Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Spiritual Enablement and Empowerment

...faith involves both renunciation and reliance.
We have to first renounce all confidence in our
own power and then rely entirely on the power 
of the Holy Spirit.  We must be enabled, not merely
helped.  What's the difference?  The word help implies 
we have some ability but not enough; we need 
someone else to supplement our partially adequate
ability.  By contrast, enablement implies that we 
have no ability whatsoever.  We're entirely powerless.
We can do nothing.  But when by faith we renounce 
self-sufficiency and embrace reliance on the power
of the Holy Spirit, we receive divine empowerment,
enablement, and strength for personal transformation
and ministry.

Jerry Bridges
Bob Bevington
The Bookends of the Christian Life
Page 85

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear
fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can
you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the 
branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears
much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
John 15:4-5

Blessed is man who trusts in the Lord and whose
trust is the Lord.
Jeremiah 17:7

A faith that does not rest fully on the Lord is an incomplete faith, a faith that is not fully mature.  In one way or the other, this applies to all of us.  I am reminded of the man who called out to Jesus, "I believe, help my unbelief."  This is a cry that all of us could make. Our faith should rest fully on Christ, both for our salvation and our sanctification.  Just as we did not begin our spiritual life without the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, we cannot live our spiritual life apart from His enabling power.

In applying this to our lives, it should even affect how we pray.  How many times have we asked the Lord to help us versus empower or enable us? Yes, we are responsible, and we must act and we must do; but in our acting and doing He is the One enabling and empowering. The Scriptures do not give us a formula for this, for faith does not have a formula. We walk by faith, faith in Him and not in ourselves, which should lead to trust in Him and not in ourselves.

When I was a child, my mother would never let me use the phrase 'I can't' for her reply would be, "Can't never could do anything."  Then she would tell me the story of the little engine who could, and for those who don't know the story, the little engine would chant, "I know I can, I know I can." as he was pulling the huge load up the steep hill.  This kind of human effort, the positive  can do attitude, has polluted our minds, and is one of the humanisms we bring into our faith; and it rides into our Christian life on the back of our pride.

Renunciaton and reliance are an assault on our human pride, and require a submissive humility, which again, is quite impossible without His enabling power. It is only after we have been humbled by our spiritual impotency to overcome sin and to be pleasing to God, that we will ask for forgiveness and acceptance from Him so that we may be saved; and it is in a continued submissive humility that we ask for enablement and empowerment to live the life He has called us to live.

Even to the end, our spiritual life is designed so that the Lord receives the glory for it, not us. For all things are from Him, through Him, and to Him; and we exist for Him; and let us remember that we can do all things through......Him who strengthens us.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sunday, November 09, 2014

A Prayer for Sunday

Father, speak Your Word through me this morning.
Through Your Word, train, instruct, strengthen,
encourage, and correct your people.  Send forth
Your Word attended by Your Spirit, so that it
may do all you have intended in the lives of those
who hear it today.  For Your glory and Your
kingdom. Amen

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Living by Faith, Not by Sight

There was a blog post concerning II Corinthians 5:7, and its misuse and misapplication.  Below is my comment concerning this verse and the context in which it is in.

  1. The section vs 7 is in begins with 4:13 when Paul states, “But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written…” The crescendo of this thought is in 4:18 “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
    Living by faith means seeing with eyes of faith, eyes that look to and see the eternal things, the things not seen. How do we see the unseen eternal things? We see them through the Word of God, the things written. Jesus speaks to this in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” We see another example in Moses in Hebrews 11:26-27, “considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.”
    Seeing is the equivalent of knowing, and we see this played out in the verses in chapter five that follow on the heels of 4:18:
    5:1 For we know…
    5:6 Therefore, being always of good courage and knowing
    5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord
    5:16 Therefore, from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have know Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
    Abraham and Moses saw eternal things, things not seen with human eyes, but with eyes of faith; and they saw these things through the promises of God. Even though unseen, the promises of God have substance and reality. We don’t see our Lord now, but believe in Him because we see Him in and through the Word of God. The Lord talks to us and we experience Him and come to know Him through the Word of God. When we take Him at His Word, and believe His Word, He opens our eyes to see Him and to know Him; and the eternal things become a present reality for us…just like they did for Abraham and Moses; and Paul.
    So, yes, living by faith is what all true Christians do. It is living with eyes of faith that see the unseen through the Word of God, because we believe the Word that has been spoken to us.
  2. Also, here is the link to a post from 2010 where I address this.
  3. http://morris-pressingon.blogspot.com/2010/11/eyes-of-faith.html

Friday, October 24, 2014

Essentials of the Christian Life---Faith, Hope, and Love

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three...
I Corinthians 13:13a

In this verse at the end of the love chapter in I Corinthians, Paul gives us the three Divine distinctives, the three essential qualities that mark the life of a believer. All three of these qualities are operative in the true Christian, and to the extent they are operative determines the quality and vitality and effectiveness of our spiritual lives.  Also, it is the operation of faith, hope and love in our life that is the source of our joy, and it is the extent to which these qualities are operative in our lives that determine the fullness of our joy.

Additionally, these qualities do not operate in isolation from each other, but operate in conjunction with each other.  Each directs, reinforces, and feeds the other. Faith is the foundation, love provides the motivation, and hope gives inspiration. As a cord of three strands is not easily torn apart (Ecclesiastes 4:12), so the Christian life that has faith, hope, and love stands strong against the perils of this world and the wiles of the devil.

Faith is the foundation, but without love faith becomes dry, barren, ritualistic, and formalized. Without love faith becomes a duty to be performed, not a life to be lived.  Love gives strength and vitality to faith and makes faith come alive. Love gives purpose to faith. (I Corinthians 13:2b, Galatians 5:6, John 14:21, 23, I Peter 1:22)

Hope causes faith to persevere by giving it a reason to persevere. Hope directs faith's attention from the life here and now to the live hereafter. Hope gives faith its eternal perspective. Hope is faith's anchor during the storms of this life, its restraint to keep it from heeding the siren calls of this world, and its beacon to keep it on course. (Hebrews 6:19, 11:1, Galatians 5:5, I Corinthians 15:19, Colossians 1:5)

My friends, are these three essentials present in your life?  If they are not, cry out to the Lord for Him to bring these into your life through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. If they are, seek to cultivate them all the more in order that your life in Christ may be full of His abundance and overflowing with His joy.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Letting the Peace of Christ Rule

This is a repost.

As believers we are to "Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts," (Colossians 3:15). So often we see this verse either ignored or misapplied, and it is because of a misunderstanding or a false assumption of what this peace is. So let's see if we can garner a better, a correct understanding of what the peace of Christ is and how it is manifested in our lives.

First off, this verse is in the middle of a section where Paul is talking about our common ground in Christ because He is all and is in all (3:11), and how this is manifested in our life in the church in how we treat and respond to one another in the body. So its primary application is for believers in the context of church life. So this peace of Christ is to rule, act as arbiter or umpire, in our dealings and interactions with other believers, especially those in our local body.

Secondly, what is this peace that Christ has, that is to be the umpire of our hearts, and how did we come to possess it? In John 14:27 Christ says, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you." So we see that it is Christ, Himself, that has given us His peace, and we have this peace because He has come and taken up residence in our heart; and we have become partakers of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4). The peace of Christ is the peace between Him and the Father. There was no enmity between the Father and the Son because Jesus always did the things that were pleasing to the Father (John 4:34, 5:30, 8:28-29, 8:42, 12:49, 14:10, 17:4, Matthew 3:17). Because of His perfect obedience to the Father there was unity and harmony between them with peace being the by-product of that unity and harmony. Christ had the same unity and harmony with the Father in His life here upon the earth that He had with the Father in eternity past. This is why Jesus could say, "I and the Father are One." (John 10:30, 17:1122-23). The body of Christ is to have and manifest the same unity and harmony within itself that exists between Christ and the Father (John 17:20-23).

Before salvation we were at enmity with Godwe were His very enemies (Romans 5:10), but God reconciled us to Himself (made peace with us) through His Son (Romans 5:10, II Corinthians 5:18-19). The Father and the Son were at perfect peace, so that, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:29). So when we let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts it means that we are not to do anything that would disrupt our peace with our heavenly Father. Our peace with Him should guide our decision making and govern our responses. Within the context of this section of Colossians we see this worked out in our compassion, gentleness, kindness, humility, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and love within the body of Christ. We have peace with God and one another as we practice these Christian graces mentioned here; and it should then be a part of our life so that, "As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." (Romans 12:18).

So, first, be sure that you are at peace with God through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Then pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God for establishing peace with you, His enemy, and reconciling you to Himself through the blood of the cross. Now live a life of peace with God through how you live your life with others in the body, and in the world; but not at the expense of righteousness or the truth.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Three Essential Elements for Powerful Persuasive Preaching

Preaching is both a human task and a Divine event, a combination of man and God delivering the message of God. As preachers we are both blessed and burdened in our preaching.  We are blessed with the opportunity and the privilege and burdened with the responsibility and accountability, of speaking forth the oracles of God.  Those truly called to preach have been gifted so as to be the mouthpiece of God, so that when we speak for God it should be as God Himself would speak.  As such, preaching has been depicted as God speaking through the personality of men.

In this vein we must realize that there are certain keys, certain requirements, certain foundational principles required on the preacher's part so that the Spirit of God can and will attend and give unction to his message.  It is not erudition, articulation, or winsomeness, although those are certainly helpful.  It is good to be learned, it is good to be a wordsmith, and certainly an attractive personality and engaging presentation will help; but all of these can be present and, yet, the sermon can be devoid of power and spiritually impotent.

What then are the keys to powerful, persuasive preaching?  What is required of those who would stand in the pulpit and herald forth the word of God. What must we as preachers do in order for our sermons to be attended by the Holy Spirit and for us to preach in His power.  I believe there are three keys, three foundational elements, that are required of the preacher for his preaching to be spiritually powerful and effective.  In listening to and experiencing sermons I have seen these foundational elements to be present in the preacher whose sermons have been marked by the attending power of the Holy Spirit; and all of the great preachers in the church have possessed and exhibited these elements in their preaching. They are:

1. A thorough conviction of the truth.
This is ground zero for all who would be powerful in the pulpit and is the primary essential element and the guiding principle for all who would have their preaching attended by the Holy Spirit. The preacher who would be powerful in the pulpit will always believe that the word of God is true, absolutely true; not just true as regards the things of salvation, not just true in the matters of faith and practice, but true in every area to which it speaks, whether it is creation, revelation, miracles, history, or prophecy. He does not look for holes in the Scriptures, but has a steadfast hold on the veracity of the Scriptures and believes that they are truth without any mixture of error. He then preaches as presenting the truth, with the conviction that what he is saying is true, and therefore his preaching will be attended by the Spirit of truth and give the message authority.

2. A thorough knowledge of the truth.
Shallow knowledge begets shallow sermons, and shallow sermons are never powerful sermons. There is a saying that knowledge is power, and the powerful preacher will have a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, not just in a pet area, but in the full flow of the grand narrative of the Bible. He will understand where the passage he is preaching on falls in the scope of the Bible, he will understand its context, its historical surroundings, its audience.  The preacher will have a knowledge of the subject he is preaching on, and what the Bible, as a whole, has to say about the subject. This lends weight to his sermon, this give breadth and depth to his sermon, and thereby gives his preaching the appropriate gravitas. Alongside this the Holy Spirit of God also gives the preacher wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. This makes the preacher believable.

3. A thorough explanation of the truth.
Just as thorough knowledge makes the preacher believable, thorough explanation makes the preacher understandable. What makes the sermon finally and ultimately powerful is the explanation and application of the truth. A correct and thorough explanation of the truth is a prerequisite to the Holy Spirit applying the truth to the hearts of the hearers. People cannot apply what they do not know or understand.  The truth must be presented clearly and precisely.  The meanings of words, their tenses and contexts, and what other verses say about the same subject give light to the mind in understanding the meaning of the passage. Once a passage is understood the Holy Spirit will apply it to each person's heart within the context of their own walk and experience.  This makes the sermon personal, this makes it powerful, this makes it effective.

As preachers we must preach to the heart through the mind in order to bend the will.  In order for this to take place we must be convinced that what we are preaching is true, we must know our subject, and we must be able to explain so as to bring clarity and insight into the mind of the hearer.  When this is done, the Holy Spirit will attend our sermon and give it all the spiritual power necessary to accomplish its aim.

I hope these essential elements are present in your preaching.  They are attainable for us all, from the least gifted of us to the most gifted, from the least eloquent to the most eloquent, from the least winsome to the most winsome. Possessing these foundational elements in our preaching does not guarantee us large crowds or growing churches or notoriety or a place on the conference circuit, but they do guarantee us that our sermons will be spiritually powerful and effective in the sphere in which our Lord and Master has placed us.  This will lead to His approbation, "Well done, My good and faithful slave, enter into the joy of your Master."