The Hidden Person of the Heart Part 1

In both our current church and secular cultures we tend to focus on outward manifestations and experiences. To what end? Why not give more attention to internal realities? Consider the importance of Peter’s instruction below.

3  Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – 4  rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Pet. 3:4 (NKJV)

While the focus of Peter’s instruction is to wives in relationship to their husbands, the wise will discern that this instruction applies to all of us. Why? Simply because Peter is highlighting the importance of inward realities. Jesus said the same thing when He told His first century hearers, and by extension us,

33  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matt. 6:33 (NKJV)

So how much time do we spend developing our inner man and what process do we use? Why is it important? I think the answer to the questions I have posed are;

  • Daily,
  • We need to spend focused time drawing near to His presence, and
  • We are called to be changed from ‘glory to glory’ (what we carry from time into eternity is the character of Jesus that has been formed in us in our life on earth).

Paul prayed that the Ephesians would experience inner transformation and the prayer is applicable to all believers today. We have the same need.

16  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, Eph. 3:16-17 (NKJV)

How does this happen? Think about seeing a beautiful sunset, a painting or some other piece of art that seems to arrest your heart. Why does it do that? It resonates with something in our hearts, we are drawn to it. Are we drawn to Jesus presence in the same way? If not can we be?

We can. Part of the process is joining in Paul’s prayer above, another part is choosing to just focus on and sit with Him. We will find our hearts regularly drawn to Jesus. After all, in the midst of a very busy life as administrator of a kingdom David expressed it this way.

4  One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple. Psalm 27:4 (NKJV)

In the midst of his very demanding life how did he arrive at this point? He answered that question for us. He prized Yahweh’s presence over convenience.

8  When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.” Psalm 27:8 (NKJV)

Let us respond when He calls.

NOTE – a small book (12 pages) that is very helpful in this regard is an old one called The Changed Life by Henry Drummond. If any of you are interested please send me an email and I will email you a Word version.

Pursuing His Presence Part 5

I want to further pursue understanding our gifts and callings. There are some different gift lists in the New Testament.

4  For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5  so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7  or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8  he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:4-8 (NKJV)

6  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8  for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10  to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11  But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 1 Corinthians 12:6-11 (NKJV)

11  And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12  for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, Ephesians 4:11-12 (NKJV)

10  As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11  If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NKJV)

There are a few things to consider here. Generally the five-fold ministries listed in Ephesians 4 are viewed as leadership roles in the church while the gifts in Romans 12 are viewed as motivational, our natural bent. Another piece is that the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 support the callings in Romans and Ephesians. For example, if someone has a prophetic bent or calling they tend to function in the revelatory gifts from 1 Corinthians 12 such as words of wisdom, words of knowledge and the discerning of spirits. These gifts support a prophetic ministry or bent, though they are not exclusive to the prophetic.

As a side note, while many want to view prophesying as preaching, the language used in 1 Corinthians 12 does not allow for it. The Greek word used to refer to spontaneously speaking in tongues is the same word use to refer to prophesying. It is God’s mind in the moment not a planned or prepared sermon that is the fruit of study and research. I am not disparaging these things as what I have just shared is the result of my research. I am simply calling for an accurate application of the scriptures.

The last point to be made here is that Peter says all of these gifts are to be stewarded by the recipient for the glory of God. To that end I encourage you to join me in some things I regularly pray for from a corporate or church body perspective. The supporting scriptures follow each prayer point.

O Holy Spirit

  • Open our understanding, establish our hearts in a flow of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Yourself; enlighten our hearts to see in the spirit, bear Your burdens and discern in love.  Eph. 1:17, Phil. 1:9-11, Col. 1:9-11
  • Release grace and supplication as You intercede in and through us to bring about Your strategic and corporate purposes in the earth. Zech. 12:10, Rom. 8:26, Eph. 6:18
  • Draw our hearts into intimacy and intercession throughout the day, unveil Your divine strategy to make us effective in the demonstration of Your kingdom. Eph. 6:18, 1 Thess. 5:17
  • Release Your fiery grace and the passion and interchange within the Godhead deeply into our hearts – impart a deep, pure and abiding passion for Jesus. Shepherd our hearts into abiding in You. Ezek. 8:2-4, 2 Tim. 2:1, Acts 2:2-4, Jn. 15:7-8
  • Reveal Jesus in His passion, zeal, wisdom, power and purity – to humble us and establish our hearts in Your graciousness, dignity and strength. Phil. 1:9-11, Col. 3:16, Rev. 1:12-16
  • Awaken our hearts, stir up and release the gifts You have placed within us. Awaken within us a passion to fulfill the purposes You have called us to through Your word. Col. 4:17, 1 Tim. 1:18, 4:14-16, 2 Tim. 1:6, 2:1, 4:5

Pursuing His Presence Part 4

I ended my last post saying, “Do we see our purpose and calling in His Word? It is there.” So how do we find it? I love spending time in the mountains and woods and have many times been far from anywhere. In the forest it is easy to walk in roundabout ways and think you are covering a great distance, which you may be, and yet not really go very far because you are not taking a direct route. It is the nature of hills, valleys and trees. Something that can help is a compass, yet I have rarely used one, what I look for is a reference point I can line up or connect with.

So, what is our reference point to identify our calling in the scriptures? How do we know we are responding to His call on our lives? One reference point is understanding the inextricable link between gifts and calling.

29  For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Rom. 11:29 (NKJV)

While this verse is about the calling of Yahweh on the nation of Israel, the broader principle is that gifts and callings go together. The Holy Spirit releases gifts in our lives that support our calling. If we look at our natural bent and inclinations we can better identify our calling. If I use my own life as an example, I struggle not to teach but don’t at times because much of it can be unwanted advice, or be rooted in judgment, the dangerous potential downside of a teaching gift. At the same time I constantly see opportunities to help or do things in different ways. I also have a seeming built in desire to help and encourage others, often through prayer ministry. Gifts that operates in my life to support that calling are words of knowledge and words of wisdom (1 Cor. 12:8). In this case I prayed for the release of these gifts, and still do, because I wanted to help others.

If we want to understand our calling we need to only look at where our hearts are drawn. At the same time we will also go through challenges, struggles and failures in the process. That is pretty much guaranteed. There is an old adage in football, ‘keep falling forward.’ The idea is that every time you are tackled and brought to the ground if you fall forward, over the course of the game it can make the difference between winning and losing.

So did Peter, Andrew, James and John know what they were getting into when Jesus asked them to follow Him and become fishers of men? Did they fall forward? Peter is famous for his failures and we can perhaps learn as much or more from his failures as from his successes.

Did Peter fully understand his calling? The plain answer is no, just as many of us struggle to understand our callings. One thing that causes much unnecessary soul searching is the sermons on how the early disciples just dropped everything and followed Jesus as soon as He called them. These messages are generally based on Matthew 4:17-22 or Mark. 1:14-20 and sometimes the parallel passage in Luke 5:1-11. Now some of Jesus followers did immediately drop everything and follow Him as soon as He called, I am not negating that, what I am challenging is the message that this was the norm. I have heard a few of these sermons and while they are well intentioned they all demonstrate a lack of scriptural knowledge or understanding. Why do I say that?

For one thing, a number of Jesus early followers had already been followers of John the Baptist, they were ripe and ready for Jesus, John had been preparing them (Jn. 1:35-50) and they already knew one another. The events in the first chapter of John happened near Bethabara (Jn. 1:28) not far from Jerusalem and very near to where the Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea. The events in John 1 took place before Jesus called Andrew, Peter, James and John away from their fishing in the Matthew, Mark and Luke passages. This calling took place in northern Israel on the Sea of Galilee, which is where Peter, James, John, Andrew and Phillip were from. Peter, Andrew and Phillip, and likely James and John, were from Bethsaida on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee (Jn. 1:44).

So we don’t need to lose heart if we don’t fully respond to Jesus the first time in everything. We also don’t need to lost heart if we don’t fully understand our calling. Our primary calling is to follow Him. None of these men knew they were going to be the apostles of the early church. They knew they needed to follow the calling of their hearts to follow Jesus. When we do that the other parts emerge over time if we keep falling forward. Only Jesus ever fully fulfilled His calling. Peter failed many times, Paul had to publicly rebuke him (Gal. 2:11-21). Paul missed it and said Satan hindered him (1 Thess.2:18). He also spent time trying to go places the Holy Spirit didn’t want he and his team to go (Acts 16:6-10).

My point, we can discern our general purpose and calling by following where He is leading our hearts. We know He has called all of us to share the gospel and disciple others (Matt. 28:18-20). We will do this to varying degrees but we all have it as part of our calling. Some will pair this calling with a teaching gift, some with an evangelistic gift, some with a gift of helps or others. The Great Commission isn’t for all of us to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers. It is a call to be faithful with what He has given us.

Finally, part of a prayer document I developed over the years includes this regular prayer of mine, “Father, I ask for continual growth in openness and sensitivity to the realm of Your Spirit and an awareness of my place, purpose and destiny in You (Eph. 1:17-23, 1 Jn. 2:20, 27).”

I encourage you to join me in this prayer and to pursue walking with Him each day.

Pursuing His Presence Part 3

Having spent the last two posts looking at what is in the Word I now want to look at how some key figures in scripture lived out of and by the Word. What do Josiah and John the Baptist have in common? They both saw themselves in the scriptures.

We will start with John since he is so familiar to the church. The verse below was quoted a number of times in the New Testament.

3  The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God.” Is. 40:3 (NKJV)

This verse is part of a longer passage where Isaiah begins to speak comfort to Israel and prophesies a future hope.

The Gospel writers, Matthew (3:3), Mark (1:3) and Luke 3:4-6) all speak to this after the fact and reference John’s ministry as the fulfillment of what Isaiah prophesied. What is more interesting in John is that when asked who he was John the Baptist answered.

23  He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the LORD,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” Jn. 1:23 (NKJV)

John embraced the scriptures as a heart level and thus was able to see his own calling and purpose in them.

What of Josiah? Josiah was the greatest reformer and revivalist in the history of the kings of Judah. Jeremiah the prophet extoled Josiah’s virtues (Jer. 22:15) and lamented his death (2 Chron. 35:25). The scriptures provide this testimony.

25  Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him. 2 Kings 23:25 (NKJV) 

Josiah became king at age 8 and became a great reformer at age 26 when the Book of the Law was found in the temple and read to him. Scripture doesn’t tell us what portion of the law of Moses was found or whether there were more than the books of the law. Did Josiah have the following read to him? Is it what launched his great reforms and revivals?

1  And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the LORD, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. 2  Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’ ” 1 Kings 13:1-2 (NKJV)

This prophecy was given over 3 centuries before Josiah was born. Was Josiah a passionate fiery reformer because he, like John the Baptist, saw his calling in the scriptures? Do we see our purpose and calling in His Word? It is there.