God’s Preference Is You

My dear friend Josh Schram relaunched our summertime series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms. “Selah” (or “Interlude” in some Bible translations) can mean either a time of reflection, a deep breath to go into something stronger, or a time to weigh the contrasts. 

Psalm 44 is a classic example of a Selah calling us to weigh the contrasts! The first 8 verses of this psalm celebrate the recollections of God’s past victories, declarations of God being our King, and crescendoing to a note of continual praise—O God, we give glory to You all day long and constantly praise Your name!

Then comes the Selah—pause. 

And after the pause, the scene turns dark. The psalmist now recounts how bad his situation is, descending to the low note of “we collapse in the dust, lying face down in the dirt” (v. 25). 

Josh reminded us how our preferences change over time. Consider the telephone—we’ve gone from push-button corded phones, to phones with longer cords, to cordless phones, to bulk bag phones, to smaller cell phones, to smartphones. It’s very human for our preferences to want more and better. 

But God’s preference never changes. God’s preference is YOU! 

He can never love you any more than He already does. Nor can He love you any less. 

The apostle Paul quotes Psalm 44:22—yet for Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered—when he explains that absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love (see Romans 8:31-39).

In marriage vows, we usually promise to love our spouse “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health.” True love goes through it all! 

God’s love goes through it all with us. That’s why the psalmist’s last words are so hopeful: Rise up and help us; rescue us because of Your unfailing love. His unfailing love is our assurance of His presence and His ultimate rescue. Paul also reminds us “indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17). 

Josh said, “I want you to remember one thing: Nothing!” Nothing can separate you from God’s love. Ever!  

Hillsong United has some memorable words in their song Highlands—“I will praise You on the mountain, and I will praise You when the mountain’s in my way. … You’re the heaven where my heart is, in the highlands and the heartache all the same.” 

No matter what you’re facing, God’s preference is you. He loves you, and He wants you to grow closer to Him through this trial. Praise Him for His unfailing love on the mountain and in the valley, and then wait in eager expectation for Him to come to rescue you. 

Am I Getting Passing Grades?

The Apostle Paul tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). This implies that there is an ongoing process of evaluation and renewal. This starts when I give up my way of doing things (v. 1), and then the remainder of that 12th chapter is a checklist of changes in behavior that come about because of the renewing of our minds. 

We need a regular report card on—
Seeing myself in the right light of faith
Knowing and using my God-given gifts 
Loving without hypocrisy
Avoiding evil
Promoting good
Loving others like brothers and sisters
Not fighting for my way
Being diligent in my work
Being diligent in my spiritual health
Serving God
Rejoicing even in difficulties 
Growing in patience
Praying regularly
Hospitably serving others
Blessing my enemies
Being appropriately empathetic 
Finding common ground
Remaining humble
Repaying good for evil
Not trying to get even
Being a peacemaker
Overcoming evil with good

Holy Spirit, I need Your honest evaluation. Show me my deficits, and then help me hear Your loving voice that guides me in the changes I need to make. I want Jesus to be seen in my life. Amen! 

Am I The Genuine Article?

Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it. Test and prove yourselves… (2 Corinthians 13:5). 

The root word for discern in the New Testament Greek is dokimazō. This word means to examine something—scrutinize it closely—to see if it is genuine. We’re instructed to take a close, scrutinizing look at…

  • …our beliefs about God (Romans 1:28)
  • …our understanding of God’s will for our lives (Romans 12:2)
  • …our relationship with God and others (1 Corinthians 11:28) 
  • …our faith (2 Corinthians 13:5)
  • …our motives (2 Thessalonians 2:4)
  • …the teaching we are listening to (1 John 4:1) 

In his book Romans: God’s Glory, Donald Grey Barnhouse discussed the root word for discern (the Greek word dokimos). He said, 

“In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into moulds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft, and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century, more than eighty laws were passed in Athens to stop the practice of whittling down the coins then in circulation. But some money-changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money; they were men of honour who put only genuine, full-weight money into circulation. Such men were called dokimos, and this word is used here for the Christian as he is to be seen by the world.” (emphasis mine)

This should be said of every Christian: “They are dokimos—men and women who are honorable and are the real deal. They don’t shave anything off; they don’t water anything down. They can be scrutinized closely and found to be the genuine article.” 

The Bible makes it clear that before the world can call us dokimos, the Holy Spirit first has to stamp that word on us. It’s only after we have allowed Him to scrutinize (and correct) our beliefs, relationships, faith, and motives that we can be labeled dokimos. When we are the real deal in His presence, the world cannot help but see the genuine article when they examine us. 

Let’s live this way! May both God and the watching world be able to call us dokimos! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Honorable Disagreement

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Honorable Disagreement

     If you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views that were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. … 

     Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines that he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the Twelve, I do not believe that there could be found to men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians and was one of whom the world was not worthy.

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon

Calvinists and Arminians have appeared at odds with each other for centuries. Spurgeon teaches us a valuable truth—

Men can disagree on doctrines without vilifying the men who believe and teach those doctrines. 

Spurgeon (an avowed Calvinist) and Wesley (an outspoken Arminian) strongly believed and forcefully and persuasively taught what they saw to be true in Scripture. Yet they did so without attacking or demonizing each other. They practiced what the Apostle Paul taught—

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18) 

Oh, that today we would again follow the counsel of Paul and the example of Spurgeon and Wesley!

4 Holy Spirit-Enhanced Habits

According to Paul, there are only two ways people can live: in the flesh or in the Spirit. That is—(1) operating separate from God, or (2) with a soul/body that is operating with God’s full involvement. 

The trouble is: we’re always—as long as we’re alive—still in the flesh because we need these bodies to carry around our soul and spirit. But changes begin to occur first at salvation (when the connection of our spirit to God’s Spirit is reestablished), and even more so after being baptized in the Holy Spirit (when we are not trying to work out things on our own). 

As a result, we have the same brain, but a mind that is being renewed; the same eyes, but insight that is being expanded; the same ears, but learning new ways to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. 

Remember that Jesus promised that the baptism in the Holy Spirit would empower us TO BE His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Not just to do things differently, but to have our spirit so enlivened by the Holy Spirit that we are living, breathing, walking, talking witnesses of a life transformed.

Have you noticed that there wasn’t a steep “learning curve” for the disciples of Jesus following Pentecost? Part of that is due to four key habits that the Holy Spirit helped form in their lives. 

  1. Correct biblical application—We immediately see people going from “They didn’t understand from the Scriptures” to quickly applying biblical texts to their current situations. This is exactly what Jesus promised would happen (John 20:6-9; Acts 2:16, 25, 34; John 14:26). 
  1. Intercessory prayer—To intercede is to take someone else’s needs to God on their behalf. The Holy Spirit can help us apply Scripture to our prayers, and can even help us without words at all (Acts 4:24-26; Romans 8:26-27). 
  1. Creative thinking—Christians should be the most creative thinkers in the world (Psalm 119:99; Jeremiah 33:3; 1 Corinthians 2:10). 
  1. Healthy conflict resolution—We’re all different, so not seeing eye-to-eye is bound to happen, but Spirit-empowered Christians will be able to resolve conflicts faster and with better results (Acts 6:1-8; Acts 15:1-31). 

“Your life as a Christian should make unbelievers question their disbelief in God.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Amen! Your life as a Christian that is living out daily habits that have been empowered by the Spirit should make everyone around you want to go deeper and deeper into all that the Holy Spirit has in store for them too. 

Join me next Sunday as we take another look at what it means when we say We Are: Pentecostal. 

My Conscience

…my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1). 

Conscience is that God-implanted part of a human soul that can distinguish between…

  • …the morally good and the morally bad 
  • …the things that attract God’s presence and the things that repel God’s presence
  • …commending things and condemning things
  • …the things that please the Holy Spirit and the things that grieve the Holy Spirit

Sin corrupts a conscience. Sin tries to blur the lines between good and evil. Sin looks for loopholes. 

Paul said his conscience was aligned with the Holy Spirit—my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit. 

The word for witness is the Greek word martyreo. Martyreo helps me distinguish because of personal experience OR divine revelation. In the case of a Holy Spirit-baptized Christian, it isn’t OR, it’s AND. Jesus used the same word when He said the baptism in the Spirit would empower His followers to be martyreo (Acts 1:8). 

The Holy Spirit aligns my conscience with God’s righteousness. The Spirit grieves when I fall short, and He rejoices when I obey. 

Following the other uses of martyreo in the New Testament, we can see that a Spirit-aligned conscience…

Can you say with Paul, “My conscience is aligned with the Holy Spirit”? You can if you make it a daily habit to listen for the Spirit’s voice and then obey His promptings. 

Don’t let sin corrupt your conscience, but let the Holy Spirit align your conscience with God’s righteousness. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Blessed Assurance

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Blessed Assurance

     The Holy Spirit, who enabled me to believe, gave me peace through believing. I felt as sure that I was forgiven as before I felt sure of condemnation. I had been certain of my condemnation because the Word of God declared it, and my conscience bore witness to it; but when the Lord Jesus justified me, the same witnesses made me equally certain. The Word of the Lord in the Scripture says, “He who believes in Him is not condemned” (John 3:18), and my conscience bore witness that I believed, and that God in pardoning me was just. Thus I had the witness of the Holy Spirit and also of my own conscience, and these two agreed in one. …  

     I find the apostle Paul speaking by the Holy Spirit and saying, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1). If I know that my trust is fixed on Jesus only, and that I have faith in Him, were it not ten thousand times more absurd for me not to be at peace than for me to be filled with joy unspeakable? It is but taking God at His Word, when the soul knows as a necessary consequence of its faith that it is saved. …  

     Has Jesus saved me? I dare not speak with any hesitation here; I know He has. His word is true; therefore I am saved. My evidence that I am saved does not lie in the fact that I preach, or that I do this or that. All my hope lies in this, that Jesus Christ came to save sinners. I am a sinner, I trust Him, then He came to save me, and I am saved. I live habitually in the enjoyment of this blessed fact, and it is long since I have doubted the truth of it, for I have His own Word to sustain my faith.

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon

The joy that Spurgeon recounts in his conversion is the same joy that is available to all who call on Jesus in faith. As Spurgeon was prone to quoting passages of hymns in his sermons and books, these words of his remind me of a favorite hymn as well—

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! 
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. 
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long!
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