Tag Archives: Overcomers

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is this fruit of the Kingdom?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace Defined #5 – an annonym: The Idol Lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Jeremiah 9 ends with the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace Defined #4: Power to Perform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace Defined #3: Power to Overcome

“But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it)” (James4:6).

What a powerful statement about God’s grace. Grace—God’s unmerited favor and spiritual blessing, flows to us in order to bring power to our lives that will equip us to overcome every evil tendency. Read this full passage, James 4:1-10, in the New American Standard Bible Version:

“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?

“Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.’

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

Wow, what promise this grace is. Here is what I know about God’s work of grace:

God desires us so much that He provided a way through Christ for salvation to come to us weak willed beings who falter and fail so constantly. Sending salvation to us through His grace found in Christ, as we humble ourselves to admit our need of it, He gives to us His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing. As we humble ourselves to receive His grace, He then places within us His Holy Spirit to teach us and to do a work of transformation, making us back into the image of God first placed there in creation. But this work of transformation is not instantaneous, though some may have more instantaneously obvious results than others, all will have a lifetime of work yet to accomplish. We become a work of art, God bringing healing to us a little at a time as we are ready and able to humbly submit ourselves to Him and receive it.

Step by step, God reveals to us our ungodly pleasures, our self-centered motives, our murderous adulteries: all the while He jealously longs for more of His Spirit to be found in us. So He keeps heaping on grace as we will receive it, using the hope that grace brings to our struggling hearts to empower our victory. Equipping us to recognize our own need of His grace, He empowers us to receive His Spirit through Whom He equips us to stand against our every evil tendency, thus He is able to make you stand (Romans 14:14; Jude 1:24-25).

Is there an evil-issue you find yourself constantly struggling to overcome? Ask God to reveal the root of the problem to you and surrender to the grace He gives you to stand.

Second Corinthians 1:11-12 (AMP) encourages us further as we note this work of grace, “While you also cooperate by your prayers for us [helping and laboring together with us]. Thus [the lips of] many persons [turned toward God will eventually] give thanks on our behalf for the grace (the blessing of deliverance) granted us at the request of the many who have prayed. It is a reason for pride and exultation to which our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world [generally] and especially toward you, with devout and pure motives and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God (the unmerited favor and merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, and keeps, strengthens, and increases them in Christian virtues).”

This is the work of God’s grace, found in Christ Jesus, and brought to bear in our souls by the power of His Spirit. All things are possible for me, for nothing shall be impossible with God. Therefore I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me through the power of His Spirit working within a humbled and submissive me, as I stand in agreement and surrender to my All Knowing, Almighty, and Omniscient God.

THE SECRET PLACE

“The Secret Place of Most High” God, the place in which Psalm 91:1 calls us to dwell—our dwelling place of healing, strength, power, provision, protection, freedom, etc: What is The Secret Place? I’ve been thinking on this awhile and here are the thoughts rolling around in my head.

Is being “in the Spirit” theSecret Place? I don’t think so. However, The Spirit in us and us in Him is needful for entry into the Secret Place. The Spirit is the “third person” or revelation of God. He is palpable. We know when He is near. He opens up to us the truths of God, empowers us for service, and to overcome fears and failures. He is the seal of God’s approval and relationship with us for all eternity. His authority over us comes from both the Father and the Son. He speaks to us only what the Father instructs Him to. He is wholly God, but somehow limited in His authority and work by the will of the Father and the Son.

Is the Son theSecret Place? He is the Hiding Place, but I don’t think He is theSecret Place. We are completely hidden in Christ. He gives the Spirit charge to fill us and be our teacher in His stead, while He covers us. Jesus covers us with His blood of propitiation—the full price that covers our sin. He covers us in His robes of righteousness. Why? Because the Father cannot look on sin, so Jesus covers us, hiding our sin ridden flesh, so that we may have fellowship with the Father. But Jesus is not the Father—somehow, beyond my comprehension, they are one and the same but different.

Jesus worked hard in His earthly ministry to make a clear distinction between Himself and the Father. He told us that the Father has given Him all authority in heaven and earth, making Him King and giving Him power over His own life, to take it up or lay it down. He had the keys to Hades where He deposited all sin for all eternity; the debt is paid, and acceptance of His provision assures that we do not join our sin there for everlasting time. But He is not Father.

He made it clear when another called Him “good” that only the Most High God, our Father is good. Why would not the Sinless Lamb of God be considered good? Could it be that, in order to prove Himself sinless and able to withstand temptation, He had to be open to temptation? That says to me that there had to be a struggle of some sort there that was overcome, otherwise how would He truly know how we struggle in our flesh? How would He truly understand?

Jesus also made it clear that only the Most High God and Father knows all, for He said, “But of that day and hour (of His return) no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36).

So God is one, but He reveals Himself to us in three distinct personalities: the all powerful Spirit who is sent out to do the bidding of Father and Son; the Son who, according to inklings throughout Scripture is the part of God that can relate with sinful man and has done so throughout the ages in the form of “The Angel of the Lord” and in the body and work of the Son of God and Savior of man, and in the Father. We don’t fully understand all this, but this is the picture we get throughout scripture, and it is glory to behold. God, who cannot look on sin, made provision through His seeming Split Personality that is beyond our full comprehension, so that He could fulfill His promise to be with us always and so that He could bring about the fullness of His purpose and plan in the completeness of time.

But there is a part of God—the part that Jesus calls “Father” and instructs us who are His children-in-Christ to call Him that as well—that is kept in holiness, separate from man. He is the One who has all authority in Himself. No one gives it to Him. No one can take it away. It is Who He is. Father is the one who has all knowledge and understanding in Himself; amazingly and unfathomably holding some things even from the conscious understanding of His Son—who is somehow Himself in the flesh of a Man. The Father is the One part of God’s wholeness who cannot even look on evil; The One whose holy essence is the cause of any inkling of evil trying to enter His presence being laid out in instant death upon entering His sanctuary. He is the one who is only found in the Holy of Holies. This is the part of God that Jesus and the Spirit constantly call us to draw near to and know. Could this be the Secret Place of the Most High God?

In pre-Christ days, God poured forth His presence into the tabernacle area known as the Holy of Holies. This is where Moses and the spiritual heads that followed him entered in to the very presence and fellowship of God. As the days of the priests came in, it was permitted for the high priest to enter the Holy of Holies once each year to make atonement for the sins of the people. But it was required for that high priest to be thoroughly washed of all sin before he could enter. He went through spiritual cleansing for days before his entry, then was washed physically and placed in specific robes for his entry into the presence of God. Before he entered, the priests serving alongside him would tie a rope around his ankle, for if he failed to repent of even what man would deem to be a “small sin,” he would drop dead in the presence of God’s holiness. The rope allowed for the body to be removed without endangering those who would retrieve him.

Then enters Jesus, the High Priest ordained by God, the last one ever needed. He paid the price for all sin, and in the instant of that debt being fully covered, God tore open the Holy place of His dwelling. Now it makes sense to me why Jesus is somehow the housing of only a part of God’s wholeness, for if all of God was in the Lamb, all mankind would be dead from the touch of His holiness, and He would have no need to get on that cross.

Jesus came in the power of God’s Spirit and paid the full price of sin, and the Father tore open the Holy of Holies, inviting all in who will receive the covering of the Price and walk in the Power. In His earthly ministry, Jesus constantly pointed all who would listen to God the Father and His ways, instructing us to worship The Most High God and Father in Spirit and in truth. And He taught us to pray, not to Himself, but to the Father in the name of the Son—as representing Him and His interests and in His authority and covering; thus, fulfilling our earthly role in Christ as His priest unto God for mankind; His representative in the earth; His body, having His authority to enter into the holiness of God by the blood of the Lamb who is our High Priest and has made the way open to us.

The Secret Place: the place where God in all His fullness is made available to us. The place where we find healing and power and provision and protection and peace and all that God is, as He reveals Himself more and more to each individual member of Christ. It is said of Joshua, the son of Nun, that when Moses left the tent of meeting , Joshua would remain there. He was seeking to dwell in that Secret Place, the inner sanctum of God. This is our calling. This is our aim.

“He who DWELLS in (the shelter of) the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty, Whose power no foe can withstand” [Psalm 91:1, AMP (NASB)].

On the Frontlines

“When you came into and became a part of the Kingdom of God, you were given spiritual territory to maintain and rule over. You were given authority over the devil and the power to overcome temptation and to rule over your own flesh. You have been appointed as watchmen to stay alert and be aware of any intrusion into your environment. Now you must re-establish yourself in your authority by way of faith, and evaluate the condition of your spiritual atmosphere, and then go to work to make it a clean habitation for My presence, says the Lord” (SMALL STRAWS IN A SOFT WIND by Marsha Burns – 4/28/11)

This “prophesy,” shared by a friend, is very true to what God has called me to and had me do for two years now.

Two years ago, God put me into a type of Nasserite vow time of fasting for what He revealed to be for the mental, physical and spiritual health of the men in our family, and for the State of the Union—meaning every union created by God: especially for our unity with God and in our marriages, as well as for unity of every alliance created by God. It has been an intense, God led time of reclaiming territory in my own life and crying out for the lives of family members for things I did not fully understand, but I knew that God knew.

When we begin to deliberately stand firm against enemy incursion into our territory inChrist, we must be ready for enemy encounters. This is a spiritual warfare truth that has proved out in my own personal experience in this two year fast for my family, as well as in previous similar calls to battle array.

When God’s people realize that we are on the frontlines of spiritually inspired battles and we take our stance with God we must be ready, for there can be some ugly things come out of filthy closets as God reveals where the enemy is hiding.  That filth may not come out of our own closets, but out of the closets of those around us who affect the spiritual atmosphere of our territory.

Little did I know the horror that God would uncover as He revealed the cause of my call to this rather unusual and long session of fasting. That reason for my call apparently began at the time of my call to prayer and fasting and is finally revealed to us.

It was two years ago that someone we love dearly and that we trusted and respected as a man of godly character, went on a two week spree of sexual assault against a then 11 year old child. That child recently opened up about it, and we learned of other, more recent ungodly conduct involving another child.

It is astonishing to me that God called me to pray and fast, somehow using that to uncover this horrendous truth. But, as I consider all we know right now and the timing of my call, I wonder: is it God’s call on me to fight for things unseen that kept his assault against the first child to only a two week occurrence that did not progress to greater, more horrendous assault?

Never doubt, nor question, the call of God to stand in battle array, fighting in spiritual realms to take and hold territory God ordains to be His. There is always good purpose in it. My experience shared here is only one of many such calls. I always hate finding the things God uncovers that is bringing destruction to our sphere of influence, but God has proven faithful every time to bring good and glory in the restoration of that territory to His good use and purpose.

As difficult as it is to face a filthy closet, there is nothing like the peace and sense of accomplishment when it is cleansed and in good order again. So when the call comes to you, go forth in faith, mighty warrior, and prosper the Land.

DarleneDavis©4/28/11

Armory

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle (forbearing) spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds inChristJesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9, NASB)

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Looking at this in light of recent spiritual and physical assaults to my state of mind and heart, I can see where this passage would fit well with those like Ephesians 6:10-18 and 1 Peter 5:6-11. I see this passage as fitting into our spiritual warfare armory.

One thing our enemy does through our circumstances and struggles is to try to keep us down and discouraged, focused on the storm, the darkness, the valleys of life, rather than focused on our God and His power to prevail over these things that come against us. So what are the aspects seen here that fit our spiritual armory?

First rejoicing in the Lord: Rejoicing in the Lord encompasses both the shield of faith, as rejoicing requires trust in and focus on the good things of God and His ways toward us, and the belt of truth, for truth about God and His ways frees us from fear of life’s issues. And second, it is part of our sword, the word of truth, for true rejoicing in the Lord requires we know the truth about our God and His ways.

Letting our gentle, forbearing spirit be known says to me to live the life we profess, standing firm in faith, bearing witness of our God, trusting Him. It requires our helmet of salvation be in place and our feet shod with the peace the gospel brings us. It requires the belt of truth to be in place because the truth of God abides within us.

Prayer with thanksgiving is a vital part of the armor of God. It is like holding the shield up to cover us and those around us. True thankfulness stems from hope in God that believes He is who He says He is and He is doing what He says He will do. Lifting up prayer with gratitude is like lifting our shields up over ourselves and those around us to ward off the fiery darts of evil. I think of the practice of armies who would huddle together, shields up, to form a turtle shell affect over the whole when enemy arrows would fly in. That is what prayer with thanksgiving does for us. Through these things we receive the peace of God which guards our heart and mind inChristJesus.

As we stand firm in this way, we are to dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise.” This tells me that the scriptures upon which I meditate, the songs I listen to, the words I let rest within me, all should lift me to higher ground through truth, the honorable, righteousness, purity, the lovely and loveable things of good repute, excellence and praise worthiness. Any meditation that leads me in the opposite direction, bringing me to focus on the lie, the dishonorable, the unrighteous, the impure, the unlovely and unlovable things of evil repute, half-hearted, and condemning, should be avoided.

Even listening to good, true, Christian songs and meditations is wrong place, wrong time for us, if it focuses us on the bad and evil dark things of this life, instead of on the good and right, true, lovely and excellent qualities of God and His promises and ways. For example, I was listening to a good, Christian song that was talking about how God walks with us through the valleys, but my heart was focusing on the valley I am in and becoming sad, instead of hearing the work of God in that valley, and being lifted up. So that meditation at that moment was harmful to me. I realized that and changed my focus rather than being led into a pity party for the day. Others listening to that same song in that same moment, could have focused on God’s presence in the valley and been encouraged and lifted up by it. But my being brought deeper into the shadows of that valley was sure signal to change to a new song.

The greatest part of this armory supply list is that as we learn to practice these things in the midst of our spiritual battles, God’s very presence joins us there. God’s enemy cannot stand so as to prevail in His presence. When we use our God given armor in this way, we usher in the Presence and Power of God, who turns our darkness into brightest day.

The Sanctifying Work of the Spirit of God

“Who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure” (1 Peter 1:1b-2).

The Sanctifying Work of the Spirit equips us to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John15:1-5).

Without God’s Spirit at work in us, it is beyond us to fully obey. Many people believe their works will save them, but it is only through saving grace that we have access to the power of God in the Spirit, and only with His sanctifying work can we be seen by the Father as good. Even Jesus said of Himself as a man that “no one—not even me—is good, but God alone” (Mark 10:18). Apart from Him we are nothing and can do nothing of any truly good nature. Our flesh will always destroy the goodness we desire, without God’s grace working to cleanse us.

Thus the Spirit also sanctifies us through the constant sprinkling of the blood of Christ. What is the significance of this sanctifying work of the Spirit? Let’s look at a few Old Testament passages to get a glimpse of this important work of the Spirit.

“So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:8).

The blood of sacrifice sprinkled on the people is a sign of the covenant promise that will not be broken by God. The Spirit of God is our covenant seal authenticating the work of God in 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).

“Then you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments and on his sons and on his sons’ garments with him; so he and his garments shall be consecrated, as well as his sons and his sons’ garments with him” (Exodus 29:21).

To consecrate is to purify and make holy, setting it apart for service. The sprinkling of His blood on us, consecrated us, making us holy acceptable as vessels, useful in His service.

“He shall then sprinkle seven times the one who is to be cleansed from the leprosy and shall pronounce him clean…” (Leviticus 14:7).

The sprinkled blood cleanses and is a sign of cleansing. We are cleansed of all unrighteousness, cleansed of the leprosy of sin by the blood of this Lamb of God (John15:3; 1John1:9).

“Thus you shall do to them, for their cleansing: sprinkle purifying water on them, and let them use a razor over their whole body and wash their clothes, and they will be clean” (Numbers 8:7).

Jesus is the Living Water who quenches the unquenchable thirst of mankind, filling that empty spot that will be satisfied by none other, and giving to us true life more abundant and full. Sprinkled in Him we are purified and made clean.

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols” (Ezekiel 36:25).

He not only cleanses us immediately and eternally by the sprinkling of His blood, but His blood, like Living Water, cleanses us from all filthiness and all idolatry day by day, here a little there a little, removing unrighteousness from us as He reveals our need of His constant cleansing and perfecting work (Philippians 1:6).

“Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand” (Isaiah 52:15).

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He died as a sacrifice for sin that we may be spared that death, and He arose to new life as the First Born of God, taking His rightful seat as one worthy to reign on me and on all who will believe.

“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

“What does it say? ‘THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART’—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED’” (Romans 10:8-11).

“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. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:5-9).

As Sunday approaches, I am rejoicing over our King this Easter, praying the sprinkling of His blood for all who will receive it.

Mirror Image

“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:21-15, NASB).

 

Jesus is the Word, John tells us, and when He is vitally abiding within us, we are saved by God’s grace in Christ for all eternity.

In this passage I see that we need saving grace in two ways: first and foremost being the eternal salvation of our souls through belief in and surrender to the saving grace found in the Lordship of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection paying the price due. But then we need step by step salvation from acting out in the flesh to walking steadfastly in the truths of God, otherwise we would just believe in Jesus and continue on our own path without any difference found in our life through Him.

Every word of God is useful to cut away the things of the flesh and grow us in the truths of God and His way, so that we are able to choose life over death in our day to day circumstances, and thus restoring in us the very image of God (Hebrews 4:12).

Jesus, in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, brings His Word to life in us. He uses His Word to equip us to understand, putting all together so as to help us to know and grow in His ways and to know how to apply His truths to our daily circumstances. Thus, through His Word applied to life, He saves us choice by choice as we see and walk in that truth day by day, keeping us through His word from falling away from Him, where our ability to relate with Him is hindered. The word implanted, becoming more and more who we are and dictating more vitally our lives and paths as a result, saves our souls, our fleshly bodies, from walking contrary to our God.

That being true, when we have the word truly implanted in this vital, life directing way, it proves us to be His as we become doers of the Word, living it out as He did, rather than hearers who are deluded. Did you get that? Those who merely hear God’s word and never apply it to their lives are deluded. How are they deluded?

Hearers who do not do are those branches spoken of in John 15: the ones that fall away, dry up and are burned. You see, we are grafted into the vine of God’s people, Israel, through Christ (Romans 11). When a person hears the truth, they may momentarily bump up to the vine as if to graft with it. Desiring eternity without giving self to the relationship, they fail to become vitally united with it, thus drying up for lack of the food of the Word and the Living Water of His Spirit.  Having no vitally growing root in them, they fall away and are burned.

These hear of God’s grace in Christ and accept it as a truth in their mind, seeming to attach to Him, but then they never feast on Him so as to remain in Him. They die on the vine, never fully committing to His Lordship, failing to be changed by His word, and they fall away with no root in them. Then because they know He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life in their head, they, believing they are safe for all eternity, go on living their lives of wanton pleasure, and never realize they are still lost in sin because they failed to have The Word Implanted. They are deluded, having a form of religion, without truly belonging to the Vine, which is Jesus. So they struggle, wavering back and forth like the seas, wondering why they never get anywhere with the power of others they see growing in Him.

Am I saying people can lose their salvation? No. I am saying that people can have a head-knowledge of Jesus that sets them up against the vine as if to graft to it, but that never gets into their being to unite them to the vine for all eternity. They are like the demons who know of Jesus, but refuse His Lordship. (Luke 4:34; James 2:19)

God uses His Word, implanted in us, to transform us from the fleshly person we are who has the image of God in them distorted by sin, to one who is restored to that image through grace and the Word, living and active within. For this to happen, God’s Word of truth and righteousness has to become part of who we are, the very makeup of our being and personality. To habitually read God’s word and be encouraged to do better in an area of life, only to consistently turn away and immediately forget what we read, returning to our own way, is like looking in a mirror to see who we are to be, only to forget what we look like when we turn away, never truly becoming Christlike in nature.

People who quickly forget the good word they hear, waver back and forth from hope with faith to destitute poverty of soul, never being changed by God’s revealed will. But those who receive the word into themselves, making it the vital, life-giving seed that works in them this change into godliness, find liberty and blessing that transforms their lives to the abundance and effective example that God desires us to be in Him. Such bear within themselves the very image of Christ that makes them whole and empowers them to stand, firm in faith and faithful in Him.

Does this mean that a true Christian will never waver? No. We are each on a journey to perfection, being continually transformed day to day into His likeness, but our flesh does not give up easy (Philippians 1:6). For us, we will look in the Mirror of God’s Word, see who we ARE in Christ, only to walk away and forget to live it in that area of struggle; but we do eventually grasp the word and transform to the image. God does not generally lead us into perfection over night. It is a process, growing us to greater depths of righteousness, here a little, there a little, as we are able to bear it. We have times of struggle when He leads us to deal with deeper root issues; and times of great growth, when we bear the fruit of His image in the power of His Spirit, never to fall back into the old-man-ways in that area of maturity again.

I have about 50 rose bushes in our yard. They put on big, beautiful roses for the most part, very hardy, lasting in beauty for the entire summer. But some of my bushes are obviously grafted to other roses to effect a change in them that is meant to make them the hardy bushes they are. From time to time the grafted bush will put on wiry, sprawling branches with less desirable small roses that destroy the beauty of the bush. If I let those branches keep going, they will take over the bush, destroying the larger roses. So I have to cut those sprawling branches away, allowing the transformation of the bush to take root and produce the desired fruit.

It is the same with us. When we are vitally grafted to Christ, we will as a branch in Him, grow to produce fruit in keeping with righteousness and glorifying our God. But then on occasion, our old nature will sprout forth, bearing fruit in keeping with our old habits and ways. That is when we see God’s discipline come in, pruning away the fruit of death so that the fruit of life more abundant and full can take full root and grow strong. As we fully surrender to His pruning shears, we graft more fully to Him producing the desired fruit.

Just as we can know the bad tree—the ungodly person—by their fruits, so the godly person is known and revealed by theirs. As we are daily changed into greater depths of His likeness by His Word implanted, we prove to be His children (Matthew3:8-10; 7:15-22; Hebrews 12:1-13).

So the Word of God is a mirror for us, revealing to us what we look like in Christ. And that Word, implanted into our very being, equips us to walk away from the mirror as living proof of Christ in us. The important thing is that day by day, as we look in that spiritual mirror, we see more of Him, and walk away from the mirror with that image intact, being more like Him throughout our days.

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

The Cure for Anxiety

 “More than food” came to heart as I was in prayer this morning. Looking it up on BibleGateway.com—actually in context to desire for God—I found the following thought for us who struggle with anxiety issues.

“[ The Cure for Anxiety ] ‘For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?’” (Matthew 6:25)

Anxieties is a symptom of worry; and, let’s face it, worry is sin. Worry is sin because it proves lack of faith to trust God and take Him at His word.

Worry 1: God told us that He knows the number of our days; they are set in stone apart from our sin making our days fall short of God’s count. So why fear the things in life that may kill us. As I say to people who fear flying, “If God has ordained death by plane and we won’t get onboard, He can land it on us.” Likewise, if that is not our lot, why fear what will not kill us.

Worry 2: God promises to always be with us, to help us and protect us. He promises to provide for us, including providing opportunity for growth in faith and for imparting that faith to others. Yet we lock ourselves in our houses, refusing to go where God would have us go for His use and glory, being self-protective—which is pride’s false believe that we CAN protect self, or anything else for that matter.

Worry 3: God promises those who seek Him wholeheartedly and desire Him above all, that He will give them favor with man, and He does so in order that He can use us to reach others and to glorify His name in the earth. Seeing the look on their face, refusing to trust that God will give us favor with them, we fear man.

Failing to see that favor with God gives us favor with man that is beyond comprehension, we wallow in self-pity and self-preoccupation, often accusing others from our hearts with thought of what we think they think of us. In actuality, if we are honest with ourselves and God, the thoughts we fear others think of us, the things we fear they see, most often reveal our opinion of self; thoughts often ingrained in us by others who are likewise self-preoccupied, putting their insecurities and false identity, fears and faithless anxieties off on “me”.

On we could go. Worry, fear, anxiety. They are all linked together. We cannot have one without the other, and all are based in the sin of unbelief, an inability to trust God. Such struggle is all too often the result of an issue in life commonly known as the generational curse: the sins of the forefathers that open doors and provide loopholes to God’s enemy for plaguing the heart of the next generation. And yes, some struggles with such are due to faulty body chemistry that needs medication to correct, but more than not, our struggle causes the foul up in body chemistry.

Here is the procession I see and believe to be true with regard to such sickness of our flesh: we can cause our body chemistry to foul up with constant thoughts of worry and fretting.

Constant fretting causes a stress in the body that keeps the fight or flight chemicals churning. After awhile, just as happens when a person repeatedly eats so many sweets that the insulin systems of the body breakdown, we breakdown our body’s ability to cope with stress, causing us to require medications to help our body function properly.

Now you take a child who is raised under the influence of parents who walk in constant fear and anguish, and that child will grow to have messed up coping skills and a messed up body chemistry to boot. Continue that practice generation after generation and I believe we create through our sin the breakdown of the genome, planting within the very seed of man the tendency to give self to worry and fretting, and the flawed gene that makes our descendents more prone to the chemical imbalances of body that hinder one’s ability to cope.

There we have it, the next generation, set on course of a destructive force that rivals our own.

Ah ha! But then there is HOPE. With the help of our God, reverse the process. Deny the tendency to fret and worry and choose faith despite the spillage of chemicals begging us to cave under the strain. Deny our fears and step out with faith. Make it a habit, and the body will begin to heal. Though “I” may always need meds to help “me” on “my” way, the dosage can be lessened with perseverance in choosing to think with right thought. And as we train up the child in the way they should go, that gene pool can be transformed back to God’s design, bringing healing and freedom to future generations.

Most of us who struggle so can look back and see ourselves in our parents, and if we are not diligent to the task, we will look forward and see the same struggle in our children’s children. The only way to break generational issues is to learn the truth and walk in the victory of God’s deliverance from sin, while at the same time training the next generations in how to stand firm in faith and be overcomers. We open the door for their temptation when we give self to our sin. As we become victors in the battle, we can be used of God to train them in how to stand, firm in faith, when their temptation comes.

This is our task. This is our journey. This is the call of God on us: that we walk free from such faithless lives and self-preoccupations as is causing us worry, fear, and anxiety.

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 NOTE: I oversee a support group on FaceBook for Christian Women who are dealing with depression, anxiety, and grief disorders. This article was written for them, but I know there are many who struggle with such, so I am posting here as well in hope of encouraging others to deal with these issues. There is help and there is hope to overcome.

          Our FaceBook support group is new, only 3 strong right now, but God is doing a mighty work among us. We are private, so we don’t show on the boards, but there is room for a few more. If you need a place to heal, contact me for details.