clinging to good (vs. 9).
  7. Bless those who persecute and curse you (vs. 14).
  8. Being there for one another in times of joy or grief (vs. 15).
  9. Not being haughty or arrogant, but being likeminded toward each other, treating one another with respect (vs. 16).
  10. Not paying back evil for evil, leaving judgment and revenge to God, we do good even to those seen as “enemy” (vs. 17-21).

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

We overcome evil through good, and the greatest good is love, God’s kind of love that is not based on emotion, but on choice and desire for the greater good for all. In these ways we fulfill what is lacking of Christ’s affliction in bringing victory over the evil one.

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 6

Delighting in the Light of Love

“…Whoever says he is in the Light and [yet] hates his brother [Christian, born-again child of God his Father] is in darkness even until now. Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It (the Light) or in him (the person in the Light) there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin. But he who hates (detests, despises) his brother [in Christ] is in darkness and walking (living) in the dark; he is straying and does not perceive or know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:7-11).

This one is difficult for me to write as it brings thought of our beloved ex-son-in-law, one we loved and trusted for over 9 years, but who did sin against our grandbabies, breaking our hearts and the trust given. So, I decided just to share with you the struggle and see where it leads us in understanding this part of our suffering with Christ.

How do I express to you the love we are to have for one another when a deep wounded-ness exists in my own family due to the unbelievably evil hurt done us by one we loved so much and called not only “brother” in Christ, but “son” / “husband” / “daddy”? How do I tell you to love one another when such things work hindrance in our love walk together, knowing most all of us have such hurts in this life?

Is it love that was shown us by the one who did the evil? Is it love for us that would expect us to continue on as if nothing evil happened; as if no deep wound exists? Is it unforgiveness when hurt and inability to fully trust exists to hinder love’s expression despite there being forgiveness? Maybe, in discovering love in difficult situations, we should begin by looking at what hate looks like. Do I hate this one I love?

According to our passage for today in the Amplified version of scripture, hate is to detest or despise another.

Do I detest this one I love? Detest: to dislike. No. He is one of the most likable people I know even now. As I told my husband, it hurts more that he is still just who he is, the one we like and enjoy being with; he is very likable and I still like him. But I hate the evil done and the things that sound like excuses because of some hurt of his own that he says led him back to the lifestyle that led to the sin against God and us. I hate the evil, not the man. And I hate the excuses that still seem to remain in his apologies. I know he knows there is no excuse. But I still hear the excuse come out of him as if the harm done him gives right to him for his sin. I do not detest him. I ache over him with a hurt that is deep and can only be healed by the God I love.

Do I despise Him? Despise: To regard with contempt or scorn; To dislike intensely; loathe; To regard as unworthy of one’s interest or concern. No, none of this is true about my thoughts and feelings toward him. Again, I find the evil done contemptible. But I do not scorn him over it, though I do not desire him to have access to those he did harm toward; and though I do not see our relationship ever being what it once was; though I must qualify that with understanding that nothing shall be impossible with God.

For God’s sake, my own sake, and for the sake of my grandkids, there is still potential for a relationship of love and even respect, but I do not see that relationship ever being what it once was, though it can in many ways be better as he turns from his sin and allows God to use him in helping others who struggle as he does / did; and as we get past the hurt to leave pain behind and walk in love restored by God’s love through us.

Is there contempt there toward him? Contempt: The feeling or attitude of regarding someone or something as inferior, base, or worthless; scorn; The state of being despised or dishonored; disgrace. Inferior—all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That includes me. No, I am not better than he is. Base—the lowest of the low he is not; the sin was low as it did harm to children, but he is not debased to me. He is a sinner set free as he stands sincerely repentant before his Holy God, just as I am. Is he worthless? “For God so loved…that He gave His only begotten Son….” No. Despite his fall to sin, I believe that he is repentant before our holy God who died for us all.

Do I want harm toward him? Am I pleased that he might wind up in prison? No. I hate that for him. But he is faced with the potential charges that can be brought up on him because of his sin and the consequences that come to such. His future is in the hands of God and of the governing officials set over us by God. So I wait to see what God will do, and I pray that God, who knows the truth of the heart of this son, will have mercy according to the truth He finds there.

So in this day and age, when hurting people hurt people, how do we love one another despite hurt toward each other? How is God leading me to continue to love this one despite the hate of the sin done toward our family by him and the lack of trust that exists, and despite the brokenness it brought to us as a family?

For one, I choose to leave his consequences in the hands of God. We have severed relationship as it was because of the divorce that came. Now we can debate the “sin” of that, but for the kids’ sake, that is the path that was decided on, and I have no regrets there, though I hate all the sin that led to that decision.

Despite the change in the relationship, I still work to maintain what relationship we can have, again for God’s sake as a Christian called to continue in love, for my own sake so no hindrance come to my relationship with God and others involved, and for the kids’ sakes as they need the example of forgiveness and those who are his blood need to know their daddy is still loved. But also for his sake, so discouragement over the situation does not do more harm than good. I want to build him up and help him find a renewed relationship with God through repentance and restoration. So relationship, though different, remains important and something to work toward making it the best it can be under the circumstances; and hopefully, in the long run, a better, stronger love that will do no harm to the one loved.

Out of love for him that flows from love for God and desire to please Him, I choose to treat this son right, not acting unbecomingly toward him. Now hurt over the situation still rises up in me to show on my face, but he is coming to understand that is what it is; and this too shall pass. So I seek to act becomingly in my love toward him.

To treat one in ways that are not unbecoming means to behave toward him “in accord with the standards implied by one’s character or position.” I will behave toward him in Christlikeness, forgiving him, not throwing the insult in his face as keeping it in an account for constant use against him. As difficult as it can be because of the hurt that things are not as they once appeared to be, there is a caring, respect, and love-walk to have in a relationship as Christian Brother and Sister. We just have to find that place where hurt over the harm does not rule, and we need to live there together in unity of purpose.

To continue in love, each of us has to learn how to recognize and show care about the need of the other. Love does not stop over a wrong suffered. As much as it hurts, love is still there. Loves focus in such situations makes an adjustment that may well look way different from what it once was, and may even be better than it once was, because it is totally dependent on God. “Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful” (1 Corinthians 13:5, AMP). So was the divorce done out of hate or resentment? No. Divorce was the choice because of love for the little ones who needed to feel safe and not to have to face this man every day of their life.

Hate is easy for us because the flesh runs swiftly to that which feels like it hurts less. It would be so easy to quit trying to find the way of love in our new family dynamic. It would prevent the pain of having to face the hurt and deal with it if we could just ignore each other and go on as if the other did not exist. But that is total, polar opposite to God and His way. He is a God of relationship, going out of His way to make a way for love to exist and continue, even giving His life for the sake of those loved. Love, each truly loving the other in all the ways of God, is the only true healing. It may seem easier and less painful to hate, but that is a lie. Hate destroys from the inside out, like gangrene. So hate is not an option for the Spirit filled Christian who desires right relationship with God.

God is love. If He is truly in us, we too must be love. Love overcomes hate, heals hurts, and restores lives. Like with furniture, the restored piece may look different, but it will still be what it is meant to be with usefulness as such; in this case, the relationship of brothers and sisters in Christ, loving with His love, His way, even to our own hurt.

In this day and age, when there is so much hurt and difficulty in life, we need one another. We need to love each other the best way possible for the sake of relationship with God, healing for self, and our ability to help one another. Relationship takes work and is not always easy. But through God and in His way we can truly and fully love one another, despite hurt and heartache. It is worth the trouble to love, even loving when those we love are made to appear unlovable.

Thank God who set the example, choosing rather than to give up on relationship, to love the unlovable in me through the gift of His Son on my behalf and yours. If He can do that for me, who am I to quit trying to love for His sake, my sake, and yours?

When we learn to love one another even when hurt by each other, we enter the delight of His love, becoming love as He is love; and that love is incorruptible, able to keep the Law toward each other.

~*~

“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).

“Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love” (Ephesians 6:24).

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 5

Delightful Obedience

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:3-6).

Jesus came to do the Father’s will. He made it clear in my perception of things that this was His greatest delight and ultimate goal, to please the Father and accomplish His purposes. When we come to this place in our walk with the Christ, we enter into His delight found in accomplishing the Father’s will and fulfilling His purpose.

Obedience is not a choice for the true believer. It is the ultimate sign, the proof of sincere and eternal relationship through Christ. When we receive Christ, He places His Spirit within us. His Spirit, like Father and Son, will not say one thing while doing another. That is the spirit of hypocrisy.

When we are in true relationship with the Father through the Christ, His Spirit comes to make us one with them in thought, intent and action. Though we may fall on occasion, we will quickly rise up as soon as we realize it, dust ourselves off with the brush of repentance and turn to walk in fellowship with Him through obedience again.

The amplified version can be a challenge to read, but remove the brackets and note the beauty of fellowship: “And this is how we may discern daily, by experience, that we are coming to know Him—to perceive, recognize, understand, and become better acquainted with Him: if we keep, bear in mind, observe, practice His teachings, His precepts, and His commandments.”

Can it be any clearer in showing the importance of our coming into agreement with His ways as sign-proof that we walk in relationship with Him? If that is not enough, look again at the next sentence, minus the brackets: “Whoever says, ‘I know Him, I perceive, recognize, understand, and am acquainted with Him,’ but fails to keep and obey His commandments and teachings is a liar, and the Truth of the Gospel is not in him.”

There are whole people groups that believe it does not matter what they do Monday through Saturday as long as they are set apart and sanctified to Him on Sunday. This passage blows that philosophy out of the water, as that old saying goes. It does not float. It does not flow with the stream of God’s righteousness. It sinks to the bottom with the sludge and slime.

“But he who keeps and treasures His Word, who bears in mind His precepts, who observes His message in its entirety, truly in him has the love of and for God been perfected, completed, and reached maturity” (vs. 5, AMP). This verse instructs our obedience. Here we see that true obedience:

† Keeps His word as a treasure: Oh what joy it is to read and study God’s word as a treasure hunt and, finding nuggets of great worth, to hide it in one’s heart as resource for life and living; bounty that dictates and directs one’s path. Those who truly know Him are not afraid of His discipline, realizing that is what proves them to be His chosen child and it is what He does to make us more like Himself, the spitting image of our Father. These rejoice with understanding that His word is used by Him in the power of His Spirit to teach us, for “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” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What joy it is to know that God cares how we think and that even the littlest of choices that direct our path with Him is important to Him. Treasure it and let that treasure supply and equip your adequacy as His beloved child. In doing so, we…

† Bear in mind His precepts: Every decision in life is brought under the microscope of His word. It is what we use in choosing life or death, good or evil, blessing or curse. His word is truth and will lead us to the truth of His will for us even in this day and age. It is not obsolete. It is a guiding light, a lamp to the feet of those who know how to treasure it and rightly use it.

† Who observes His message in its entirety: God can and does use a verse to give us direction, especially in situations that are not clearly defined in Holy text; but that one or two verse message from Him will always stand in agreement with the whole of His word. It will never lead us contrary to Him and His ways. This is why it is important that we know the whole.

I.e.: if you want to know what God’s word says about giving, you don’t just look at one verse and say, “That is it!” You look at all places in scripture that speak of giving and, reading it in context, pull it all together to get the full picture. Someone just looking at one verse may believe that they are required of God to give to their own harm and the harm of their family. A little digging and we find that God’s word says to give according to our means and what we are able to do without harming self and those we are tasked to care for.

Does that mean we never have to give sacrificially? No, but it does mean that God does not put us on the street while using our means to put another in a mansion. That is the world’s way, not Gods. God’s way uses the surplus of those who have to help those in any true, proven need and it does it in a way that does not keep the needy dependent on us, but that helps and even requires them to come up higher. God’s way requires all to grow to a place of no longer being needy, but being able to give.

“…truly in him has the love of and for God been perfected, completed, and reached maturity.”

When we get to the point in our walk with God that reading His word is no longer a chore, but a joy; coming to a place where even His words of discipline are a treasure to us that we hide in our hearts for use in directing our path, we come to a place of maturity in Him. Those who are mature in Him hear His voice calling us to dig deep and find the whole of His truth on the subjects of life.

“By this we may perceive, know, recognize, and be sure that we are in Him: Whoever says he abides in Him ought, as a personal debt to walk and conduct himself in the same way in which He walked and conducted Himself.”

We can have full assurance of our relationship with God and our eternal destination by the growth we have in us in this area of our Christian walk and faith.

Jesus knew the whole of the Word of God and how to use it. And He has given us His Spirit to teach us. What does John say at the God-breathed inspiration of His Spirit: “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).

It is good to have teachers. They are tasked with and help our spiritual growth and understanding. But the greatest joy of any teacher is when the student becomes the teacher, surpassing even them in their growth and understanding. That only happens as we realize that Jesus gave us His Spirit to be our teacher in His stead.

We can trust the Spirit to instruct us, and He often will use others to confirm our hearing Him. It is exciting when God teaches me something new to me, and then I hear that same teaching from behind the pulpit or out of the mouth of some teacher of His word that I know to be trustworthy.

Really, unless the Spirit helps us to learn, even understanding what is said to us by others who teach is impossible without Him. We should never go into an instructional setting without seeking the Spirit to teach us and help us discern truth.

Jesus, at the age of 12, sat with the teachers of His day and learned from them. Of course, He astounded them with the level of His understanding, but nonetheless, we know He had to grow His childlike mind in preparation for His glorious ministry as Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

We too are charged with growing and showing ourselves to be of Him through our growing wisdom and understanding and wise use of His precepts and commands. Child of God, if you are not growing in the power of His Spirit, you are not abiding with Him.

(Have a great weekend. See you back here next week.)

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 4

Rejoicing in Freedom

“If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts]. If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action]. If we say (claim) we have not sinned, we contradict His Word and make Him out to be false and a liar, and His Word is not in us [the divine message of the Gospel is not in our hearts].

“My little children, I write you these things so that you may not violate God’s law and sin. But if anyone should sin, we have an Advocate (One Who will intercede for us) with the Father—[it is] Jesus Christ [the all] righteous [upright, just, Who conforms to the Father’s will in every purpose, thought, and action]. And He [that same Jesus Himself] is the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins, and not for ours alone but also for [the sins of] the whole world” (1 John 1:8-2:2, AMP).

~*~

Together, in cooperation with the Spirit of God within us, we make the Father known to the world, continuing that work of Christ in our age. Together, in cooperation with the Spirit of God, we are not only tasked with continuing the work of Christ in building the church, but we are tasked with His work of unifying the body of Christ. Now we add that together, in cooperation with the Spirit of God within us, we spread the gospel message. In this work, I see several things that we are tasked with in our day.

First is cooperating with the Spirit in making distinction between sin and righteousness and the judgment (or consequences) that comes to each.

In our day, truth is too often seen as relative. Each person can decide for themselves what truth is, and therefore what is wrong and what is right as dictated by circumstance, according to their value system. To the world there is no absolute right or wrong and therefore, no absolute truth. But God has a different opinion and we are tasked with finding, portraying, and promoting His truth that makes sin as He sees it clear to the observer.

This responsibility in completing Christ’s afflictions includes being humble enough to admit our own sin nature, and surrendered to Him in not only turning from our own sin, but in allowing Him to use our experience of His grace as witness of His work in our lives to those who struggle as we do.

Our Minister of Evangelism at our church shared a visit they had with a young girl who said she never sins. Everything they suggested as a possibility, she said she never did. Her mother agreed that she was just a good kid. But this passage proves her sin, for those who refuse to recognize they are a sinner in need of a Savior call God a liar.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, we just don’t always recognize our sin for His thoughts are higher than ours and His ways higher than our ways. Our sin may be so subtle that we do not realize it is sin, but it is there.

This is our task, to help others realize that we cannot be all that God desires and designed us to be in the limits of our fleshly nature, no matter how “good” we seem to the world’s ways. Thus we fall short of His glory and prove ourselves to be sinners in need of a Savior.

Second we are tasked with the gospel message: sharing with all who will hear that Christ chose to give His life as atoning sacrifice for all sin. The sin of the entire world is covered by His victory as the Lamb of God, sacrificed for all. That victory belongs to God alone. But it is passed on to all who will receive the work of the Spirit in imparting His freedom from sin and death to us who choose to believe by faith and surrender by grace.

Third, we are tasked with the responsibility to help people grow strong in faith and in the bearing of the fruit of the Spirit. We are called to make disciples, students of Christ and the ways of God, of all who believe. Only as we begin to grow in the knowledge of the intricacies of the nature of God can we recognize deep underlying roots of sin that we would otherwise be unaware of possessing.

Fourth, we are tasked with the privilege of helping all who trust in Him to come into the assurance of His victory, gifted to them.

Though we are saved by grace through faith, made whole eternally in Christ, we are here and now a work in progress. Each of us, too often get caught off guard and stumble into sin’s traps. The enemy can defeat us through a spirit of condemnation if we are not walking in the assurance that we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ our Lord, who forever lives to intercede on our behalf. In the power of the Spirit, Father and Son “[continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].” We are tasked with helping the elect come into this assurance of faith in His finished work, and trust His continuous work in us as He leads us from sins grip and increasing degrees of glory as we surrender all to Him.

Working together with God’s Spirit in making sin and righteousness and judgment clear, rejoicing over one another comes to us. We become one another’s testimony of the work of God through us in encouraging and helping one another grow strong in faith and in assurance through Christ that we have died to sin and death and are raised to life in Him. Anyone who has children or other loved ones they have prayed long over and poured themselves out to in hope of seeing them grow in the Lord knows the joy of watching their faith and obedience blossom strong.

As I sought God in where to go with this portion of our study, He led me to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:3-9. The Amplified version of this passage seems a fitting close to this thought as it illustrates these points:

“Grace (favor and spiritual blessing) be to you and [heart] peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God at all times for you because of the grace (the favor and spiritual blessing) of God which was bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, [So] that in Him in every respect you were enriched, in full power and readiness of speech [to speak of your faith] and complete knowledge and illumination [to give you full insight into its meaning].  In this way [our] witnessing concerning Christ (the Messiah) was so confirmed and established and made sure in you that you are not [consciously] falling behind or lacking in any special spiritual endowment or Christian grace [the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating in your souls by the Holy Spirit], while you wait and watch [constantly living in hope] for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and [His] being made visible to all. And He will establish you to the end [keep you steadfast, give you strength, and guarantee your vindication; He will be your warrant against all accusation or indictment so that you will be] guiltless and irreproachable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah). God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

May we all be busy about the Father’s business, bearing witness of the Gospel message, and know the joy of seeing those we love come into their own strong and growing freedom from sin and assurance in Christ.

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 3

Rejoicing in Unity of Fellowship

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).

I love the Amplified version of verse 5: “And this is the message [the message of promise] which we have heard from Him and now are reporting to you: God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him at all [no, not in any way].”

Yesterday we looked at the fact that the first thing we are called to do in completing what is lacking in the affliction of Christ is continuing His work of bearing witness concerning the truth of God, who He is and the way He is that is recognizable in and through us. He is Light, righteousness, goodness, truth, love, etc. There is no falsehood or darkness in Him. And as we grow in understanding of who He is and in our work of image bearing for His name’s sake, bearing witness of His Presence and work in our here and now lives, we enter into the second of our roll in filling up what is lacking of Christ’s afflictions: unity of fellowship.

There are two things about fellowship that I see to discuss today. For the first, let’s back up just a bit to verse 3: “what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

The first insight I glean here is that our roll in completing what is lacking continues Christ’s work of building the church, the body of Christ. As we share how we experience God in our daily lives with those who do not believe, they have opportunity to join in fellowship with us by receiving our testimony and choosing the grace we walk in for themselves. That one is simple and clear. But there is a second aspect to this thought that I want to focus on. I will try to stay off my soapbox with this one.

The Amplified version of verse three adds to our discussion: “What we have seen and [ourselves] heard, we are also telling you, so that you too may realize and enjoy fellowship as partners and partakers with us. And [this] fellowship that we have [which is a distinguishing mark of Christians] is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (the Messiah).”

Our greatest call in adding to the fellowship of Christ’s afflictions is in the area of building unity within the body of Christ that gives proof of the distinguishing mark of our kinship. I’ll tell you, people, we are not there yet. We are divided, not by religious differences, but by pride and arrogance stemming from those differences. I hate when I hear someone standing behind the pulpit speaking divisive words against another denomination. Next to that, I hate when I hear God’s people setting around in public places, putting down other Christians. And most of all, I hate when I hear such slipping out of my own mouth. That is not fulfilling this call of Christ in completing this work of unity. So what does scripture teach us with regard to faith issues that we too often state in divisive arrogance?

“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:1-4).

We grow strong of faith at differing paces. Some have faith as Paul did to shake off snakes and eat without fear. Others are not at that place in their walk. Some practice their freedom within the confines of their religious practices. Others seek the freedom of following the Spirit’s lead in ways that seem to have no bounds of religious tradition. But what I have observed in both is deep faith in those who remain bound by religion, and traditions of a different kind forming boundaries in the practices of those who appear bolder in their faith.

Those who are not as bold are not to judge the heart of those who are. And those who are bold are not to condemn those who appear of weaker faith. To do so in any setting is to aid the enemy of God in dividing the house of God. Instead we are to accept one another and love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. And as we do, we will be able to share with one another out of love, bearing testimony of our individual experience of our living God in ways that help each to grow stronger and bring the body of Christ to the unity He desires. This is our calling and equipping in filling up the lack.

And, just FYI here, for those who may be arrogant against Israel, including those who do not recognize the Christ in Jesus the Messiah, remember this:

“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.  (Romans 11:17-22).

And the second point in fulfilling this call to fellowship is “[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents]” (vs. 6, AMP).

Sin destroys our unity with God, bringing separation from fellowship with Him and destroying our ability to find unity with the brotherhood of Christ. We cannot walk in darkness and have fellowship in His Light.

“But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations]” (vs. 7, AMP).

When we walk in disunity, dividing ourselves up because of faith differences, which is clear sign that we walk in sin against God and one another, in our sin we do harm to the kingdom of God and our witness in the earth. Freedom in Christ requires us to trust in God who is able to make each of us stand firm as His beloved servant and fellow believer. And trusting that fact for each other, we walk in unity of our faith in Christ, trusting His work in growing all to the glory of His name.

Instead of judging one another and condemning each other, which is sin that destroys fellowship with God and each other, we must love one another, accepting each other in the degree of faith that we have. We cannot encourage one another and help each other in spiritual growth and maturity while condemning each other.

Unity of fellowship requires that instead of looking at one another and judging our differences in belief systems that stem from our faith in Him, that we look to see the image of Christ that is present. If we see Christ, the image of God born forth in the life of others, bearing fruit of His character and likeness, we are brothers and sisters in Christ and are called by Him to unity not hindered by differences in faith practices. In this way we complete the work began by Christ in bridging the gap between us and God, and between one to another.

Great rejoicing comes to those who can stand as one in Christ, despite differing beliefs. That rejoicing is increased as we learn not only to accept one another where we are in our faith walk, but as we work to encourage one another and grow stronger together in Him.

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 2

Joy-Filled Reporters for Christ

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” (vs. 1-4).

~*~

Years ago, while on a mission trip to a foreign land, a person looked me deep in the eyes and with perfect English and challenge on their face, ready for a fight, they asked, “How do you KNOW there is a GOD?” (harsh emphasis with all caps). Stunned for only a second, I replied with earnest fervor and a smile that welled up from the Spirit, “Because I have EXPERIENCED HIM!” That person prayed to receive my Lord as their own that day after I bore testimony of His presence in my life and His desire to be in their presence as well.

People do not want to hear of some god we have only read about. They can read His word as well, but for those without the Spirit to aid them, it is dry and outdated; the God they only read of seems only to be wrathful and condemning; or to many He is a dead god or one that never really existed. They want to know with proof that there is a GOD: One who cares; One who lives; One who can reach them where they hurt. That is our call in this life, to finish what Jesus started in making the Father known. How do we do that? This passage tells us. Let us break it down and thrash it out.

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life.”

Yes, we need to know and be able to tell others “what was from the beginning.” We need to KNOW His word and understand the truths portrayed there so as to share with others its teachings, but people want and need more than that. They need to know how we have heard Him for ourselves; that we have seen Him with our eyes, though spiritual eyes they may be. They need to know of the vital relationship that can be had by us as if we are looking into His face, able to touch His hands and be touched by Him. If we are not personally growing in this vital relationship with our living God, how can we truly share Him? And why should those we share with follow if we can give no assurance that He is alive?

“…and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. …”

God does not leave us to our own means in accomplishing this task of making Him and our Savior known in the earth. Through the power of His Spirit, present and at work in us, we have it within us to have this vital and real relationship with Him so that we can KNOW that HE IS, that He lives, and that He cares for us. This is what people of our day need to hear; more than just words that seem to them dry and dead, but how God manifests Himself to us today, in our here and now reality. They need to hear how His word has proven active for us today and sharper than a double-edged sword.

Too often when God instructs us through His word, giving us hope in our situations, we share the hope without sharing the word that led us there. When we do that, we fail to allow those who long to see and believe that opportunity to realize how alive His word is in our day and to recognize His hand in His answer that comes to prove the word of hope we have.

Jesus gives us His Spirit, tasked with the call and empowered to manifest the whole of our God to us. In the power of the Spirit, we know our God intimately and personally as we trust Him to make the presence of the God-head with and in us known. There is no room for fear of what man may think of us when we truly desire the make His reality known in the earth.

If we truly have His saving grace in us, we do not have to go far or try hard to find Him. All we have to do is believe. Believe that He speaks to us and causes us to hear His voice and know our God (John 10). Believe that He abides in and is with us (John 14:17). Trust His presence to be manifested to and through us (Acts 2:25-28). Rejoice in His discipline that comes to us as from a perfect Father who loves us and desires our greatest potential and ultimate good (Hebrews 12; 2 Timothy 3:16).

“…These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”

In Colossians 1, reading beyond the verse that called me to study these things out, we learn much of Paul’s joy in being a reporter for Christ, completing what is lacking of His work in our day.

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Colossians 1:24-29).

Along with reporting His activity to a people who have yet to know Him, we encourage one another as we share His manifest presence in the church.

As I read Paul’s words in Colossians, I realize that it is vital that we know our gifting from God through His Spirit, meant for use in the church so that through that gifting, we may accomplish this work He calls us to. I.e.: A “helper” gift needs to realize that they are a helper and that sharing their testimony does not have to look, or sound, like a teacher or a profit. Out of their helper spirit they speak and portray Him to the church and to the world. Thus they can be themselves, sharing their God-experience out of who they are in the way they best function, rested in Him, trusting God to empower them and accomplish His purpose through them.

Paul, working out of His gifting and call, speaks. That is his motivation and power. For a person gifted with helps, they must realize that it “helps” others to hear their experience and speak out of the Spiritual gifting that is in them, though theirs may come across as a more simplistic, functional testimony. When they do, they too will experience the power of God’s flow. If they try to speak as one gifted with prophesy when they are not a prophet, they will be insecure, coming across as a façade. But if they work out of the power of one gifted with helps, they will be in their element and power will flow for them to speak with ease, just as Paul does in His writings.

What joy it is when we share truth of God’s reality with others out of our giftedness, and they see Him for the first time. My husband is a welding instructor, head of the department in our local college. It was exciting when he hired a new instructor as we watched his excitement over seeing students as the light of understanding came on. This is our task, to make Him known, and the rejoicing of seeing someone get it is like no other.

Jesus prayed, “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:25-26).

Jesus wept over Jerusalem as He looked out over the people who just did not get it. He longed for their comprehension and understanding of the truth of God and His ways. Jesus intended that we grow in knowledge of this God of love we profess. And He also intended that we carry on this work of being His reporters in the earth, telling all who will listen of the God-sightings we experience firsthand as He works in our lives in personal ways that make us able to say, “I know there is a God because I have experienced Him!” And Jesus rejoices with and through us when the light suddenly dawns bright through eyes of comprehension.

~*~

“Father…I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. …But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth…” (John 17).

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 1

Introduction

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24).

“Lacking in Christ’s afflictions”? The day that statement from Paul caught my attention, I began a quest to understand what it means and how it is that we fill up that which remains to be done. I mean, after all, Jesus on the cross shouted, “It is finished!” In His prayer in John 17, He said to the Father, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (vs. 4).  What is there that remains lacking?

There are several passages that speak of the sufferings or afflictions of Christ, such as Paul’s proclamation in Philippians 3:10-11 talking about his ultimate goal in life being: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Considering these words from Paul, we can surmise that fellowship with His sufferings is part of the process that makes us one together with Him. It is part of the recipe that resurrects in us the Life of Image Bearers that God intended we have.

In this study, which looks like it will take a couple of weeks to cover unless God has more to say than I do, we will see what we can discover about the afflictions of Christ, what they are, and how we have fellowship with His sufferings as we walk with understanding in this journey to filling up what is lacking.

Our text for this study will be the book of 1 John, in which I see many thoughts that give us a picture of our responsibilities that accomplish this call of Paul given to us through his example. Like with so much of the teachings found in the word of God, this study will be a good start to our journey of discovering God’s will for us as people called to this fellowship.

I hope you will join me these next two weeks as we look at this subject. The words “afflictions” and “sufferings” I know do not make this an appealing subject, but I believe you will be pleasantly surprised at the things God has shown me as we consider this vital aspect of our walk with Him. Looking forward to getting started, I anticipate seeing you back here tomorrow as we begin to look at 1 John and find that this work of suffering with Christ truly is cause for rejoicing as we see the fruit produced in it.

A “Selah” Wow! Moment

“But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:3).

~*~

This morning, as my computer started up in preparation for my quiet time, I was greeted by this picture on my “prayer wall”. Immediately to my heart came prayer for my God to be the lifter of my head, which led me to look up the verse containing the phrase as quoted above. Led to read the eight verse chapter, what a “wow!” of a “Selah” moment greeted me when verse two caught my attention as if truly seeing it for the first time.

“Many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no deliverance for him in God.’ Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!” (Amplified Bible)

“No deliverance for him IN GOD!” Really. Excuse me. Is anything too difficult for GOD?

In that instant my head lifted up to look at my God as He began the process of bringing to the light situations and circumstances that have me feeling “there is no help.” God’s enemy—Satan—and ours—fleshly, worldly and demonic wisdom—loves to whisper in our vulnerable ears, “There is no help for you” with the “in God” implied. These enemies love to convince us that our God is impotent and we have no real hope in the earth. But is that truth?

In my “Selah wow!” moment, I realized that I have fallen to discouragement, helplessness and hopelessness in several situations. In that instant, many questions come to mind that I must ask myself as I consider this state of mind:

Am I truly trusting God to be God in my situations; trusting Him to work through them for my good and the good of others involved and for His glory?

Am I in sin that is hindering His hand? Or is there sin in the life of others involved that is the obstacle?

Is there a life lesson that God is trying to teach me as His child that I am not getting and giving myself to receive?

As the answer to these questions comes, how can I better pray over each difficulty?

Am I praying and standing firm of faith with earnest expectation and hope?

What promises has God given me specific to the situation that I can stand on as a broad place of security in my waiting time?

My head is lifted up today as I remember that nothing is impossible with God. I just need to make sure I am standing with Him and not against Him, and that I am trusting His hand to do a work that is beyond belief.

Father, “Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be upon Your people! Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!” In Jesus, show us Your glory. AMEN! (vs. 8)

Love So Pure: But Forbidden Just the Same – Part 4

Door Jambs

I thought I was finished with this when I put the last post up; then the refrigerator door jammed open.

Prayerfully considering my options for lunch, I settle on a Spinach Scramble. The Spinach prepped and the skillet heating, I reach into the fridge for the remaining ingredients needed: eggs, cheese, and butter. Setting all down on the cabinet, turning to plop a little butter in the skillet to melt in readiness for the Spinach to go in next, I realize the fridge door is still wide open. It hung on the drawer the cheese was in; left open wide, it jammed the fridge.

Laughing at myself as I shut it, I thought, “Well, there ought to be a devotional thought in that.” Little did I know that God was adding a continuation to this thought on Love So Pure, but as I consider the thoughts that door jamb brought to me, here I am again with part 4.

Thinking on the open fridge, I realized that our lives are food storage pantries and refrigerators to our God. He feeds us through His Word the good things needed to sustain us personally, providing fuel for a life of abundance. But He also supplies for us to be used of Him to feed others out of the storehouses He entrusts to our care as testimony of His work in our lives and our day.

One day along our journey we see God fling open a door of opportunity for us to share sustenance, breaking the Bread of Life with someone in need. As we consider the door before us, held open by the very Spirit of God, suddenly we realize our refrigerator door is ajar, jammed open by some hidden drawer of our life in which we hold to food that hinders and hurts us: we’ll call these the junk-food drawers.

This is when we find ourselves to be a whole lot like Moses, in whose life God worked mightily to provide for him and show His love for him. God had a plan for his life that would make him a conduit through which God could make His love and provision clear to Israel, freeing them from every form of bondage. But Moses fridge was ajar, held open by drawers well stocked with the junk food this world and our flesh feeds us:

Fear: “Oh no, Lord. If I go there, Pharaoh will kill me.” Or ours may sound more like, “Oh, God, I couldn’t possibly do that! I am too shy,” just another way of saying, “I am slave to internal fear of what others may think of me or the unexpected thing that might happen to harm me.” In other words, we do not trust God in affective ways that make us one with Him and His supply.

Inadequacy: “Not me, Lord, for I am slow of speech.” “Lord, I am not talented enough to do that.” “Lord, I am too immature. Sally knows more than I do. Send her,” not realizing that Sally grew to where she is by jumping in feet first to see what the Lord would do, jumping in faith from the exact same spot we find ourselves in now.

Insecurity: “I am not good enough, O God. How can I do something like that?” We fail to realize that God can scarcely use those who feel good enough in themselves. He is looking for willing vessels that will let Him use them beyond their personal ability. Those who think they have it all together usually want to do it themselves, having a junk food drawer full of self: self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, self-reliance, self-preoccupation in abundance. When we know we can’t do “it” without God, we are the perfect one for the job.

Self-Condemnation: “Lord, they know me. Who am I to instruct them? And why would they listen to such a sinner as I.” Who better to instruct others from your position of understanding where they are? It helps me to understand that a “testimony” is “evidence in support of a fact or assertion; proof.” What better proof than that of a life changed forever by His supply? And what better one to tell of it than one who knows and is grateful for the work of God in delivering them from sin’s grip.

On we could go with drawer after drawer placed in our lives by fleshly, worldly, and demonic wisdom that keeps us from sharing all God is doing for us with those who need to see and know His love and supply that is available to “whosoever will believe.”

God fully supplies us out of His love for our good and His glory, giving us a testimony to have ready to share in due season: we are His living proof, living stones of testimonial about His current work in our age. He gifts us to have a comfort to give in comforting others. In this way, we share His love and help others to freedom from captivity.

Beloved, this I give to you from my pantry of supply and my fridge where the clean foods reside. I have to feast on this morsel of Grace sufficient often: “Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

Be filled up with Him, beloved, and trust His supply for you. There are lost people, dead in their sins, all around us. Our junk-food drawers work hindrance to His ability to pour His love fully to and through us. We must be willing vessels, cleansed, filled to over flowing and rested in His hands for His use in pouring out His glorious presence, power and love through us to those we love, like or run across for a moment in time.

When a drawer hangs open to provide opportunity for the enemy to discourage or dissuade you, yes, look to see what is in there, but also look to see what God has placed in storage within you for use in overcoming the temptation to the junk food being offered. Then seek the Lord to help you clear out that drawer and remove that foothold of satanic forces from your life, making the space available for His supply.

~*~

“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

“…Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass…” (Recommended reading: 1 Thessalonians 1-5).

Love So Pure: But Forbidden Just the Same – Part 3

Power Supply 

“Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?” (Mark 12:24)

~*~

We covered in Part 1 my struggle and how God used it to grow my understanding of His Love-flow and the heartache it brings Him when that flow toward us is hindered. In Part 2 we looked at God’s love that reaches out to the lost and what it means for those who refuse it.

Now, in Part 3, before some of us who call ourselves “Christian” get haughty against our lost brethren in the realm of mankind; realize that some of us use Christ as fire insurance just as some of Israel did with the sacrifice of cattle. We profess Him with our mouths, but our hearts are not in Him.

Even some who truly are saved by grace through faith live lives that are less than our potential in Christ; His sacrifice has not been received as one that brings life to us, reuniting us with God in ways that change us from the inside out. We fail to tap into the power that He sends us for our supply in performing all His good will and way toward fulfilling His purpose and plan.

My Daddy told me a story the other day that illustrates our plight.

A man he knew bought one of the first Volker’s Wagons that came out on the market, understanding that it would get much better gas mileage than his big car. To his chagrin, it proved much less effective than he believed it would be, so, trying to save some money, he started filling it only half full. Over the next few weeks, he rejoiced with amazement over the great mileage he was getting. Then he learned that someone had been siphoning his tank, and that stopped when they could no longer reach the gas with their hose.

This is how we who profess Christ too often live. We become disappointed that God’s supply is not what we thought it would be for us when we first came to profess belief in Him and His promises. Little do we realize that we are being robbed blind because of a lack of understanding of our situations and the way God works in life. So we get rid of the “vehicle”, letting our relationship with Him slide to the wayside, thinking it a farce, or we go about life only half full.

As we said in part 2, some profess faith in Christ, but their profession is just for show, to fit in with the crowd. These are as those who bought the car because it was new and they would look good to others. They don’t really expect to get anything out of it. They may function well in the church and seem to have power in them, but their power is their own and their goodness is not that produced through relationship that is supplied by God. They are in a show-car, having no real ownership of it.

Some profess relationship with Christ strictly because they believe He will make life easy here and now. As soon as the worries of life and struggle of temptation hit to discourage their journey, they die off. The root of faith never sprouts to take hold in them, so they burn up and walk away from the experience. They are as those who purchased the car, found it lacking from what they expected, and discarded it as useless.

These two groups above, who profess faith in Christ with their mouths, never receiving the work of righteousness within them, are as lost as those who have yet to come to know that they have a choice in life. It is one thing to know of Christ; it is another entirely to be in relationship with Him. Even the demons believe He is the Christ, and they cringe knowing their end because they have nothing of Him within themselves. Take care that your faith is not that of the demon.

Those who truly profess Christ will be affected by Him in ways that change them from a sinner enslaved to sin, to the righteousness of God in action and deed, thought and desire. These are made righteous for eternity instantly by the finished work of Christ over them, and experientially as they grow in grace to live in obedience while on the earth.

Too often we come to faith believing that we will see instant change in our here and now lives, and life will be easy from then on. Our misunderstanding and false expectations leave us unprepared to deal with the flesh, the world and demons siphoning our tanks and discouraging our experience. Those who truly know Him but are not prepared for the struggle that can come as God’s Spirit works to bring the flesh and our will into agreement with the Father are those who too often run on half a tank. Unwilling to deal with the struggle full commitment brings and pay the price of the gas through obedience against all opposition, they settle for half the power potential God brings to life.

The Father loves the Bride fully. Through the Son, she (the body of Christ) enters into familial relationship with the Father, becoming His child; sons and daughters made whole in Christ. In the instant we come into relationship with God through Christ, we receive all His love and care because of that relationship; the blood of Christ, God’s gift of grace to us, covering our sin so the Father can relate with us one on one. And the ring of promise on our finger is the Spirit of God within us that seals the deal for all eternity. We are sealed in the Spirit, and that seal cannot be broken. Our eternity is made sure in Him, but our here and now is still influenced by fleshly understanding and desires / lusts, worldly wisdom, and demons who work hard to discourage us and feed us lies that keep us from knowing and living in God’s full supply. These syphon our tanks and make us weak from lack of realizing our full supply in Christ.

Our challenge as the people of God is to trust God’s supply. We must realize that we are in the world and the world and all that are part of it seek to steal our supply and drain our tanks so we do not see the full effect of God’s work in our lives. To have full supply and function in it, we must learn that though we are in the world, we are not of the world. We are already of the Kingdom of God having full access to its resources by faith, able to experience it here in our now living.

God is ready to supply us with all we need to walk in freedom from those who rob our lives of sufficiency and hinder our journey with Him. For that we have to put a lock cap on our tank; and that lock cap is believing-faith. Believing-faith opens us up in the Spirit, equipping us to recognize and receive God’s supply, no matter how hard the hill we have to climb. Believing-faith covers our supply spout with rested trust in God, knowing that all He allows has a purpose that is taking us to a better place in life. Our supply protected by believing-faith, we are equipped for obedience no matter the pit or curves the enemy of our journey throws into our path.

Believing His word to me all these years that the love pouring into me was from Him, His supply for service in meeting needs this man of God has in his ministry as a modern day Paul, and refusing to let go of faith despite my experience in my struggle with the experience of His love welling up in me is what kept me from running from a lesson that has taught me more about His great love than I would have known otherwise. Faith trusts in God fully and rests in Him despite circumstance to learn the things that change our perspective, bringing us in line with His thoughts and His understanding, making us more like Him; a conduit for His flow to reach our world and change lives. That faith shakes the snakes and vipers off the hand to press forward unharmed by its venom; leaving others standing in awe as they recognize God with us, working in our lives (Acts 4:13).

God desires to fill us up and spill us out to His glory. Sometimes that means taking us through difficult times of training that unclog the fuel system so our tanks are clear and ready to receive of His supply. In our journey with Him, supplied by His grace sufficient for every need and strengthened to face every challenge, God uses our circumstances to remove ugly roots and rocks of stumbling out of the way, where it cannot hinder our reaching His desired destination for us.

Are you going through a difficult time and wondering where God is in it? I was encouraged the other day when I read this picture that was posted on FaceBook: “When you are going through something hard and wonder where God is, remember the teacher is always quiet during a test. Trust in the Lord” (See Psalm 37). Though God may be quiet for a time, and His hands may seem harsh at work in us while getting us into a place of pliability for His molding and shaping, He is always right there with us, doing a good work in our lives.

I hope this encourages you to face the time of struggle with greater faith when the enemy of God seeks to siphon your tank and make you think God’s supply is insufficient. Stand believing and see what the Lord will do. Though the road of your journey may be long and bumpy, He will not leave you disappointed with the outcome. What He will leave you with is a testimony for use in helping others to His grace sufficient for every need.

~*~

“I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Revelation 3:8).

Love So Pure: But Forbidden Just the Same – Part 2

The Ache in God’s Heart

 In the last post, I shared the love that God pours through me toward others, citing for our discussion three examples of those times and how Satan uses fleshly and worldly limitations in understanding God’s love for us as he works to distort our experience of it and ability to rightly express it to others. Today let’s look at God’s love for us and what that means with regard to our right of choice and our eternity.

Revelation 3:5 says, “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I (Jesus) WILL NOT erase his name from the book of life, and I WILL confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

Talking to the church of Sardis, Jesus warns that there are people of the church (the gathering of those who profess Christianity) who are alive in this life, but they are dead. These have never made a true decision to follow Christ and receive the gift of true and eternal life, but they play the part as if they have. There are a few in the Sardis church who have done so, and for these who overcome in this way, they receive these promises stated in verse 5 of Revelation 3. This scenario is still true in life today. There are some who truly know and walk in the promise of God. But there are many, even among the church goers of our day, who have a false faith, being no faith at all.

Note: the book of life. My understanding as I study the “book of life” is that every name of every person ever born into the earth has their name in this book. Some who were of the pre-Christ, faith in our God continue to have their name remaining in the book because they walked in vital relationship with the Father, and they trusted in the coming of the promised Christ. They chose to believe and receive their righteousness through believing faith in God and His promises before Christ arrived.

Then Jesus the Christ came as the Lamb of God, and He paid the price required to defeat sin and the death sin brings us, revealing Himself to be the only doorway to the Father and the King who will come to fulfill God’s promise to Israel as rightful Ruler, having defeated the enemy of God (John 10). There is now a new covenant with God and that covenant requires relationship with God through Christ for entry into His Kingdom family. This covenant promise reaches the hand of God out to all, Jew and Gentile alike. Only those who truly and fully choose to wed themselves to God through Christ’s sacrifice that redeemed right over us from the hand of the enemy that enslaves us will find their name still remaining in the book when Jesus confesses as our advocate before the Father those belonging to God’s family.

In Colossians 3 we are told that those who enter into relationship with God through Christ are made one together, removing all separation of circumcision. In the old covenant, circumcision was a sign of consecration of a people; revealing to all their commitment to God and His right of Lordship over them. It was meant to be an outward expression of an inward work. True commitment to Christ works that intended purpose in us through the power of His Spirit within us, proving circumcision of heart through the fruit of lives consecrated to God.  

Through Christ we all enter into relationship with God, being made one with Him in Holy Matrimony for all eternity. Without Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, there is no circumcision that is sufficient. Apart from Christ, we cannot be set free or made right with God, and are the poorest of the poor no matter our wealth in this life. And even our greatest good, if not coupled with Christ and the work of His Spirit in us, is as filthy rags before a Holy God; for our heart motives, intentions and purposes are too often distorted from His, destroying our ability to be in relationship with a God who cannot even look on sin.

Still, God, Who is love, loves fully, completely and purely: the Barbarian (those who refuse to conform to God and His ways) and Scythian (considered to be the worst of the worst of mal-conformists); the Jew (the people of God’s possession), the Gentile (those not part of God’s possessed people); the slave and the freeman (rich or poor matters not, His love just a great toward both alike). All who have yet to enter into relationship with Him through Christ, who is our freedom from sin and death, God loves as fully as He does those who are His.

But He is hindered in giving that love fully to you who refuse His saving grace, because you have not chosen to separate yourself from your sin by receiving in your body the Sacrifice for sin found in Christ that vitally unites us to God, the Father. Until you do, you are in danger of having your name removed from the book of life, being eternally separated from God because of sin that is only cleansed and covered by the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus; the Messiah. And for some, booing my words right now, know that hearts can harden to the point of passing over the threshold of no return, passing up your opportunity while yet you live.

God grieves over you with love unfulfilled. This is the reason God revealed to me for the pain and the struggle I have experienced, so I may understand the heart of God toward those lost to sin, making me able to somewhat express to you the depth of God’s love for you.

One day all will stand before the judgment seat of God. Oh, hear me people. There we each, the Bride, and those scratched out of the book, all will stand before this God who is pure love, the love we all look to find; love that we need in order to be whole and complete. This love exudes from His every pore, for it is who He is, and all will know it. We each will fully know His love for us as individuals of His creation. Then the roll will be called and Jesus will separate out the sheep, those birthed to God through the Lamb. As He leads us sheep into the eternal Kingdom to live forever with our God of love, He will confess us as His own beloved Bride (1 John 5:13).

Then, with the ache in His heart akin to what I have experienced for years now as shared in part 1 of this article; an ache multiplied to His heart exponentially by each person who is no longer on the rolls of God’s book of life, He will shout, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:31-46). His love has flowed to me over one I felt hindered to express it to fully, and I thought I would be crushed by the ache within me. I cannot even fathom the weight of the pain He feels over the masses who refuse to believe and receive His love.

In Matthew 8, Jesus speaking to a Jewish crowd, says that those who were sons of the kingdom but failed to choose relationship with God through Him will be “cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vs. 12). This proclamation of warning from Christ to the people of God He reached out to is true for all mankind. To understand this agony that will bring the castaway to a fire burning constantly and bringing them to weeping and gnashing of teeth, we need to recognize two things:

First is this love of God that is equal for all, the sheep (children of God) and the goat (castaways—lost for eternity). He loves us, yes; and His love desires that we willingly choose to love Him back, living for Him in line with all He holds dear and true, which requires an obedience of us to be and do as He is.

But man is unable to do that on His own. If we learn nothing else in the Old Testament, it is that mankind is incapable of the righteousness of God’s desire. So God ordained that there be sacrifice for sin and, through the lineage of Israel, because of His love for us and His desire for a relationship with us, He raised up a Holy Seed to be the Lamb of God: the Seed of Adam that would stomp the head of the serpent; the Seed of Abraham that would bless the nations.

God’s love is pure and complete, loving us as we are, but, desiring the best for us, loving us too much to leave us in our current spiritual condition. So He sent His son to pay the price of blood required, and He sends His Spirit that we may know His ways so we may know Him, receiving and becoming a conduit of His love and His righteousness, empowered by His Spirit. In the Day of Judgment, all will fully know this truth, but for those who refused to believe, it will be too little, too late.

The second understanding we must have is that, in the Kingdom of God, there will no longer be need of a sun because God will be the light of that place (Revelation 21:23).

Standing before God, two things are revealed to those scratched out of the book: revelation of the full and complete awe of God, who is love; the truth that He is and knowledge of all that He is. They will see Him as He is and experience for a brief moment His pure love for them and the completeness He brings to those who see Him in His glory. And two: They will see Him in all His goodness through His Light that brings full revelation of all that is good. They will know in an instant their sin, contrasted with His purity; sin that can no longer be forgiven, for they will again realize that it is too late.

As quickly as they come into contact with God, in all His fullness so as to discover His pure love and glorious light of truth and righteousness, they will be cast away from Him forevermore. As they are sent away, they will go knowing that without God, true love cannot exist, for God is love. Without God there is utter darkness. Those who fail to choose Him through Christ will be sent away to an eternity without any Light to a place where no love resides.

If you have ever experienced utter darkness, where you cannot see your hand in front your face, you know how unnerving that can be. Imagine that for all eternity. Imagine being in that place of darkness with no one you love or who loves you; for love cannot exist separated from its Source.

Jesus speaks of the eternal fire that these will experience. Could it be that the fire that will burn forever, torturing those cursed for an eternity without God, is the fire of desire to experience for a second that purity, that love, just once more.

People say that the fire is flames of heat because of the parable of the rich man who asked for a drop of water to quench the heat of his tongue. But could the water he requested be the Living Water that quenches thirst forever? Could it be the desire to experience His glory and worship at His feet one more time? For I believe they will fall on their knees in worship before Him on that day of judgment, and they will profess Jesus as the Christ, the King and Lord of lords, but theirs will be as the confession of the demon who knows it is too late for them to enter into His rest and find life made full and complete (Philippians 2:1-11).

And what was Abraham’s response to the man? “Between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us” (Luke 16:19-31). The cursed are not within reach of the Water they long for, and none who might have compassion to share with them can do so. It is too late.

In the parable, this tortured man requested that Lazarus be sent back to life to bear witness to his brothers so that they might repent and be saved his agony. But Abraham essentially said that those who will not listen to the testimony of their own patriarchs who bore witness of the Christ, why would they heed the testimony of another, though resurrected from the dead. Thus many refuse to hear the witness of those who are reborn in Christ and bear the testimony of His presence and work in our lives. Many are enslaved by refusal to realize there is a God. Many are snared by pride that believes we must somehow be good enough for God, not realizing that we are incapable of goodness without God.

The sacrifices of Israel, short lived as it was while yet ordained by God, required it to be done over and over again to keep their sin covered because they were incapable of maintaining purity then, just as we are incapable today. Even the exercise of sacrifice for sin became sin, as many did so as a habit that had no true effect on their lives. They refused change, continuing in their sin, and the act of sacrifice given in outward observance of the Law was nullified by lack of the circumcision of heart that separates from sin.

Then enters Jesus: His sacrifice was once for all. All the sin of all mankind that would ever exist was placed on His shoulders. God, paying the full price required in blood, sent His only begotten Son as a Lamb to the slaughter, First Born among many brethren who would be birthed through Him. The sacrifice of Christ Jesus covered the sin of those who trusted in His coming before He came, and the sin of all who would believe in His ministry of love and sacrifice after those days.

Why did God plan for and provide this sacrifice. Because He loves us all and desires that we have a vital, effective and growing relationship of love with Him, and that requires us to realize that we cannot achieve that relationship without His work in us. Thus, He provided the way by which we may know Him as God.

This is the love of God for us that put Jesus on that cross. And all – ALL – saved and lost alike, who stand before God on that Day of Judgment will fully know that love poured out on their behalf. The sheep of God will enter into His Kingdom to eternal joy and rejoicing; and those who refused to believe will fully experience His pure love that makes one whole, only to be cast away from it for all eternity. Their weeping and gnashing of teeth will be the constant ache of knowing that pure Love and revealing Light for an instant in eternity, knowing only never to experience it again. They will be fully alive in their understanding of what they could have had, while fully dead in the outer darkness, experiencing the pain of utter death found in separation from God for eternity. They will know the ache of God’s heart over love lost.

As I said before, God has allowed me this forbidden love experience, with the ache of longing that was grievous and sorrowful to me, so I can understand how He feels toward those who have yet to choose Him through Christ. My heart now relaxes and releases its struggle with a sigh of relief in understanding that purpose. And I thank my God who has allowed me this experience so that I can share it with you and so that I can have His heart to grieve over those who refuse to believe as I love the lost masses with Him. I have prayed many times to understand God’s heart toward the lost. Little did I know that my struggle was His answer to my prayer; discerning the longing for those loved and the ache of sin’s separation.

The time is growing short, and the Day of Judgment draws near when no man may choose. Beloved of God, do not let that hour come on you as if unexpected. To say to self and God, “I will sow my wild oats, and then I will come to salvation” is foolish. Today is the day of salvation, for you have no promise of a tomorrow. Choose now, while you are able, surrendering fully to the transforming grace of God’s pure and holy love that will make you whole as never before. I urge you to call upon someone you know to be true of faith as a Christian so they can help you take the first steps in your journey of faith through Christ.

~*~

The next post I thought was separate from this, but God has revealed that it is part of this series, making it three posts instead of two. It is for those who know Christ, or think they do. See you soon with the rest of the story.

Love So Pure: But Forbidden Just the Same – Part 1

The Struggle Revealed

 I have experience of numerous deep, abiding, holy, pure loves in my life. They are equal to each other and beautiful to behold, bringing rejoicing to my heart; but distinctions in relationships make equal expressions of love forbidden, hindered by rite of Law. What do I mean?

This will be a two part article, first looking at our love relationship with and in Christ; then looking at God’s love relationship to us through Christ and the effect that has on our eternal destiny.

So what do I mean and how can love equality be? Aren’t we to love God first and foremost and each relationship falls in a line under that? God’s love flow is the answer. In making the point I am to share with you today, I tell you of three of my love relationships; made equal by the degree of God’s love flowing through me, but unequaled by rite of relationship Law.

My first Love, of greatest importance, though equal to the others because of its source, is for my God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I choose to love Him and be in relationship with Him as my God, but the love, which is my own, is limited by the weakness of my flesh. However, as I choose to love God with my all, keeping Him as first in my life, trying as I may to love Him as He deserves despite this limitation of flesh, God moves in with His supply and I am helped by Him Who fills me with love that goes beyond the bounds of my ability. He, who is Love, couples His supply with my own, making my love for Him pure and full blown for His glory. It wells up in me and I soar to the heights of the knowledge of His presence.  In this way I am equipped by Him to love Him in ways that please and honor Him fully.

My second love is my husband. Now, I have always said that my love for my husband is less than that I have for my God, because I BELIEVED that was as it should be. As far as hierarchal Law goes in determining who I will follow first as Lord, that is true. But lately, as God has grown and blossomed my love for my husband, God has shown me that my love for my man should equal my love for Him, for it too is supplied and made whole and full through our union as one with Him in holy matrimony: our love making us one flesh together through Him, His love for my husband swells in me and the experience of it is equal to what I have when love soars to God.

God is not a jealous God when our love for others is based out of our love for Him. The only jealousy He has is when we turn from Him to others as a type of god. I can love my husband fully, as I love my God, because God pours His love through me. In this way I am capable of loving my husband as God desires and designed me to, and through the purity of God’s love flowing through me, I am protected from sinning against my first love, God.

The purity of God’s love desiring the very best for and toward the object of love, whether God or man, protects my relationship with God as God, keeping me from seeing my husband take God’s rightful place in my life. My love for my husband is kept in right priority and rite of relationship by this love of God that flows through me to him. And I am protected by the full and pure love I have for my husband from sinning against my marriage vows, whatever temptation the enemy may send. Now, if that is clear as mud, let’s throw a third party in the mix.

I love my husband as I love my God, with whole heart that is helped and empowered by His love-flow, desiring to please God in my relationships. And like with my love for my God, my love for my husband, empowered and made strong by my God, is pure love, and I cannot fathom ever sinning against that love. Nonetheless, there is a love in me that has been there and grown strong for many years. It, too, is pure and holy and supplied by God, and when it wells up in me fully, it is equal to my love for my God and my husband. It is different in its expression and intent and purpose from that of my love for my God, but part of that love. And it is different in expression from my love for my husband, but a love made great and soaring strong in me in likeness to my love for my God and my husband because of the source of love’s flow.

This love has a forbidden dimension to it because it is love toward another man, not my husband. By rite of marital Law, though I love this other man of God fully and have enjoyed serving God together with him on many projects for many years now, I cannot act on this love in the same way that I do toward my husband.  Still there is the call of God in me to minister alongside this other man as is proper, just as the women who served at the feet of Jesus, and those who were ministers with Paul and Elijah. Our union of heart desire toward God swells in my heart with the love of God toward him, filling me with love that equals my love for my God and my husband, pure and holy in its intent and sourcing.

Then enters Satan: often Satan will try to distort love, for our experience of love is the closest thing to sitting in the lap of God, who IS love. Satan does not want us to truly know that heart of love where we may come to greater understanding of and stronger relationship with God, so he works to make our experience of love into something it is not meant to be.

Satan often moves in when that love for my Christian Brother soars, using my misunderstanding of God’s love-flow, my fleshly wisdom and that of this world to bring thoughts that make this love seem wrong. When love toward my Brother wells up so strong in me, lies of evil regarding it using the way the world thinks about love, twists the love into something different in my mind, causing me to feel guilty though I have done nothing wrong and have no wrong intent or desire toward him, for I can see no other man for me than my husband.

In that moment of struggle, this love that, if acted upon fully in accord with the temptation of the distortion Satan seeks to work, would be sin against my God, my husband, and this man. When it is full blown in me, Satan working to make it appear ugly, I struggle with guilt and anguish over it, and it hinders my ability to work with peace together in our common desire to fulfill the purpose of God. It has been a confusing journey and a long lessen I am grateful to have lived through, for it has shown me great things about my God who knows and understands our struggle in life, and He allows it for our good, not for harm.

I know this love that swells in me for my Brother is of God because I know the love of my God personally and intimately. God, in His grace, has always helped me to deal with this twisting of satanic ploy, putting my thoughts and my relationship back in the position it belongs, thus equipping me to continue serving God in righteousness alongside this other man. But the twisting of distortion has hindered me from fully living in the love-flow of God toward him for fear of the struggle, and I often pull back from things I feel called to alongside him in order to avoid the struggle.

When I shared the turmoil of heart with my husband, he encouraged me with his understanding of how it can be when people of opposite sex work together and have like desires in the work. He prays for me and helps me with his trust and support. And I have grown to trust this love to God for His protection, so that I may serve as He leads without sin, at the time, not understanding its source because of the hindrance within.

God’s love toward my friend wells up in me unexpectedly and often, calling me to prayer for my friend in Christ who is often in harm’s way in his ministry, helping me to reach out to meet the need of my ministry with him with right heart and priority. But false wisdom and understanding hinders the joy of love’s purity.

I have cried out often for deliverance from these wrong emotions that hit me with this love and for understanding of the struggle demonic thoughts throw into the works; but until now there has been no response from God. Today I share this struggle with you so that I may make clear God’s answer that finally came to my understanding.

Now, before you get all judgmental and close off to the moral of the story, hang with me. Like with Hosea who was led to take a bride of harlotry in order to understand the message God had for Israel, there is a lesson here that God taught me and wants you to hear. And believe me, you are not thinking anything about it that I have not thought during my struggle. You may even be able to relate to it from your own experience. If so, I hope you had God’s help to protect you from sin as well. So, setting the judgment aside to God, now that you have the background, let’s continue to the truth God revealed to me through this situation.

Last night I had a dream that this man came for a visit. When he comes, we open our home to him as Lydia and her family did to Paul. My husband and I love him and we minister to him together in the Lord. And he loves us with a pure love. It is a joy when he comes.

During this visit in my dream, he became very ill and I began to minister to him, doing what I could for him in our home, in the hospital, and after his release. As I did so God’s love welled up in me. Again, that temptation of forbidden love came and I began the struggle anew in my dream, feeling guilty over a love so strong toward one who is not my husband. Crying out to God as I ministered to him, drawn of God to care for him, I am as grieved and confused as ever.

Waking from the dream, that love still overwhelming my heart, I cry out to God as never before, seeking understanding of why He would allow such a struggle to exist in me. Seeking discernment as never before, do you know what God said to my heart?

“For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVES in Him shall not perish but have everlasting (eternal) life” (John 3:16).

In that instant knowledge of why God allowed me to experience this love from Him was clear to me: God is love! He cannot help but love. And He loves all equally and fully: saved and sinner alike, He shows no partiality in His love. But like with my love for this other man who is not my husband, His love is hindered toward some because it is forbidden by rite of the Law He himself set, limiting Himself toward us so that we can have rite of choice to love Him in return.

God loves all who are in the world, giving His Son for all, but He has set up a law, the law of sin and death, where sin was allowed to enter by His design that we should have choice regarding our personal relationship with Him.

Mankind began with full access to God, but sin entered to separate us from full relationship with Him, working a spiritual death that would set the stage for spiritual birth to new life, where those who receive it will never to be separated from Him again.

God had this plan from the beginning. He developed for Himself a people, out of which He sent a Healing Balm to restore life anew to all who choose to receive it, and that is found in the sacrifice of the Son, the Messiah Christ Jesus.

Blood has long been required as sacrifice for sin, and before Christ there were long lines of people bringing their offerings for sacrifice in order to be seen as pure in God’s eyes. But sin and death reigned in the earth, and very few were allowed to know the presence and reality of God as a result.

God loved all His created beings, wanting so much to have a personal and living relationship with each one, so His plan from the beginning included the Gift of a final offering on our behalf. Therefore, sending Jesus, His Son, who willingly gave His life as a sacrificial Lamb, God provided in likeness to His provision for Abraham on the mountain with Isaac, his son. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, God removed the rite of sin and death to hold us captive, returning to us the right to choose life or death, good or evil, blessing with Him, or curse of living without Him, never to know His love flow. He desires to flow His love to all, but He chooses to honor our decision regarding Him and holds back from forcing Himself on us.

Do you see the flip-flop effect here? Where Adam and Eve had God in all His fullness right there with them and their choice was to remain with him or depart to a life of death, separated from Him by sin; we are birthed to a life without right to God and must choose to be born again in our spirit by receipt of the Sacrifice for sin that restores our relationship with God to its full intent. He then, begins the work of restoring our love relationship with Him to its full capacity, giving Himself fully to us, making us whole, and reviving His likeness in us, including our ability to love as one in Him.

This remedy to the law of sin and death says that all who choose God by accepting the sacrifice of the Son as the work of the Spirit accomplished at the hand and bidding of God will be cleansed and set free forever from the consequence of sin and death; and they who choose life in Christ then receive all of God’s love with all the perks of relationship with Him. With Christ as our covering, God then can pour out His full love on us through the vital relationship He desires to have with every person born to the earth.

God ministers to all, sending the blessing of rain on the just through Christ and the unjust alike: He must by right of the pure love within Him, do what He can for those He loves. But, for those who have not chosen to enter into a marriage relationship with Him through Christ, He cannot give Himself fully to them and sin against His law of sin and death, nullifying His marriage vows to the church, the Bride of Christ; His beloved children through Jesus. Those who are born to the earth are separated from God by the death brought to all mankind that separates them from Him because of sin, and our God of Love struggles in His affections toward them, desiring to give Himself fully to them, but hindered by Law.

Just as by rite of relationship laws, I can only show my love for my friend to a small degree of the full relationship of love I have with my husband, so God is limited by the Law regarding rite of relationship with Him, mankind being separated from experiencing all that He is by sin’s right over them. For those who receive by faith the sacrifice for sin in Jesus, the gap between God and that person is closed, and God again has right and delight in giving all He is and all He has to us for our joy and fulfillment. We are made whole together with Him, made one in the Beloved. Thus the flow of equal love to many in my life is made clear, and the struggle that the flesh, the world and the demonic would work to hinder that love flow and the power it brings to work together in unity is squelched. I am free.

God loves all fully, and through relationship with His Son we experience His full love when we choose Him through believing faith. So what does our choice or lack thereof mean for our eternity? See you tomorrow for the conclusion of this thought…