Understanding the Kingdom Part 6

One aspect to understanding the Kingdom of God is understanding the already/not yet nature of His kingdom. This principle is sown throughout our walk with Him. There is a sense in which the kingdom has already come through what Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection. As Paul wrote of Jesus, 25 “who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” (Romans 4:25 NKJV). That is, Jesus death on the cross paid the penalty for our sins but His resurrection assured our ultimate salvation and transformation. As Paul more fully expressed 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  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)

His ultimate purpose in our salvation is revealed in this passage, being conformed to His image and being glorified. The conformity to His image begins to take place as we cooperate with His grace here (see also 2 Cor. 3:18) yet we do not see it fully realized and our glorification does not fully happen until we see Him. As John put it.

1  Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2  Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 (NKJV)

Something further happens when we see Him!

The theme in these two passages quoted above is the already/not yet nature of His kingdom. The reason for that takes us back to Mark 4:13. Jesus said there that this parable of the sower was the key that unlocked other parables. Part of what we need to understand is the process of sowing and reaping. Just as the planting of a crop requires seed, so in our conversion a seed is planted. In fact John tells us that at conversion we receive the very seed of God.

7  Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8  He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9  Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:7-9 (NKJV)

John tells us that at conversion we receive the ‘seed’ of God (literally sperma in Greek). We receive His nature in seed form that needs to grow in us, just as seed is sown in Mark 4. Part of understanding this passage is seeing verse 9 in the Amplified version because it captures the tense in Greek.

9  No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God. 1 John 3:7-9 (AMP)

As Christians we have new life and salvation already, yet not yet in fullness. He as a good farmer has sown a seed and He also expects a harvest. Everything is potentially there in the seed yet we will not fully see what was in the seed until it comes to maturity. As we walk with our fellow believers may we see hidden within them the seed of divine destiny and do everything we can to see this seed come fully to glorious maturity!  After all here is what has taken place within us.

17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Understanding the Kingdom Part 5

So, as we seek revelation from the Holy Spirit what can potentially happen in our lives? What is within us that can grow or be awakened? What can we learn from lives of others? I remember one time listening to a message from John Paul Jackson and he said after his teaching someone came up and asked what bible he was reading. He responded by saying he used the New King James. The response was something like this, “I don’t mean that, I read the bible and never see the things you see.” It really isn’t about the version we use, though I personally believe that to be quite important, it is about the open heart with which we read. Things that are obvious to some are hidden to others, yet there they are in plain view.

Let me illustrate with a couple of examples. First look at the passages below.

19  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, Ephesians 2:19-20 (NKJV)

3  how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4  by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5  which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: Ephesians 3:3-5 (NKJV)

In these verses Paul gives us some things that identify the timeframe he is referencing. He tells us that the church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets and those in other ages or eras did not understand what has now been revealed to Jesus apostles and prophets. The ‘now’ in this context is written in the middle of the first century AD but what Paul is referring to is the time since the birth of the church, the current age. The common teaching in most evangelical circles is that when Paul wrote this he was saying that the church is built upon Old Testament prophets and New Testament Apostles. The problem with that teaching is that while one can choose to believe it, they cannot choose to believe it based upon the plain teaching of scripture. Contextually the only thing Paul can be referring to is New Testament apostles and prophets.

While what I have just written has no significant implications for our salvation, it does have significant implications for how we apply scripture to our lives. Another example is a well known radio personality who is a Christian apologist (one who speaks in defense of their faith). He says some good things but not only has a blind spot regarding God’s end time purposes for ethnic Israel, he is actively opposed to God’s end time purposes for Israel. I wonder how he cannot see and recognize that the only way he can hold to what he believes is to not ‘see’ numerous significant and plain scriptures. This is not a matter of the application of a single scripture. It means the removal of Romans chapters 9-11, Zechariah chapters 12-14, Jeremiah 31 and numerous other scripture references along with a denial of church and secular history. I have contacted this ministry to seek clarification on their position but the only response I received was an offer to sell me products that outline their position and a request for a donation.

What is my point in all of this? Most of us can have a new bible and the only thing it will cost us is some time and perseverance in seeking His heart. We need to ask the Holy Spirit for fresh eyes to see from His perspective and know with His heart. Remember, He hides things not from us but for us! His delight is to teach us, as Jesus said.

 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. John 16:13 (NKJV)

There are many things He is waiting and will delight to reveal to a seeking heart. However, if we think we already know our heart is not in a position to receive. I determined many years ago, a couple of decades actually, to hold most of my theology loosely. That may seem like a strange statement but beyond core things like the need for salvation and to be born again, most statements of faith are more statements of convictions, often passed down convictions. Many of my own positions have not changed significantly over the years but I have taken the time to consider whether many of them are wrong and have researched teachings with opposite or different positions because I want to know the truth. When I do this my searching is not to find fault and look for holes in their position, rather it is to find out if I am missing something or misapplying some scripture. Are their holes in my position? I want the answer to that question and He wants to tell me. I just need to come without veils over my heart and mind.

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)

Understanding the Kingdom Part 4

In this post I want to further explore the role of revelation in understanding the kingdom of God. An interesting factor in spiritual dynamics is that often we cannot see what seems to be obvious. How many of you have one day read a scripture that you read many times before but suddenly you see a new aspect or something suddenly makes sense? This is revelation in operation. In my last post I quoted the following two passages.

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)

Clearly, one thing Paul is seeking to communicate to believers is the need for ongoing revelation from the Holy Spirit to be able to understand the things of the kingdom of God. Some say that we receive everything at salvation, I don’t know if we do or not, but if we do it either comes in the form of seeds that need to be germinated, or based on what is laid out in the New Testament, most of us who claim to be Christians must not be as we are not walking in what we are called to walk in. My goal is not to be judgemental, rather it is to get us to reflect on what we believe and align our lives with scripture rather than our culture. When the Corinthians, who moved in spiritual gifts but were not bearing the fruit of godly character challenged Paul he challenged them in return with this exhortation.

5  Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NKJV)

For most of us it is easy to ‘see’ how unbelievers are unable to ‘see.’ As Paul wrote to the Corinthians about why unbelievers do not believe.

14  But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15  But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16  Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 2 Corinthians 3:14-16 (NKJV)

3  But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4  whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5  For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6  For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (NKJV)

Paul was clear that spiritual blindness needs to be removed for the lost to see, be found, and be born again. However, both of the passages below he also wrote to the church. The context of his writing to Timothy was how to deal with fellow believers who wrongly opposed him and his writing to the Ephesian believers was a warning of how far we could fall from living out the life of Christ within us. In his writing to Timothy Paul says these believers have been taken captive by the devil to carry out his will instead of Jesus will. Some may argue that this could not be true of Christians yet that is what the context points to and most importantly Paul says these believers have been taken ‘captive’ by the devil. Those already in his kingdom do not need to be taken captive. That is the point of what I quoted above from Paul. Unless they encounter Jesus they are born and remain captive.

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)

17  This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18  having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19  who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Ephesians 4:17-19 (NKJV)

My point in all of this is that if we are to see fruit from the seed Jesus sows in our lives from His word and through fellow believers we need to seek the Holy Spirit for spiritual understanding. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:12 that we have been given the Holy Spirit ‘that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.’ They don’t just drop out of the sky but if we learn to lean into His heart they do come alive in our hearts as wisdom from above!

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.