Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mysteries, Pt 2

Did you enjoy unraveling the last mystery? This one might be even more amazing. Even after more than forty five years of following Christ, I am still in awe of things that the Lord has done for us. So let's get into one more of the great mysteries contained in the Word of God.

Col 1:26-27 is the text we want to consider. The apostle Paul was giving the reason that he was so willing to suffer for Christ and even be imprisoned for the cause of the gospel. He writes these words in Col 1:25-29;

I have become it's (the gospel) servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

Now, there are several clues which we must find in order to discover the meaning of this amazing passage. The mystery that Paul speaks of is contained in the phrase, "Christ in you." Have you ever thought about what that statement really means? Well we are going to dig in like Indiana Jones looking for the Ark of the Covenant and see if we can get a handle on it.(No pun intended, or, maybe it was)

Paul says here that it was a mystery that had been kept hidden for ages and generations. That begs the question, from whom? Did anyone before this time understand what this mystery was? Well, in a certain sense, no one before this time could really understand this concept. God had chosen to reveal himself through the nation of Israel and its' prophets. The prophetic scriptures spoke of a coming Messiah. The term Christ, which is equivalent to Messiah, means anointed one. However, the Messiah that they were anticipating would be a man, who would lead the nation of Israel back to its' former glory. They thought he would be an earthly king. Now, how could they possibly relate to the concept of this Messiah being "in you"? It would make no sense.

Those outside of the nation of Israel had no concept of "the one true God", unless they had some association with the Hebrew people or had studied their scriptures. There were some "gentiles" (anyone who was not a Jew) living in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, who had actually converted to Judaism. They must have had similar views about the coming messiah So you can see why Paul declared this a mystery. The true Messiah, Jesus, would be nothing like what they were looking for.*

The next thing Paul tells us is to whom this mystery has been revealed. It is disclosed to the saints. Ok, some of you may be wondering, who does he mean by saints. The biblical meaning of saints simply means those who have put their trust in Christ. We know this by looking at how the term is used in the New Testament. It occurs forty five times and is always refers to a group of believers. Any other meaning that people attach to the term is a manmade tradition, not biblically accurate.

You see what the apostle Paul is telling us is, that the mystery of true salvation, was revealed in the new life of a believer. It is still a mystery to those who continue to live under the law, but it is the assurance of eternal life with God for those who accept Jesus, the Christ, as their Savior (the hope of glory). The evidence of this new life is Christ living in and through you. Jesus said in Jn 15:4 "Abide in me and I in you." The word abide means dwell or live. He lives in us by means of the Holy Spirit as He says in John 14:16-17 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — 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. NKJV

Paul also says that this mystery, now made known, contains glorious riches. It is obvious that he is not talking about monetary gain, so what are these glorious riches? Well, there are so many I could take weeks to share them, but let's look at a few of scriptures that use the term riches to describe some of the benefits of "Christ in You."

Ro 2:4 God's kindness and tolerance towards you

Ro 11:33 Wisdom and knowledge of God

Eph 1:7 God's grace lavished upon us

Eph1:18, 3:16 His incomparable great power for us through the Spirit

Php 4:19 All our needs met

There is richness to the Christian life that far surpasses anything else you might hope for. Stop for a moment and really contemplate the fact that God, the creator of the universe, wants to bestow these riches upon you and me! He loves us so much that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Ro 5:8) We become a part of the body of Christ, that He indwells by the Holy Spirit and we have assurance of eternal life with Him. Indeed, these are glorious riches! This is the mystery revealed, CHRIST IN YOU! What could be more glorious than that?

Well, there are many other mysteries revealed in the Word of God, just waiting for you to discover. I hope that your desire to unravel more and more of the "mysteries of God" has been stirred. The more you study his word, the more you will be blessed by His glorious riches!

*If you would like to learn more about the topic of messiah, you might want to listen to my message entitled "The Messiah, Whose Son is He?" Just look across the page for the information on messages at Living Truth Christian Fellowship. It's in the studies in Matthew, Ch 22:21-46.

GAME PLAN: Look up all the scriptures contained in this post. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight into each one. Write down any thoughts or questions that He brings to your mind. Share those with at least one other believer

May God bless you as you continue to grow in your relationship with Him,



Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Everyone Loves a Good Mystery

You've heard that saying before, right? Is it true? Well, I don't know if everyone does, but I think most of us enjoy getting caught up in a good mystery novel or movie, don't we? Something about a good mystery makes us want to do two things. First we try to guess the ending. Second, we cheat and look ahead because we just can't wait any longer to solve the mystery, right? C'mon, admit it. I know you've done that.

Maybe you're like me and can't wait for your next roll of the dice so you can accuse Col. Mustard, in the kitchen with the revolver. (If this means nothing to you, Google clue, the board gameJ) Advertisers and marketers count on our curiosity to see what happens next. They know we want to see the mystery revealed. We also want to see if we are smart enough to get the answer before it's revealed. When you watch "House Hunters," don't you always guess which house the buyers will pick? Oops, I let the secret out. OK, I have to let my wife watch something other than sports once in a while, don't I?

Well, if you love mysteries, then you have to love the bible. It speaks often of the mysteries of God, His love and our relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Did you know that the New Testament speaks of a mystery twenty two times? What's really awesome is that some things which have long been a mystery have already been revealed. We don't even have to go all the way to the end of the book to find out the answers (although there are some great ones at the end of the book).

Let's take a look at some of these mysteries. The first one is found in Matthew and Luke and it concerns the kingdom of heaven. Jesus, speaking to His disciples says this, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given."(Matt 13:11 NKJV) Luke puts it this way, "To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that 'seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.'(Lk 8:10 NKJV) The first thing that is revealed to us is that when Jesus talks about the kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God, He means the same thing. They are interchangeable terms. You might also notice that some people are spoken to directly (the disciples and consequently us) and some by parables. What is the purpose of this?

In many cases, Jesus spoke in parables so that the Pharisees and teachers of the law would not understand. Why is it that they didn't understand? When we look at the parables, we seem to be able grasp the meaning don't we? That is because if you are a believer, the Holy Spirit guides you into all truth (Jn 16:12), so that you might understand. The Pharisees and teachers of Israel had hardened their hearts and did not really want truth, they just wanted to maintain their power, so Jesus spoke in parables and they neither saw nor understood those truths.

So what mysteries of the Kingdom of God have been revealed to us? Would you believe that there are 66 references to the phrase "kingdom of God" in the NIV version of the New Testament? There is 32 more that use the term "kingdom of heaven" so obviously I'm not going to cover them all in this blog. (Hey, I heard that big sigh of relief!) What is important is understanding what the term really means so that you can look up all these verses and discover the mystery of the kingdom of God.

The Greek word used most often for kingdom in the New Testament is basileia. It comes from the root word basileus. According to Kittel, the term refers to the being or state of a king. Plainly it means being in the realm of and being ruled by a sovereign being. In an earthly sense it spoke of a realm in which the people of that particular area were subject to. If you live in a kingdom, you are subject to the authority of that king.

The people at the time this was written certainly understood what it meant to be part of a kingdom. The Roman Empire ruled most of the known world at that time and all who lived in it were subject to the dictates of its' current Emperor. But Jesus spoke of a kingdom that was not of this world (Jn 18:36). He revealed that this kingdom is eternal (Lk 1:33) and that you gain entrance by being a disciple of Christ. (2
Peter 1:11) Wow, how is that for a mystery being revealed!

Now in today's world, we don't think much about being under the dominion of a kingdom, especially here in the USA. But guess what? Until we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are under the reign of the ruler of this world, Satan. The earth is his kingdom for a while longer until the return of Christ. But Col 1:13 teaches that we have been rescued from the "domain of darkness" and brought into the kingdom of His (God's) dear Son.
There is a time coming when this earth will no longer be the realm of Satan. (Rev 11:15) Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"
NKJV. What a day that will be! If I ever wanted to get to the end of a story and see what happens, this is the one!

Mysteries revealed. They are all over the Word of God. This is a book I just can't put down! I hope and pray that you won't be able to either.

GAME PLAN: I highly recommend that you get a concordance and look up five scriptures each day for one week about the "kingdom of God" or "kingdom of heaven" and let the Lord reveal more and more of this mystery to you.

God bless you in the study of His word,





Sunday, July 11, 2010

How to Fulfill Your Purpose in Life, Pt 3

Welcome to the third and final part of this series. If this is your first time on Coach's Corner, I hope you will go back and read the previous two posts. In fact I hope you go to the beginning of the blog and read all the posts. (Not at one sitting of course J) In the last two posts, we have discussed the first two steps in fulfilling your purpose in life, which is to do the good works that God has prepared in advance for you to do. Sorry, if you don't remember what they are you have to go back and look them up. JJ So, on to step three.

Step three in fulfilling your purpose has to do with finding your spiritual gift or gifts and operating within them. Again, so many people seem to struggle with this and it should not be so. I think that part of the reason for this is that they neglect the previous step and don't receive the baptism of the Spirit. You can't operate properly in your spiritual gift, without receiving the power of the Spirit to do it. Now, since you can get many books and messages about the individual gifts I am not going to cover them in this post but I think it is important to understand that to do the works that God has prepared for you, you must operate in the gifts He has given you. Paul talks about these spiritual gifts in two different sections of scripture. The first section is found in 1Cor 12:4-11 and 27-30. Paul gives another list of spiritual gifts in Ro 12:6-8. Some people like to break these down into the categories of "natural or "supernatural" gifts. Either way you see them, they are given to you by God's grace (Ro 12:6).

Many times people are frustrated and get burned out in the ministry that they are doing and it's usually because it is not what God has called them to do. How do you know which gift or gifts you have been given? Well, One extremely important question to ask is, what do you do in service to the body that brings you JOY? When you are operating within your spiritual gifts, there is such joy in doing the task. You just feel so blessed when you do it.

Let me illustrate: maybe when someone was in need, you brought them a meal. If, when you did that, it brought you such joy that you couldn't wait to do it again; you may have the gift of helps. If, when doing it, you complained about the time and effort it took and then they didn't even say thank you and you thought how rude, that is probably not your gift.(ok, hopefully your attitude wasn't that bad. If it was, you need to repentJ, but you get the idea.)

Our spiritual gifts should operate in agape love, done without expectation of anything in return. The blessing comes in just doing it, not receiving any other reward. You also needn't worry about how "successful" it is. That's up to the Lord. If you know that you are following the leading of the Spirit, He will bring the results He desires to bring.

Now, most often these gifts operate in a very natural way and they don't have to be forced. For example, one of my gifts is the gift of exhortation. That is an important one to have when you are a teacher. It involves encouraging, consoling, imploring. For me, this happens in a very natural way. I often am doing that without even thinking about it. I may have a conversation with someone and later on they will say thanks for the encouraging words and I don't even remember what I said. So, my only response has to be, "Praise the Lord" because it came from Him. I love that! Remember, when we operate in and by the power of the Spirit, God gets the glory, not us.

Now, this leads me into the 4th step in fulfilling your purpose by doing the good works that God has prepared in advance for you. Did I mention that before, the good works that God has prepared in advance for you? Good. The 4th step is humbling yourself before the Lord and realizing it's not you that's doing the good works, it's Him working through you. You see, it's human nature to seek after our own glory. Pride is a mighty powerful force. Pride and seeking glory is what led Lucifer to become Satan. He still thinks that He will be like the Most High and be worshipped as God.(Is 14:14) God makes it very clear that He will not share His glory with others but He also makes it clear that He loves the humble.

Luke 1:52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.

1 Peter 5:5 "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

The apostles knew this. Their biggest fear was when God used them to do miracles that people would want to worship them instead of God. In Acts 14 the Lord used Paul to heal a lame man. When the people thought that he and Barnabas must be gods to worship, they tore their clothes (a sign of distress or anguish). Listen to what Paul says about this in Acts 14:15 "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.

Now, I will confess to you that for me, this is the hardest step. When people praise you for something that God did through you, it is hard not to get puffed up and start thinking that you are really something. I have some news for you. If you really want God to stop using you, just start taking the glory for yourself. God has a way of quickly showing us that it's not because we are so great, that He uses us. He honors humility. Now, He can humble us or we can humble ourselves. The latter way is usually much less painful. That's why my new favorite verse is Gal 6:3 "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself."

1 Peter 5:6 says "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time." This is such a beautiful verse. We don't need to build ourselves up but just let the Lord work and He will lift us up.
The older I get (ok, stop laughing) and the longer I serve the Lord, the more I understand this concept.
I really can do nothing of eternal
value on my own, but it is awesome to watch what God can do. There is nothing that brings more joy than being used by God and watching Him receive the glory!


GAME PLAN: Review the four steps to fulfilling your purpose on this earth.

Receive Christ and be born again

Receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit

Find and operate within your spiritual gifts

Humble yourself before God

I pray that you can follow these steps and thus accomplish the good works that God has prepared in advance for you to do!

God bless you as you seek to fulfill YOUR purpose in this life,


Friday, July 2, 2010

How to Fulfill Your Purpose in Life, Pt 2

Welcome back, I hope you read part one of this series. If not, you might want to do that before you read this post. In part one; we talked about what God's purpose for us involves. That is the first thing we need to know. We looked at Ephesians 2:10 for that answer and found that it involves doing the good works that God has called us to do. We also learned that it is not possible to do that until we receive Christ and become born again. What then is step 2?

It says in the last part of the verse in Eph 2:10 that God has prepared these works in advance for us to do. So step 2 is finding out what those things are that the Lord prepared for us, individually and corporately to do. Ok, but how can we possibly know what those works are? I believe that the only way we find the answer to that is in developing a personal relationship with Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit! I submit to you that all too often the missing ingredient, which, by the way, is not mentioned in Pastor Rick's book, is the critical role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. I believe that much the body of Christ does not really understand the person and work of God the Holy Spirit and it prevents them from fulfilling their purpose.

Did you know that even born again believers can do works that are completely worthless in the sight of God because we do them with carnal motives, by the power of our own flesh and bring the glory to us not God? Listen to these scriptures

1 Chron 28:9 "for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts."

Prov 20:27 "The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being."

You see, works that are truly good are always "Spirit led and Spirit powered", done with pure motives.

I really believe that a big part of this problem is the lack of proper teaching about the Holy Spirit in much of the church today. OK, so why is the Holy Spirit so important in accomplishing God's purpose in our lives? Because it is He who gives us the direction and power to do God's will. If you have studied the book of Acts you know this to be true. If you haven't, I suggest that you do. It will open your eyes to the working of the Holy Spirit in the early church.

I have recently been re-reading Pastor Chuck Smith's book called "Living Water" which has reminded me how much our lives need to be dependent upon the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish God's purpose in our lives. When He is leading you, it brings great joy to your life. But, I have noticed over the years that even people who believe in the Holy Spirit, sometimes don't seem to have the joy that comes in serving the Lord. Why is that so? Usually it is because they are still trying to do God's work in their own power. That will always lead to failure, discouragement and defeat. We cannot do God's work by our own power. We need the "power" of the Holy Spirit at work in us. To help in understanding this we need to see the three different aspects of what the Holy Spirit does in our lives.

Pastor Chuck, in his book, shows us three prepositions used in describing the work of the Spirit. The first one is found in John 14:16, 17 "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you."

The word with in Greek is "para." It literally means "come alongside" This is normally your first relationship with the Holy Spirit. He comes alongside to convict you of sin and leads you to put your trust in Christ. When you do, He then enters into your life and now resides in you The Greek preposition for in here is "en." In John chapter 20, verse 22 it says that Jesus, after His resurrection breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now the disciples had the Holy Spirit in them.

But there is one more preposition used to describe our relationship with the Holy Spirit and I think that this is what so many people lack. Acts 1:8 says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." The word for on here is "epi". It means to come upon or over you. The purpose of the epi experience is to bring "dunamis," which means miraculous power.
Notice that Jesus then tells them that they will be His witnesses after they receive this power.
This is so important. You see, this power comes from God the Holy Spirit, not from us. Without it we cannot do the works God has prepared for us to do.

We often call this experience, of receiving the power that comes from the Holy Spirit, the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Why? Because in Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16 John the Baptist spoke of Jesus saying that his(John's)baptism is with water, signifying repentance from sin but that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. And, in Acts 1:5 Jesus said they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days. In Acts, Chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit filled the apostles, there appeared tongues as of fire that rested on them. Miraculous "dunamis" power was demonstrated by speaking in tongues. Peter explains that this is what God meant when He said through His prophet Joel that in the last days He would pour out His Spirit. The term pour out can literally mean to overflow. Again this is the epi experience where God overflows us with His Holy Spirit, bringing the power necessary to do His will. Notice too that this is a separate experience from the para (alongside) or "en" (receiving) experience. The disciples had already had that experience we read about in John.

You see, if we are going to fulfill our purpose in doing the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do, we need this dunamis power! Dunamis power doesn't always manifest in a supernatural way as on the Day of Pentecost, but don't be alarmed if it does. Don't quench the Spirit when He desires to do something supernatural. We want to be open to however the Lord wants to accomplish His will. I really think that the reason we so often don't see the miraculous power of the Lord, is simply our lack of faith, not necessarily that the Holy Spirit can work in that way, but that He will. Remember when Jesus was in His hometown. He could not do many miracles because of the lack of faith there. We don't want to limit what God might do because of our lack of faith, do we?

So then, step two in how we can fulfill our purpose in life, is receiving the baptism of the Spirit. We do that by simply praying and asking for it and then receive it by faith. It is, after all a gift from God, but we need to ask. The scriptures teach us that anything that is in God's will is ours when we ask for it. John 14:13-14 says "And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it."

GAME PLAN: If you have never yet prayed to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, do it now! Then ask the Lord to reveal Himself by the power of the Holy Spirit in your life and just watch what He does. You will find yourself able to understand His word better and serve him with joy.

May God bless you in your walk with Him