Meditate on These Things

Paul closes a teaching section with this exhortation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10  Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

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

Blind Spots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where do You Dwell?

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

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

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

  1. ζητω zēteō verb

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

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

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

  1. μνω menō verb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The commentary of scripture on this event it very telling.

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

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

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

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

Greek Word: εἴδω Transliteration: eidō

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

Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.

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

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

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

And what Jesus said He would do.

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

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

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

Mountains to Valleys

January 7, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking in the Spirit Part 5

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

27  To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 (NKJV)

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

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

14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

  1. κοινωνα koinōnia noun

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

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

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

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

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

16  And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – 17  the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19  “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20  At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21  He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” John 14:16-21 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking in the Spirit Part 4

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

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

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

(here is a link to the song There is a River, which refers to what Jesus described. )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking in the Spirit Part 3

I want to further develop how the different aspects of our spirits grow, starting with our conscience. I believe we generally view conscience as a psychological component of our being yet it is rooted in our spirit and is our internal arbiter of right and wrong. Let’s look at what the New Testament teaches us about how our conscience functions.

First, our conscience is our source of conviction as the following scriptures show.

Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. John 8:9 (NKJV)

who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) Romans 2:15 (NKJV)

I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, Romans 9:1 (NKJV)

Note that the Romans 2:15 reference refers to both believers and unbelievers. In fact the context is showing how all people have the law of God written in their hearts, a spiritual reality. Paul’s point below is that all of us have our conscience built in.

12  For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13  (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14  for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15  who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16  in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. Romans 2:12-16 (NKJV)

So back to the idea that our conscience can grow and develop; this helps us understand what Paul taught about weaker consciences and leads to the need to differentiate between fellow believers with a weak conscience and legalists who generally seek to control others liberty. Romans 14 is about is about how our conscience functions. The focus in chapter 14 is on those with a weak conscience, implicit is the idea that our conscience can be in different stages at different times. After laying out the issue in chapter 14 Paul provides a conclusion in chapter 15.

1  We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Romans 15:1 (NKJV)

His point is that we need to be sensitive to the state of the conscience of other believers. With more revelation from, and understanding of scripture, what we experience in our conscience will mature. That is, our minds are renewed by embracing the truth of scripture (Rom. 12:1-2). For example, a regular part of my prayer life is to discern between conviction, the Holy Spirit speaking through my conscience, and condemnation, psychological feelings of guilt that leave me no way out. A truth to apply in this area is in Romans 8.

1  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 (NKJV)

Condemnation is different than guilt, when we have done something wrong if we are walking with Him the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin, however His purpose is to bring us to the place of repentance so that we can have restored fellowship and freedom.

9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NKJV)

The fruit of repentance is intimacy with Jesus. With condemnation we feel bad but don’t see a way out.

I referenced earlier the importance of distinguishing between a ‘weaker’ fellow believer and a legalist. Someone weak in their faith may not feel free to do things a mature believer can do, Paul’s used the example from his day of meat sacrificed to idols. As they mature things like this should cease to be an issue for believers. A current example in our day is the use of alcohol among Christians. While it is not something I promote, nor think it particularly good for anyone, it is also not something I oppose because the scriptures do not oppose it. At the wedding in Cana Jesus turned water into wine, His first miracle (Jn. 2:1-11). Likely not what we would have planned if we wanted to reveal the Messiah! Yet, as an aside, everything Christianity is about all culminates in a great wedding feast! There was a prophetic message in Jesus first miracle.

The however here is that while scripture allows the use of alcohol it forbids drunkenness, as a quick search or Proverbs would reveal. In this scenario we may choose not to use alcohol around a weak believer so that they are not offended, or we may simply choose to never partake, as I think over time the harms seem to greatly outweigh the benefits. We circumscribe our liberty for their good. If we are unable or unwilling to do that then we need to spiritually mature.

What is the difference between a legalist and a weak believer? In the scenario above a weak believer would be open to teaching and over time would be able to embrace the truth of scripture. A legalist would refuse to consider other points of view and condemn those who do not accept their position. An example for me today is those who deny the current validity of spiritual gifts. Despite the fact that millions of their fellow believers around the world operate in them, some very prominent evangelicals deny the reality of spiritual gifts for today. While they may be free in other areas, in this area they are not. They are not listening to the Holy Spirit speaking via their conscience if they are not allowing their position to be informed by the truth of scripture. In truth they hold to a scripturally and experientially untenable position. In this case it would be wrong to circumscribe our liberty and cease to function in ways the scripture clearly instruct us to function.

So, back to our conscience growing – Paul laid out how it can be hardened.

21  because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21 (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; Ephesians 4:17-18 (NKJV) 18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18 (NKJV)

When we reject light and truth it is as if a veil is placed over our spirits. We become less sensitive to the truth of scripture. This is why Hebrews warns of the danger of drifting from the faith and tells us to daily exhort and encourage one another. Again Paul lays this out well in the passage below.

1  Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2  But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 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 4:1-6 (NKJV)

What Paul is teaching in 2 Corinthians 4 is that to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit we need to reject darkness. This includes what we read, watch and discuss. Nothing is without effect and we deceive ourselves if we think we can imbibe darkness and walk in the light. We need to pursue the truth of scripture to have our conscience develop sensitivity to His presence. Let me give John the last word on this matter.

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)

Walking in the Spirit Part 2

Picking up on how spiritual growth is analogous to natural growth, how do our physical bodies grow? Is food and water sufficient? How many of us have heard of feral children, or more commonly, the problems children have if they do not form a proper attachment bond with their mother? Clearly more than just food and water are required. Yahweh designed us so that there are other aspects required for proper growth, things like love, affection, and physical and emotional interaction. We are complex beings designed by a loving God to need both Him and one another to fulfill our calling and purpose.

A simple example of this complexity is the impact of gratitude at meal time. I read some research recently that our bodies better digest our food if we pause and are grateful or thankful prior to eating it. Another example of how Yahweh designed us to function in harmony with His design and purpose. There are practical physical and spiritual reasons for saying grace before meals. He has built better health into taking time to focus on Him before we eat. The catch is that the physical effects require actually slowing down and being intentional, not muttering a hurried prayer so we can eat.

So back to growth – if we need to grow spiritually we need food, fellowship and time. The aspects of our spirit – conscience, communion, and intuition all need to develop if we are to grow spiritually. This can happen in a haphazard way or a very focused and intentional way. If we want to be intentional we need to know what to feed our spirits and how. We need to know how to have ongoing communion with Jesus and we need to know how our conscience develops.

In regard to spiritual food Paul, Peter and the writer of Hebrews gave us some instruction on the place of scripture.

1  And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2  I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 (NKJV)

12  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 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 5:12-14 (NKJV)

1  Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2  as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3  if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 4  Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5  you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:1-5 (NKJV)

We grow spiritually by intentionally ingesting His word and reflecting on it to learn how to apply it to our day to day circumstances. The scriptures inform conscience and intuition as our spirit becomes stronger. For communion, we need to learn to sit with and experience Jesus or meditate and interact with Him through His word, there are no substitutes. In the spirit we can finely hone our conscience via the word and communion with Him.

It is important to know that while conscience, communion and intuition may be different aspects of our spirits they are intertwined. The symbol below, the triquetra, has had many uses and applications down through the centuries. One is that it has long been used to reflect the Trinity and is in fact the symbol on every New King James bible for precisely that reason. You can see in the symbol below that while each of the three parts can be distinctly seen the parts are also intertwined and cannot be separated. It you remove one part you lose the symbol. We can use this symbol to reflect our triune composition as spirit, soul and body, as reflecting the three parts of our soul – mind, will, and emotions, or as reflecting the three aspects of our spirits – conscience, communion, and intuition. We can’t develop one in isolation from the others and we need all three to be whole.

Triquetra 2

Walking in the Spirit Part 1

What does it mean that Christ is in us, more particularly in our spirits? How do we learn to pay attention to and live out of our spirits? Paul said that the he had been given a stewardship from God to reveal His long hidden mystery, now unveiled. He described the unveiling of this mystery as the revealing of God’s glory and summed it all up in the phrase, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

24  I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25  of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26  the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 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 1:24-27 (NKJV)

Paul went on to say that the whole focus of his life was to present everyone perfect/mature in Christ (Col. 1:28-29). The idea being that Christ in us needs to mature in our spirits. While this may sound strange, think about natural birth. A child is born very dependent and over time grows. During this growth process the parents provide external controls while the child is developing internal control as they mature. This is the process of normal growth. However not all growth follows this process. If all goes well age and maturity are parallel processes. The same should happen spiritually, we should mature as we spiritually age, however we are called to discipleship, which carries the concept of discipline with it, both self discipline and discipline from the Lord. (see Heb. 12:5-7, Prov. 3:11-12, Gal. 5:23).

To capture the idea of spiritual growth look at the verses below.

80  So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel. Luke 1:80 (NKJV) 40

And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. Luke 2:40 (NKJV)

The first reference above is to John the Baptist, the second to Jesus. If they both needed to become strong in spirit then we are joining good company in acknowledging our need. This is why Paul wrote what he did in Galatians, which appears to be the first teaching letter he ever wrote.

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

The Greek word translated as formed and the meaning from the Greek are below.

  1. μορφω morphoō verb, Take on form, be formed, shape, fashion.

New Testament Usage

The only New Testament occurrence is at Galatians 4:19. Here Paul used the analogy of a woman’s travailing birth pangs to describe his intense desire and prayer that the nature and character of Christ “be formed” in the lives of the Galatian believers. In order that the morphē (3307), or essential nature of the Christ-life, may come into being in them, Christ must not only be in each of them, but must also grow or “be formed” in them. This process of maturity into Christlikeness is not a mere outward conformity to Christ but a progressive inward transformation of one’s character. Christian growth through the Spirit’s work is a major theme in Paul’s writings.

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

To successfully ‘walk in the Spirit’ we need to spiritually grow and mature, to develop strong spirits that enable us to walk out our calling. Given this is not automatic in future posts I will further break down and illustrate the ‘how.’

Carrying the Ark Part 8

In closing this series I want to look at an aspect of our lives that isn’t often referenced. In a previous post I referred to the three functions of our soul as our mind, will, and emotions and connected them to the furniture in the tabernacle. “The inner court contained three objects, the lampstand which represents our mind (light and illumination), the table of showbread which represents our will, supposed to be broken (the ground grain) and submitted to His will, and the altar of incense, which represents our emotions and desires. The altar of incense was positioned right outside the Holy of Holies so the fragrant incense entered into the Holy of Holies, into His presence. Our desires are to be directed toward Him.” In another post I referenced the functioning of our spirits and noted, “We are called to an ongoing internal encounter with His glory within our spirits that is generally not observed by others, just as the ministry of the high priest before the Ark was not observed.” However, to walk this out we need to know how it functionally works so we can learn how to have and ongoing encounter deep within, to in practice carry the Ark.

So how does this hidden aspect of our spirit work in practice? The theory is nice but what role does it play in our lives? Just as there were three visible object in the Holy Place that connect to aspects of our soul, there were three hidden objects in the Ark of the Covenant that connect to three aspects of our spirits. The Ark contained three objects, the tablets of the testimony (the Ten Commandments inscribed on stone) which relate to our conscience, a pot of Manna, which relates to communion, spiritual nourishment, and Aaron’s rod that had budded, which speaks of the intuitive life in our spirit. The scriptures are below.

2  For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; 3  and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, 4  which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; Hebrews 9:2-4 (NKJV)

Relating these things back to our spirits, our spirit has the three main functions of conscience, communion and intuition. The scriptures illustrate these different aspects of our spirits.

The tablets of stone, the commandments speak of the conscience aspect of our spirits. Paul addressed this in Romans.

1  I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, Romans 9:1 (NKJV)

The manna speaks of ongoing spiritual nourishment, communion. Jesus and Paul both addressed this function.

4  But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” Matthew 4:4 (NKJV) 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)

The rod speaks of intuition in our spirits. The rod was an apparently dead and dry stick but life was released through it when it was placed in Yahweh’s presence. There is life in our spirits through His regeneration and indwelling presence but we need to learn to pay attention to it.

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 2:11-12 (NKJV)

22  Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23  having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 1 Peter 1:22-23 (NKJV)

As we walk with Him and reflect back on the role of the Ark in the life of Israel, we have clues to how to pay attention to our spirits. As long as Israel moved with the moving of the Ark, analogous to being led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14), they walked in victory. However when they neglected the Ark (Heb. 2:1-3) or moved in presumption, as when Eli’s sons took it into battle without Yahweh’s direction, they suffered loss. There is a phrase in Malachi 2:15 that is critical, the prophet says, “Therefore take heed to your spirit,” an injunction we would be wise to pay attention to; and need to learn to develop in much of the church if we are to fulfill our calling and purpose.

In my next posts I will start a series on how we practically walk in the Spirit.

16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:16-18 (NKJV)