The Cost Of Discipleship

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John 15:18 – 16:4

18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you out of the world, so you don’t belong to it. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: A servant is not greater than his master. If people did wrong to me, they will do wrong to you, too. And if they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours, too. 21 They will do all this to you on account of me, because they do not know the One who sent me.

22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me also hates my Father. 24 I did works among them that no one else has ever done. If I had not done these works, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen what I have done, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this happened so that what is written in their law would be true: ‘They hated me for no reason.’ 

    

26 “I will send you the Helper  from the Father; he is the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father. When he comes, he will tell about me, 27 and you also must tell people about me, because you have been with me from the beginning.

16 “I have told you these things to keep you from giving up. People will put you out of their synagogues. Yes, the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering service to God. They will do this because they have not known the Father and they have not known me. I have told you these things now so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you.

                                

We don’t hear a lot these days in sermons about the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Why is that?  Has the message changed since the words of Jesus were recorded in the Bible so long ago?  No, that cannot be.  For if Jesus’ words are meant to help His followers throughout the centuries, then His message must be able to stand above all cultures of men and speak into each culture authoritatively as absolute truth, not relative truth.

The world has not changed.  We know that there have always been people who will be opposed to God and who will choose to follow after their own self-determined will.  This has been the case from the beginning of time.  Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.”

So what has changed?  I believe that we have allowed the culture of this world to influence the church, rather than the church influence the world.  Paul tells us that it should not be this way, for he writes in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  We are to have the mind of Christ, and that is meant to cause us to stand out as being different from the world, in a positive way.

    

We do need to be ready though for the consequences of being true disciples of Christ.  Jesus says here in our passage that the world (people opposed to God) will hate us.  But that is because they first hated Him.  And why is that?  Because as He says here, when Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God, He exposed the human heart and made it clear that without repentance and submission to God, all men stand as sinners before God.

As Jesus pointed out to His disciples, He had performed many miracles during His life ministry.  And these miracles gave testimony that Jesus possessed the power and authority of God Himself.  This was clearly seen in Mark 2:1-12 where Jesus not only made a paralyzed man be able to walk again, but He also forgave him of all of his sins.  The religious leaders responded with hatred towards Him though, instead of belief, because they saw Him as a threat to their established ritualistic religion.

It is so sad that those who have the most elaborate religious rituals and practices often times have the least understanding of what it means and takes to have a deep relationship with God.  For as is so often the case, the worshippers become bound by the rituals themselves, and they forget the Author behind the religion which has produced all these rules.

    

The end result for those of us who are honestly seeking to know and worship the true God will often be that we are rejected and ridiculed by those who are in the world, pursuing a life apart from God.  And we may find that we are also rejected by those who seem to be the most religious of people.  For if we do not follow all of their rituals, we are deemed not to be “religious” or “spiritual” in their eyes.

Jesus gave the disciples this speech the night before He died in that upper room where He had the last supper with them.  He wanted them to be warned about what they would face by being His disciples.  But He was not going to leave them on their own.  He promised that the Holy Spirit, who comes from God the Father, would come to be with them and help them.  That will be the focus of the next article.

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Summary of Max Lucado’s Book “GOD’S STORY”

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

For the past ten months, we have been on a journey to learn more about God and ourselves as we have gone through Max Lucado’s book “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  Even though it has only been ten chapters long, it has helped us to look at the bigger picture of what God has done in the world (as seen through the pages of Scripture), and it has also helped us to see our lives from a bigger picture perspective.

Let me summarize in a sentence the journey through the pages of the New Testament that we have been on from chapter to chapter, and then remind us of what we have been learning about our own lives:

Chapter One: “Ordinary Matters”  The Son of God entered into the world and became part of a very ordinary Jewish family when He was born in the manger in Bethlehem.

Lesson: God has always delighted to use those things that are ordinary, i.e. a nomadic shepherd names Abraham, Mose’s walking stick, David’s harp, a donkey (who can talk by the way), a manger, a carpenter’s son, average Galileans.  That gives us great hope that God can use average and ordinary people like you and me.

Chapter Two: “You Know Satan’s Next Move”  Jesus was met head on by Satan before He ever performed any ministry.  The devil did everything he could to distract, to test and to tempt Jesus to take a short cut and serve himself rather than obey God.

Lesson: If Jesus, who is the Son of God, was tested and tempted in every way to sin against God the Father, then we should not be surprised when we encounter trials and temptations which would take us away from God.  Our answer should be like Jesus’ as He referred to God’s Word, “It is written….”

Chapter Three: “You Find Your True Home”  Jesus taught about a Kingdom of Heaven that was at hand.  He taught the multitudes to see that this world is not the only world, but rather is the precursor to the world to come.

Lesson: It is extremely easy for us today who live in such an affluent world to settle down and imagine that this is the “Real” life, and the “Abundant Life”.  But in many parables, Jesus tells us about how these material possessions will all disappear one day, and only by being in tune with God will we become members of His Kingdom, both now and forever.

Chapter Four: “You Hear A Voice You Can Trust”  Long before Jesus lived, there were many people who claimed to be a great prophet from God, or even the promised Messiah.  But Jesus  backed up His claim through His teachings, His miracles and ultimately His resurrection.

Lesson: There are many voices out there screaming for our attention, especially in this electronic and digital age we live in.  They offer so many promises, which are either so short-lived or just empty promises, we must come back to the One whose promises are all “Yes” and “Amen” in God the Father.

Chapter Five: “You Won’t Be Forsaken” There were so many broken and helpless people to whom Jesus ministered His love of healing and forgiveness.  Jesus would not forsake anyone who came to Him in faith and who had a need in their life.  Even when Jesus died on the Cross and seemed forsaken Himself by God, Jesus promised the repentant thief on the other cross that he would not be forsaken but arise to live in Paradise with God forever.

Lesson: We much be absolutely sure in our hearts that the love of Jesus covers over every sin and removes them as far as the east is from the west.  When it comes to our final day on earth, if we have put our faith in Christ, then we will not be forgotten or forsaken in the life to come.

Chapter Six: “Your Final Chapter Becomes A Preface”  On that Easter Friday evening, it looked like it was all over for this man, Jesus of Nazareth.  He died.  He was buried, He was sealed in a cave tomb.  But praise be to God, that was not His final chapter.  Now that Death was defeated, Jesus has much work to do to redeem His followers and bring them too out of death and into life.

Lesson: The grave is not the end of our lives.  It is just the beginning of our eternity with God.  I have often compared death with a graduation, as we leave this perishable life behind and gain a life that is imperishable.

Chapter Seven: “Power Moves In” Jesus told his disciples that they were to wait in Jerusalem until the power of God would come upon them.  Finally, the Holy Spirit would now become available for every believer in Christ who would empower them supernaturally to live godly lives and impact others with the Gospel.

Lesson: We are all called to be holy as God is holy and to share our faith with the world and help usher in the Kingdom of God.  By our own strength, we could not do this.  So praise God that we all have the Spirit of God living in us to help us be God’s ambassadors for Him.

Chapter Eight: “The Right Doors Open” Paul was the greatest of God’s ambassadors in the 1st century.  But even he experienced times when God would close doors that he wanted to go through, and open doors of opportunity that he had never expected.  And so the Gospel came over to Europe.

Lesson: There is nothing wrong with making plans, but we must check out these plans with the Lord.  For the Lord may have other plans for us, and they will be plans to help us and to prosper in our service for Him.

Chapter Nine: “All Things Work For Good” I’m sure there were times when Paul could not figure out who things were going to work out.  Especially when you consider the trials he went through.  But invariably, God used what happened to Paul to bring about even greater opportunities to witness and spread the Good News about Jesus.

Lesson: We too cannot look into the things that happen at times and know right then and there what good could come out of a terrible or tragic situation.  But then we will never have the perspective that God has on all of this.  Let us trust Him for the good that He promises to bring out of it.

Chapter 10: “God Will Come For You” God’s Word promises us that one day Jesus will return, and He will come with all the Armies of Heaven, the angels of God, who will come to gather those who believe in Jesus and we all together will see the ushering in of God’s Kingdom.

Lesson: God’s coming Kingdom will motivate His people to rejoice; but it will drive those who do not know Him to fear and despair.  The good news is that it is not too late to yet become a believer in Jesus.  Then when God comes for His children, then you too will welcome Jesus’ return, and be rewarded with eternal life with God forever.  I pray I will be seeing you there!

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* [God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

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A Response To “Power Comes From The Holy Spirit”

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A few weeks ago, I wrote an article called “Spiritual Life Comes From The Holy Spirit”.  This article is part of my Bible study series on the Gospel of John.  Part of the article focused in on verse 39 of chapter 7 where John comments that “the Spirit had not yet been given.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raises a good question.  I would like to paste his comment and try to give a good response to him.

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Not arguing with your scripture quotes, but how is it that long before Pentecost, various OT prophets were operating in the Holy Spirit with massive power and miracles. It seems that the Holy Spirit was always there for those who sought Him. The OT account seems to contradict Jn7v39. Just wondered what your thoughts were.

I comprehend where you are coming from, but I keep finding anomalies to the plain statement that the Holy Spirit would not be sent until Jesus had ascended.  i.e. Proverbs 1:23 ‘Turn you at my reproof, behold I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.’

This seems to be quite plain (and present tense) in its meaning, and I don’t buy that there is some difference between pouring “unto” and pouring “into”. Added to which it is an open statement to any reader, not just some OT Patriarch.  I also read some other OT verse the other day saying similar. I have sneaking suspicion that anyone who desired God’s Spirit would never have been refused OT or NT.

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There is no question that God’s Spirit was active long before the day of Pentecost.  We have God’s Spirit involved in the creation of the universe in Genesis ch. 1.  And there are many key people who were empowered by the Spirit of God (Moses, Gideon, Samuel, Saul, David, Elijah, Elisha, Zechariah to name a few).

What many people do not understand is that the Spirit of God was given only selectively to some of these key people that God was empowering to do His work during the OT period.  During the earthly ministry of Jesus, the Spirit did come down and empower Him, just like the OT judges and prophets.  But the Holy Spirit had not yet been released to all believers yet.

In fact, Jesus himself stated in John 16:7 that the Holy Spirit could not come to help believers until Jesus had ascended back up to Heaven.  This is a divine mystery, but it would appear that God decided to limit His direct involvement in the lives of people with only one Person of the Trinity at a time.  But there will come the day when we all who believe will be with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit when we are resurrected into the new heaven and the new earth.

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Let’s take a closer look now at some of the specific times in the OT where God’s Spirit empowered people, and consider the verse our friend pointed out in Proverbs 1:23.  I did check the Hebrew for this verse and taken just by itself, הִנֵּ֤ה אַבִּ֣יעָה לָכֶ֣ם רוּחִ֑י, it can be translated “Behold, I will pour out to you (pl) my spirit.”  In biblical studies and linguistics though, we must always look very carefully at the context in which we find a verse.

Proverbs 1:23 just happens to be part of a larger section (Proverbs chs. 1-4) that deal extensively with the topic of “Wisdom”, and also comes within a unique section of verses in chapter one of vv 20-33.  In this short section, “Wisdom” is personified (which may or may not be a reference to God), and it is Wisdom who starts to say, “I will pour out my….”  So should we translate “ruach” as “Spirit” or something else?

The Translator’s Handbook says:

Wisdom is likened to a fountain of water, a gushing spring for the person who will accept her instruction. Translations differ considerably in this line. NAB has “pour out to you my spirit,” NJPSV “speak my mind,” NJB “pour out my heart,” GECL “I open to you [plural] the treasure of my wisdom.”

It seems best to understand “my spirit” (my thoughts) in terms of what characterizes Wisdom, who is the speaker here. Her essential characteristic is wisdom, and therefore we may say something equivalent to TEV “I will give you good advice” or SPCL “I will fill you with wisdom.”

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Okay, so what about the many other places in the Old Testament where it is quite clear that “God poured out His Spirit” upon His people, or “the Spirit of the LORD came upon them.”  Using word searches like “the Spirit of God”, “God’s Spirit”, and “My Spirit”, I found roughly 50 verses in the entire Old Testament.  With the exception of a few verses which refer to God giving His Spirit to all people, and which are very likely references to the distant future, i.e. in or following the time of Christ, or the end times, almost every other verse was connected to key people and leaders of Israel.

The people to whom God poured out His Spirit were almost exclusively upon Moses and the leaders of his time, upon Judges like Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson and Samuel.  Then we see special anointing upon the kings of Saul, David and Solomon.  Finally, the Spirit of God came upon the great prophets, from Azariah to Isaiah, Jerimiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, plus prophetic passages that speak of Christ as in Isaiah 42:1-3 and Joel 2:27-29.

The bottom line is that God empowered special leaders of Israel (judges, priest, kings and prophets) when God needed something specifically to be done.  But otherwise, the people of God back then were not fortunate to experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that all believers have access to today.  There is no doubt that we are very privileged to live in the age of the Spirit, who has been  given to all believers after the resurrection and ascension of Christ.  Thank you God!

A Response to Max Lucado’s “Open Doors” – Pt. 2

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A few weeks ago, I wrote two articles the dealt with the topic “God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors.”  These articles were based off of chapter eight of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raised some interesting points and asked some good questions.  I would like to paste part of his comment and try to give a good response to him.

“I have not read Max Lucado’s book so my thoughts are incomplete. However I want to address one aspect of what you are saying.  It is common for people, particularly Christians to say, “if its of God, then the door will be open, if it’s not then the door will be closed”.  This all sounds fine, but it lacks scriptural evidence and it also ignores the same activities of Satan. It may sometimes be true, but we first need to actually hear from God before assuming such a fact.

Door open, door closed are not paths we can assume are God’s. They may confirm a path -alongside other indicators, but only a fool would blindly assume.  The problem with just letting your path be defined by open or shut doors is that it absolves a believer from listening and discerning the voice of God. It avoids relationship.

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In Part 1 of my response to my reader (read here), I shared a number of verses that do support the idea that God can direct our paths by “opening the doors of opportunity” to do something.  But God can also “close doors” on something that we pursue by putting obstacles in our way that do not allow us to pursue that path.

This does not invalidate at all the comments of my friend above.  If we were to rely only on this one test to confirm God’s will for our lives, we do in fact assume too much about God’s hand in our lives.  Some “doors” may be open to us just because of favorable circumstances.  On the other hand, when we encounter difficult roadblocks, this may be due to the activity of Satan resisting us, and instead of walking away and saying “this is of God”, this might be the time to truly press forward by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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What we need then are other good criteria to help us determine what paths we ought to follow or not follow in our desire to do God’s will.  Over the years, I have found that there are a number of other ways in which we can confirm what God would want us to do or not to do.  Most of these “tests” have Scripture to back them up, and also make good common sense.

The very best answer I can give in knowing God’s will for our lives is for us to always check things out first with God’s Word.  An easy example of this is something that I have actually heard happen.  One woman told me, “God has told me that it is okay for me to divorce my husband.  This is not the man that God intended me to marry.”

While the second statement might contain some truth in it, seeing as we so often do go after what our heart desires and fail to ask in the beginning if this is what God would want.  But the first statement is not only wrong, it is a lie that comes from Satan.  Jesus is quite clear in Matthew 5:31-32, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

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If we carefully read our Bibles, we would see that there are many general and specific guidelines that God lays out for us as to how to live our lives day-to-day.  I do recognize that not every situation in our lives will be covered in detail in the Bible though, so we must have other ways to test if some course of action might be of God or not.

Thankfully, we do have the Holy Spirit within us, who will not only empower us to live godly lives, but He will also help to direct us in our lives.  Read John 16:12-16 to see how Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, will make known what is to come, and will disclose things to us that Christ has made known to the Spirit.  I take this to mean we will have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us to know what courses to pursue in life.

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In addition to God’s Word, and the leading of God’s Spirit, we must also remember that we belong to Christ’s body, the Church.  And by being active members of a church, we can have access to good godly advice from godly men and women.  Proverbs 12:15 speak towards this, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”  There is much wisdom that could be gained if we would just ask our elders in the faith.

And finally, I believe that as we faithfully and regularly give to God in prayer our questions about which decision to make, God will confirm in our spirits what choice to make.  It is this quiet inner peace that God grants which I believe often will guide us, for true inner peace comes from God, while fear and anxiety come from the devil.  But remember, listen to God first, and then listen to your heart.  I don’t think you will go wrong.

A Response to Max Lucado’s “Open Doors” – Pt. 1

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A few weeks ago, I wrote two articles that dealt with the topic “God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors.”  These articles were based off of chapter eight of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raised some interesting points and asked some good questions.  I would like to paste his comment and try to give a good response to him.

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“I have not read Max Lucado’s book so my thoughts are incomplete. However I want to address one aspect of what you are saying.  It is common for people, particularly Christians to say, “if its of God, then the door will be open, if it’s not then the door will be closed”.  This all sounds fine, but it lacks scriptural evidence and it also ignores the same activities of Satan. It may sometimes be true, but we first need to actually hear from God before assuming such a fact.

In the book of Proverbs, the door of the harlot was constantly open with direct invites to any young man on the street. Is it therefore of God?  On the other hand, the door into the promised land was closed off from the Israelites by the threat of the giants who were not about to relinquish power. Was it therefore NOT the will of God?

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Door open, door closed are not paths we can assume are God’s. They may confirm a path -alongside other indicators, but only a fool would blindly assume.  The problem with just letting your path be defined by open or shut doors is that it absolves a believer from listening and discerning the voice of God. It avoids relationship.

Many years ago I was asked to lead an informal discussion group in a church on the character of God. The group was very reluctant to contribute, but I encouraged them by asking appropriate questions around the circle about what they thought the character of God was like. When we had finished, to their horror, I congratulated them on accurately defining the character of Allah, not God!

“Inshallah, It is the will of God” might well be the cry of much of the church!”

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At first glance, what our friend has written may sound like he is very antagonistic towards the Church and Christianity.  He does certainly end with a couple of shocking and provocative thoughts.  But I would like to look more carefully at what this man has said.  I believe that he has hit upon some very important points that we need to pay attention to lest our faith be not grounded properly upon the truths found in Scripture.

The first thing we need to do when seeking truth is to check out in the Bible if God’s Word has something to say on the topic.  And we do in fact find the words and the concept of this in a number of biblical passages.  Let me list a few here:

Matthew 7:7-8  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Acts 14:27  “On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. ”

1 Corinthians 16:8  “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

Colossians 4:3  “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.

Probably the most well-known passage that deals with this idea of God opening and closing doors as a means of giving guidance to His people can be found in Acts chapter 16, where Paul desired to preach the Gospel throughout Asia, but God’s Spirit intervened in some way to close that pathway and opened one up for him to take the Gospel to Europe.  Read that account here:

6 Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. 7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. 8 So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.

9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.

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From these verses above, we can truthfully say that God does interact with His people and guide them in some supernatural way to show that one course of direction may not be what He wants us to do, and that another course of action may in fact be what He wants us to do.  But let us still be very cautious about throwing these phrases around so quickly, “God opend the door for me….” or “God closed the door for me….”

I agree very much with my friend who wrote above that we can so flippantly state that God is the Agent behind an event in our lives, when there can be a number of other causes behind the circumstances of our lives.  I have much more to say on this, but I will write a further article on this topic next week.

Walking In The Power of the Holy Spirit – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 14

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences.

                                          

Chapter 7: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
POWER MOVES IN

Question #2: The chapter asks, “What got into Peter?”  How would you answer this question?  (See Acts 2:4, 17-18.)

It should be rather obvious to anyone who reads the Gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) and compares the stories that deal with Peter there with what happens in Acts chapter 2 that Peter had become quite a changed man.  In the Gospel accounts, Peter was known to be hot-headed, loud-mouthed and then a cowardly man when the chips were down.  But in Acts 2, we see Peter was publicly bold as he clearly articulated the message of the Gospel and the need for people to repent of their sin and turn to Jesus for their salvation.

This kind of transformation is something that is normally impossible for a person to do on their own.  Although we do read of stories where someone is suddenly heroic in a dangerous situation, and there are plenty of “self-help” books out there.  For the most part, people do not change drastically in such a powerful and positive way like Peter did, unless something outside of themselves happens which has the power to cause such a change.  By reading more of the biblical account, we discover that it is the resurrected Christ, and the release of the Holy Spirit into his life that brings about this newly transformed Peter.

Question #3: These days, do you feel more like the early Peter or the later one?  Or do you vacillate between the two in any given week?

This is a good question.  And I believe that for myself, and probably for most Christians, the truth is that we do a lot of vacillating between being alive and vibrant in our faith and then sinking into times of discouragement and spiritual desert experiences.  For some Christians though, they may start out their journey of faith quite strong, but through the busyness of life and through neglect of spiritual disciplines and activities, their spiritual vitality slowly fades until there is not much left of their original zeal for God.

Speaking for myself again, I don’t think that I flip-flop in my spiritual life on a weekly basis.  But I can look back over the years and say that there have been “seasons of life” which can be marked with greater or lesser spiritual vitality.  I don’t consider these long ups and downs to be necessarily bad, as much as they reflect the ebb and flow of life itself.  What I do consider to be important though, is whether or not the kernel of faith in Christ remains strong, especially during those dry spells and tough periods in life that happen to us all.

I have found that I have reflected often on that great poem “Footprints” over the years.  It is great when life is going along well and we feel very connected with God.  Those are the times when we can look back and see both of our footprints going along side-by-side in the sand.  But during those tough times of life, when we even feel like God has abandoned us, and we only see one set of footprints in the sand, that is when God says to us, “Those were the times that I carried you.”  That is what my faith is like for the most part.  I believe God is walking beside me, or He is carrying me, and in either case, God strengthens me to be able to handle whatever life dishes out to me.

Question #4: What was the difference between Jesus living near the disciples and the Spirit living in them?  What were the results?  Do you long for such results in your life?  What difference might that make in your life right now?

When Jesus lives among the disciples, they saw the power of God at work through all that Jesus did.  But once Jesus released the Holy Spirit to live within the disciples, they found that they had the power of God within themselves to do all the things that they had once seen Jesus do.  What a wonderful thing that must have been to go from being witnesses of God’s power to being instruments of God’s power.

In the years that I have been in ministry, both here in North America and in overseas mission work, I have definitely seen the power of God active in the lives of others as well as being released through me to impact other people.  I have had spiritual encounters with evil forces and demonic beings.  I’ve experienced healing in my life in the past and am seeing it happen in the present.  God is very much alive in today’s world.

What we need to do is to first believe that this spiritual power is available to us to do God’s work and will in the world.  And then keep our eyes open, both to look up to God for our daily strength and to look out around for opportunities to act on God’s behalf.  When we do this, then God will bring about the circumstances to work in and through us to impact the world.  But just remember one thing: it is always about God and His power in us, never about us and what we think we can do.  That’s how we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

                                          

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Walking In The Power of the Holy Spirit – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 13

What does it mean to “walk in the power of the Holy Spirit”?  Depending on who you talk with, you can get answers that span a huge spectrum.  From conservative Christianity, where the Holy Spirit is rarely talked about, to charismatic Christianity, where visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power like speaking in tongues is a necessity, we get quite a wide view of the place and the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individual Christians.

I grew up within a moderately conservative church background, where we were taught about the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2, and the wonderful fruit of the Spirit which is made available to believers in Galatians 5.  But there was not a lot of preaching done that helped us to understand and actualize the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit within us on a daily basis.  There seemed to be a lot of biblical exposition  without a lot of personal application.

     

In my years of mission experience and from more time given to biblical reflection, I am certain that there is much more going on within the spiritual realm that exists alongside of our physical realm than many of us realize.  To begin with, we must take all of God’s Word seriously and accept it as trustworthy, or we are left with uncertainty about all of it.  And so I take it to be true when Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Now in practical terms, it does seem like our “struggle” is waged on the human level as we deal with bad people who lie and cheat and resist us as we try to live our lives in ways that will please God.  It does seem like those who practice evil deeds are the ones who get ahead in life or find the ways to prosper at the expense of other people.  This is nothing really new actually, for we read in the New Testament how wicked leaders crucified Jesus and caused the early disciples to cringe in fear behind locked doors.

     

But then, just 50 days after Jesus died and was buried, we find a person like Peter, who had so cowardly denied knowing Jesus, suddenly standing up boldly in public to preach about faith in Jesus.  What had gotten into Peter?  What had changed him from being a cowardly disciple to a courageous leader?  By reading the last part of the Gospels and the first part of the book of Acts, we read about a Jesus who had risen from the dead and who promised the coming of the Holy Spirit who would give them power to live and to speak for Him.

It must have been wonderful for those early disciples to have walked with Jesus when He was alive and to hear Him preach and to see Him heal.  Then they would have been devastated by His death.  But Jesus knew that it was necessary on so many levels for Him to die and then to return back to Heaven.  His death brought about forgiveness of sins for all people who believe in Him, and His departure to Heaven allowed Him to release the power of the Holy Spirit into the lives of believers.

Jesus said in John 14:12 that anyone who believed in Him would do even greater things than He did because Jesus was going back to the Father and releasing the Holy Spirit for all believers.  Max Lucado puts it this way in his book “GOD’S STORY, your story” on pages 109 – 110:

During his earthly ministry Jesus lived near the disciples.  The Holy Spirit, however, would live in the disciples.  What Jesus did with the followers, the Spirit would do through them and us.  Jesus healed; the Spirit heals through us.  Jesus taught; the Spirit teaches through us.  Jesus comforted; the Spirit comforts through us.  The Spirit continues the work of Christ.

     

So let’s get back to being practical again.  Jesus has never changed  (Hebrews 13:8 promises us that).  What Jesus promised to his immediate disciples about receiving the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives to do greater things than He did, is also a promise to all of us who believe in Jesus.  Yes, this power may be to do miraculous things, like speak in spiritual tongues and heal the sick, but overcoming our old sinful nature and living God-honoring lives is also just as much a miracle and an evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit within.

Think about it for a minute.  If you are a believer in Christ, if you use to be an angry person, now by the power of the Holy Spirit within, you can be a person who exhibits peace and gentleness.  If you use to be caught up in lying, now you can be a man or woman of truth.  Were you anxious before? Now you can exercise faith and trust.  Did you have any addictions before?  Now you can show self-control.  All this is perhaps the most powerful witness to others and demonstrates “walking in the power of the Holy Spirit”.

     

Let me close this article with a great quote of Lucado’s on page 117.  I pray that you may know the power that Lucado talks about here in your day to day experiences and in your walk with God.

The same hand that pushed the rock from the tomb can shove away your doubt.  The same power that stirred the still heart of Christ can stir your flagging faith.  The same strength that put Satan on his heels can, and will, defeat Satan in your life.  Just keep the power supply open.  Who knows, you may soon hear people asking, “What’s gotten into you?”

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

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