Contented To Intercede

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

There is a sportswear company called ActiveFaith. I have a warmup shirt I wear sometimes in preparing for my workout. The front of the shirt says, “I can do all things,” and on the back it says, “through Christ.” I think that phrase is supposed to help me muscle through when I want to back off in my workouts. Perhaps reminding myself, “I can do all things through Christ” will help me persevere. 

As we continue our series asking, “Is that in the Bible?” we have come to statement #8—I can do everything through Christ. Is that in the Bible? Yes, but.…  

Yes, this verse is in the Bible in Philippians 4:13, but we need to as what exactly is the “everything” Paul is referencing. 

Remember that context is king, so we need to look at this whole letter to the church at Philippi, and especially the verses surrounding this statement. Let’s consider verses 10-19. 

In verse 10, Paul says he is glad that the Philippian Christians have had an opportunity to meet his material and financial needs again. This church was famous for its generosity (see 2 Corinthians 8:1-4), and when they heard Paul was in prison, they wanted to help. 

Prison was actually house arrest for Paul. He wasn’t allowed to leave the house, but he was responsible for all of his living expenses. Quite simply put: no money, no food. Epaphroditus brought the necessary funds from Philippi to Rome. He so invested himself in this mission to help Paul that he nearly died in the process (Philippians 2:25-30). 

Paul expresses his gratitude for the way these friends supplied for his needs, and he tells them twice that he has learned contentment during this ordeal. He says that he knows what it is to have plenty, and he knows what it is to have nothing. 

Did you catch that: Paul says that contentment is a learned attitude. It is learned through appetites satisfied and appetites thwarted, it is learned by looking back to recall God’s past mercies and then reassuring an anxious mind—that may become a discontented mind—that God is still God and that His future grace has not diminished one iota (see Philippians 4:4-7).  

Bottom line: Contentment is learned by being assured (or reassured) that I can get through this season of life by my unwavering faith in Christ’s ability to supply my needs. So Paul concludes, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” 

I like the way the Amplified Bible translates this verse: I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me—I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency. 

Contentment is keeping my eyes on Jesus regardless of the circumstances. Contentment brings an assurance to my heart to keep trusting God regardless of my circumstances. And contentment then helps me pray for others. 

How does contentment help us pray—or intercede—for others? 

Before I answer that, let me have you consider another “Is that in the Bible” statement. Statement #9—My God will meet all my needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Is that in the Bible? No! 

Paul is not praying for himself, but for his friends. Listen carefully to the pronouns in this verse: And my God will meet all YOUR needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). 

So back to my earlier question: How does contentment help us intercede for others?

It’s hard for me to pray for others to be blessed and have their needs supplied when my heart is discontented, isn’t it? When I have learned contentment—especially when I learned it by having all my needs supplied in a time of want—then I know how to both empathize with my friends who are in need and how to intercede for them. 

To the church at Corinth Paul said, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, SO THAT we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). 

The Holy Spirit teaches me contentment through these difficult circumstances SO THAT I am strong, and SO THAT I can pray for that strength for others in their difficult circumstances. My contentment helps me empathize and intercede for my brothers and sisters. 

To check out other “Is that in the Bible” phrases we have explored, please click here to check out the full list. 

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Expecting Miracles

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Last week we saw the in-ness of the Holy Spirit guiding us, teaching us, and empowering us to overcome evil. For what purpose? Why does the Holy Spirit lead us this way? Because the Spirit desires to draw everyone into this in-ness. His work in and through our lives is always unmistakable and irrefutable. 

A good word to describe the unmistakable and irrefutable work of the Spirit is: Miracles. 

Miraculous signs characterized the earthly ministry of Jesus, and they also should to the hallmark of Spirit-baptized Christians today who are sharing the Gospel with others (Acts 10:38; 2:43; Mark 16:20). 

Some may ask, “Why don’t we see as many miracles today?” And some skeptics even point to a decrease in miracles as proof of their cessationist paradigm. But consider this: Has God’s power been diminished? Have all needs been met? Are there no more sickness or unsolvable problems of human suffering? Is everyone free of the power of the devil? 

No, of course not! 

So that would mean if there is any diminishment in miracles, the diminishment would seem to be in us! Particularly I think it is that we no longer expect miracles to happen.

Not only should we expect miracles, but we should also expect to be the vessel through which the Holy Spirit demonstrates the miracle. 

Here are 8 miracles that we should be expecting:

  1. Minds opened that were blinded to the Gospel message—2 Corinthians 4:4-6 
  2. Thoughts transformed—Romans 12:2-3; Philippians 2:5 
  3. Invincible words spoken by us to others—Acts 6:10 
  4. Love tangibly expressed through our spiritual gifts—John 13:34-35; 1 Corinthians 12:1, 31—13:3 
  5. Gifts of the Spirit used constructively in the church to both evangelize the sinner and edify the saint—1 Corinthians 14
  6. Compassionate actions constantly initiated to address areas of human suffering—Philemon 4-7, 17
  7. Powerful prayers prayed and answered—Acts 3:6, 4:31, 13:2-3 
  8. Miracles consistently seen as authenticating the Gospel message—Acts 10:38, 19:11-12 

(Check out all of the above scripture verses by clicking here.) 

Don’t limit the Supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in you to only natural expressions. Constantly expect miracles! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, you can find them all by clicking here.

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Anointed To Minister

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Last week I shared this key thought: The Holy Spirit’s empowerment ignites and then alines our light-bearing to a disaster-prone world. 

Despite what some people try to say, this empowerment from the Holy Spirit isn’t just for a select few. Jesus not only prayed for all of His followers to know this, but Peter also brought this out in his Pentecost Day sermon (John 17:20-23; Acts 2:21, 38-39). 

So why are some people not baptized in the Holy Spirit? I think there are numerable reasons, but allow me to share four broad headings: 

  1. They have impenetrable hearts to the Holy Spirit’s wooing (Acts 7:51)
  2. They are ignorant of the fact that this baptism is available to them (Acts 19:1-2) 
  3. They have impure motives regarding the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:9-19) 
  4. They are too impatient (Luke 11:9-13)  

(Check out all of the above passages by clicking here.)

The bottom line: God wants to baptize you in His Spirit, Jesus wants you to be anointed with the same power He used, and the Spirit wants to bring out greater Jesus-exalting fruitfulness from your life. 

Two years ago in this series, I said that when it comes to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in a Christian’s life: In > On. 

In the Old Testament, Samson had the Spirit of God ON him, but he never allowed the Holy Spirit to come IN him and make important changes. Three times we read that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him” (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14), but after every one of these times we see Samson reverting to his childish, selfish, pouting ways again. 

By contrast, consider the life of Jesus. After He was baptized by John we read that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” and “led by the Spirit.” That word for “full” means complete or lacking nothing. Jesus yielded to the Holy Spirit and allowed Him to lead and direct, as well as supply everything that was needed for ministry. Just a few verses later we read that “Jesus returned to Galilee, in the power of the Spirit.” And in His first recorded sermon, Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah about the Holy Spirit anointing Him for ministry (Luke 4:1, 14, 18). 

That word for “anointed” is chiro, from which we get the word Christ. That is the same root word in us as CHRISTians. 

We see this in Peter, Stephen, Barnabas, and Paul (Acts 4:8; 6:3, 5; 7:55; 11:24; 13:9). And then Paul writes that this anointing is for all Christians—“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us [that’s the word chiro again], set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). 

The anointing that characterized the life of Jesus in Acts 10:38—“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him”—is the same anointing for ministry for all CHRISTians today! 

So…

Don’t dabble—dive in! 

Don’t settle for on—allow the Holy Spirit fully in! 

When we are yielded and baptized in the Holy Spirit, we have the anointing to shine brightly for Jesus in our generation. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, you can check them all out by clicking here. 

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It’s What Shepherds Do

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

T.M. Moore shares my heartbeat for pastors to align their minds, hearts, and wills to leading as shepherds. T.M. graciously wrote one of the endorsements for my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter by saying, 

“The combination of Craig’s Biblical understanding, practical insights, and consistent personal practice make this a book every pastor should read. Unless our goals and practices in ministry line up with those Jesus taught and exemplified, we cannot expect Him to bless us with world-uprighting power.”

In a recent blog post, T.M. shared these poignant words—

     “Many pastors today seek to model themselves and their ministries along the lines of whichever pastor and whatever church seem to be the most ‘popular’ or ‘successful’ in attracting people. The result is, increasingly, worship services are starting to look alike, and pastors are starting to preach alike. And those who aren’t are wondering what they might do to become more like everybody else.

     “We ought not model ourselves on our contemporaries, be they ever so ‘successful.’ Such comparing and adjusting, Paul suggested, is not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12). Jesus is our great model for ministry, and we should look to Him to wash, shape, enliven, empower, and employ every aspect of our lives and ministries for His glory.

     “In his sermon, ‘Christ the Example of Ministers,’ Jonathan Edwards offered a concise summary of the reason people submit themselves for ordination to ministry: ‘The work and business of ministers is as it were that of servants, to wash and cleanse the souls of men: for this is done by the preaching of the Word, which is their main business, Ephesians 5:26. “That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word.” … It is the duty of ministers of the gospel, in the work of their ministry, to follow the example of their great Lord and Master.’ 

     “Elsewhere Paul talked about spending and being spent for the souls of God’s people (2 Corinthians 12:15). The challenge that faces us who have accepted the call to ministry is to follow the example of Paul (1 Corinthians 11:1) and strive to see Jesus, become like Jesus, work and serve like Jesus, lay down our lives like Jesus, and trust in Jesus to make our labors fruitful for His glory.” 

I wholeheartedly agree! 

Pastors, let’s get back to the shepherding model the Scriptures show us. This is truly the heartbeat of my book. You can get more information on Shepherd Leadership by clicking here. 

If you feel my book would benefit you (or your pastor) I would be happy to send you the ebook version free of charge. Just email me to let me know. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Shine In The Darkness

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I’ve noticed that when people want to sound super-spiritual that they like to use King James Version phrases. Sometimes I hear people speaking in normal, everyday English until they begin praying and then I hear, “Thy servant … Thou O Most High … we beseech Thee … Thou knowest Thine children….” 

Statement #6 in our series “Is that in the Bible” also sounds more powerful when people quote it in King James English—Shun the very appearance of evil or sometimes Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord. Are those in the Bible? Yes, they are! 

We don’t use the word “shun” very often today, but in what was probably the first written book of the Bible we read that not only did Job shun evil, but God commended him for shunning evil too. And wise King Solomon advocated for his readers to shun evil (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; Proverbs 3:7, 14:16). 

Yes, those phrases that I quoted earlier come right from the King James Version of the Bible in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and 2 Corinthians 6:17, but does this mean that we are to stay away from anything that is “unChristian”? Does it mean that we are to shun sinners? 

There is a story that is told in the synoptic Gospels, but I especially like it in Matthew’s Gospel for one specific reason (which I’ll share with you in a moment). Jesus has just called Matthew to be His disciple, and several of Matthew’s coworkers appear to be having a going-away dinner for him which Jesus attended. 

Then comes the “911” call from the Pharisees (this statement is in Matthew 9:11): “Gasp! Jesus is eating with sinners! He’s not shunning them! Call in the sin police!” The New Living Translation is even more harsh, with the Pharisees asking, “Why does your Teacher eat with such scum?” (v. 13 NLT). 

In Luke’s Gospel we read another story where Jesus eating with “such scum” turned another tax collector’s life around. In Luke 19:1-10, we read of Zaccheus experiencing a complete life change because of His encounter with Jesus. 

Listen to Christ’s words in both Matthew and Luke: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. … I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. … The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Matthew 9:12-13; Luke 19:10). 

This doesn’t sound like Jesus shunned sinners.

Likewise, Jesus called us to be His salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-14). No matter how beneficial the salt of my life is, it doesn’t help anyone if it stays in the saltshaker, shunning the food. No matter how bright the lantern of my life is, it doesn’t help anyone in a closed closet, shunning the darkness. 

Notice what Jesus didn’t do. He didn’t go to Matthew’s house or Zaccheus’ house for a good time, or for a good meal, or for a time of entertainment. He was on mission. So too for Christians: We go into dark places not for our pleasure or entertainment, but because we’re on a rescue mission! 

In both the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek, the words for “shun” point at our own hearts. The words mean: You walk away from things that will pull you down, or you hold yourself back from the places and things that will lead you to sin. 

So look at the phrase “Shun the very appearance of evil” in its context: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject [or shun] every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22). 

Paul is calling us to shun the things that drown out the voice of the Holy Spirit. Listen to two of those verses in another translation: “But test and prove all things until you can recognize what is good; to that hold fast. Abstain from evil” (vv. 21-22 AMP). 

In 2 Corinthians 6 the phrase “Be ye separate” is in the context about being “unequally yoked” with unbelievers. This is what happened to King Solomon when he married women who were idolaters, and they pulled his heart away from God. 

Shun” means to keep away from those things that would pull you down. How do I know if a certain environment or activity or person is pulling me down? I need to check my thoughts, attitudes, and actions. If I find they are becoming un-Christlike, then that is an indication of a place or person that I need to limit my exposure. 

As long as my thoughts, attitudes, and actions remain Christlike, I should keep on seasoning and shining in dark places so that I can draw others to Jesus. “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Philippians 2:14-15 NLT). 

Don’t shun people that Jesus dearly loves, but don’t put yourself in a position where your devotion to God is compromised either. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit giving you the wisdom you need to be both on-mission for Jesus and shining a bright, innocent light! 

If you’ve missed any of the other lessons in this series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Who Can Claim God’s Promises?

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It’s a bit scary to me to realize how many people have a scarcity mindset. As a result, far too many people are trying to figure out how to get their piece of the pie, but they don’t really want others to have their piece too. This should never be the mindset of a Christian! Our God has an unlimited supply, so we should be the most generous and abundance-minded people. 

Sadly, sometimes I still encounter Christians who think that only some people can claim some of God’s promises. 

This is part 5 in our series “Is that in the Bible?” 

Statement #5—Old Testament promises are for the Jews, New Testament promises are for the Christians. Is that in the Bible? No! 

First of all, this assumes a dichotomy between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Second, it reveals a lack of understanding of what Jesus has done for everyone who places their faith in Him. 

Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to do away with or undo but to complete and fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17 AMP). 

Plato told a story about people chained in a cave in such a way that they could only see the shadows on the wall. He said that if the chains were unlocked, some would turn toward the opening of the cave, see the solid figures that had been creating the shadows, and move out of the cave. Plato also said that some would see the reality and choose to stay trapped in the cave—they would prefer shadows over reality. 

Both John and the writer of Hebrews describe how Jesus came as the incarnate Reality of God. Jesus reveals that He is the Substance behind all of the shadows of worship in the First Testament (Hebrews 1:1-2; John 1:1-14). 

Look at the worship practices of the tabernacle, specifically the practices on the Day of Atonement. Two goats or lambs were brought into the outer court on that day—one had all of the sins of the people transferred to it and was sent into the wilderness as the scapegoat, and the other was sacrificed so its blood could make atonement for the sins of the people. The high priest would take this blood past the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, and would sprinkle it on the atonement cover (also called the mercyseat) of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. 

John said that Jesus came to make His dwelling among humans. The word John uses for “dwelling” is the same word for “tabernacle.” Jesus Himself became not only our High Priest, but every single item the earthly high priest used on the Day of Atonement. Jesus is the…

  • scapegoat—Leviticus 16:20-22; John 1:29 
  • sacrificial lamb—Leviticus 16:15; 1 Peter 1:18-19
  • curtain in front of the Holy of Holies—Hebrews 10:22 
  • mercyseat—Exodus 24:8; Leviticus 4:6, 5:9; Hebrews 4:16

(Check out all of the above references by clicking here.)

By His life, death, and resurrection the shadows became Substance through Jesus. Hebrews 10:1-14 describes this, but especially note verse 12: “But when this High Priest [Jesus] offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.” 

Look again at the picture of the tabernacle and note that there are no chairs. That was because the earthly priest’s work was never done. But our fully human, fully divine High Priest completed everything that needed to be done, so He could sit down. 

This High Priest not only sits down in God’s presence, but He takes us with Him into the Holy of Holies: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6)! 

So now ALL God’s promises are for ALL who are in Jesus! “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

I like how the Personalize Promise Bible turns that verse into this prayer: “My heavenly Father is faithful to His every Word. No matter how many promises He has made, in Jesus, He makes good on every one. I have God’s Word; therefore, I have God’s will. Every time that I pray in line with His Word, the answer is guaranteed.” 

My friend, if you have placed your faith in the completed work of Jesus, then EVERY promise in the Bible is a promise you can claim for your life. Hallelujah! What an amazing thing God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ! 

If you’ve missed any of the topics we have covered in this series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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The Approachable Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

A friend of mine who was in a position of leadership in the Assemblies of God used to joke with people, “Since you’re bowing and walking backwards out of my office, would you like to kiss my ring too?” There are some people that we feel are in a special class so that we have to approach them differently. 

If we feel that way about certain people, what might we be thinking when we consider approaching the supreme, awesome, preeminent, incomparable Jesus?! It’s very likely that we could feel Him to be unapproachable, as though we aren’t worthy of His attention. 

But when Jesus Himself told us, “When [not ‘if’] you pray,” He is assuming that we will pray. And then He adds this amazing thought: “And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13)! 

Jesus loves to help us. He died a cruel death on the Cross so that He could help us! Jesus ties our trusting prayer with His willingness to serve us (Luke 12:22-37). Note this last line from our approachable Savior: 

It will be good for those servants whose Master finds them watching when He comes. Truly I tell you, He will dress Himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. (v. 37) 

Jesus serves us?! What an amazing thought! But does this make Jesus somehow less majestic? I like what John Piper has to say about this: “Does this belittle the risen Christ—to say that He was and is and will ever be the servant of His people? It would, if ‘servant’ meant ‘one who takes orders,’ or if we thought we were His masters. Yes, that would dishonor Him. But it does not dishonor Him to say that we are weak and need His help.” 

How do we not treat Jesus as an order-taking servant? First, we have to remember that approachable doesn’t mean something we do casually. I think this is discovered in our attitude—it’s the difference between being childlike and being childish. 

The childlike attitude is one of wonder and trust. One that calls God, “Daddy.” One that is lovingly dependent on Him. One that says, “I don’t understand what I’m going through right now, but I trust Your wisdom.” 

The childish attitude is one who treats majestic things flippantly. Perhaps the childish one talks about God as “the Big Guy upstairs.” Or one who remains selfishly independent, or who says, “Do it my way—now!”

The childlike attitude glorifies Jesus as our approachable Servant Savior. 

The childlike attitude also recognizes that there are more dimensions of the majesty of God to be discovered in an abiding relationship with Jesus. Our approachable Savior wants us to come to Him, to call to Him for help, and to know Him more intimately (Jeremiah 29:13-14; Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4:16; 10:19, 22). 

Prayer not only unlocks deeper, proper intimacy with Jesus, but it conforms our heart more and more to His heart. As we are conformed to Him, we reflect His approachable glory to others (2 Corinthians 4:6, 3:18). 

We approach the awesome Jesus reverently in childlike faith. It’s in God’s presence that the Holy Spirit matures our faith so that we become glory-reflectors that point others to Jesus. 

If you’ve missed any of the eight messages in our series Awesome: Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus, you can find the list of all of the messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Preeminent Jesus

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There is only one Jesus, but He is presented to us in the Bible with many facets, and we get to pray in all of those facets of His name! 

One of the facets of Jesus is His preeminence. The dictionary defines preeminent as “above and before others; superior; surpassing.” 

The Bible uses the word preeminence to mean “holding the first place.” The apostle Paul uses this idea of Christ’s supremacy when He describes Him this way—

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the FIRSTBORN over all creation. For in Him ALL things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; ALL things have been created through Him and for Him. He is BEFORE ALL things, and in Him ALL things hold together. And He is the HEAD of the body, the church; He is the BEGINNING and the FIRSTBORN from among the dead, so that in EVERYTHING He might have the SUPREMACY. For God was pleased to have ALL His fullness dwell in Him. (Colossians 1:15-19, emphasis mine) 

Therefore God exalted Him to THE HIGHEST PLACE and gave Him the name that is above EVERY name, that at the name of Jesus EVERY knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and EVERY tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11, emphasis mine) 

Praying in Christ’s preeminence means that we never have to settle for less than God’s best! 

When we began this series, I mentioned that there were some people who misuse the words of Jesus. Specifically the phrase where Jesus says, “I will do whatever you ask in My name” (John 14:13, 15:16, 16:23). They have taken this as license to ask for things for their own comfort, or claiming that praying “in the name of Jesus” means that we never have to experience pain, poverty, or any setbacks. 

But preeminence ≠ prosperity! 

Prosperity wrongly says Christians will never have trouble, never experience poverty or lack, and can claim and obtain lavish things just by invoking “in the name of Jesus.” 

Preeminence correctly says that Christians may have trouble, or poverty, or even martyrdom, but that Christ’s preeminence gets the final word, the decisive word, and the best word! 

Jesus didn’t pray to be removed from trials. The godly apostle Paul experienced ample trouble, and so did the heroes of faith (John 12:27-28; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27; Hebrews 11:35-38). Yet even in all of these troubles and pain and hardship, Christ’s preeminence prevails! 

As Paul said in Colossians 1, Jesus was the “firstborn from among the dead,” meaning that He is now preeminent even over death! Jesus said that His followers will—not “may”—experience persecution here, just as those heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11 did, but that the rewards in eternity are beyond compare (see 1 Corinthians 15:55, 57-58; Matthew 5:11-12; Hebrews 11:39-40). 

Horatio Spafford wrote the hymn It Is Well With My Soul. One of the stanzas reminds us:

Though satan should buffet though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soul

Praying in the name of the preeminent Jesus does at least four things for us: 

  1. Gives us a surpassing victory—Romans 8:31-32, 37 
  2. Keeps us humble and God glorified—2 Corinthians 4:7
  3. Detaches us from earthly things that would take our eyes off of Jesus—Philippians 3:8
  4. Keeps us focused on Heaven—2 Corinthians 4:17

(check out all of the verses listed above by clicking here)

Let me say it again: Praying in Christ’s preeminence means that we never have to settle for less than God’s best! 

God’s best is not awaiting us here on earth, but it is our promised eternal reward for persevering to the end. It may seem tough at times, but our preeminent Savior walks with us every step of the way! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series on prayer, you can find links to all of those messages by clicking here. 

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The Divine Jesus

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I was teaching a class for my team members, and at one of the breaks a new employee came up to me to say how much he was enjoying the day, and to tell me that he would like to do what I was doing. I asked him, “But do you want to do what I did in order to do what I’m doing?” When I explained that I read about 10-12 books for this training time, and that it took me about 40 hours to prepare for our 4-hour class, he didn’t seem as interested. 

Most people don’t want to put in the work, but they just want the results. As Christians we need to remember these words from William Penn: “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.” 

The human Jesus understands and empathizes with our painful struggles, and the divine Jesus helps us endure through these painful struggles to get the rewards on the other side. 

What do we mean by divine? The dictionary simply defines it as things relating to God or gods, so we need to use some context to help us understand who this divine Jesus is. After all, the New Testament refers to both Jesus and Artemis as divine (Romans 1:20; Hebrews 1:1-3; Acts 19:27). 

One way we can distinguish is by doing what the writer of Hebrews advised: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). We see that the so-called worshippers of Artemis were more interested in their own financial gain than they were her divinity (Acts 19:23-27). In contrast, the apostle Paul demonstrated a totally Jesus-focused lifestyle: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). 

Paul was following Jesus, and called all Christians to do the same. He noted that Jesus gave up all of His divine privileges to become our human Jesus, but because of this obedience, God made the divinity of Jesus shine more gloriously than anything else in creation! Then Paul transitioned to a word specifically for Christians: 

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13) 

In essence this is like Jesus saying, “I want you to have what I have, but you will have to do what I did to get it: That is, go through the painful struggles of life. But I will be right here with you every single step of the way!” 

The writer of Hebrews echoes this idea by reminding us that Jesus was made perfect through suffering, and so are we. So he calls us to “not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” He also reminds us that although the times of suffering are not pleasant, there is an unimaginable reward on the other side (Hebrews 2:9-11; 10:35-39; 12:1-11).

I especially like this conclusion: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

The divine Jesus has made it possible for us to be rewarded as He was rewarded! His divine power leads to our divine nature. And His divine power helps us defeat the world’s weapons (2 Peter 1:3-4; 2 Corinthians 10:4) 

Jesus asks, “Do you want to do what I did in order to do what I’m doing?” The power of the divine Jesus can help us be perfected, but we only get to this perfected place by suffering as He suffered. That’s why we need to know our human Jesus understands, empathizes, and helps. 

Most people don’t want to put in the work, but they just want the rewards. Our divine Savior helps us work out what God has worked in us. He helps us get the rewards! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on prayer called Awesome: Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Poetry Saturday—Sorrowful, Yet Rejoicing

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

“…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing…” (2 Corinthians 6:10)

Sorrow was beautiful, but her beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the wood, and making little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss below. When Sorrow sang, her notes were like the low sweet call of the nightingale, and in her eyes was the unexpectant gaze of one who has ceased to look for coming gladness. She could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to rejoice with those who rejoice was unknown to her.

Joy was beautiful, too, but his was the radiant beauty of the summer morning. His eyes still held the glad laughter of childhood, and his hair had the glint of the sunshine’s kiss. When Joy sang his voice soared upward as the lark’s, and his step was the step of a conqueror who has never known defeat. He could rejoice with all who rejoice, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to him.

“But we can never be united,” said Sorrow wistfully.

“No, never.” And Joy’s eyes shadowed as he spoke. “My path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom for my gathering, and the blackbirds and thrushes await my coming to pour forth their most joyous lays.” 

“My path,” said Sorrow, turning slowly away, “leads through the darkening woods, with moon-flowers only shall my hands be filled. Yet the sweetest of all earth-songs—the love song of the night—shall be mine; farewell, Joy, farewell.” 

Even as she spoke they became conscious of a form standing beside them; dimly seen, but of a Kingly Presence, and a great and holy awe stole over them as they sank on their knees before Him.

“I see Him as the King of Joy,” whispered Sorrow, “for on His Head are many crowns, and the nail prints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. Before Him all my sorrow is melting away into deathless love and gladness, and I give myself to Him forever.” 

“Nay, Sorrow,” said Joy softly, “but I see Him as the King of Sorrow, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nail prints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great agony. I, too, give myself to Him forever, for sorrow with Him must be sweeter than any joy that I have known.” 

“Then we are one in Him,” they cried in gladness, “for none but He could unite Joy and Sorrow.”

Hand in hand they passed out into the world to follow Him through storm and sunshine, in the bleakness of winter cold and the warmth of summer gladness, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”Lettie Cowman

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