Understanding the Kingdom Part 3

In looking at the condition of our hearts we can see that repentance and awareness play a role in preparing our hearts to receive the seed of the kingdom, His word. Another factor to consider is the role of revelation. Jesus had this to say.

11  And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12  so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.’” Mark 4:11-12 (NKJV)

In spite of Jesus message that they had the opportunity to understand the mystery of the kingdom, later in His interaction with His disciples it says they could not understand what Jesus was talking about because their hearts were still hardened.

52  For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened. Mark 6:52 (NKJV)

This fits with the history of Israel as a nation where Moses summed up their wilderness experience.

2  Now Moses called all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land– 3  the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders. 4  Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day. Deuteronomy 29:2-4 (NKJV)

There is a pattern of an inability to see the realities of the kingdom of God. Have you ever tried to share something important with someone and they could just not seem to see or understand it? At the same time it was crystal clear to you and you struggled to understand how they could not see it? This dynamic has spiritual implications as well and the struggle to see is often put off on God’s ‘sovereignty.’ Yet if His is the King of kings and Lord of lords, which He is, then everything He does is sovereign, not just specific things we can’t seem to grasp. In short, ‘the sovereignty of God’ is no answer. So what do the scriptures teach us? What did Jesus say?

41  Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42  saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43  For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44  and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44 (NKJV)

Jesus wept over what He prophetically knew would happened to His beloved city. It appears from this scripture that Israel as a nation simply could not see and so was destined for destruction, God’s sovereignty in action. Yet did this need to happen in this way? Jesus also had something else to say.

37  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38  See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39  for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’” Matthew 23:37-39 (NKJV)

There are two very significant phrases here, ‘I wanted to gather’ and ‘you were not willing.’ Jesus desire or ‘will’ was not that Jerusalem be destroyed, yet because of their choice as a nation events were inexorably set in motion. So how does this relate back to Mark chapter 4 and the parable of the sower? Ultimately we need to pursue wisdom and revelation regarding His purposes. We live in a very comfortable and satisfied culture. Someone at church was just sharing that in their efforts to evangelize they often hear. “Why do I need Jesus? I have everything I need.” We would do well to consider the well known expression, ‘The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep on running.’ If we adapt this to spiritual reality we could say, ‘Revelation comes not always to the wise but to those who keep on seeking.’ After all Jesus said,

7  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 (NKJV)

The problem in translating information across languages is that things can sometimes be lost. Read this again in the Amplified translation which captures the different tense in the Greek.

7  Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. 8  For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 (AMP)

The Amplified bible brings out the need for persistence in the process. One thing we need to keep pursuing is ‘a Spirit of wisdom and revelation.’ The interesting thing is that we do not automatically understand or receive everything at conversion. It may be there in seed form but something is needed for it to germinate and produce fruit. Paul wrote the following messages to those who were born again and had encountered Jesus.

17  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18  the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19  and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power Ephesians 1:17-19 (NKJV)

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)

The truth is that even after we are born again and begin to see the kingdom we can only deeply understand and operate in the kingdom of God through deep dependence on the Holy Spirit. Do we recognize our need for Him and pursue Him?

Understanding the Kingdom Part 2

Seed and soil; the two key parts. It is gardening time as I write this, farmers are planting, the greenhouses are busy, colour is appearing in pots and planters at homes all over the city. All other things being equal, given the same amount of sun, water and fertilizer, what determines the ultimate harvest? It is the condition of the soil. While in the natural realm the gardener generally sows the seed and prepares the soil, in the kingdom of God it is different. Scripture informs us of some key things.

15  But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:15 (NKJV)

1  The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:1 (NKJV)

We can see from the scriptures above that in the parable of the sower the soil is in fact our hearts and the condition of our heart is what determines our harvest. We can also see that we are responsible to prepare our hearts to receive the seed of His word. Ancient Israel was an agricultural society and not only did Solomon say we are responsible to prepare our hearts, Hosea laid it our very well.

12  Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12 (NKJV)

Hosea exhorts his hearers to break up their ‘fallow ground.’ If we are not familiar with agriculture this may not mean much. Fallow ground is ground that has not been planted in for a while and needs to be tilled and turned over so it is ready to receive seed again. Fallow ground has generally become somewhat hardened. The soil needs to be disturbed! Hosea in effect says that sowing righteousness, living a righteous and holy life and pursuing His presence will prepare our lives for harvest. Yahweh in mercy will rain righteousness upon us if we repent of our wrong behaviour and turn to Him. Hosea was a prophet to an unrepentant nation trying to get them to turn their hearts back to Yahweh. The significant thing here is that Hosea is describing repentance without using the actual term. Repentance is so little spoken of in the modern Western church that we may have lost sight of what it is about, or if we think of it we may only connect it to our conversion. However there is more.

I have generally heard repentance described as turning and going the other way. That is in fact not accurate. We all have the capacity to modify our behaviour without a corresponding change in heart attitude. Repentance is a change of mind and heart that produces a change in behaviour. The resulting behaviour change is the fruit or indicator of repentance, not repentance itself. Repentance is a precursor to conversion but it is not supposed to stop there. If in any way our thoughts and actions are not aligned with Jesus thoughts and actions then we need to repent when we see the discrepancy. However we usually do not see it without looking for it. When we genuinely pursue intimacy with Jesus we tend to initially become frustrated in our pursuit. This frustration comes from seeing how far short of this ideal life we fall. At this point we can choose to rationalize our present position or seek to draw deeper and be changed in the presence of a holy God! This pursuit and change is an ongoing process of repentance for anyone serious about deeply knowing Him.

So, we have addressed the importance of good soil and our role in preparing it. What about the seed?

14  The sower sows the word. Mark 4:14 (NKJV) 11  “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Luke 8:11 (NKJV)

19  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. Matthew 13:19 (NKJV)

We see from these three different scriptures talking about the same thing that the seed is the word of God and the word of the kingdom. It is obviously good seed! In the future I will talk about the role of revelation in understanding the kingdom of God and how it functions in our lives.

 

Understanding the Kingdom Part 1

In a recent post I wrote about the difference between ‘seeing’ the kingdom (Jn. 3:3) and ‘entering’ the kingdom (Jn. 3:5). I want to explore a bit more of what the ‘kingdom’ is and the way it operates in our lives and we operate in it. Foundational to all of this is the parable of the sower (see Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8). I want to primarily look at it from Mark 4 because of a couple of key phrases Mark shared regarding what Jesus taught.

10  But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. 11  And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12  so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.’ “ 13  And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? Mark 4:10-13 (NKJV)

Jesus told some of His close followers that they had been given the opportunity to ‘know the mystery of the kingdom of God’ because they were on the inside (verse 11) and also shared that if they did not understand this parable they would not be able to understand the rest of the parables (verse 13). While Jesus did not teach exclusively in parables it was a very common way that He taught and shared the way the kingdom of God functions. So what is so important to understand about the parable of the sower as a key to understanding the rest of the parables of the kingdom?

Before I answer that I think it is important to define the term ‘kingdom and note that the terms ‘kingdom of God’ and ‘kingdom of heaven’ are both used in the gospels and are two different ways of referring to the same thing. A basic understanding comes from looking at the definition of the word. Kingdom is a compound word coming from two words, ‘king’ and ‘domain.’ So at the most basic level, a kingdom is anywhere that falls under the king’s domain or rule or the exercise of the king’s dominion. Scripturally the kingdom of God can be seen anywhere that the Kings dominion can be seen in operation, whether in our individual lives or in a small group or congregation.

We see in scripture that ‘The Kingdom of God’ and the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ are two ways of referring to the same thing.

17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 (NKJV) emphasis mine

14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 (NKJV) emphasis mine

Having established that, what is the message in the parable of the sower? The main message is that everything we receive from Jesus comes in seed form and there is a responsibility that Jesus has and a responsibility that we have. Furthermore, we cannot do His part and He will not do our part. His responsibility is to provide seed and our responsibility is to prepare and provide the right soil to receive the seed. Another key point is that because He sows the seed of His word in our lives we need to understand the process of growth and harvest and cooperate with His grace to see His harvest realized in our lives. Make no mistake; it is His harvest as He is the one sowing the seed. In my next post I will expand on this and describe what is contained in the seed.

Journeying into Jesus Part 7

May 6, 2014

Have you ever prayed a prayer like, “Jesus give me passion for you.” Most of us have prayed something like this if we are serious about knowing Him and walking with Him. However, what about praying something like, “Jesus, let me find passion with and in You.” A subtle shift but more relational in nature – is this not what we really desire and need? Do we not really need to find our purpose and passion in Him?

If we answer in the affirmative these questions lead to another one. Do we have any hope of achieving this? If so what do we need to do to see it realized? We first need to believe it is possible and we then need to understand hope from a scriptural perspective. Jesus Culture does a version of the Song ‘Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here’ that begins, “There’s nothing worth more that will ever come close, nothing can compare You’re our living hope.” Finding passion with and in Jesus is possible because He is our living hope. The writer of Hebrews addresses this when exhorting us to press in and know Jesus. He says we require faith and patience and we need to anchor our hope somewhere.

12  that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:12 (NKJV) 19

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, Hebrews 6:19 (NKJV)

If we want to find passion and purpose in Jesus then we not only need to anchor our hope in His presence, we need to mix faith and patience with it. I think the latter is the most difficult for those of us living in an ‘instant everything’ society. Not only are most of us not taught the value of delaying gratification, we are encouraged to continually indulge ourselves. Yet when we patiently wait for something there is a change that takes place within us. The scriptures not only connect faith and patience, they connect faith and hope.

24  For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Romans 8:24-25 (NKJV)

1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2  For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. Hebrews 11:1-2 (NKJV)

Paul tells us that if we are applying hope to what we have not yet received ‘we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.’ The Greek word here for ‘perseverance also has the meaning of patience or endurance, while the Greek word used in Hebrews 6:12 that is translated as patience also means to endure or persevere, they are in essence synonyms, words with very similar meanings to convey similar ideas, just given by two different human authors. If we want to have a more passionate relationship with Jesus we need to very intentionally and expectantly pursue it. In his recent book The Path, Rick Joyner identified some things that should characterize our walk with Jesus. I pulled points out while reading so cannot refer you to a page or chapter and I also captured them in a way that made sense to me so there may be some minor differences from what he actually wrote but the essence is there. He said that,

The overriding purpose for every day – Walk in love

Three main purposes for each day

  • Knowing the voice of the Holy Spirit/Jesus
  • Obeying Him
  • Mindfully dwelling in His presence

Walking out these ideas in an intentional way requires faith and patience but if we believe He is worthy and eagerly pursue His presence each day we will find that it is worth it. Why not try, what possible loss could there be in spending time trying to mindfully dwell in Jesus presence?

Journeying into Jesus Part 6

I have provided some tools that point to intimacy with Jesus. At the same time there is an old Spanish proverb, ‘Talking about bullfighting and being in the ring with the bull are not the same thing.’ If we apply this proverb to intimacy with Jesus we could say that ‘Talking (or my writing) about intimacy with Jesus is not the same thing as being intimate with Jesus.’ In fact Jesus addressed this very thing in the scriptures.  A couple of examples are,

21  ”Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ 24  “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them….Matthew 7:21-24a (NKJV)

3  Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (NKJV)

5  Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:5 (NKJV)

In the Matthew passage Jesus distinguishes between those who do good works from knowing Him and those who act based on knowing about Him (which should really cause us to question the idea WWJD, What Would Jesus Do? When this first became popular many years ago I said it was the wrong question, WWJD presumes He is no longer ‘doing.’ The real question is WIJD, What is Jesus Doing? Followed by, how can I enter into that with Him?).

In the scriptural quote above I deliberately left off the last half of verse 24 to highlight Jesus point, not mine. In the same way, in John 3 Jesus is not simply saying the same thing in different ways when He distinguishes between seeing and entering the kingdom. The Greek word translated as ‘see’ means to see, know, or be aware of. Essentially Jesus is saying that we need to be born again, that is ‘born from above’ to see or know the kingdom of God. What is important here is that when Jesus then talks to Nicodemus about entering the kingdom of God He is not repeating Himself. Jesus says we need to be born again to see or know the kingdom of God but we then also have the option of entering in once we have experienced both a natural birth, being born of water, and spiritual birth, being born from above and receiving Jesus nature in our spirits as they are reborn in His image.

I don’t know how far or deeply most of us enter into His kingdom once we experience the new birth but the invitation is there. We would be wise to reflect on how far we have entered in and anything keeping us from going further. After all, the kingdom, really the king’s domain, exists where the king rules and has authority. Just as we have the possibility of moving deeply into the kingdom we have the possibility of a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus because we can’t have one without the other, both are something we can intentionally pursue and develop.

Journeying into Jesus Part 5

While sin is something that seems to be rarely talked about anymore, in the church as while as the broader culture, sin is a barrier that affects our level of intimacy with Jesus. Another barrier is a lack of understanding His passion for us, which when rightly understood can help us not to sin. The song ‘When He was on the Cross” (well worth listening to) has a line, “He knew me yet He loved me.” The context is the awareness of Him loving us while we still rejected Him. In the scriptures Paul expressed it this way,

10  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10 (NKJV) 17  For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Romans 5:17 (NKJV)

He deeply loved us enough to die for us while as sinners we were His enemies! His desire once we come to know Him is that we would ‘reign in life.’ What does that mean if we are to walk it out? It means we need a shift in perspective. About 20 years ago I asked a dear friend what she thought the Fear of the Lord was, she replied, “Loving Him so much I would never do anything to offend Him.” That is a shift in perspective!

So what is the effect of sin on our relationship with Him? It gets in the way. When we fail and sin after our conversion we need to deal with it through repentance, a change of mind and heart that produces a change in behaviour. Our sin does not affect our standing as His child; it does however affect our fellowship. If you have ever been in a relationship with someone where one or both of you were offended at something the other did you know how it affects that fellowship, walls go up, there is a withdrawal of intimacy. Intimacy can be restored if we stumble, the greater danger is walking in rebellion, as the verses below illustrate.

26  For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27  but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 (NKJV)

26  For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward]. 27  [There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God]. Hebrews 10:26-27 (AMP)

We cannot walk in deliberate and obstinate rebellion to His word and expect to walk with Him. However, if we think of our relationship with Jesus like walking with Him on a well lit path at night we can capture the effects of sin on fellowship. If we walk or stumble off the path into the darkness we are no longer near Him, however He has not moved, He is still on the path. To get close to Him again we need to leave the darkness and get back on the path with Jesus. John described it this way,

5  This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6  If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7 (NKJV)

If we get off the path we can return, sit with Him, acknowledge, out loud is best, our sin and failing, ask for His forgiveness and then by faith receive it. His presence will wash over us and we can continue walking with Him. Ask Him to impart the fear of the Lord to your heart so that you will so deeply love Him you never want to offend Him. Recognize what Paul talked about, His deep love for us and His desire to see us live in victory in life. Pray for discernment between conviction and condemnation. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and of His love for us. When the Holy Spirit convicts us He redirects us to Jesus and His heart. When the enemy condemns us he makes us feel like we have failed and can never walk closely with Jesus, he points us to ourselves. Where is the best place to find restoration? When we fall He wants us to fall forward into His arms!!!

Journeying into Jesus Part 4

I closed my last post with the scripture passage below.

24  “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25  O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 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 17:24-26 (NKJV)

The context of the passage above is Jesus final teaching before He goes to the Garden of Gethsemane then arrest and the cross. He expresses His desire that we would be with Him where He is. Now, while we can relegate this to a future time, meaning when we die or when Jesus returns, we get to be with Him; what about the present? Can we be with Him where He is now? I have sometimes thought that if I were in a car accident where someone hit me and I was asked what had happened I would explain that the other driver failed to grasp a basic law of physics, two physical objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time! While that is true in the physical realm, it is not true when the spiritual and physical intersect. Jesus can be in two places at once.

13  No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. John 3:13 (NKJV)

While physically present and talking with Nicodemus Jesus was simultaneously seated with His Father in the Spirit realm, the real realm. What is true of Jesus is also true of us after our conversion. We are both here and in Him. As Paul wrote,

4  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:4-6 (NKJV)

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

Jesus also affirmed this truth before He went to the cross. In part of His last discourse before Gethsemane He said the Holy Spirit would dwell in believers and after His resurrection we would know that we are in Him in the Father (in the spirit realm) and He in us.

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)

20  At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. John 14:20 (NKJV)

As we develop the habit of sitting with Jesus and experiencing His presence where else can we find Him? As we become conscious of His presence before, with, and in us, a logical extension of knowing Him in that quiet time is becoming aware of His presence with us in other places. This could mean, being conscious of His presence with us in a coffee shop, at a meeting, or driving to work. The way we experience this is by learning to tune and keep our hearts and minds tuned to His presence. In short, we create an effective spiritual habit! In my next post I will talk about some of the things that can get in the way of developing this habit.

Journeying into Jesus Part 3

April 7, 2014

In developing an internal place of rest in Jesus there is a simple test we can apply to see what is currently most dominant in our lives. Where do our minds go when we are not intentionally thinking about anything? Do they regularly turn to Jesus? If not then is He at or near the top of our list of important things? In my own life I recently applied this test and while it may sound a bit odd I spent some time thinking about what I was thinking about. I found Jesus was one of three things my mind regularly went to when I wasn’t intentionally thinking about something. My goal is that He be the dominant thing my mind goes to and I have found that in being more intentional about thinking about Him and reflecting on His presence in and with me my non intentional thinking is more about Him and I experience more of Him.

So how do we train our hearts and minds to have Jesus as their default? One way to do it is by learning to behold Him. Practically I believe we need to spend concentrated time intentionally engaging our spirit with His Spirit. The when and how may vary to some degree depending on the individual. Some may do it early in the morning (my practice), others may do it in the evening, some do it morning and evening, some select a time during the day. Whenever we choose, I believe the common element we need is a concentrated focus on Jesus, often with the scriptures or a scripture as the backdrop.

So here are some practical approaches.

  1. Pick  a time and spot and quiet your mind and heart before Him then sit and focus on Jesus or the Father for 5 minutes. Pay attention to what happens internally? Is it difficult to be still in our busy and driven culture? Do you sense His presence?
  2. There are two key things in the lives of Christians that are from another realm, the real realm. Our spirits and the scriptures. Get quiet before Him then devotionally read aloud and interact with passages like Psalm 23, Matthew 6:9-13 Ephesians 1:17, Colossians 1:9-11. The focus here is on devotional rather than intercessory prayer. It is about tuning into and living out of our spirits. A passage I keep being drawn back to is in Psalm 25 4  Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. 5  Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day. Psalm 25:4-5 (NKJV)
  3. Quiet your mind and heart before Him and focus on the divine interchange; giving and receiving His life and living by it. Loving Him and being loved by Him. Sensing His nearness, entering into the fellowship and interchange within the Godhead.

All of this work best when it is rooted in knowing intellectually, and more importantly, at a heart level, that He desires to be with you and actually enjoys you. That truth is borne out in the passage below. Use it to enjoy Him and His heart for you!

24  “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25  O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 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 17:24-26 (NKJV)

Journeying into Jesus Part 2

I ended my last post saying I would look at how to practically behold Jesus and explore whether there was a difference between coming to Him and coming to the scriptures and a difference between reading the scriptures devotionally or for study purposes. The answer is that the scriptures are a means of encountering Jesus, though not the only one. Worship is for me, and many others, a key means of encountering Him. We also need to remember that while we can never live rightly outside of the bounds of scripture, the book of the Lord must never become more important than the Lord of the book. The scriptures are a means to an end, not an end in and of themselves. They point us to Jesus but we can read them and never encounter or draw close to Him.

When we come to the scriptures it makes a difference whether we are reading them to find information, which has its place as the various areas of our lives need to be in-formation, or to encounter Jesus. When we read them to encounter Jesus we come with a different heart attitude, asking what He is speaking to our heart in the moment. Below is a simple example of the difference.

13  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

I can read this verse and look at the historical context and conclude that Paul wrote from prison, Roman prisons were not pleasant places, yet somehow Jesus sustained Paul. Jesus will sustain me. A logical process with logical inferences and a process that has a right place in our spiritual journey. I could come to this same verse devotionally and think, “Jesus, today I can draw on your Spirit, I can look to You for wisdom in the choices I need to make.” As I continue I begin to actually feel His presence and strength and a confidence in His love and care grows inside of me.

To behold Him I could take this same verse and by faith sit before Him meditating on the reality of His presence and become aware of Him just being with me. I could then open my spirit to release love to Him and receive love from Him. As I become attuned to my own spirit and sit with Him I become more attuned to His Spirit in me leading and drawing me. In my own experience this is a major aspect of living a transformed life. The times I fail to do this are the times I fail to live in and out of spiritual rest.

In our busy and at times frenetic culture, we need places of retreat. As Gene Edwards wrote so wisely, “Nowhere will you find a more untroubled place of retreat than in your spirit.” I encourage you to regularly go to this place. In my next post I will further develop the practical mechanics of sitting with Jesus.

Journeying into Jesus

Journeying into Jesus Part 1

March 25, 2014

What is the Father after in us once we are converted? This may seem like a strange question but He is both looking for, and actively seeking, to bring something about. His post conversion work in our lives is laid out by Paul.

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  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30 (NKJV)

Prior to digging into this passage let me share two other key things Paul taught.

19  My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (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)

Paul shared with the Galatians that his apostolic heart cry was to see Christ formed in His people; in fact that was what Paul expected to happen after people were converted. Paul later wrote to the Colossian church that the great mystery of the Father was Him planting Christ in His people to unveil His glory. Is that what we realize He is about in our lives?

As Rick Joyner wrote in his recent book The Path,

Life is all about Jesus. If we stay close to Him, we will be changed by Him. Then we will begin to see with His eyes, hear with His ears, and understand with His heart. The way to fulfilling our purpose is to follow Him. He is The Way.

Jesus is the way not in the sense of a path moving from point A to point B but a way into the depths of intimacy with the Godhead, the Father, Son and Spirit. John 3:16 is instructive here because of the meaning of a little Greek preposition. Most of us likely know the verse,

16  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (NKJV)

The phrase ‘whoever believes in Him’ would best be literally translated as ‘whoever believes into Him.’ It doesn’t come across as proper English grammar but the correct meaning is presented. The word translated as ‘in’ is the Greek preposition  eis.

eis – a primary preposition; to or into (indicating the point reached or entered), of place, time, or (figurative) purpose (result, etc.); Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.

The idea of believing in Jesus isn’t about believing that He is or was but about believing to the point where we enter into a relationship with Him! That is why Paul wrote what he did to the Corinthian believers. This was his desire for their experience.

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)

We are called into a communion of intimacy with the Godhead. The fruit of this is what Paul put forth in Romans 8:28-30,

  • being called according to His purpose,
  • predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus, and
  • being justified and glorified in Jesus.

Our Father seeks to use everything in our lives to point us toward one reality, the conforming of everything we are to carry the image of Jesus. We like Jesus are to be about the our Father’s business, representing Him, or more accurately, Re Presenting Him to those we encounter. We cannot speed up this process, just like we can’t plant the garden on Monday and harvest it on Tuesday. However, gardens grow better with watering and weeding and careful preparation of the soil. So while we cannot speed up His process we can hinder it by not properly preparing the soil or not weeding or watering.

The best way to cooperate with His process and deepen His image in us, our watering and weeding, is taking the time and effort to spend time beholding Him, as Paul noted.

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)

Given that the scriptures tell us transformation comes about through beholding Him, how do we do that in practice? Is there a difference between coming to Him and coming to the scriptures? Do we come to the scripture differently when reading devotionally rather than studying? I will address these practical issues in my next post.