580: Our Salvation – It’s More Than You Ever Imagined

580: Our Salvation – It’s More Than You Ever Imagined

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Different Strokes for Different Folks

Salvation means different things to different people.  For some, it’s a “get out of hell free” card, the cosmic fire insurance policy they checked off and filed away years ago.  For others, it’s trying to be a good, moral, upstanding person and attend church— at least on Easter and Christmas.  Most don’t give it much thought beyond hoping to end up in the Pleasant Place and not the Hot Place when they die.

But is that really the extent of what Jesus accomplished on the cross?  Did He endure scourging and nails just to offer a slight upgrade in our afterlife accommodations, leaving our day-to-day lives largely untouched?  I don’t think so.

I’m convinced salvation encompasses far more than this shallow version we’ve settled for.  The eternal life Christ promised involves a radical transformation into new creations, holy and acceptable, right here and now.  But so few seem to grasp this truth.

I understand why, though.  I used to view salvation the same way.  As a young believer, I prayed for forgiveness, believing Jesus’ death paid the penalty for my sin.  I looked forward to heaven but figured holiness would have to wait.  Meanwhile, I assumed grace gave me the green light to keep living as I pleased.  And so I did.

What changed my perspective?  The book of Romans.

Buried in Paul’s masterful exposition hides a powerful secret that sparked the Protestant Reformation, but remains obscured to many believers today.  Let’s dust off this treasure and explore how the gospel offers, not just a ticket to paradise when we die, but victory over sin’s grip in our daily lives.


The Path to Real Change

Chances are you know the famous verse that ignited reform in Luther’s heart back in 1515: “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17).  Luther had tried everything to obtain salvation: self-denial, penance, indulgences, pilgrimages, and even becoming a monk.  At last, thankfully, he finally grasped that a man is justified not by works, but through faith alone (Rom. 3:28).

Yet mere intellectual assent cannot change hearts.  I know, I’ve tried.  Mere head knowledge never hindered Paul from persecuting Christians, but an encounter with the risen Christ transformed him in an instant.

In the same way, justification marks only the beginning of the work of salvation in our lives.  The just are not only declared righteous, but enabled to live righteously through an ongoing process called sanctification.  Surprisingly, this practical component of redemption receives little pulpit airtime today, though the epistles address it constantly.  It’s the part of our salvation experience that primarily rests on our shoulders.

Sanctification means being set apart for holy use.  It means growing into the likeness of Christ.  And it is how we glorify the Lord today.  Just as temple implements were consecrated for God’s service, we who trust in Christ are sanctified and empowered to serve the Lord rather than ourselves.  Although complete sinlessness awaits eternity, believers can receive real deliverance from the mastery of evil in the here and now, today.  This is what it means to live out what Jesus promised as the “abundant life” found only in Him (John 10:10).  Consider these promises:

For sin shall not have dominion over you – Romans 6:14.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live – Romans 8:13.

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue – 2 Peter 1:3.

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” – Acts 1:8.

Through Christ, God enables His children to overcome sinful passions and bear righteous fruit by cooperating or partnering with the sanctifying work of the indwelling Spirit.  We see this in Romans 6, where Paul explains the implications of our spiritual baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection— a joining together as one that transfers the benefits of the cross into the believer’s life.


United with Christ

Consider the amazing truths found in Romans 6.

Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? – Romans 6:3.

When we trust in Jesus as Savior, we spiritually unite with Him in His death and resurrection.  Our old self— our identity in Adam that was corrupted by sin— dies with Christ.  And we rise anew in Him, as joint participants in Jesus’ own victory through His resurrection.  This profound union means His power replaces our weakness and, therefore, we are complete in Him (Col. 2:10).

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection – Romans 6:5.

Furthermore, through this union, we can now walk in Christ’s newness of life, no longer enslaved to our old carnal habits and sinful desires.  Sin used to dominate us when we operated in the flesh, independent from God.  But no more.  Now, our dependence on the Spirit breaks the power of sin and our flesh and allows us to live lives worthy of the price of our redemption.

Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with – Romans 6:6.

For he who has died has been freed from sin.  Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord – Romans 6:7, 11.

This “reckoning” involves continually choosing to see ourselves as God does— as those who have died and risen again with Christ.  It means believing that His death fully paid the penalty of our sin in our place.  Our old self and its sinful desires perished, and no longer define us.  We now inhabit a new “house”— Christ’s own body (2 Cor. 5:1), which means we now have the power and ability to stop obeying the cravings of the flesh and live victoriously over sin.  And all of this is possible because His Spirit empowers us to honor and obey Him instead of giving in to our selfish desires (Rom. 8:9, 13).


A Life-Changing Revelation

Do you see how our union with Christ enables our sanctification?  This truth radically transformed Paul’s own spiritual walk.  After struggling to obey God in his own strength, Paul finally grasped that his human efforts could never please God while his heart remained carnal and unchanged.  He understood that outward conformity, apart from an inward renewal, only breeds self-righteousness and hypocrisy.  And his life before Christ was a testimony to that fact.

But once Paul understood the grand implications of his identification and union with Christ, he realized God accepted him solely on the basis of Jesus’ completed work and perfect merits, His righteousness and holiness— and not on the basis of Paul’s own feeble efforts to gain salvation by his own works.  This revelation launched Paul into a life characterized by immense joy, gratefulness, freedom, boldness, contentment, surrender, obedience, sacrifice, and selfless service to his Lord and others.  The spiritual transformation in Paul resulted directly from recognizing his new identity and position as one crucified and raised with Christ.  And it gave birth to the incredible phrase found throughout his writings that defines the essence of the Christian life— “in Christ.”

Yet, even with this revelation, Paul confessed he continued battling his sinful nature, not having attained perfect holiness while still living in his sinful flesh (Rom. 7:14-25, Phil. 3:12).  He agonized over failures and shortcomings but did not resign himself to spiritual defeat or throw up his hands in resignation and despair.  Instead, again and again, he affirmed, as a redeemed believer in Christ, his freedom from condemnation and confidently expected God to complete the sanctification He had begun in him (Rom. 8:1, Phil. 1:6).  And this is exactly what God promises to do for each of us.

Paul shows us that discouragement over our failings proves we still depend on ourselves rather than resting, or abiding, in our union with Christ.  We will remain self-focused on our own performance, even after our conversion, until we grasp that pleasing God depends entirely on His work in us, and not our own efforts.  As Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  And Jesus meant exactly what He said.

Sanctification requires continually reckoning ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.  It means acknowledging the absolute sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice to cleanse us from anything standing between us and a deeper relationship with God.  It involves consciously seeking the things of the Spirit rather than the flesh.  And it means believing God has accepted us as His beloved children, no matter how we may feel or the circumstances in which we may find ourselves.  The key to sanctification is not self-discipline, but utter dependence on Christ, through faith, alone.


Abiding in the True Vine

In John 15, Jesus likens Himself to a vine providing life and fruitfulness to its branches.  By “abiding” through faith in Him, we receive His spiritual life flowing and transforming our thoughts, desires, words, and actions.  Sometimes pruning is needed to destroy sinful growth and stimulate fresh fruit, but our focus remains on staying connected to the Vine.  The branch does not bear fruit by striving, but simply by drawing strength from Christ and remaining connected to Him.  This is the nature of what Jesus means when He says, “Abide in Me” (John 15:4).

This abiding faith in Him consists of the following:

•    Praising God for making us perfectly righteous through Christ’s sacrifice.  Our deepest identity is now “in Him” and not in anything else, especially us.

•    Thanking Jesus for breaking sin’s dominion over us.  If sin still rules us, it’s because we have not properly understood or relied on the power of the cross.  We have His power at our fingertips; all we have to do is incorporate it into our lives by faith.  So what are we waiting for?

•    Asking (or begging) the Holy Spirit to cultivate the mindset of a dead/raised person who now lives for One greater than ourselves and produces Christ’s likeness in us.  Our natural tendencies rebel against the idea of sanctification.  But once we understand those old, natural tendencies are now dead, then our new life can begin.

•    Asking God to reveal any lingering elements of self-trust and independence we may have and freely grant Him full Lordship over every area of our lives.  We must see ourselves as crucified in Christ and reject any claim to personal rights we may think we deserve.

•    We must learn to confess and turn from sin the moment it occurs by freely receiving His forgiveness, and then believing the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  If not, then our guilt will inevitably lead to more self-effort, hindering our dependency and intimacy with Christ.

When we obey by faith out of hearts grateful for Christ’s love, mercy, and grace, we bear much fruit to His glory.  But self-effort and legalistic conformity only breeds self-righteousness and pride.  Only after we fully accept our death and resurrection in Christ’s death and resurrection, will we experience liberation to walk in the newness of life through the Spirit’s power, and watch Him bring radical transformation in our lives.


Remember the Lesson from Saul?

Remember what happened to Saul?  After encountering the risen Christ, he became Paul, an exemplar of the Spirit-filled life and cornerstone of the early church.  In the same way, encountering Jesus also revolutionized the lives of fishermen, zealots, and nobodies into world-changing disciples.  And the same can happen to us.  But first we, like them, have to grasp our new position in the crucified and resurrected Savior.

Have you attained the holiness you desire?  Do your besetting sins continue plaguing you?  If so, consider Paul’s example.  Transformation dawns when we truly apply the cross to our identity and draw life from our union with Christ.  The victorious Christian life depends on you understanding “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).  The hope is not you, but “Christ in you.”  Don’t miss this.

Think of the addict set free when she realizes, “I have died to that old life; it no longer controls me.” Or the abrasive husband who stops abusing his wife and children once he accepts “My old self was crucified with Christ; His Spirit now lives in me.”  Union with Jesus provides freedom from sin’s dominion if we walk by faith in His finished work.  But if we still struggle against the flesh in our own power, we lack this revelation and have not incorporated this truth into our lives.

If you share Paul’s battle with sin, take heart.  You are not alone in your struggle.  But as Paul discovered, our victory is not self-obtained by our own efforts, but Christ-imparted by what He has already done.  Just as His grace secured our justification, His life now enables our sanctification.  And through this faith-union with Jesus, the Spirit transforms us into new creations bearing godly fruit only He can produce.  And most importantly, fruit-bearing now requires abiding in Him and not striving to create something you were never designed to do.

We cannot work for sanctification, we only receive it by faith as a gift flowing from the sacrifice of Jesus and the impartation of the Holy Spirit.  As we learn to rest in His perfect acceptance of us, just as we are (Rom. 12:1), the Spirit then prunes unfruitful habits and dead branches and conforms us to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29).

Remember, “Christ in you” is not only the hope, but the source, and guarantee of glory.  So embrace the full benefits of your salvation, and walk in the newness of the life He provided.

And begin that process today.


Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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576: The Seventh Step – Don’t Leave Home Without Him

576: The Seventh Step – Don’t Leave Home Without Him

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We’ve Only Just Begun

We are now at the last step to surrendering our lives unreservedly to the Lord.  And this seventh and final step deals with how to keep close to Him, and how to remain surrendered and submitted, even after the initial awe of the experience begins to wear off and we let our guard down.  Don’t be deceived— yes, it will happen to you, just like it has happened to all those who have gone before you in seeking the Higher Christian Life or the life of full surrender.

Even though we are at the last step, our journey of surrender has just begun.  Like Peter, taking his eyes off Jesus and sinking into the waves when doing the impossible, walking on water, it’s easy to lose focus on Christ amid the trying circumstances we face every day (Matt. 14:30).  Remember, sin is sin, and all sin, no matter how trivial we make it, hinders our relationship with the Lord and grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).  Therefore your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to keep Christ at the center of your life, always, regardless of the situation you may be facing.  And we do that by keeping our eyes on Him.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (see Hebrews 11), let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (how) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God – Hebrews 12:1-2.

So how do we maintain a posture of continual submission to the Lord and make seeking Him our consuming priority in life?  Or, how do we keep our eyes on Him like He kept His eyes on His Father?  Let me share with you a few disciplines that should give you some direction in your life-long pursuit of Him.


Start the Day Anchored in Christ

Begin each morning grounded in Scripture and prayer.  Make this a priority and set the tone of your day, communing with Jesus before anything else.  Take His word in John 15:5 to heart, “Without Me, you can do nothing,” and realize He meant what He said.  Read a devotional or passage about Christ’s character.¹  Write down what He has been showing you or how He has answered your prayers.  This anchors you in Him before the chaos of the day competes for your attention.

“My voice You shall hear (when) in the morning, O Lord; (when) in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up” (Psalm 5:3).  Just as we nourish our bodies with breakfast, we must nourish our spirit with Christ first thing in the morning.


Don’t Exclude Christ from Your Daily Tasks

As you go about your day, talk to Jesus continually through quick, conversational prayers, thanking Him for the little blessings you notice.  Ask the Spirit for patience when frustrations arise, and they will.  And seek His wisdom in any decisions you have to make, no matter how small.  Remember, He is the Lord over everything— even the small stuff.  Offer up a prayer of blessing to those you encounter.  And ask Him to guide your interactions throughout the day.

When you pray without ceasing, as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 instructs, it keeps your focus on the Lord no matter how busy your schedule gets.  Whether you’re checking off your to-do list, heading to appointments, running errands, or socializing with others, you can invite Jesus into every moment of your day.  And if you invite Him, you will no longer be surprised when He comes to walk beside you in what you consider the mundane things of life.  Try it.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much He wants to be part of your life.


Look at Everything Through His Eyes

Consider how your daily choices reflect on Christ’s priorities.  Does your use of time and money align with pursuing God’s Kingdom and righteousness?  Do your entertainment choices and digital consumption feed your spirit or merely your flesh?  Did you know that who you befriend and interact with also impacts your walk with God?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, (why) that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).  Evaluate whether your lifestyle choices, even the ones you consider trivial and non-important, line up with the His Word.  And if they don’t, dump them.


Prioritize Spiritual Disciplines

Be willing to say “no” to lesser commitments and rearrange your schedule to embrace spiritual disciplines that feed your soul.  This is the one practice our Christian heroes of old did that we seem to ignore today for the sake of what seems important now.  So set aside consistent time for Bible reading, extended prayer, corporate worship, serving within your local church, and fellowshipping with other believers before your schedule gets so jammed you have no room for God.

As Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man (including you) shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).  Don’t let busyness crowd out what matters most.


Turn First to Christ During Difficult Times

When challenges inevitably come, resist falling into despair and anger by trying to manage them on your own.  Instead, immediately turn to Jesus in prayer, surrendering the situation to His control.  “Cast all your care upon Him, (why) for He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).  And all means just that— all, everything.  Trust in His sovereignty and ask Him to use this trial for your spiritual growth.²  Learn to lean into His peace and perspective, no matter how things may look to you at the time.  Remember, “Our God is in His heavens; He does what He pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

As Corrie ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  So keep your eyes fixed on Christ through the storm.


Limit Earthly Pleasures
(No Matter How Good They Make You Feel)

While God richly provides for our enjoyment, beware of overindulging in His temporary gifts.  We belong to Him, and what He blesses us with is also designed to be a blessing to others.  So generously share your finances to further the Gospel rather than storing up treasures on earth that rust, rot, and fade away (Matt. 6:19-21).  Learn to develop healthy boundaries around media, food, shopping, and how you spend your leisure time.  Commit to investing more of your life in the eternal rather than the fleeting.

“Set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).  Our indulgences can easily become idols if we aren’t careful.


Immerse Yourself in Christ-Centered Influences

Carefully consider those who speak into your life or who you rent space to in your brain.  Limit your time with media (especially social media), relationships, and interactions that can hinder your focus on Jesus and quench the power of the Spirit in your life (1 Thes. 5:19).  Instead, immerse yourself in influences that point you to God and grow your faith.

As Proverbs 13:20 states, “He who walks with wise men will be wise (promise), but the companion of fools will be destroyed (also a promise).”  Don’t be a companion of fools, no matter how socially acceptable it may be in our culture.  Do the hard stuff.  Seek out mentors, pastors, books, podcasts, sermons, and friendships that strengthen your spiritual walk.  And make that a daily priority.


Make Christ the Center of All Your Relationships

Surround yourself with people who reflect and encourage your devotion to God, not hinder it, malign it, or encourage you to downplay it.  Graciously, but firmly, end any relationship, even on social media, pulling you from full devotion to Christ.  Bring Jesus into your conversations.  Pray for your friends’ needs.  Set an example of wholehearted obedience to the Gospel.  And let your closest relationships be with those sharing your commitment to Him.  Don’t ever settle for anything less.

As Christ said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).  Seek out fellow travelers on the narrow road.  There aren’t many of them, but they are out there.  You just might have to go out of your way to find them.


Honor the Lord’s Day for Spiritual Recharge

Set aside Sunday as a sacred day to reconnect with God. It was given as a command to God’s children for a reason.  Disengage from work, news, political commentary, and social media.  Prepare yourself to enter into His presence in worship.  Read His Scripture reflectively.  Have spiritual conversations with Him and others.  Spend the day being renewed in Him.

Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).  God gave His day to us as a gift, not a burden.  So set apart this time to refocus completely on Christ.


Find Your Ultimate Fulfillment in the Pursuit of God

Earthly pleasures quickly fade, but true joy is found in communion with Christ.  After all, it is Christ who brings joy and peace in this chaotic world (Rom. 15:13).  So make abiding or resting in Him your source of satisfaction (John 15:5).  Take delight in prayer, meditating on Scripture, serving in the church, praying for others, and sharing your faith.  Discover your true purpose as you daily walk closely with Jesus.

As Psalm 16:11 promises, “In Your presence is fullness of joy.”  And it is in His presence where we find our enduring treasure.


So What’s Next?

Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus in the midst of life’s trials, hurts, and constant distractions takes determination, spiritual strength, and a mental commitment.  But as we choose daily to seek Christ first, above all else, and build our lives around Him, He promises to align our hearts with His perfect will, producing abundant life and joy (John 10:10), and a peace that defies description (Phil. 4:7).  Just as a compass needle continually realigns to its true north, we must realign to the source of our true life each day— and that source is Jesus Himself.

May our lives fulfill Paul’s words in Philippians 3:14 — “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Let’s keep our eyes only on Him.

And let’s do it today.


Notes:

1. A great devotional is My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.

2. See Step Five – Surrendering to God’s Sovereignty.


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575:  Why Did Jesus Pray for His Church to be One?

575: Why Did Jesus Pray for His Church to be One?

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Church:  The Hatfields and McCoys

We live in a world that is totally at war with itself.  Our nation is being torn apart by division – racial, socioeconomic, political – you name it, and we’ve experienced it.  But that’s not how Christ designed His church to be.  In fact, Jesus said in John 17 that when we love each other more than we love ourselves, the lost world will come to believe God sent Jesus and He is truly the Son of God.  In other words, our unity and oneness with each other will be the strongest evangelical draw we have to bring others to Christ.

But if you look around, all we see within the church is division.  Some churches believe in the sovereignty of God, while others deify man and his free will choices.  Some churches see homosexuality as a sin, while others have drag queens teaching the children on Sunday mornings.  The church has a history of dividing on trivial matters such as the mode of baptism or our posture in prayer rather than uniting around the “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

But what did the Lord have in mind when He created His church?  And does it look anything like what we’ve turned it into today?  Let’s take a few moments and do a brief survey on what the Lord said about His church.


It’s Unity Above Almost Everything Else

As we’ve shared already, the early church was built on devoting themselves to the four disciplines found in Acts 2:42.  And as you can see, two of the four deal with building our family relationships with each other in unity (fellowship and the Love Feast, or the breaking of bread).

And they continued steadfastly in (were devoted to) (1) the apostles’ doctrine and (2) fellowship, in the (3) breaking of bread, and (4) in prayers – Acts 2:42.

Then we have the prayer of Jesus before His death on the cross.  And what was the content of His prayer?  Our unity in Him and each other.

“That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us (why) that the world may believe that You sent Me” – John 17:21.

Notice how many times Paul encouraged the church (and the individual believers) to humble themselves in unity with others like our Lord did.  It seems that being one together in Him was continually on Paul’s mind.

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be (what) like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, (why) that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – Romans 15:5-6.

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that (what) you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment – 1 Corinthians 1:10.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to (what) walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, (how) with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all – Ephesians 4:1-6.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others – Philippians 2:1-4.


Ugh, Enough Already

I know, too many passages all saying the same thing lose their power over time.  Maybe.  Or maybe several passages all saying the same thing might convict us of our sins and move us to make the changes internally we need to in order to become one with other believers.   Maybe we will realize Jesus was serious about unity in His church, and Paul just piled it on even more after Him.

And maybe, just maybe, this will move us to change how we view church and each other in order to make His name known to those who live in sin, skepticism, and denial.  And maybe when we are one in Him, our loved ones will see the incredible power of Christ and come to faith in Him.

And if so, all He is waiting for is us to obey His commands.  Are you ready?  I sure hope so.


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572: The Sixth Step – Surrendering to the Holy Spirit

572: The Sixth Step – Surrendering to the Holy Spirit

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God is Three and Three in One

When we decide to fully yield our lives to the Lord, one essential step is surrendering control of everything to the Holy Spirit, who is probably the most overlooked member of the Trinity.  And this is because the doctrine of the Trinity, or trying to explain the triune nature of God, is one of the most confusing teachings in Scripture.  After all, we are finite beings who think in finite, logical, cause-and-effect, terms.  Yet God is infinite, off the scales, and His nature is beyond what we can explain or logically process in our finite minds.

But let’s try.  The doctrine of the Trinity is defined as God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.¹

Or, to make it easier to digest:

1.  God is three persons (Father, Son, and Spirit).
2.  Each person is fully God.
3.  There is one God.

But, even though they are all equally God, they have different and unique functions, especially regarding salvation and sanctification.  For example, Scripture reveals God the Father is right now seated on His throne in heaven.  Jesus is currently at His right hand interceding for us (Rom. 8:34, Heb. 7:25).  And where is the Holy Spirit?  He is the one who now lives in us and empowers us with His gifts, guidance, and transforming power.  The Spirit is not a force that emanates from the Father to do His will, like in Star Wars, but is God Himself— co-equal, co-eternal, of the same essence as the Father and the Son.  Yet, even though the Spirit is as much God as Jesus and the Father, sadly, we must admit He is the one Person we spend the least amount of time with and the one we know the least about.

If you look at just a few things the Holy Spirit has been tasked with, you will quickly notice these have to do with securing our salvation and enhancing our sanctification.  It seems, of the three Persons in the Godhead, it is the Spirit who works the closest with us, and yet He is the one we tend to keep at arm’s length, distant and aloof.


The Vital Roles of the Spirit

Here are some key roles the Holy Spirit plays in our lives while residing in us:

•   The Holy Spirit helps us understand God’s word and apply it to our lives – John 14:26.
•   The Spirit guides us into truth and helps us discern right from wrong – John 16:13.
•   The Holy Spirit produces spiritual fruit in our lives like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – Galatians 5:22-23.
•   The Spirit empowers and equips us with spiritual gifts for ministry – 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.
•   The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us in prayer – Romans 8:26-27.
•   The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, giving us an assurance of our salvation – Romans 8:16.
•   The Holy Spirit seals believers for the day of redemption – Ephesians 1:13-14.
•   The Holy Spirit comforts believers in times of need – Acts 9:31.
•   The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment – John 16:8.
•   The Holy Spirit fills believers for service by empowering them to speak the word of God with boldness – Acts 4:31.
•   The Holy Spirit reveals the deep things of God to believers – 1 Corinthians 2:10.

And the list goes on.  Notice, these are not things the Father or the Son does in us, but the Spirit.  And it is a shame that we know so little of the Spirit compared to what we know about the Father and the Son.

But all that can change today.


15 Ways to Deepen Your Relationship With the Holy Spirit

Deep intimacy with the Holy Spirit comes through continually yielding control of our lives to Him and responding to His work within us.  The more we surrender to Him, the more we learn to recognize His leadings, promptings, and His voice.  And the more we obey Him, the more we acknowledge our dependence on Him, and the closer He becomes to us.  Like with any relationship, it grows with time.  The more time you spend with the Holy Spirit, the more you will get to know Him as much, if not better, than you do the Father and the Son.  It is really that simple, but it takes a commitment on your part to make it happen.

So let me share 15 ways to help build a closer relationship with the Spirit.

1.  Begin with a simple conversation.  Start by speaking to the Spirit as you would a friend.  Tell Him what is on your heart, and confess to Him if this process of praying to Him seems strange.  Remember, He is God, and He already knows. Nothing you say will surprise Him.

2.  Develop a habit of thanking Him for His works and gifts in your life.  Recognize the Spirit’s activity in your life, such as bringing you comfort, wisdom, power, discernment, etc.  And when you pray, don’t make it generic by saying God or Lord.  Thank the Spirit specifically, by name, for what He has done for you, and remember that He alone brings transformation in your life.

3.  Ask Him to reveal more of Himself to you.  Pray for greater knowledge, awareness, openness, and intimacy with the Spirit.  Ask Him to become as close to you as Jesus and the Father.  And if you ask, He will respond.

4.  Rely on His guidance every moment and show Him how dependent you are on Him.  Seek the Spirit’s direction in all things, big and small, and thank Him specifically for the guidance He brings (see #2).

5.  Share some personal testimonies of His activity in your life and your awareness of Him.  Tell others how the Spirit has guided, helped, or empowered you.  And be specific, if it was the Spirit who empowered you, then give thanks to the Spirit.

6.  Meditate on His name and attributes in Scripture, such as Counselor, Comforter, or Spirit of Truth.  When you reflect on verses describing the Spirit’s nature, you will soon begin to see His personality emerge from the Scriptures.  And when you do, it changes everything about your relationship with Him.

7.  Thank Him for letting you bear His fruit and for producing His Godly traits in you.  Express your gratitude to Him for your growth in love, joy, peace, etc., and acknowledge your dependence on Him for your continued growth.  Remember, they are His fruits, the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22), that He graciously allows us to manifest in our lives.

8.  Ask Him to reveal any sins that need confessing or relationships that need restoring.  Pray for His conviction and your courage to make things right.  Be quick to repent and forgive.  And eliminate anything hindering, grieving, or quenching your fellowship with the Spirit.

9.  Respond immediately when you sense His presence and guidance.  Act quickly when the Spirit prompts your spirit.  Don’t dismiss His gentle whispers.  And be sure to act before the urgency fades, because it ultimately will.

10.  Worship the Spirit.  Yes, you heard that right.  Profess your praises directly to Him for who He is and what He does.  After all, as God, the Holy Spirit is also worthy of your praise and devotion.

11.  Take time and be still to hear His voice.  Create space in your life to listen to the Spirit’s promptings and for His voice when you read Scripture.  If you don’t make the time for Him, you will miss the joy of His presence.

12.  Write down your conversations or encounters with Him and record what He tells you.  Note how He is stretching and maturing your faith and conforming you into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).  Over time, you will see how the Spirit has been moving in your life all along, even before you were aware of it, and it will grow your faith more than you can imagine.

13.  Before you make any decisions, ask Him to guide you and make His wisdom clear.  Seek the Spirit’s direction in all things and wait for His green light.  As Oswald Chambers said, “Never run before God gives you His direction.  If you have the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding. Whenever there is doubt— wait.”²

14.  Imagine experiencing His presence when you read Scripture accounts of Him empowering believers, like in the book of Acts.  Visualize the Spirit’s activity as you read His Word, imagining how you would have been impacted if you were there in the pages of Scripture.  Then expect Him to move likewise in your life.

15.  If you don’t have a strong sense of His presence, tell Him about it, and ask Him to increase your revelation of Himself.  Share honestly your desire for greater closeness with Him.  And rest assured, He will give you what you ask.  For it is His will to reveal more of Himself, and the Father and the Son, to you.

But this leaves us with one pressing question:  How does my life change when I grow in my relationship with the Holy Spirit?


The Spirit’s Transforming Power

As we grow closer to the Holy Spirit, He progressively conforms us to the image of Christ, which is the goal of our sanctification (Rom. 8:29).  We partner with Him in the process of sanctification as we, on our part, yield more control of our lives to Him and He, on His part, bears His fruit in us, renews our minds, produces Christlike virtues, and releases His gifts through us for others.  He gives us a new hunger for His Word, convicts us of sinful patterns, comforts us in sorrow, intercedes on our behalf beyond our understanding, seals our salvation, and guarantees our inheritance in Christ by His continual presence in us (Eph. 1:13-14).

What an amazing gift to have the very presence of God dwelling in us in the Person of the Holy Spirit! (1 Cor. 6:19).  As we yield more of ourselves to His control, He changes us from within and partners with us in the lifelong process of being reshaped into the image of Jesus Christ.

Remember, the Christian life was never meant to be lived in our own power.  With the Holy Spirit within us, we have access to the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11).  He wants to operate through us, transforming us into vessels that overflow with divine fruit, gifts, power, and godly character traits.

So why do we hold back from giving control of everything to Him?  Why not surrender your life to the Holy Spirit today, totally, wholeheartedly, without reservation, and watch what He can do in a life fully devoted to Him?

As D.L. Moody once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”³

Let’s make that same commitment today by surrendering our lives totally to the Holy Spirit.  Are you ready to experience the abundant life Jesus promised?

Then what are you waiting for?  Do it today!


Notes:

1. Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 226).  Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

2. Chambers, O. (1992).  My Utmost for His Highest: An Updated Edition in Today’s Language (J. Reimann, Ed.; p. 4). WORDsearch.

3. This quote is widely attributed to Dwight L. Moody, a 19th-century American evangelist, although its original source is unclear.


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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.

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