Insight: 3 Practical Ways Believers Live Immersed in The Holy Spirit(Part 2 of 2)

 

In the first part of this series, I discussed the importance of living in the fullness and the power of the Holy Spirit through abiding in Him by humbling yielding to the Lordship of Jesus. Today, I would like to explore three practical ways in which believers can live immersed in the Holy Spirit. Unquestionably, the believer’s heart must be humble, repentant and submitted to God so that His Spirit can operate undeterred by the works of the flesh. This is an over-arching focus that will be interlaced throughout each recommended way. Being humble and taking up our crosses daily is at the core of what it means to live in Christ and to clothe ourselves with the righteousness of Christ.

Supportingly, in Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia, he instructs believers:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do”(Ga 5:16–17)

Here are 3 practical ways for believers to live immersed in the Holy Spirit:

  1. Pray in the Spirit: Those who have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit(see John 3) have been gifted with the very Spirit of Almighty God when they gave their lives to Jesus by humbly trusting and surrendering by faith through grace. Therefore, as believers we are now children of God who are new creatures with a new identity in Christ having been seated with Him in the Heavenly places(Eph 1:3-4)! We have been filled with new affections, desires, goals and with this comes a beautiful God-Ordained purpose to which we have been called. However, being adopted into God’s Family also means that we will now be in the enemy’s crosshairs. We are in a spiritual battleground and so we must be prayerfully in communion with God because prayer is the primary lifeline by which we are spiritually strengthened to defend ourselves against the attacks from the enemy. Without prayer, there is no fuel to power the Holy Spirit for the believer making us increasingly vulnerable to sin, leading to backsliding and failing to live the life of spiritual victory. It all starts with prayer. Our time spent in prayer will exponentially increase as we see our own spiritual depravity and our infinite need for God. Similarly, our humbled postured hearts will lead us to a deeper desire and sincerely-recognized need to be steadfastly in prayer!
  2. Renew Our Minds by Abiding in God’s Word with Spiritually-Opened Eyes: Even an atheist can read and study the Bible. Interestingly, there are even secular Biblical scholars who have attempted to use Bible verses to disprove the existence of God! In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells His followers, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will”(Mt 11:25–26). God delights in it when His creation recognize their need before Him and raise the white flag in surrender. It is only when we come to the end of ourselves that God’s Spirit can move and accomplish the surgical procedure within our hearts. Consequently, we must approach reading God’s Word with reverence and humility recognizing that it is all Truth even and especially when it contradicts our lifestyle. Otherwise, it will turn into an academic exercise resulting in people being puffed up with Bible head-knowledge rather than the heart-transforming Words of Life like God intended(like the Pharisees and experts of the law). When we read the Bible with spiritually-open eyes and an enlightened heart, everything changes! The words of God’s Holy Book will literally come alive and they can now have their intended heart-transformational impact. The veil from our hearts, even as believers, needs to continually be removed so that we unlock the Bible within the Bible. This will only happen through walking uprightly and obediently with God in unbroken fellowship. Sins needs to be confessed and repented from, or else our spiritual-vision will be blocked and we find ourselves chasing after the things of this world.
  3. Work Out What God Has Already Worked In (Faith Without Works is Dead)– God intends for His people to not merely be consumers of Christianity but rather to become partakers in helping to build His Kingdom on earth. For clarity, we are not doing this to be saved, rather, we are doing this because we are saved. Once we have been built-up and equipped spiritually, it now our commission to go out and share the good news of the Gospel with those around us in tangible ways! After all, what good is it to be in prayer and to be full of Bible knowledge if we do not actually do anything?! We must let Christ’s love stream freely in us but also through us and towards others as the Holy Spirit delights in! Our hearts should be so overjoyed with this glorious gift of salvation that we cannot help but share this gift with others. Oftentimes this may simply look like being the hands and feet of Christ through serving by meeting the physical needs of those in the community at a homeless shelter. Other times, it may extend to verbally sharing our faith with co-workers and others in our spheres of influence. James teaches us that true Christianity is “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world”(Jas 1:27). It is entirely about extending our love towards others as an overwhelmingly thankful response to the love which Christ has shown to us on the Cross when He obediently accepted death on the Cross, dying the death that you and I should have died!

Father God,

I pray that you help us to walk immersed in Your Holy Spirit! Liberate us from a life characterized by mediocre Christianity and fan the flame of Your Spirit within us so that we can be productive disciples during our short-time within this life! Help us to come together as a Church and to repent from our sinful ways starting on an individual level so that Your Holy Spirit may work as He desires! In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen!

What The Enemy Does Not Want You to Know

Key Biblical Text

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,  being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete”(2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

Introduction: Too Busy to Focus on the Spiritual

Have you ever stopped to consider that what we see in the physical realm is only a portion of what is actually happening all around us? I think that it is a safe assumption that most of today barely have enough time for ourselves, let alone to ponder on the spiritual realities within this world.

Life in modern society is moving at such a frighteningly-fast pace that we barely have sufficient time to get our day-to-day tasks accomplished. Statements such as: “I just don’t have enough time”, “I’m too busy for this”, or “There aren’t just enough hours in the day to finish what I need to accomplish” are ubiquitous to the average person today. While it is not necessarily a sin to be busy, what I fear is happening today is that we are being greatly distracted from the things that truly matter in the context of eternity.

Westernized Christianity Waters Down The Spiritual

It is my assertion that the teaching among most Christian Churches within the West does not provide enough focus on the spiritual warfare surrounding Christians. Yet, the Bible repeatedly underscores the importance of recognizing the spiritual realm as something very real and also something which Christians must prepare themselves against.

In the West, we have this prevailing humanist and materialist mindset which overshadows much of the way in which we think and operate as a society. Secular psychology is an incredibly influential and authoritative force even to the degree that it has begun to infiltrate the Church. Almost everything, including the things of spiritual origin, can be merely theorized into these humanist “boxes of understanding”. Christian Colleges and Universities have begun to incorporate psychology-counseling into the teaching curriculum for those studying to become pastors and teachers.

We Are in All-Out Spiritual War

Christian, do you know that you have an enemy who will stop at nothing to annihilate your faith? If you do not recognize how high the stakes are, then surely what reason would you have to equip yourself for this spiritual warfare? There is an old quote that teaches that the greatest thing the enemy ever pulled off is to convince us that he doesn’t exist. The schemes of the enemy work best when those being deceived are ignorant to what is actually happening. Therefore, I think that it is also fitting to say that one of the greatest things the enemy has pulled off is to convince the Church to downplay the importance of spiritual warfare. Perhaps one of the leading causes for why much of the Church in the West has fallen asleep stems from its ignorance of spiritual warfare. We are called to make war with sin so that we can grow in holiness and righteousness, but how can this happen if we are not even aware of the type of battle which we are involved in?

Spiritual Strongholds

GotQuestion.org provides a Biblical View on Spiritual Strongholds below:

The enemy is firmly entrenched; these strongholds have been guarded for thousands of years, presenting a great wall of resistance to the Truth. None of this deters the Christian warrior, however. Using the weapons of God’s choosing, he attacks the strongholds, and by the miraculous power of Christ, the walls are breached, and the bastions of sin and error are battered down. The victorious Christian enters the ruins and leads captive, as it were, every false theory and every human philosophy that had once proudly asserted its independence from God…Sharing the gospel is not the only time we see resistance. We can also face demonic strongholds in our own lives, in our families, and even in our churches. Anyone who has fought an addiction, struggled with pride, or had to “flee youthful lusts” knows that sin, a lack of faith, and a worldly outlook on life are indeed “strongholds.”

I believe that understanding and being able to identify spiritual strongholds in our lives as Christians is one of the first steps to conquering them. Interestingly, a significant degree of our spiritual maturity and growth as Christians is dependent on how effectively we make war with these spiritual strongholds. Each day we wake up, we are faced with a decision to equip ourselves with the armour of God or not. We must understand that even though God has finished the work through His Son on the Cross, we are responsible to continually walk in obedience and to access the spiritual means of grace freely given to us. The spiritual toolkit in the form of God’s armour and the reservoir of His grace is definitely there for the Christian, but it still needs to be accessed by faith in order to be effective.

Tragically, so many ignorant Christians fail to live their spiritual lives in victory and instead choose to live defeated lives. As they listen to the lies of the enemy, they begin to believe them. These lies gain a foothold in the minds of the believer leading to a crippled and ineffective life as a Christian. Rather than reclaiming the authority they have in Christ in order to overcome the dominion of sin, they allow themselves to remain spiritually-complacent and unfruitful.

The Solution: Live by The Spirit through Repentance, & Equipping Yourself with God’s Armour 

God will not provide us with the spiritual victory as long as we are not surrendered to Him. We need to die to self so that Christ through His Holy Spirit will reign and actively work through us as one of His instruments. In the West, I fear that we often intellectualize Christianity and that we restrain it to some kind of futile head knowledge while the heart remains unchanged. If our faith does not manifest in commensurate righteous actions and deeds, then we may be wise to question whether we have a saving faith or not. James 2:14-17 teaches:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 

The core teaching is not that it is works that saves us, but rather the point is ultimately: What is the point if our faith is not accompanied with works? Our hearts, not merely our minds, needs to be transformed. It is then and only then that the Holy Spirit will reside within us and empower us to conquer the spiritual strongholds in our journey. As we abide in Christ(through study and application of Scripture), the Holy Spirit works mightly in our life while demolishing those strongholds in the process!

In addition, equipping ourselves with the armour of God as detailed in Ephesians 6:10-18 is essential. Without which, we will inevitably compromise our Christian living and our faith will eventually be sifted like wheat as Jesus Himself reveals the enemy’s intentions to Peter(Luke 22:31). I find this analogy about the Christian from GotQuestion.org helpful as it relies on Ephesians 6:14-17 for its framework:

Our weapons are not physical, for our warfare is spiritual in nature. Rather than guns and tanks, our weapons are those of the “full armour of God” and consist of “the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”(Ephesians 6:14-17)

 

Prayer

Father,

I pray that you awaken your Church to the spiritual battleground around us. Please strengthen us as we ready ourselves for battle in this spiritual fight. Thank-you for providing us with the spiritual weapons of warfare to be victorious over the dominion of sin. Help us to walk in step with Your Holy Spirit to experience the fullness of the plan to that which You have called us in Christ. In Jesus’ Name, I pray Amen.

 

Reference:

https://www.gotquestions.org/spiritual-strongholds.html

Insight: What is Dividing the Church More Than Anything

Unity among those who belong to the body of believers(the Church) is radically important. When the Church is divided among itself, how can it possibly stand in the face of opposition? Jesus said it best when He tells us that “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand”(Mark 3:25). In order to be fruitful for Kingdom-furthering purposes and effective for defending ourselves against spiritual warfare, we need to come together as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet, precisely the opposite is happening today within the Church. There is such a high degree of envy, jealousy, bitterness, backbiting, slander, and gossip among those claiming to be apart of the same Church Body. The world already has enough of this! The last thing that it needs is a Church comprised up of professing believers who cannot even co-operate among themselves. Therefore, the Church will not be able to render sustainable change within the world until those within it begin to work together instead of against one another.

Paul warns us in his letter to the Galatians of the following, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other”(Galatians 5:15). Being destroyed by one another is exactly what the enemy wants to happen within the Church. He couldn’t be happier when he sees church members in disagreement with trivialities over non-essential doctines and when pastors are under constant scrutiny over every move they make. Church divisiveness is a breeding ground for all kinds of evil and it is where demonic activity can thrive. Being distracted from the things that truly matter is what the enemy wants. When he succeeds, the work that God commissions His Bride(the Church) to take part in is greatly encumbered.

Perhaps one of the reasons why we don’t see persecution as strongly within the West is because the enemy does not view the Church here as much of a threat. We are too busy arguing and debating among one another about whose doctrinal views are right that we completely miss the whole point of Christianity! What an absolute tragedy! There are lost souls who are seeking for people to point them to the Truth of the Gospel but we are too busy fault-finding and gossiping about other Christians to even notice. Until the time that we swallow our pride and humble ourselves before God and among one another, true life-impacting change will not happen. How can it possibly?! The enemy and his demons are far too strong in comparison to a divided Church body. As Christians we all have our unique roles to play within the Church Body. God purposed it this way for the intention of drawing us together as perfectly demonstrated within the eternal fellowship in the Trinity. He created us as relational beings who are in need of being united within the Church. A Church Body that is united while upholding and guarding the Truth of Christ is unstoppable and it is capable of accomplishing the unimaginable!

Father God,

Please strengthen Your Church through unifying it and re-shaping it into all that You have purposed it to become as Your Son’s Bride. I pray that you humble all of us by helping us to plainly see the sin in our own hearts as opposed to pointing out the sin in other people’s lives. Lead us into repentance from all the gossip and slander we have taken part in through cleansing our prideful hearts. Most importantly, help us to show the world what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus, as we undertake Your Kingdom-Furthering work on earth with the strength from Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

5 Reasons Discontentment Will Destroy

Introduction

God has been exceedingly good and gracious to all of His creation even within this sin-bent world. He even goes as far as extending His common grace to unbelievers too, providing steadfast patience desiring for all to come to repentance(2 Peter 3:9). Why then are Christians, in the wealthier parts of the world especially, left feeling discontent? Hasn’t God already provided all we need and then some through His Son, Jesus?

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Perspective: Why Our Trust Must Be Rooted in Christ and Not Christianity(Religion)

Preface

Have you ever stopped to consider and ponder that Christianity is not the same as Who Jesus Christ is? Christianity as a religion is comprised up of imperfect humans who are gradually being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. Christ is perfect, Christians are not. Sadly, one of the main stumbling blocks I encounter when witnessing to others is their exposure to a misrepresentation of the Christian Faith. Therefore, as Christians, we should not be placing our faith in fellow Christian brothers and sisters on a micro-level and/or even towards Christianity on a macro-level. We are equally broken–Christian and non-Christian–who are all in as much of need for Jesus as the next person. Yet, we regularly put other Christians on pedestals almost on a daily-basis, commonly without consciously thinking about it. The tragic result is disappointment when they do not fulfill our expectations, but, more significantly, it is a diminishment of the all-sufficiency of God. In turn, we end up idolizing other Christians, rather than placing our unwavering faith in Jesus Alone for our salvation and spiritual growth.

Christianity Cannot Save You, But Jesus Can

Within the West, I believe that we are at a comparative spiritual-disadvantage to that of poorer parts of the world. We have so much material wealth, abundance, and prosperity to the degree that it becomes easy to trust and depend on things other than God Himself. Christian resources are almost too readily accessible, thereby presenting the temptation for us to exchange these Christian supplements in the place of diligent study in God’s Word.

What I believe is one of the leading causes of lukewarmness within the Christian Church in the West today derives itself from the false belief that the Church saves us. The implicitly-held belief among several Christians in the West is that as long I attend weekly church service, partake in helping through various ministries and fulfill the requirements of other rituals, then I am saved.

Church-goers swiftly become enticed by the allure of comfortable Christianity. Even lesser known local churches have such an unparalleled access to ministry resources. It becomes almost too easy to become spiritually-lazy through relying wholeheartedly on the local church to feed us, while we ourselves lack the spiritual disciplines. In doing so, we place too much weight on the pulpit and we begin to ignorantly think that we absolutely need an intermediary between ourselves and God in order to grow in faith of Jesus. Devastatingly, the local church slowly, but surely takes the place of Jesus. Rather than trusting in Jesus and His finished work alone, the mindset of the church-goer shifts to placing their trust in their church instead. Paradoxically, the local church becomes an idol and stifles the spiritual life of the believer which Jesus graciously provided. Rather than being a faith in Jesus by grace alone, it subtly evolves into a religion by self-effort.

Disclaimer: I do believe that all Christians need to actively be apart of a local, Biblically-Rooted Church. However, I also believe that the purpose of the Church is to equip its Saints to boldly go out and point others to Jesus. We need to be cautious to never forget that our foundation is built upon Jesus and that He is the Only One worthy of our full allegiance. 

Religion by Self-Effort vs. Salvation by Faith

The major implication for those who idolize their church is that they re-enter into the bondage of law and rule-keeping, the very thing that Jesus has already saved them from. For church-goers, this manifests itself in the form of religion when Jesus Christ by faith is replaced by religion through self-effort. Because it is impossible to earn our salvation or to somehow work our way to heaven, those who place their trust in their own righteousness will perish in the end. The figure below helps illustrate the differences between the two:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1–4).

Those attending the church of Galatia had naively returned to works of the law even after having begun by the Spirit. I think that it is important for us all to do a self-examination to ensure that we have not fallen into the same trap. Paul provides us with instruction on how God desires for His children to live by in verse 11 below:

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11).

Believers must live by faith in Jesus out of reliance in the future grace which He extends to all who trust in Him. This reliance can only come when the believer’s heart is rightly postured before God. No amount of sacrifices, good deeds, and/or religious rituals will ever be enough because God doesn’t delight in external performance. As seen below, God desires a surrendered, repentant, and humble heart from us. It is then and only then that He can provide us with a new nature in order that we can live the resurrected life as His new creation!

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalms 51:16–17)

Heavenly Father,

Forgive us for anytime that we have trusted in anything other than Your perfect righteousness for our salvation and continued spiritual growth. Help us to continue to live by faith in You Alone. Remind us that Your Son, Jesus, has torn the veil between us and You which has provided us with direct access to Your throne of grace. This is something that no religious teacher can ever provide. Provide us with rock-solid confidence in You as we seek journey and grow with you in faith. In Jesus’ All-Sufficient Name, Amen!

Don’t Be a People Pleaser!

People Pleasing Defined

Although the terminology of “people pleasing” may not necessarily always be associated with when it is occurring, I still believe that the activity of “people pleasing” pervades much of our lifestyles even as Christians.

“Psychology Today” defines the characteristics of a people pleaser as follows:

A people pleaser is one of the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say “no.”  You can always count on them for a favor.  In fact, they spend a great deal of time doing things for other people. They get their work done, help others with their work, make all the plans, and are always there for family members and friends.

Issues with People Pleasing

There is nothing inherently wrong with the desire of being there to help out those who are in need. In fact, as Christians we are called to love others self-sacrificially, which would certainly include those times when it is inconvenient for us. Two pivotal issues need to be expanded upon in order to better grasp why Christians should never allow the worldly activity of “people pleasing” to infiltrate their service to God.

  1. Motives of Heart Any professing-believer who serves others in order to curry the favour and the respect from other people is clearly not doing it for God. The person ought to examine the motives of their heart to identify why they choose to serve others. They should ask the question: Am I doing this for God’s glory, or for my glory instead?
  2. It is Impossible to Please Everyone– When you try to gain everyone’s approval, the inevitable result is that you will gain no one’s approval. Apart from this heart attitude being completely unbiblical, it is also completely self-defeating because it will never succeed. The simple truth of the matter is that you cannot please everyone, regardless of how hard you try! I believe that God designed it this way so that we would be drawn to Him in humility. If and when this form of unhealthy behaviour persists and develops into a patterned behaviour, it will lead to an array of adverse physical health effects. For the Christian, their spiritual vitality will also be neutralized and they will become very unfruitful. God has never intended for us to live in such a harmful way.

 

Personal Confession

I am somebody who has struggled with the sinful pattern of people pleasing for most of my life. God has blessed me with a kind attitude and a heart for serving others but there are times when my motives go unchecked causing me to fall into the “performance-trap”. What I mean by this is that I begin to care more about what others think about me than what God thinks about me. Tragically, when I do this I am essentially telling God that His approval is not enough and that I want more. I become forgetful and I need to be reminded that I already stand right before God which is immeasurably more meaningful than the approval of man. Even as believers, we need repeated exposure to the Gospel either through self-preaching or preaching from others. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Jesus likened us to forgetful sheep and also why we have been given God’s Holy Word to read over and over again.

Hope in the Gospel

This right standing(justification) is not as the result of what I could ever accomplish, but rather, what Jesus has accomplished when He accepted the punishment for my sins on the Cross. When God looks at those Who place their trust in Him as Saviour and Lord, He sees His Son, and with us He is also well-pleased. This is precisely the Truth which sets Christianity apart from all world religions. God has already reached down to us in and through His Son, Jesus, where He has paved The Way for us to Heaven. We cannot work to somewhere earn it, all we can do is accept it humbly with open arms. Not only does the Gospel free us from the need to perform to please others, it also provides us with right relationship to the Only One True God where He sees us perfectly.

How God Instructs Us How To Serve Others

When it comes to serving others, God expects His children to act very differently in comparison to those who are of the world. Fascinatingly, it is possible for unbelievers to possess an appearance of spirituality without actually possessing a saving faith. 2 Timothy 3:5 refers to this said cohort of people(fully described in verses 2-5) by describing them as possessors of, “…the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”. Clearly, this is a superficial and a vain attention-capturing form of godliness which is of the flesh, not the spirit. Verse 4 even supportingly describes them as “swollen with conceit”. At the core, it starts with the intent of the heart, which only God has the ability to see and know fully. This is both terrifying and reassuring at the same time. On the one hand, we can fool others with our “righteous deeds” while God cannot be fooled. On the other hand, because our hearts lay open before God, He knows when our deeds are genuine despite what others may think. When we do good deeds so that we are noticed and given recognition before man, the gratification we receive from this temporary approval is the full extent of our reward as seen below in Matthew 6:1-4:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

We are called to serve in the utmost humility and surrender to God alone because it is not about us; it is about God and Him getting the maximum glory. This can only happen as we decrease and He increases(John 3:30). The point I believe that Jesus desires to drive home is that when our hearts are postured in the right way before God, the fruit that we bear will be an overflow of what has been supernaturally sown within the roots of our new heart. This simply cannot happen in our carnal and fleshly state. The only undefiled and pure fruit yielded that will last eternally is the fruit that comes from a redeemed heart. And only Jesus can provide us with this redeemed heart!

I pray that Christians may be challenged and encouraged to live unwaveringly for the glory of God knowing that we are 100% approved by Him no matter what the world tells us. Please solidify the awe-inspiringly beautiful foundational truth that our identities are safe and secure in Jesus Christ! In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

Reference:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shrink/201210/are-you-people-pleaser

Let Christ’s Love Cast Out Fear!(Part 1 of 3)

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Fear is an extremely power thing. If fear is not handled properly, it is capable of destroying a person simply because of its crippling effects. There are those within this world today who live in maximal fear–sometimes for understandable reasons, other times because they have allowed fear to control their lives entirely.

What I want to progress towards discussing within this series are the terrifying ramifications of when believers succumb to fear-based religion. As an introduction, today’s focuses will be on (1) providing historical background of religion within Christendom and on (2) highlighting one of the threats some “christian” churches pose towards spiritual seekers and professing believers alike. 

Strikingly, religion has almost always been wielded in such a way to instill fear into the masses through both oppressive and manipulative means so that the people can be controlled. Yes, even “Christian” religious denominations have largely been premised in fear, which can be quite certainly be linked to the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church(RCC). In fact, prominent author and apologist, Ravi Zachaaris postulates that, “Christianity is not the same as who Christ is“.

I will now digress a little here so that I can provide some reasoning for why I believe this is happening within Christianity. Increasingly what we have today even among several Protestant denominations is the integration of some practices and traditions from Catholic teaching. Notably, within Protestantism there is an expanding-divide between the laity and the clergy in which there is a greater perceived value towards the ministry work among the clergy(church leaders) within the church compared to that which God accomplishes through the laity(church members). The fact is that we are all a royal priesthood of believers under the New Covenant(1 Peter 2:9) in Christ. Therefore, no believer is seen as more or less significant before God simply because they serve in a leadership capacity at a church as opposed to being used in some other capacity in another profession. The hierarchy within the RCC has certainly been influencing and has even started to pervade some Protestant denominations. The consequence beginning to arise from this is the proliferation of Bible illiteracy because church-goers place too much weight on the pastor at the pulpit. Therefore, the spin-off from this is that there is the presumption that this pastor has authority over God’s Word. Sadly, many church adherents then follow whatever is said trusting that the pastor is always 100% accurate, frequently without taking part in their own Bible Study to test what is said against God’s Word. For those of you who know your history of the RCC, I’m sure that this sounds very familiar. In spite of this example, as well as several others unmentioned, one can quite accurately speculate that the trajectory to which we are going within Protestantism is frighteningly similar to the way things were before the Protestant Reformation.  

Returning to Dr. Zachaaris’ point from earlier, I believe that his point soundly exemplifies what is transpiring today within Christianity. As human beings we have put an inordinate level of img_6168emphasis on doctrinal differences and biblical interpretations to the degree whereby they are exalted above what God Himself has told us within His Word. We have forgotten that Christianity is about modeling and living the way Christ lived where we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves through grace, mercy, kindness, compassion, patience, and understanding. We need to walk out our theology rather than simply intellectualizing it in order that God’s Word has it full intended impact within our hearts(breathing in through studying it and breathing out through living it). It is as though we have tried to put God into a proverbial box made out of our human preconceptions and categorical assumptions of Who we think He is. However, as you and I both hopefully know: God simply does not, and, moreover, He cannot fit into our human-made doctrinal boxes. Like apostle, Stephen quotes in Acts 7:48-50 from Mat 5:34,35 and Isa 66:1,2:

However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. What kind of house will you build for Me? says the Lord. Or where will My resting place be? Has not My hand made all these things?

Disclaimer: Please do not misunderstand or misinterpret me at all, I do recognize that pure religion (see James 1:27) has a place and it is essential for the Christian walk of faith. However, without having a personal and dynamic relationship with God, religion is merely a set of rules, rituals and traditions which is dead in and of itself(look at the Pharisees). We need pure religion to keep us grounded while the relationship we have with God enables us to live in the liberties Christ purchased for us on Calvary. Pure religion and relationship are not opposing forces but rather they should work in harmony in a sort of symbiotic relationship.

The central result of religion without relationship is known as legalism where we frustratingly strive and strive to earn our salvation, while repeatedly falling short and being devastated at the end of our lives when we face God for judgement. What I fervently and earnestly want Christians to know about is the damning power of false (christian) religion which permeates the world today, particularly within the West. It is common knowledge that being a church-goer does not mean that you are saved because church membership cannot purchase salvation; salvation is received by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. However, the church is always one of the most dangerous places you can be if you ignorantly fool yourself into thinking that you are saved when you are really not. Essentially, you have not only become a hypocrite without even realizing(or through suppressing it) but once you are within the clutches of religion, it is exceedingly difficult to escape it because the enemy has cunningly fooled you through using religion as his choice of weapon.

I cannot even begin to fathom the immeasurably high numbers of souls who have fallen victim to the clutches of false religion. I have personally experienced what this is like coming from a Roman Catholic Background myself for over 2o years of my life. I am normally not a stubborn person but God had to radically shake up my life before He captured my attention to see the destructive path which I was on. It is my prayer and hope that the true life-giving Gospel Message of unfathomable love and grace will liberate any readers who find themselves entrapped in fear-based religion.

I encourage anyone who desires to briefly share their experience of being set free from the bondage of religion to comment below.

I plan on continuing this series with a blog post entitled, “Paralyzing Power of Fear”. In this post, I intend on exploring some of the devastating ramifications of living in fear within the framework of religion.

May God Bless everyone in the weeks ahead!

The Mark of a True Christian

I have been very fortunate to grow up in a healthy home with loving and supportive parents who raised me well. The importance of being obedient to my parents and respecting their decisions was instilled within me at a young age. My parents were stricter than most and at times I felt like I was missing out. I even recall being ridiculed by some of my peers for supposedly living too sheltered of a life. Admittedly, there were occasions where I was inclined to agree, particularly with the severe forms of discipline I faced when I made poor decisions. In retrospect, I am very grateful for the way in which my parents raised me because of the person that I am today.

In a very similar way, the Scriptures reveal to us that God not only desires our obedience but He commands it. In John 14:15, Jesus pointedly tells us that “If you love Me, you will obey-god-in-loveobey what I command”. He later expands on this by saying, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching(John 14:23-24). Without reservation, Jesus declares that obedience is required within the Christian Walk as we follow Him. In effect, the love which we have for God through Christ results in obedience to do what God has asked and called us to become. In John 14 verse 23, we are also told that as we obey God’s teaching that the Father will love us and that They(we) will also make Their home with us. Jesus is referring to when the Holy Spirit resides within our souls in our bodies which have now been transformed into holy temples through Christ’s perfect atoning sacrifice on Calvary.

I am about to digress a little here but I assure you that is for good reason. What I find alarming and disconcerting about the way in which the Gospel is preached today is that there is an imbalanced emphasis on salvation by grace with little to no mention of the need for the now-saved-sinner to pursue continued repentance. I understand that the work on the Cross is finished however this does not preclude the absolute vital need for repentance through making war with sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Gospel is preached while neglecting the essential repentance aspect, a half-truth Gospel is being spread which is really no Gospel at all(Galatians 1:6). What I have seen is one of the results from this twisted gospel message is people ignorantly presuming on God’s grace, thinking that they have a licence to sin because the need for repentance is either minimized or forgotten altogether. The other dilemma is that the majority of this time the person is not genuinely saved, though they falsely think that they are. This half-truth Gospel falsely portrays Jesus as a sort of functional savior where nothing is required from the sinner after accepting Jesus. Jesus Himself warns and advises us to count the costs of following Him. He demands our full allegiance and this will require sacrifice and our unbridled commitment. 

I need to provide some basic Christian theology of justification in order to bring things full circle. Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit initially occurred when we believed in Christ alone for our salvation, in turn making Him the Savior and Lord of our lives. Now God declares us as justified before Him. Amazingly, when God looks at us He sees us clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus. The mark of a true Christian is not that we are now perfect, or not going to stumble, rather, it is derived from true repentance.     

I believe that it would be helpful to establish a working definition of repentance in order to ensure that we are all on the same page. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines repentance as:

an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God…and a persistent endeavour after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments. The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Ps. 51:4, 9), of pollution (51:5, 7, 10), and of helplessness (51:11; 109:21, 22). Thus he apprehends himself to be just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be. But repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also an apprehension of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Ps. 51:1; 130:4)”.

Repentance is all about turning away from the sin which formerly held us captive through taking off the grave clothes and putting on the grace clothes. As believers in Christ, we now possess this power to be victorious over any and all sin because its stronghold and grasp over us has been destroyed. True believers in Christ are sealed with the Holy Spirit by God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not something that comes and goes within real Christians. However, even as believers, our flesh is very weak and we are ourselves are incredibly prone to go astray. That is why it is indispensable that we walk in obedience by following God’s commands, especially when it comes to daily repentance and putting to death the deeds of the flesh(Romans 8:13). As Jesus continues speaking in John 14 about obedience, He becomes more direct about what He meant in verse 23 when says, “we”. In verse 26 Jesus says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”. We need to be continually filled by the Holy Spirit in order that we may be led and controlled by Him so that God becomes the Lord over all entire lives…not just on Sundays. As I see it, this only happens as an overflow of our love for God through active obedience to God and His commands. Even the smallest, seemingly insignificant day-to-day decisions make the biggest difference over time. CS Lewis put it this way,

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible(CS Lewis p 132).

The Holy Spirit drives the whole engine of the Christian life, therefore when it is grieved or quenched by our disobedience, we stumble back into our sinful and comeholyspiritfleshly tendencies. Herein lies the danger of disobedience. Although believers are indeed indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God does not remove our free will. This means that we have the choice each and every day to either obey God allowing our souls to be filled with the Holy Spirit or to disobey God thereby quenching the Holy Spirit. The former way enables God to work in and through us where He works mightily enabling us to be all that God has designed and purposed for us to become. The latter way leads to an unfruitful and strangled Christian life where instead of thriving we end up merely surviving.

Like loving parents who know what is best for their children, we can rest on the ironclad promise that God knows what is best for us. Even though there are times when we feel like we know better, we need to trust in God and His perfect timing for all things. He is our good Father and He will withhold no good thing for us as we lovingly obey and walk rightly with Him (Pslam 84:11).

The importance of obedience to God is instrumental for living a fruitful, God-honouring, Christ-exalting, kingdom-furthering Christian life. The Old Testament contains numerous examples of those who stepped out in faith to pursue what God was calling them to do. Comfortable Christians cannot change the world. It is not until we leave our comfort zones that God is able start to work through us in ways which you and I cannot begin to imagine.

Lord, I pray that this blog post may serve to help embolden Your Church to courageously pursue opportunities where we are being called even if they make us uncomfortable. I also pray that we delight in following You and Your commandments because of our pure love and devotion to You. Help us to live real Christian lives marked with repentance and an unceasing passion to reach the lost. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

References:

Easton’s Bible Dictionary by Matthew George Easton

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

 

Biblical WorldView

What Sets Christianity Apart

Christianity is not merely another world religion where one needs to follow a prescribed set of rules, regulations, and steps in order to be made right with God. Conversely, Christianity is about placing our trust in the One Who has lovingly reached down to us, accomplishing that which is humanly impossible by living the perfect life of obedience through Jesus. Christ lived the life none of us could have lived. Therefore, rather than us hopelessly climbing a ladder of good works to somehow bridge the gap between us and God, all we need to do is trust in Jesus Who has already finished the work on the Cross.

“Sacred” and the “Secular” Coming Together

There is a phenomenon that has plagued Christianity for far too long. It has significantly limited and even restricted the effectiveness of the Church within the world by relegating Christ-following Christians to purely a private spiritual matter. Specifically, it is the false dichotomy between the “sacred” and the “secular”. In Nancy Pearcey’s book, “Total Truth”, she expounds on this school of thought by stating that “Christian Principles are meant to saturate our lives and flow out into the world around us”. She continues, “Having a Christian worldview means beings utterly convinced that biblical principles are not only true but also work better in the grit and grime of the real world”. As ambassadors of Christ, we are called and commissioned to be salt and light within this world. If we choose to stay in our own Christian bubbles and comfort zones, how can we expect the dying world around us to hear the glorious truth of the Gospel? It is so easy to become apathetic and spiritually-selfish through focusing excessive attention on being built up without physically going out to make disciples as God calls us to do. God’s redemptive plan extends to all things–both the secular and the sacred.

As believers, we know full well that the Christian faith is not designed to be compartmentalized within the sacred portion of our lives, rather, it needs to overflow into every facet of our lives!
biblical-worldviewPearcey wisely states, “The Christian faith is not just a religious truth, but the total truth about all reality.The implication is that the Christian Faith is meant to pervade and saturate everything we come into contact with. In turn, having a Biblical worldview shapes how we think about politics, business, law, education, and the arts. God has created absolutely everything (John 1:3), and as seen in Genesis 1:28, He calls us to subdue the earth. Right from the beginning of time, God has invited us to participate in His project for the world. Andy Otto explains this concept of subduing the earth below:

As one would “subdue” a plot of land, planting seeds, watering, cultivating it, caring for it, and harvesting its fruit, one is called to subdue the world—planting seeds through our witness, using and cultivating our gifts, working for the common good, and sharing its fruit with others. And as God has desires for the cultivation and harvesting of the earth, metaphorically, we do as well.

Application: Life Is Ministry

There is a common misconception that only those involved in ministry of some kind can really serve the Lord. This cannot be further from the truth and it greatly dismays me that many Christians believe this fallacy. Admittedly, I believed that this was true for my own life and it held me captive for several years. I knew that God had gifted me in different ways but I reasoned that I couldn’t serve Him as well or even at all unless it was explicitly done for ministry purposes. Once I first read about Biblical Worldview through observing Lecrae approach to his Hip Hop music as a Christian, I realized that as a Christian my entire life is ministry. Romans 12:1 instructs us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, which is our true and proper worship. In other words, everything we do spanning from the ways in which we interact with others all the way to our viewpoints on social issues should be rooted in our Biblical Worldview. We are not just Christians on Sundays, but rather we are called to serve the Lord 24/7; indeed life is ministry. Someone who has been called to a trade such as a plumber is no less capable of serving God than a pastor for instance. All that God expects is our joyful obedience as we serve and glorify Him in our unique ways.

In Lecrae’s book, Unashamed, he states that “Following Jesus doesn’t just save us from a less fulfilling life or eternal separation from God. It also saves us to a life that can radically transform the world around us through the power of God”. The responsibility then for Christians is to transform culture.

I plan on creating a follow-up article to this post regarding what transforming culture looks like for the Christian. Please stay tuned!

Lord,

We are so grateful for that which we have done for us on the Cross and we are honoured to be partakers of Your redemptive plan. Help us to live faithful lives to You in whatever you have called us to as our vocation. I pray that through Your Holy Word, You may mold our Biblical Worldview into one that has the ability to transform culture for Your glory. May we lift up Your Name and glorify You always!

In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

 

References:

Subdue the Earth: A Genesis Understanding of Discernment

Total Truth By Nancy Pearcey

Unashamed By Lecrae