You Who are Spiritual Part 4

What is the capstone of a spiritual life? When we climb the mountain of spirituality what vista unfolds before us? I don’t know if we think about this very often but I do believe there is a scriptural answer. I will start with Jesus as the ultimate example then look at a couple of His friends.

Psalm 40:7-8 is quoted in Hebrews as a prophetic picture of Jesus.

7  Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. 8  I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:7-8 (NKJV)

7  Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come – In the volume of the book it is written of Me – To do Your will, O God.’  Hebrews 10:7 (NKJV)

These verses capture Jesus heart. He came to earth to serve the purposes of His Father. In fact He stated it very clearly it was His delight to serve His Father’s purpose. As the verse below highlights, He came to walk among us as ‘the One who serves.’

27  For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. Luke 22:27 (NKJV)

Jesus submitted His will to the will of His Father and His works flowed out of this intimate relationship.

19  Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20  For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.” John 5:19-20 (NKJV)

What of Jesus friend Paul? How did he live and how did he tell us to live?

17  Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Philippians 2:17 (NKJV)

6  For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 2 Timothy 4:6 (NKJV)

The idea Paul presents here is that his life is being poured out as a sacrifice to Jesus. Paul was giving his life so others could be joined to Jesus life. In Numbers 15:1-16 the wine (drink offering) is to accompany the animal sacrifices. Paul saw himself as living for Jesus and thus his life was being poured out to accompany Jesus sacrifice. Not as something having any atoning value but a gesture of love to accompany the atoning sacrifice. What did Paul say of us?

15  and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 2 Corinthians 5:15 (NKJV)

We too are to pour out our lives in His service. Lastly, David, the man after God’s own heart. We have his epitaph from the Holy Spirit in Acts.

36  “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption;” Acts 13:36 (NKJV)

What a declaration! David served his own generation by the will of God. A truly spiritual person is one with a servant heart seeking to further our Father’s purposes. Are our lives being poured out to further His purpose because our hearts desire to please and honour Him?

You Who are Spiritual Part 3

Who was spiritual, Jacob or Esau? When we look at their relationship in Genesis (Gen. 25-33) Esau at first seems like the responsible son and Jacob comes across as the manipulator. Yet what is the scriptural testimony of them?

2  “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3  But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness.” Malachi 1:2-3 (NKJV)

13  As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” Romans 9:13 (NKJV)

Why this testimony? To understand it we need to delve into the spirit realm. Yes Jacob was a schemer and manipulator, not the character traits we admire. Esau however did not value the blessing that was his by birthright. As an aside, we tend to use phrases like ‘bless you’ rather casually. Yet in scripture they meant something. Read the blessing Jacob/Israel pronounced over his sons in Genesis 49. It laid out the future destiny of the nation. There was prophetic power in it. Blessing our food at a meal or blessing someone else is meant to be a term that describes that actual blessing. Consider the Aaronic blessing in Numbers.

22  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23  “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24  “The LORD bless you and keep you; 25  The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26  The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’  Numbers 6:22-26 (NKJV)

A blessing is a pronouncement that releases something tangible in the spirit realm. Consider what Jesus said when He sent out the seventy.

5  But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6  And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. Luke 10:5-6 (NKJV)

Peace is shalom in Hebrew and that is what is referred to in both passages. The release of shalom is a tangible spiritual transaction. Jesus expected the seventy to know whether or not their shalom, what they released, was resting on the homes they blessed.

I have had this experience of praying for someone and feeling like my prayer was bouncing off them. They verbalized openness but were not actually willing to receive.

So, back to Jacob and Esau. Jacob did not start well. Yet it was in pursuing Yahweh’s blessing, with a selfish motive, that Jacob was transformed to Israel. His encounter with Yahweh (Gen. 32) broke his fleshly strength and transformed him into a spiritual man. We see this when he went down to Egypt with his family. Pharaoh was the most powerful man in the Middle East yet look what happened when he met Jacob/Israel.

7  Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob and set him before Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Genesis 47:7 (NKJV)

7  Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Hebrews 7:7 (NKJV)

Where is all of this going? How many of you are familiar with the concept of needing to clean up our lives so we can be filled with the Holy Spirit? It sounds spiritual but is simply a religious spirit masquerading as true spirituality. If we could clean up our lives without the Holy Spirit we wouldn’t need Him! Draw near to Him, pursue His blessing like Jacob, and be transformed by His touch and presence. We all need Him. Let’s pray for a greater hunger and not focus on our motives – that is being spiritual. He will change us!

You Who are Spiritual Part 2

What is the impetus for spiritual growth? How many of us would vote for difficulties, challenges and the opportunity for offence? There is an expression, ‘Character isn’t formed in crisis, it is revealed.’ I think there is truth in that thought, though I think how we respond in these situations can deepen and help mature us, they real secret behind spiritual maturity is what we do when not in crisis. Look at what Paul penned.

1  Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2  through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3  And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4  and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:1-4 (NKJV)

1  Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2  through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3  And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; Romans 5:1-4 (NASB)

I have provided this passage in two translations because the NASB brings out the idea of ‘proven character’ in verse 4. That is, something is established and the test or crisis reveals or proves the reality of it. So what is the process above?

At conversion we are at peace with God and receive His peace, His shalom in our life. We stand by exercising our faith to access His grace. As Hebrews says, we can come boldly to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). Our long term view should now be that we shall be revealed in glory with Jesus and His glory revealed in us (Rom. 8:28-30). Based on this reality we will sow into our relationship with Jesus on a daily basis and view difficult times as an opportunity to reveal Jesus character that has been worked into our lives.

While many may reject this course it is the pattern that is established in scripture. If our focus is on eternal realities we will have the heart and attitude of Paul and will come to spiritual maturity much more quickly.

 17  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18  while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NKJV)


You Who are Spiritual Part 1

What is the mark of a spiritual man or woman in the church? To set the stage a bit, in 1 Corinthians chapters 2 and 3 Paul distinguishes between the carnal (immature) and the spiritual (mature). In 1 John, John presents three levels of spiritual maturity. The many exhortations to growth in the New Testament letters point to the reality that spiritual growth is like natural growth, it is a process. At the same time, while age is inevitable, both spiritually and naturally, maturity is optional. I am sure we have all met middle-aged adults who are emotionally immature. Maturity is not automatic.

So what marks spiritual maturity? Is it amazing revelatory experiences? A profound knowledge of the scriptures? How about neither? As a new believer Paul, for example, had both but if you carefully read his letters he was also somewhat arrogant as a young believer in spite of his great knowledge, or perhaps because of it. Having an apostolic anointing did not automatically make him mature. That required time and process.

What is the scriptural perspective on spiritual maturity? Look at the passages below.

13  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:13-14 (NKJV)

             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. 2  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3  For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. Galatians 6:1-4 (NKJV)

24  And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25  in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26  and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NKJV)

Spiritual maturity is marked by discernment, emotional maturity, gentleness, deep respect and love for Jesus and His body, the church, and an awareness that we too are susceptible to falling. Given that, how are we doing?


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…