Sunday, September 22, 2013

Self Denial

23 And He said to them all, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.” (Lu 9:23-24 KJ21)

How can we best understand these words? This is Jesus' condition for discipleship (If any man would come after me".

1. Deny yourself
2. Take up your cross
3. Follow me

Deny yourself. Many men have tried to live a self-denied life, depriving themselves of food, or fellowship, or love, only to find that self is an overwhelming opponent. What we have failed to see that "self-deprivation" is ITSELF an act of self. There is no holiness achieved. Self-righteousness, to be sure, but not the holiness that God demands. What does Jesus have in mind here, then? Is it possible that He has commanded His disciples to do the impossible? Yes. Impossible for man, but "with God all things are possible". Says the Apostle Peter:

His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” (2Pe 1:3 KJ21)

The key then is Knowing Him who called us, and turning away from reliance on ourselves. I always share with my wife that the gospel is as easy as ABC. Admit you are powerless. Believe that Jesus has already won the victory. Confess these things with your mouth. Simple, and yet . . . How many of us are given the privilege of the revelation of our utter helplessness?

Take up your cross. I would understand this via James chapter one.

2 ¶ My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, 3 knowing this: that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.” (Jas 1:2-4 KJ21)

How can we consider suffering and trials joyous? How can we never, ever complain, or try to maneuver our way out? Could "take up" = accept with joy? If we see it, saints, yes, if we but see it! This is why we live not "by bread alone" but by every Word that comes from Father. Read the eighth chapter of Romans. Comparing this present suffering with the glory to be revealed in us, well, Paul says, it's all worth it. If I am giving up what I cannot keep to gain what I cannot lose, brother Elliot, I have walked wisely.

Follow me.

The Christian life is not difficult. It's IMPOSSIBLE. Only one man has ever lived it. But here's the good news: HE"S ALIVE! And He continues to live his life through his body, the church. Only by abandoning trust in ourselves can we achieve what God requires. Even Jesus Himself learned obedience as a son, and could do only that which He saw His Father doing. In this we follow in His steps, trusting not in ourselves, but in Him who has overcome the world.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The battle

Outline of Spiritual Warfare

I.                   Weapons the enemy uses against us

A.     Temptations
1.      Pride.                          I Chronicles 21:1, Acts 5:3
2.      Apostasy .                   I Tim 4:1
3.      Natural thinking         Mt 16:23, Mk 8:32, Js 3:15
4.      Lust                            I Cor 7:5
5.      Vanity                         Mt 4:5, Gen 3:1-5
6.      Power                         Mt 4:8
7.      Affliction                    Job 2:7, Luke 13:16

B.      Strategies

1.  Collaboration               Luke 8:30, Mt. 12:43-45
2.  Persistence                   Job 1:7
3.  Theft                            Mk 4:15, Luke 8:12
4.  Possession                    Luke 22:3, II Tim 2:26, Mt 4:24
5.  Trials                            Luke 22:31, I Cor 5:5, II Cor 12:7, I Tim 1:20, Rev 2:10
6.  Darkness                      Acts 26:18, II Corinthians 4:4
7.  Ignorance                     II Cor 2:11, Pr 29:18
8.  False signs                   II Cor 11:14,  II Th 2:9
9.  Obstruction                  I Th 2:18
10. Deception                   Rev 12:9
11. Condemnation            I Tim 3:6-7
12. Worship                      Dt  32:17, Ps 106:37

II.                Strategies we can use against the enemy

A. Scripture                             Mt 4:10
B. Let God do it                     Zech 3:2, Jude 9
C. He is subject to us              Romans 16:19-20, Luke 10:19
D. Give no ground                  Eph 4:27
E. God’s armor                       Eph 6:10-17
1.      Truth on your belt
2.      Righteousness over your heart
3.      Gospel of peace on your feet
4.      Faith over your body
5.      Salvation over your mind
6.      God’s word in your hand
F. Resist him                           Js 4:7
G. Cast him out                       Mk 16:17
H. Be humble!                         I Cor 10:12

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Bridge

16 ¶  "A little while, and ye shall not see Me; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me, because I go to the Father." 17  Then said some of His disciples among themselves, "What is this that He saith unto us, ‘A little while, and ye shall not see Me; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me,’ and, ‘because I go to the Father’?" 18  They said therefore, "What is this that He saith, ‘A little while’? We cannot tell what He saith." 19  Now Jesus knew that they were desirous of asking Him, and said unto them, "Do ye inquire among yourselves of what I said, ‘A little while, and ye shall not see Me; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me’? 20  Verily, verily I say unto you that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. 21  A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for the joy that a man is born into the world. 22  And ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
John 16:16-23

The light came on this morning, listening to someone expound on John 16. He was contrasting the sorrow the disciples felt with the news of His imminent departure with the joy they would soon know with his resurrection from the dead. Can there be joy in sorrow? Can we exit the existential cycle of conditional happiness and enter into unconditional joy, that cannot ever be taken away by undesirable circumstances? Yes. Jesus promised us this, that the joy He gives is eternal, and one that the world knows nothing about.  Yet, honestly, my observation of believers today is that we are almost always existential; happy when things are going well and in despair when they are not. This is not what Jesus intended. There are those few who walk at peace no matter what, having entered the Rest spoken of in Hebrews four. What do they know that most of us don't?

If I could draw a word picture, I would have you imagine a great chasm. On the one side is suffering and sorrow. On the other side is unconditional joy. But the chasm is deep. One cannot go around it, or through it. The pain of the moment seems so awful that joy should never be ours. But though one cannot naturally escape the existentialist reality, there is another way: GO OVER THE BRIDGE!

What bridge, brother? I don't see any bridge! You are imagining things, Indiana Jones! O, but the bridge is there, the "bridge over troubled water". You don't see it because to see the purpose of your suffering and sorrow one needs FAITH. Faith is the bridge that enabled our Lord, for the JOY set before Him, to gladly endure the shame of the cross. So will faith be the bridge that will transform our perspective. Look, faith did NOT deliver Jesus FROM the cross. He still had a mission to accomplish. But from the moment He, by faith, was able to pray, "not my will, but Thine" the victory was already His. So our unconditional faith avails much. We might NOT be delivered from our cross, either, but we can see the reward beyond that cross. Having seen this, we also, for the JOY set before us, gladly endure. Sometimes, we will be granted a miracle, but if not, it does not matter, for His grace is sufficient for us, His strength perfected in our weakness.

This is the same faith that comes "by hearing, and hearing by the revealed Word of God". This is why Jesus tells us to pray, "Give us this day our Daily Bread" and reminds us that "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God". Saints, our walk here on earth simply will NOT make any sense unless we receive Faith from God through his revealed word (Rhema). Having received, we will then be able to walk in the joy of the LORD.