Yes, But How?  The Sanctification Question

Yes, But How? The Sanctification Question

Let’s Talk About Sanctification, Shall We?

As we begin our journey to answer the “Yes, But How?” questions in our Christian life, we are compelled to start with an understanding of the difference between justification and sanctification.  Or, simply put, the things in our spiritual life that are His responsibility (justification), and the things He requires us to do (sanctification).  In other words, since salvation, start to finish, is all of God, it would stand to reason He would get the most glory if those He redeemed chose to voluntarily live according to the gift of grace He gave them and not like they did before He entered into their lives.

And this act of living according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh is called sanctification.  But it’s actually more involved than that.  Let’s try to define these two dual aspects of salvation in a bit more detail.


The Dual Aspect of Sanctification

Within the process of salvation, there are two significant aspects: justification and sanctification.  While these terms are closely related, they are not identical.  Justification is entirely the work of God, whereas sanctification involves a partnership between God and the believer.  And it is in this collaborative aspect of salvation, called sanctification, where God receives the most glory.

Justification: The Work of God

Justification is a judicial term and refers to the act of God declaring a sinner righteous in His sight, based on faith in Jesus Christ alone.  In other words, justification is the legal declaration that a person is no longer guilty of sin and is therefore in right standing with God.  This is possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, where He paid the penalty for our sins and satisfied God’s requirement for justice.  Justification is a one-time event that occurs at the moment of faith in Christ and is based solely on God’s grace and mercy.  It is God’s choice and action alone, and is accomplished because it pleased God to do so, or because of “His good pleasure” (Eph. 1:5, 9).

In Romans 8:29-30, we are presented with an outline of the various acts of God in the process of salvation, including foreknowledge, predestination (pre-determining the outcome), calling, justification, and glorification.  These are things that God does, independent of the believer’s efforts.

For whom (1) He foreknew, (2) He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom He predestined, these (3) He also called; whom He called, these (4) He also justified; and whom He justified, these (5) He also glorified – Romans 8:29-30.

The foundation of justification lies in the grace and mercy of God.  Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross paid the penalty for humanity’s sins, and His resurrection offers the certainty of eternal life.  When an individual places their faith in Christ, God imputes the righteousness of Jesus to them, meaning that they are seen as righteous in the eyes of God (2 Cor. 5:21).  This declaration of righteousness is not based on the believer’s works or merits, but solely on the finished work of Christ on the cross.  For as it says in Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”

Sanctification: A Collaborative Process

Sanctification, on the other hand, refers to the ongoing process by which believers are made holy and conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).  It is the process of spiritual growth and transformation that occurs after justification, as the Holy Spirit works in us to produce good works, spiritual fruit, and Godly character.  And it is a gradual process that takes place over the course of a believer’s life and requires the cooperation of the believer with the work of the Holy Spirit in a collaborative effort to bring forth spiritual growth and maturity.

But sanctification is not solely the work of God, nor is it solely the work of the believer.  Rather, it is a collaborative process between God and the individual.  The Holy Spirit plays a crucial role in sanctification, empowering and guiding the believer as they grow in their faith and relationship with Christ.  The believer, in turn, is responsible for actively participating in the process by submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit, by actively pursuing holiness by putting off the old self and putting on the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24).  It takes both the desire and effort of the believer and the empowering of the Holy Spirit for sanctification to take place.

The journey of sanctification is marked by progress, not perfection.  While the ultimate goal is to become like Christ, believers will still face challenges, temptations, and moments of weakness.  However, the sanctification process allows them to grow in grace, humility, and dependence on God, as they continually strive to become more Christ-like by surrendering themselves to the Lord (Rom. 12:1).


So Now What?

And this brings us back to the “Yes, But How?” questions.  We know sanctification occurs when we say “no” to our desires and “yes” to Him.  And we know the Lord has given us a myriad of commands and admonitions for us to do, as believers in Christ, that will help us reflect the life and image of Jesus.  But how do we do these things?  And how do we get started?  Are there certain steps for us to take to begin this journey?  And if so, where do we begin?

Over the next couple of days, we will look at several specific “Yes, But How?” commands in Scripture and unpack some practical steps that will help us in our journey to becoming more like Jesus.  But first, let me close by sharing with you just a few of the things Scripture commands us to do or to become.

Remember, don’t get overwhelmed by what you read.  We have the Holy Spirit, God Himself, abiding in us to encourage and empower us on this journey to sanctification.  So we are not in this alone.  We know what to do.  We just need the Holy Spirit to tell us how to do what we know we should do.  And together, I’m sure He will provide our answer.


The “You” Sanctification Verses in Scripture

As you read these passages, be sure to look for the specific “you” or the “implied you” to see what our side of the collaborative effort of our salvation entails.  And be encouraged and blessed as we grow more like Him in the process.  Note: We will dig deeper into these in the days to come.

Here is a list of things we as a believer are supposed to do to bring glory to Him:

•   Be Holy as God is Holy – 1 Peter 1:16.
•   Love the Lord with Everything You Are – Mark 12:30.
•   Love One Another – John 13:34-35.
•   Overcome Evil with Good – Romans 12:21.
•   Pray Continually – 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
•   Rejoice Always – Philippians 4:4.
•   Abstain from Every Form of Evil – 1 Thessalonians 5:22.
•   Forgive Others – Matthew 6:14-15.
•   Share the Gospel – Matthew 28:19-20.
•   Seek Wisdom – Proverbs 2:1-5.
•   Practice Humility – Philippians 2:3-4.
•   Worship God Always – Psalm 100.
•   Obey God’s Commandments – John 14:15.
•   Serve Others – Galatians 5:13.
•   Be Joyful in Hope – Romans 12:12.
•   Practice Hospitality – 1 Peter 4:9.
•   Encourage One Another – 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
•   Put on the Armor of God – Ephesians 6:10-18.
•   Be Content in Everything – Philippians 4:11-13.
•   Abstain from Sinful Desires – 1 Peter 2:11.
•   Don’t Worry About Anything – Philippians 4:6.
•   Bear One Another’s Burdens – Galatians 6:2.
•   Be a Good Steward – 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
•   Be Peacemakers – Matthew 5:9.
•   Rejoice When You are Treated Badly – Matthew 5:11-12.
•   Renew Your Mind – Romans 12:2.
•   Develop the Fruits of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23.

And this is just the beginning.

All of these (and the many not listed), are things we know we should do to become more like Christ.  And we probably would do each of these if we knew exactly how.  So continue with us as we unpack many of these to try to discover the “hows” in the Christian life as we move forward in our journey towards sanctification and a life that brings our Lord glory.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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556: How to Surrender Your Thought Life to Christ

556: How to Surrender Your Thought Life to Christ

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How to Take Every Thought Captive to Obey Christ

In God’s word, some of the hardest things to obey are the sanctification passages that are specifically our responsibility to fulfill.  These are passages like the command to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17), or “to walk by the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).  We all agree these are the commands of God we are to obey.  After all, we can read them for ourselves in Scripture.  But what is often missing are the “hows” to obey His commands.  We know what to do, but struggle in how to actually make it happen.  So today we’re going to look at just one of these often difficult to follow commands:  How to surrender our thought life to the obedience of Christ.

The verse that commands us to surrender our thought life to Him is found in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.  Here, the apostle Paul shares four things we can achieve when we fight our battles with spiritual power instead of just relying on our own strength.  In this lesson, let’s just focus on the third point and see what we can learn from it.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for (1) pulling down strongholds, (2) casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, (3) bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and (4) being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.

Let’s look at the third command, 1 Corinthians 10:5, a bit closer.

(you, implied) bringing every (pás) thought (nóēma – a concept of the mind, what a person is thinking about, their purpose, disposition, intention) into captivity (aichmalōtízō – to lead captive as a prisoner of war, to subdue, to bring into subjection, to assume power over someone and to take someone captive) to the obedience (hupakoḗ – the state of submission, compliance, and conformity to an authority) of Christ.

But how is that done?  What are some practical steps we can follow?


Replace and Embrace

Let me give you four general steps to taking control of your thought life and bringing it into submission to the Lord.  But note, this process is a process of replacement.  Using Philippians 4:8 as a foundation, we are to replace our carnal and sinful thoughts with God’s truth.  And we do this by rejecting one and embracing the other.  Here are the four general steps to find freedom for your thought life.

One, you must begin by recognizing sinful, harmful, or negative thoughts about God, others, or yourself.

Two, you must learn how to replace these thoughts with God’s truth – Philippians 4:8.

Three, then you must learn how to guard your mind – Proverbs 4:23.

Finally, like everything else, you must choose to surrender your thought life to the Lord by learning how to reject wrong thinking and embrace truth.

One last thing, to help you in this reject and embrace process, let me give you ten practical areas of your life where you can put these into practice, along with some scriptural support.  If you begin to put these into practice, I believe you will see immediate results in your journey of surrender to the Lord.

•   Reject anger and embrace forgiveness – Ephesians 4:26-27.
•   Reject worry and embrace trust – Matthew 6:25-26, Philippians 4:6-7.
•   Reject pride and embrace humility – Philippians 2:2-4.
•   Reject fear and embrace faith – 2 Timothy 1:7.
•   Reject lust and embrace purity – Matthew 5:28.
•   Reject bitterness and embrace forgiveness – Ephesians 4:31-32.
•   Reject selfishness and embrace generosity – 1 Timothy 6:17-18.
•   Reject gossip and embrace edification – Ephesians 4:29.
•   Reject unbelief and embrace faith – Hebrews 11:6.
•   Reject hatred and embrace love – 1 John 2:9-10.

By developing this discipline, you will begin the process of having your mind renewed (Rom. 12:2), and be able to control your thought life and give Him the glory He deserves.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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Seven Steps on How to Meditate on God’s Word

Seven Steps on How to Meditate on God’s Word

How to Meditate on God’s Word

Biblical Meditation is a spiritual practice that involves deeply focusing on a specific subject, text, or verse in Scripture to gain a greater understanding and personal connection to what the Lord is trying to say to us.  This practice allows us to grow closer to Him in ways we may have never discovered before.  And this spiritual practice has been used for centuries by great Christian leaders such as Oswald Chambers, Charles Spurgeon, George Muller, Amy Carmichael, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. So, it seems we are in very good company.

While reading is a valuable tool for gathering information and familiarizing yourself with a text, meditation goes beyond surface-level comprehension to engage with the deeper meanings and personal applications of God’s Word.  When meditating on Scripture, the goal is not merely to acquire knowledge but to internalize His teachings, allowing them to shape our character and guide our actions.


Meditating vs Reading or Studying

Meditating on Scripture differs from simply reading in several ways:

Depth of focus:  While reading, we might be tempted to quickly move from one verse or passage to another, often seeking to cover as much material as possible.  In contrast, meditation involves a more focused and deliberate approach, concentrating on a specific verse or passage to uncover all it has to say to us.

Personal application:  Reading Scripture might provide an intellectual understanding of the text, but meditation seeks to go beyond understanding to apply the teachings to our life.  This involves reflecting on how the Scripture relates to our experiences, challenges, and spiritual growth, and determining our specific actions to implement its teachings.

Prolonged engagement Meditation requires spending an extended amount of time with a particular verse or passage.  This may involve reading and re-reading the text, pondering its meaning, and praying for guidance and understanding.  This extended engagement allows the Scripture to take root in our heart and mind, fostering a more profound and lasting impact.

Prayerful approach:  When meditating on Scripture, prayer plays a vital role in inviting the Holy Spirit to guide our understanding and application of the text.  This prayerful approach acknowledges that true wisdom and insight come from God and deepens our connection with Him.


Seven Steps to Biblical Meditation

Here are seven practical steps to learn how to meditate on God’s Word (we will present these in outline form):

1.  Choose a Passage or Verse:  Selecting a Scripture that speaks to your heart or relates to a specific area in your life is important for focused meditation.  Here are some suggestions for choosing a passage:

a.  Follow a Bible reading plan:  Many Bible reading plans can guide you through the entire Bible or specific themes over a set period.  Following a plan can expose you to various scriptures and provide a structure for meditation.

b.  Use a devotional:  Devotionals often provide a daily or weekly scripture selection, accompanied by a brief commentary or reflection.  These can serve as an excellent starting point for your meditation.  I would suggest the classic, “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers.  You can find an online version of it at www.utmost.org.

c.  Seek Scriptures related to your current situation:  If you are experiencing challenges, search for Scriptures that address those issues, such as verses on faith during times of doubt, or verses on comfort during times of grief.

d.  Select verses that align with your spiritual goals:  If you aim to grow in a specific aspect of your faith, choose Scriptures that encourage that growth, such as verses on forgiveness, love, or patience.

e.  Explore the teachings of Jesus The Gospels are filled with the teachings and parables of Jesus, which can provide profound insights for meditation and reflection.

2.  Pray for Guidance:  Before you begin, pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you in understanding the chosen passage.  Proverbs 3:5-6 states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”  Prayer is essential when meditating on God’s Word, as it opens our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  Here are some suggestions for prayer:

a.  Begin with gratitude:  Start your prayer by thanking God for the gift of His Word and the opportunity to learn from it.

b.  Ask for understanding:  Request that the Holy Spirit grants you wisdom and discernment as you read and meditate on the chosen scripture.  Proverbs 2:6 reminds us, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

c.  Seek personal application:  Pray for guidance in applying the teachings of the scripture to your life.  James 1:22 encourages us, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

d.  Pray for transformation Ask God to use His Word to transform your heart and mind, conforming you more closely to His image.  Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  Remember, transformation to the image of Christ is the goal of Biblical meditation, and just about everything else in your spiritual life.

3.  Read and Re-read the Passage Read the selected Scripture slowly and intentionally, allowing the words to sink in.  And then re-read the passage multiple times to gain a deeper understanding.  Here are some suggestions for effectively reading and re-reading the passage:

a.  Read aloud:  Reading the passage aloud can help you focus on the words and their meaning, as well as create a more immersive experience.

b.  Use different translations Comparing multiple translations can provide fresh perspectives and clarity on the passage’s meaning.  Consider reading the passage in a few translations other than the New King James Version (NKJV), such as the New International Version (NIV), English Standard Version (ESV), or New American Standard Bible (NASB).  The Bibles listed above are all in the top ten most read in the US.

c.  Break the passage into smaller sections:  Divide the passage into smaller sections or individual verses, and focus on one section at a time, or one verse at a time.  This can help you delve deeper into the meaning of each part of the Scripture and not get overwhelmed.

d.  Notice keywords and phrases:  As you re-read the passage, take note of recurring words or phrases, as they can reveal key themes and messages.  Look for the small words, for they often pack the most meaning.

4.  Reflect and Ponder Consider the meaning and implications of the passage in your life.  Joshua 1:8 tells us, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.”  Note, you shall not read it day and night, but meditate in it.  There must be something to this time-honored spiritual discipline.  Here are some ways to reflect and ponder on the Scripture:

a.  Ask questions:  As you read, ask yourself questions about the passage, such as “What is the main message?” or “How does this apply to my life?”  Remember, all Scripture is given for you to grow in your faith and become the man or woman of God He intended you to be. (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  So ask questions, fully expecting God to give you the answers.  Because He will.

b.  Consider historical and cultural context:  Gaining an understanding of the passage’s historical and cultural context can help you better grasp its meaning. Consult Bible commentaries, study notes, or other resources to learn more about the context in which the Scripture was written. You can utilize the free resources online at www.blueletterbible.org or consider purchasing deeper Bible study tools such as www.logos.com.

c.  Connect the passage to other Scriptures:  Look for connections to other parts of the Bible, as this can help you gain a broader understanding of the passage and its themes.  Cross-references and study notes can be helpful in identifying these connections.  A Thompson Chain-Letter Reference Bible can be an invaluable resource for doing this.

d.  Meditate on specific words or phrases:  If a particular word or phrase stands out to you, spend time meditating on its meaning and significance.  Consider how it relates to the overall message of the passage and how it might apply to your life.

5.  Write Down Your Thoughts and Discoveries Write down your thoughts, insights, and any questions that arise during meditation.  This will help you process and remember what you’ve learned.  Here are some suggestions for doing just that:

a.  Summarize the passage Write a brief summary of the chosen scripture to help solidify your understanding of its main message.  Put this in your own words.

b.  Record personal insights Jot down any insights, revelations, or personal connections you make during your meditation.  You may want to put these in the margins of your Bible, along with the date, so you can go back later and see how you’ve grown in your relationship with the Lord.

c.  List questions and areas for further study Note any questions or areas you’d like to explore further, either through personal study or with a spiritual mentor.  And then make it a priority to find the answers to your questions before moving on to another topic.

d.  Write a prayer Express your gratitude, requests for guidance, and commitment to applying the passage to your life through a written prayer.

6.  Apply the Scripture to Your Life Consider how the passage can be implemented in your daily life, and make a commitment to put it into practice.  This is where transformation takes place. Here are some ways to apply the passage:

a.  Identify specific actions:  Determine concrete actions you can take to implement the Scripture’s teachings in your life.  And then don’t let the sun go down until you have taken actions to align your life with the truths that have been revealed to you.  To quote Nike:  Just Do It!

b.  Set goals and create a plan:  Establish spiritual goals based on the passage and develop a plan to achieve them.  This may include daily habits, accountability partners, or other strategies to help you stay on track.  If you drop the ball at this point, your meditation becomes simply intellectual learning and not life transforming.

c.  Reflect on progress:  Regularly assess your progress in applying the Scripture to your life, and make adjustments as needed to stay aligned with your spiritual goals.  Do this often, even daily.

d.  Pray for perseverance Ask God for strength and perseverance as you strive to live out the teachings of the passage.  If you ask, He will provide.  But He does require us to ask.

7.  Share What You Have Learned (Your Transformation):  Discuss your meditation experience with a trusted friend or spiritual mentor to gain additional insights and encouragement.  And then share it with other believers in a small group setting or at church.  Be an encouragement to others as they see your determination and progress.  Here are some suggestions for sharing your insights:

a.  Join a small group or Bible study Engaging in regular fellowship with others who are also committed to spiritual growth can provide a supportive environment for discussing your meditation experiences.  This is one of the greatest blessings that comes from being involved in a home Bible study, separate from Sunday School or church services.  Make this a priority.

b.  Seek out a spiritual mentor:  Find a mature Christian who can provide guidance, wisdom, and encouragement as you share your insights and spiritual journey.  Remember, it is not the mature Christian’s responsibility to seek you out; it is your responsibility to seek them.  So take this to heart and make the first move by seeking them out.

c.  Share your experience with a friend Discussing your meditation experience with a friend can lead to deeper conversations and strengthen your relationship.  It’s always good to have someone in your corner, cheering you on as you grow closer to the Lord

d.  Testify to God’s work in your life Share your insights and the impact of meditating on God’s Word with your faith community, giving glory to God for the work He is doing in your life.  If they can see your transformation, which they should, they will want to know more about it.  So give God glory by telling others what He has done in your life.


Summary

In conclusion, meditating on God’s Word is an invaluable spiritual practice that allows us to draw closer to our Heavenly Father and grow in all aspects of our faith.  By intentionally and prayerfully meditating on Scripture, we can uncover deeper meanings, apply God’s truth to our lives, and experience the transformative power of His Word like never before.  And we will learn to hear His voice in the process.

I encourage each of you to make meditating on God’s Word a priority in your spiritual journey.   Set aside dedicated time each day to immerse yourself in Scripture, selecting passages and verses that resonate with your heart and speak to your current circumstances.  Engage in prayerful reflection and meditation, inviting the Holy Spirit to guide your understanding and reveal the personal applications of God’s truth.

Remember, the ultimate goal of meditating on God’s Word is not merely to gain knowledge, but to cultivate a deeper, more intimate relationship with our Creator.  As we meditate on Scripture, let us allow it to transform our hearts, renew our minds, and conform our lives to the mind and image of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).

And let us take to heart the words of Psalm 119:105, which says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  May God’s Word continually illuminate our path, guiding us in our walk with Him and equipping us to be a light in this world.  May we delight in God’s Word and meditate on it day and night, finding strength, wisdom, and encouragement in its pages.  Together, let’s embrace the life-changing power of meditating on God’s Word and experience the abundant blessings it brings to our spiritual lives.  And let’s be transformed into His likeness (Rom. 12:2).

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Why Should We Meditate on God’s Word?

Why Should We Meditate on God’s Word?

Why Should We Meditate on God’s Word?

As you know, the Bible is God’s Word and provides for us His wisdom, insight, and guidance for our lives.  While reading the Bible is an essential part of our spiritual growth (along with prayer and worship), meditating on God’s Word takes our understanding to a much deeper level.  Today, we will explore the advantages of meditating on God’s Word as compared to just reading it, and highlight the benefits of this spiritual discipline.


Advantages of Meditating on God’s Word

Meditating on God’s Word involves taking time to reflect, ponder, and internalize what we read in the Bible.  It’s like Bible study on steroids, with no time limit.  You can take as long as you want to squeeze everything out of a particular passage or truth, without feeling guilty or pressured to continue.  It is not like reading, which is intellectual in nature.  No, meditation is contemplative and affects the deeper part of you, the spiritual part.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for meditate, as found in Joshua 1:8, is hāg̱āh which means “to groan, growl, muse, ponder, or to reflect deeply on something.”  And in the New Testament, the Greek word for meditate, taken from Philippians 4:8, is logízomai and means “to ponder, to reflect, to reason, to impute, calculate, or reckon,” which is far more involved than simply reading.

Remember, God commands us to internalize His Word by meditating on it and not by just casually reading it (Jos. 1:8).  So there must be something to it. Meditating on Scripture offers us several benefits that go beyond reading alone.  Let’s look at just a few.


We Gain a Deeper Understanding of God’s Word and Ourselves

First and obviously, meditation helps us to gain a deeper understanding of God’s Word.  It enables us to contemplate the meaning of the text and how it applies to our lives.  This, in turn, helps us to grow in wisdom, knowledge, and spiritual maturity.  When we read the Bible, we are primarily focused on gathering information and knowledge.  We may learn about the history of God’s people, the teachings of Jesus, and the promises of God.  However, when we meditate on these same truths, we move beyond gathering information and seek to understand the meaning of the text and how it applies to our lives.  We are seeking something more than history or doctrine.  We are seeking transformation.

Meditation involves reflecting on the words of Scripture, even the small ones, and considering their context and significance as we seek to understand their deeper meaning.  As we meditate on God’s Word, we gain insight into the character and personality of God, His plan for our lives, and His will for the future.  We come to understand the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and how it impacts our lives more than we ever could by just reading.  It’s like we no longer “see in a mirror dimly,” but finally “face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12).  And nothing can help you experience His Word quicker than meditation.

Meditation also allows us to explore the amazing nuances of Scripture.  It helps us understand how different passages relate to each other and how they all fit into the broader narrative of the Bible.  For example, we may read a passage about forgiveness and understand the concept on an intellectual level.  Maybe we have experienced forgiveness in our own lives.  However, through meditation, we can come to understand the depth of God’s forgiveness, what it truly costs Him, and how it applies to our lives in a practical way previously unknown to us.  We can almost feel the pain and joy forgiveness brings.  Biblical meditation opens up the floodgates of intimacy with God in ways difficult to describe.  You’ll simply have to experience it yourself.

Through meditation, we also gain a deeper insight into ourselves, our hidden sins, our unforgiveness, and our deception.  As we reflect on God’s Word, we see ourselves in light of His truth and come to understand our strengths, weaknesses, and areas of growth.   We may be challenged to confront our sins and seek forgiveness or to cultivate a particular virtue or character trait.  Our lives are open before Him, exposed to His truth in ways that demand a change in us.  And change is good, especially if it brings us closer to being like our Lord.


We Have a Deeper Desire and Ability to Memorize Scripture

The second advantage of meditating on God’s Word is that it helps us to memorize scripture.  As we meditate on the text, we repeat it to ourselves and ponder its meaning, allowing it to take root in our hearts and minds.  This, in turn, makes it easier to recall in times of need.

Memorizing scripture is essential for spiritual growth and is particularly helpful when facing challenges or temptations (Ps. 119:11).  In times of stress or uncertainty, we may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do.  However, if we have stored God’s Word in our hearts and minds, we can draw on it for guidance and comfort.

For example, if we are facing a difficult financial decision, especially during these troubling times, we can recall from memory the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  This verse reminds us to seek God’s will above all else and trust that He will provide for our needs, no matter how big or insurmountable they may seem.  Remember, in context, when Jesus said that “all these things shall be added to you,” He is talking about everything we worry about, food, clothing, housing, how we are going to live, etc., and He gives us clear instructions on how to trust Him for everything.  If you meditate on this truth, it will change the way you view the future.  But don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself.

Similarly, if we are struggling with fear or anxiety about an uncertain future, we can recall from memory, 24/7, the familiar words of Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; (why) for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  This verse reminds us that God is with us even in the darkest times and always offers comfort and strength to His children.  And this truth alone should put a smile on our faces.

Furthermore, memorizing Scripture helps us to internalize God’s Word and apply it to our lives.  As we store it in our hearts and minds, it becomes a part of who we are, shaping our thoughts, attitudes, and behavior.  We become more like Christ, we have our minds renewed by His Word (Rom. 12:2), and we find ourselves thinking like Jesus (1 Cor. 2:16).  This, in turn, leads to spiritual growth and transformation.  And even if we are unaware of it, transformation is what we are looking for the most.


Meditation Leads to Transformation

Finally, meditation on God’s Word leads to transformation.  As we meditate on God’s Word, we allow it to shape our thoughts, attitudes, and behavior.  This leads to spiritual growth and a closer relationship with God.  Through meditation, we become more like Christ, reflecting His character in our lives.

How is that done, specifically?

When we meditate on God’s Word, we are intentionally focusing on its meaning, significance, and implication for our lives.  This practice of meditation leads to transformation in several ways.

First, biblical meditation allows us to understand God’s will for our lives.  As we reflect on the words of Scripture, we gain insight into God’s character, His plan for salvation, and how we should live as His followers.  We are challenged to confront our sins and seek forgiveness, to cultivate virtues such as love, kindness, and compassion, and to prioritize our relationship with God above all else.  This understanding of God’s will leads to transformation as we align our lives with His truth and seek to follow His guidance.

Second, Biblical meditation allows us to internalize God’s Word.  As we meditate on Scripture, we store it in our hearts and minds, making it a part of who we are.  This internalization of God’s Word shapes our thoughts, attitudes, and behavior, leading to spiritual growth and transformation.  We begin to see the world through the lens of God’s truth, and we are better equipped to make decisions and respond to challenges in a way that pleases Him.

Third, Biblical meditation leads to a closer relationship with God.  Always.  It’s a given.  As we meditate on God’s Word, we draw closer to Him and experience His presence and guidance in a deeper way than we may have ever done before.  Our hearts become aligned with His will, and we begin to reflect His character in our lives.  We become more like Christ, growing in humility, love, and compassion, and reflecting His grace and truth to those around us.

This is why it is called a transformation, for that is exactly what it is.  We become less. He becomes more.  And the whole world will see the change we have allowed Christ, through His Word, to make in us.


Summary

Meditating on God’s Word is a powerful, time-honored spiritual practice that offers amazing benefits for our growth and spiritual transformation as followers of Christ.  But it takes time.  This is not a sprint, but a marathon.  By taking time to reflect on the words of scripture, we deepen our understanding of God’s Word, naturally memorize key verses, and allow God’s Word to transform us from the inside out.  Through meditation, we draw closer to God, experience greater peace and joy, and are better equipped to resist temptation.  While reading the Bible is an essential part of our spiritual growth, meditating on it takes us deeper, transforming our hearts and minds and bringing us into a closer relationship with God.

And isn’t that what we are all striving for?  To be more like Christ?  So again, don’t take my word for it.  Try it yourself.  And to help you do just that, next time, I will give you some practical steps to help you meditate on His Word and reap the amazing benefits that come with it.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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The Just Shall Live By Faith… Just Like You

The Just Shall Live By Faith… Just Like You

What Does it Mean to Live by Faith?

As we strive to become more of a faith prepper, we know the most important thing we can do is learn to live by faith, and not just give faith lip service.  After all, the single verse that changed Martin Luther’s life and led to the Reformation was Romans 1:17, which states, “The just shall live by faith.”  We focus on the “just’ and “faith” aspect of this passage.  But what about “live”?  How do we “live by faith”?

The answer is simple.  To live by faith, we have to trust our Lord in everything, in every aspect of our life, and not just in the areas we can’t seem to take care of ourselves.  God is not our co-pilot or a genie in a bottle.  We have to accept and live as if we truly believe what the Lord says about His Word and our relationship with Him.  And when we begin to understand that relationship, from a Biblical perspective, we may find ourselves surprised at how much we have missed the mark and fallen for something our pride demands and not what the Word reveals.

Let me give you one example (we’ll look at more in the days to come).


Crucified with Christ

One of the hallmark truths of the Higher Christian Life is found in Galatians 2:20. This powerful verse says:

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

I know you are probably familiar with this passage and may have memorized it at Vacation Bible School many years ago.  But often familiarity breeds contempt.  And many times we fail to understand a passage because we already think we know what it says and have become comfortable with our own interpretation.  This verse is no exception.  But what does it actually say?  And what does it mean?

Clearly, Galatians 2:20 states we have been (past tense) “crucified with Christ” and have experienced, at least spiritually, the death of our flesh.  He died and, therefore, we died with Him.  And He rose again and, therefore, we are “born again” (John 3:3).  This is not a new truth.  In fact, we affirm this every time we baptize someone.  Remember what is spoken?  They talk about being dead and buried with Christ (as the person is submerged into the water), and then raised to a newness of life in Him (as they are brought back up).  The imagery is of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ that is now applied to us as we are “born again” in His image.  Do you see Galatians 2:20 portrayed in this?

But it goes on and addresses the practical side of salvation.  Since we have been “crucified with Christ” we now no longer have a life of our own, but it belongs to Christ who now lives in us.  Read it carefully.  Slowly.  And let each word speak truth about our dependent relationship with Him.

“I have been crucified with Christ; (therefore) it is no longer I who live, (so who now lives in my place?) but Christ lives in me.”

Or, as Colossians 3:3 says so emphatically, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  This is the perfect description of what it means to be “in Christ,” which is a phrase used in the New Testament over 85 times, so it must be an important concept for us to understand.


Christ Lives in Me

So I have died with Him, or I am now identified with His death.  This is a vital concept to grasp in understanding the breadth of our salvation.  And since I have died, like He died, the living part of me does not live for its own glory or purpose or benefit.  No, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”  The breath I take, the thoughts I think, the decisions I make, the essence of who I am in my own eyes has now died in order for a greater good to redeem and take control of what I once was.

It is called the Great Exchange.  I give all that I am (broken, sinful, plagued by pride and selfishness, and unable to stand in the presence of a holy God because of my iniquity, unrighteousness, and lack of holiness), and I receive by grace, as an underserved gift, all that Christ is (holy, blameless, perfect, complete, and righteous).  And now, because of this exchange and His death on the cross, which paid the penalty for my sins, I no longer fear God, but have bold access to His throne (Heb. 4:16), where I find grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness, and where God no longer holds my sins against me because when He sees me, He no longer sees my unrighteousness, but the imputed righteousness of His Son given to me (2 Cor. 5:21).  When God sees me, He sees His Son.

Does it get any better than this?  I think not.

But the conditions of this Great Exchange are determined by God and they are, like most things with Him, all or nothing.  God does not promise to make us better.  He promises to put us to death and then raise us up in the image of His Son.  Let that sink in for a moment.  There is nothing in our life God wants to upload into the new creation He makes in us (2 Cor. 5:17).  Nothing.  He starts with a clean slate, a fresh beginning.  Therefore, our flesh, and all that word entails, must be put to death in order for Christ to live His life in us.  Light and darkness cannot co-exist.  Why?  Because darkness hates the light, for light exposes its evil deeds (John 3:19-21).

The more we die to ourselves, the more He lives in us.  And the more we hold on to what we want or what our flesh craves, the more we grieve the spirit (Eph. 4:30) and live a life of spiritual defeat, shame, and lukewarmness (Rev. 3:16).  And there is no victory in living a life of compromise, of hedging our bet, of having a Plan B, or a lack of commitment.  Heroes are not made by compromise, but by total abandonment to something greater than themselves.  And for us, that something is Christ.


Where the Rubber Meets the Road

So how does this play out in real life?  Just like it plays out in every aspect of life, by faith and commitment.  Or, as Yoda said, “You do, or you don’t do, there is no try.”  Victory is all or nothing.  In or out.  Hot or cold, with nothing in between.  That is the only way to experience victory in our spiritual life.

Let’s close by looking at the practical side of Galatians 2:20.

“and the life which I now live in the flesh (after I have been crucified with Christ and He now lives in me) I live (how) by faith in (what) the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

There is really not much more to add to what this truth already says.  The life we live now, today, in the flesh, we live by faith (trust, confidence, assurance) in Christ, the Son of God.  Not faith in our ability to will ourselves, by sheer determination, to do good things.  Not faith in the innate goodness in our hearts, no matter what Disney might say (Jer. 17:9).  And not faith that God will judge on a sliding scale and measure our good stuff against our bad stuff and be pleased that His child scored a C- on our final report card.  As if He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us barely pass.

No.  It is faith in Christ Jesus, the Son of God.  It is faith in His promises that all (that’s you and me) who the Father gives Him will come to Him (John 6:37), and that no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28-29).  It’s faith in the character of God.  That He is longsuffering, loving, patient and kind, and not willing for any to perish, but all to come to repentance and eternal life (2 Pet. 3:9).  And faith in His Word, that it means what it says and our life should line up to its truth, and not what we conceive in our minds or what we want it to say.

And this faith cannot be in words only or simply mental assent to this truth.  Faith must be acted upon.  It must be exercised and lived out in real-time.  And it has to be tested to grow strong.  But God has not left us alone, as orphans, to live this life of faith (John 14:18).  No, He has given us Himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit, to live the life of Christ in us.  And we will explore the Spirit’s role in our life of faith next.  So stay tuned.

Remember, “the just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17).   And so can you.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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