Does God Love You as Much as You Love Him?

Does God Love You as Much as You Love Him?

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.


Does God Love You as Much as You Love Him?

When we sin against someone, there are usually three people we need to ask for their forgiveness.  The first is God.  And, according to His Word, His forgiveness is instant and complete with no hidden fine print (1 John 1:9).  In fact, He goes a step further and chooses to no longer remember our sins (Isa. 43:25), but also removes them as far as “the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12).  This is forever, with no North or South poles.

The next one we need to ask for their forgiveness is the person we have hurt.   And, as fallen humans, they will either forgive us or not.  This is their choice, and there is nothing we can do about it.  It is out of our hands.  We will either be blessed to have that relationship restored or live with the consequences of our sins.  Our job is to simply humble ourselves and ask and leave the results to God.

But the final one we need to ask for forgiveness is ourselves.  That’s right, the mug we look at every day in the mirror.  And here is where it gets sticky.  Often, we freely accept the forgiveness of God and are blessed when the person we have offended forgives us, but then we defiantly refuse to forgive ourselves.  How is that possible?  We often think:

“What I did was so bad I don’t deserve forgiveness.  So I’ll just mope around and feel bad forever for what I have done.   And that will somehow make me feel better about myself.”  Ya, think?
“Just asking for forgiveness is too easy and I don’t deserve to get off so lightly.  So I’ll just punish myself by being sad for the next twenty years to somehow make myself feel worthy of God’s forgiveness.”
“You know, if I were God, I would never forgive me.  So, I won’t.  He must be a big ‘ol softy to forgive someone like me for what I did.  He needs to be more strict like I am with myself.  So I’ll keep beating myself up for something God has already forgotten, and that will make me feel closer to Him.”

Does this make any sense to you?  Yet it plays out all the time in our life.  For example, when you believe God is able to allow His children to experience the blessings of the Higher Christian Life, but don’t believe He will do that for you, what does that say about Him?  Are you not imputing motives to Him as a Father that we would consider abuse today?  Often the reason is we feel so unworthy or suffer from such self-unforgiveness that we have to somehow justify why we don’t believe God will treat us as good as He does His other children.  Which is a terrible thing to say about an earthly father, let alone God.  In essence, we believe we love God more than He loves us.  And you and I both know that is not possible.

Remember who you are in Him.

The Spirit Himself (who lives in you) bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs— heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17).

Again, it’s like winning the lottery with a ticket we didn’t pay for.  Doesn’t get much better than that.

Today, commit to believing that what God says of all of His children, He also says for you.  He is more than willing to keep you from stumbling, like He does all His children, in your pursuit of the Higher Christian Life of holiness (Jude 24).   So rejoice in how He sees you as His beloved.

Until He Comes,
Steve

The following message is about the question:  Does God Love You as Much as You Love Him?

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Our Latest Posts:

Is it Possible to Live a Holy Life?
What Does “Keep You From Stumbling” Mean?
“Now to Him Who is Able”
My God is So Big, So Strong, and So Mighty
I Know He is Able, But is He Willing?

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Is it Possible to Live a Holy Life?

Is it Possible to Live a Holy Life?

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.


Can I Really Live a Holy Life, One Pleasing to Him?

The key to the sanctified life is not one of work, but of trust, rest, and surrender.  It is not trying to live a life contrary to our fallen nature, only to succeed one moment and fail miserably the next.  The victory comes when we stop striving and learn to allow the Spirit to live His holy life through us.  And the presence of the Holy Spirit will empower our choices to live holy and give us the ability to stand against temptation and the attacks of the enemy with a supernatural strength that only comes from Him.  Therefore we are not all on our own.  And we are not left as orphans to fend for ourselves.  Consider the following statement:

Therefore submit to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you – James 4:7.

Our part is to submit (surrender) to God and resist (to stand against) the devil.  God’s part is to make sure the devil flees from us.  We don’t have the power to force Satan to flee, but God does.  So in this God is able to “keep us from stumbling” or falling for Satan’s lies and temptations once we simply resist him.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it – 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Note, when we face temptation God, by His power, will not allow us to be hopelessly tempted to the point of our failure, but will always provide a way of escape.  This is something only God can do working, as He does, in the background and behind the scenes.  And again, this is another way God “keeps us from stumbling” by supernaturally providing a way of escape and limiting our exposure to various temptations.

This is what a good father would do to his loved children.  And it is exactly what our Father does for us.  So rejoice in that today.

Until He Comes,
Steve

The following message is about being able to Live a Holy Life, One Pleasing to Him.

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Our Latest Posts:

What Does “Keep You From Stumbling” Mean?
“Now to Him Who is Able”
My God is So Big, So Strong, and So Mighty
I Know He is Able, But is He Willing?
Stop Working Against Yourself!

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What Does “Keep You From Stumbling” Mean?

What Does “Keep You From Stumbling” Mean?

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.


“Keep You From Stumbling”… From What?

As we have previously discovered, the Greek word translated “stumbling” is áptaistos and means “free from falling, blameless” and is only found in this one verse in Jude.  Therefore, we are unable to see how it is used elsewhere in the Scripture.  But in secular Greek writings, the word means “sure-footed as a horse that does not stumble.”  So it appears, “stumbling” could apply to both our eternal security in Him (future) and also in our ability to live a sanctified, holy life (present).   Also, in the context of Jude’s letter, it could also apply to God being able to keep His children from succumbing to the apostasy Jude warns them about.  Either way, God is able to finish what He began in each of us (Phil. 1:6), which is to make us “complete (lacking nothing) in Him” (Col. 2:10), and to “present us faultless” before the presence of His glory (Jude 24).

In regards to our salvation, Jesus spoke of being able to “keep us from stumbling” in John 10, when He revealed Himself as the Good Shepherd.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” – John 10:27-29.

In this sense, “keep you from stumbling” would refer to the security of our salvation in both the hands of Jesus and the Father.  So, just how secure are we?  Jesus said, “No one is able to snatch them (believers) out of My Father’s hand.”  And for most, that pretty much settles it.

But what about “stumbling” in our life of sanctification and holiness, which we all do?  What does God do to make sure we fulfill our purpose in salvation, that we are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son”? (Rom. 8:29).  What is God’s part in all of this?  And what is our part?  And how does He help us in our part?

We will dig deeper into this tomorrow.  But for now, know that your God is able to “keep what I (you) have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 1:12), which is your faith leading to salvation.  But He is also able to keep your sanctification, leading to holiness.  Rest in Him today, and we will see just how amazing and able our God is when we talk again tomorrow.

Until He Comes,
Steve

The following message is about the phrase, “Keep You From Stumbling.”

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Our Latest Posts:

“Now to Him Who is Able”
My God is So Big, So Strong, and So Mighty
I Know He is Able, But is He Willing?
Stop Working Against Yourself!
Self-Control and the Higher Christian Life

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“Now to Him Who is Able”

“Now to Him Who is Able”

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.


“Now to Him (Our God) Who is Able to …”

In dealing with living a life of holiness, which always pleases the Lord (Heb. 12:14), often our biggest struggle is our inability to actually live, consistently, no matter how hard we try, the life we long to live in Him— a life of sanctification and holiness.  No matter how hard we try in the flesh, we quickly find the flesh cannot war against itself.  The power to live righteously must come from somewhere else.  And this is exactly what Jesus taught us about the overcoming power of the Holy Spirit, who now lives in us.  But God knew in this life we would face discouragement.  He knew we would struggle with our failures.  He knew, to use the words of Paul, we would cry out in desperation, “O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).

As a loving God, knowing this, He gave us some promises that are secured by His character and attributes, and not our efforts, to serve as a lighthouse in the swelling seas of doubt, failure, and guilt that inevitably come to each of us.  In each of these promises below, God is pictured as One “who is able” to deal with whatever we are struggling with by His unmatched, unrivaled, unequaled, inexhaustible power and ability as God.

As you read these, be encouraged by what God is able to do in your life, no matter how much you have mucked it up in the past (or even right now).  Remember, He is God, and He is able.

Now to Him who is able to establish you” or to “set you firm and steadfast” according to the Gospel and the “preaching of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 16:25).  He will not hang you out to dry, on your own, without a support system, like a forgotten orphan.  He came to you in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  He now lives in you in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  And you are now a “temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16).  So be encouraged.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power (Holy Spirit) that works in us” (Eph. 3:20).  God is able to do more than we can even conjure up in our minds.  More than our imaginations can conceive— more than our wildest dreams.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).  And God is able, more than able, to keep you in your life of holiness and to help you experience a deeper, abiding relationship with Him and with the Spirit.  It is His job and not yours.  So rest in Him.

When you pray, be sure to thank God for the promises He has made you and the assurance His power will see you through.  Remember, we don’t run the race alone.  We are to look unto Jesus, who has run the race before us, and follow His leading and example.  After all, He is the “author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).

Until He Comes,
Steve

The following message is about the phrase, “Now to Him Who is Able.”

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Our Latest Posts:

My God is So Big, So Strong, and So Mighty
I Know He is Able, But is He Willing?
Stop Working Against Yourself!
Self-Control and the Higher Christian Life
How to Have Victory Over the Power of Sin

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My God is So Big, So Strong, and So Mighty

My God is So Big, So Strong, and So Mighty

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?


My God is So Big,  So Strong, and So Mighty

As we have discussed, the first thing we must do to understand a Scripture is to determine what it says.  Only then can we discover what it means.  So what does Jude 24 actually say?

Now to Him who is able (dúnamai – to have strength and power by one’s own virtue and ability).  This one is simple.  The praise is to Him, to God, who has the ability to do whatever the rest of the verse promises because of the fact that He is God.  And as God, there is nothing He cannot do.  Period.

to keep
(phulássō – to watch, guard, like a warden over those under his charge). He not only has the power, but He is watching us, day and night, to make sure we do not stumble or prove ourselves not worthy of all He has promised us.

you
(put your name here) from stumbling (áptaistos – from falling, losing our sanctification, no longer being blameless).  God is watching us ever so closely to make sure we never drift so far away from Him in sin that He cannot bring us back to Himself, blameless (in this life).

and to present
(hístēmi – to cause to stand before).   Stand before Who?  And when?  Exactly.  God is able to cause us to stand before His presence and glory (in the life to come) no matter how much we have messed things up in this life.  How can He do that?  Because Jesus “became” for us “sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:30).  We are sanctified because we are in Christ.

you
(again, make it personal) faultless (ámōmos – without spot or blemish).  How can one who is at fault be deemed faultless?  This is the wonder and unexplainable joy that comes from being in Christ and having the Holy Spirit abide in us.  When God sees us, He sees His Son, because His Son’s righteousness has been imputed to us and our sin imputed to Him (and paid for on the cross).

before the presence
(katenṓpion – or in the very presence) of His glory (dóxa – splendor, majesty, brightness, magnificence, excellence, dignity, and grace).  This should take your breath away.  We no longer have to hide like orphans from the big man’s house, but we are brought before His presence as children, and “if children, then heirs— heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).  After all, Jesus said He would not leave us as orphans when He sent the Holy Spirit to live in us (John 14:18).

with exceeding joy (agallíasis – exuberant exultation and joy, gladness and rejoicing).  Please understand, this joy refers primarily to the joy of the Father and Son over our fellowship with other believers that we will share for all eternity.  Can you think of anything more wonderful?

This is what this single promise says.  Tomorrow we will see what it means as we grow in confidence that our God is able to keep His promise to His children regarding their ability to live a life of holiness, or one pleasing to Him.

Until He Comes,
Steve

The following message is about how our God, like the children’s song, is So Big, Strong, and Mighty.

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Our Latest Posts:

I Know He is Able, But is He Willing?
Stop Working Against Yourself!
Self-Control and the Higher Christian Life
How to Have Victory Over the Power of Sin
497: Did You Receive the Holy Spirit When You Believed?

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I Know He is Able, But is He Willing?

I Know He is Able, But is He Willing?

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.


I Know He is Able, But is He Also Willing?

When we claim God is able to “keep you from stumbling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and then add the disclaimer, “Uh, but I just don’t think He will,” we are displaying the very opposite of abiding faith.  In fact, we are blaming God for our failures and disappointments and calling Him a liar.  That’s right, He promised and didn’t deliver.  That makes Him a liar.  Or, maybe He kept His promise to others, but just not to me.  Again, that makes Him a liar.  And that places us on shaky ground with the Lord.

So as a foreshadow of what is to come later this week, let me quickly share with you three truths you must believe to experience the continued blessings of the Higher Christian Life.  And these truths speak to the character and trustworthiness of God.  Again, our faith must be centered in His promises and ability to complete the good work He has started in each of us (Phil. 1:6), and that He won’t rest until we are “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10).

One, you must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness.  You must settle it in your mind, once and for all, that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).  And this is especially true of Him being able to “keep you from stumbling” (Jude 24).  Yes, even you.

Two, you must remove from your mind all doubt and fear that He is not willing to keep you from stumbling.  Of course, He is willing.  That’s what a good God does.  He will not command you to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16), and then give you no means to obey His command.

And three, you must learn to commit yourself, in total dependence, to the Lord for safekeeping.  It is His job to “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and not yours.  His job.  And He is not only willing to bring you across the finish line, but He is also able to carry you across the line if necessary.  So we must learn to trust Him to finish what He began in us, for His glory, no matter how we feel at the moment.  Remember, whatever the need, He can.  And even better than that, He will.

Today, think on these three statements about the character of God, and we will begin to unpack them in detail tomorrow.

Until He Comes,
Steve

The following message is about addressing the statement, “I Know God Can, But is He willing?”

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Our Latest Posts:

Stop Working Against Yourself!
Self-Control and the Higher Christian Life
How to Have Victory Over the Power of Sin
497: Did You Receive the Holy Spirit When You Believed?
Self-Examination and the Higher Christian Life

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Stop Working Against Yourself!

Stop Working Against Yourself!

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.


How Can I Stop Working Against Myself?

According to what we just read it seems like, at least in the flesh, this turmoil is non-stop, with no clear victor.  That is why you cannot wage this war in the flesh, but must let the Spirit overcome the enemy and your flesh by living His life through you.  And once again, just in case you might have forgotten, this is the definition of the Higher Christian Life.

Paul, after his salvation, after receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, and after being used by the Lord in ways we can only imagine, gives us a glimpse into his personal spiritual struggle and it seems his battle with his flesh was a daily, ongoing protracted campaign, just like ours.  He did not pray once and, poof, all his problems were gone.  He continually had to surrender himself to the Spirit and discipline his mind and body to not act on their own but be subject to his mind and desires, which were to know nothing but “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

Did he succeed?  Sometimes.  And sometimes probably not.  But when he failed, he confessed his failure, repented, received forgiveness and the cleansing from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), and then did whatever he could to make sure he never failed again.  Paul determined to discipline his body to not act according to its sinful nature, but to be subject to his mind, will, and desire (1 Cor. 9:27).  And probably for Paul, and for you and me, this can be a daily struggle.

So what is our first step?  Simply this, without self-control and saying, “no” to what we may have previously said “yes” to, we are shooting ourselves in the foot and working against ourselves in the life of holiness.  Let’s learn from our mistakes. Let’s practice self-control and discipline.  And when it comes to our personal liberty (something we will discuss later), “When in doubt, don’t!”

Until He Comes,
Steve

The following message is about How to Stop Working Against Yourself and Embrace the Discipline of Self-Control.

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Our Latest Posts:

Self-Control and the Higher Christian Life
How to Have Victory Over the Power of Sin
497: Did You Receive the Holy Spirit When You Believed?
Self-Examination and the Higher Christian Life
What is the Higher Christian Life?

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Self-Control and the Higher Christian Life

Self-Control and the Higher Christian Life

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).


Why is Self-Control Vital to the Higher Christian Life?

But that is only the beginning of our journey to the Higher Christian Life.  Once we understand and believe what Christ has provided for us and what it means for the Holy Spirit to live in us, especially regarding our ability to “overcome the world” (1 John 5:4) or “overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:13-14), then the question remains, What is my part in all of this?  What am I to do to maintain the victory in me won by the Lord Jesus?  What is my part, and what is His part?  Or, where does faith end and work begin?

Let’s answer the last question first.  Faith never ends.  And neither does work.  Once the victory is given to us by the Person of the Holy Spirit, it is our job to maintain that victory by living, day by day, even minute by minute, under the power of the Holy Spirit who provided that victory we now enjoy.  This is our decision, our choice.  It is ours for the losing.   This is where we either maintain the victory already gained and given to us by grace, or open the front gates and beg the enemy to come and place us once again under bondage.  Consider the testimony of Paul in this matter.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate (self-controlled) in (what) all things.  Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty (non-resolute, without attending to the prescribed marks or lines). Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline (subject to hardship, mortify, literally, to strike under the eye, to give a black eye) my body and bring it into subjection (to bring into servitude as a slave), lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (unapproved, unworthy, worthless, rejected, a castaway) – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

What Paul is saying is in spite of his blessings, calling, visions, miracles, insights into the mind of Christ, or whatever great work the Lord accomplished through him, he nonetheless makes it his habit to practice self-discipline or self-control to maintain his intimacy with the Holy Spirit and his victory over his flesh.  And if Paul had to be “temperate (self-controlled) in all things,” how much more for you and me?

Maintaining a holy life is always a matter of choice.  We either do the things that please Him (John 8:29), or we intentionally choose to grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30) because we give in to our lust for some carnal pleasure that only lasts for a moment (Heb. 11:25).  The choice is always ours.

But to seek and maintain the blessings of the Higher Christian Life takes some effort, some self-discipline, some self-control.  It is saying “no” to sin and “yes” to God, continually.  And I pray, as we strive to grow closer to Him, your choice when faced with sin or sanctification, will be easier to make.

Until He Comes,
Steve

The following message is about How to Exercise Self-Control to Maintain the Higher Christian Life.

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Our Latest Posts:

How to Have Victory Over the Power of Sin
497: Did You Receive the Holy Spirit When You Believed?
Self-Examination and the Higher Christian Life
What is the Higher Christian Life?
The Higher Christian Life is Not About Seeking Signs

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How to Have Victory Over the Power of Sin

How to Have Victory Over the Power of Sin

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.


Can I Experience Victory Over the Power of Sin?

But that was because they still viewed Jesus as God outside of themselves.  His power was available to them, but they had to go get it, like manna, and it didn’t last forever.  Sin still loomed large in their lives and they seemed powerless, like us, to ever get victory over it.  They were still the same old people they were before Jesus came into their lives but now somewhat improved, upgraded, maybe a little bit better (at least when Jesus was around).  Their experience with an outward Christ was not enough to empower them from the inside to have victory over their sin.

But that all changed at Pentecost.

Peter, who had denied he even knew Jesus less than two months earlier, was now filled, baptized, infused, immersed, endued, empowered (or whatever word you choose to describe Acts 2:4), with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus (Phil 1:19), on the inside.  And so were 119 others.  Peter wasn’t following Jesus at a distance.  He no longer walked with Jesus, or beside Jesus, or around Jesus.  The 120 did not have to physically travel to be where Jesus was to see Him.  Just as He promised, He did not leave them as orphans (John 14:18).

At Pentecost, Jesus came to them permanently.  He came to them individually.  And He came to live “in” them and not just be “with” them.  The power to have victory over sin was not something external they had to strive to achieve, like keeping the Law.  No, the power over sin, the power over everything, the Person of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus (Phil. 1:19), now lived in them.  Forever.

And nothing can compare to receiving and knowing the Holy Spirit.  Just look at their changed lives from Acts 2 forward.  Peter preached his first sermon and 3,000 were saved (Acts 2:41).  He boldly confronted the Sanhedrin, telling them by the “name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified” (Acts 4:10) that “nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  And when commanded to cease speaking or teaching in the name of Jesus, Peter said, No! (Acts 4:19-20).

The only difference between Acts 1 and the rest of the book is the fact Jesus no longer lived on the outside of these ordinary men and women.  He now lived in them.  Just like He now lives in you and me.  So if you are searching for victory over your sin, do not look to the outside, to vows, or accountability, or determination, or sheer will, or promises to yourself, or even resolutions, no matter how sincere.  The power to have victory over sin, the ability to live the life of an overcomer (Rev. 2-3), is found within you in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  He will live His life through you, a holy, sanctified life, and give you victory over all that has kept you from experiencing the Higher Christian Life.

So rest in Him.  Yield to Him.  Surrender to Him.  Present your body to Him (Rom. 12:1).  And let His victory become yours.

Until He Comes,
Steve

The following message is about How to Have Victory Over the Power of Sin in Your Life.

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Our Latest Posts:

497: Did You Receive the Holy Spirit When You Believed?
Self-Examination and the Higher Christian Life
What is the Higher Christian Life?
The Higher Christian Life is Not About Seeking Signs
How Do I Glorify God in My Body?

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497:  Did You Receive the Holy Spirit When You Believed?

497: Did You Receive the Holy Spirit When You Believed?

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?


Did You Receive the Holy Spirit When You Believed?

In a word, absolutely.  On this, there is no debate.  Consider the following statements from Scripture.

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, (when) having believed, (what) you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory – Ephesians 1:13-14.

The Holy Spirit is our security, proof, pledge, the guarantee of our redemption.  And we are sealed in Him “having believed.”

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His (or is lost) – Romans 8:9.

This is more direct.  No Holy Spirit, no salvation.  Therefore, a believer must receive the Holy Spirit as soon as they are saved, or they are not truly saved.

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free— and have all been made to drink into one Spirit – 1 Corinthians 12:13.

The Holy Spirit is the common bond that brings all people groups together in Christ and makes us one.  And this obviously only happens after salvation.

This brings us back to the reason Paul asked the question of these believers in Ephesus, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2).  As we will discover in this message, it is not how much of the Holy Spirit we received when we believed.  But how much of ourselves are we giving to the Holy Spirit?  How much of us is He receiving on a daily basis?

This is what makes the Higher Christian Life so appealing.  It is more of Him possessing more of us, to be used to bear the Father’s fruit and bring glory to Jesus.

Join us as we unpack this amazing truth.

The following message is about answering the question:  “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

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Our Latest Posts:

Self-Examination and the Higher Christian Life
What is the Higher Christian Life?
The Higher Christian Life is Not About Seeking Signs
How Do I Glorify God in My Body?
496: Do You Know the Holy Spirit?

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