Welcome to Leaving LaodiceaThe Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church
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.
As we dive deeper into Jude 24 and the first of our three truths we must believe in order to experience the blessings of the Higher Christian Life, we find ourselves today faced with one all-important question: Is it possible for me to live a holy life? In other words, can I experience victory over my sin and shortcomings on a permanent, daily basis? Can I feel the pleasure of the Lord as I allow Him to live His life through me and therefore reflect the character of the Holy Spirit? And if Jude 24 does teach that God will “keep me from stumbling” in my pursuit of a life of holiness, what part do I play in this odyssey? Is God’s ability to “keep me from stumbling” passive in my life, or is it active? And if God does provide me the ability to live a holy life, why do I not see more change in me?
These are the types of questions that, once settled by faith, can literally change your life. They are liberating and freeing, and will impute confidence in both the Lord and you as His child, once they are settled in your mind. But until they are firmly settled, doubts, fear, and failure will continue to plague your spiritual walk and hinder you from experiencing the Higher Christian Life.
Before we go any further, let’s deal with the elephant in the room, so to speak. Just like our salvation, God’s sovereignty is paramount up until justification, when you become aware of your salvation and God declares you righteous (2 Cor. 5:21). This is all His doing. And after that, our free will in choosing to live, or not live, the sanctified life kicks in, and God is glorified by our choices to “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). God provides for us a choice, but He doesn’t demand we choose His way. Nor does He make us choose to walk according to the Spirit, like robots who are forced to do something they don’t desire to do. God is not glorified by making His creation worship Him. He is glorified when His creation chooses to worship Him. We are always free to give in to the lusts of the flesh and experience the consequences of grieving the Holy Spirit. And we are always free to walk in the Spirit, to surrender to the Spirit, and to obey the Spirit in a way that pleases Him. The choice is always ours.
In the same way, God does not force us to live a sinless life after we come to faith in Him. He desires it, provides for it, and has given us the Holy Spirit (emphasis on Holy) to live His holy life in us, yet the choice is always ours. So is it within God’s power to “keep you from stumbling” in your life of sanctification? Absolutely! Anything less would limit the power of God. And as a sovereign, omnipotent God, He can do anything He desires (Ps. 115:3), to anyone, at any time, without asking permission. So can God force me to never sin again? Yes, He can. He has both the power and ability to do so. But He never will. God does not force His will on us to do something He expects us to do of our own free will. And you will never go a day without sinning. You, on your own, cannot live a sinless life, no matter how much you pray, fast, read your Bible, or go to church. Why? Because we still live in fallen, lustful, selfish, unredeemed bodies “eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23).
But the good news is that you can, absolutely, live a life of holiness and be pleasing to Him. And you can do that today.
We have been looking at the first of three truths that must be believed before you can progress into the Higher Christian Life. Believing these three truths provides you with the confidence of knowing that God not only can, but will “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). The first truth reveals how big your God is compared to how big your problems are. And this cuts deep into the object of your faith. Is your faith centered on God? Or is it on your past experiences, both good and bad? The first truth states that “You must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness.” Period. Non-negotiable. For an overcoming life of lasting victory over sin, you must believe God is bigger than your sin and your flesh.
Last time we unpacked the beginning phrase of Jude 24, “Now unto Him who is able,” showing God is able (dúnamai – to be able, have power and strength by virtue of one’s own ability and resources) to do anything He desires. Why? Because He is sovereign, the Ever-Present One, the “I Am Who I Am” (Ex. 3:14), and there is none like our God (Is. 46:9). He is God. And as God, His holiness and omnipotence (God is All-Powerful) are some of His key character traits. And the trait of sanctification (holiness) has now come unto us in Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30) and is imparted to us by the Spirit. As we have said, it doesn’t get any better than that.
But nevertheless, some questions remain.
What is God able to do exactly? I know He spoke the world into existence (Gen. 1, Ps. 33:9) and all of that. I got that. But what can He do regarding my inability to live a holy life? How can His omnipotence reach down to me in my daily struggle with sin? Is God only concerned about the big things in life, like creating the world in seven days or parting the Red Sea? Or does His power and grace extend unto the little things in my life, the daily things? What can God do for me and my constant struggle with my flesh? Where can I find hope to live more like Him?
Let’s take a look, once again, at Jude 24, especially the description of what God is able to do.
Now to Him who is able (dúnamai – to be able, have power and strength by virtue of one’s own ability and resources) to keep you from stumbling (áptaistos – from falling, losing our sanctification, no longer being blameless), and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy – Jude 24.
This passage clearly states God is able to “keep me from stumbling” in order to “present me faultless.” But what does “stumbling” mean? Is this a salvation message showing “once saved, always saved”? Or is this a sanctification message, because the end result is my holiness, my being presented “faultless” before His glory? Or is it both?
These are very important questions. Let’s look at them one at a time.
As we have shared in the past, the way to fully understand a particular passage is to first determine what it says. And then, what it means. Yesterday we looked at Jude 24 to determine exactly what the passage says by examining the meaning of the words when they were written. And what we discovered was quite eye-opening and encouraging regarding what God is able to do to help us in our deeper life of sanctification or holiness. Today, we’re going to begin to see exactly what Jude 24 means and how it is to be applied to our lives. And this is where it gets exciting. So let’s begin by unpacking the simple phrase, “Now to Him who is able.”
Now to Him who is able (dúnamai – to be able, have power and strength by virtue of one’s own ability and resources) to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen – Jude 24-25.
We began this week by looking at the three truths that we must be believe in order to experience the continued blessings of the Higher Christian Life. The first one of these vital truths is: You must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness. We already know the meaning of the words in Jude 24, but what does the phrase “Now to Him who is able” mean for us today?
Throughout the Scriptures, one of the key truths repeatedly revealed in both the Old and New Testament is that God is God, and there is no other (Isa. 45:5). He is the Ever-Present One, the “I Am Who I Am” (Ex. 3:14). And, as God, He has certain attributes that belong only to Him that He has not shared with His creation. He is, for example, Immutable (Mal. 3:6), Unchanging (Ps. 102:25-27), Omniscient (God knows all things – 1 John 3:20), Everlasting, and the Only Wise God (Rom. 16:26-27). As wonderful as these attributes are, the most encouraging one for us today is this: God is Omnipotent, He is All-Powerful, which means He possesses in Himself all sovereign power and is, as the theologians describe, “able to do all His holy will” without exception.
Let that sink in for a moment. Our God is able because He is omnipotent. Our God is able because He does what He pleases (Ps. 115:3). And our God is able because, as Jeremiah said, “There is nothing too hard for You” (Jer. 32:17). This is our God.
In our last time together we looked at the three key, no vital, truths that must be believed in order to win the war with our doubt and discover the permanent, abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit in our life as we embrace the Higher Christian Life. Today we will dig a bit deeper into the firsts of these three truths, namely that our God is Able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep us from falling or faltering in our life of holiness. Or, as the children’s song goes: “My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do!”
The Scripture we are to wholeheartedly believe is found in Jude 24. In this passage, Jude is closing his one-chapter book with a faith affirmation exalting the power and ability of God to keep us holy, sanctified, and well-pleasing to Him in this life and then present us as blemish-free as Christ in the next life. And why should this surprise us? After all, Jesus Himself became for us “sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:30), which is the one thing God promises to make sure we don’t lose by “stumbling” in our life of holiness.
Now to Him who is able (dúnamai) to keep (phulássō) you from stumbling (áptaistos), and to present (hístēmi) you faultless (ámōmos) before the presence (katenṓpion) of His glory (dóxa) with exceeding joy (agallíasis), to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen – Jude 24-25.
Now, let’s look at a few of these keywords to understand what this verse is saying:
dúnamai – to be able, have power and strength by virtue of one’s own ability and resources.
phulássō – to watch, guard, keep. It has the idea of a prison warden keeping constant watch over those under his care.
áptaistos – free from falling, blameless. It means God’s grace is sufficient to keep us from sin. This is a statement of God’s ability, and not necessarily our experience.
hístēmi – to cause to stand, to set in place. The place is determined by the context. And in this verse, Jude is saying we will be “caused to stand” in the “presence of His glory” or before God.
ámōmos – without spot or blemish. Peter uses this same word to describe the blood of Christ, “as a lamb without spot (ámōmos) and without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19).
katenṓpion – or in the very presence of. Ephesians 1:4 says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before (katenṓpion – in the very presence of) Him in love.”
dóxa – splendor, majesty, brightness, magnificence, excellence, dignity, and grace.
agallíasis – exuberant exultation and joy, gladness and rejoicing.
So what does this promise of God look like when we expand the translation?
As we have shared previously, the ability to maintain the Higher Christian Life is found the same way it was originally obtained: by faith. We have come to understand that, in the same way the confession of our sins leads to instant forgiveness, it also leads, according to 1 John 1:9, to our instant and immediate cleansing “from all unrighteousness.” And for this promise to become a living reality in you, it must be believed by faith. Unfortunately, many believe this truth only until they wake up the next morning feeling something less than they did the night before. Then, they surrendered their life to the Lord, confessed their sins, received forgiveness and spiritual renewal, and in the early morning hours of the next day, all of that seems like a distant memory. In effect, they are saying to God, “Hey, I know You’re powerful and able to do what You promised, but I’m not sure You’re willing. I mean, I know You can, I just don’t think You will. At least not for me.”
And this is where the war with doubt is lost. We impune the character of God by viewing Him as someone who is miserly with what He has promised to give His children abundantly. Or maybe He shows favoritism, like an abusive, narcissistic father, who loves some of His children more than others. But why would we assume such hurtful things about our Lord?
When our emotional feelings begin to fade, and often they will, we are torn between believing what He promises in His Word or what we are feeling at the moment. Which one is true? What happens when my faith falters and I now believe what I see and feel and touch, and not what I know to be true? When the peace, the serenity, the assurance God has accepted my offer of myself to Him (Rom. 12:1) begins to fade, what am I to do? Was it supposed to be permanent? Or was it designed to be fleeting, like the early morning dew? Is there something I did or didn’t do to make it fade away? Is this what the Higher Christian Life is really like, up and down, forward and backward, close to Him one day and distant cousins the next? Is that all there is to the abundant life He promised? Or is there something I’m missing?
Rest assured, the experience of the Higher Christian Life can be permanent. It should be permanent. It is expected and designed to be permanent. But often we are clueless as to how to maintain our intimacy, passion, and fervency with Him. So let’s look briefly (we will develop these in greater detail over the next few days), at three simple truths that are vital in helping you experience the permanent, residing joy of learning how to abide in Him (John 15:4) as we maintain the Higher Christian Life.
Yesterday we talked about the importance of self-control in your personal life in order to maintain intimacy with the Lord and experience the Higher Christian Life. We also looked into the testimony of Paul (1 Cor. 9:24-27) regarding his commitment to a life of self-discipline in order to make sure, when all is said and done, he would not be “disqualified” or unapproved, unworthy, worthless, rejected, or deemed a castaway by the Lord. After all, the most important thing in Paul’s life was not the temporal pleasures of sin, but the ecstatic joy of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ through the Person of the Holy Spirit. And Paul, like most of us, recognized he was his worst enemy when it came to grieving the Holy Spirit by living, even for a moment, in the flesh.
It seems Paul had a keen understanding of the power of sin in his life. And also was firmly convinced that the flesh cannot win a war against itself. You cannot defeat sin by keeping the Law in the flesh, no matter how committed you are or how hard you try. The cards are stacked against you. The fix is in. Greater is your flesh than your good intentions or self-determination.
In Romans, he puts his struggle with his flesh and the Law of God this way:
For we know that the law is spiritual (or according to the mind and will of the Spirit), but I am carnal (of the flesh, governed by human nature and not the Holy Spirit), sold under (in bondage to) sin. For what I am doing (by choice), I do not understand. For what I will (desire, intend, purpose) to do (to serve God, to experience intimacy with the Spirit, etc.), that I do not practice (repeatedly, continually, habitually); but what I hate (to grieve the Holy Spirit by sin, etc.), that I do. If, then, I do what I will (desire, intend, purpose) not to do, I agree with the law that it is good (even in showing me a sinner). But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells (live, abide, to pitch one’s tent) in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells (live, abide, to pitch one’s tent); for to will (desire) is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will (desire) to do, I do not do; but the evil I will (desire) not to do, that I practice (repeatedly, continually, habitually). Now if I do what I will (desire) not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells (live, abide, make its home) in me.
I find then a law (principle), that evil is present with me, (described as) the one who wills (desires) to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man (the bottom of his heart). But I see another law (principle) in my members (flesh), warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (flesh). O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver (to set free or rescue from danger) me from this body of death? I thank God— through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin – Romans 7:14-25.
And hence, the struggle we all face. But there is more.
In an earlier post, we discovered the importance of knowing, by faith and experience, the victory we have over the power of sin by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. And this knowledge only comes from faith. If God says, and He does, that He provided the means for you to have victory over sin, then our task is to simply believe what God has said and avail ourselves to what He has provided. Nothing else is needed. This is the key that opens the door of victory. But then, how do we maintain the victory we have won? What part do we play in the life of sanctification? Or, in other words, where do self-control and the Higher Christian Life intersect?
If you remember from Sunday, the Scriptures state Jesus not only provided for our salvation (forgiveness of sin, eternal life, heaven, etc.), but He also “became for us” attributes of God that profoundly affect our lives in real-time, right now, today, and provide for us what is required to live the Higher Christian Life. In 1 Corinthians 1:30 it says:
But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
Note, Jesus literally “became for us” by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, righteousness, and redemption. These seem like intangibles that are difficult to grasp and wrap our minds around. Like something God does for us and we reap the benefits, not fully understanding the gravity of those benefits. But He also “became for us” what we struggle with today. He “became for us” the ability to live a holy life right now, without delay. He “became for us” sanctification, which is also translated as “holiness” and means both “set apart unto God” in a judicial sense and “the power to enable us to be holy as God is holy” (2 Thess. 2:13). Jesus “became for us” both of these wondrous truths, and so much more.
And just to fully grasp what Christ has done for each of us, the word translated “became” is gínomai which means “to begin to be, to come into existence.” In essence, Jesus “became for us” or brought into existence attributes of Himself that were not previously found in us, and one of these attributes is the right and power to live holy, and “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). This attribute is called sanctification.
Jesus “became for us— sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:30).
Is it possible to know, to actually know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I have victory over the power of sin in my life? Absolutely! But not on your own or by your own strength. To fully understand what the Holy Spirit does for a man totally consecrated to Him, all we need to do is take a quick look back at the early disciples and see how their lives changed once they received the Holy Spirit. They are, for me at least, the greatest testimony to the power of a life surrendered to the Holy Spirit and one lived in the divine victory over sin.
In the Gospel accounts, we see the men that followed Jesus, ordinary men like us, with all their fears, doubts, weaknesses, and failures publically displayed for the world to see. They are presented in all their frailty, warts and all. And if we were a cynic, we would say this works against the life-changing claims made by Jesus. After all, these men followed Him for over three years. They heard more, knew more, saw more, experienced more, and listened more than any other believers since then until now. Yet seeing and knowing all they did, and having a ring-side seat to all of Jesus’ miracles, they still could not grasp the depths of His teachings to somehow get power or victory over the sin in their own lives.
How is that possible? And if they struggled as much as they did, how are we to fare better?
Over and over again Jesus had to rebuke His disciples for their selfish and unChristlike actions and attitudes. From wanting to call down fire from heaven on those who offended them (Luke 9:54), to arrogantly correcting Jesus mid-sentence by telling Him he was wrong (Matt. 16:22-23), to selfishly wanting to be secretly picked to sit at His right and left hands above the other disciples without them knowing it (Matt. 20:21), it seemed like these men never learned a thing Jesus was trying to teach them in their three long years with Him.
Then, at the Last Supper, when Jesus said, “I desire to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15), they blew Jesus off like His suffering was nothing because they were more concerned about “which of them should be considered the greatest” (Luke 22:24).
What a motley crew. Not exactly the stuff heroes are made of.
In Acts 19 we have a controversial encounter between Paul, the Holy Spirit, and some believers in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7). One side claims it proves the Holy Spirit can, and will, come upon believers after salvation thus justifying much of the fringe charismatic movement. The other side, just as dogmatic, claims this encounter proves nothing more than the fact these “disciples” (Acts 19:1) were lost until Paul preached Christ to them even though the Scriptures state they “believed” (Acts 19:2). The question at the heart of this controversy is this: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2).
And your answer, or on what side of this great theological chasm you choose to land, will have a critical effect on whether you experience the Higher Christian Life. Let me explain.
The account in Acts shows Paul coming to a group of “disciples” (a key word) in Ephesus and obviously noticing something different, something missing in their Christian life. We are not told what he saw or what prompted his question, but nevertheless, the first words recorded out of Paul’s mouth were “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Strange. Why would he begin this conversation with them this way?
Note, the book of Acts calls them “disciples” and Paul asked about something they did, or didn’t, receive after they “believed.” Paul never shared the Gospel with them or made any indication they were less than fellow believers. So the inference is they were believers, Christians, but were obviously missing something, some power or intimacy, something expected and assumed for believers back then. Not so much expected today, but then we sadly live in different, more apathetic, lukewarm times.
So let’s answer the question, Do believers receive the Holy Spirit when they believe? And do they receive the Spirit Immediately? Instantaneously?
Something About Us
This is a collection of the many questions I have struggled with and the answers I have found regarding the relationship between authentic faith in Christ and much of what is portrayed today as Biblical Christianity. Especially with the coming darkness looming over all of us, including the church.
Come with me. It should be a wild ride!
To find out more about us and what we believe, just continue reading…
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“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”