A Woman, a Well, and…?

The story of the woman at the well, as it is known, is very common in Christian circles. It is not a parable, it is a record of an actual event that took place. While we can read the story in a few minutes understanding something of the cultural context will help us better understand what took place. The basic facts,

  • The woman was a Samaritan,
  • Samaritans do not interact with Jews
  • Jesus was a Jew
  • The woman had five different husbands
  • She was now living with a man who was not her husband
  • The whole community knew who she was and were familiar with her history

An important factor is that in the culture of the day woman had no right to divorce men. Men initiated the divorce. This tells us two things about this woman. The first is that all five of her husbands must have found something desirable in her to marry her, particularly as one went further down the husband list! The second is that they all found some reason to divorce her. We don’t need to speculate on what that was, we just need to know that she experienced ongoing rejection from everyone who married her. It would strain credibility to believe they all just dropped dead and that is why she kept remarrying.

So what can we learn from this scene. Let’s start with the key verses.

1  Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2  (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), 3  He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4  But He needed to go through Samaria. John 4:1-4 (NKJV)

Jesus needed to go through Samaria. Why? The religious people of the day went out of their way to go around Samaria (see verse 9). Jesus needed to go because He was not religious, He was free, and because He had an appointment at a well.

6  Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7  A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8  For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9  Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10  Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11  The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12  Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” 13  Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14  but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” 15  The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” 16  Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17  The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18  for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” 19  The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22  You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25  The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” John 4:6-26 (NKJV)

39  And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40  So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41  And many more believed because of His own word. 42  Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” John 4:39-42 (NKJV)

We know that as a result of this encounter with Jesus this unnamed woman moved from religion to life, she found living water, and she found the freedom Jesus modeled as she became a passionate evangelist sharing openly the good news of her heart issues being revealed, which means her heart must have also been healed. Something about Jesus drew her into the conversation. We know it was not His appearance as Isaiah said there was nothing in His physical appearance to draw us to Him (2  For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. Isaiah 53:2 NKJV). It must have been her heart that was drawn.

So, how many of us are like this woman? We have had to deal with issues of religion, rejection or conflict, sometimes all interrelated, and need our hearts healed. Are we ready like her to come and drink of this living water and let it flow through our hearts bringing cleansing and healing? We may have been a Christian for years but still need our hearts healed, or we may have at one time had a free heart that now needs to be healed. Whatever the case there are two things I know for sure.

  1. He is able
  2. He is willing

Come drink – not once but continually.

On Dove’s and Ravens

In Genesis after the flood Noah sent out a raven and a dove. Their behaviour is illustrative of spiritual truth. Ever wonder why the dove returned and the raven did not?

6  So it came to pass, at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made. 7  Then he sent out a raven, which kept going to and fro until the waters had dried up from the earth. 8  He also sent out from himself a dove, to see if the waters had receded from the face of the ground. 9  But the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, and she returned into the ark to him, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her, and drew her into the ark to himself. Genesis 8:6-9 (NKJV)

The context of the above passage is after many months in the Ark the waters began to recede and mountaintops could be seen. This is when Noah sent out the raven and the dove. If the raven could find a place to rest why couldn’t the dove find a ‘resting place for the soul of her foot?’ The simple answer is that ravens eat carrion and there would have been plenty of dead carcasses still floating around. The dead carcasses in spiritual terms speak of our flesh. The Holy Spirit will not rest upon and bless our flesh. We may protest that Acts 2 tells us otherwise. I will come to that.

  1. σρξ sarx noun

Flesh, human, mortal nature, physical life.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Sigma-Omega.

The Greek word sarx is used in the New Testament to refer to both our physical body and natural sinful propensities. Paul created this latter usage in his writing with numerous phrases such as the ones below.

4  that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:4 (NKJV) 16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:16-18 (NKJV)

Here Paul extrapolates from the use of the term to refer to our physical body to have it refer to our natural sinful tendencies that are at odds with the desires of the Holy Spirit. Thus we can have Paul using the term the way he does above, with Luke writing in Acts and quoting Peter using it to refer to our natural physical body.

17  ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. Acts 2:17 (NKJV)

A very interesting side note here is that most people associate this outpouring of the Spirit upon humanity as tied to the release of spiritual gifts. Yet Peter was not making that connection – he was connecting the release of spiritual gifts with conversion! This may seem like a small point but it is crucial. We tend to see the release or development of spiritual gifts as a post conversion experience. Peter quoted Joel to explain what had happened to the 120 when the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost and birthed the church. Peter then explicitly connected the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to conversion.

38  Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39 (NKJV)

So back to our dove. The dove represents the Holy Spirit here in Genesis and at Jesus baptism (please note that the dove is only one of a number of representations of the Holy Spirit). The dove will not rest upon carrion, If we want the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives He will come and impart new life, we will be born again and receive Jesus nature in our spirit. Yet the Holy Spirit will never be comfortable with our flesh, our sinful propensities. He is the third member of the Godhead and while He may release gifts through us He will not find a resting place for the sole of His feet as long as we choose carrion over Him. We may have moments of His presence but He desires a resting place.

I remember once hearing a story from a missionary. He and his wife were on the mission field and a dove kept coming to sit on their balcony. At the time they were going through some marital struggles and noticed that every time they argued the dove left. They liked the dove and concluded that the dove represented the Holy Spirit being with them. They also concluded that since the dove was not going to change if they wanted the dove’s presence they needed to change their behaviour, they did. Let Isaiah express Yahweh’s heart in this manner.

1  Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? 2  For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the LORD. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word. Isaiah 66:1-2 (NKJV)

Do we want to be His resting place?

PS – your comments on this or any other post are welcome. I think that creates a dialogue that helps us grow in Him and that is my goal in what I write.

What’s in the Mirror?

Ever have the experience of suddenly seeing a scripture in a new light? Like driving down a familiar street and seeing something and saying to yourself or someone else, “Is that new?” and discovering that in fact it has been there all the time. I had one of those experiences recently. I have taught on 2 Corinthians 3:18 many times and have read it numerous more times and quoted it to myself out loud and in my head many more times. If it sounds like I think this verse is important – the answer is yes. So there I was recently on vacation and I find my thinking often shifts when I allow myself to relax (how do I live like that every day?) and I saw this verse in a new way.

So what did I see? Glad you were wondering! Look at the verse below.

18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

Anything particularly remarkable in it? On the surface there isn’t. Yet we all know that if we look in a mirror we see ourselves. Yet this verse suggests that I can look in a mirror and see Jesus. How does this work?

23  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24  for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. James 1:23-25 (NKJV)

James, Jesus half-brother, said that if we want to see something different in the mirror we need to be intentional in our looking. This is an important point as mirrors in Paul’s time were made of polished metal, thus they did not provide a really clear reflection and you needed to look carefully in them. That is why Paul referred to seeing in a mirror ‘dimly’ (1 Cor. 13:12). So while we can behold Him the reflection is not clear but we can see Him in us. We can also know that as we choose to gaze at Him both in the word and in just sitting before Him that the Holy Spirit is changing us ‘from glory to glory.’

So let’s look at Him and remember what Paul said,

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. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. Colossians 1:27-28 (NKJV)

Paul believed that as we focused on Him we grew up in Him. I can focus on Him in a mirror because He is in me. It is also evident that what we focus on grows in our lives, whether good or bad, because we are sowing into the place and point of our focus. So let us look in the mirror and simultaneously gaze upon Jesus and see Him in us. We can do what David described.

5 They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed. Psalm 34:5 (NKJV)

As a closing thought here is a song a good friend sent me that speaks to this post.

I’ve Seen I Am by Jonathan David Helser, the link is below.

 

What is Required?

Micah 6:8 has been said to be a summary of the ethical requirement of the entire law and prophets, that is, the Old Testament.

8  He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (NKJV)

Micah tells us that we have already been shown in the Old Testament what need to know to live a godly life. In the New Testament John reinforces this concept.

16  And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18  No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. John 1:16-18 (NKJV)

So we have what we need to know and know what we need to do. We are to act justly, be merciful and walk in humility. We may wonder what that looks like in practice. For example, one person may say allowing abortion is bringing justice and mercy to the mother who does not want an unborn child, though they would likely use the term ‘fetus’ because it is less personal and sounds more like tissue than a person. However, how is this just for the unborn child? It clearly isn’t. It is an act of unsanctified mercy, a term I will explore further later as it is very prevalent in our culture. First, seeing that living out Micah 6:8 requires a bit more examination let’s look at the key words – shown, justly, mercy, humbly.

The word shown in Hebrew is below.

  1. ‏ָנגַד‎ nāghadh, verb, to announce, to tell, to report, to explain

The primary meaning of this verb, attested principally in the Hiphil stem, is “to inform.” It can simply refer to disseminating previously unknown information (e.g., Ruth 3:16), or it can have the more emphatic nuance of “to announce” (e.g., Isa. 41:22) or “to proclaim” (42:12). An extension of this nuance is “to praise,” found in a number of Psalms (e.g., 30:9) and in Isaiah (48:20). Indeed, the heavens nonverbally proclaim the glory of Yahweh (Ps. 19:1). The participle can denote a herald (2 Sam 15:13). It can have the nuance of “to answer” questions (2 Chr. 9:2).

Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Nun-Ayin.

Some bibles translate this Hebrew word as shown in Micah 6:8 and some as told. The meaning in context is that what Yahweh requires is plain for all who want to know (see the first 3 chapters of Romans where Paul lays out all that has been shown particularly 1:18-20).

18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19  because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, Romans 1:18-20 (NKJV)

The meaning of justly is as follows.

  1. ‏מִשְׁפָּט‎ mishpāt noun, judgment, justice, ordinance

God’s kind of decisions are always just (Gen. 18:19, 25). Therefore, mishpāt involves dispensing justice and was a strong part of the prophets’ messages as they called the backslidden covenant people, and especially their leaders, back to his ways (Isa. 1:21; Amos 5:24; Mic. 3:1, 8; 6:8). It is a description of good government. Ultimately, the coming Servant of the Lord was to establish it in the earth (Isa. 42:3f). When God’s decisions, which reveal his character and deal with sin, are in the world, people learn righteousness (Isa. 26:9). Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Kaph-Mem.

In essence doing justly is walking according to Yahweh’s character, which is revealed in His laws and ordinances. However, rigidly following the law can make us into Pharisees. The term means ‘separated ones’ and the focus of the Pharisees was on what they were separated from. They sought to live pure and holy lives by focusing on what they weren’t rather than on who Yahweh called them to be. It is enlightening to see the change Paul highlighted in himself in Romans.

1  Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God Romans 1:1 (NKJV)

 

When Paul was converted from a Pharisee to a believer in Yeshua he shifted his focus from what he was separated from to who he was separated to! As Christians we can functionally be Pharisees if our focus is still on all the things we don’t do as believers rather than a focus on our relationship with Jesus.

Our next word from Micah is mercy.

  1. ‏חֶסֶד‎ chesedh noun, grace, steadfast love

One of the most important words in the Hebrew Bible is chesedh, meaning “kindness,” “mercy,” “loyalty” or “steadfast love.” When chesedh is used to describe an attribute of God, it becomes a key theological term for understanding the nature of God as presented in the OT, especially in relation to being faithful to covenants and true to his word. Chesedh is used by a wide variety of OT authors, occurring in twenty-eight of the thirty-nine OT Books. It occurs most frequently in the Psalms (127 times).

The fourth, and most important way that chesedh is used in the Hebrew Bible is in the theological context of describing a characteristic of God himself. In this area, chesedh is one of the most important theological terms in all of Scripture, giving an insight into the very essence of God. In the midst of tragedy, Lam. 3:22 proclaims that the chesedh of the Lord never ceases, that the Lord’s mercy is unending. The sense of chesedh here is of the inexhaustible quality of God’s “covenant fidelity” to his people.

Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Heth-Yodh.

In essence when Micah exhorts us to love mercy he is telling us we are to function like Yahweh. In the record of the Old Testament we can see numerous examples of His mercy to individuals and to Israel as a nation when He continually sent them prophets to warn them to change their ways and delayed judgment to give them time to repent. We are called to act in such a way toward others that we always seek to bring out the best in them and as part of enacting justice to remember that ‘mercy triumphs over judgment.’

13  For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13 (NKJV)

 

Justice and mercy are best walked out in humility.

7076. ‏צָנַע‎ tsānaʿ Verb to act humbly

 

Mic. 6:8 and to walk humbly with thy God?

The verb tsānaʿ occurs only in Mic. 6:8 and means “to act in a humble manner.”

Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Pe-Resh.

What is humility? I think a good scriptural description is in 1 John and Isaiah.

4  You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 (NKJV)

15  For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not, Isaiah 30:15 (NKJV)

John is communicating that our confidence needs to lie not in our abilities but in Christ in us. Isaiah expresses a similar thought. The returning and rest is returning to a place of trust and quiet confidence in His protection and enabling. So, humility is not a lack of confidence, it is a transfer of confidence from our abilities to Yahweh’s, pride is confidence in our ability to do things independent of Him in our own strength. When examining our gifts and abilities Paul encouraged us to do this in a humble manner.

3  For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:3 (NKJV)

10  Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; Romans 12:10 (NKJV)

Lastly, I believe there is significance in the order of Micah 6:8. In the application of justice we need to apply mercy with humility, for example Jesus response to the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Jesus was merciful and a grave injustice there would have been to punish the woman according to the law when those who brought her claimed she had been caught in the ‘act’ but never brought the other guilty party, the man. In our application of mercy we need to be humble, knowing that under the right circumstances that may be us in need of mercy. As Paul said in Galatians 6.

1  Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Galatians 6:1 (NKJV)

 

So while we are to apply justice in mercy and humility we need to do it according to Yahweh’s standard. I referenced earlier the concept of unsanctified mercy. Let me clarify, our standards are not Jesus standards. We have a tendency in our culture of compromise and ‘tolerance’ to not want to challenge anything. Though as an interesting aside my experience has been in talking with those who promote tolerance that some of them are most intolerant people I have met, they will not tolerate me disagreeing with them. Our culture will not survive if we tolerate everything and we need to apply a standard in the administration of justice. However when we tolerate and support what the scriptures clearly say are wrong we are in opposition to Jesus, we are practicing an unsanctified or unholy mercy. We need to apply scriptural standards rather than cultural norms. Many times that requires both great courage and a great deal of prayer to do the right thing.

The other side of this coin is continuing to rightly apply the scriptures. A number of years ago a friend and I were invited to hear a guest speaker. It was a gathering of 30-50 people and the speaker was very serious and focused. In listening I could see that he was misusing the scriptures and was going to use select verses to prove that laughter and humour were ungodly and that we all needed to always be very serious and focused to be godly. At times we do, but that is not all there is to our faith. There was no evidence of joy or love in his talk so I interrupted and asked if I could ask a question. He said no, he would take questions at the end. Given where this was going I responded, “I might not be here at the end.” I wasn’t, there was no point in arguing with him as his mind was made up, wrongly so I am convinced. He at some level had some understanding of the law but was misapplying it and seemed to not grasp mercy or humility.

So let us endeavour to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Jesus, seeking to hear His heart in all situation and circumstances that we may continually re-present Him to a world that needs to know Him.

Meditate on These Things

Paul closes a teaching section with this exhortation.

8  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things. 9  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NKJV)

While this sounds very nice, how do we apply it in practice? Our first task is viewing the passage in context. My own experience, and that of many others, is that at times we try to apply some truth or principle in scripture and end in the place of frustration. If His word is true the often painful conclusion is that there is some problem at our end. So, let’s look at the context.

1  Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. 2  I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3  And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. 4  Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5  Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things. 9  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:1-9 (NKJV)

Paul begins this short teaching by telling us to stand fast in Jesus. He then tells us how. Our first task is laid out in verse 2. We need to be in unity with those we fellowship with. There is no guarantee we will ever be fully in unity on all matters but we need to be united in heart in terms of our relationship with Jesus. Paul reminds us that even if we do not agree here, if we know Jesus our names are written in the Book of Life there. Our next step is cultivating a worshiping and thankful heart. A by product of a worshiping and thankful heart is a gentle spirit. When we cultivate a life and habit of thankfulness the fruit of the Spirit is manifest in our lives, one aspect of which is gentleness. Why can we be gentle? Because Jesus is there empowering us. Flowing from this Paul tells us to replace anxiety, yes anxiety is not a fruit of the Spirit, with intercession. That is, instead of worrying or praying the problem, focus on His heart. The need for specificity in prayer is highlighted in the Amplified bible.

6  Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. Philippians 4:6 (AMP)

We are to be definite in our prayer life and blend thanksgiving with our prayers. Lastly, we need to walk as Paul walked, in obedience to Jesus and His word. My experience over the years is that often we look for the harvest at the same time as we sow the seed. Any good farmer will tell you that after you sow you need to watch over the crop and water and weed before you receive a harvest. Paul doesn’t spell that out here, though he does elsewhere in Galatians 6.

8  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:8-9 (NKJV)

The key to all of this is biblical meditation. Our hearts and thoughts focused on that which is good, true, right etc. Verse 8 covers all aspects of what we should dwell on in our thinking. This is where the battle lies, training our minds to focus on what is good, true and right. One example of doing this is gently and continually throughout the day drawing our hearts back to verse 5, Jesus is at hand and if we focus on His presence we can experience Him throughout the day whenever we focus on Him. We may not always strongly sense His presence but we can encounter Him when we turn to Him. As further explanation, biblical meditation means to think deeply on or ponder something. We need not breathe or sit in a special way to meditate on truth, though frankly sitting in a relaxed focused state is very helpful in encountering Jesus on a regular basis. As David wrote.

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)

To paraphrase David, we could say, ‘Be still and be intimate with Me.’ Engaging our minds to encounter Jesus is a series of right choices that produce a harvest over time. It is a relationship worth nurturing.

Blind Spots

Let me start by defining my term then applying it to leadership in our lives. By definition a blind spot is something we cannot see. It is similar to deception, the very nature of deception is that we are unaware of something or we would not be deceived. In driving we refer to blind spots where we may have a pillar or something else blocking our view as we drive. The point of blind spots is not that we cannot see, it is that we cannot see from certain perspectives or see certain aspects of things.

We generally view blind spots as something negative, and they usually are. On the other hand, trainers put blinders on race horses to avoid distractions and keep them focused on the task at hand. At times we may need to be blind to some things to accomplish our purpose. So while I acknowledge that, my focus is on how blind spots can hinder our walk with Jesus and how we can overcome them.

The classical example of blind spots in scripture is Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.

1  “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

This is probably the most frequently quoted passage of scripture by a certain group of people, those who are not Christians! It is also a great example of taking scripture out of context. The irony is that those who tell others they have no right to judge are simply demonstrating their own blind spot! In this passage is Jesus really telling us to never pass judgement on others? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical of Jesus since in verse 5 He accuses His hearers of hypocrisy? Isn’t that passing judgment? If Jesus could do it why can’t we? The answer is that we can. There are however some qualifiers. Prior to looking at them let me share some other scriptures to demonstrate the issue requires more than a surface look.

43  Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Luke 7:43 (NKJV) 24  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:24 (NKJV) 3  For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 1 Corinthians 5:3 (NKJV) 12  For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 1 Corinthians 5:12 (NKJV)

These passages, using the same Greek word as in Matthew 7:1, reinforce judging. So how do we reconcile these seemingly contradictory statements? We reconcile them by understanding what Jesus is getting at in Matthew 7 as there are other similar passages in the New Testament that warn us against passing judgment.

One of the ways we judge others wrongly is criticizing things we ourselves do. Paul addressed this in Romans as noted below. However I like the way I once heard Mike Bickle put it, “Our sins look terrible on other people.” His point was highlighting blind spots. We tend to find it easy to criticize others for the very things we practice while not seeing them in ourselves.

1  Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. Romans 2:1 (NKJV)

So how do we recognize and overcome blind spots? We can ask the Holy Spirit to show us, and He will, though frequently He will use other people. I recently had an experience where some colleagues at work pointed out that I regularly used the phrase ‘ya no.’ I was surprised by this on two fronts. One I was unaware that I had been using the phrase, and two, to reinforce Bickle’s point, I found it annoying when others did it! Once I became aware of this I stopped doing it, though I did catch myself a couple of times. The other aspect is why do I find this phrase annoying? I think it is because it reflects a lack of confidence or certainty in what we are saying and I don’t like seeing that in myself or others. Paul did say that we should let our yes be yes and our no be no.

So, back to the Matthew passage for a more in depth review to lead us into how to judge rightly.

1  “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

In context this passage is part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaching on how to live a right life with right heart attitudes. His point is similar to that of Paul in Romans 2:1, we tend to judge others without first examining our own heart. If our heart is wrong it distorts how we see. After all another part of this sermon says,

22  “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. Matthew 6:22 (NKJV)

Having a right heart attitude allows us to see clearly. Jesus other point in this passage is that in most cases when we remove the plank from our eyes what see in others tends to shrink. In the middle of writing this I read Rick Joyner’s new book, “Living Dangerously” where he addresses the factors behind the climate change debate. I highly recommend it. However what struck me as I was reading it was he also wrote about blind spots, yet was very gracious to those he disagreed with. He truly sought to practice the love described in 1 Corinthians.

4  Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV)

He wrote the book out of an experience of being part of the recent documentary James Cameron did on climate change. He provides a number of examples of those who simply could not see what was clearly in front of them because at a heart level they were already committed to another perspective. Without using the language he describes the function of our brain known as the Reticular Activating System. This function teaches us to pay attention to what we already believe and value because to pay attention we must filter the thousands of bits of information coming at us all of the time.

To overcome this requires a teachable spirit and a love of the truth. Have you ever helped a blind person across the street or through a difficult area? If so you helped them overcome their blind spot! In the same way to overcome our blind spots we generally need someone else to help us see. This is one role of the body of Christ. We need to be teachable and need others to be lovingly honesty in giving us feedback. Feedback about blind spots is usually hard to hear. I realized a number of years ago that the vast majority of people who request feedback are really asking for affirmation, and often reject or become offended by true honest feedback. So if we want to move beyond our blind spots we need humble hearts.

Where do You Dwell?

John is to me the most interesting of the four gospels and has the most unique material about Jesus life. A good example of interesting material in John is the verse below that took place right as Jesus began His public ministry.

38  Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” John 1:38 (NKJV)

How would we respond if Jesus appeared and said, “What do you seek?” The Greek meaning is below and what Jesus was really asking is, “What do you desire? What is important to you?”

  1. ζητω zēteō verb

Seek, look for, wish for, desire, inquire into or about.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Zeta-Kappa.

Hopefully we would respond like these two, one of which was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist when he asked this question so he was obviously looking for spiritual truth and reality, something beyond the normal synagogue routine. Their response, ‘Where are You staying?’ highlights their heart desire. The meaning of the Greek word is below.

  1. μνω menō verb

Remain, stay, stand fast, dwell, abide, continue, wait, last, endure, be permanent.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Lambda-Omicron.

They saw something in Jesus and simply wanted to be where Jesus was, they wanted to dwell with Jesus. To better understand this let me go back to a key section on His dwelling presence in the Old Testament.

Over the years I have many times shared my thoughts on Exodus 33-34 and I have taught on it a couple of times. It is also about a mountaintop experience but I think one where most times the main message is missed. The real message, which I will lay out in more detail, is that His presence is the gateway to intimacy, not the goal. Let me say that again, His presence is the gateway to intimacy! Think back to Andrew and the unknown disciple from above. They wanted to be in Jesus presence to intentionally interact with Him. Being in His presence was not their end goal; it was the beginning of developing a relationship with Him.

In our present church life we need the manifest presence of Yahweh in our midst, and need to seek His face. The surrounding culture has gotten into the church far more than we as the church have transformed the culture. We need more of Him to see this change. At the same time we need to avoid the presumption that experiencing His presence and seeing Him move in our midst means we know His ways!

Let’s examine the scriptures. In Exodus 33:14 the Israelites were confronted with the reality that in spite of His desire to dwell among them (Ex. 25:8), Yahweh had refused to go up in their midst because in their rebellious condition His presence in their midst would have destroyed them. Prior to the building of the Tabernacle His presence went before them or behind them as a nation, as the pillar of fire by night or the cloud by day. He was never in their midst. Even when Moses met with Him in the tent it was outside of the camp. At this point they had rebelled against Him by building the golden calf to lead them back to Egypt (Ex. 32:1-6), the land He had just delivered them from when they cried out to Him (Ex. 3:7-10). As a result of Moses’ intercession Yahweh agreed to send His “Angel” before them (Ex. 32:11-14, 32:30-33:3) even though He would not go in their midst. A key piece here is the exchange between Moses and Yahweh in Exodus 33:12-23. Of particular importance are verses 13-18.

13  Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” 14  And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15  Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 16  For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” 17  So the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” 18  And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” Exodus 33:13-18 (NKJV)

At first glance it may seem that what Moses was asking for was Yahweh’s presence to go with them as they continued their journey, however, as a nation Israel had witnessed His presence with them ever since they left Egypt. Moses recognized the need for His presence but at this point asked to know His way that he might know Yahweh. Moses realized that in spite of all the time he had spent in Yahweh’s presence these encounters had not produced needed change in his own life and he did not really know this powerful One that he served. This may seem strange but let me back up a bit to lay the groundwork.

At this point in their journey the Israelites had been brought out of Egypt, which typifies sin, and brought into a dessert with only the promise of a better place. They did not know when they left Egypt that Yahweh was going to lead them into the wilderness to remove Egypt from them! When Moses disappeared for forty days and nights (Ex. 24:18) they grew restless, and had Aaron build the golden calf to be their god to lead them back to Egypt.

Are we like that? We long to be out of our present situation and circumstances, and then when the Yahweh delivers us we do not like where He has brought us to and long to go back! Many of us came out of Egypt (sin) because we were promised something much better. We found ourselves free from our previous circumstances but in a place where we did not enjoy our freedom, the wilderness. If we are to walk in anything significant at all there is always a dessert between the promises of God and their fulfillment. To survive the wilderness we need to have a heart like Job.

You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord – that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. James. 5:11 (NKJV)

We need this same focus to make it through the wilderness that we are likely to encounter. He brings us out into the wilderness for one purpose,

“The LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:2 (NKJV)

This is the issue we face, and generally our response is conditioned by our trust in Him. I know in my own life, more so in the past, I often stumbled and fell in the wilderness through complaining about my situation rather than trusting that He would see me through. He always has thus far.

So back to what led to Moses realization of His need to know Yahweh’s ways. Leading up to this request there is a dialogue between Yahweh and Moses that has an underlying argument between the two of them. Yahweh kept referring to the nation as Moses’ people (Ex. 32:7-10, 33:1) but Moses refused this identification. He was willing to lay down his life for the sake of the nation and the purposes of Yahweh but kept referring to the people as Yahweh’s (Ex. 32:11-12, 33:13, 16). This may seem inconsequential but all scripture is of consequence. Moses had spent 40 days and nights with Yahweh, had interceded for the people and desired to lay down his life on their behalf, yet he refused to see himself as one of them. When he asked to know Yahweh’s way He said He would show Moses His glory, which when we see it unveiled in Exodus 34:6-8, we realize is His character.

In this encounter described in Exodus 34 Moses returned to the mountain and spent another 40 days and nights with Yahweh (Ex. 34:23). This time there are two notable differences in what happened to this great leader of God’s people. He returned from the mountain radiant with the glory of God (Ex. 34:29-35), because once he saw Yahweh’s character he finally came to the place Yahweh desired. Moses, as any true leader, finally identified himself with the people and said,

O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance. Exodus 34:9 (NKJV)

Moses prayed for Yahweh to go among them, not just with them, and said we are “stiff-necked” (proud). Moses had finally identified with the people and saw the iniquity of his own heart, that he was one of these rebellious Israelites. Yahweh answered Moses’ heart cry, and from then on dwelt among them in the tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies (Ex. 40:34-38).

So to reiterate, what brought about this change is Moses? Why did this mountain top experience transform him? The answer lies in his discernment. Moses had many powerful encounters with Yahweh as He spoke to Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Ex. 33:11). However, Moses finally discerned that he did not really know Him, and desired to have Yahweh’s way revealed that he might truly know Him (Ex. 33:13). He longed to see Yahweh’s glory (Ex. 33:13). He had finally realized that in spite of all His wonderful experiences he really did not know Yahweh in the way he needed to know Him. This revelation of Who and what He was (Ex. 34:5-7) was what changed Moses and brought about his identification with Israel (Ex. 34:9) and visibly imprinted His glory on Moses face (Ex. 34:29-35). When Moses saw and acknowledged his own need and lack of true knowledge of Yahweh it removed the veil from his face so that he could see Yahweh and be changed by His glory (2 Cor. 3:18).

The commentary of scripture on this event it very telling.

7  He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. Psalm 103:7 (NKJV)

My point in all of this is that I think many of us in the modern church have encounters with His presence but unless we are intentional about responding in the moment and seek to know His heart and character all we will have are encounters without knowing His ways. As I said at the beginning of this article, ‘His presence is the gateway to intimacy, not the goal.’ We need to be like the Greeks in John 12:21.

21  Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” John 12:21 (NKJV)

The key word here is the Greek word translated as see. The definition is below.

Greek Word: εἴδω Transliteration: eidō

a primary verb; used only in certain past tenses, the others being borrowed from the equivalent <G3700> (optanomai) and <G3708> (horao); properly to see (literal or figurative); by implication (in the perf. only) to know :- be aware, behold, × can (+ not tell), consider, (have) know (-ledge), look (on), perceive, see, be sure, tell, understand, wish, wot. Compare <G3700> (optanomai).

Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.

The Greek word eido, is frequently translated as “know,” rather than see. The context suggests the Greeks didn’t want to just look at Jesus, they wanted to meet with Him and get to know Him. Similarly it is not enough for us to see just see miracles or feel an anointing, on those occasions and others we need to become intimate with Him!

How do we do that? Look at what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do.

14  He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. John 16:14 (NKJV) 

And what Jesus said He would do.

26  And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26 (NKJV)

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would glorify and reveal Him and He would reveal the father. When His presence draws near we have an opportunity like Moses to know His character and be changed by His glory, to stay where Jesus is staying, with His Father.

18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV).

Mountains to Valleys

January 7, 2015

As we enter a new year, and as we reflect back on the previous one, here is a question. Over the years how many of us have had an uplifting or deeply emotional spiritual experience that we would like to replicate? These are often referred to as ‘mountaintop’ experiences. Many of us, myself included, seek spiritual encounters and experiences with Jesus, which I think is a good thing. What we need to look at is the purpose. These experiences or encounters are generally meant to teach or reveal something so we need to discern the message to receive the teaching. Take for example the event we refer to as the Mount of Transfiguration. It was a revelation of something to prepare the recipients for something else.

1  And He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.” 2  Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. 3  His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4  And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5  Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” – 6  because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. 7  And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” 8  Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. 9  Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10  So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant. 11  And they asked Him, saying, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12  Then He answered and told them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13  But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him.” Mark 9:1-13 (NKJV)

When we look at the passage above there are a number of things to be learned. First, the general teaching is that the problem in the passage is that Peter sought to elevate Moses and Elijah to the same level as Jesus, which is of course a problem since Jesus was God incarnate while Moses and Elijah were servants of Yahweh. This is obviously a correct interpretation given the context and the Father’s rebuke. Peter, like most of us, wanted to stay and camp at his experience. This was behind the idea of building tabernacles. They were tents or booths, and while they were meant to be temporary they were still meant to be lived in for a period of time.

So, while it is easy to see what not to do, what should we do? First we can ask why Jesus took them there in the first place. The passage tells us, Jesus wanted them to see the transforming reality of the kingdom present with power and wanted the experience to prepare them for ministry after His death and resurrection. A key aspect of this event was in verse 7 where Yahweh’s glory overshadowed them. The Greek word used here is only used 5 times in the NT, here and in the parallel accounts of the Transfiguration in Matthew and Luke then in the two other places below.

35  And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35 (NKJV) 15  so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Acts 5:15 (NKJV)

The message is that when He comes in power and overshadows us it produces change, it releases life and healing. So while we may not find ourselves praying for the transfiguration to be revealed to us, we can pray that His presence would so rest upon us that it would release life and healing to others around us. The key point in this passage is that we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, but in addition to the message of His overshadowing presence what else can we learn from this passage?

  • The righteous live on in His presence after death
  • The unveiling of the kingdom brings transformation
  • Those in the spirit realm can communicate with this realm if directed by Yahweh
  • Those who have gone before are aware of what is happening in our world (Heb. 12:1, the great cloud of witnesses)
  • We are not to build idols
  • In appearing Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets (the common term in Jesus day for what we refer to as the Old Testament), showing that the entire OT points to Jesus, everything is summed up in Him!

There may be other things to learn from this passage yet I think a key general message is that mountaintop experiences, while wonderful, are meant to prepare us for something else. Having been on top of quite a few actual mountains I can tell you that in general if you want to survive you need to pack in your food. There is little at the top of mountains, particularly above the treeline. You do not plant, sow, and reap crops on the top of mountains. The experience is a reward for the journey but fruitfulness is found in the valley.

Rich soil and gentle streams are at the bottom of mountains, often far away. This is the place where we need to live out what we have experienced on the mountain. The place of needy people, diapers that need to be changed, people to be supported and ministered to, and a hundred other things. We all need some degree of mountaintops to sustain what we do in the valleys, and we can have encounters when we daily sit with Him or worship Him, yet these encounters are meant to point us to the valley, the place of fruitful ministry.

So in conclusion, there is usually much we can learn and draw from our experiences on the mountain, and most of the lessons are meant to be applied in the valley, the place of fruitfulness. So may you encounter Him often and find strength to give much to others in the building up of His body, the church.

Walking in the Spirit Part 5

When I started this series on Walking in the Spirit I referenced Colossians 1:27 so I want to close with it as well.

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)

While it may not seem apparent at first, understanding this passage, Christ in us as the hope of glory, is the doorway into communion with Him. To understand that we need to understand communion the way it is presented by the scriptures.

When we hear the word ‘communion,’ what ideas and images does the word evoke? Do we think of the ritual we tend to go through on a monthly basis in evangelical churches? Do we consider the role of rituals and symbols in our faith? They are all meant to point us to something, or more specifically, in the case of communion, to someone. The ritual is meant to remind us of Jesus sacrifice and to lead us into a deeper experience of Him as we reflect on His sacrifice and the reason for it. Something very real and meaningful should take place when we partake of the elements. Think about what Paul meant when he wrote the following?

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)

What is the ‘communion of the Holy Spirit?’ The word is Greek is koinonia and in addition to many other places the word is found in the following scriptures.

9  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NKJV)

16  The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:16 (NKJV)

Given the significance of koinonia /communion for our lives as believers I am including a long section from a Greek dictionary.

  1. κοινωνα koinōnia noun

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

We are primarily indebted to Paul for providing more information about the nature of koinōnia in the Early Church, especially in his presenting of koinōnia as a relationship between believers and God. Paul regarded the entire Christian call to be a summons to “fellowship” with Jesus Christ. “Sharing” most notably takes place at the Table of the Lord. For Paul, then, eating and drinking are more than mere symbols, though symbols are involved; eating and drinking at the Lord’s table denote an inner “participation” with Christ. It is the ultimate expression of unity – the common bond – between Christ and His body the Church (1 Corinthians 10:16f.). Furthermore, it is the ultimate expression of unity among the people themselves (Paul’s concern in his first letter to Corinth; cf. Philippians 3:10; Philemon 6). Such unity is experienced through the Spirit (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:14; Philippians 2:1). Even Barnabas’ offering of the “right hand of fellowship” (koinōnia, Galatians 2:9) signaled their common bond of faith (see also Hauck, “koinōnos,” Kittel, 3:805ff., who investigates how Paul’s sun [4713], “with,” compounds contribute to the concept of koinōnia).

Four instances of koinōnia occur in the First Epistle of John (cf. the use of the verb in 2 John 11). Each of these is central to the letter (cf. 1:3, John stated his purpose in writing: “that ye also may have fellowship [koinōnia] with us”). John regarded koinōnia as an impossible relationship apart from its being experienced both vertically with God and horizontally with humanity. If one has koinōnia with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (1:3), then one will have koinōnia with other believers who have this same relationship to God (1:6,7). If fellowship does not exist between believers, then any claim to have fellowship with God is invalid. The converse, though not stated, would also be true: True human koinōnia is impossible apart from koinōnia with God.

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Zeta-Kappa.

Given that communion also includes participation and fellowship what does communion mean in our lives? It is meant to be an ongoing encounter with Jesus through the Holy Spirit that overflows into our other relationships. How do we experience the communion of the Holy Spirit in practice? He reveals to us the one living in us.

16  And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – 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. 18  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19  “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20  At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21  He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” John 14:16-21 (NKJV)

Jesus is manifest to us through the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says we can ‘know’ the reality of Him living in us and us living in Him! When revealed in our lives the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23, love, joy, peace, patience/longsuffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control is a manifestation of His presence in our spirit. This is ‘Christ in us the hope of glory.’ His glory is His nature or character.

When we learn to develop intimate communion with Him more of His character is evident in our lives, He is formed and revealed in our mind, will and emotions. Our thinking aligns with His word, our feeling aligns with His heart and our choices reflect His desires. This all flows from fellowship with Him, sitting and letting Him touch our hearts through His word and presence. The only way to experience the fruit of His presence is to spend time pursuing His heart. This requires aligning our lives with His.

Can any of us fully align our lives with His and continually deeply experience Him? I don’t know, but as we enter a new year is it not worth trying? There is a phrase that some of you may be familiar with – Constant Conscious Communion. This is the thing Brother Lawrence and others wrote of, living in and out of Him. It doesn’t come out of removing ourselves from the world; it comes out of learning to lean into His heart each day and seeking to be sensitive to His presence throughout the day.

I have experienced this in varying degrees over the years and have learned there is no magic formula. It isn’t about a special spiritual experience; it is about investing in and developing a relationship. He is always nearest when I am intentionally removing barriers and seeking to just be with Him and focus on Him. This may mean consciously trying to open my spirit or it may mean picturing gazing upon His throne as it is presented in scripture. I tend to do the former and just become conscious of Jesus in me and before me. I have learned that I can know His presence in very busy and stressful circumstances if I have been spending time in the secret place with Him. My ongoing goal is to more intentionally pursue His presence and seek to live out of Constant Conscious Communion, that my life may reflect His glory. As Paul put it,

28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30  Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV)

If we embrace His purpose we will be conformed to His image. So may we embrace this journey and learn afresh what it means to sit at His feet as Mary did.

Walking in the Spirit Part 4

While conscience may seem to be the most obvious of the three aspects of our spirit, it can at the same time appear to be the least ‘spiritual’ while also being the aspect we experience the most. Of the other two, spiritual intuition seems to be the aspect we need to understand the most and communion the aspect we desire. So, I will continue this trifecta looking at intuition then closing it off dealing with communion.

First, insight and intuition are processes that at times are confused. I won’t do a complete teaching on the two; the general distinction is that intuition is the initiator of a process and insight the completion. Intuition is an often undefined sense of something that we need to learn to pay attention to whereas insight is the ‘aha’ or realization that comes when we see the fruit of following our intuition. We use language like a ‘gut feeling’ to refer to intuition, which is appropriate since scripture locates the experience of our spirit in our belly.

27  The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the inner depths of his heart. Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV) 38  “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38 (NKJV)

(here is a link to the song There is a River, which refers to what Jesus described. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaI8GKMuSWg )

The literal Hebrew in Proverbs 20:27 is ‘innermost parts of the belly’ rather than heart and the Greek in the John 7:38 is literally ‘belly’ or ‘innermost being’ rather than heart as can be seen in the versions below.

27  The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the innermost parts of his being. Proverbs 20:27 (NASB) 38  “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38 (NASB)

27  The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly. Proverbs 20:27 (KJV) 38  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. John 7:38 (KJV)

While there are many New Testament passages that illustrate the use of intuition the main foundation for understanding it is in 1 Corinthians 2.

9  But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11  For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:9-12 (NKJV)

In the two occurrences in verse 11 and the one in verse 12 the word know/knows is the same Greek word each time, and while it carries the meaning of knowing or understanding something it also carries the meaning of being aware of something. This is how we need to apply it. Through the Holy Spirit we can become aware of things within our own spirit and as we train ourselves to pay attention to His speaking within we learn to recognize His voice in our spirit.

Later on in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul enumerates spiritual gifts. One of which is the ‘word of knowledge.’ In application I have found in my own experience that the word of knowledge functions through awareness in my spirit. I have a sense of something about someone either when praying for them or when looking around at a group of people while seeking to pay attention to my spirit. I take this intuitive sense (the initiation of the process) and share it with the person I am praying for or with a group of people. When they respond and affirm what is happening two things happen. One is the insight, the completion of the process is achieved, and two, faith is increased because they know I had no way of naturally knowing what I just shared. Please note, this learning to pay attention to Him works at work or in the community as well as in church settings.

I have had people weep because I spoke something to them that I had no natural way of knowing, it came from the Holy Spirit. I once shared something from the Holy Spirit and the individual suddenly doubled over like they had been punched in the stomach due to the impact in their spirit. I have had people shared detailed things about my life that they could not naturally know. These examples illustrate the fruit of learning to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking in our spirits.

Let me further illustrate with some examples of where we see this in the life of Paul and Jesus. Please note, these examples are illustrative not exhaustive. You will find many more if you search the New Testament.

25  But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” Matthew 12:25 (NKJV)

61  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you?” John 6:61 (NKJV)

19  Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’? John 16:19 (NKJV)

13  I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia. 2 Corinthians 2:13 (NKJV)

In each of the examples above Jesus was paying attention to and listening to what was happening internally and since He had laid aside His divine attributes, He had to hear in His spirit from the Holy Spirit. In a similar vein, Paul described experiencing a restless in his spirit, an intuitive sense that something was wrong. In each case Jesus and Paul both did something in response to what they sensed internally. This is about learning to lean into and learn from our spirits, as described by both Isaiah and Mary

9  With my soul I have desired You in the night, Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; For when Your judgments are in the earth, The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Isaiah 26:9 (NKJV)

46  And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47 (NKJV)

Isaiah and Mary both described the need to pay attention to their spirits. At the end of the day this is all about embracing what Paul wrote;

14  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14 (NKJV)

14  For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14 (NASB)

I included the NASB translation because it more accurately reflects the tense in Greek. It is not about a past experience, it is about a present reality. We are called to be in the state of constantly being led by Him, which will take us to communion…