The Truth is in Jesus Part 2

Continuing with the idea of finding and living out of the simplicity that is found in a relationship with Jesus I will quote a Christian from many generations ago and a present day believer. Jeanne Guyon lived from 1648-1717 in France. She spent a good portion of her adult life imprisoned for her faith because she bypassed all the trappings of the Catholicism she was born and raised into; instead of elaborate rituals she said it was easy to encounter and know Jesus living within. The current version of her most famous book on prayer is entitled, “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ.”

While there is an element of spiritual passivity in her writing, something we want to avoid, her basic instruction was sound then and is still sound now. Guyon believed that once we were converted we were all called to a deep and rich inner life with Jesus. She encouraged us to actually believe the scriptures, that Jesus is in us, and in trust turn within to encounter Him. Those of us who have this choice can attest to the reality of what she wrote.

In a similar vein let me quote a recent email article by Steve Thompson, “The essence of Christianity is how we understand and relate to God and He to us. The essence of Christianity is Christ inside you. It is not about us worshipping a distant God from inside a church building, but rather loving, worshipping, and following Christ who lives inside us, wherever we are.”

My own experience over the years is that what Guyon and Steve have written is true and is indeed simple, it simply requires a daily focusing of our hearts upon Him within and developing the habit of paying attention to our spirits throughout the day because that is where we encounter Jesus. When we learn to turn and tune our heart to His heart it becomes a habit where we hear His wisdom in ‘secular’ work situations, are at rest in rush hour traffic (does it really only last an hour?), and bring life to those around us wherever we are.

While I have failed in maintaining this communion many times over the years, I choose to look to the fruit of when I have maintained it. I have life and encouragement to offer people, I receive comments on there being something different about me. Those who don’t have ‘Christian’ vocabulary or thinking often tell me I am very zen. I accept the compliment in the spirit in which it is given as I and they know I am not a Buddhist, I am however in these moments given an opportunity to affirm and release life.

So I encourage to take some scriptures and believe them. Start with the sample below then find others to apply to your heart. Search the gospels and come to Jesus and enjoy life.

10  Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

8  Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8 (NKJV)

27  To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 (NKJV)

23  Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)

27  The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the inner depths of his heart. Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV)

 

The Truth is in Jesus Part 1

I am sure most of us are familiar with John 14:6 where Jesus referred to Himself as the Way, Truth and Life. However, I want to look at something Paul wrote in Ephesians.

20  But you have not so learned Christ, 21  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22  that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23  and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24  and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:20-24 (NKJV)

In this passage Paul made two very interesting little statements. First, the truth is in Jesus, secondly, Paul said we are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds.

What is he referring to in making these statements? This short passage is in essence saying the same thing as Galatians 4:19. The truth of walking with Jesus is encountering Him within. As we deepen our relationship with Jesus through experiential knowledge of Him, rather than information about Him, we are renewed in the spirit of our minds and Christ is formed and made manifest within us. This presentation of how to know Jesus permeates Paul’s writings. I have already referenced Ephesians and Galatians. Look at the oft quoted verse below.

27  To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 (NKJV)

The risen living Christ active within us is the heart of the gospel. If you read through Romans chapters 6-8 you will find this same message in different language. Paul’s message was all about knowing Jesus and being firmly rooted in the reality that our Christian walk is about getting to know, learn from and depend on the one living within us at the new birth. Paul knew no other form of Christianity. For Paul it wasn’t complicated. In fact his concern was that we would get caught up in complicated teaching in place of knowing Jesus. Look at what he wrote to the Corinthians.

3  But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3 (NKJV)

Our Christian walk is a call to simplicity. If it is becoming increasingly complicated who did Paul say was behind it? We are called to the simplicity that is found IN Jesus. Is simplicity working in our lives?


The Communion of the Spirit Part 4

Part of the fruit of communion with the Holy Spirit is wisdom in warfare. Let’s break down the famous spiritual armour passage a bit.

11  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:11-13 (NKJV)

In looking at the role of the Holy Spirit in our warfare I want to highlight a few words. In verse 11, ‘stand against’ and in verse 13, ‘withstand’ and ‘to stand’ all capture the idea of maintaining ground that has already been taken. The focus in our spiritual warfare is not on taking ground, Christ has already taken the ground that needs to be taken. Our task is to partner with the Holy Spirit to stand our ground, not retreat, and enforce Christ’s victory. In doing so we experience in our lives the reality of the victory Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection. In His graciousness He lets us feel like it is our victory, and in a sense it is – often a victory over fear, insecurity, doublemindedness or other similar things.

So how do we stand in victory in this battle? Look at what Galatians teaches us.

19  Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20  idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21  envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:19-25 (NKJV)

Here Paul contrasts the ‘works’ of the flesh with the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit and encourages us to walk in the spirit. When we do we enforce Jesus victory and the fruit of the Spirit is seen in our lives. Once we have been born again the works of the flesh are not who we are inside, we have Jesus nature in our spirits and that is what we need to declare using the sword of the Spirit, His word (Eph. 6:17).

A simple example, Paul’s Galatians list is illustrative not exhaustive. So, use anger/frustration with someone you have a close relationship with. If that is something we are feeling it does not come from Christ in us (Col. 1:27). So we declare in the spirit realm that we choose to walk in love toward this person and say to ourselves, and by extension the spiritual realm opposed to our victory walk, that we will act in and think in an attitude of love toward the individual. Something like, “Jesus, I thank You that Your love has been poured out in my heart (Rom. 5:5) and in You I have the capacity to walk in love toward XXX. So I choose this love now. I release from my spirit love for them.”

I leave further applications to you. This example is merely to prime the pump and provide a theological underpinning for a simple practical way to live out the reality of what Paul presents in Ephesians 6. True warfare is not some odd mystical expression (not that I am opposed to mystical experiences, I enjoy them) but a simple practical faith lived out in the real world revealing Jesus to those around us.

Enjoy this aspect of walking in and communing with the Spirit!

The Communion of the Spirit Part 3

How does communion with the Spirit relate to revelation in/from the bible? For me it flows from being with Him. Those of you who know me know that I am very rooted in the scriptures. Depending on our gifts and calling our relationship to His word will vary. I know that personally mine needs to be strong as it is inextricably linked to my calling in the area of teaching. One of the things I find is that He (the Holy Spirit) often speaks to me as I read His word. Let me illustrate starting with the scripture below.

33  Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, But what is in the heart of fools is made known. Proverbs 14:33 (NKJV)

On the surface this tells us that those who have understanding possess wisdom that rests in their hearts and fools do not hang onto wisdom. That is a fine and accurate application and interpretation of the verse. Yet one day when reading this a number of years ago what dropped into my heart is that Jesus rests in the heart of those who have understanding. Now every time I read or think about this verse that reality is alive in me.

So how did I get to what this scripture does not overtly say? Not from a commentary, I rarely read them. I do however spend time in His word. See the verses below.

30  But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption – 31  that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 (NKJV)

Now meditate on this phrase, “Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God.” If Jesus is wisdom, and He is, then He rests in the heart of believers who understand this, hence my personal application of Proverbs 14:33.

There is another verse on wisdom below.

20  There is desirable treasure, And oil in the dwelling of the wise, But a foolish man squanders it. Proverbs 21:20 (NKJV)

On the surface we see that the wise possess natural treasures, the fruit of godly practical wisdom. However, every time I read this verse I think of the spiritually wise possessing/carrying anointing and spiritual wisdom. This doesn’t deny the natural practical meaning but it does add a deeper understanding and application.

The basic principle in what I am sharing is in Deuteronomy. This was Jesus favourite book to quote from in His earthly ministry.

29  The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29 (NKJV)

What we know by revelation has a much greater hold on our heart than what we know by reason. After all, there is the old saying, ‘A man with an experience has no mercy for a man with an argument!’ I pray that as you spend time in communion with the Spirit you receive revelation that more deeply roots you in your calling and purpose!

The Communion of the Spirit Part 2

When we think of communion with the Spirit there is a phrase that comes to mind that I read about three decades ago. It was in a little booklet on Christian meditation. There was a phrase that said, “We use the imagination to descend with the mind into the heart.” My own experience is that when I embrace this practice, which I consider to be a practical truth, I encounter the Holy Spirit. If we consider the facts we know that He is in us revealing Christ (Col. 1:27) and guiding us into all truth. 

17  the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:17 (NKJV)

26  But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. John 15:26 (NKJV)

13  However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14  He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. John 16:13-14 (NKJV)

So back to my experience. When I use my imagination to descend with my mind into my heart I encounter the Holy Spirit within, unveiling Jesus and His character. Practically it is simply a matter of turning within and letting my attention settle into my spirit which is experientially located in the core of my being (see Prov. 20:27). My qualifier is that whatever I experience or hear I need to weigh against His word. At the same time whether walking, in the middle of a conversation, weighing a situation – I, and you, can commune with the Holy Spirit to receive guidance and in the process either maintain our heart at rest if it is already there or bring it to rest if it is not already there. 

So, enjoy your heart at rest in Him.

The Communion of the Spirit Part 1

How much time do most of us spend reflecting on this verse, particularly the last phrase?

14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NKJV)

This verse references the Trinity in the reference to Jesus, God (the Father) and the Spirit. Paul prayed that all of the Corinthians would experience the communion of the Holy Spirit. What does that mean? How do we apply it? Let’s begin with the meaning and usage of the word in the NT. The range of meanings is below.

  1. κοινωνία koinōnia noun

Communion, association, partnership, fellowship, sharing, contribution.

The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary

The idea of communion, fellowship and mutual participation was a key concept in the early church and was captured by the term koinonia. The word koinonia is used 19 times in the NT, 13 of which are in Paul’s writings. 7 of the 19 references are to our fellowship with one of the three persons of the Trinity. One of those references is in Philippians where it is translated as ‘fellowship of the Spirit.’

1  Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2  fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:1-4 (NKJV)

Koinonia refers to relationship, connection, fellowship, interaction and interchange. Thus inherent in Paul’s prayer for us to experience the ‘communion of the Spirit’ is to understand two things; the need to develop an actual relationship of communion with the Spirit and the need to have the Spirit mediate our relationships with others through our submission to His leading.

Implicit in these ideas is our need to be aware of His indwelling presence. To understand our communion with the Spirit it is helpful to first reflect on what happened at our conversion. We were born again and His Spirit replaced our Spirit. We received a new spirit, His, in our innermost being (2 Cor. 5:17, 21).

Thus I believe a key factor in growing communion is a growing embracing of the reality of “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). I believe that if we are not already walking in this reality then to grow in communion with the Spirit we need to start by recognizing and thanking Him for His indwelling presence and expecting our relationship with Him to grow. These are the first steps.

More to come…

Knowing our Source Part 2

I said that in this post I would look at the role of our Father in Ephesians 1. In my experience most people when they pray for wisdom and revelation relate this to Jesus. However, let’s look at the passage and the context. I have added names/titles in brackets to make the passage clearer.

17  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (the Father), 18  the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His (the Father’s) calling, what are the riches of the glory of His (the Father’s) inheritance in the saints, 19  and what is the exceeding greatness of His (the Father’s) power toward us who believe, according to the working of His (the Father’s) mighty power 20  which He (the Father) worked in Christ when He (the Father) raised Him (Jesus) from the dead and seated Him (Jesus) at His (the Father’s) right hand in the heavenly places, 21  far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. Ephesians 1:17-21 (NKJV)

Paul starts by praying that the Father would give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation. In context Paul is praying this for the believers in Ephesus. We can apply it to our lives because while it wasn’t written to us, it was written for us. So the first thing we see is that the source of the wisdom and revelation we seek is our Father. Everything here is about what the Father is doing and when we recognize that Paul is praying that we would possess wisdom and revelation about His way we begin to see that He is the source, the strategic planner and the one behind all that happened prior to creation, through creation and on into eternity. Look at the passage below, the context being what Jesus does at His return, His second coming.

24  Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25  For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26  The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27  For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28  Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 (NKJV)

Jesus work of salvation was accomplished in the cross and through His resurrection (25  who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. Romans 4:25 NKJV). His final act in this grand drama of salvation and redemption will be handing everything over to His Father. When we understand that our Father is the source and culmination of everything we can, in agreement with what Jesus spoke, declare – “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” (Matt. 6:9-10, Lk. 11:2) and understand the passion of Jesus heart wrapped up in this expression! In doing so we bring delight to our Father’s heart.

8  The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight. Proverbs 15:8 (NKJV)

 

Knowing our Source Part 1

As we come to the end of another year it means we are also at the beginning of a new year. It seems appropriate in this season that we understand our heavenly Father. At times we use the word Abba to refer to Him but the original Hebrew word is Ab. So what does it mean? The word Ab, father, is first used in Genesis 2:24 where Adam refers to a man leaving his father and mother. The term father is applied to Yahweh a few places in the OT, three of which are in Psalms.

5  A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation. Psalm 68:5 (NKJV)

26  He shall cry to Me, ‘You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.’ Psalm 89:26 (NKJV)

13  As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. Psalm 103:13 (NKJV)

The meaning of the word Ab is to be a father, ancestor or progenitor. In 1 Samuel 25:14 we are introduced to Abigail, who later became one of David’s wives. Her name means father or source of joy or delight.

So why bring in Abigail when talking about fathers? To highlight that the word Ab is not focused on gender. Ab captures not just the idea of being a father or ancestor, it is also about being a source. I believe our Father wants us to know that He is our source. No matter what other places, people or things we look to, He wants us to know that He is our true source. That means He is the origin of our life, the source that sustains us and our future provision.

So as we end this year I pray that as we look back we will see how He has sustained us and as we look forward we will anticipate Him sustaining us in the coming year.

In my next post I will open up Ephesians 1 in relation to the role of our Father.

Two Realities Part 4

I noted that in this post I would look at the eternal internal realm we are called to live from. Hebrew 4 references this reality.

8  For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9  There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10  For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11  Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12  For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. 14  Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Hebrews 4:8-14 (NKJV)

There is a lot in this passage but the key is the last phrase in the last verse, “let us hold fast our confession.” Confession of what? The context above connects rest to salvation yet few Christians I know believe in or function from this rest. Why is that? One, I think it is because we don’t believe it and two, if we do believe it we don’t hold fast to believing it.

There are external realities and eternal internal realities. It is a question of which are we holding fast to and confessing. There is war, famine, murder and a host of other evils in the world. That is part of the external reality we face. We also have very good experiences of love, pleasure and peace, other aspects of our external reality. These things change, ebb and flow. They are neither static nor eternal. Yet, in the midst of these things we are called to live from the eternal internal reality. The scriptures below are a sample of the eternal internal reality we possess.

4  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, Ephesians 1:4 (NKJV)

5  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), Ephesians 2:5 (NKJV)

2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2 (NKJV)

18  We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 1 John 5:18 (NKJV)

1  If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NKJV)

The scriptures above are in the order they appear in the NT with the exception of the last passage because it sums up the reality of the rest. We are to set our thinking and affections on things above. If we let scripture inform scripture we can see how this was laid out in the OT.

3  And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” Isaiah 6:3 (NKJV)

13  Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts That the peoples labor to feed the fire, And nations weary themselves in vain? 14  For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:13-14 (NKJV)

In the two passages above Isaiah had a prophetic encounter where he was experiencing the reality of the eternal internal realm. This is what lives within the one who has been born again! Habakkuk was sharing what we see from an external perspective. He saw from an earthly perspective what would be unveiled in the fullness of time. Isaiah was exposed to what was from an eternal perspective. Our perspective determines whether we function from rest. We need to exercise effort to stay in rest but it changes how we see. So, what perspective do we have? Are we regularly living from the reality of the eternal internal realm?

Two Realities Part 3

A key step in understanding the idea of two realities is Jesus interaction with Nicodemus in John 3.

3  Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4  Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5  Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John 3:3-5 (NKJV)

When Jesus spoke of seeing the kingdom and then followed it up with referring to entering the kingdom was He just being casual in His speech or simply referring to conversion as seeing and death/translation as entering the kingdom? Prior to answering that, in the spirit of letting scripture interpret scripture, what did Paul say about the kingdom of God?

17  for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17 (NKJV)

In describing the kingdom Paul referred to a state of being rather than a place. When Jesus spoke of ‘seeing’ the meaning of the word in Greek in this context is that of perceiving or realizing something. Jesus was telling Nicodemus, and by extension us, that we need to be born again to perceive the activity of the kingdom in our lives. The word ‘enter’ means simply that, to enter or go into.

So why the distinction? I believe we can be born again and become aware of another reality. This is like the key to unlock the door. We have arrived at the door and opened it. We now look into this strange new building and become aware of activity that is new and wonderful. However, we now have a choice as to whether we continue through the doorway. How do we know if we have entered into the kingdom? We look at whether our lives are marked by what Paul described. Do kingdom realities pervade out thoughts and actions? Does His presence and purpose overshadow our life? Do we have a desire for His word and worship? Are our thoughts drawn to Jesus presence during the day? Do we look forward to just being with Him?

These things mark whether we have learned to live in these two realities that mark our lives once we have crossed the threshold through the new birth.

In my next post I will look at the eternal internal realm we are called to live from.