Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Discipleship is the Next Step

There are three basic ingredients that go into our walk with the Lord. Prayer, reading the scriptures and connecting with other Christians. As much as we are grateful to the Lord for our new life, we still find that we struggle to do even these seemingly simple things. Why is that?

If you find someone who will take the time to walk in a discipleship relationship, don't let them get away.

It's because we do not understand the process of growing in the Lord. We need to be discipled. It is a vital part of coming to know the Lord and designed to bring us together that we can be of one mind, as the scriptures instruct us to do.

Without discipleship, we see growing in our walk much differently than the Lord does. In fact, the ways of the Lord are difficult to understand until we grow into them.

As a new creation in Christ we grow through having our mind renewed. There is a way that God sees that we cannot. God has a thought process that our old nature, which is the only way we knew, cannot understand.

We need to adopt a new way of thinking or we simply will not know God or who He is. We cannot become like Him, until we think like Him.

"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT 
So this begs the question, if I don't know God's ways, then how in the world can I grow?

A Mystery Revealed

Yep! It's a mystery. Fortunately, the mystery has been revealed to those who are in Christ. The answer is discipleship!

Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God--his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. - 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 NLT

The ability to grow in Christ was formerly not possible. This is because we did not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us until Jesus sent Him to us. God in us, the hope of glory is the mystery revealed. He is the mechanism by which one learns, grows and teaches in Christ
But people who aren't spiritual can't receive these truths from God's Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can't understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. - 1 Corinthians 2:14 NLT

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Path of Repentance

We continue to drill down through the Three Phases of Salvation, into Sanctification, and finally, with a focus on repentance.

Repentance & Renewing Your Mind

There will certainly be more to be said about all of the aspects of falling into sin and returning to obedience but here is a quick outline to use as a guide when we do fall. The path of repentance is the process of recovering from our sin and is the mechanism of renewing our mind.

The Path of Repentance

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Falling Into Sin

So, let's say we fall into sin. Jesus takes up our case and presents it to our Father. 

The Path to Repentance - Sin

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Conviction

The Holy Spirit then immediately brings conviction.

The Path to Repentance - Conviction

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Godly Sorrow

This conviction brings sorrow. If we have a worldly sorrow we remain in our sin and ineffective. If we have a Godly sorrow it will bring us to repentance... every time! 

Sorrow can be as quick as, "Wow! I know that is not who I am in Christ and I want to be like Jesus!" It can also be as deep as the sinner who falls to his knees crying out to God, "I am a sinner and so far from you!" You will most likely find a deeper sorrow for a deeper sin. It all comes down to how much you hate a particular sin.

An important thing to note here, is that sorrow is not repentance. Sorrow is it's own work. Repentance is it's own work as well. They go together but are not the same thing.

The Path to Repentance - Sorrow

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sanctification: We Get To Participate

We continue our look at the Three Phases of Salvation, focusing in on Sanctification.

When we are sanctified we are going through a process of becoming Christ-like. This is where we respond to an ongoing work of the Lord. The response on our part is obedience in faith.

Sanctification - An opportunity to grow, stumble, recover and then continue to grow.

It's important to note, that all phases of salvation, Justification, Sanctification and Glorification, are done in faith and the growth is from the Lord.

In sanctification we grow in Christ through obedience done in faith. 

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit [Rob: Justification] and soul [Rob: Sanctification] and body [Rob: Glorification] be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Thessalonians 5:23 NASB

Becoming Christ-like 

What we see in this stage is an opportunity to grow, stumble, recover and then continue to grow. In our relationship with the Lord, even though we are separated from the power of sin, it is common that we do fall into sin. When we do, this sin does not have the effect of taking us "out of Christ."

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins--and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. - 1 John 2:1-2 NLT

Our Justification never changes.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father's hand. - John 10:27-29 NLT

When we do sin after we are born again, we become ineffective. We stop bearing fruit. We halt our growth in the Lord and begin to walk out of the blessings the Lord is providing. We lose our peace or our joy. We may hide from our Christian brothers and sisters because we feel guilty.

"Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:5 NLT

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Prayer and Fasting

It is sometimes debated that fasting is not part of the New Testament and not a necessary or effective part of walking with the Lord in our modern day. This is an easy fix.

So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer. - Ezra 8:23 NLT

Jesus said:
"And when you fast..." - Matthew 6:16 NLT
"But when you fast..." - Matthew 6:17 NLT
"Then they will fast." - Matthew 9:15 NLT

The command to fast, and certainly the expectation to fast, from Jesus was pretty clear. Fasting is a function, much like faith, that works the same way in the New Testament time as it did in the Old Testament.

And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised. ... So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham's. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. - Romans 4:12, 16 NLT

Why Should I Fast? 

Trying to get our mind wrapped around what happens when we pray and fast is where we may get confused. When you are moved by the Spirit to pray and fast you can be sure that the Lord is wanting to do a special work in your life or in the life of someone around you.

A good way to understand fasting is to look at the effect of fasting. We have many very moving, incredibly uncommon and dare I say, supernatural examples that came from unexplainable works of the Holy Spirit. Did I use enough adjectives there to get my point across? Prayer and fasting is powerful.

Maybe it will remind you of the scripture in the book of Ephesians, "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us."


The Command

The command to fast is very important. Biblical faith can only be exercised through a response to a command. One insightful definition for faith is, the trust I have in someone based on what I know about their character. Therefore, if we understand God's character then we can trust that His commands are just and lead to life. Now we can mix faith with the command and walk in faith. 

"And when you fast, don't make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. - Matthew 6:16 NLT 
But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. - Matthew 6:17 NLT 
Jesus replied, "Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. - Matthew 9:15 NLT

Examples

Through the New Testament examples of fasting we can see the power of prayer and fasting. The Christians were sure to pray and fast for important works of establishing leaders and preparing for their calling. In the first example below, we see that the Holy Spirit is responsive to this work.

One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them." - Acts 13:2 NLT 
Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. - Acts 14:23 NLT