Becoming Spiritually Fit

To me this sounds weird: Jesus grew spiritually strong. Think about that: Isn’t He already God?!

When Jesus came to Earth as a man, the writer of Hebrews says He was made like us humans in every way. So just as you and I have a spiritual health to maintain, so did Jesus while He was on earth.

Dr. Luke noticed this as well when he noted that Jesus grew mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Luke notes His spiritual growth by saying Jesus “grew…in favor with God.” In other words, God was more and more pleased by what He saw developing in His Son.

Yesterday I listened to Pastor Josh Schram explain the parallels between our physical health and our spiritual health. He said that we all know what we need to do to grow physically strong—eat the right food, exercise, get proper rest, and have some way of monitoring our health.

It’s exactly the same way spiritually! We need…

…a good dietMan does not live on bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus repeated this truth when He was confronted by the devil, and lived it out every day.

…proper exercise—All the health food in the world won’t do us a bit of good if we just sit around. It’s the same with the Bible: we can read it, memorize it, and talk about it, but if we don’t exercise it we won’t get spiritually fit. Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only (James 1:22).

…the right amount of rest—We can’t be in perpetual “go” mode if we want to be healthy physically or spiritually. Jesus knew the value of rest, and frequently He would “withdraw to deserted places and pray” (Luke 5:16).

…to monitor our progress—James talks about the Word of God being a mirror for us, and Paul advises us to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

But here was the most important takeaway for me in Josh’s message…

Health is not just one big one-time choice. Health is small daily choices.

A good question for all of us to ask ourselves: Am I making good daily choices which will help me grow spiritually fit like Jesus.

I so enjoy sharing the teaching duties with a couple of really solid pastors-in-training in our church. They have helped me develop this series called Wholly Healthy, and have taken part in sharing messages in various aspects of this series. Please watch how Josh lays out the plan for our spiritual fitness.

This Is War!

light-and-truth-revelationIt is inner warfare—The 7th [chapter] of Romans is the description of this, the battle between faith and unbelief, between the spirit and the flesh. This war is private, solitary, with no eye upon the warrior; fought in the closet, on the knees, with the Bible as his weapon. …

It is outer warfare—The enemies are legion; the world, with all its enmities, snares, pomps, pleasures; satan, with his principalities and powers; both of these in combination hating, persecuting, attacking. This is ‘the great fight of afflictions’ (Hebrews 10:32). Thus it is so far public, before men; ‘we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.’ …

It is daily warfare—It is not one great battle, but a multitude of battles, constant warring: there is no intermission and no discharge in this war. The enemy wearies not, ceases not; nor must we. We wake to warfare each morning, and go out to warfare each day. Everywhere we find the enemy posted, sometimes openly, sometimes in ambush. The conflict is life-long, and it is daily.

It is warfare not fought with human arms—The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. We do not war after the flesh. It is in divine strength; with the sword of the Spirit; clothed in the whole armor of God. …

It is warfare in which we are sharers with Christ—He first fought the good fight, as the Captain of our salvation, the Lord strong and mighty; the Lord mighty in battle. The inner warfare indeed was not His, but all the rest was. He fought, when here, the same battles as we; and it is into His warfare that we are called to enter.” —Horatius Bonar, in Light & Truth: Revelation

Jesus—100% God And 100% Human

gnosisOn paper it seems so simple: “We believe in the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. As God’s Son, Jesus was both human and divine.” But trying to wrap our finite human minds around the concept of the full humanity and the full deity of Jesus is challenging!

First off, Jesus was fully human. Both Matthew and Luke record details about Christ’s physical birth, and the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus was made every bit as human as us (Hebrews 2:17).

But Jesus was also fully God. John records how God became flesh in the Person of Jesus (John 1:1-2, 14), and Paul tells us how Jesus chose not to use His deity when He came to earth as a human (Philippians 2:6-8).

I know that anytime we say, “God is like…” we’ve already sold ourselves short, but I’d like to try one analogy that’s been helpful for me.

Imagine a coin that has two distinct sides. While we are looking at one side (heads), we cannot see the other side (tails) but that doesn’t mean the other side has ceased to exist. In fact, if we were able to split that coin in half, so that there was only a heads and a tails, we haven’t cut the value of the coin in half, but we’ve made the coin of no value at all! 

In the Greek language of the New Testament, there are a couple of words for “knowing”: one is gnosis and the other oido. Together these words combine head knowledge and heart knowledge, or knowledge by study and knowledge by experience.

C.S. Lewis captures the idea this way: “It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him.”

Just as Jesus was both God and Man, we are to use both our mind and our heart to know Him.

To focus on the “heads” side—the deity of Jesus—is to pervert gnosis into gnosticism, and deny the humanity of Jesus. To focus on the “tails” side—the humanity of Jesus—is to pervert gnosis into agnosticism, and deny the deity of Jesus. True gnosis keeps both sides in mind: Deity and humanity.

To truly know THE Word of God (Jesus) in all His humanity and in all His deity, we need to study the Word of God. We also need the help of the Holy Spirit. I like the Old English wording of this verse—Ye have an unction [charisma] from the Holy One, and ye know [gnosis] all things (1 John 2:20).

So read your Bible, but not just to read your Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to make THE Word known to you. Live in the balance of gnosis as you get to know Jesus more deeply and personally.

This post is a part of our series studying our foundational beliefs. If you would like to read more about the first foundational beliefs we have discussed, check out this post on the inspiration of Scripture, and this post on the Trinity.

How To Grow Your Wisdom

wisdom-brings-harmonyDr. Luke is a great “noticer.” Twice he notices and records something about the early life of Jesus that gives us great insight for growing in a wholly healthy way.

First of all, Luke tells us how Jesus grows (check out my thoughts on this by clicking here), and then he begins to zero-in on the four areas in which Jesus grew. The first thing Dr. Luke notes is Christ growing in wisdom (see Luke 2:40 & 52).

Knowledge is not the same thing as wisdom. In fact, lots of people have knowledge without ever having wisdom. But we have to remember that you cannot get wisdom without getting knowledge.

The Greek language as a couple of different words for knowledge:

  • ginosko = head knowledge; information; belief that something is true
  • oida = experiential knowledge; belief in the knowledge you have

Let me give you a quick example. One time my facilities team was overseeing the reinstallation of our zip line from our 30-foot-high ropes course. This zip line stretched some 500 feet from the platform on top of the ropes course all the way down a big hill. After the zip line was replaced, our facilities guys believed that they had successfully connected the zip line. But only Phil believed in their work enough to put on a harness, connect to the zip line, and jump off the platform!

In order to grow in wisdom, we have to have good information (ginosko) to work with. Then we have to test this knowledge in our personal lives (oida). Only this will help us develop wisdom that can be applied to our every-day lives.

Otherwise, Oswald Chambers notes this: “We do not think on the basis of Christianity at all. We are taught to think like pagans for six days a week and to reverse the order for one day, consequently in critical moments we think as pagans and our religion is left in the limbo of the inarticulate.”

Often times the Holy Spirit will use the Bible, or a sermon, or the advice from a friend, or even a “slip of the tongue” to alert us to thoughts that aren’t healthy. Jesus tells us that the so-called “slip of the tongue” is actually a tip off to what’s really in our hearts (see Matthew 12:34). Solomon counsels us to guard our hearts and minds (Proverbs 4:23), and then Paul builds on the guarding theme to tell us to capture our thoughts and make sure they line-up with God’s Word (2 Corinthians 10:5).

This is what develops God-pleasing wisdom. If we don’t constantly grow in this area, we will hold back growth in every other area of our life—physical health, spiritual health, and emotional health, but growing in wisdom brings harmony to all of these areas.

So ask yourself:

  • Am I getting good information?
  • Am I capturing my thoughts to make sure they are healthy?
  • Am I applying what I am learning?

God wants to grow wisdom in you! May He equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him (Hebrews 13:21).

Praying With The Authority Of The Creator

pray-boldlyJesus had a way of praying that sounds unusual to our ears because He didn’t pray “normal” prayers. His prayers were bold statements! But Jesus also taught us to pray just like He did.

Most prayers that Christians pray sound like they come from the same formula. We may start with something like, “Heavenly Father” or “Dear God.” Then we probably spend some time praising God for His greatness before we make our requests of Him. Often our requests include something like “If this is Your will, I ask You to please heal/help/answer/etc.” And then almost always the prayer concludes, “In Jesus’ name, Amen!”

When Jesus prayed, His prayers sounded more like commands than requests. He would say things like, “Be clean” or “Rise up and walk” or “Blind eyes, be opened.” He usually didn’t ask His Father if it was His will to heal/help/answer/etc. And He never concluded a prayer by saying, “In My name, Amen!”

In Luke 6 there is a story about a man with a withered hand. Jesus healed him by speaking to the man, not to God. He said, “Stretch out your hand,” and when the man did so, his hand was completely restored. Jesus spoke with the authority of the Creator. 

I believe this was possible because Jesus had an unbroken conversation with His Father and the Holy Spirit. Certainly He had set times of prayer (see Mark 1:35, Mark 6:45-46, and Luke 6:12-13 as examples), but Jesus also told us that He only did what His Father told Him to do (John 5:19), and He only said what His Father told Him to say (John 12:49).

I know sometimes people want to say, “Yeah, but this is Jesus we’re talking about! C’mon, He’s the Son of God, so of course He could do these things.” But remember that the miracle of Christ’s Incarnation is that He chose NOT to do these things out of His Deity while He was on Earth, but restricted Himself only to His humanity. That’s why the Bible says that everything we face, Jesus also faced in the flesh (Hebrews 2:14-18).

But perhaps another example from someone who had no Deity in his nature might help. Consider Joshua—this man spent more time in God’s presence, listening to His voice, than even Moses (Exodus 33:11). So when the time came, Joshua could pray an incredibly bold prayer: He actually spoke to the sun and the moon and told them to stand still in the sky, AND THEY OBEYED HIM!

Just like Jesus spoke to the man with the withered hand in the authority of the Creator, Joshua spoke to the sun and the moon in the same authoritative voice. How could these men do that? Because they were familiar with God’s voice, and when He told them to speak out boldly, they simply obeyed.

Jesus said we could pray the same way—Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it (John 14:12-14, emphasis added).

How can we learn to pray this boldly? We need to spend more and more time in dialogue with God. We need to become increasingly aware of the His abiding presence with us. Then we, too, can pray in the Creator’s authority.

Praying this way glorifies God!

Get together with a friend this week and work through these application questions:

  1. Am I spending time in planned prayer and Bible reading?
  2. How can I make myself more aware of God’s perpetual presence?
  3. What’s holding me back from praying more boldly?

The Tabernacle Of Israel (book review)

the-tabernacle-of-israelIf you have ever used the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible, you are probably familiar with the work of Dr. James Strong. By the way, if you haven’t used this concordance, it is 1500+ pages listing every word in the Bible and their Hebrew or Greek word and definition. By contrast, Dr. Strong’s book on The Tabernacle Of Israel is only 170 pages, but it’s just as jam-packed with helpful information.

I was recently reading through the books of the Bible where God gives Moses highly specific instructions for the portable Tabernacle that is to be used for the Hebrews to conduct their worship services. This temporary Tabernacle not only served them while they sojourned in the wilderness for 40 years, but it became the pattern for the brick-and-mortar Temple that King Solomon built years later, and its pattern is referred to again in the New Testament book of Hebrews as being a pattern of the worship in heaven. Obviously this is a significant thing!

Dr. Strong uses his extraordinary skills to compile an easy-to-follow study of the design guidelines, building materials, and exact layout of this Tabernacle. He uses not only the biblical accounts, but also augments his work with extensive archeological discoveries.

Then to wrap up the book, Dr. Strong talks about the significance of the layout, colors, materials, and even mathematical significance of the Tabernacle’s design, showing how it still impacts the New Testament Christian to this day.

This is an academic book, but it is well worth your time if you would like to get a more in-depth knowledge of the Tabernacle which God commanded Moses to build.

T.M. Moore On Considering Jesus

T.M. Moore“We cannot follow what we do not know. And if we do not know Jesus, if our vision and understanding of Him are vague or merely general, following Him, in any sense, will be an act of self-deception. …

“The writer of Hebrews understood this. Twice in his epistle he instructs us to ‘consider Jesus.’ We must consider Jesus if we have any hope of persisting in the faith, no matter the struggle or threat that comes our way (Hebrews 3:1). And we must consider Jesus if we are to run our own particular race as fully and swiftly as possible (Hebrews 12:3). Following Jesus, it seems, means considering Him carefully. The writer uses two different words which we translate by the term consider.

“The first, in Hebrews 3:1, is the same word Jesus used to instruct us to consider the lilies of the field. It seems to have an aesthetic sense to it, implying wonder, admiration, mystery, and awe. To consider Jesus in this way is to wonder at His beauty, majesty, mystery, and power, and to delight in meditating on Him and lingering in His presence.

“The second use of consider, in Hebrews 12:3, encourages a more analytical, logical, and even theological consideration of Jesus Christ. We must study Jesus, think about all the implications of His life, death, and resurrection, and apply our minds to taking every thought captive for obedience to Him (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).” —T.M. Moore

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