Monthly Archives: November 2010

Panics

Fear Is Not a Fruit of the Holy Spirit

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Josh. 1:9

Fear is an overwhelming anxiety and worry that immobilizes our spirits into believing that our circumstances are bigger than God’s provision.  Giving into fear is failing to consider that God is adequate for our needs and can overcome our difficulties. Fearful feelings is not the same thing as the sin of unbelief. One may feel extremely fearful, yet choose to stand on God’s promises, rather than sink into the pit of despair.

It is the most natural thing in the world to be scared, and the clearest evidence that God’s grace is at work in our hearts is when we do not get into panics.

Oswald Chambers, The Shadow of an Agony (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1934), 55.

Slay me

Trusting God Even When Heart and Body Suffer

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.

Job 13:15 NIV

Faith sees our circumstances from God’s perspective, believes what God says about that circumstance, and obeys all that God is commanding for us to do in that situation. Faith is a gift from God and a choice of our hearts enabling us to believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are faithful, sufficient, and present for every life circumstance. Faith’s result is the peace that passes all understanding and a heart content in God’s sovereign grace. Maintaining faith is a battle of the heart: it is a spiritual challenge to stay fixed on the goodness and faithfulness of God in the midst of turmoil and bodily affliction.

We should inquire once again as to what the life of faith is. It is one lived by believing in God under any circumstance: “If he slay me,” says Job, “yet would I trust in Him.” That is faith. Because I once believed, loved and trusted God I shall believe, love and trust Him wherever He may put me and however my heart and body may suffer . . . Emotion begins to doubt when it senses blackness, whereas faith holds on to God even in the face of death . . . God asks for men (and women) who are totally broken and who will follow Him even to death to work for Him . . . .

Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man

The Constant Conscious Presence of God

God’s Presence

For in him we live and move and exist.

Acts 17:28 NLT

The constant conscious presence of the Lord creates a healthy fear of God. The fear of God is a silent wonder, a radical amazement, and an affectionate awe of a God who became incarnate in human flesh, died in our place, and rose again. This fear is not a fear of punishment, but the dread of hurting or breaking God’s heart by disappointing his plans for us. The fear of the Lord is an awareness that God is present always and that we are conscious of the fact that he is watching us (Prov. 1:7, Psa. 33:18).

The fear of the Lord begins with the revelation that God is all-knowing, God is all-powerful, and God is everywhere present. He knows all that we do. Nothing misses his vision. He is powerful and he can affect anything and everything that we do. God is everywhere. He is always involved in our lives. God never sleeps, he is never caught off-guard, and never surprised by our words, choices, and actions. When we recognize that God is constantly present, we become conscious of his power, grace, and love.

Godliness is God-consciousness, an all-pervasive sense of God’s presence. It will mean that never do we think, or speak, or act, without the undergirding sense of God’s presence, of his judgement, of our relation to him and his relation to us, of our responsibility to him and dependence upon him.

John Murray, The Collected Writings of John Murray (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1976–1982), 1:183.

HT: Miscellanies

The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else. “Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord.”

Oswald Chambers, Run Today’s Race : A Word from Oswald Chambers for Every Day of the Year, electronic ed. (London: Oswald Chambers Publications Association, 1968).

The Ministry of the Priest

Bringing God and People Together

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

Eph. 4:11-12

The ministerial priesthood is called to serve, nourish, sustain, and guide the priesthood of all believers. The believer’s priesthood is a call to be Christ in the secular workplaces of the world. Men are not ordained into the ministerial priesthood in order to remove the priesthood away from the people of God, but to encourage, empower, and equip the priestly people of God for their work in the world.

This doctrine of the priesthood of “all” believers is not the doctrine of the priesthood of “the” believer. In other words, every believer has a ministry, but that ministry is to be conducted in community while being accountable to church leadership. This personal ministry of me and my Bible with God telling me, and me alone, the only correct interpretation of the meaning of Scripture is not the priesthood of all believers.

From living lives of hostility and enmity towards God, Christians have been transformed by the Holy Spirit into ministers who bring the healing and grace of Christ to the least, lost, and the lonely of our world. The two priesthoods, ministerial and believers, serve the one Christ for the purpose of reaching the world.

The ministerial priesthood is called to stand in between the people of God and God. This mediation is not to be “an obstacle, but a necessary helper.” The ministry of mediation is not a substitute for Christ, but a needed help in getting people to Christ. At times, we struggle and a priest comes and leads us by the hand into the presence of God. A good priest does not magnify himself, but with pastoral sensitivity and gentleness, he leads the priestly people of God into the presence of God.

A priest is indeed someone who stands between man and God. Perhaps because he does so, he can become an obstacle impeding man’s communion with God. But it need not be so. The priest may stand between man and God not as an obstacle but as a necessary helper.

If we know our own selves at all, we know that there are times when we need someone to stand between us and God. There are times when God seems very far away, and we need someone to take us by the hand and lead us into the presence of God. Every one of us, surely, looks back with gratitude to the times when someone has done just that for us, brought us into God’s presence, made God real to us, brought us to peace with God . . . .

But to say this is not to deprive the ordinary ministry of its priestly character. That would be a complete reversal of the truth. The fact that the whole Church is called to a priestly ministry necessitates the priestly character of the ordained ministry.

We who are ordained to the holy ministry are called to be priests in order that the whole body of believers may obtained to its true priestly character. We do not have an ordained ministry in the Church so that the other members may not be priests, but so that they may be priests.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Good Shepherd (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977), 43.

Christ Saturated People Skills

Wisdom is Christ Saturated People Skills

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Prov. 1:7

Wisdom is Jesus saturated life and people skills. Wisdom is the practical application of Jesus in the midst of life’s difficult choices,  complicated situations, and perplexing people. Wisdom makes right choices leading to right actions that assist people in doing the right thing. Wisdom is not more information, but insights from God about people, their motivations, and the choices they make.

Wisdom is Jesus gifted people skills: it is learning how to deal with people and the emotional baggage they carry. Wisdom understands what drives people and why they act the way they do. Wisdom is knowing what to say and even how to say it. Wisdom gives us insight into dealing with people’s problems: ours and theirs. Wisdom helps us and others make the right choices in the right way at the right time. Learning wisdom is developing Christ saturated people skills.

Wisdom is the skill of living. It is a practical knowledge that helps one know how to act and how to speak in different situations. Wisdom entails the ability to avoid problems, and the skill to handle them when they present themselves. Wisdom also includes the ability to interpret other people’s speech and writing in order to react correctly to what they are saying to us. Wisdom is not intelligence pure and simple. It does not necessarily exclude intelligence, but that is not the focus.

Tremper Longman, How to Read Proverbs (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2002).

Cynical Beyond Belief

Cynicism Is Not a Fruit of the Spirit

To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.

Titus 1:15

Cynicism is a jaded negativity which sees selfishness, ulterior motives, and evil intentions in everyone and everything. Cynicism is the opposite of a childlike spirit: a childlike spirit is an attitude of neediness, dependence, trust, and receptiveness to God’s great grace and his loving kindness (Matt. 18:1-1-5) Cynicism creates a dead spirit; a man or woman with no life in them.

Cynicism loses hope in God and anticipation in prayer, all joy in life is lost as we fail to believe that God can be good even in a wicked and fallen world. This ingrained negativity develops scar tissue which kills emotional engagement with people and God. The lack of life, joy, and emotion makes life wearisome depriving us of all energy. Cynicism never believes anything, trusts no one, avoids disappointment, evades intimacy, runs from commitment, and flees any cause (1 Sam. 17:29, Titus 1:15).

Prayer is an antidote to cynicism. Prayer believes in God, hopes in answers, asks of God boldly, trusts his ways, deepens spiritual understanding, and encourages intimacy.

Cynicism contrasts with hope for he who expects stands on God’s promises, believes God’s word, trusts the Holy Spirit, looks to Christ, leads to boldness, dares to take action, expects answered prayer, and exalts the goodness of God (Rom. 15:13).

Cynicism is not realistic and tough. It’s unrealistic and kind of cowardly because it means you don’t have to try.

Peggy Noonan in Good Housekeeping, conservative writer and former speech writer to President Ronald Reagan

Living the Normal Christian Life

Living the Normal Christian Life Begins at the Cross

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Rom. 7:24-25

The Christian life is lived at the foot of the Cross; there, forgiveness is found, grace received, and victory gained. In Christ’s death, we died to sin. In his burial, our sin is put away. In his resurrection, sin’s bondage is broken. We are saved at the foot of the Cross and we are transformed into Christlikeness at the foot of the Cross. At the foot of the Cross is where normal Christian living begins.

No one can really live the normal Christian life until he has begun to recognize the fullness of the work of the Lord Jesus on the Cross. We have touched on four aspects of that work: let us mention them again.

(1) OUR SINS. No one can be a Christian whose sins have not been dealt with and cleansed in the Blood.

(2) OURSELVES. Not only have our sins been dealt with by His death, but our old man has been crucified with Him. It is possible to be a Christian without seeing this fact, but it is only possible to be a very miserable Christian!

(3) OUR WILLS. The will has also been dealt with by the Cross, and once we definitely accept this, in an act of unqualified yielding to the Lord, we are no longer governed by self-will, and are ready for Him to work out His will in us.

(4) OUR NATURAL LIFE. When the Cross has delivered us from the law, we see that the Lord has dealt with our carnal powers, and we reach a point where we dare not trust ourselves at all, but acknowledge that of ourselves we can do nothing whatever to please God.

These four points are fundamental and we cannot live the normal Christian life without seeing them, and seeing them experimentally. “Who shall deliver me?” is the cry of Romans 7, but Romans 8 gives us the answer. Paul’s shout of praise is: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25). So we learn that the life we live is the life of Jesus Christ alone. The Christian life is not our living a life LIKE Christ, or our TRYING to be Christ-like, nor is it Christ giving US the power to live a life like His. It is Christ Himself living His own life through us: “no longer I, but Christ” (Galatians 2:20).

Watchman Nee, Twelve Baskets Full, Vol. 3 (Hong Kong: Church Book Room, 1969), 97.

When the Darkness is Great

Return to the Cross When the Darkness is Great

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

2 Tim. 4:3-4

Sin is selfishness and rebellion caused by our choices and by being a descendant of Adam. Sin turns the world upside down: it says that everyone and everything should revolve around our desires, needs, and wants. Sin releases darkness: a darkness that blankets our soul, spirit, and mind with doubt and discouragement. Sin spreads its darkness beyond ourselves to our families, friends, and associates. Sin affects others making life harder for them to enjoy Christ and trust in his goodness.

The Cross of Christ is the remedy to sin’s darkness. The Cross startles us with sin’s treachery and tragedy, yet the Cross awakens us out of that blackened stupor by stunning our spiritual sensibilities with God’s grace and love. At the Cross, the darkness is rolled back, our sin is forgiven, our spirits are healed, and enabling grace is dispensed for living a holy life.

The Cross of Christ is the light that will illuminate the present darkness. We need a fresh revelation of sin, for it is through sin that we have lost our way, and it is through Christ’s death on the Cross that we are won back and restored to God. See I Peter 3:18, “Christ . . . hath once suffered for sins . . . that He might bring us to God.” The reason why many lose the sense of the sinfulness of sin is that they get away from the reality of Christ’s atoning death, for it is only at the Cross that we get a vision of the depths and misery of sin.

Watchman Nee, “Back to the Cross,” The Old Paths Magazine (Issue 17, July 2007), 3.

“I Gave Myself Fully to the Lord”

Full and Complete Surrender to the Lordship of Christ

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Phil. 3:8

Surrender is a yielding of the heart to the Lord, which says, “yes” to God’s guidance, leading, and direction. Full surrender releases the Holy Spirit, the Resident Boss, to do anything he wants in and through us. Without hesitation, questioning, or equivocation, we joyfully obey the Holy Spirit’s commands allowing him to have his way in us. Only in full and complete surrender can true peace and fulfillment be found in the Christian life.

I became a believer in the Lord Jesus in November, 1825, nearly seventy years ago. The first four years after my conversion were spent in spiritual weakness; but in July, 1829, now sixty-six years ago, I came to a place of entire surrender of heart. I gave myself fully to the Lord. Honors, pleasure, money, my physical powers, my mental powers, all were laid down at the feet of Jesus, and I became a great lover of God. I found my all in God, and have continued to do so, in all my temporal and spiritual trials, for these past sixty-six years. My faith does not pertain to only temporal blessings, but to everything, because I stand constantly on God’s Word. It has been my knowledge of God and His Word that has thus sustained me.

George Mueller quoted in His Victorious Indwelling, ed., Nick Harrison (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 192.

Once and Forever

Christ’s Work on the Cross Was Once and Forever

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

Heb. 10:12

Andrew Murray is one of the church’s richest devotional writers: simple in writing style, yet profound in thought and insight. Church historians describe him as an Evangelical pietist: a heart for the gospel and a passion for living it. Murray lived from 1828-1917 and was born in South Africa. He continued to pastor in that troubled country for years, but he is best known for his numerous writings on prayer and the Christian life. Murray’s most well-known works are With Christ in the School of Prayer (1885) and The Spirit of Christ (1888). Murray traveled and spoke widely with most, if not all, of his 240 books still in print.

I have always benefited from reading one of his titles. Below is a beautiful quote from The Holiest of All: An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews that describes Christ’s the finished work on the Cross as once and forever. Redemption performed once on the Cross with no additions needed and eternal, always and forever affecting salvation for those who believe.

Once and forever : see how the two go together in the work of Christ in its two principal manifestations. In His death, His sacrifice, His blood-shedding, it is once for all. The propitiation for sin, the bearing and the putting away of it, was so complete that of His suffering again, or offering Himself again, there never can be any thought. God now remembers the sin no more forever. He has offered one sacrifice forever ; He hath perfected us forever. No less is it so in His resurrection and ascension into heaven. He entered once for all through His blood into the Holiest. When He had offered one sacrifice forever, He sat down on the right hand of God. The once for all of His death is the secret of the forever of the power of His sacrifice. The once for all of His entering through the blood, the power of the forever of His sitting on the throne.

Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1993), 360.