Maturing Reactions

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Jesus lived out the example of wholly healthy growth. The way Dr. Luke records it, the pinnacle of Christ’s health (and our health too) is seen in our relationships with other people.  

Why is relational maturity at the peak of the pinnacle? How else could you know whether you truly have mental, physical, and spiritual health unless it’s put to the test? And the ultimate test is how we react when we’re caught off guard. Our so-called Freudian slips can reveal an area of immaturity. C.S. Lewis reminds us that the suddenness of the provocation that caused the slip didn’t create our immature response, but it actually revealed what is really inside our hearts. Surely our unplanned reactions are a better indicator of our spiritual maturity than our planned actions! 

Jesus told us that our “slips” reveal what’s really inside (Matthew 15:19), but are these really unknown to us? If we’re really honest, how many times do we think unpleasant things without saying them or doing them? The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth—knows so well what’s on the inside (Psalm 139:1-4). 

When we experience one of these slip ups, the devil loves to pounce! Paul calls it “sin seizing an opportunity” (Romans 7:7-11). But even as sin pounces, Paul assures us, “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). 

What is the “therefore” there for? After the “therefore” the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Adoption reminds us we are in Jesus and children of God, and the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Intercession help us pray perfect, childlike prayers. So what comes before the “therefore” must be something that makes us feel unworthy, distant, and condemned. 

Paul explains that “we died to sin” (Romans 6:2). That word “died” means to be separated from one thing which brings about the destruction of the other thing. When we are separated from God by our sin we are dead, when are separated from our sin by God we are alive. At that moment of salvation, we stand before Almighty God justified—just as if I’d never sinned. That is irrevocable: God will never go back on that, we will never slip away from His grace. But that moment of salvation also begins a lifelong process of sanctification—or as I like to say it saint-ification. 

Remember that pyramid of growth Jesus demonstrated for us? Paul says, “I myself in my mind am a slave (Romans 7:25). The mind is where the Spirit of Truth begins His maturing, saint-ifying process in us. As our minds are transformed, then our bodies and our mouths can live out a Christlike lifestyle (see Romans 12:1-2). It’s this mind and body transformation that matures our spiritual health, which is then revealed in our relationships with others.  

Notice that it is after we have been through this transformation of mind, body, and spirit that Paul tells us the standard for God-honoring living. This is where we see even our unplanned reactions becoming more and more Christ-like (Romans 12:9-21). We cannot live out this Romans 12 mandate solely on our own willpower. We aren’t trying to become self-made people, but instead, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to make us transformed saints. Transformed saints that are known by their unplanned Christlike reactions. 

This is why I keep stressing for Christians to not stop at salvation, but to press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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Reversing Entropy

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

Don’t you wish that you could clean things up and they would stay clean? After you get everything set the way you like it, why can’t it just stay that way? Quite simply, things can’t stay clean and pristine because of the Law of Entropy. Entropy is the measure of disorder in a system, and the Law of Entropy says that unless sufficient energy is applied, an ordered system will always move toward disorder. This is as true spiritually as it is in physics. 

God created a perfectly ordered system both physically and spiritually, but man’s sin brought in disorder, disease, and decay. It gets so bad that just three chapters after man’s first sin we read, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5).  

Throughout history, there have been revivals, reformations, and awakenings where people see the disorder and decay that sin has brought to their lives and they want to return to God. The pain of entropy causes people to repent, and the Spirit of God moves in with sufficient energy to restore. Sadly, unless the Holy Spirit’s energy is continually applied, entropy will again begin to run its downward course. 

Jesus not only came to reverse the entropy of sin (see Isaiah 9:2, 49:9; John 1:5, 8:12), but He sent us out into a sinful world to do the same thing. Jesus told us that we are salt that reverses entropy’s decay and we are light that reverses entropy’s darkness (Matthew 5:13-14). Jesus also told us that there’s no way we can maintain this entropy-reversing energy on our own—we need the Holy Spirit’s empowerment (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). [Check out all of these verses by clicking here.] 

Paul talked about this same idea in 2 Corinthians 3. He contrasts the ministry of the Old Testament with its fading glory, and the ministry of the New Testament with terms like more glorious, surpassing glory, and ever-increasing glory. 

Do you realize that Spirit-filled Christians never have to long for “the good ol’ days”? Being baptized in the Holy Spirit means, as Paul reminds us, that we are perpetually being transformed into the image of Jesus and we are therefore reflecting more and more of His glory. Every day can be more glorious than the day before. We don’t have to experience any entropy in our spiritual walk. 

This isn’t because of our actions. Paul says, “not that we are competent in ourselves…but our competence comes from God. … [We] are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 

Spirit-filled Christians are the agents of change in the world IF we are being transformed by the Holy Spirit. In other words, we will tend toward entropy (and uselessness) unless we have the Spirit’s energy continually applied to our lives. 

Being transformed is an ongoing, continual process. We have to have the energy of the Holy Spirit continually at work on us personally to keep us from entropy. And then we’ll be able to reflect that entropy-defeating light to a dark world. 

I’ve said this before, but I’m going to keep on saying it: Don’t stop at salvation—be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Don’t let entropy decay your salt or dim your light. Let the Holy Spirit help you reflect the light Jesus so that you can reverse the entropy of a dark, sinful world. 

If you’ve missed any of the other posts in our series called We Are: Pentecostal, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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An Unmistakable Response

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

When something goes wrong, the response from most people is pretty predictable, isn’t it? Some try to ignore the problem, some complain about it, many get quite angry, and most people try to find someone or something to blame. 

These responses don’t sound very Christian-like, do they? What many people think the Christian response should be is something closer to the opening words of Rudyard Kipling’s poem—“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you….” 

And yet, though this sounds Christian-like, it still misses the mark for Spirit-baptized Christians. Remember that a couple of weeks ago I described the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a “distinctive doctrine.” There is nothing distinct about a Christian responding predictably like everyone else does. 

A Spirit-baptized Christian is distinguished by the miraculous ways God confirms His presence in that person’s life. What really honors God is not a predictable response or even a learned response, but an unpredictable, miraculous response: A Spirit-baptized Christian’s response to bad news should be peace and joy. 

I believe the Holy Spirit can so transform our hearts that our response becomes an unmistakable testimony of the power of God. We may experience the initial pang of regret and pain but our next response turns all the focus off of us and on to God.  

The Holy Spirit uses trials to transform our hearts and minds into Christlike thinking and action. 

Our Heavenly Father’s desire is for everyone to come into a close, personal relationship with Him. Before Jesus came this was first pictured for us in the operations of the temple and its sacrifices. Yet man’s attempts to control this hijacked what God intended. This is why we see Jesus acting in righteous anger to clear out the temple of merchants and money-changers (John 2:12-17; Luke 19:45-48). 

Oswald Chambers noted the similarities between what Jesus did in the physical temple and what the Holy Spirit does in our hearts: 

“Immediately the Spirit of God comes in we begin to realize what it means—everything that is not of God has to be cleaned out. People are surprised and say, ‘I asked for the Holy Spirit and expected that He would bring me joy and peace, but I have had a terrible time ever since.’ That is the sign He has come, He is turning out the ‘money-changers,’ that is, the things that make the temple into a trafficking place for self-realization.” 

The Holy Spirit has to disturb our man-made peace so that His peace can take its place. Or as Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). 

Jesus told us that the indwelling Holy Spirit would bring about this heart and mind transformation in His followers. The Holy Spirit doesn’t teach us how to respond in a learned, predictable way, but He transforms us to respond in an unmistakably unpredictable way (John 16:12-15, 20-22; 14:26-27). 

The transformed response of the Spirit-baptized Christian is joy in place of anger, and peace in place of frustration (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5). I like how the Amplified Bible defines “blessed” in the Beatitudes Jesus lists in Matthew 5: “happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of [the] outward conditions.” 

This transformation brings God glory and is exactly what Jesus prays for us (John 17:13-18), which is why I keep on saying: Don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit! 

Your unpredictable, unmistakable peace and joy in the face of trials becomes a testimony to a watching world. 

If you’ve missed any of the posts in our series on the empowerment that comes from being baptized in the Holy Spirit, you can find the full list by clicking here.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Value The Scriptures

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.

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

Value The Scriptures

     John wrote to believers, ‘These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God’ (1 John 5:13). It is worthy of note that all the Epistles are so written. … 

     We do not wonder that certain men do not receive the Epistles, for they were not written to them. … Here is a will and you begin to read it. But you do not find it interesting. It is full of words and terms that you do not take the trouble to understand because they have no relation to yourself. But should you, in reading that will, come upon a clause in which an estate is left to you, I guarantee you that the nature of the whole document will seem changed to you.

You will be anxious now to understand the terms and to make sure of the clauses, and you will even wish to remember every word of the clause that refers to yourself. O dear friends, you may read the testament of our Lord Jesus Christ as a testament of love to yourselves, and then you will prize it beyond all the writings of the sages. … 

     But as these things are written to believers, believers ought especially to make themselves acquainted with them and to search into their meaning and intent. … Do not, I beseech you, neglect to read what the Holy Spirit has taken care to write to you. …  

     Value the Scriptures. … The saint can say, ‘Oh, how I love Your law!’ (Psalm 119:97). If we cannot say so, something is wrong with us. If we have lost our relish for Holy Scripture, we are out of condition and need to pray for spiritual health.

From The Blessing Of Full Assurance 

The Bible is God’s love letter to you. I love what Smith Wigglesworth said about the Word of God: 

“Never compare this Book with other books. Comparisons are dangerous. Never think or say that this Book contains the Word of God. It is the Word of God. It is supernatural in origin, eternal in duration, inexpressible in value, infinite in scope, regenerative in power, infallible in authority, universal in interest, personal in application, inspired in totality. Read it through. Write it down. Pray it in. Work it out. And then pass it on.”

I spent a whole week blogging about my favorite Book. You can check out those posts by clicking here. In the meantime, let me encourage you in the strongest possible terms: Make the time to read your Bible every single day. Doing so will totally transform your life!

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8 Quotes From “The Gospel Of The Kingdom”

T.M. Moore has written a book that I think is a must-read for those who want to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3)—the orthodox Christianity that is presented in the Scriptures. You can check out my full book review of The Gospel Of The Kingdom by clicking here. 

“We can only discern these wayward ‘winds of doctrine’ when we have a clear understanding of the Gospel of the Kingdom. The better we understand and the more wholeheartedly we embrace this Good News as Jesus and the Apostles taught it, the better able we will be to counsel and lead our fellow believers who may be ensnared in the thrall of a ‘different gospel’ and therefore in danger of having believed in vain.” 

“In the divine economy now established within the Kingdom of God, the Spirit of God works with the Word of God to build the church and further the reign of Christ. An ethic of love and hope prevails within that realm which serves as a platform for embodying and proclaiming the truth of God and Christ. Salvation comes to those who believe, bringing them into the community of the saints and dramatically affecting every aspect of their lives in relationships of mutual service and love.” 

“The Gospel of the Kingdom is not, in the first instance, about you and me going to heaven when we die. It is about the Kingdom of God, first and foremost—about a new reality that has broken into human experience with irresistible, transforming power, making all things new and bringing the knowledge of the glory of God to light in the sight of all men and nations.” 

“Apart from the saving mercy of Christ and liberation into His Kingdom, men can look forward only to lives of uncertainty, doubt, disappointment, false hopes, fear, and death.” 

“The Gospel of the Kingdom is the power of God for transformation, a transformation so complete and thorough that it finally makes all things new. Those who know this power are changed by the glory of God so that, increasingly, their lives actually begin to reflect the living reality of the risen Christ, their King. The fruits and virtues that flow from their lives, like rivers of living water, are precisely those most to be desired and least in supply in a fallen world.” 

“The Kingdom is Good News because it brings power exceeding and abundant to be and do more than we could ever ask or think [Ephesians 3:20]. Here is a power we can never exhaust and that springs up day by day in ever fresher, ever more abounding ways to make all things new in our lives.” 

“Joy, it appears, is not determined by what we can see in our immediate environment. Instead, Joy is a condition that attaches to knowing the Lord and being able to see past what is seen in order to engage what is not seen. …The ability to know joy—in spite of any untoward circumstances or conditions—is dependent on the extent to which one actually knows the Lord and is intimately engaged in a relationship with Him. … Your salvation is an experience of living in the Kingdom of God, where we know the hope of glory, experienced and expressed, as a daily reality, then our joy will be more constant and full because our relationship with the Lord will be as much for the ‘here and now’ as for the ‘then and there.’” 

“God is always ready to meet us with joy, and He has provided ample means whereby we may engage Him for the joy that is to be known in His presence. Only our slothfulness, distractiveness, or neglect of His salvation—or the idolatry of seeking our joy in places other than the presence of God—can keep us from living in joy now, and in anticipation of the fullness of joy yet to come.” 

Thursdays With Oswald—Where Does Christian Character Come From?

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

Where Does Christian Character Come From?

     Christian character is not expressed by doing good, but by God-likeness. It is not sufficient to do good, to do the right thing, we must have our goodness stamped by the image and superscription of God, it is supernatural all through. The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural is made natural by the grace of God. The way it is worked out in expression is not in having times of communion with God, but in the practical details of life. The proof that we have been regenerated is that when we come in contact with the things that create a buzz, we find to our astonishment that we have a power to keep wonderfully poised in the center of it all, a power we did not have before, a power that is only explained by the Cross of Jesus Christ. … 

     “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” [Matthew 5:48], not in a future state, but—“You shall be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect if you let Me work that perfection in you.” If the Holy Spirit has transformed us within, we will not exhibit good human characteristics, but divine characteristics in our human nature. … 

     It is not a question of putting the statements of our Lord in front of us and trying to live up to them, but of receiving His Spirit and finding that we can live up to them as He brings them to our remembrance and applies them to our circumstances.

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Jesus said one of the roles of the Holy Spirit was to remind us of everything Jesus said (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit will constantly be working to bring the principles in the Bible to be applied in the real-life circumstances we are in—this is how Christian character is formed in us. 

God’s Word + the Holy Spirit’s application + our obedience = Christian character perfected in us

Are you reading God’s Word? Are you letting the Holy Spirit apply the Word to your life? Are you obeying what He’s showing you? These are the steps to exhibiting our heavenly Father’s divine characteristics in our human nature. 

Thursdays With Oswald—The Powerful Witness Of Your Life

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

The Powerful Witness Of Your Life

     Jesus Christ came to do what no human being can do, He came to redeem man, to alter their disposition, to plant in them the Holy Spirit, to make them new creatures. Christianity is not the obliteration of the old, but the transfiguration of the old. Jesus Christ did not come to teach men to be holy: He came to make men holy. His teaching has no meaning for us unless we enter into His life by means of His death. The Cross is the great central point. Jesus Christ is not first a Teacher, He is first a Savior. … 

     To preach the Gospel is to proclaim that God saves from sin and regenerates into His Kingdom anyone and everyone who believes on the Lord Jesus. It means even more—it means to disciple all the nations not only on the authority of Jesus, but on the flesh and blood evidence of entire sanctification in the life of the missionary.

From So Send I You

The Apostle Paul noted, “Then it pleased God to reveal His Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:15-16).

This is the exact same message Oswald Chambers has for Christians—If you have allowed Jesus to transform your life, that witness of Him in you is an undeniably powerful testimony! Yes, we need to preach what we believe, but this preaching needs to be backed up and amplified by living what we believe.

Christian, can you honestly say that your life is giving clear “flesh and blood evidence of entire sanctification”?

Poetry Saturday—Gazing On Jesus

Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art,
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Here I gaze and gaze upon Thee,
As Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole. —Jean Sophia Pigott

8 Quotes From “The Christian’s Secret Of A Happy Life”

The Christian's SecretSometimes people slap the label “timeless classic” on a book just because it’s old. But in the case of The Christian’s Secret Of A Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith, the label is well-deserved. The thoughts she shares are so biblically-grounded that they truly are timeless. You can read my full book review by clicking here. I highlighted way too many things to share them all, but here are a few quotes that I especially liked.

“You have been forced to settle down to the conviction, that the best you can expect from your religion is a life of alternate failure and victory, one hour sinning, and the next repenting, and then beginning again, only to fail again, and again to repent. … Can we dream that the Savior, who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, could possibly see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied in such Christian lives as fill the Church today? … Can we, for a moment, suppose that the holy God, who hates sin in the sinner, is willing to tolerate it in the Christian, and that He has even arranged the plan of salvation in such a way as to make it impossible for those who are saved from the guilt of sin to find deliverance from its power?” 

“Positive transformation is to take place. So at least the Bible teaches. Now, somebody must do this. Either we must do it for ourselves, or another must do it for us. We have most of us tried to do it for ourselves at first, and have grievously failed; then we discover, from the Scriptures and from our own experience, that it is something we are unable to do, but that the Lord Jesus Christ has come on purpose to do it, and that He will do it for all who put themselves wholly into His hands and trust Him without reserve. … The Lord’s part is to do the thing entrusted to Him. He disciplines and trains by inward exercises and outward providences. He brings to bear upon us all the refining and purifying resources of His wisdom and His love. He makes everything in our lives and circumstances subservient to the one great purpose of causing us to grow in grace, and of conforming us, day by day and hour by hour, to the image of Christ.”

“Sanctification is both a step of faith, and a process of works. It is a step of surrender and trust on our part, and it is a process of development on God’s part. By a step of faith we get into Christ; by a process we are made to ‘grow up into Him in all things.’ By a step of faith we put ourselves into the hands of the Divine Potter; by a gradual process He makes us into a vessel unto His own honor, meet for His use, and prepared to every good work. … The maturity of a Christian experience cannot be reached in a moment, but is the result of the work of God’s Holy Spirit, who, by His energizing and transforming power, causes us to grow up into Christ in all things. And we cannot hope to reach this maturity in any way other than by yielding ourselves up, utterly and willingly, to His mighty working.” 

“Just as we reconcile the statements concerning a saw in a carpenter’s shop when we say, at one moment, that the saw has sawn asunder a log, and the next moment declare that the carpenter has done it. The saw is the instrument used; the power that uses it is the carpenter’s. And so we, yielding ourselves unto God, and our members as instruments of righteousness unto Him, find that He works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure, and we can say with Paul, ‘I labored; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.’ … Just as the potter, however skillful, cannot make a beautiful vessel out of a lump of clay that is never put into his hands, so neither can God make out of me a vessel unto His honor unless I put myself into His hands.”:

“Most Christians are like a man who was toiling along the road, bending under a heavy burden, when a wagon overtook him, and the driver kindly offered to help him on his journey. He joyfully accepted the offer but when seated in the wagon, continued to bend beneath his burden, which he still kept on his shoulders. ‘Why do you not lay down your burden?’ asked the kind-hearted driver. ‘Oh!’ replied the man, ‘I feel that it is almost too much to ask you to carry me, and I could not think of letting you carry my burden too.’ And so Christians, who have given themselves into the care and keeping of the Lord Jesus still continue to bend beneath the weight of their burdens, and often go weary and heavy-laden throughout the whole length of their journey. … It is generally much less difficult for us to commit the keeping of our future to the Lord than it is to commit our present. We know we are helpless as regards the future, but we feel as if the present is in our own hands, and must be carried on our own shoulders; and most of us have an unconfessed idea that it is a great deal to ask the Lord to carry ourselves, and that we cannot think of asking Him to carry our burdens too.”

“He is our Father, and He loves us, and He knows just what is best, and therefore, of course, His will is the very most blessed thing that can come to us under any circumstances. I do not understand how it is that the eyes of so many Christians have been blinded to this fact. But it really would seem as if God’s own children were more afraid of His will than of anything else in life—His lovely, lovable will, which only means loving-kindnesses and tender mercies, and blessings unspeakable to their souls!”

“You have trusted Him as your dying Savior; now trust Him as your living Savior. Just as much as He came to deliver you from future punishment did He also come to deliver you from present bondage. Just as truly as He came to bear your stripes for you has He come to live your life for you.” 

“The one chief temptation that meets the soul at this juncture is the same that assaults it all along the pathway, at every step of its progress; namely, the question as to feelings. We cannot believe we are consecrated until we feel that we are: and because we do not feel that God has taken us in hand, we cannot believe that He has. As usual, we put feeling first, and faith second, and the fact last of all. No, God’s invariable rule in everything is, fact first, faith second, and feeling last of all; and it is striving against the inevitable when we seek to change this order.”

Thursdays With Oswald—Not Imitating Jesus

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

Not Imitating Jesus

      God does not expect us to imitate Jesus Christ: He expects us to allow the life of Jesus to be manifested in our mortal flesh. God engineers circumstances and brings us into difficult places where no one can help us, and we can either manifest the life of Jesus in those conditions, or else be cowards and say, “I cannot exhibit the life of God there.” Then we deprive God of glory. If you will let the life of God be manifested in your particular human edition—where God cannot manifest it, that is why He called you, you will bring glory to God.

From Approved Unto God

This so encourages me, because it tells me that every difficult situation I’m in is God-engineered. He put me in these tough spots because He wants the life of Jesus to be seen through me. And He wants to be glorified. If God desires these things, then He will give me His Holy Spirit to strengthen me to shine in difficult places.

Shine on!

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