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The Higher Christian Life
44 minutes | Sep 16, 2021
043 - The Lord’s Supper and the Higher Christian Life
Jesus First Became a Bondservant…There are many questions Christians have about the Lord’s Supper, and not all of them revolve around the nature of the substance of the bread and wine. There is the question about timing, how often are we to celebrate it? And then questions about meaning, is it symbolic, or does it truly transfer some tangible grace to those who partake?But the biggest question, for me, is in regards to its significance. After all, there is a judgment attached to the Lord’s Supper. The Scriptures teach those who partake of it in an “unworthy manner” will bring judgment upon themselves, even to the point of sickness and death. That’s right. Read it yourself in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30.That seems a bit heavy-handed to me. Does it to you?That is until I began to see a deeper meaning in the Lord’s Supper, something right below the surface. For years, when Jesus broke the bread and gave it to His disciples, we focused on “this is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19), referring almost exclusively to the physical suffering and death of Jesus on the cross for our sins. And that is true. But there may be more we have been missing.And when Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20), again, we usually interpret that to only mean the physical shedding of His blood as His sacrifice for our sins. And that is also true. But there could be more to this than meets the eye.Since we tend to think linearly, we often jump from the Upper Room, with the bread and wine, to the cross, with His broken body and shed blood, and assume we have the point of the Lord’s Supper all wrapped up in a neat package. But what we miss is what happened between these two, the turmoil in the garden, where Jesus had to determine for Himself if He would fulfill His commitment to His Father that He made long before He came as a Babe in Bethlehem.Never forget, between the upper room and the cross, was the garden. And it may be that what happened in the garden is what the Lord wants us to remember every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper.Let’s look at the commitment Jesus made to His Father.And Then He Came in the Likeness of MenIn Philippians 2, we have a scene before us that reveals the Lord Jesus making Himself (His action) a “bondservant” (doúlos) of His Father and then, as a bondservant, a voluntary slave, becoming obedient to His Father “to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). And in this passage, we see the depth of the relationship between the Father and His Son and the reason for the suffering of Jesus in the garden. Consider the following:Let this mind (phronéō – to think, to have the mindset) be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being (to be or exist in a state or condition) in the form (morphḗ – shape, essence, replica, the expression of something that reflects or manifests fully and truly the essence of what something is) of God, did not consider (hēgéomai – view, regard, esteem, count, reckon) it robbery (taking something by force) to be equal (ísos – alike in quantity, quality, dignity) with God, but (His action) made Himself of no reputation (kenóō – to make empty or void, of no value), (to what degree) taking the form (morphḗ – shape, essence, replica, the expression of something that reflects or manifests fully and truly the essence of what something is) of a bondservant (doúlos – a slave, one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his will being altogether consumed in the will of the other), and coming in the likeness (homoíōma – similitude, resemblance) of men.And being found (or recognized) in appearance (schḗma – form, external appearance, mode) as a man, He (Christ’s actions) humbled Himself (tapeinóō – to bring low, to abase, to render oneself to a low condition) and became obedient (hupḗkoo –to submit to) to the point of death, even the death of the cross – Philippians 2:5-8.Note the order: First, Jesus voluntarily became a “bondservant” to His Father (not to any man), and then came in the “likeness of men.” What does this order imply?Simply this, there may be more to the Lord’s Supper than we have previously recognized. And the meaning may be more than just remembering the physical suffering and death of our Lord on the cross. It may also point to our need to reconfirm the promise we made to the Father when we first came to faith in Him— the promise of ourselves and our total surrender and commitment to Him. Do you remember?There is much to see in this passage. So join us as we rediscover the wonder of the Lord’s Supper as we embrace the Higher Christian Life.To download the slides for this message, click – HERE.For more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:42: To Reckon or Not Reckon, that is the Question41: Holy Men Spoke as They Were Moved by the Spirit40: Bible Study is a Marathon, Not a Sprint39: How to Discover the Wisdom of God38: What Are You Lacking in Your Spiritual Life?
50 minutes | Aug 31, 2021
042 - To Reckon or Not Reckon, that is the Question
The Cross Not Only Paid For Your Sins…We have been looking at the three key truths that will allow you to experience the surrender that leads to the Higher Christian Life. Let’s take a moment for a quick review.Truth One – You are incapable of pleasing God or producing anything good with your flesh (your sinful nature) no matter how hard you try. It cannot be done, has never been done, will never be done, by anybody, ever. And you can find the foundation of Truth One in Romans 7:15-25, especially verse 18.For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find – Romans 7:18.So Truth One states you can’t, no matter how hard you try. But Truth Two reveals He can, beyond all you can imagine. Truth Two reminds us that God has given you the Holy Spirit to live in you. And one of His purposes for His Spirit dwelling in you is to work in you “both to will and to do (why) for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). In other words, the Holy Spirit now living in you is able to do in you “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20). And, by the way, the power that works “in us” is none other than the Holy Spirit. (Note: Did you notice how many times the phrase “in you” was used in this paragraph? It is not something to gloss over lightly).This brings us to Truth Three. But first, a bit of warning. Truth three is not something to be believed only, but to be experienced, just like the Higher Christian Life. For without experiencing this truth, firsthand, you will not gain the wonderful benefit of it nor the changed life that comes with it. Finally, all the benefits of Truth Three are contingent on faith. And it is in your faith the enemy will attack. Maybe even today. So be forewarned.Let’s look at Truth Three.You Are Also to “Reckon” Yourself Dead to SinTruth Three states that when Christ was crucified, He took with Him to the cross not only your sins, but also your sinful nature (the “old man”). Let that truth sink in for a moment.Remember, your “old man” refers to your unregenerate human spirit consisting of the Adamic life prior to salvation. And the “new man” refers to the regenerate human spirit, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Basically, the “old man” is all that you were before salvation, and the “new man” is all that you have become after salvation. You can find these terms used in Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22 and 24, and Colossians 3:9-10, among other places. It should be a familiar concept to you. But one not usually carried to its logical conclusion.Watch how this plays out so clearly in Romans 6. First, the foundation:For if (since, because) we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be (united together) in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that (what) our old man was crucified with Him, (why) that the body of sin might be done away with, (why) that we should no longer be slaves of sin – Romans 6:5-6.Next, the logical progression based on the foundation:For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if (since, because) we died (how) with Christ, we believe (our choice, see below) that we shall also live (how) with Him, (how) knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. (why) Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died (past tense), He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives (present tense), He lives to God – Romans 6:7-10.And finally, the conclusion about our old man and his death on the cross. But remember, this truth only becomes real to you by experience. Or, as Romans says, when you “reckon yourself” to this truth.Likewise (in the same manner) you (personal) also (like others who have experienced what you now seek), reckon (to impute, consider, count, reason, think, to be of the conviction) yourselves (personal) to be (present tense, currently, at this very moment, right now) dead indeed (truly, on the one hand) to sin, but (on the other hand) alive to God (how) in Christ Jesus our Lord – Romans 6:11.Note the obvious, if you “reckon yourself” to this truth, its power becomes real to you. But if by doubt or disbelief you refuse to believe what the Scriptures say about you and your old nature, you will still struggle with failure because, per Truth One, “you are incapable of pleasing God or producing anything good with your flesh (your sinful nature) no matter how hard you try.” The choice of either being an overcomer or one who lives in constant defeat is based on the content of your faith. You will either “reckon yourself” to be what the Scriptures say you are, or you will choose to take your eyes off Jesus and focus on the waves and sink like Peter (Matt. 14:30).The choice is always yours. Always.The following is the sermon that goes into much greater detail about Truth Three than I can present in a short blog post. I know it is much longer than the usual podcasts, but I would encourage you to listen and let your mind embrace the possibilities of Truth Three. And remember, Satan cannot attack the truth. He cannot make Truth Three not be true. But he can, and he will attack your faith and belief in Truth Three. And if he succeeds, the power found in Truth Three will be lost to you, and you will languish in defeat with your life of holiness and most likely fail to experience all of the Higher Christian Life. Or, if you simply trust Him and “reckon” (to impute, consider, count, reason, think, to be of the conviction) yourself to be what the Scriptures say, then watch out, for the best is yet to come.So choose wisely.To download the slides for this message, click – HEREFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:41: Holy Men Spoke as They Were Moved by the Spirit40: Bible Study is a Marathon, Not a Sprint39: How to Discover the Wisdom of God38: What Are You Lacking in Your Spiritual Life?37: He is All You Will Ever Need… Ever!
15 minutes | Aug 27, 2021
041 - Holy Men Spoke as They Were Moved by the Spirit
We Need Holy Men of God to be Moved by the SpiritWhen we begin to seek God’s wisdom through a deep study of His Word, it is good to remind ourselves of exactly what we are doing and how the Bible is unique from all other literature. It is more than the words of man, it is the very words of God. I know, for the skeptics, that statement seems presumptuous, maybe even arrogant. But it is nonetheless, true.Let’s look at just two truths about the Scriptures that will begin to reveal to you the depth and character of His Word and the blessings that come from studying and applying it authoritatively to our lives. First, the nature of His Word.All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work – 2 Timothy 3:16-17.This statement about Scripture seems clear enough. But as you dig a bit deeper into the meaning of these words, you will find a treasure of truth hidden just beneath the surface. Let’s begin by defining a few Greek words.All (pás – each, every, any, the whole, in totality without exception) Scripture is given by inspiration of God (theópneustos – to breathe or blow, to be divinely inspired), and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work – 2 Timothy 3:16-17.Note, “all” (pás) means every bit of Scripture, from the list of names in Numbers to the judgments found in the Revelation. But at the time this was written, all primarily referred to the Old Testament.Note also, the word translated “inspiration of God” (theópneustos) only occurs in this passage and gives the idea of God breathing His Word into human men who were moved or inspired to record what God said. It (theópneustos) is a compound word combining “God” and “to breathe.” That is why some translators use “God-breathed” (NIV) or “breathed out” (ESV). But in the end, the message is clear. All Scripture (the Old Testament in this passage and the New Testament in 1 Cor. 2:9-16) is breathed by God and divinely inspired according to His will. And, as such, it is flawless, perfect, infallible, unchangeable, true, and of immeasurable value, because it reflects the nature of its Author. It is the Word of God.All Scripture, “is given” to us, as a gift from God, “by” or through the “inspiration of God.” Not the inspiration of man, but of God. But some may ask how this process takes place? What differentiates this inspiration from God from the inspiration Beethoven experienced, for example, when he composed his inspired symphonies?What Does it Mean to be “Moved” by God?Let’s see what Peter has to say about this important question.Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is (gínomai – to begin to be, comes into being or existence, originates, happens) of any private interpretation (or, it doesn’t originate in the mind of man), for prophecy never came by the will of man (or, it doesn’t originate in the volition of man), but holy men of God spoke as they were moved (phérō – to bring or carry along, to be continually carried) by the Holy Spirit – 2 Peter 1:20-21.Look at the word, moved. In Acts, this word is used to describe how the wind blows a ship across the water from one place to another (Acts 27:15, 17). The imagery should not be lost on us. Peter is describing how the Holy Spirit fills the sails of men with the breath of His Word and gives them divine inspiration and revelation to record what He wanted them to write down. Sometimes God “breathed” His words into human writers in much the same way dictation is taken down. For example, to Jeremiah God said, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth” (Jer. 1:9). But we will look more into this at a later time.Remember, the only One who knows the mind of God is the Holy Spirit (John 15:26). Therefore, only the Holy Spirit could have inspired the Scriptures. As the verse says, “but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by (who) the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The Scriptures did not come from the inspiration or the mind of gifted, even spiritual, men. No, the inspiration came from the Holy Spirit and was given to “holy men” who were moved or continually carried along as they wrote what was given to them to write.This is the value of the Scriptures we hold in our hands. But there is more. There is a great benefit that comes to us by a study of God’s inspired Word.And is profitable (ōphélimos – advantageous, helpful, useful, beneficial) for (1) doctrine, for (2) reproof, for (3) correction, for (4) instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work – 2 Timothy 3:17.Note the four-fold blessings: Doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. This is the path of sanctification, of living the Higher Christian Life. But there is one last blessing we want to uncover in this verse, and it is found in the word, complete. One of the goals of Scripture is that the “man of God may be complete, (how) thoroughly equipped for every good work.”The word translated “complete” (ártios) means “qualified, proficient, fitted, capable, furnished or equipped with every necessary component for a task or purpose.” Let that sink in for a moment. God has supplied all we need to be all He wants us to be, right in His Word. The key to experiencing intimacy with Him, to becoming His light among the darkness, to understanding the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:6), to be conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29), to realizing we are “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10)— everything imaginable, is found in His Word. And it is given to us as a great blessing. One that only needs to be read to be received.So let’s begin this journey together, shall we? Let’s look into God’s Word and see what of His wisdom we can claim for ourselves, what we can learn from Him as dearly beloved children, and how our faith in Him might grow as we see the day of His return approaching (Heb. 10:25).For more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:41: What Happens When We Confess Our Sins40: Bible Study is a Marathon, Not a Sprint39: How to Discover the Wisdom of God38: What Are You Lacking in Your Spiritual Life?37: He is All You Will Ever Need… Ever!
18 minutes | Aug 25, 2021
040 - Bible Study is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
First, What Does it Say?Before we actually begin to look at the Proverbs to glean the wisdom of God, we first need to remind ourselves what Bible study entails and how to mine the depths of God's Word for the treasure often buried just below the surface. Note, we are committing ourselves to Bible study to experience God and His wisdom. Not Bible skimming or even Bible reading. Those may have their place in our spiritual lives, but not if we strive to have a deeper intimacy with the Lord and experience the Higher Christian Life.Bible study is not a sprint. We don't begin with the goal of trying to get as much done in the least amount of time so we can cross this item off our to-do list and move on to something more important. That is a recipe for failure, frustration, and a stagnant Christian life. And it is a great slight to God's inspired Word (2 Tim. 3:16).No, Bible study is a marathon. It is a life-long endeavor that produces a mature believer "thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:17). And it takes time, as all things of value do. Proper Bible study is like the difference between dining on a fine meal in an upscale restaurant with close friends or whoofing down a Happy Meal in the front seat of your car alone. Both meet your hunger needs. But only one is a deeply satisfying, pleasurable experience.There are just a few things we must know about any passage of Scripture we will study, especially if our goal is to have the Lord speak to us about something in our lives through His Word. First, we need to know exactly what it says, what each word means. Not just in our language today, but what it meant to those to whom it was written so many millennia ago. After all, language changes. And what something meant in English 75 years ago may not mean the same thing today.For example, before the '60s, when someone said, "Cool, man," it was always about temperature. But that all changed over time. So that now, when we hear that statement, we never think it has something to do with how cold it is outside. Or, in the time before World War II, the phrase "gay" had nothing to do with sexual orientation. Instead, it referred to an attitude of cheerfulness and lighthearted excitement. In 1934, Fred Astair and Ginger Roger starred in the movie, The Gay Divorcee. This musical had nothing to do with the sexual orientation of either party. But if that movie was released today, we would probably assume we knew the reason behind their divorce. Ah, one of them was gay. And this is how words can mean something different over time.Understanding this, we need to know what a passage said when it was written, the culture in which it was written, and the people for whom it was written. That is why a Greek and Hebrew Word Study Dictionary is so important. But we'll speak on that in a moment.Then, What Does it Mean?Then, after we determine what a passage says, we have to determine what it means. And this is where the marathon part of Bible study comes in. The rule is simply this; we do not move to another passage until we fully understand what our current passage means. There is no skipping over it or "I'll get back around to that later." Our task is to stop, prayerfully meditate on the passage, use whatever resources we have available to help us in our understanding (see below), ask the Lord to reveal His meaning to us, and wait until we discover His hidden treasure of truth, before moving on. No matter how long it takes.After all, if we spend an hour in His Word reading three chapters but get nothing out of it, we have wasted our time. But if we spent the same amount of time on one verse and God reveals His will to us in that verse, we are encouraged, enlightened, changed, and growing in our likeness to His Son (Rom. 8:29). And our lives are forever transformed by His Word. It's the marathon that builds endurance, not the sprint.Let me close by giving you a few pointers to help in your Bible study.1. Slowly read the passage several times out loud. Emphasize each word and phrase as you do.2. Ask questions about the text. Who, what, where, why, how long, for what purpose, etc.3. Ask the Lord to show you why He led you to this part of His Word today? What is He trying to show you? What does He want to reveal to you?4. Spend some time studying each word? What do they mean in Greek and Hebrew? Is their meaning different than what I assume they mean today? Has the language changed over time? Hint: Spend extra attention on the small words, all, any, if, then, know, but, etc.5. What are the implications of what I just read? Why did God lead me to this passage today? How can I apply this in my life in both my actions and my attitude? Is this further explained in the next few verses?6. Spend some time looking for other passages that will further explain and support what the Lord is saying in the passage you are studying. And if so, where? What is God trying to show me?7. What principles or truths can I learn about God? Hint: Make this about Him, and not you. Is He showing you something about His character and nature in what you are studying?8. Finally, ask God to show you how to live in the truth He has just revealed. This is where your faith grows. Ask Him to place you in situations, no matter how difficult, where your faith in the truths He just revealed to you will be tested. After all, we are promised in James 1:3, the "testing of our faith produces patience (hupomonḗ - endurance, the ability to withstand hardship or stress)." And endurance is what we are seeking in the times in which we live.Remember, Bible study is not a sprint, but a marathon.Last quick point, you will need some resources to help with your Bible study. Let me suggest the following:Study Bible:MacArthur Study Bible - NKJV. This is probably the most important resource. All translations are not equal, no matter how easy or difficult they are to read.Greek and Hebrew Word Study Dictionaries:The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament by Spiros ZodhiatesThe Complete Word Study of the Old Testament by Spiros ZodhiatesBible Commentary: I would suggest using one from the latter part of the last century, such as the Pulpit Commentary, Spurgeon's Notes and Sermons, etc. However, if you are looking for something more contemporary, try the commentaries by John MacArthur and/or James Montgomery Boice or the writings of AW Pink. Note: Try not to do a random Google search for the meaning of a particular passage. There is much truth and deception online about everything— source matters.For solid Biblical answers online, try the following:Blue Letter Bible - blueletterbible.orgGot Questions - gotquestions.orgCARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) - carm.orgGrace to You - gty.orgThe Ministry of Chuck Missler - khouse.orgEnjoy your time with Him, and tomorrow we will begin to do exactly what I have described in the book of Proverbs.For more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:39: How to Discover the Wisdom of God38: What Are You Lacking in Your Spiritual Life?37: He is All You Will Ever Need… Ever!36: Your “Desire” for the Higher Christian Life35: What Church Could Look Like Today
15 minutes | Aug 23, 2021
039 - How to Discover the Wisdom of God
Christ Jesus, Who Became For Us…This past Sunday, we talked about how we as Christians and His church are to respond during the dark times we see encroaching all around. What are we to do? How are we to think and feel? What is God’s will in all of this?Just think about what we have experienced as a culture since the beginning of the year.In DC, there was a rally turned riot (depending on how you view the events of January 6th) that many claim was the beginning of an insurrection against our government. Not surprisingly, most of the media and the talking heads blamed this on Trump. And now we have an active House investigation that will probably drag on into sometime next year designed to discredit Trump and his supporters. Bring back any memories?There has been a massive social media de-platforming of voices and opinions that dare to differ from the FPC (for public consumption) talking points of the left. In fact, as of today, the head of the Taliban has a Twitter account to share their anti-American propaganda, yet our former President has been banned for life. How does that happen in a free society?The Covid-19 thing seems to never go away. First lockdown, masks, social distancing, remote employment, shortages, restricted travel, canceled holidays, schools, sports, concerts, etc., and everything else that comes with an authoritarian nanny state. Nonetheless, we all agreed to go along for the good of others and the fear of contracting Covid. Then the miracle cure was rolled out at warp speed, the Vax, the Jab, which turned out to be neither a cure nor a miracle. And the full-court press was on. The pressure our society is piling on those who choose not to be vaccinated is unprecedented. So much so, tens of thousands of nurses may lose their job in the next 45 days, among countless others, unless they submit themselves to a jab that has yet to be FDA approved and has a morbid history of ever-increasing harmful side-effects, including death. This is discrimination at its worst. But the voices of the media are silent. How is that possible in America?Corporate America, both large and small, is now requiring its employees to be fully vaccinated as a condition of continued employment. Companies like Amazon, Amtrak, Citigroup, Delta, DoorDash, Facebook, Ford, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Tyson Food, Uber, United Air Lines, Walgreens, Walt Disney, and Walmart are leading the way. And the list gets bigger every day. When in our nation’s history was it legal for an employer to require an experimental vaccine, with documented harmful, short-term, and unknown long-term side effects, as a condition of continued employment? But that seems to be our new reality.Welcome to our brave new world.On August 9th, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote in a memo that the Pentagon will mandate full vaccinations (which now include all current and future boosters, with no end in sight) to members of the military and all Department of Defense employees by mid-September, if not sooner. For those who refuse the mandate, the consequences are unclear at this moment.Last year, many of our school children received a failed education due to Covid. But they were passed anyway so as not to collapse the educational system. Unfortunately, we learned zoom classrooms are a poor substitute for face-to-face learning for millions of young children. And masked face-to-face learning cripples social development in our children. But once again, here we go down that same failed trail of fully masked children in school, regardless of their vaccination status. Why?As a people, the trust in our sacred institutions, school, government, courts, media, the press, and the church, are at an all-time low. The constant barrage, 24/7, of competing opinions and differing experts talking out of both sides of their mouths makes us wonder, who can we trust? Who speaks the truth? Who do we turn to for direction? And for the believer, the church is just as divided on these issues as the rest of those who do not know our Lord. So, who speaks for God today? And who can help us sort all of this out for my family and me?And the list can go on. Inflation, the immigration crisis at the Southern border, corruption in our government, the supply line breakdown and corresponding shortages of goods and raw materials, BLM, our national Afghanistan facepalm, rioting in our cities, China and Taiwan, natural disasters such as drought, wildfires, earthquakes, and tsunamis, just to name a few. “And the beat goes on.”So what is the church to do? How can we know what our Christian response should be, must be, to what may soon be forced upon each of us? Is this all part of the end times? Are we just watching the death rattle of the American experiment? Or is it both?…Wisdom From GodNot surprisingly, the answer is found in discovering more of God, and for a good reason. What we need is wisdom from God to know what to do and how to respond, which is only found in Jesus Christ. And God’s wisdom is imputed to us by the Holy Spirit who, as we talked about in detail last week, now lives in each of us. In closing, consider this incredible verse.But of Him (or because of Him or by His doing) you are (what) in Christ Jesus, who became (gínomai – to begin to be, to come into existence) for us (you and me, the church, the called-out ones)(1) wisdom from God— and(2) righteousness and(3) sanctification and(4) redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD” – 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.The wisdom of God we so desperately need literally “began to be” or “came into existence” in us in Christ Jesus. He “became for us” the wisdom from God, the righteousness of God, our sanctification in God, and our redemption to God. All these attributes, so badly needed today, are found in Him. And He now lives in us in the Holy Spirit.So for the next few days, we are going to continue what we began on Sunday and look at God’s book of wisdom, the Proverbs, using the tools we discussed (and will review later) to discover the source of all the answers, to all the questions, that trouble us today. And when you hear from God and His glorious wisdom becomes second-nature to you, then whatever darkness comes your way, whatever may happen tomorrow, you will confidently say, “Thy will be done” (Matt. 6:10), and “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).Until He comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:38: What Are You Lacking in Your Spiritual Life?37: He is All You Will Ever Need… Ever!36: Your “Desire” for the Higher Christian Life35: What Church Could Look Like Today34: Whatever Your Struggle, He is More Than Able
18 minutes | Aug 19, 2021
038 - What Are You Lacking in Your Spiritual Life?
What Do You Need From Him the Most?Yesterday we showed how the Holy Spirit, who now lives in you, is fully capable of meeting any need you might have. After all, He is fully God in every sense of the word. So it would stand to reason that as God, the Holy Spirit is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), and ever-present (omnipresent), among the other attributes of the Almighty. So whatever your need, I think He can handle it. Don’t you?Remember, He is all you need. So there is never any reason to look elsewhere for self-worth, confidence, purpose, protection, power, deliverance, love, acceptance, or any of the other myriad of needs that keep us up late at night. Because only He can meet our deepest needs, and He meets them in Himself, by simply being who He is.I know He can meet all my needs, but exactly how does the Spirit do that? And what specific needs does He fulfill? Let’s look at just a few.Holiness – Do you need to find the key to living a life of holiness or sanctification before the Lord? And do you find yourself falling flat on your face, again and again, every time you try? No surprise. The only One who can live a life of holiness through you is One whose primary attribute is holiness— and that is the Holy Spirit. Not the Merciful Spirit, the Loving Spirit, or the Longsuffering Spirit, but the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Holiness. As in One who is primarily defined as holy.When you yield your life to Him in surrender and allow Him to live His life through you (which again is the way to experience the Higher Christian Life), you will find His presence rubbing off on every area of your life. And the result? Holiness.Power over Sin – Do you feel somewhat powerless to stand against the attack of the evil one and the lust of your own flesh? Again, no surprise there. Welcome to living as a light in the darkness (Matt. 5:14-16). The Christian life is always a battle. But the battle is not fought in the flesh, nor can it ever be won that way (see Truth One). It is a battle waged in the spirit, by the Spirit, equipped with spiritual armor (Eph. 6:11), for fighting spiritual forces of evil (Eph. 6:12). Consider the following.For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh – 2 Corinthians 10:3.Even though we are simply flesh and blood on the outside, on the inside, we are mighty in God because He lives in us. In fact, we no longer belong to ourselves since His presence has made us a “temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (1 Cor. 9:19). So when we rely on His Spirit, we become powerful weapons in the hands of a mighty God that brings fear in the quaking heart of the evil one. Again, consider the following:For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (of the flesh) but mighty (able, strong, powerful) in God for pulling down (to cast down, demolish) strongholds (fortress), casting down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.Spiritual battles are fought in the spirit and by the power of the Holy Spirit. And with the Holy Spirit now living in you, there is no need ever to fear defeat. So if you need the power to stand against temptation, know you already possess all the power you need. Rest easy. The Holy Spirit lives in you.You Got a Need, He’s Got the SolutionBut there is more.Christ to Become Real (the Higher Christian Life) – Finally, if you need to have Christ become real to you, to become more than a distant relative or a historical Biblical figure, the Person delegated to make that happen is the Holy Spirit. He was the One given to replace Jesus in our lives (John 14:16). But He doesn’t stand beside us or around us or near us like Jesus did His disciples. Better yet, He lives in us.Before departing, Jesus promised His disciples He would not “leave you orphans” but would “come to you” (John 14:18). And this promise followed His promise of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus said would “dwell with you” and be “in you” (John 14:17). In other words, since Jesus was departing from them and His disciples were obviously sad and worried, Jesus then promised to replace Himself in their lives with the Holy Spirit. He then went on to say it was actually better for them for Him to depart because only then would He send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). That’s quite a big promise.Remember, the Holy Spirit was tasked with revealing to us all about Jesus and bringing to our memory everything He ever said and did (John 14:26). So the more we know the Spirit, the more we get to know Jesus, whom the Spirit will reveal. And the more we know Jesus, the more we know the Father (John 14:7), whom the Son will reveal. And for us, this chain of blessing all begins with knowing the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Or surrendering our lives to Him so He can live His life through us (Rom. 12:1-2). Surrender to the Holy Spirit is the essence of the Higher Christian Life.One last thought. The apostle Paul said the One who reveals to us all God has promised to those who love Him, yes, to you and me, is the Spirit of God. It is the One living in each of us who shows us how blessed we are in Him.But as it is written:“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” – 1 Corinthians 2:9.Then how will we know what God has prepared for us?But God has revealed them to us (how) through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except (who) the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, (why) that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God – 1 Corinthians 2:10-12.How can it get any better than this? What do you need that you don’t already have?In closing, whatever your need or prayer or request, Christ has already pre-positioned the answer to your problem or desire or longing in the Holy Spirit who lives in you. All you will ever need you already have in Him. So what is there to worry about? What need do you have that is so great God is unable to handle? What joy and happiness do you crave that He cannot provide? What? That’s right. Nuthin’.Again, rejoice for what you have in Him. And rest easy as our world gets darker.Until He comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:37: He is All You Will Ever Need… Ever!36: Your “Desire” for the Higher Christian Life35: What Church Could Look Like Today34: Whatever Your Struggle, He is More Than Able33: The Holy Spirit Now Lives in You
15 minutes | Aug 18, 2021
037 - He is All You Will Ever Need
And You Are Complete in Him – Colossians 2:10We have spent some time discovering the spiritual fullness of realizing that the Holy Spirit, who is fully God in every sense, lives in us. Not around us or beside us or with us, but in us. And since He is God, what more do we need? Why do we desire less when we already have everything? What does the landfill have to offer us that is more alluring than a week at the beach or a five-day trip to Disney World? It doesn’t make much sense, does it?Yet, we still try to find satisfaction and purpose outside of God when the source of all we could ever want or need or be now lives in us. And to make matters worse, once we come to understand our purpose in life and that our desire is found only in Him, we still try to serve Him in the flesh, by our own strength and resources, with dismal results. Again, it doesn’t make much sense, does it?Remember where we are in this process. We have been looking at the second of three truths that will rid you of the guilt and shame of failure in your search for the Higher Christian Life. These truths, once internalized, will give you the courage and ability to live the “abundant” life in Christ (John 10:10) by the power of the Holy Spirit (which is the only way it can be experienced), and not in the weakness and pride of self-will and fleshly determination. Let’s quickly review.Truth One states you are incapable of pleasing God or producing anything good with your flesh, no matter how hard you try (Rom. 7:18). This is the bad news. But the good news states in Truth Two that God has given you the Holy Spirit to live and dwell in you for the purpose, among other things, “both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). In other words, what is impossible to do by your own strength and resources, God has graciously supplied by the Spirit— who now lives in you. It really doesn’t get any better than that. But what exactly does it all mean?Just think, in the same way God provided His Son to die for the forgiveness of your sins, He also now provides His Spirit to dwell in you so you may experience the power to live in the newness of life (Rom. 6:4) and have all your needs met by Him. Not just your need for salvation, but also your need for a Savior (Titus 2:13-14), for Someone to act as your perfect, atoning, sacrifice (1 John 2:2), or for an intermediary between you and a holy God (1 Tim. 2:5). Yes, literally “all” your needs.Look at the needs the Spirit met in Paul’s life. Note, these were not just spiritual needs, but all his needs.Past Experience: I know how to be based (to be brought low, humbled, especially in regards to basic needs), and I know how to abound (abundance, excess, to have more than enough). Everywhere and in all things (each, every, the whole, in totality, without exception) I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.Lesson Learned: I can do all things (each, every, the whole, in totality, without exception) through Christ who strengthens me – Philippians 4:12-13.Paul learned faith by experiencing both need and abundance. And it was the Holy Spirit living in him that imparted to him the strength to overcome all obstacles and to rejoice always in all situations (Phil. 4:4). But this just doesn’t apply to Paul. The promise is for each of us today.Promise from God: And my God shall supply (to make full, to supply abundantly, to impart richly) all your need (how) according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus – Philippians 4:19.That’s all your needs— everything you need. God will supply, with great abundance, all of what you will ever need in this life and in the life to come, according to the unfathomable riches in His glory, by and through Christ Jesus our Lord. This is the promise from the Father to you.There is Nothing You Need He has not Already SuppliedBut there is more.Again, just as the blood of Christ covered all your sins, so you never have to look anywhere, or to anyone else to cover them again (Col. 1:14), so the Holy Spirit has also provided for all your needs so you never have to look anywhere or to anyone else in order to have them met. And this is especially true about meeting your own needs yourself. See Truth One. If Christ’s death on the cross was sufficient to pay the penalty for your sins, then the Holy Spirit indwelling in you is also sufficient to meet all your needs, both spiritually and otherwise. To believe anything else make the Spirit less than God.And again, just as in your salvation, it was God who did all the work, and all we had to do was receive, by faith, what God had provided for us. Remember, “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:30a). It is because of Him. Look to what great lengths the Lord went to bring you to Himself.For whom He foreknew (God’s action), He also predestined (God’s action) to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called (God’s action); whom He called, these He also justified (God’s action); and whom He justified, these He also glorified (God’s action) – Romans 8:29-30.And in the same way, we must receive by faith what the Spirit has already provided for us in regards to living and experiencing the Higher Christian Life. When we received the Spirit, we received all of Him and with Him everything we need for a life of sanctification, holiness, service, and joy. After all, He is God. And we know we cannot produce anything of eternal value from within ourselves by our own strength or resources (see Truth One). But the Spirit comes to us with a truckload of gifts and Godly attributes the world cannot understand, nor receive, nor ever experience. They are only reserved for those who belong to Him. They are called fruits of the Holy Spirit, and by them, we can experience the abundant life in Christ— the Higher Christian Life.But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law – Galatians 5:22-23.And what do we do with these great blessings of Spiritual fruit? We live in them by letting the Spirit live through us. We embrace the life of surrender, the Higher Christian Life.If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit – Galatians 5:25.So rejoice in Him today. For you have everything you need, right now, to live a life of godliness and holiness, a life pleasing to the Lord (2 Pet. 1:3). And let’s begin to experience the Higher Christian Life today.Until He comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:36: Your “Desire” for the Higher Christian Life35: What Church Could Look Like Today34: Whatever Your Struggle, He is More Than Able33: The Holy Spirit Now Lives in You32: The Holy Spirit Provides All You Need
16 minutes | Aug 17, 2021
036 - Your "Desire" for the Higher Christian Life
What Does “Desire” for God Have to do with Inflation?Usually, I send out an encouraging post regarding the Higher Christian Life and the importance of drawing close to Him in these times of trouble. But today, it’s going to be a bit different.We have often discussed the importance of desire, especially when embracing the Higher Christian Life. In essence, we can have all the knowledge and understanding necessary to experience the Higher Christian Life, but without a desire to pay the price and “count the costs” (Luke 14:28) required for deep intimacy with our Lord, nothing happens. So I want to share something that will hopefully spur on your desire for more of Him, what we call the Higher Christian Life, no matter the costs, come what may.Now, I know not everyone has an accounting/business background, and sometimes national economic trends and forecasts are hard to understand, let alone swallow. But the following article by Britt Gillette, The Next Financial Crisis, puts our current national situation regarding debt and quantitative easing in terms anyone can understand. And he is right on, perfect. His article will help you understand where we are heading financially as a nation, regarding the inflation you are currently experiencing, and hyper-inflation that is just around the corner.And remember, this is all just a shadow of Revelation six. You might want to give that a quick read before going any further.Carefully consider where we are as a culture and, if you seem troubled by it, then use that feeling of anxiety to fuel your desire for more of Him. And remember, the Higher Christian Life is yours for the asking when you ask in faith.Until He comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:35: What Church Could Look Like Today34: Whatever Your Struggle, He is More Than Able33: The Holy Spirit Now Lives in You32: The Holy Spirit Provides All You Need31: God Only Disciplines Those He Loves
15 minutes | Aug 12, 2021
035 - What Church Could Look Like Today
Second Verse, Uh… Should Be Same as the FirstIn Matthew 10, we see this amazing account of Jesus sending His disciples out without Him to do what He was doing while He was with them. It was almost a picture of what life would be like after Jesus was physically removed from their presence and the Holy Spirit was given to them to “abide” with them forever (John 14:16). This was their first mission trip, their first job as His apprentice, the first time they flew solo. And He didn’t send them out unprepared. He gave them the same power they would later receive when the Holy Spirit came upon them in the upper room, as recorded in Acts 2. This was just a taste of church life to come.He “gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of diseases” – Matthew 10:1.Jesus also gave them strict instructions to minister while away from Him in the power they had just received. Not in their own power, but the power of the Spirit. For there is no way they could do what Jesus asked in their own strength. No one can.He commanded them to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit, much like the early church did in the book of Acts after they received the Holy Spirit.“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” – Matthew 10:7-8.In other words, they should expect their time away from Jesus to be filled with miracles and the moving of the Spirit, just like it was when they were with Jesus. And this is exactly what we see in the early church after they received the Holy Spirit. The early church obviously took seriously the promise of Jesus that, once He returned to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit in His place, His followers would do greater works than what they had seen Jesus do (John 14:12). But is that really possible? Could Jesus be over exaggerating? I mean, when ordinary people encounter the Holy Spirit and surrender their lives totally to Him, what does it look like?This is one reason why God included the book of Acts in our Bible. Let’s see how the Spirit moved in the lives of these unassuming men.Chapter Two – After the Holy Spirit falls on the church, Peter stands in their midst and preaches a short, unprepared sermon, only 297 words long, excluding Scripture, and 3,000 people get saved. Then the infant church, made up of 120 friends and 3,000 strangers, single-mindedly devoted themselves to the “apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). Everyone was in a state of awe. And “many wonders and signs were done by the apostles” (Acts 2:43).Amazingly, the young church “had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” (Acts 2:44-45). All needs of the church were met by the willing, generous sacrifices of all they had for the good of people they just met.Unlike us, there was no Sunday morning worship service or Wednesday night prayer meeting. They did not go to church; they were the church. The Spirit of God lived in them, and they were now temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Everything in their life had changed. And what did that look like in real life?So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people – Acts 2:46-47a.Note the keywords, “continuing daily” and “one accord” and “house to house.” This church was nothing like many of us have ever experienced. They seemed committed to the Lord and each other in ways we don’t fully understand. They were “all in” and held nothing back. And for us, in our selfish, independent, “I can take care of myself” mindset, this seems intimidating and, quite honestly, frightening.But note what happened? Look at how the Lord responded to their reliance on the Holy Spirit.And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved – Acts 2:47b.That’s daily. Every day. How long has it been since we’ve seen people saved in our worship times together? Exactly.It’s OK to DreamWhat would you give to live in a church like the one revealed in the book of Acts? Do you realize what we have just read is possible, even expected, for those of us today who have the same Holy Spirit living in us as they did? God does not play favorites. He shows no partiality. And remember, the authority Jesus gave His disciples (Matt. 10:1) to minister in the Spirit is the same authority we have in Him, right now, by virtue of the Holy Spirit living in us. We have everything we need to experience the Higher Christian Life right now, in Him. There is no power greater than God. There is nothing that can thwart His will. And there is nothing this world could offer you that is better than what you already have. Look at what the Spirit says about us:The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together – Romans 8:16-17.So be encouraged today. The early church has shown us what the Higher Christian Life looks like. The Holy Spirit now indwells us to empower us to live the Higher Christian life. And the Higher Christian Life that may seem so far away at times could be just as close as reading the book of Acts.So let your faith tell you this life is possible, even expected, when you Let Go and Let God… be God.Until He Comes,SteveNote: We only looked at Acts 2 today. There are still twenty-six chapters to go.For more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:34: Whatever Your Struggle, He is More Than Able33: The Holy Spirit Now Lives in You32: The Holy Spirit Provides All You Need31: God Only Disciplines Those He Loves30: I Know that “In Me, Nothing Good Dwells”
14 minutes | Aug 12, 2021
034 - Whatever Your Struggle, He is More Than Able
What Does it Mean to Have the Holy Spirit Live in Us?As Truth Two reveals, when the Holy Spirit, God HImself, takes up residence in you, He brings with Him all the power, love, wisdom, understanding, joy, peace, and gifts of the Godhead. Let this truth sink in, God now lives in you. Not with you or by you or around you. But the Holy Spirit actually lives, right now, in you. Which, as the Scriptures teach, makes you a temple of the Holy Spirit, a dwelling place of God. Consider this:Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.For Christians today, the idea of a temple seems archaic and outdated. After all, temple worship is something we associate with false religions or is relegated to the pages of the Old Testament, a practice of ancient Judaism. And we’ve moved far beyond that, or so we think.In Judaism, the heart of their worship was tied up in a building, a temple. Because it was only in a specific part of this building, and only on certain days, that man was able to meet with God. And to make matters worse, not all men could meet with God, only the priest, and only after going through rituals that make no sense to us today. God was understood to dwell in the temple made for Him to reflect His glory. And it was only in the temple that sacrifices could be made for the atonement for sins. Without the temple, there were no sacrifices. And without the sacrifices, there was no forgiveness of sin. So the importance of the temple to the Jewish understanding of the forgiveness of sins cannot be overstated.The first temple was built by Solomon and later destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. After 70 years without a temple, the second one was built around 516 BC under the leadership of Ezra and Zerubbabel and stood for almost 585 years. Later, beginning around 20 BC and during the 18th year of his reign, Herod the Great made impressive improvements to this second temple so that it is commonly known to us as Herod’s Temple. It was destroyed by Titus Vespasian and the Fifth, Tenth, and Fifteenth Roman Legion during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD.So without a temple, what were the Jewish people to do? How could they meet with their God? They could not. At least not in a temple made by human hands (Acts 7:48).When Jesus died on the cross, He was the one, final, perfect sacrifice for the atonement of our sin (Heb. 10:1-18). There was no need any longer for the sacrifices of animals as a picture of what Jesus was to accomplish on the cross. Hence, there was no need for a physical temple whereby sinful men could come and offer the blood of goats and lambs to somehow atone for the penalty of sin for which Jesus had already suffered and died to forgive (Heb. 9:12). After Jesus, everything had changed.Since there was no need for a temple, nor continual blood sacrifices, nor a high priest to act as an intermediatory between each of us and a Holy God, what has replaced these religious mainstays for us? The answer: Jesus. He became our High Priest (Heb. 9:11, 10:21) and His blood, sacrificed for us, has provided atonement for our sins, once and for all (Heb. 10:11-14). And the veil in the temple that separated sinful men from the presence of God in the Holy of Holies, was torn from top to bottom at the death of Christ (Matt. 27:51), indicating there was now no barrier between God and man. We now have bold access to the throne of God by the blood sacrifice of Jesus (Heb. 10:19-22).And this is where it gets exciting, especially regarding the Higher Christian Life.You Are Now the Temple of God!Remember the verses we looked at earlier, 1 Corinthians 6:19-21. Because the Holy Spirit, God Himself, now lives in us, we have become the temple of God, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. We have within us what the Jews hoped to experience in the Holy of Holies— the fullness of God. We have the presence of God in the Person of the Holy Spirit inside of us. And this was the wonderous mystery hidden from the Jews, but now revealed to us.To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory – Colossians 1:27.Now, when we struggle with our failures in the higher Christian life it is because of our sinful nature, pulling us, prompting us, sometimes forcing us to do the things we don’t want to do when our spirit wants to do the things pleasing to Him (Rom. 7:18-20), yet we fail. You and I, and Paul, know what this is like. Remember, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24). You are not alone when you struggle to be more like Him.But the great encouragement for today is simply this, you have the Holy Spirit living in you. Take some time and reflect on this familiar truth. You don’t have to travel to the temple to meet with Him. You don’t have to wait until a certain day to experience His healing power. You don’t have to go through all sorts of rituals to make yourself appear worthy to come into His presence. He is already here. In you. Closer than you can imagine. He knows you better than you know you. And He has seen the best and the worst of who you are, and yet He still loves you.So relax and stop striving (and probably failing) to live out something in your life (holiness, sanctification, the Higher Christian Life), that the Holy Spirit was given to live through you. Let Him do His job. Get out of His way. Just “let go and let God”— be God.Will you do that today?Will you do that today?Until He Comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:33: The Holy Spirit Now Lives in You32: The Holy Spirit Provides All You Need31: God Only Disciplines Those He Loves30: I Know that “In Me, Nothing Good Dwells”29: He Both Can and Will Fulfill His Promise to You
18 minutes | Aug 10, 2021
033 - The Holy Spirit Now Lives in You
What Does it Mean to Have the Holy Spirit Live in Us?In Truth Two, we see God giving us the Holy Spirit to live and dwell in us in order to both “will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). In other words, as we discovered yesterday, the Holy Spirit is active in us to accomplish what God has predestined simply for His good pleasure, or because He wanted to. And what He predestined for us is to be “conformed (to be similar in essence or nature) to the image (an exact representation) of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). God wants His children to be just like His Son. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Don’t we want our own children to grow up to reflect their parent’s nature, values, faith, and virtue?So Truth Two lets us know we have the Holy Spirit living in us to accomplish that exact purpose. So we are not alone on this journey towards the Higher Christian Life. God has given us Himself, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, to accomplish His will in making us just like Jesus. And this is a great encouragement to those who have repeatedly tried and failed to live the Higher Christian Life by their own wits. It cannot be done. The Higher Christian Life can only be lived through the Spirit who now lives and empowers each of us. Our task is to Let Go, and Let God. We are to Let Go of our own pride, independence, and self-efforts and Let God have every part of us, by surrendering to Him, so that “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), all for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13) and by His sovereign design.But think for a moment, what does having God dwell in us do for us? And why did God choose to live in us and not have us come to Him as He did in the Old Testament? And this is where the wonders of the Higher Christian Life become real to us and we feel the growing confidence that we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Phil. 4:13).Rejoice, God Now Lives in You!In the Old Testament, God lived with His people but did not live in them. He met with only a select few in the Tabernacle and they, in turn, told others the words of the Lord. He communicated His message to His prophets, and not to others. The Holy Spirit came upon men for a season or for a specific purpose and then was removed. We see this in the acts of Samson, the prophecy of Saul, and many others. In fact, it was the Holy Spirit falling on ordinary men that made them the heroes of the faith we honor today. It was not them or their personal charisma, courage, or charm, but the Spirit who transformed ordinary men into beacons of light, who lived a life of faith during troubling times.And when David, in the midst of anguish over his sin, cried out “and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11), he was not referring to his salvation, but to his intimacy with the Lord fostered only by the presence of the Holy Spirit in His life, for a season. It was the Spirit who gave David the inspiration to write so many of the Psalms. It was the Spirit of God who imparted His wisdom to Solomon so evident in the Proverbs. It was the Holy Spirit who emboldened the three Hebrew children to defy the blasphemy of Nebuchadnezzar, even at the threat of death. And it is the same Spirit who lives in you, not for a season but permanently, never to leave.But what does that mean? Simply this.Before Jesus was taken from His disciples’ sight, He “commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me'” (Acts 1:4). And the wonderous Promise of the Father was the coming reality of God living in us, not just with us, in the Person of the Holy Spirit. We will never have to go to where God is to meet with Him, for He is always in us. Forever. (Note: As a bit of homework, look up the phrase “in Christ” and see the amazing benefits you have that were unknown to even the Old Testament saints. But we will look more into that at a later time).Consider the words of Jesus when He spoke about the blessing of the Holy Spirit living in us.“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another (állos – another of the same kind, another just like Jesus) Helper, that He may abide (ménō – to remain, dwell, live, make their home, to be and remain united with one heart, mind, and will) with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, (how) for He dwells (ménō – same word translated abide) with you and will be (what) in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16-18).One last thought, Jesus said the “Spirit of truth,” the Holy Spirit, now “dwells with you” (present tense), but “will be in you” (future tense) at some point in time. This promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was the Promise of the Father Jesus spoke about in Acts 1:4. And it was powerfully fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2.If you are a believer in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit, the very God of Gods, living in you. For the Holy Spirit is just as much God as the Father and the Son. Yet it is He, and not the Father nor the Son, who lives in you and empowers you to be overcomers in the life of faith. And, as Truth Two states, it is by the Spirit that God will do whatever is necessary to bring you into conformity with His Son (Rom. 8:29), according to His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13), which is the very definition of the Higher Christian Life.So be encouraged. You have everything you need to live the “abundant life” Jesus promised (John 10:10) right now. And the Holy Spirit is not out there, somewhere, far away, playing hide-and-seek, only revealing Himself to those more faithful or worthy than you. No, He lives in you right now. He empowers you right now. And He comes with spiritual gifts to impart to you, right now.All you have to do is ask. And asking comes in the form of trust and surrender.Will you do that today?Until He Comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:32: The Holy Spirit Provides All You Need31: God Only Disciplines Those He Loves30: I Know that “In Me, Nothing Good Dwells”29: He Both Can and Will Fulfill His Promise to You28: Victory is Found in Believing God’s Promises
18 minutes | Aug 9, 2021
032 - The Holy Spirit Provides All You Need
There’s Nothin’ You Need, He Ain’t Got!In this post, we will begin to explore the second of these three great truths designed to free us from the guilt and shame of trying to live the Higher Christian Life in the flesh, by the power of our own strength and resources, and failing miserably. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, it is a description of many who begin their walk with Christ in faith, only to think they are now mature by trying to complete their walk with Him in the flesh. As if faith and dependence on Him is a sign of weakness or frailty and something “real” Christians shun as they grow in spiritual adulthood. But lest we forget, God has given us Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit to live in and through us for a reason. And it is He, and He alone, the Spirit of God, who provides all we need in this life, ever.For review, Truth One states we are incapable of pleasing God or producing anything good with our flesh, by our own efforts, with our sinful nature, no matter how hard we try. And if you haven’t come to grips with Truth One yet, go back and review Romans 7, especially verse 18. Now Truth One can sound a bit discouraging, especially for those who suffer from a “little God” syndrome, which we will discuss later. But it is actually great news. For just like salvation, it puts us at a place where we must admit we are helpless to save and redeem ourselves and need a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, someone much greater than we are, to do just that. We are thus dependent on Him for what we cannot accomplish ourselves, no matter how long or hard we try.The same applies to the Holy Spirit. Truth Two states God has given us the Holy Spirit to live and dwell in us for the purpose, among other things, of working in us “both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Did you catch that? The Holy Spirit will allow and empower us to “will and do for His good pleasure.” And by the way, the “His” is God the Father. Not you. Not anyone you know. And especially not your flesh, your unredeemed humanity.The verse reads like this in context: Paul begins by showing the unity that comes when each of us reacts to each other in humility (Phil 2:1-4). And how is that seemingly impossible task accomplished? By the power of the indwelling Spirit. Then he goes on to show the humility of Christ. After all, if Jesus portrayed this much humility, how much more should we who are called by His name? Read these verses over a few times, slowly, savoring each word.Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father – Philippians 2:5-11.And finally, Paul exhorts the church at Philippi to live out the faith they have in Him as beacons of eternal light revealing the Father (Matt. 5:14-16). He encourages them to be “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).But embedded between these two statements is found one of the glorious purposes God gave each of us the Holy Spirit. It says, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). It is God, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, working His good pleasure, His divine will, out in your life.But there is more.What More Do We Need Than We Already Have?Let’s look at this verse a little closer.“For it is God who works (energéō – to be effective, operative, active, implying energy) in you (make it personal) both to will (thélō – to desire with purpose and intention, implying active volition) and to do (energéō – the same word translated works) for His good pleasure (eudokía – gracious purpose, a delightful, fixed intention of benevolent favor, a good intention).”So it is God, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, who is at work or working (energéō) in you with a purpose, an intended goal (thélō) for your life. And that goal, what He predestined when He called you to Himself, is for you to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). And He is currently working (energéō) this purpose in you for no other reason than “His good pleasure” (eudokía), or with a desire to be gracious and benevolent to you. This is our promise from God. Better yet, this is your personal promise from God And it is one reason why His Spirit dwells in each of us.So if this is true, what more do you need than you already have in Him? What do you have to add to your life by your own strength and resources to make up for the Spirit’s shortcomings or deficiency in you? And if you are “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10) and the “fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23) abides in you, tell me, what more do you need than you already have? Is there anything impossible for the God who lives in you? (Matt. 10:26).This is the foundation of Truth Two. But before we dig deeper into this truth, you must come to firmly believe in your heart God has already provided, in Himself dwelling in you in the Person of the Holy Spirit, more for you than you could ever imagine. And He is well able to complete what He has begun in you (Phil. 1:6), for His own glory and for “His good pleasure.”Or, because He wanted to. You are loved that much!Tomorrow we will look at what it means to have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and what that blessing means in the Higher Christian Life.Until He Comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:31: God Only Disciplines Those He Loves30: I Know that “In Me, Nothing Good Dwells”29: He Both Can and Will Fulfill His Promise to You28: Victory is Found in Believing God’s Promises27: But What Happens When We Fail?
16 minutes | Aug 6, 2021
031 - God Only Disciplines Those He Loves
The Good News and the Bad News in the Higher Christian LifeYesterday we began to look at Truth One regarding the discouragement that comes with continual failure to live the sanctified life in the flesh. And we concluded it is impossible for us to produce anything good in our flesh since it is still intertwined with our fallen, sinful nature. Therefore, it seems we have spent most of our Christian life trying to prove Truth One is false and we can, contrary to Scripture (Rom. 7:18), produce good with our flesh under the allusion God will be impressed by our efforts and pleased with our results. And then we scratch our heads and we wonder why the Higher Christian Life seems so elusive to us today.I think it’s obvious, don’t you?For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find – Romans 7:18.But nevertheless, whether we are mature enough to embrace Truth One or still stuck in the idolatry of our pride, we must admit our failure to live the Higher Christian Life is painful and discouraging and often leads to an irresistible desire to throw up our hands in defeat and quit. But that is a course of action we must never take. After all, fully realizing our inability to live the Christian life in the flesh is the greatest blessing we can experience in our journey to the Higher Christian Life. Let me explain.There is good news and bad news associated with the Higher Christian Life. The good news is God has provided a means for us to experience Him in ways most nominal believers cannot imagine. And the sky is the limit. There is no one who has ever fully arrived when it comes to the Higher Christian Life. D.L. Moody once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. I will try my utmost to be that man.” This is the mindset of those who seek the Higher Christian Life. And the good news is this experience is possible and available and attainable for each of us today.But the bad news is God will go to extreme measures to help us experience Him by correcting His children, often by painful punishment, when they head in the wrong direction. Remember this verse (a quote from Proverbs 3:11-12):For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives – Hebrews 12:6.This sounds cruel to our ears today because the words “chasten” and “scourges” conjure up images of abuse and harsh discipline, something our woke culture no longer associates with a father’s love for his children. But the word translated “chastens” (paideúō) means “to bring up a child, to educate, train, influence, with the idea of chastizing or punishment for the purpose of educating someone to conform to divine truth.” And the word “scourges” (mastigóō) is used figuratively to mean “correct or punish” and refers to “all suffering which God ordains for His children which is always designed for their good” (Rom. 5:3, 8:28).And note, God only does this for those He loves (agapáō). And He only disciplines or ordains suffering (scourges) for those in His family He receives to Himself, listed as “every son” in the verse. So the chastening of the Lord is not meant for evil, but for our good. And it is ordained by our loving Father who only desires us to experience Him in a greater fashion than we are today.But there is more.How Does This Relate to My Struggles with Holiness?This is where it gets exciting.In all the times you failed in your walk with Him and found the Higher Christian Life elusive and just beyond your grasp, you may have thought you were of no use to God, and your flaws or inability to remain faithful made you a disappointment to Him. You were ashamed of yourself, and you assumed God felt the same way. You may have been deceived into believing your failures and sin defined who you are and God only saw your past, what you were and still are, and not your future, what you could become. But God has a purpose in your suffering and shame. God is teaching you, through your failures and discouragement, that you cannot serve Him with what is still yet unredeemed. You cannot produce anything good with your flesh. You must learn to trust and rest and abide in Him (John 15), and allow Him to create His good through you. This is the key to the Higher Christian Life. To “Let Go and Let God” and leave the results to Him.Remember, God only disciplines those He loves (Heb. 12:6), and His discipline can sometimes seem harsh. But He does this only to bring those He loves into a better understanding of themselves and of His pathway to the Higher Christian Life. So if you have experienced shame and suffering and continual failure in trying to live in the flesh the life only obtainable by His Spirit, look up! For God, like a loving Father, is simply trying to get your attention to bring you back on the right path to intimacy with Him.And rest assured, He will stop at nothing to give what is best, which is Himself, to those He loves, which is you. So embrace His grace in your failures and repent of trying to live a spiritual life by your flesh, and you will receive entrance to the pathway leading to the Higher Christian Life.Tomorrow, we will look at the second of the three key truths to deliverance from failure and discouragement in the Higher Christian Life.Until He Comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:30: I Know that “In Me, Nothing Good Dwells”29: He Both Can and Will Fulfill His Promise to You28: Victory is Found in Believing God’s Promises27: But What Happens When We Fail?26: The Unlimited Possibilities of Faith
15 minutes | Aug 4, 2021
030 - I Know that “In Me, Nothing Good Dwells
What We Cannot Do, No Matter How Hard We TryToday we will begin to look at the first of three key truths that will help you overcome the disappointment of trying to live the Higher Christian Life in your own strength and failing— which is a certainty. You cannot, under any circumstances, live in the flesh that which can only be lived through His Spirit. It cannot be done, no matter how hard you try. And the more you try, the more your spiritual life resembles a mouse on an exercise wheel, constantly straining to the point of exhaustion, but going nowhere, still trapped in his cage.Ever been there? So have many believers before you.And the reason we continue to go back to something that has never worked in the past with the insane hope it will work today is that we have not taken the time to truly understand the nature of our fallen flesh and what the atonement of Christ did, and didn’t do, regarding it. To begin with, the sinful nature (our flesh) you and I had before being born again (John 3:16) is the same sinful nature (flesh) we have now. The atonement did not change or redeem our flesh. It is something with which we still struggle and will continue to do so until our flesh is redeemed by Christ when we are given a new, glorified, heavenly body, that is conformed to His body (Phil 3:20-21). When talking about the contrast between our earthly body and our resurrected body, the Scripture describes our human bodies as perishable, weak, natural, and corruptable, all because of sin. Yet our glorified bodies are deemed imperishable, eternal, spiritual, and not touched by corruption that comes from sin (1 Cor. 15:42-53). Consider the following:The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. – 1 Corinthians 15:42a-44.So the redemption of our flesh, the resurrection of our bodies, comes later in this journey of our salvation. We are buried in our sinful flesh and will be resurrected and raised in a perfect, glorified, sin-free body— a body that no longer has a sinful nature attached to it. But this happens in the future and is not something we experience now.Hence, our continual struggle with temptation, sin, and inevitable failure.Why Can’t I Live the Higher Christian Life in My Own Strength?So what do we do? We try harder. We jump back on the exercise wheel with a renewed commitment to grow closer to the Lord or to try to live a holy, sanctified life by doing all the things we’ve tried before. And to quote Dr. Phil, “How’s that working out for you?” It’s not. You cannot live in the flesh something that can only be done in the spirit (or by the Spirit) no matter how committed you are to a spiritual self-improvement program. To do so is futile at best and doomed to fail from the start. Do you know why?Truth One: You are incapable of pleasing God or producing anything good with your flesh, your sinful nature, no matter how hard you try. It cannot be done, has never been done, will never be done, by anybody, ever.This truth might be difficult to accept. After all, we like to think highly of ourselves and often take pride in the strides we have made in our Christian life. So you might as well take a deep breath and relax because Truth One is, in fact, truth. And if you still struggle with the idea you are incapable of doing anything good in your flesh, even after your salvation, consider the following:For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find – Romans 7:18.Remember, it was Paul who made this statement. And I wouldn’t want to stack my spiritual life up against his, would you?Most of us have spent the majority of our Christian life trying to prove Truth One is wrong. We’ve tried to love more, pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17), witness to our loved ones, unselfishly minister to others, “rejoice always” in every situation (1 Thes. 5:17), fervently worship in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23), forgive as we want to be forgiven (Matt. 6:14), and serve the Lord with the joy and intensity we know should be there, but it’s not. I mean, if we were capable of doing good in our flesh and by our own merits (and we have all tried), wouldn’t our spiritual life right now be the Higher Christian Life? But for most, it’s not, it’s seriously lacking.Remember, our mission in life is not to produce the fruit as a branch (which we are incapable of doing), but to only bear the fruit the vine produces in us (see John 15). “For without Me (Jesus, the Vine), you can do nothing” (John 15:5). This is the essence of Truth One.So don’t run from this truth. Accept it at face value. Receive it without reservation. Take some time and ask the Spirit to confirm this truth to you. And understand Truth One should not lead you to despair, but to immense joy. For it is in the full acceptance of Truth One that the pathway that leads to deliverance is opened.And we shall look more deeply into this pathway tomorrow.Until He Comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:29: He Both Can and Will Fulfill His Promise to You28: Victory is Found in Believing God’s Promises27: But What Happens When We Fail?26: The Unlimited Possibilities of Faith25: “Why Did You Doubt?”
16 minutes | Aug 4, 2021
029 - He Both Can and Will Fulfill His Promise to You
He is Both Able and Willing to Fulfill His PromisesWhen it comes to the Higher Christian Life, what we are striving for is a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Lord. We want to grow closer to Him and experience Him in ways we never have before. We want to enter into uncharted fellowship and communion with Him. In essence, we want to “know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil 3:10). Literally, as this verse states, we want to “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16), which means to know everything about Him, the good and bad, His resurrection and His sufferings and His death, and to experience them in fellowship with Him in ways we never have. We want all that comes with our life with Christ, and we are willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to achieve true intimate fellowship with the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2).The life I have just described, the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10), all begins with and is fed by faith. But it is the object and intensity of that faith that moves us from a life of apathy and lukewarmness to a point where we are able to experience all the joy and blessings that come with the Higher Christian Life.But how is that accomplished? And how can we have the faith to say “no” to our flesh and the cares of our life in this fallen world, and “yes” to Him and His kingdom and all He promises to those who follow Him?What holds many back from a life of total surrender, or reckless abandon, or complete salvation, or to “let go and let God,” is a fear God will somehow not honor our commitment, nor do His part, nor meet us in the middle, and will leave us hanging and disappointed, as orphans, because of some unholy or undesirable or unlikable or unforgivable trait or sin or flaw in us. We see ourselves through our own lens of failure and broken promises and then assume God does the same. And because we esteem ourselves so little in our own eyes (since we know what we are like on the inside), we assume God also does and rightly withholds His blessings because He doesn’t really like us that much.So why would He keep His promise to someone as unworthy as me? I know I wouldn’t.Why would He go out of His way to answer a prayer from someone as disappointing as I must be to Him? Why would He even care?I know if I was God, I wouldn’t give a flip about me. So maybe He doesn’t either.What we assume is humility and a right view of ourselves is really nothing more than an opportunity to impugn and discredit the name and character of our loving God by believing the worst about Him. We believe, rightly so, He is sovereign and loving and can do anything He wants at any time He wants. Yet, for some flaw in His character, He chooses not to bless us, or answer our prayers, or reveal Himself to us because He has favorites, those He loves more than others, and we are not included in that crowd.So when we look at the promises of God, we inevitably believe they are meant for someone else, but not us. Others get to eat with Him at His table, as His children, but not us. We have to eat leftovers alone, in the kitchen, after everyone else has finished. We know that God can, but we just don’t think He will, for us. Maybe for others more worthy— but not for us.But nothing could be further from the truth.I Know He Can… and I Hope He WillThe way faith is grown is to put it to use and have it tested. If you look at Hebrews 11, every one of those listed did something with their faith. Their faith in God was not passive or sterile or academic. It was active and was tested and, therefore, grew. The same is true for each of us.God has many times in His Word given us promises and said He is well able to fulfill His promises to us. But if we only believe God is able, and not willing, then we forfeit the blessings He wants to give us, and our faith in Him flounders. Plus, it makes God petty and vindictive and almost abusive in loving and favoring some of His children more than He does others. What kind of father does that? Again, nothing could be further from the truth. Ask yourself this, does this promise apply to you?But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” – 2 Corinthians 2:9.Do you love Him? If so, this promise is for you. You cannot imagine, in the deepest recesses of your heart, the wondrous things God has prepared for you. Not just others, but for you. Once you firmly settle this in your mind you come to see that believing anything other than this makes God less of a father than you would want for your own children. So settle it today! God is not a liar. He keeps His promises, even to you!Make it personal. God can and He is able to fulfill all His promises to me— regardless of how unworthy I am or what I think about myself. And not only is God able, but He is willing, joyfully willing, to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power (Holy Spirit) that works in us” (Eph. 3:20). And do you know why? Because that’s what a good father does. And God is a good God and a wonderful Father.So rest in this today, and next time we will begin to unpack the three truths that will help you experience the Higher Christian Life.Until He Comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:28: Victory is Found in Believing God’s Promises27: But What Happens When We Fail?26: The Unlimited Possibilities of Faith25: “Why Did You Doubt?”24: It’s His Job to Make and Keep You Holy
16 minutes | Jul 31, 2021
028 - Victory is Found in Believing God's Promises
Victory is Found in Believing God’s PromisesIn our last podcast, we shared the hope of true victory over our continued failure against sin and introduced three truths we must believe to enter into the joy of the Higher Christian Life. Over the next few days, we will dig deep into each of these truths to understand the importance of our unwavering faith in God’s promises. For without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). But we know that, don’t we? Yet we fail in our faith, nonetheless.Think about your spiritual life. Like most believers, you probably experienced an exuberant infusion of love, joy, and peace when you first came to Christ, and He became real to you. After all, this is exactly what He said He would do. Suddenly, your prayers got answered. Surprisingly, God’s Word became alive to you. And unexpectedly, you found yourself excitedly talking with others about the joy of your newfound faith. Everything was roses— at least for a season.Then something happened. Something changed.You probably can’t put your finger on the exact moment or the exact event, but what seemed so alive in you began to fade. Gradually, over time, the joy of your Christian life subsided, and the old temptations came roaring back. And instead of “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5), or girding yourself with the “whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day” (Eph. 6:13), your mind began to linger lustfully on those things you had once forsaken, and you found yourself drawn back into the old life, the dark side of who you once were, the “old man” as Paul would say (Rom. 6:6). The rest plays out like a B-rated horror flick. Before you knew it, you found yourself once again doing what you had already repented of and promised God you would never do again. Then came the conviction, followed by the inevitable downpour of guilt that quickly turned into shame. And like Adam, you tried to hide from God’s presence by refusing to seek Him in prayer or Bible study or fellowship or worship in church. Questions and accusations followed.“How can I claim to be a Christian and go back and do what I said I would never do again?”“What must God think of me now?”“Why wasn’t my faith stronger? Am I really that weak? There must be something wrong with me.”“Is this what I can expect as a Christian— victory, and defeat, followed by even more defeat?”“Jesus said He came to give me an abundant life (John 10:10). But this sure doesn’t seem like an abundance of anything other than failure and shame.”“I’m so sorry, Lord. Please forgive me for being such a hypocrite. I’ll never tell anyone about You again until I get victory in my life over sin.” Which sadly, for many, often never happens.Sound familiar? It should. This is the outline of the spiritual odyssey of most believers today. But the difference between victory and defeat, success or failure, is the ability and desire to rise from our shame and regret, remembering Whose we are and Who lives in us, and somehow find the strength to pick ourselves up and return to the race (Heb. 12:1). Only this time, we wisely refuse to run the race alone.It is Only By Believing God’s Promises that Victory is SecuredGod gives us so many promises in His Word. But for those promises to become real to us, we have to believe them and then live as if we really had the faith to believe them. This is not sterile, dead, academic, lip-service-only faith. It is vibrant faith that shows itself boldly in action. Nothing else will do.Remember, God is sovereign, and nothing is too great for Him. He can do whatever He chooses (Ps. 115:3), which may actually be “exceedingly abundantly above what we ask or think, according to the power (Holy Spirit) that works in us” (Eph. 3:20). So rest assured, God has a plan for your deliverance from the Christian life you are now experiencing to the Higher Christian Life He promised. And His deliverance is found by firmly grasping with two hands and acting upon His great promises which are given to you. Not given to someone else you deem more worthy, but given to you.So before we dive into the three truths that will help you experience the Higher Christian Life by living as an “overcomer” regarding sin, there is just one more thing you need to settle firmly in your mind. God is not only able to do whatever He has promised, but He is also willing. And He is willing to not only reveal Himself to you, but to keep all of His promises. Every one of them. No matter what.Do you believe this statement about God to be true? Good. Then let’s begin our Higher Christian Life journey together, shall we?Until He Comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:27: But What Happens When We Fail?26: The Unlimited Possibilities of Faith25: “Why Did You Doubt?”24: It’s His Job to Make and Keep You Holy23: Does God Love You as Much as You Love Him?
15 minutes | May 5, 2021
026 - The Unlimited Possibilities of Faith
We have spent the last few sessions unpacking the three key truths that must be believed in order to receive the Higher Christian Life. By now, these should be second nature to you. But there are two aspects to these three truths. One, naturally, is the truths themselves. And the other, of equal importance, is that these truths must be believed. In a word, faith. It is the fact you must believe by faith what these truths state. This brings us to the topic for today, and that is faith. Abundant faith, achieving faith, overcoming faith, non-wavering faith. Faith. So let’s begin with a simple question: What are the unlimited possibilities of faith?Let’s begin by looking at a few statements from Christ and see if we truly believe what they say.But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” – Matthew 19:26.Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” – Mark 9:23.Note, the Greek word translated “all” is pás and means “each, every, any, in totality, the whole, without exception.” So, for us, all means all. Literally. And the second word to consider is dunatós which is translated as “possible” and means “to be able, to have strength, to be strong or powerful.” This is a form of dúnamis which is primarily translated in the New Testament as power, notably “miraculous” power. In essence, Jesus is saying with faith or to one who believes, all things, without exception, are possible, or have the power, strength, and ability to be done, even miraculously, in Christ.Do you believe these words of Jesus? I hope so. For “without faith, it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6).But there is something more here that needs to be understood about these promises. The first statement is a blanket truth about God. There is nothing impossible with Him, or all things are possible. But with the second statement, there is a condition. Jesus begins with a condition “if” and states, “If you can believe, (then) all things are possible to him (condition again) who believes” (Mark 9:23). So faith or belief is the condition that opens up the floodgates of blessings from the Lord and is the key, not only to our salvation (Eph. 2:8-9), but also the Higher Christian Life.And if that wasn’t enough, we find in Hebrews intimacy and becoming well-pleasing to the Lord is intricately tied to faith. So much so, the Scripture says “without faith, it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6), which is the point of seeking the Higher Christian Life.So if the words of Jesus are true and faith is the substance that brings blessings and intimacy with the Lord, then what are the possibilities in Him, by faith, in this life we now lead? Or, is there anything God cannot do to those who believe?What are the Unlimited Possibilities of Faith?Over the next few sessions, we are going to dig into the infinite possibilities of faith and try to expand our understanding of how powerful and majestic, and good is our Lord. After all, there is nothing greater than Him. Nothing. And for some reason, He has chosen to prove Himself sovereign to the lost world of fallen men and angels (Eph. 3:10) by allowing us to personally and intimately experience Him in our daily lives, as sinful as we are. And the pathway to the Higher Christian Life is by faith, and nothing more. Just like it was with our salvation (Eph. 2:8-9).So what are some of the possibilities of faith, according to the Scriptures and not necessarily our current experience:• Salvation is possible because of our faith.• Sanctification, or the Higher Christian Life, is possible because of faith.• All power for service and ministry is possible because of faith.• All victory in prayer is possible because of faith.• All peace and joy during trials in this world are grounded and possible because of faith.• Excitement in the Lord’s soon return is possible because of faith.• All things are possible to him to believe, to him who has faith. All things.This is our inheritance in Him. It is a birthright to be believed. And the choice is always ours to make.One final thought, consider the faith possibilities in this doxology found in the third chapter of Ephesians. And remember, the word “able” in this verse is a derivative of the same Greek word translated “possible” in the verses above. After all, our God is able, and all things are possible with Him.Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works (present tense) in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen – Ephesians 3:20-21.In my favorite movie, Facing the Giants, Coach Grant Taylor, after winning the State Championship, asks his players this probing question: “What is impossible with God?” And to a player, they all answered, “Nothing Coach.”So how about you? What is impossible with God?Until He Comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:25: “Why Did You Doubt?”24: It’s His Job to Make and Keep You Holy23: Does God Love You as Much as You Love Him?22: Is it Possible to Live a Holy Life?21: What Does “Keep You From Stumbling” Mean?
17 minutes | Apr 30, 2021
025 - “Why Did You Doubt?”
We will close our study of the three key truths that must be believed to experience the Higher Christian Life by looking at one final example of how to commit yourself, in total dependence, to the Lord for safekeeping. This is truth number three. In essence, it is His job to “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and not yours. We must learn, by faith, to trust Him to complete what He has begun in our lives by His power and not struggle in our own. And this is hard. Why? Because it requires faith and trust and dependence and all the things that war against the flesh and our pride and self-sufficiency. Jesus summed up our struggle when He said to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31). Exactly. What do you and I doubt?I always find it amusing when we, as believers in Christ, trust Him without reservation regarding the things “in the sweet by and by” but struggle in the realities of the “here and now.” We trust Him for our salvation, without wavering. We trust Him in His promise to receive us “to Himself” so that “where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3), no questions asked. But we waffle in our faith when it comes to His promise to “keep you from stumbling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). Why is that? Why are we so strong in our faith in the things we cannot see, like heaven, the Second Coming, and eternal life, but are “tossed to and fro and carried about” (Eph. 4:14) in the things we can see, like fear, insecurity, the lack of money, failing health, fractured relationships, and all that keeps us up at night?Remember, we can forge through this life doing the things we hope please God in our own strength and end up fatigued, weary, and frustrated in the end. Or, we can soar through this life on the “wings of eagles” (Isa. 40:31), allowing Christ to do through us the things that please God and end up exhilarated, overwhelmed with gratitude, and bearing so much spiritual fruit our branches literally touch the ground. The choice is always ours. And the end is always the same. It’s how we get to the end (doing the things that please God) that matters.“O You of Little Faith, Why Did You Doubt?”A perfect example of this principle is found in Matthew 14:22-33. Here we find Jesus, after feeding close to ten thousand hungry souls with a boy’s sack lunch,* sending His disciples away as He withdraws to a mountain to spend some alone time with His Father (Matt. 14:22-23). And what were the disciples commanded to do? Same thing they had done most of their lives. Jesus told them to “get into the boat and go before Him to the other side” (Matt. 14:22).Traveling on the water in a boat was not something new to most of them. Peter and Andrew, as well as James and John, were fishermen. So were probably Thomas, Phillip, and Nathaniel. So this task of traveling by boat was second nature to the majority of the disciples. And they had all seen rough seas before. But on this night, they struggled.But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed (basanízō – to torture, afflict with pain, vex, harass) by the waves, for the wind was contrary (enantíos – over against, hostile, adverse) – Matthew 14:24.And their struggle had gone on for a long time.Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night (3:00 am to 6:00 am), He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by – Mark 6:48.Can you see what is happening here? The disciples are doing what they have always done, in the flesh, to follow the commands of Christ. He told them to get in the boat and go to the other side, and they did, only things got tough. So what did they do when things got difficult? They tried harder, worked harder, “strained at rowing” harder, all night long and into the early morning hours. They were exhausted, worn out, yet still had not made it to the other side. And all the while Jesus, casually walking on the water, is watching them while they struggled. Remember, this is the same water that was putting up such a fight against the disciples that Jesus effortlessly glided over. Both Jesus and the disciples faced the same circumstances, yet chose a different path to victory.The difference is this: Jesus, the key to victory, the Lord of Creation, was outside of the boat, and the disciples were struggling to fulfill His command in their own effort. But once Jesus got into the boat with them, everything changed. The winds ceased. The seas became calm. And wonder fell upon the disciples.Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled – Mark 6:51.I bet. And we haven’t even mentioned Peter walking on water to Jesus (Matt. 14:28-31), which is another amazing topic for another time.But the lesson to be learned is this, like the disciples, we can try to live the Higher Christian Life in the flesh, by our own efforts, straining at rowing, full of doubt and fear and failure, and still never make it to the other side. Or we can trust Jesus to fulfill His commands to us by His own efforts. We can invite Him into the boat, refuse to doubt, watch the seas become calm and our problems fade in the light of His glory, and realize He is well able to “keep you from stumbling” (Jude 24).As a closing note for today, did you notice what the next verse says? It simply states, “When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret” (Matt. 14:34). No mention of the troubling seas. No word about how tired they were. Nothing. Just a note to let us know that, with Jesus in the boat with them, they were able to obey His commands. And I believe the ride to the other side after Jesus entered the boat was far easier than their toil before He got into the boat. Don’t you?So what will it be? Striving or resting? Trusting or doubting? The Higher Christian Life or the life you have always known? The choice, as always, is yours. So choose wisely.One final thought, if you do the same things in the same way you have always done, don’t be surprised when you get the same results. So in this Higher Christian Life, try something different. Try trusting Him and not yourself. And let’s see if He truly can “do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).Until He Comes,Steve* Matthew 14:21 states there were “about five thousand men, besides women and children.” So, assuming an average of two children plus a wife for each man, we are looking at much more than ten thousand people.For more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:24: It’s His Job to Make and Keep You Holy23: Does God Love You as Much as You Love Him?22: Is it Possible to Live a Holy Life?21: What Does “Keep You From Stumbling” Mean?20: “Now to Him Who is Able”
16 minutes | Apr 28, 2021
024 - It’s His Job to Make and Keep You Holy
Today, we will begin looking at the last of the three truths that must be believed in order to experience the Higher Christian Life. These truths speak of the character of God and our need to let Him both make us holy and, as hard as it sometimes seems, keep us holy in His sight. Remember, Jude 24 states, “He is able to keep you from stumbling”— so His ability is not in question. And 1 Corinthians 1:30 further reveals that Jesus “became for us… sanctification.” So He is what He desires us to be. Seems simple enough. But how does knowing what He can do (keep us from stumbling) and knowing what we have done (our sin and failure) reconcile with each other? And how do these two statements about Christ relate to the importance of our dependence on Him?Before we address this question, let’s begin with a quick review of what we already know (hopefully) about the three key truths and the Higher Christian Life.One, you must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness. You must settle it in your mind, once and for all, that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). And this is especially true of Him being able to “keep you from stumbling” (Jude 24). Yes, even you.Two, you must remove from your mind all doubt and fear that He is not willing to keep you from stumbling. Of course He is willing. That’s what a good God does. He will not command you to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16) and then give you no means to obey His command.And three, you must learn to commit yourself, in total dependence, to the Lord for safekeeping. It is His job to “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and not yours. His job. And He is not only willing to bring you across the finish line, but He is also able to carry you across the line if necessary. So we must learn to trust Him to finish what He began in us, for His glory, no matter how we feel at the moment. Remember, whatever the need, He can. And even better, He will.Now once that is settled in our mind, if we don’t stay focused on Him alone, the drudgery of the everlasting treadmill begins.Let me explain.It’s His Job to Both Make and Keep You HolyYou and I both know that fellowship with God is something that can quickly fade away. It is not something that maintains itself. A simple sin, an impure thought, jealously, anger, lust, pride, you name it, and soon we have grieved the Holy Spirit and inadvertently landed on square 87 in the spiritual Chutes & Ladders game and now find ourselves sliding almost back to the beginning. “How did that happen? I was so close! Now I’ve got to start all over.”So what do we do? We try harder. But harder at what? Unfortunately, since we assume our intimacy with the Lord, the Higher Christian Life, was somehow obtained by our own efforts to live holy and, now that we find ourselves back on square 24, we naturally commit to working and trying harder to recapture the fellowship we lost. So we pray more. We read our Bible more. We commit ourselves to witness more, love more, worship more, give more. We get on the treadmill of works hoping to somehow earn renewed fellowship with Him, or revived holiness in us until we find ourselves exhausted and frustrated and close to despair. No matter how hard we try, no matter how many spiritually good things we add to our life, we cannot obtain by our works something that is only given to us by faith. And here is where we often fail.We only received salvation when we realized there was nothing we could do to atone for our own sins. We tried and failed. So we tried again, only harder, to fail once again, only harder. Eventually, we quit trying and finally gave up. Hence, we surrendered to Christ, accepted and received His sacrifice for our sins, and received, as a gift of grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and eternal life. And this was appropriated to us, not by works, no matter how good they may seem, but by faith.The Higher Christian Life is received the same way.When we come to a fuller understanding of Him and experience the Higher Christian Life, we will find our prayer life will increase exponentially. Scripture will become for us, “living and active” (Heb. 4:12), maybe for the first time. And we will have a natural desire to tell others about the wonder of this life with Christ we are now experiencing. But these are all manifestations of an inward change by the Spirit and not tasks or requirements we must do in the flesh to earn His acceptance. His love and acceptance are given to us by faith, as a gift.So just like salvation, when we come to the realization we cannot live a holy life on our own and surrender in total dependence to Him by allowing Him to live His holy life through us, then He becomes for us, by experience, “wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, (why) as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:30-31). We glory in Him and not in our own accomplishments that we falsely believe somehow earn the acceptance of God.Everything is given to us by grace and is received by faith. Salvation, yes. But also sanctification.So today, when you pray or study Scripture, don’t do it out of duty or the desire to earn something from Him, but allow the Spirit to compel you to do it out of love. Let the spiritual good things in your life not be for the purpose of earning God’s love, but as an outflow of His love. As a response to His love. Or, as Romans 12:1 says, as your “reasonable service” in response to the “mercies of God.”Next time we will look at Matthew 14 and see this third truth played out for us in living color in the account of Jesus and the weary disciples doing what they had always done, in their own strength, on the sea.Until He Comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:23: Does God Love You as Much as You Love Him?22: Is it Possible to Live a Holy Life?21: What Does “Keep You From Stumbling” Mean?20: “Now to Him Who is Able”19: My God is So Big, So Strong, and So Mighty
15 minutes | Apr 14, 2021
023 - Does God Love You as Much as You Love Him?
Today we will begin to look at the second of our three key truths that lead to the blessings of the Higher Christian Life. As we have learned, the first truth declares you must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness (Jude 24). And once God’s ability is firmly settled in your mind, the second truth takes the first one and makes it personal. The second truth states you must remove from your mind all doubt and fear that He is not willing to keep you from stumbling. That’s right. Now the first truth must be applied to your life in a personal way. It is no longer about what God can do for others. It is about what God can do for you. And this is where many falter. We believe God is able to bless anyone He wants at any time He wants, but just not for us. We even believe He is willing to bless His children, but again, just not us. And as strange as it may sound, this is like wondering if God loves you as much as you love Him? Which is both absurd and incredibly sad. Let me explain.Sometimes there are children of God (Rom. 8:16) who feel so bad about themselves they cannot conceive of anyone, including God, loving them as much as they long for. They walk with their heads down, depressed, unsure, insecure, often filled with self-loathing. And, although there are many reasons for them to feel this way (an abusive home life, fractured relationships, a dysfunctional family, rejection, betrayal, etc.), for the Christian, it usually stems from their unwillingness to forgive themselves for their sins in the past and the paralyzing guilt they often suffer from. For some reason, their sins or failures loom larger than the grace and forgiveness of God. And this unhealthy mindset often is why they mentally shun any idea of God loving or forgiving them, and they reject any attempt He makes to do so.Quite honestly, this spiritual disease is far more widespread than you would think.Let’s think about forgiveness for a moment.One of the Christian faith’s key tenets is the offer of God to forgive our sins (past, present, and future) due to the sacrifice of His Son and our simple faith in Him. Jesus did all the work to secure our forgiveness and erase the guilt and consequences of our sins, and all we have to do is believe. It’s like winning the lottery with a ticket someone gave you.But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus – Ephesians 2:4-7.There is no downside.Does God Love You as Much as You Love Him?When we sin against someone, there are usually three people we need to ask for their forgiveness. The first is God. And, according to His Word, His forgiveness is instant and complete with no hidden fine print (1 John 1:9). In fact, He goes a step further and chooses to no longer remember our sins (Isa. 43:25), but also removes them as far as “the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12). This is forever, with no North or South poles.The next one we need to ask for their forgiveness is the person we have hurt. And, as fallen humans, they will either forgive us or not. This is their choice, and there is nothing we can do about it. It is out of our hands. We will either be blessed to have that relationship restored or live with the consequences of our sins. Our job is to simply humble ourselves and ask and leave the results to God.But the final one we need to ask for forgiveness is ourselves. That’s right, the mug we look at every day in the mirror. And here is where it gets sticky. Often, we freely accept the forgiveness of God and are blessed when the person we have offended forgives us, but then we defiantly refuse to forgive ourselves. How is that possible? We often think:“What I did was so bad I don’t deserve forgiveness. So I’ll just mope around and feel bad forever for what I have done. And that will somehow make me feel better about myself.” Ya, think?“Just asking for forgiveness is too easy and I don’t deserve to get off so lightly. So I’ll just punish myself by being sad for the next twenty years to somehow make myself feel worthy of God’s forgiveness.”“You know, if I were God, I would never forgive me. So, I won’t. He must be a big ‘ol softy to forgive someone like me for what I did. He needs to be more strict like I am with myself. So I’ll keep beating myself up for something God has already forgotten, and that will make me feel closer to Him.”Does this make any sense to you? Yet it plays out all the time in our life. For example, when you believe God is able to allow His children to experience the blessings of the Higher Christian Life, but don’t believe He will do that for you, what does that say about Him? Are you not imputing motives to Him as a Father that we would consider abuse today? Often the reason is we feel so unworthy or suffer from such self-unforgiveness that we have to somehow justify why we don’t believe God will treat us as good as He does His other children. Which is a terrible thing to say about an earthly father, let alone God. In essence, we believe we love God more than He loves us. And you and I both know that is not possible.Remember who you are in Him.The Spirit Himself (who lives in you) bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs— heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17).Again, it’s like winning the lottery with a ticket we didn’t pay for. Doesn’t get much better than that.Today, commit to believing that what God says of all of His children, He also says for you. He is more than willing to keep you from stumbling, like He does all His children, in your pursuit of the Higher Christian Life of holiness (Jude 24). So rejoice in how He sees you as His beloved.Until He Comes,SteveFor more on the Higher Christian Life, visit www.higherchristianlife.com or www.leavinglaodicea.com.Our Latest Posts:22: Is it Possible to Live a Holy Life?21: What Does “Keep You From Stumbling” Mean?20: “Now to Him Who is Able”19: My God is So Big, So Strong, and So Mighty18: I Know He is Able, But is He Willing?
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