All who are born again have an audience that is watching us carefully. It is a unique audience and a vast one. God has the leading role, we have supporting roles. However, this audience is not observing a made up play or movie. They are viewing a real life drama. Indeed, truth can be far more remarkable than anything made up. First of all, we are observed by God. "….Thou God seest me…." (From Genesis 16:13). "….all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do." (From Hebrews 4:13). "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect (complete[ly] open to Him, right with Him, given over to Him) toward Him…." (From II Chronicles 16:9). "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints" (Psalm 116:15). Next, we are watched by people. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works…." (From Matthew 5:16). All the men and women of faith, spoken of In Hebrews 11, are watching us, it seems. "Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…." (From Hebrews 12:1). Finally, angels are watching us. I Peter 1, Verses 11-12 conclude with these words: "….which things the angels desire to look into." "….Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels…." (From Hebrews 13:1). "….Behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from Heaven…." (From Daniel 4:13) "….We are made a spectacle (theatron, something to watch approvingly or critically) unto the world, and to angels, and to men." (They are the spectators). (From I Corinthians 4:9). Finally, we are to be on display to all of creation as trophies of His matchless grace. "And to make all ….. see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ; to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in Heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:9-10). Selah! God intends that our lives display His power and Presence to this vast audience. For this reason, we are to be learning discipline, so that His Life will shine through on the stage of our lives, for His glory. When the curtain comes down at the end of our lives, may we hear: "….well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful…." (From Matthew 25:23). Ron
Picking up from what we shared yesterday, there are some more indications that we are actually reflecting His likeness. Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit was consistent in Jesus' Life. Dependence on the Father, looking to God for direction and enablement was a 24/7 thing with our Lord. How can we do that? The only answer that I have to that question is that the Lord Jesus honored the Word, spending quality time in that Word and prayer. Since He was and is the Word, He is the Living embodiment of that Word. We can't be that but we can internalize the Word to the extent that it gradually permeates our thoughts, emotions and will and gives direction, motivation and meaning to our lives. It becomes our "Spiritual Life's blood." Another indication is to see the need of a lost world. Jesus' love embraced the whole world. Still another indication of Spiritual development is a determination to know and do the will of God. The last indication (as far as these articles are concerned) that we need to consider is a willingness to suffer, if need be, and even to die. Jesus learned by suffering. Are we teachable? All through sacred and secular history, we see those who were strengthened and/or purified through suffering. For the believer, suffering tests the quality of our trust and the validity of our claim of salvation. We don't have to enjoy suffering but we can discern His Presence and purpose in our "furnace of affliction." Suffering, knowing that He suffered worse than we ever will, increases our love of Him and our gratitude for what He endured for us. Selah! Growing in discipleship is not a "playground experience." It is very serious business! Are we serious about our Christianity? Ron
"And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect (mature, ultimately complete) man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13).
When Jesus is living His Life in us and out through us, what indications do we have that that is what is taking place? Before we even begin to consider this, let me assure you that none of us are in any way going to quickly be like Him. This is a process called "sanctification" and develops more and more throughout our lifetime. There may be, and often is an initial (and sometimes a crisis) event of surrender to Him. Out of this initial experience, the lifelong process begins. For some, it is a dawning realization of His plan for us and a willingness and strong desire to see it worked out in our lives. Simply put, we decide to cooperate with His Lordship and the journey has begun. As He lives in and through us, we come to be fascinated with and love to hear what He has to say to us in His Word. We start loathing sin and loving righteousness. We want others to be saved and come gradually to care for them as He does. We begin to see the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit internally, in our lives, and its overflow to others. Conversing with Him is a joy and relief. A desire for His perfect will in our lives becomes stronger and stronger. We develop more and more love for and appreciation of the people of God. We love to honor and worship Him together with brothers and sisters. The things of God become increasingly important to us. Worldly pleasure loses its glamour. Legitimate pleasure is only a brief diversion and a means of relaxing and/or resting to the end that we might be of more use to Him. Compassion, patience, joy, peace, trust, assurance, authority, calmness, firmness of convictions, dependence on God are all reflections of His character. In the words of the hymn/prayer: "Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in us." Selah! Ironically, the end of the sanctifying experience is the beginning of the eternal thrill of being like Him altogether. Ron
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service and be not conformed to this world: but be ye (being) transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:1-2).
Rather than some mystical force within us, we, who are born again, have the "Presence," the Life of God inhabiting our being. No "religion" has anything like this to experience. Any force or being that they claim cannot be the Living God. To have God within our being is a privilege that defies description. Alas, how few Christians have felt the impact of such a thing. It is so much easier to accept it as a fact than to live in the consciousness of the wonder of it. Satan is probably not disturbed much, if we stop with the fact. However, if we begin to live in the reality of it, I picture him as being very upset. Why is it that many claiming God's salvation go floating on their way, without a second thought about this Gift of gifts? Apart from the possibility of not being truly saved, I suppose it is because time and energy have not been given to the Word of God and prayer. It takes time, effort and determination to cultivate such an intimacy with the Almighty that we find ourselves vividly aware of Who lives within us. When we do come to grips with this marvelous Presence, it will not only thrill us with great joy but will begin to radically alter our behavior, conversation, attitudes and motives. It might help to imagine how our lives would be affected, if God were to move into our homes, in a bodily form, and we knew beyond a doubt that it really is God. Selah! Let's let our temples, our bodies, our beings, experience the sanctifying power of the written Word and the sanctifying Presence of the Living Word! Ron
"I am (have been and am being) crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live (the new Life in Christ); yet not I (I can't do it) but Christ liveth in me…." (From Galatians 2:20). None of us can live the Christian life; only Jesus can live the Christian life. Wonder of wonders, He wants to do this very thing in us and through us! Read, study, apply and obey the Word and He will do it for us.
Jesus prayed a profound prayer and asked for something unprecedented. It is something so beyond all that we could ask or think that I wonder if any of us really grasp the dimensions of it. Jesus prayed, "That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us…." (From John 17:21). Every truly saved person has been "….buried with Him by baptism into death…." (From Romans 6:4). The Holy Spirit miraculously and wonderfully baptized (Immersed; submerged) us into Christ at our moment of Spiritual rebirth* so that we became one with Him! When Jesus died on the cross, God's Word teaches that we died with Him. Our old Adam self was judicially declared dead. (Vestiges of Adam's nature, in us, are still struggling to maintain a grip on life). Hence the necessity of Galatians 2:20. "I am crucified with Christ…." The tense leaves us with something like this: I have been and am being crucified. Our old life in Adam was put to death, once and for all, in Christ. The remains of Adam's nature are being put to death daily. But there's more! A new life; His resurrection life, has been imparted to us who are His. Therefore, "….that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should (Literally: shall) walk in newness of life." (Also from Romans 6:4). So just as He was restored to Life, we are now alive Spiritually. We are dead to Adam's life; alive with God's Life. How does this work out? Our old nature is being purged out gradually; His nature (now in us) is taking over more and more of the ground that has been being cleared of the weeds of Adam's rebellion. However, this process is not something that we can accomplish unaided. It is God's Word being studied prayerfully, applied and obeyed that starves the old weeds and nurtures the growth (expansion) of the new Life in us. Selah! God's Word sanctifies, as we allow it to fill us. To sanctify, among other things, is to separate. As we submit to His Word, we are being separated, more and more, from all that we inherited from Adam. The completing of that separating awaits our arrival in His Presence. Ron
*This was accomplished in the mind and plan of God in eternity past and is realized in our experience at our conversion.
Perhaps many genuine Christians are unaware of some of the amazing things that take place when one is truly converted. As an example, I invite you to look at one thing (among many) that is a vital and remarkable aspect of conversion. Jesus takes up residence in each of us who are born again. Let me excerpt a phrase from Colossians 1:27: "….Christ in you…." God inhabits our inner being, if we are saved. Just think on that! God, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, lives in us, we who have been regenerated. But it doesn't stop there, there's more! Not only is Christ in us, but every redeemed person is in Christ. Allow me to excerpt another phrase: "Therefore if any man be in Christ…." (From II Corinthians 5:17). To put it another way, a child of God has God's sanctifying Presence within and, at the same time, he or she is safely placed in Christ. We are filled with Him and we are securely enveloped in Him. When we come to Him for salvation, we are united to Him; we are in union with Him or, in other words, one with Him. We are incorporated into His spiritual body, the church. "For we are members of His body…." (From Ephesians 5:30). However, we also are, in some mysterious and wonderful way, baptized (immersed) into His death, burial and resurrection. Read carefully Romans 6:3-5. Add to these wonderful operations of God for us and in us, this wonderful truth: "For ye are dead (to the old way of living, thinking, etc.), and your (new) life is hid with Christ in God. That new life is His resurrection life (the eternal life of God). "….Christ, who is our life…." (From Colossians 3:3-4). Selah! Only God could plan, pay for, provide and accomplish such an astonishing relationship with Himself. The Life of the Living God in a fallen but salvaged and forgiven human being. "To God be the glory; great things He hath done!" (Crosby). Ron
How do we really deal with holidays? On some holidays, instead of thinking about the significance of the day, our thoughts may center on a (paid?) day off from work. Other holidays, we may think about time off and a chance to party or time with the family. We may think it an opportunity to take care of things that we haven't had time to do. Perhaps it is a time to give the kids something to enjoy and remember. My point is that we often neglect to give serious thought to why we have a particular holiday. For example, how many of us, on Thanksgiving Day, take time to thank God for our blessings? Isn't a great meal apt to be our main focus for this day? This is even more regrettable when it comes to Christmas and Easter. I can imagine some saying, "Oh, yes, those are religious holidays." Yet these two days and Good Friday highlight three of the most outstanding events in all of time. We are talking about Jesus' birth, death and resurrection. Let's take them one by one. 1). His Birth. Jesus was God entering our world to pay for our sins and to salvage whosoever will out of eternal death and suffering. 2). His Death. He died a horrible death to pay what we otherwise would have to pay for ourselves, because of our sin(s) and rebellion. He loved us that much! 3). He rose again from death. He is alive today! This is one of the most attested to facts of history. God entered our world, in the Person of His Son, suffered, bled and died on a Roman cross, was buried and was three days later restored to life. This has many implications. I'll discuss one. His resurrection Life is the very Life that He imparts to everyone who receives Him, as Lord and Savior. It is this Life that is the eternal Life that makes possible and guarantees Heaven for everyone who will place their trust in Him, receive Him, and yield to His Lordship. For each one who has done that, His Life in us is what gives meaning, purpose, peace and joy and the certainty of Heaven forever. Selah! With undying and increasing gratitude, our focus should be on God's Son whose life, death, and resurrection rescues all who receive Him from the eternal flames of Hell and blesses them on earth and forever. Ron
"But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners,Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him, for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His Life" (Romans 5:8-10).
Television, movies, computers and other recent electronic devices, as well as our regular responsibilities and pursuits all combine to reduce or eliminate time given to reading. This is a tragic misordering of priorities. Let me give reasons to do general reading and then reading for Spiritual growth. Reasons for general reading include: 1). Developing our minds. We can self educate, if we can't or don't want to attend regular schools. We can add to knowledge which we have already gained, thus broadening our minds. 2). It is good brain exercise (especially if we learn to read discerningly) and helps offset memory deterioration. 3). It gives us insight into people and into what is going on in our world. This helps us understand how God's program is unfolding on earth today. There are other reasons but these are some of the important ones. Reasons for reading for Spiritual growth include: 1). First and foremost, to read and study the Bible. There are means of listening to the Bible. These should reinforce our physical reading, not take the place of it. 2). Reading reliable material shared by those who have learned more of what the Bible teaches than we have. 3). Reading biographies and testimonies of God's working in other lives. This helps us avoid their mistakes and learn from what they have learned to help us grow. 4). Even novels (Good Biblically sound ones) can help us understand people, what they are going through, how they look at things, and how they handle their emotions. Novels also can be useful for recreational time. Most everyone can learn to read. There are even free programs to help you learn. Our brain, like any muscle, is hard to get going but as we keep at it, becomes easier to exercise and to become strong in discovering what God wants us to know. Our world today has contributed to most of us being mentally lazy. It will take effort and determination to overcome the inertia and start disciplining ourselves to use the God-given gift of reading. Selah! Keep in the forefront of your mind, that of all reading, the Bible is the top priority. However, don't use that as an excuse to neglect other reading. Ron
"Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine" (I Timothy 4:13). "The cloak,….when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments." (From II Timothy 4:13).
Because life is full of distractions, we need to stop and evaluate regularly to see what matters most. We are usually busy and we often don't notice that some distraction(s) has/have taken us from what is most important to something that is of marginal importance or of no importance at all. This is a ploy that the enemy uses very effectively to keep us off center. Yes, there are emergencies. There is a need for rest and recreation. Some distractions are legitimate. However, the only way to discern between legitimate distractions and cleverly planned diversions is to periodically evaluate. Could someone else do this more effectively than I? What amount of time will this take? How important is this in terms of eternal value? Will this keep me from quality time with the Lord? Have I determined what God's first and foremost purpose and place is for my life? What proportion of my life is given to this? Have I started to invest more time in secondary concerns and taken time away from my major responsibility? These are some questions that we need to stop and measure our activities by and readjust if we have allowed ourselves to become sidetracked from what God's Priorities are for us. There are some important secondary concerns that we need to give a comparatively small amount of our time to, without letting it steal time from our number one mission in life. Failure to evaluate can sabotage our most important reason for being on earth. Selah! Satan can steal time away from what really counts, by taking up your mind and emotions with lesser things. Don't let him trick you into squandering time. Plan your time and evaluate often to keep things in balance. Ron
"The thief cometh not, but for to steal (even time), and to kill , and to destroy (among other things, effectiveness)…." (From John 10:10).
"A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8). Single mindedly, serve the Lord. Do what is necessary, as you are able, but never lose sight of God or His purpose and place in life for you.