Matthew 16:13-20, Part I-III

Matthew 16:13-20, Part I: Who Is Jesus?

Question One: The People’s Answers

 

This question, and its answer, was relevant in Jesus’ day and it is today. Who Jesus is will remain a question for all seasons because Jesus is the man for all seasons. Moreover, the person and work of Christ and the eternal design of the Triune God is under attack from within and without the Church. It is vital that the Church answer the question correctly.

Jesus’s question moved to the heart of the issue: the disciples’ heart. God designed mankind a duplex being, inner and outer man. Often man’s Duplexity is characterized as a dichotomy. In reality, man is a unit. He has a body but he is more than body. He has a spirt but he is more than spiritual. Man is a whole person. As such, he thinks and desires in both the outer man (the body particularly the brain) and the inner man (the heart – Proverbs 4:23; 16:21, 23). Jesus’ question cut to the very core of one’s whole being. The answer is based on one’s view of God and self.

In Matthew 16, Jesus is with His disciples. In the preceding verses (16:5-12), Jesus warned the disciples to be on guard against the yeast of the spiritual leaders. The disciples came to realize that Jesus was not speaking of physical yeast and its effects. He referenced the teaching of the Pharisee’s and their manner of life and leadership (16:12; 11:28-30). The Pharisees taught that no spiritual messiah was needed for them and those under their teaching (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Personal law-making and personal law-keeping was adequate and should be accepted by God. The Pharisees and their followers had endorsed the adequacy of their own law-making and law-keeping. They had themselves as their own messiah. They did not need a spiritual messiah, only a physical one. They needed freedom from Rome and her domination. They denied their spiritual bondage.

Jesus and the disciples moved into pagan territory in part for privacy and quietness (16:13).  Beginning with Matthew 16:13, Jesus began to teach and instruct the disciples about Himself. His motif was question-asking. He probed their hearts by asking several questions. He waited for an answer and then moved to instruction. This is an excellent tool for one-on-one ministry.

The first question is noted in verse 13: Who do the people say the Son of Man is. Several points are noteworthy.

  • Jesus is referencing the common people as to their view of the messiah and Him. Did they link the two?
  • The question probed the disciples in several ways. Jesus wanted to know how much other-orientation the disciples had. Knowing where people are is a key ingredient for godly one-on-one ministry. Jesus was challenging them as He ministered appropriate biblical truth to them in their situation given their level of spiritual maturity and their level of willingness to understand and apply the truth. Questions tend to probe the heart and accusations often make it easy for a person to harden himself.
  • Taking a spiritual inventory is worthwhile for the both the one ministering and the one receiving truth.
  • Jesus called Himself the Son of Man which was in marked contrast to the people’s response. The Jewish expectation was one of a nationalistic messiah to remove the burden of Rome. The tile Son of Man is used some 80 times in the gospels and all but one by Jesus (John 12:34). It was Jesus’ most common designation for Himself. It is a generally thought to be a Messianic title. The Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and be raised (Mark 8:31). Most likely, Jesus referenced Daniel 7:13-14. The use of the designation by Christ implied that Jesus expected the disciples to know their Scripture. The Messiah had come and He was Him.

The disciples wasted little time in answering. The people gave varying false opinions: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Basically the answers indicated that the people thought of Jesus as the ghost of a dead man. The disciples must have heard the people speaking and knew the prevailing opinions. There was a diversity of human opinions. The idea of Messiah as intended by the title Son of Man was not included in any answer. The prevailing view consisted only of a physical bondage and a savior from that bondage. The people’s answers as reported by the disciples reflected a lack of understanding of Jesus the person and His message and mission. It also reflected a wrong understanding of who they were. It indicated a wrong view of sin, sinners, sinfulness, and its consequences. Jesus was considered a “good guy,” miracle worker, and even a good teacher. He could provide relief from physical burdens but He was not considered to be God.

 

Application:

  1. Who do you say Christ is?
  2. What is your source of information and standard for your answer?
  3. How are you are able to declare the truth about Christ?

Matthew 16:13-20, Part II: Who is Jesus?

Second Question: The Disciples’ Answer

 

Matthew recorded a second question in verse 15. Jesus probed the hearts of the disciples by asking: But what about you – who do you say I am? Jesus’ second question distinguished the disciples from the people. In His second question, Jesus placed the plural you in an emphatic position. Jesus was getting personal as He honed in on the crux of the matter. Jesus wanted to know for their sake if their answer contained more truth than that of the common people. By questions, Jesus was helping the disciples form a right view of God, Him, and themselves.

Matthew used the verb to be – I am. In the original language I am is an infinitival form of the verb to be. The importance of that fact rested on Jesus and His purpose. He asked an ontological question. He coned down on their understanding of His being and essence. A proper understanding of who Jesus was would provide the disciples with a proper view of Jesus, His message, His mission; and a proper view of their message and ministry as God’s agents. All of these aspects were linked but the disciples did not understand this linkage. However, their understanding would increase in manifold fashion at the Spirit’s coming as recorded in John 21 and at Pentecost.

Earlier, as recorded in Matthew 14:22-33, two men walked on water. When the disciples saw Jesus alone walking on the water, the disciples responded fearfully. What they saw with their physical eyes exceeded their comprehension. Jesus admonished them to be of courage and not to fear. He was exhorting them to consider people and events from the vantage point of spiritual eyes, the eyes of saving faith. He gave them the reason: it is I. Very God was in their midst. They were not alone left to their own resources. Jesus was in control and He had chosen them. By using the verb to be Jesus equated Himself with God (John 8:58; 10:30). Sinful fear looks away from God and His promises and resources and looks to self as an impotent provider.

In Matthew 16:15, Jesus’ but-you question probed the hearts of His disciples. How truly were they in the faith? The question is a good one for every believer. Jesus’ question left the disciples with little wiggle room. Jesus focused on the threat of the teaching (yeast) of the Pharisees. The disciples were tempted to accept their teaching as logical and even commendable. They were tempted to be tossed back and forth by accepting human speculations (Col. 2:8; James 1:5-8). Interestingly, Judas was included in this group.

The disciples came face to face with the living God whose time was growing short on the earth. Jesus’ question to the disciples was an in-your-face question. It was a defining-moment question. Jesus did not need to know the answer for Himself. Rather, He was addressing the disciples who were in their infancy in terms of their development as Christ’s disciples. Jesus expected and deserved fruit bearing especially from these men who were with Him. When much is given much is required (Matt. 25:29; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; 12:48). Jesus knew that the disciples needed to be properly informed in regard to their own salvation and in order to grow as a child of God. Moreover, they needed gospel truth and the gospel message firmly under their belts in order to carry the gospel message forward. If the gospel message had no impact on them individually in terms of changed thinking, wanting, and doing, it would have impact on others. The Word of God filets the heart and confronts the person with God’s truth (Heb. 4:12). Change is of the essence for the believer. Knowing Christ – facts about Him – and intimacy with Him by faith was vital for their salvation, growth in grace, and completion of their mission.

 

Application:

  1. God’s presence can be a burden or blessing: see the book of Job and see David in Psalms 32 and 38. How do you view God’s presence and on what basis?
  2. Jesus’ second question (who do you say I am?) was intended to be personal. How do you answer the question? What do you know about Jesus?
  3. Salvation is personal but it is never to remain personal. Explain.

 

Matthew 16:13-20, Part III: Who is Jesus?

The Source of the Disciples’ Answer

 

In this portion of Scripture, Jesus revealed Himself as the Teacher. He conducted a question-and-answer session with His disciples. He was taking the pulse of the disciples and Israel. He knew their answers to the questions but wanted to put the issue before the disciples. The answers were a matter of life and death and still are. In verse 16, Peter answered the question asked in verse 15: who do say I am. Peter responded for the group: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Peter’s response was knowledgeable, personal, and relational. It contrasted the people’s perspective of Jesus. Peter’s answer echoed Yahweh’s self-designation in Exodus 3:6 (Acts 7:32) and Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 22:32 and John 8:56-58. In contrast to the crowd, Peter referred to only one person – the living God-man Jesus. Peter acknowledged the deity of Christ. The disciples as a group had acknowledged Jesus to be God’s Son (Matt. 14:33).

As believers Peter and the disciples were known by God. But they were lacking in their understanding of Who Christ was and what their relationship to and with Him would mean for them. However, their answer was a step in a progressive unveiling of eyes and hearts to the reality of Jesus Christ. Jesus was beginning to intensify His personal instruction to them. He was on a timetable and the disciples needed to be on board.

Christ put Peter’s answer into a proper perspective. He acknowledged the source of the truth expressed in Peter’s words as divine revelation (Matt. 16:17).  Peter by nature was a human son of a human father. In contrast, Jesus was by nature and from all eternity, the divine Son of the Divine Father. Natural human knowledge unaffected by knowledge imparted supernaturally by the Holy Spirit would never prepare man to plumb the depths of God’s mind and truth (Rom. 1:18-20; 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 2:10-16). Humanly speaking, no one can proclaim Jesus as the true Messiah unless the Holy Spirit has worked within the heart of that person (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). Unlike the people, Peter spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Peter proclaimed truth about Jesus the Person – His essence and being.

Implied in Christ’s proclamation of the source of Peter’s answer is a third and most important question. The question is: Who does God say Jesus is? Jesus alluded to this when He declared that supernatural thinking is humanly impossible without the Holy Spirit (Matt.16:17). Do you agree with Jesus and on what basis? Matthew recorded the Father proclamation regarding Jesus in two places: This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). The Father’s admonition to the three disciples on the mountain was to listen to Jesus (Matt. 17:5). The Father and the Son are one (John 10:30). Listening to Jesus was tantamount to listening to the Father (John 14:6-9).  Jesus taught that God is the source of all truth. Truth is personal, objective, absolute, and revelational (John 14:6 – Jesus is truth; 17:17 – Scripture is truth). Truth is life changing (John 8:31-32). In Matthew 16:17, Jesus pronounced a blessing on Peter and all those who agreed with him. Today we listen to the Triune God as we read, recite, meditate, memorize, verbalize, personalize, and actualize God’s truth. Believers, as were the disciples, are to be busy applying biblical truth daily.

Who, and what, do YOU think Jesus is? And why do you believe what you believe?  How do your beliefs impact your daily thoughts, desires, and actions? The questions imply that Jesus is and that all people have some knowledge of Him. As a believer, God knows you comprehensively and intimately. Your knowledge of Him is relational and it is to be growing. The answer to the questions posed in Matthew 16:13ff center on three facets: you, the knower; the object of your knowledge which should be Jesus Christ alone through the Holy Spirit; and the standard and source for your answer. There is only one true source – God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. True knowledge of Christ is God’s gift to the believer. God expects and deserves a return on His gift and investment. Salvation and growth in Christlikeness are keys to returning to God what is rightfully His. He deserves all of a person given His way for His glory. Returning to God what is His begins at salvation and continues all the way into heaven. Eternally, the believer will continue to grow in Christlikeness.

 

Application:

  1. Who is Christ? What did He come to do and why?
  2. Do your answers agree with God’s answers?
  3. How have these facts/truths affected your thoughts, desires, and actions daily – 24/7?

 

Surrender or Submit

Surrender or Submit: Part I

The Biblical Concept

 

What do you think when you hear the word submission? If you are a history major with an interest in wars, you may think of General Lee turning himself, his troops and his arms over to General Grant. If you are police officer you may think of a “bad guy” turning himself over to the authorities. The English Thesaurus includes such terms for surrender as give in, give up, lay down your arms, capitulate, and admit defeat. What is striking about those terms? They tend to be or are decidedly passive. Yet the person does something – he gives in and gives up to some higher authority or at least someone who holds the upper hand. The person gives into something outside of himself.  Other terms that may substitute for the term surrender or capture the idea of surrender include submit and yield. Submission moves us closer to the biblical concept of dying to self and living to God or what theologians would call progressive sanctification.

I often hear the word surrender used by Christians. They tell me that their pastor calls them to surrender to Jesus. I ask them to define the term and how they intend to accomplish the command. Too often, it is to stop what they are doing and do something positive. Often it is let go and let God. A proper definition of what the believer does and does not do at and after salvation, is fundamental to a proper understanding of salvation.

Salvation includes humbling oneself before God based on the proper knowledge of God and self which results in the proper motivation for coming to Christ.  For a full-orbed understanding of what it means to bow one’s knee we must consider what is involved in surrendering, and how a person will know whether he has or not. A logical question that follows is: by what power is anyone able to surrender? Further, should the Christian use the term surrender?

The English word surrender is used very infrequently in the Old or New Testaments. In the Old Testaments the term refers to laying down one’s weapons or handing over a wicked person (Judges 20:13; 1 Samuel 11:3, 11; Jer. 38:17-18). The word is rare in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 13:3, the word surrender translates the word meaning to entrust or to deposit: If I give all I have to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  The term surrender indicates resolution and even passivity.  In this case, the fire does a work on the body.

In terms of how to surrender, most people tell me that they have to turn it over Jesus, let go and let God, and to stop fighting Him. They believe that they have made a decision for Christ based on their feelings or the decision itself. Most often the decision is made in one’s own strength. These are very interesting concepts that are presented in the answers. Painted in the best and biblical light, I think the term surrender is intended to  have the person acknowledge his rebellion against God and have him cease in that action. The believer may be aware that change must come. This desire to change characterizes the believer given his changed heart. This blog presents truths that help to decide if the term surrender captures the believer’s move from self to God.

The magnitude, intensity, pervasiveness, and frequency of the pull and inclination to please self are something to behold individually (self) and in others. It seems amazing that even a short duration as a member of Satan’s family and kingdom should have such profound influence on a person’s thoughts, desires, and actions. At the moment of conception, man is anti-God and pro-self (Ps. 51:1-5). No one today gives much credence to what some would consider a heartless statement. However, the Bible teaches that man was conceived and born as a sinner. Yes, sin is the problem, but we must remember that sinners are the problem. God saves sinners not sin.

Man does not learn to sin. It is part of his nature. What man won’t acknowledge is the fact that sin, any and every sin, is an attack on God and His goodness and God-ness. That is the bad news. There is good news! Jesus came to and for His own, but His own did not receive Him (John 1:4-5). That rejection did not deter Christ. He saved a people in order to please the Father. The unbeliever is a member in Satan’s family and kingdom but the believer has been removed from that family and kingdom. He will function at various times and in various ways as if he was still a member of Satan’s family. Previous membership in Satan’s kingdom exerts a tremendous influence. It is a sad but true reality of living in the continuing present evil age as a believer (Gal. 1:4).

As above, the call to surrender is not found in the Bible unless you equate, and perhaps confuse the call to submit as surrender. The Bible locates the believer’s moral drama within , in his own heart, regenerated though it is. The Triune God knows that saved sinners are still sinners. Sinning is patterned in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions. Unfortunately, believers, in varying degrees, continue to do what they have done for so long and are too comfortable with their patterned approach to God, self, and others. Surrendering tends to look at the consequences of doing or not doing. Submission focuses on the God of this universe and the war that the sinner has been arrogantly, ignorantly, and miserably carrying on against Him. The call is for the person to submit.

 

Application

  1. Catch the difference in meaning between surrender and submit. What is the difference?
  2. How is submission and surrender similar and contrasted?
  3. What does God’s call to submit entail? See Ephesians 5:21-22, 24; Hebrews 12:9; James 4:7; 1 Peter 2:13.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surrender or Submit: Part II

The Biblical Concept

 

Once saved the believer is called to grow in Christ-like character (Rom. 8:28-29; 2 Cor. 3:18; 2 Peter 3:18). Progressive sanctification is an ongoing process. The believer is called and equipped to walk (conduct himself) in a radically different manner than he did as an unbeliever (Rom. 3:12-14; Eph. 2:1-3, 4-7; Col. 3:8-10).  He is called to a radically changed lifestyle that involves the whole person: thoughts, desires/affections, and actions. The believer is called and equipped to step down and move over because he has lived the lie as an unbeliever. He has competed with God. No man, pre-fall or post-fall, has been in charge or on the throne.  God will not share His glory with any man (Isa. 42:8; 48:11).

The New Testament is replete with the call for every believer to become more like Christ. Said another way, the believer is to put on the character of Christ. The call has many different facets, but underlying the call is its priority and aggressiveness. Growth in Christlikeness is certainly not passive.  It means coming to one’s senses as did the prodigal (Luke 15:17-18).  It means taking off the mantle of self-pleasing, self-righteousness, and self dependence; it means acknowledging being clothed in Christ’s righteousness; and as a result, it means conducting oneself as a child of the King energized by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit will not let the believer, who is prone to wander, do his own thing and thereby live the lie. The Holy Spirit, through the double grip of the Father and the Son , will not let the believer leave the God Who loved the believer in spite of himself (John 10:28-30; Rom. 5:6-10; 8:32-37). God is not interested in a simple surrender, a putting down of one’s rebellious spirit. God has changed people and He expects a return on His work through the Holy Spirit. Putting on Christ as one puts off self is key (Rom. 13:12-14).

One problem for every believer is the continued practice of me-ism. Every believer, again in varying degrees and in various ways, thinks and acts as if he is in control and thereby he lives the lie. In reality, this is God’s world and man was created and placed in it by God’s design. God’s design for man included privilege and blessing because the believer has been rescued from Satan’s kingdom and placed in God’s kingdom and family (Col. 1:13-14). Whenever a believer sins he is saying, among other things, that this is his world and he can run it his way. He goes back to Garden and follows Adam’s choice to side with Satan against God. The believer is telling God to move over. In a real sense, sin and sinning is illogical. It is involvement in a deadly exchange – the glory of God for the pleasure and glory of the creature. The Creator-creature relationship is disrupted. The worker wants to be and functions as the boss.

Every sin is a legacy from the Garden. Moreover, sin is agreeing to Satan’s logic which was embedded in his challenge given to Adam and Eve. He encouraged lawbreaking and sinning as the way to be like God. What a sad day it was! But Adam’s and Eve’s response was the real issue. More correctly, Adam’s response was the deciding factor for God’s response. God judged Adam and the whole human race in him. But God was not and is not finished with His people and His world. God promised salvation through the seed of Eve and His promise was partially fulfilled at Christ’s first coming. Christ’s first coming pointed to and assured His second coming which ushered in the new creation and the fulfillment of bringing a people to Himself.  Surrender is not part of the new creation unless surrender means denying self and putting on Christ and biblical truth. Clarity in understanding is a major key for proper growth in Christ.

 

Application:

  1. Rethink your use of the word surrender. Define it and prove it from the Bible.
  2. Make a spiritual inventory according to Hebrews 4:12 and James 1:22: determine your “beef” with God and answer the question: whose world is this? (See Psalms 24:1-2.).
  3. How have you lived the lie and what have been the results?
  4. Study Psalm 46:10: what do you learn about God and yourself?

 

 

 

 

Surrender or Submit: Part III

The Biblical Concept

 

Several aspects of the surrendering mentality are worth highlighting. The term as defined in the dictionary does indicate warfare and the benefit of stopping it. The term highlights the major combatant – the person. Too often we mention Satan as one of the combatants. However, Scripture focuses on the believer. Growth through submission, trust, obedience, and love are essential to growth in Christ.

The call is for every believer to become more like Christ in thought, desire, and action. Believers still carry too much of satanic resemblance from previous membership in his kingdom and family. One of the wonders of regeneration is its radical and supernatural character. A new heart has been given to the believer (John 3:3-8; Ezek. 36:24-26). Grace, both saving and enabling, are part of God’s gift to the believer so growth in Christ is viewed as a privilege, blessing, and duty.

Here is a smattering of passages from the New Testament that call for growth rather than surrender. The believer is to:

  • Pursue holiness: Hebrews 12:14; 1 Timothy 6:11
  • Be diligent in his Christian growth: 2 Peter 1:10
  • Be zealous for good works: Titus 2:14
  • Purify and circumcise himself: Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6
  • Practice radical amputation: Matthew 5:27-30; Hebrews 12:1-2
  • Submit to God and others: Ephesian 5:21-24; James 4:7

Someone may say that one must surrender before he can submit. When one surrenders often conditions and terms are presented and person makes an effort to obtain preservation of some dignity and even rights. The surrendering party often negotiates for better conditions. The believer is to submit and not simply to surrender. He is not in any position to negotiate terms.

The term submission carries the idea of standing up under. It means to place oneself under something or someone in an orderly fashion for proper function.  It is a dynamic word. It stems from an active inner man who desires to please God. Functionally, it is stepping down from a position that was never the person’s.

Biblical submission requires humility. Biblically, humility is not humiliation. Jesus was placed, and He placed Himself, in humiliating circumstances. Those circumstances did not humble Him. Rather He responded by humbling Himself because He had a proper understanding of who He was, who His Father was, and what the Father desired. Jesus was focused on one thing: pleasing the Father (John 4:31-34). His humiliating circumstances were the stage on which He displayed His God-ness as the faithful Son of God, fully God and fully man. His commitment to the Triune God took shape as He fulfilled God’s eternal design of salvation.

His commitment is simply amazing given the fact that He was God. Yet He hid His God-ness and glory in order for God to be glorified. He was after achieving the greater good. It is miraculous that God could hide His glory. Picture the sun and its heat (10,000 degrees on the surface) coming to earth and all is well. Such an example tends to illustrate in a small way the greatness of the miracle of Jesus’ Messiahship that was birthed in eternity past and first began evident on the earth at the Incarnation.

By saving a people for Himself God would be most glorified. Jesus was focused on honoring the Father and the Father’s glory such that He left heaven, lived under the law even though He is the lawmaker, went to the cross, went to hell on the cross, and received the full measure of God’s wrath. Jesus did not surrender to the Father. Rather He aggressively functioned as less than He was. Again He hid His glory. He did not consider holding on to His glory for His time on earth was necessary (Phil 2:5-8, 9-11). Rather it was of much greater significance for Him to please the Father. And please Him He did!!

Submission is looking at the big picture and actively placing oneself in the position of serving God for His glory and the good of all believers. Submission requires a changed, and even new, view of self and of God. Biblical submission requires removing or changing demands about self and for self in order to get. It means replacing demands with thoughts, desires, and actions that please God. Submission for the believer must imitate Christ’s submission to the Father (Heb. 2:10; 5:8).

 

Application:

  1. Distinguish submit and surrender.
  2. Did Christ surrender or submit?
  3. What is required to submit? See James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 5:6-7.

 

 

 

Surrender or Submit: Part IV

The Biblical Concept

 

Biblical submission is a grace-filled and Holy Spirit-energized activity. Only the believer can submit. Salvation and life after salvation does not require surrendering. The believer actively gets busy doing things God’s way for His sake and glory. God’s way means to put off or exchange one’s patterned lifestyle for a new way of thinking, desiring, and acting. Paul uses the expression of put off and put on (see Rom, 13:12-14; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:8-10). The put off and put on dynamic is shorthand for progressive sanctification. It is simultaneously a dual activity. The believer replaces – puts off, takes off, and undresses himself. He puts off anti-God, pro-self thoughts, desires and actions. At the same time, he dresses himself as he puts on Christlikeness. The believer dies to self because he is alive and motivated by the desire to please God.  Simply he is alive to God as God and dead to self as a God-wanna-be.

What does the believer put off and put on? The believer actively and aggressively puts off himself – his thoughts, desires, and actions of self-pleasing. There is only one God and the believer is not Him. Each person has his own style of self-pleasing activity. Styles of self-pleasing thoughts, desires, and actions to be put off are identified through a spiritual inventory (2 Cor. 13:5; Heb. 4:12; James 1:22). The person and perhaps a trusted brother or sister in Christ helps define specific patterns of self-pleasing  and any situations, triggers, and excuses for that lead and or facilitate self-pleasing activity. It is best that the person is to be specific. The believer will identify thoughts, desires, and actions that indicate trust-in-self and wise in his own eyes and replace them (Prov. 3:5-8).

The goal is to put off a me-first, good-feeling approach to life and replace it with a God-pleasing lifestyle. For the believer, change occurs in the concrete and in specifics usually one thought, desire, and action at a time.

Submission does not involve morbid self-introspection. A person can’t plumb the depths to find out how bad he is. He would have to go to hell and experience complete separation from God. Christ has already done that on the cross. Rather, submission is active. It means putting God and others first (Phil. 2:3-5; James 3:13-18). It means counting the cost of becoming more like Christ through the eyes of the cost to the Triune God who sent the Son to earth. God wants and deserves every bit of every believer. Jesus gave all of Himself to the Father for His children. The believer will imitate Christ for the sheer joy of it by developing full allegiance to the Triune God. .

The cross, rightly understood, demonstrates how bad any person is. The miseries of this life and the reality of hell in the next bring any person face-to-face with the reality of how bad he is. It is only the believer’s union with Christ or, better Christ’s union with him that there is hope and help. The believer does not need to go to hell. Christ did on the cross! The fact that the believer is a new creature in Christ with a new heart makes all the difference.

Duty (trust and obedience) including growth in Christlikeness will not be a burden but a blessing and privilege. The privilege of bowing the knee to King Christ was accomplished by Christ at the cross. However, God won’t let His children stay on their knees. Christ didn’t. Believers have work to do. It is becoming more like Christ.

Yet, change does not occur automatically or easily. It requires denying self (put off) and renewal – putting on that which pleases God one thought, desire, and action at a time.  Pleasing God is to become a patterned way of life – a lifestyle from the inside out and not simply an activity.  Submission is two-sided. The believer bows his knees as he puts off self and self-pleasing in its many forms. At the same time he is putting on Christ – biblical thoughts and desires which lead to godly actions. Pleasing God has its own fruit. It is the only way that the believer will live a satisfied and contented life this side of heaven (Matt. 11:28-30; 1 John 3:1-3; 5:3-4).

 

Application:

  1. Develop a self-pleasing list. You will be surprised. Ask your spouse or a mature Christian friend to critique it.
  2. Then take Galatians 5:22-23 – the fruit of the Spirit – and develop a plan to replace one self-pleasing thought, desire, and action daily with one or two fruits of the Spirit.
  3. Keep track of your progress.
  4. Rejoice in God’s grace as you demonstrate your gratitude and love for God in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

 

The Biblical View of Illness and Physical Problems

The Biblical View of Illness and Physical Problems

 

  1. Introduction: The Bible is not a medical textbook or a textbook on the treatment of physical problems. However, it does deal with the whole person – thoughts, desires, and actions/behavior. Therefore, it supplies everything that a believer needs for life and godliness (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4). It is all a believer needs to properly address and respond to physical problems.

 

  1. How is that possible – how is that so? It provides a proper anthropology and world view.

 

  1. Man is God’s image, a duplex being, and a whole person.
  2. Man was created a real, historical being (a real Adam); a relational being; a rational being, a revelational being; religious being; and a responsible being.
  3. Man is a feeling being.
  4. Man is a faith-based being.
  5. Man was initially in perfect sync with God – desires, thoughts, and commands.
  6. Therefore:

 

  1. Every person is a rational, responsible being in or out of proper relationship to God

1) He functions either as a believer – God’s child and a wise man fundamentally functioning as a God pleaser/worshiper

2) Or he functions as God’s enemy as a self pleaser/worshipper – he is a fool.

  1. All of life is theological and everyone is a theologian.
  2. No area of life is neutral or lived in a vacuum.
  3. Every person will live as a good or bad theologian – to please God or please self.

 

  1. The Bible is our owner’s manual provided and preserved for every believer.

 

  1. When the Bible speaks about taking care of the body, it is authoritative.
  2. Among other truths, the Bible teaches that:

 

  1. God designed your body, saved it, and entrusted it to you (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).
  2. Therefore, you are not your own. You have a new Master – the Lord Jesus Christ is your Boss (Romans 10:9).
  3. As a result of God’s ownership, you are obligated (duty) and privileged (joyful devotion) to care for your body as a good steward: Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 5:9.
  4. Stewardship is a universal principle – provisional ownership carries God’s expectations, your responsibility, and God’s accounting.
  5. A steward is a person who has been entrusted with something that belongs to another in order to take care of it and is expected to give an account of his efforts: 1 Cor. 4:2.
  6. The stewardship issue for every believer is this: does he function as a good or bad theologian-steward?
  7. Applying biblical principles to the whole person is the best thing a believer can do for his health (Proverbs 3:5-8). Unbelievers benefit as well (explain).

 

  1. Summary points:

 

  1. Life is relational
  2. It is lived in or out proper relationship to God.
  3. Every person is functionally either a God pleaser/worshipper or self pleaser/worshiper
  4. The Bible is the believer’s owner’s manual for life; it is God’s gift.
  5. While it is not a medical textbook, what it says about health/disease is authoritative.
  6. God designed your, saved you as a whole person, and entrusted your body to you.
  7. You are not your own – Jesus is Master/Boss and the HS indwells you and the church.
  8. You are a steward-theologian – good or bad.

 

 

Section One: The Origin of Misery, Pain, and Physical Problems: Medicine’s Perspective

 

  1. Definition: definitions make all the difference. You may hear these terms: disease, illness, and sickness. Each one carries a different connation although physicians tend to be “lumpers.”

 

  1. Remember the noetic effect of sin: the effects of sin on thoughts and thinking .

 

  1. Sinful thinking is rebellion.
  2. It is contrary to God and His Word – your thoughts and ways are not my thoughts and ways: Isaiah 55:8-9.

 

  1. As a consequence, there are observational distortions of facts: nature and the universe, human physiology and anatomy, human behavior and motivation:

 

  1. Man’s being (origin), destiny, and purpose in/for life.
  2. Man as man and his problems in the context of the meaning of life.
  3. Solutions to and for all the above.

 

  1. Distortions will be descriptional, definitional, and directional.
  2. These distortion are evident in the hard sciences (such as physics, biology, chemistry) – evolution as science – and even more so in the soft/social sciences (such as psychology, sociology) – is mental illness a reality?

 

  1. Disease:

 

  1. Definitions:

 

1.Webster: disease is “any departure from health; it is illness in general, an impairment of the normal.” It is also defined “as a particular destructive process in an organism with a specific cause and characteristic symptoms and signs.”

  1. Dorland (medical dictionary): disease is “any deviation from or interruption of the internal structure or function of any body part, organ, or system that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms and signs and whose etiology, pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown.”
  2. Both of the above imply, if not indicate, that disease is a primary disorder of various pathophysiological mechanisms of the body.

 

  1. History: after the discovery of disease in animals and humans was attributed to specific organisms (R Koch and L Pasteur – anthrax and tuberculosis), the medical model and germ theory of disease was born (late 1800s and early 1900s).

 

  1. The medical model took center stage in contrast to the supernaturalism (prevalent in the Roman church) and Greek thinking.
  2. Rationalism, empiricism, and so-called “evidence-based medicine” under the guise of science characterized “modern scientific” medicine.

 

  1. Disease was defined as a physical problem with measurable abnormality by physical examination, laboratory studies including blood tests and biopsy reports, and/or radiographic studies.

 

1.Today, that is not the case especially in the soft science area.

  1. Today, what is considered disease is much more flexible .

 

III. Illness, a relatively new term medically, is defined more loosely as an “unhealthy condition.” You may hear the terms “symptom expression” or “symptom complex.”

 

  1. Therefore, when the word ‘illness’ is used, there has been a move into the realm of “not normal” based on “symptom expression.”
  2. This means that the diagnosis is based on the patient’s self report – subjectivity – and not necessarily pathological changes.
  3. What is “normal” and “healthy” has been blurred: examples: blood tests, criteria for a disease, and MRI results: what is the role of various tests and procedures?
  4. A standard for normal/abnormal and healthy/unhealthy is required .
  5. When subjectivity is that standard, science is blurred, and symptoms and their “control” take center stage.

 

  1. Mental illness: the field of soft sciences (including psychiatry and the psychologies) deals with the subjective: thoughts, feelings, and behavior (behavior is observed but flows from feelings). “Mental illness” is categorized as a “disease” based on subjectivity.

 

  1. The medical model is assumed to apply to those behaviors termed mental illness.
  2. There is no consideration of the noetic effect of sin in interpreting the person’s behavior, feelings, and thinking and there is an improper biblical anthropology.
  3. The noetic effect leads to an inherent distortion of the description/observation, definition/conclusion, and diagnosis in man’s thinking
  4. Is psychiatry a pseudo-science? Does its practice compete with God’s truth?
  5. The conclusion and solution to and for mental illness is not to be challenged and reinterpreted.

 

  1. When subjectivity rules for any diagnosis:

 

  1. “Improvement” of the condition will be couched in subjective terms: “I feel better.”
  2. Subjectivity as the standard for diagnosis and therapeutic success or failure is taking place in traditional medicine as well.

 

  1. It is important and helpful, even mandatory, to distinguish between signs and symptoms

 

  1. Signs (objective) and symptoms (subjective): they are not the same.
  2. Potential explanations for both: genes, biology, molecule, biochemistry, neurotransmitters, etc are responsible for disease.
  3. Ultimately, the Creator God and the indwelling HS have to be encountered but these facts are too often denied or considered in an improper way by both patient and physician.

 

  1. Sign: objective: can be measured and quantified by other than self report: feverishness (symptom) vs. fever (sign).
  2. Symptom: subjective: the amount and degree of a symptom rests solely on the person’s report.
  3. The concept of something wrong with the body and in the body

 

  1. In the body: a rapid heart rate is a sign of either a normally working body, perhaps influenced by fear, anger, or hard work, or disease within the body such as anemia – in that case, the increased heart indicates a normally-working heart responding to a pathological condition.
  2. With the body: the person’s rapid heat rate or chest pain, if due to heart disease indicates that the sign (and symptom – if the person complains of shortness of breath) is due to something wrong with the body such as coronary artery disease.

 

VII. Theories of disease:

 

  1. Medical Model (MM): It is presumed that the body is sick and that symptoms, signs, and behavior are caused by an abnormality in some organ or tissue causing malfunction of the body (molecular model of disease). This would include mental illness.

 

  1. Under the MM, disease is diagnosed when discoverable abnormalities are present by some objective testing; symptoms and signs are explained on the basis of these abnormalities.
  2. A person’s thoughts, beliefs, and desires are not considered in the diagnosis and are thought to be independent of the diagnosis and management of the patient (“mind-body” dualism).
  3. As a result, a therapeutic rationale is developed.
  4. The MM has been quite successful in the diagnosis and management of certain diseases especially those that are acute. In those cases the focus is usually on a single, acute medical problem: e.g.: streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat), appendicitis, pneumonia, or lung cancer.
  5. There is no room for God in this model. In fact, the model developed as a reaction against the mysticism and superstition prevalent in the medieval age.

 

  1. Biopsychosocial Model (BPS): Since the early 1990’s, medicine has moved toward the more inclusive BPS model of disease and patient care, emphasizing the role and importance of biology, “psychological” factors, and “environmental” factors on health and bodily function.

 

  1. These factors are considered determinants of the condition and include genes, biology, and outside pressure.
  2. These factors “do” it to a (? pre-programmed) person so that he feels and acts a certain way.

 

  1. Biological” refers to a person’s genetic make up (genes) and biochemistry: nature
  2. Psychological” has to do with one’s “psyche”: nature and/or nurture

 

1) It is considered as pertaining to one’s “mind,” how he feels, and his deep (Freudian term) inner self which are his “inside” environment.

2) “Psychological disease” and “mental illness” are claimed to indicate that something is wrong in or with the brain – brain and mind are considered synonymous.

3) “Social” (or environmental): nurture – the term is used in relation to pressure outside the person “causing” something within a person.

 

  1. The person’s response is observable and is attributed to that which is outside the person.

 

  1. The individual is not considered to be a responsible responder but as a victim and reactor.
  2. Examples: “situational depression,” post-traumatic stress, bipolar, and social anxiety

 

  1. There is a compartmentalization of the person leading to the development of “experts” in the fields of social science and physical science who believe that their “area” of the person has a determining influence on the production of physical problems that is called disease and illness. This sets in motion a compartmentalized/holistic treatment program.

 

  1. Biopsychosocial spiritual Model (BPSS): The model adds a “spiritual” dimension to the presumed cause of symptoms, conditions, and disease. Proponents of this model:

 

  1. Suggest that at the very least, spiritual variables (however defined) are fundamental determinants of “psychological” variables which in turn are determinants of physical and social factors which lead to “disease” (symptoms).
  2. All factors listed in #1 play some role in producing or aggravating disease.
  3. Cite the failure to address a patient’s “spiritual needs” as being linked to patient dissatisfaction and “poor” clinical outcomes (however defined) despite advances in technology and treatment modalities.
  4. Spiritual” needs are defined as a need to make sense of, give purpose to, and ascribe meaning to illness/life; as a desire to acknowledge and cope with the notion of death/dying; and as a desire to feel in control (or give up control), be connected, and cared for.
  5. In this model, the standard for spirituality is never Scripture.
  6. The term “spirituality” is used relationally in the context of a person’s “connectedness” with self, others, a higher being, or the universe. It is a user-friendly word that includes all religions.

 

  1. Summary:

 

  1. Even though only the MM seeks to demonstrate a physical abnormality as the cause of disease, all three models claim that symptoms originate from some alleged physical defect.

 

  1. A pathological abnormality often can not be found, or if present, it can’t readily explain the person’s symptoms.
  2. Still diagnosis and therapy are based on the presence of symptoms, behavior, and the desire for relief rather than correcting a proven, objective malfunction of the body.

3.. In the BPS and BPSS models, as part of an overall treatment plan, attention is given to each alleged “compartment” of the person and by a different expert (the physician for the biological, the psychiatrist/psychologist for the “psychological,” the pastor for the spiritual, and social worker/psychologist for the “social”).

  1. The reasoning: because man is the sum of all these parts and no one person can adequately have all the answers, attention must be given to each part by a different “expert.”

 

  1. Critique: Each of the models excludes God, His judgment, His grace, and His providence. They are theologically incorrect.

 

  1. The MM originally attempted to give an accurate description of an observed phenomenon. It did, and does so, in many instances.
  2. Today, it is used to explain any and all behavior even though no pathological findings are demonstrated.

 

  1. It paints man as physical only, thereby rejecting the duplex nature of man.
  2. It ignores man as a whole person – he is feelings and actions.
  3. It opens the “door” for the use of medications – drugs.

 

  1. The MM champions science as if the God of science and science are opposed and as if “the natural” and “the supernatural” have no connection.
  2. The BPS and the BPSS are attempts to fill “in the gap” left by the MM. They emphasize a person’s inner-man activity (not their term!), and they move further down the path of wrong theology and its application.
  3. The practice of medicine is a product of a world view, mindset, and a system of presuppositions.

 

Section Two. The Origin of Pain, Misery, and Physical Problems: God’s Perspective

 

  1. The basic reason for all disease/illness/symptoms is the fall: God’s judgment/curse on sin due to Adam’s first sin.

 

  1. Specific passages: Rom. 5:12-14; 8:20-22; Ezek. 18:4, 20; Gen. 5: lived…then he died – except Enoch – v.21-24

 

  1. Biblically-speaking, physical problems include misery, illness, old age, and death.
  2. In the Bible, the first mention of pain is in Gen 3:15-17 – after sin.

 

  1. God’s curse on sin affects every person due to man’s representative relationship to Adam.

 

  1. When Adam first sinned (he failed the probation test of covenantal faithfulness) in the Garden each individual sinned because he was in Adam.
  2. Each died physically and spiritually: guilty and condemned.
  3. Death and misery are the direct result of God’s curse.
  4. These truths must be personalized – unbelievers often have little physical problems and believers may have a tremendous number of them.
  5. General principles of that are frequently encountered in this area

 

  1. Universality: everyone has sinned in Adam and personally wit the consequence of misery and deteriorating bodies: Rom. 6:23; 2 Cor. 4:16-18
  2. Separation (death) and union (salvation): Rom. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 15:21-22
  3. Responsibility: the soul that sins bears the responsibility: Ezek 18.
  4. Sowing/reaping: consequences for choices: Gen. 2:17; 3:15; Gal. 6:7-9.
  5. Judgment and fear of death: Heb. 2:14,15; 9:27
  6. The use of prayer and issues of wisdom: 2 Cor. 12:7-10; Job

 

  1. There may or may not be a direct causal relationship between a person’s particular physical problem and his particular sin.

 

  1. No one will outrun the effect of God’s curse on sin in his lifetime. Illness/trouble is to be expected (John 16:33; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 12:7-10; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Peter 2:19-29; 4:13-14; 5:10).
  2. God has given the blessing of health to a greater degree and of longer duration to some whether believer or not.

 

  1. Often good stewardship results in “better” health: Prov. 3:5-8.
  2. Biblically-motivated and active stewardship always pleases God.
  3. Victory in (via correct thinking/wanting), through (God’s good purpose), and from (many including relief, greater eternal focus, sting of death removal) the illness.
  4. Consider the “tarry” principle including prayer and fasting: Ps. 34:8; 46:10.

 

  1. Ultimately all things occurring in this world come from the sovereign hand of God – God’s providence. Is there truly God’s frowning providence?

 

  1. God uses secondary causes to achieve His purpose.
  2. This is true for physical problems (Isaiah 45:7-8; Prov. 16:33; 21:1; Job; 1 Chr. 29:12; 1 Cor. 10:13). What is God’s purpose in general and specifically?

 

  1. Yet God is not the author of sin: God is Big, Good, and Purposeful:

 

  1. He is faithful: 1 Cor. 10:13: He won’t exceed the believer’s ability to respond
  2. He is the Giver of every perfect gift (James 1:13,17). The ultimate, perfect gift is:

 

1) Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Savior (resurrection life): redemption accomplished

2) HS Who applies Christ’s work: redemption applied.

3) The inscripturated, infallible, and authoritative Word which rightly interprets every fact, all of human experience, and all of history.

4) A saving, active relationship with God in Christ.

5) Saving and sanctifying grace: 2 Cor. 8:9; 9:8.

 

  1. God’s providence is the context (including physical problems) for growth in Christlikeness. Avoid the use of the term life as if life as a life of its own
  2. Progressive sanctification:

 

  1. The Christian is to function as a Christian oyster. He uses irritations and unpleasantness to make the pearl of Christlikeness: gain through and in pain – one of the lessons of the cross and a bigger motif: exile and exodus.
  2. The HS’ presence enables the believer to use hard times (easy ones as well) to become more like Christ which is every believer’s goal/purpose in/for life.
  3. As a result, the believer will not be controlled by the desire for relief and its pursuit. He will be controlled by what God intends for the believer: growth in Christlikeness: 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 12:7-10.

 

  1. Here are theological questions/issues that deserve good theological answers:

 

  1. How can something so bad (my condition, physical or otherwise vs. cross) be good?
  2. How can God be both good and powerful when bad things happen – to me?
  3. Why me and now?
  4. Why so much pain and misery?
  5. Should man try to eradicate disease if God is sovereign?
  6. Where does my stewardship fit in?

 

  1. Response to one’s physical problem is a response to God and His providence. Since:

 

  1. God is present, He is in the problem. He has made promises and keeps them.
  2. He is in control/power, He is at work in the problem via His plan.
  3. He is purposeful so that what happens in His world is intentional.
  4. He provides every believer has all he needs to please God.
  5. God’s intent: His glory and the good of the believer: Gen. 50:19-21; Rom. 8:28-29 is accomplished by and through His provisions, one of which is the believer using the unpleasantness to develop more of the character of Christ. In that way, God brings good out of evil.

 

  1. Specific passages in re: to a person’s physical problems and sin:

 

  1. Jesus, Job, John 9, Luke 13:1-5, 2 Cor. 12:7-10: no direct sin-condition correlation
  2. James 5:14-16 leaves the question open that there may be sin-engendered illness.
  3. 1 Cor. 11:28-32; Psalm 32/38; Exodus 15:26; Deut. 28:26,60-62; 7:15; 2 Sam. 12:13-15: these passages show a direct causal relationship to body problems and personal sin.
  4. 1 Kings 18-19: these passages show an indirect casual relationship: Elijah was a poor steward that led to physical problems.

 

 

 

Section Three. Specific Expressions of God’s Curse on Sin re: Illness and Physical Problems

 

  1. Providentially, God brings about physical problems for any number of reasons in a particular person or group of people with or without a direct parallel between individual, personal sin and the condition.

 

  1. Fallen man’s body is included in God’s curse on sin. The sinner’s body is:

 

  1. Deteriorating – “aging” is an euphemism for the effect of the curse
  2. Affected with a specific disease (RA, cancer, diabetes, etc)
  3. Affected by personal sin/sinning and/or another’s: being sinned against.
  4. Affected by the person’s sinful response to God’s providence including trouble

 

  1. Scripture and God’s purposes:

 

  1. Chasten or educative discipline: Exodus 15:26; Deut. 28:58-60; 2 Sam. 12:13-15; 1 Cor. 11:30. There is a physical price to pay for covenant breaking.
  2. Teach: Isaiah 38:15-20; Ps. 119:65-73; Heb. 12:5-11; 1 Cor. 11:23-30: there is always a blessing from responding to illness/physical problems in a God-honoring manner.
  3. Produce repentance: Num. 21:5-7; 1 Cor. 5:4-5:

 

  1. Physical problems should encourage the believer to make a personal spiritual inventory, not necessarily as a means for healing but as means of sanctification.
  2. Physical problems should encourage the believer to tarry/taste and see that God is good.

 

  1. Prevent sin: 2 Cor. 12:6-10: sin is a horrible offense against God. If only one sinner existed (it was you) with only one sin, the cross is still necessary – Adam’s one sin (Rom. 3:21-26).
  2. Transform: Deut 8:1-4; 1 Peter 1:6-8/Rom. 5:1-5/Jam. 1:2-4; Rom. 8:28-29; Gen. 50:19-21; Phil. 4:13: to enable the believer to function as a Christian oyster.
  3. Testify re: God and His glory: John 9; Rom. 9:22-23; Job, cross

 

  1. Some physical problems are directly related to sin – personal or in general

 

  1. In general, symptoms develop because:

 

  1. The human body is not flawless – it is sin-cursed. It will never be symptom-free this side of heaven.
  2. There will always be more symptoms than causes discovered.
  3. Medical technology is limited – it always will be.
  4. There is the reality of unbiblical wanting and thinking present in the believer: the secular community may call this “stress.”
  5. There is actual tissue damage (disease) which produces abnormal organ function, symptoms, and signs.
  6. Examples of the inner -outer man unity: phone call from IRS; bear; “butterflies;” secretary home/work.
  7. Psalms and Proverbs that emphasizes the duplexity of man:

 

Psalm 32/38

Proverbs 3:5-8

Proverbs 12:18, 25

Proverbs 14:30

Proverbs 15:4, 13, 15, 30

Proverbs 16:24

Proverbs 17:22.

 

  1. Specifically, sin may cause or contribute to the physical problem. The illness may be the:

 

  1. Result of a particular sin in the individual’s life: Jam. 5:14-16.
  2. The “natural” consequence of sin: Prov. 10:24-25, 26-27; 13:15; Ps 16:4; 32:10; Gal. 6:7-9

 

  1. The “sowing and reaping” principle: e.g.: smoking and COPD/lung cancer
  2. What people think/.want yield choices which yield consequences and sometimes physical symptoms – wanting/thinking, doing, and feelings are interrelated.

 

  1. Sinned against

 

  1. Biblically speaking, the condition may be spiritual-physiological in contrast to psychosomatic – a term that the culture’s uses to define and explain symptoms (the symptoms are “real” but there is nothing wrong with the body – the DSM definition of the condition)

 

  1. Physiological changes occur in the body

 

  1. Known disease such as RA, cancer, heart trouble, or diabetes
  2. It is reported that “chronic pain” can produce physiological changes in the body specifically the nervous system: is that true?
  3. Medically unresolved:

 

1) Do physical changes occur in the body due to wrong responses to life (God’s providence) generated by unbiblical wanting and thinking?

2) Do biblical responses to life and problems produce physical changes in the body?

 

  1. Inner-man activity of wanting and thinking has outer-man effects of feeling and doing.

 

  1. A person’s evaluation of and response to circumstances produces/may produce physiological changes in the body which results in symptoms (and perhaps signs)

 

1) Situation – thinking/wanting – behavior – physiological changes – signs and symptoms

2) Situation – unbiblical thinking and wanting – unbiblical response – bad feelings – decreased function

 

  1. These observations are true because of the creational fact that man is a duplex (unity of inner man/outer man) and is a whole person.
  2. There is a relationship between the whole person activities of wanting, thinking, doing, and feelings.
  3. The secularist, and maybe Christians, does not acknowledge God’s design of man.
  4. Therefore, he uses such modalities as CBT, positive thinking, and yoga.

 

III. The principle of gain through loss: physical problems, as are problems in general, are intended to be beneficial for the believer

 

  1. In any situation including physical problems:

 

  1. God’s role: His providence and His design – when there is pain, disease, and death, the believer is always to be vertically oriented.

 

  1. It is so easy to be MORE temporally and “now” oriented – self-focused.
  2. Practice daily to remember and mediate on non-negotiable facts:

 

1) God’s curse at the cross was reversed, incompletely in this life and completely in heaven

2) The believer is to use the situation as God’s instrument and the believer’s tool to grow.

3) The believer has a new identity, great resources, and responsibility in the situation.

4) Therefore the focus is on the God of the problem rather than the problem.

 

  1. Man’s role (Philippians 2:12-13 ) is to follow God’s design by using grace and the situation.

 

  1. The principle of gain through loss: what is considered bad by the culture is intended for good by God and is to be used for good by the believer (Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18ff; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Romans 8:28-29).

 

  1. Pain did not occur until after the fall. It was not essential/necessary for living in the Garden.
  2. Points to ponder:

 

  1. Was the body capable of “experiencing”/feeling pain pre-fall?
  2. Is the body capable of pain in heaven and in hell? If not why not?
  3. Was pain designed by God and if so for good? What was that design?
  4. Was the cross designed by God for good?
  5. Pain, and the cross, in and of themselves, are bad – both are a result of sin/God’s curse. Sin is bad.
  6. Pain and disease remind the believer of God’s wrath/curse on sin but also redemption: John 11. The physical always has a spiritual reference.

 

  1. One of the lessons of the cross: gain through loss when rightly responded to.
  2. Physical problems are one of God’s instruments/classrooms to teach this truth.

 

  1. God’s purpose in all of life: Ps 115:3; 135:6. His goal is to bring glory and honor to Himself: He does this by saving a people for Himself and growing each one in Christlikeness.

 

  1. Consider this basic template for all of life:

 

  1. God’s design in eternity past (Eph 1:4): to be holy and blameless – in Christ
  2. The believer does this by pleasing God (2 C 5:9),
  3. Which he does by becoming more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29; 2 C 3:18),
  4. Which he does as a whole-person by putting of certain thoughts/affections/ desires and actions and putting on Christlikeness (Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:8-10),
  5. Growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 P 3:18).

 

  1. All of history, including every event in an individual’s life, is working toward the end of glorifying God: John 9:1-3; 11:4; Philippians 1:20; Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 2:9-10.

 

  1. The individual is not to be passive in God’s plan.
  2. Rather he functions as a Christian oyster.
  3. Physical problems are the result of sin – but not necessarily personal sin.
  4. Physical problems and suffering don’t bring God glory.
  5. But God has a purpose in bringing the problem: He uses it and the individual’s response to it to advance His plan including growing the believer.
  6. It is the believer’s response to God’s providential ordering of His world and what God does with that response that glorifies Him.
  7. The believer is responsible for his response: 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Corinthians 10:13.
  8. Bottom line: what is most important: getting well/relief or glorifying God by pleasing Him?

 

D A major question that must be answered God’s way: how does that which is “bad” – physical problems – produce benefit?

 

  1. Illness itself doesn’t. It is said: in the illness, God is glorified when the illness “makes” a person more like Christ: Romans 8:28-29,35-37; 2 Corinthians 3:18.
  2. How does it do that?

 

  1. It doesn’t!
  2. Physical problems are the result of God’s curse on sin but are “neutral.” They have no power in themselves.
  3. The problems are the context for the believer to evidence what is in his heart and the significance of his relationship with Christ – at a given moment.
  4. The believer’s focus/perspective on what God is doing in and with the situation directly affects his response.
  5. God uses the believer’s response to accomplish His purpose.

 

  1. The illness doesn’t make a person more like Christ anymore than the cross alone brought salvation.
  2. Salvation came to believers because of the Crucified One Who used the cross as an instrument of death to please His Father and save unlovable people for Himself.
  3. Physical problems are the stage on which a person’s inner person is exposed. “How?”

 

  1. The person complains/grumbles at his “lot in life” (God’s control) or he embraces and uses what he doesn’t like to grow – he considers it:

 

1) A tool to use – not to get rid of

2) A blessing, not a burden

3) A gift, something to be grateful for

4) An adventure, not something to dread

  1. As a grumbler, he reacts as if God made a mistake. In his grumbling, he attacks God demanding that God should treat him better than He treated His Son.

 

  1. Here are a few ways in which the person uses what he doesn’t like to grow:

 

  1. Instead of sensual living and feeling-directed reaction, he practices suprasensual living: he filters/interprets/assesses life through the cross/biblical principles which springs from and brings a proper vertical reference to his condition.
  2. As a result:

 

1) He changes from a “now” view of life (sensual living: lives for and by feelings: the physical, personal, visible, created, external, and temporal) to an eternal perspective via suprasensual living: he views life via saving faith with a purpose/goal to please God: John 4:31-34; 2 C 5:7-15; Col. 3:1-3; Ps 73

2) He learns to trust a sovereign God and views God’s control as good and wise especially when his body hurts and when the culture’s wisdom says serve yourself and get relief.

3) He functions as a responsible person to the degree that he can when feeling bad – all of grace: Phil. 4:13.

4) He thanks God’s for His goodness in and out of trouble (1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 5:20).

 

  1. The mindset of the believer is in stark contrast to the culture’s mantras of health, relief, better “quality of life,” feeling better, and even using God to get what he wants – relief and even a new body this side of heaven: 1 Cor. 1:18-30.

 

  1. Other ways that illness is beneficial:

 

  1. It is a reminder of the frailty and shortness of life, man’s finitude, the effects of sin and God’s righteous judgment, and the cross: James 4:13-17; Job 7:9; Ps. 31:15; 39:5; 102:11; 1 Peter 2:24 (Isaiah 40:6-8); 4:19.
  2. It demonstrates a person’s character: hard times (pressures) often reveals a person’s character and his view of God more than good/easy times.

 

  1. Illness shows personal goals and the impact of his relationship to God in Christ. 1 Peter 2:19-23; 4:19.
  2. Proves the genuineness of faith

 

1) The words used for testing/approving in the NT and OT indicate that God requires every believer’s faith to be refined and the dross removed.

2) He does that in and by hard times but also by good times (Proverbs 30:8-9).

3) The OT word nasah (Gen. 22:1; Deut 8:2; Exodus 16:4;17:2,7; Judges 2:22;3:1,4; 2 Chr. 32:31)

4) The NT word dokimazo (Rom. 5:4; 1 Peter 1: 7; James 1:3,12)

 

  1. It demonstrates a person heart and his singleness of purpose:

 

1) Everyone lives out of his heart: Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 12:33-36; 15:8,16-20; Mark 7:17-23; Luke 6:43-45.

2) Matthew 5:3,8

3) Consider the metaphors of a sponge and a pitcher.

4) Consider these “Job” passages: 1:8-11, 12-22; 2:3-6,9-10; 40:2-5; 42:1-6.

 

  1. It is to increase one’s ministry and may change its direction – never a decrease

 

  1. Job 2:10
  2. Jesus on the cross: Luke 23:34; 23:39-43; John 19:25-26; 19:27; and to believers.
  3. Paul: Philippians 1:12-18; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; 4:1; 12:7-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-16

 

  1. It motivates a person to develop a different mindset regarding what is valuable.

 

  1. Too often the believer measures value with the same measuring stick that the culture does (“now” theology) and “happiness” theology (based on happenings) via sensual living.
  2. The Bible teaches that a relationship with God through Christ guaranteed by His resurrection and His session at the right hand of the Father, and the indwelling HS is the best thing this side of heaven. Illness should bring home the reality of this fact – faces turn to God and to heaven.
  3. Physical problems can be “I don’t like” situations and the biblical principles for responding to them are no different than any other pressure, trouble, and “heat” of life.
  4. An illness rightly viewed helps the believer develop and apply God’s definition of valuable:

 

Matthew 13:44

John 16:20-22

Romans 8:15-18

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7; Romans 5:1-5.

 

Section four: Counseling Those with Physical Illnesses: Basic Counseling Methodology

 

  1. You don’t need to have a physician’s knowledge of the condition or personal experience with the condition to help the person:

 

  1. Why? It is the Comforter that is the key: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Hebrews 4:15 – His comfort – His strength
  2. It may be better for you no to have the same experience.
  3. The experience vs. the God of the experience and a corr4ect interpretation of both.
  4. Gather data from the counselee/patient/person including:

 

  1. How the patient views his condition (his identity) and how he is responding to it
  2. Everybody lives out of an identity as a whole person:

 

  1. His wanting (I call this his “functional motivation” system – his wanter: FMS)
  2. His thinking (I call this his “function belief” system: FBS)
  3. His doing (that behavior which flows from his wanting/thinking and he hopes will procure for him his goal.

 

  1. Behavior reflects the person’s heart and his view of his relationship with Christ; its cost/its blessing.

 

  1. Every person labels/identifies himself (or accepts the label given to him), has an agenda, and pursues it based on his FMS and FBS.
  2. After determining that he is a believer, discern:

 

  1. What the problem is, not simply the context of the problem
  2. How it is a problem
  3. His response to it and the results
  4. His understanding of God’s solutions

 

  1. The counselor’s response to the patient and his illness

 

  1. The counselor is to bring (provide) biblical truth to the situation with the goal of helping the counselee address and respond to the condition from a biblical perspective resulting in a God-honoring response.
  2. Biblical truth/principles don’t change no matter the trouble. The Comforter doesn’t change even though experiences/problems are many and varied.
  3. Application of biblical truth will require change on the counselee’s part (his FMS and FBS) and on the counselor’s part who must be convinced of victory – not relief – for the counselee.
  4. Massage the person with God Himself and biblical truth.

 

  1. Victory includes a change in the person’s thinking and desires about self, God, His Word, others, and life including physical problems.
  2. A change in action/behavior follows. .
  3. Victory’s foundation is the sufficiency, superiority, and supremacy of God’s Word (John 8:31-36 – truth sets you free) – His promises.
  4. Focus: is it to get relief or please God?

 

  1. Accept” the diagnosis as is: you are not his physician even if you are a physician.
  2. On the other hand, if there is “legitimate” concern regarding what the counselee is telling you, then clarification from an MD may be needed.

 

  1. Clarify: is the condition being diagnosed on the basis of subjectivity or objective and physical abnormalities.
  2. Clarify: has the counselee heard the MD correctly: many don’t hear or understand what was said – remember that MDs maybe short on information
  3. There are many ways for the counselee to obtain clarification.
  4. The counselor’s is NOT to prove or disprove the diagnosis.
  5. The counselor is not to recommend alternative treatment.

 

  1. Your goal is to turn his attention from the pain, discomfort, and poor function to what God intends to do through it: beauty out of ashes: Isaiah 61:1-3/Luke 4:18-22. You do that by:

 

  1. Focusing on truth: God in His word doesn’t promise relief or cure but victory.
  2. Bring God’s intentionality and goodness into the counselee’s thinking by focusing on Gen 50:19-21 and Romans 8:28-29 and asking:

 

  1. Where is God in your thinking?
  2. Why would God “allow”/ordain that you have this?
  3. Has God made a mistake?
  4. How have you responded to God’s providence including His “no” re: relief or cure?

 

  1. God intends for the counselee to use this for God’s glory and the believer’s benefit/growth in Christlikeness

 

  1. Explain the “why” (to become more like Christ) and the “how” (being a good theologian-steward).
  2. The counselee is to have a more effective ministry through it.

 

  1. Encourage including doing a spiritual inventory and demonstrate how the counselee is to be a good theologian-steward:

 

  1. Use examples: couch potato, road runner, pain and gain
  2. Help him determine if there is un-confessed sin, bitterness, resentment, and/or grudge holding against God or others.
  3. Help him get busy using the condition rather than simply praying for God to “use” it or remove it.
  4. Help him change his focus from “why” to “how” to use what he doesn’t like to grow/change
  5. Help him minister (2 C 1:3-4): as one comforted, he is to be a comforter. His ministry has not been stopped. It has been moved in another direction.
  6. Help him act upon the fact that God’s grace is available and sufficient: 2 Corinthians 9:8; 12:9. Job did and so can the person: Job 1:1-2:10;40:2-5;42:1-6.
  7. Help him understand that living this side of heaven guarantees that no one will be free of symptoms.
  8. Help him believe and act on the truth that God intends for him to have victory – this is what is valuable about hard times – victory, not relief, is what glorifies God.
  9. A new body is coming – Rev 21:1-6
  10. If the illness is terminal, help him anticipate the glories of heaven: Rev 21:1-4; 22:1-5.

 

  1. The sting of death which is the law, sin, judgment, and slavery has been removed: Hebrews 9:27; 1 John 4:17-18; 1 C 15:54-57; Hebrews 2:14-18.
  2. Jesus is the believer’s brother: Hebrews 2:17-18.
  3. Death is God’s vehicle to bring the person to Him.

 

III. Remember the basic facts about any condition, and help the counselee/patient to function as a learner.

 

  1. Help him distinguish between subjective and objective and the use of terms such as: “I can’t” vs. “I won’t” because of bad feelings.
  2. Help him understand

 

  1. The function and results of tests:

 

  1. “Tests” are done in many cases to rule out specific conditions.
  2. Often many “tests” are done but the person is unaware of the results.

 

  1. The function of terms such as disease, illness, and syndrome.

 

  1. Their use may have benefits (e.g.: clearing the air diagnostically)
  2. This may have disadvantages

 

1) It gives an air of certainty.

2) It allows for treatment which is based on the diagnosis/terms and what the medical culture believes is producing the symptoms.

3) Relief is a demand with a “I don’t deserve this but that” mindset.

 

  1. Patients may do better on medications.

 

  1. Prescribing drugs is something that a physician can do easily and quickly.
  2. It often gives immediate results, and seemingly is based on science.

 

  1. Knowing the cause or “tell me what I have doctor” (what caused me to hurt vs. what caused me to have cancer or RA):

 

  1. These are not synonymous.
  2. Many patients want “to know” hoping for relief or to “have certainty.”
  3. Help determine the basis for the diagnosis – how was the condition diagnosed?
  4. Knowing the cause may be satisfying for the patient:

 

  1. It can bring “closure” to the issue in terms of treatment, in what he will tell his family and others, in what he may gain, and/or in how he “feels” about himself.
  2. It may relieve uncertainty, doubt, fear, and worry. But you must ask him how?
  3. A diagnosis can be used as eliminating personal responsibility.
  4. Knowing “how” may not make any difference to the physician: e.g.: active RA is RA requires treatment.

 

  1. Basic principles for the counselor or friend: remember IMAP: everyone has an identity, motive for doing and not doing, an agenda, and pursues the agenda.

 

  1. Don’t maximize or minimize a person’s symptoms.
  2. Help him focus on his responsibility: as a new creature in Christ, having whatever physical problem he has, it is to respond in a God-honoring manner growing in Christlikeness.
  3. Gather much data in order to understand his thinking and motivation.
  4. Gain involvement and give much hope: How? Trust in a big, good, wise, purposeful God through:

 

  1. Reading, understanding, believing, submitting to, and applying (RUBSA) God’s word,
  2. Basing expectations on His promises as recorded in Scripture (Romans 15:4,13).

 

  1. Review biblical reasons for illness:

 

  1. Physical problems are a result of God’s curse on sin
  2. It may be solely God-engendered (His providence) for any number of reasons
  3. It may be sin-engendered: (personal sin)
  4. illness has a benefit: rightly responded to, it is the glory/honor God; it reminds of the fragility of life; rightly understood, it is for character building – Christlikeness; it can change and or enhance your ministry; and what helps you discern and focus on what is valuable: relief vs. pleasing God thereby becoming more like Christ. .
  5. Always there is a spiritual-physiological connection: inner-outer man duplexity links inner-man activity wit h outer-man effects.

 

  1. Gather data re: the person’s lifestyle:

 

  1. What, if any, restrictions has the physician or the condition placed on the person?
  2. Does the counselee agree or disagree with those restrictions – his response to them and why?
  3. How has he responded to the illness and the restrictions?
  4. How has his thinking and response added to or helped the problem?
  5. Does the medical profession have any genuine help and if so what is it?
  6. Determine his functional capacity given his condition/the physician’s restrictions. Have him complete his assigned responsibilities no matter his feelings.
  7. Determine what aggravates the condition and what makes it better.

 

  1. Gather data re: the person’s thinking and attitude:

 

  1. What is the person’s mindset/view regarding his condition, himself, others, God?
  2. Help him acknowledge the difficulty/unpleasantness – in contrast to God’s purpose.
  3. Is he looking at the gain or the pain and if so for what reasons?
  4. Does he view his situation as a blessing or burden, a curse or adventure? What are the reasons?
  5. How is he responding to the unpleasantness? Does he expect better treatment than Jesus?
  6. How is he responding to his family and friends?
  7. What type of responder is he: a “road runner” (learned drivenness: goes until he drops) or a “couch potato” (learned helplessness: pity parties)?

 

  1. Gather data re: the counsel and the response of relatives/friends: helpful or not?

 

  1. What counsel is he receiving from them?
  2. How do they respond to him, the condition, and the restrictions?
  3. Is the response of the family a blessing or a hindrance?

 

  1. Homework: based on biblical principles that the person needs in order to grow/change.

 

  1. Answer certain questions:

 

  1. The why of God’s providence question God’s way: Romans 8:28-29 and Deut 29:29
  2. God’s “no” and the person’s response to it
  3. His response to God’s providence in general and his case in particular

 

  1. Review biblical stewardship principles: the what and why (motivation).
  2. Review his understanding and application of the physician’s instructions.
  3. Help him sort out responsibilities: his, the doctor’s, and God’s.
  4. Eliminate confusion on the counselee’s part.
  5. Think in whole-person terms: stewardship of thinking, wanting, and doing, and general principles for good health.
  6. Daily, record in what ways he has applied biblical principles in re: to his response to his condition (God’s providence) and the results:

 

  1. Mind renewal: 2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 4:23; Philippians 4:8 and Matthew 7:21-27.
  2. An instrument (him and the situation) in God’s hands: 2 C 5:17-20; Romans 8:28-29

 

  1. Service: how is he using his problem to serve others?

 

  1. Comfort (2 C 1:3-4): how has he been comforted and how is he functioning as a comfortee?
  2. Rejoice (2 C 12:7-10): not in the pain but the gain – does he fervently desire the gain?
  3. Thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:20/1 Thessalonians 5:18): for the results

 

  1. Biblical principles to help sick people have victory in their illness.

 

  1. Define victory:

 

  1. It is being controlled by biblical principles rather than wants/relief and the agony of the condition.
  2. It means pleasing God rather than seeking relief.
  3. It is using the condition to put self to death and become more like Christ. Rom. 8:35-39; 1 Cor. 15:54-57; Phil. 4:11-13.

 

  1. Biblical-controlled thought processing: think biblically about all aspects of the condition: 1 Cor. 2:16; 2 Cor. 10:5; Phil. 4:8. Consider the ‘pizza pie’ of life: physical, social, home, church, spiritual, and work.

 

  1. The frailty and finiteness of this life and him/me: Ps 39:4-6; 90:11-12
  2. The relationship of the physical to other aspects of life: the inner man – outer man connection
  3. The relationship of the person to other people: functioning as a taker or a giver.

 

  1. Remember and act on the 6 P’s of God:

 

  1. Presence: God is in the problem: Hebrews 13:5-6
  2. Power: He is up to something: Everything is under the control of a sovereign God: Proverbs 21:1; Dan 2:21;4:35; 1 Chronicles 29:12; Matthew 10:29
  3. Promises: God is up to something for you now and eternally: Deut 4:31.

There are 4 promises of hope in 1 Corinthians 10:13 and one in Philippians 4:13.

  1. Plan: God was in the problem in eternity past and remains so: Ephesians 1:4
  2. Purpose: God is up to something good – now: Genesis 50:19-21; Romans 8:28-29; 1 Peter 2:19-23;4:19.
  3. Provision: God provides a relationship with His Son, the indwelling HS, the Bible, and His saving and enabling grace in order for the person to respond in a godly fashion thereby functioning as a Christian oyster.

 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 12:9-10;

Philippians 2:12-13; 4:13;

Galatians 2:20.

 

Section five. Why should a Believer go to the Physician?

 

  1. The believer seeks medical care to please God by functioning as a good theologian-steward.
  2. Because all of life is theological and everyone is a theologian, every man is a steward.

III. Since theology matters, the issue is: which kind of theologian-steward are you?

 

  1. What is the basis for the statement: “life is theological and theology matters”? It is that all men live in relation to God, properly or improperly, whether acknowledged or not.

 

  1. God is man’s environment. This is an inescapable fact. God is not limited by space – He is present everywhere. Therefore, there is no escaping God (1 Kings 8:27; Acts 7:48-49;17:27-28; Ps 139:7-10; Isaiah 66:1; Jeremiah 23:23-24): burden or blessing?
  2. As the image of God, man is:

 

  1. A real, historical being, created in relationship to God as dependent being with a covenant keeping capacity.
  2. In the Garden, Adam was a revelation receiver, interpreter (understand), and implementer (apply). Man continues to be a revelational being

c Man continues to be a relational being: to God (vertical) and others (horizontal). In the Garden, God gave man information (verbal revelation and created reality) on how best to live in that relationship. Today it is no different because God provides His truth in the Bible.

  1. Man is a religious being – he is a worshipper by nature.
  2. Man is an ethically responsible being.
  3. Man is a rational, thinking being.

 

  1. Man is a sensual being: he takes facts in via the senses.
  2. Man is a faith-based being: saving or non-saving faith. Man filters facts and their interpretation through faith, reason, experience, and or feelings or via the Bible.
  3. In the Garden, God entered into covenant with man; he had covenant keeping responsibilities and was entirely dependent on God.
  4. Man is a morally and ethically responsible being because God the Creator so designed him – God Himself is a morally responsible Being.
  5. God’s creation and His creatures are His and are obligated to Him (Psalm 24:1-2; 29; 33:6-11; 50:7-11; 89:5-18; 93; 95:3-5; 104). Man is a debtor even before sin – he owed God.

 

  1. In the Garden and before the Fall, Adam and Eve were in perfect relationship to God and knew Him as Creator, Judge, and as their Friend: Genesis 2:15-17.

 

  1. Unconverted man continues to know God both as Creator, Almighty, and Judge.
  2. Converted man, however, also knows God as Father, Redeemer, and Friend.
  3. God saves in the context of relationships.

 

  1. His people were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)
  2. His people grow in that relationship as they become more like Christ – this is the process of sanctification (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:3-5).

 

  1. Therefore, all of life, from beginning (creation) to end (man’s destiny which is heaven or hell) and all in between (either growing in the likeness of Christ or the likeness of Satan) is theological.

 

  1. Reasons for going to the MD

 

  1. The goal of every believer is to be/function as a good theologian.
  2. One of the keys for doing so is acknowledging and acting upon the truth that every believer is to be a good steward.

 

  1. Everyone must give an account of all entrusted to him including his body.
  2. Every believer is to function as a good theologian-steward – this honors God and is beneficial for him
  3. Stewardship means taking care of that which God has entrusted to you (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 16:1-13; 19:11-27). It is God-given blessing with responsibility and accountability.
  4. Every one is a steward. The question is which kind: good or bad?
  5. Stewardship is a theological issue because every one is a theologian and lives in or out of relationship to God. One’s body is not his own: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.
  6. Seeking medical care is to be for the purpose of pleasing God (2 Corinthians 5:9) as a good steward of His temple rather than relief or getting well.

 

  1. There are at least six characteristics of biblical stewardship: ORUEAR
  2. God owns everything; you own nothing – your “ownership” is relative to God’s absolute ownership. This is an ownership issue (1 Chronicles 29:10-20; Haggai 2:7-8; 1 Cor 6:19-20).
  3. You do possess. God entrusts to you everything you have, including your body. You are an “trustee.” This is a responsibility issue for you (1 Corinthians 4:2-5; Psalm 139:13-16).
  4. God enables you to use, and even increase, what He entrusts to you. This is a user issue (Deuteronomy 8:16-18)
  5. God expects a return on what He has given. This is an expectation issue (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27).
  6. You must give an account of your care of your body and it may be today. This is an accounting issue (Luke 12:16-21; 2 Cor 5:10).
  7. The issue is good or bad stewardship: there are consequences for either. This is a result issue (Matthew 25:24-27; Luke 19:24).

 

  1. Man is a duplex (a unit: inner and outer man).

 

  1. One’s thoughts/attitudes, desires, and actions (inner-man activities) affect the body (outer man) and outer-man functioning influences the inner man.
  2. Man lives out of his heart (FBS/FMS) – Proverbs 4::23; Matthew 15/Mark 7; Luke 6:43-45.
  3. This truth is expressed as: You feel what you feel because you do what you do; you do what you do because you think what you think and you think what you think because you want what you want (FDTW).
  4. Biblical stewardship involves taking care of both the inner man and outer man.

 

  1. The inner man will influence outer man function: Genesis 4; Ps 32/38.
  2. The outer man influences inner man function: Christ, Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), Job (1:13-22; 2:9-10), Elijah (1 Kings 18-19).

 

  1. Man is a not a person with a body problem: he is a whole person and duplex being.

 

  1. That person consists of the material and immaterial.
  2. Man is body/material but he isn’t only body.
  3. He is spirit/immaterial but man isn’t only immaterial.
  4. He is a duplex – inner and outer man.

 

  1. Summary: a believer can always be a good steward of his body whether his desired results occur.

 

  1. Good stewardship of the body is the best thing one can do while on this earth and most often results in improved health.
  2. However, improved health is to be a byproduct of good stewardship and it should not be the believer’s primary focus (Matthew 6:33).
  3. Pleasing God is the primary reason for being a good theologian-steward. Proverbs 3:5-8.

 

  1. Corollary truths:

 

  1. Death is separation:

 

  1. Physical death is the separation of body and spirit.
  2. Spiritual death is the separation of the inner person from God.
  3. Eternal death is the whole person (body and spirit) separated from God.

 

  1. Life is union:

 

  1. Physical life is the union of the body and spirit.
  2. Spiritual life is the inner person united to God.
  3. Eternal life is the whole person united with God.

 

Section six: Putting It All Together

 

  1. Prevailing theories of disease and the cause of symptoms

 

  1. Medical Model (MM): There is a physical, anatomic reason for symptoms and behavior. The assumption is that the body is “sick” even if no anatomical abnormality is found. Francis Crick’s discovery of DNA: man is molecules in motion added to this concept.
  2. Biopsychosocial Model (BPS): This model assumes that man’s physical complaints are the result of “psychological” factors (“handling life issues”) which have been influenced by his genes and environmental factors.
  3. Biopsychosocialspiritual Model (BPSS): This model adds a “spiritual” dimension to the presumed cause of symptoms but defines spirituality using non-biblical standards.

 

  1. Summary and critique:

 

  1. All three models posit that symptoms and behavior originate from some physical defect even if it can’t be proved.
  2. Therefore, therapy is directed at removing symptoms and changing behavior by changing feelings.
  3. The latter two models compartmentalize man; treatment is directed at each of these compartments: physician, social worker/ psychologist/psychiatrist, and minister.

 

III. The culture’s view of man’s “anatomy” contrasts God’s Word:

 

  1. Thinking is both an inner person and outer person (brain) activity
  2. The brain is part of the body (soma); there is no biblical term for brain.
  3. Man’s moral compass is not located in the material – brain – but in the inner man.
  4. The inner man is the purview of the Holy Spirit.
  5. Therefore, God and His grace, not medications, “change” the person.

 

  1. Spiritual-physiological:

 

  1. There are all types of heat of life (other terms: pressures, problems in life, “stress”)
  2. These include:

 

  1. One’s own sin and its consequence: Gal 6:7-9; Proverbs 13:15
  2. Being sinned against
  3. Physical problems
  4. Poverty; riches: Deut 8; Proverbs 30:7-9
  5. Conflicting voices of counsel
  6. General life hardships
  7. Pleasant times

 

  1. Rom. 8:35-37: the questions of being and determinism are always at the forefront and are captured in the questions:

 

  1. What is man (his being/ontos) – nature, nurture, or a combination or neither?
  2. Origin and purpose of man?
  3. Things happen: why?
  4. Is there room for God and His providence and if so how?

 

  1. Victory can best be gained by asking how things outside of a person “produce/cause” certain feelings and behaviors. Is it possible that your response is part or all of the body problems?

 

  1. Being controlled and being influenced are entirely different concepts.
  2. Pressure/problem à evaluation/interpretation according to one’s senses leading to a perspective/mindset à reaction à bodily and physiological changes that can be measured: e.g.: fear: “panic attack”/stage fright and butterflies; the bear and IRS examples.
  3. Secular therapeutic options, such as “stress management,” cognitive behavioral therapy, and medications, are egocentric and focus on the person’s feelings and behavior.
  4. Personal responsibility: one can’t completely change what is outside of him but he is responsible for his thinking and motivation and therefore his response.
  5. Pressure/problem à unbiblical response à bad feelings à decreased function.

 

  1. If the goal is to get rid of bad feelings and/or to function better (often termed a better “quality of life”), where will the physician and patient focus?

 

  1. Rather than focusing on the wanting and thinking, the focus will be on relieving feelings and behavior.
  2. Medications don’t change thinking or wanting directly.

 

  1. They can change feelings
  2. The brain is not man’s moral compass

 

  1. Everyone functions out of/responds to pressure (hard or good times),

 

  1. Out of a Functional Motivational System (FMS) – wanting, and a Functional Belief System (FBS) – thinking
  2. Which can be boiled down to: what I want vs. what pleases God, and what I think is right vs. what God in His word says is right.

 

  1. Thinking God’s thoughts (biblically-controlled thinking; saving faith based reasoning) leads to honoring God and it is best for your health.

 

James T Halla, MD jimhalla@yahoo.com

This material may not be reproduced in any form without the permission of the author.

 Shepherding the flock: Truths for all of God’s People

 Shepherding the flock: Truths for all of God’s People

 

Introduction: the primary goal of this material is to help church leaders shepherd the flock in the giving and receiving medical care. Secondary goals are helping sheep be God’s kind of sheep/counselee/patient, helping physicians be God’s kind of physicians, and helping church leaders help both groups achieve those goals.

 

  1. Personal note: I am a rheumatologist through God’s providence who ordained my choice. The fact of that I am rheumatologist is important for a number of reasons. Not all fields of medicine are the same. General principles override all disciplines but there are significant differences. The field of rheumatology differs in many respects from other fields of medicine. Complaints of misery, often long-standing, are a constant menu for most rheumatologists. The whole person is affected (thoughts, desires, actions or inactions). Patients tend to be long standing as their problems are chronic. Therefore I urge physicians and patients or would-be patients to take note of the general principles of good stewardships as derived from the Bible and apply them to the giving and receiving of medical care in their own area.

 

  1. Our standard is the Bible which:
  2. Is clear, authoritative, necessary, and sufficient for life and godliness including giving and receiving medical care: 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4.
  3. Focuses on relationships, vertically and horizontally, and the whole person: Matt. 22:37-40; Duet 6:4-6.
  4. Addresses stewardship which includes the giving and the receiving of medical care: Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:19-20.
  5. Presents a worldview that has been interpreted as anti-science and “non-medical”:
  6. The hard sciences such as biology, physics, astronomy, etc.
  7. The soft sciences such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology.
  8. Medicine which utilizes the hard and soft sciences.

 

III. The Bible’s orientation is radical, antithetical, counterintuitive, counter-cultural, and counter-self. It presents the doctrine of two ways.

  1. The doctrine of two ways includes such contrasts as natural-supernatural, truth-falsehood, sight and senses–faith, unsaved-saved, lost-found, trust in self-trust in Lord, unclean-clean, and the wide-narrow road.
  2. Consequently, there is a godly and ungodly way to live and function in God’s world.
  3. Man is to grieve God’s way (1 Thessalonians 4:13), be angry God’s way, (Eph. 4:26; James 1:19-20), seek God’s way (Mat. 6:33), and to fear God’s way (Ps 56:3-4; Proverbs 1:7).
  4. There is no Scriptural mandate to worry God’s way, be depressed God’s way, or to be overwhelmed God’s way.
  5. Consequently, there is a godly and ungodly way to practice medicine and to receive medical care. These are extensions of how a person lives (thinks, desires, acts) outside the doctor’s office.

 

  1. Basic anthropology in the giving and receiving of medical care: ma n is the image of God.
  2. Everyone is a religious being, a theologian and a worshipper.
  3. The object of the worship is self, through people and or things or it is God.
  4. Everyone looks outside of self or within for direction and strength.
  5. Everyone is a relational being.
  6. Everyone, believer and unbeliever, has, whether acknowledged or not:
  7. A vertical relationship – to God – in His world.
  8. A horizontal relationship – to others – in God’s world.
  9. A vertical reference to circumstances and to God – God’s providential ordering of life events.
  10. The personal significance of those relationships influence and determine thoughts, desires, and actions in any situation.
  11. Everyone is a revelational being. He receives, interprets, and implements what he has received in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions.
  12. Everyone is a rational being. He is a thinker, initially designed to think God’s thoughts for God’s glory and to partake of the blessing to and for him and others.
  13. Everyone is a moral, ethically responsible being.
  14. Man is faced with the issues of lawmaking and law-keeping.
  15. He makes choices that are cognitive and willful,
  16. Everyone is a representative. Man is not his own but he was designed to follow God’s design in the Garden.
  17. Everyone is a reflector. Man was designed to reflect God’s glory to the world and back to God.
  18. Everyone is faith-based either saving faith or non-saving faith.
  19. Everyone is an affective, emotive being.
  20. He has feelings but he is not his feelings but functions as if he is.
  21. Subjectivity is the rule.
  22. The term “feelings” is too often culturized and psychologized.
  23. Everyone is a seeker. The issues are who does he seek, how does he seek, and what is the motive for seeking.

 

  1. More anthropology
  2. Everyone lives out of an identity, is motivated to set an agenda and pursue it.
  3. Man was created the image of God – a whole person – wanting, thinking, and doing.
  4. As a whole person, he is duplex, a complex unity.
  5. He is body as well as having a body (outer man: he is a physical, material being); but he is not only body.
  6. He has a soul (inner man: he is a spiritual being); but he is not only inner man (other terms the Bible uses for the inner man are heart and mind).
  7. He thinks and desires/wants in both his inner and outer man.
  8. He acts in as well as out of/from the inner and outer man.
  9. In every situation (God’s providence), the doctor and patient are theologians.
  10. The issue for both is which kind?
  11. The Bible is our source for the answer.
  12. Everyone is a sensual and faith-based being.
  13. He gathers or takes in information via the senses.
  14. He interprets/evaluates information in both the inner man (heart/mind) and the outer man (brain).
  15. He draws a conclusion.
  16. He acts according to his evaluation.
  17. He has an interpretive grid which is one of two kinds captured in Proverbs 3:5-8:
  18. He trusts God (fear of Lord).

1) He lives according to saving faith, biblical truth, and the application of biblical principles to all of life.

2) He has biblically-controlled thinking and wanting

  1. He trusts self.

1) He is guided by the trio, in part or the whole, of feelings, reason unaided by biblical truth, and/or experience.

2)  He is controlled by his own thoughts and desires

 

  1. Cautions for the helper (pastor, counselor, and doctor) in regard to the sheep
  2. No helper is to be exclusively a spiritual mechanic (focused solely on inner-man activities) or a body mechanic (focused only on the physical) because:
  3. Man is duplex, a whole person, image bearer of God and a theologian.
  4. His situation in life is God’s providential ordering. Life is not just is.
  5. The situation is:
  6. The context for the person to demonstrate the functional significance of his relationship to God in Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  7. A tool for him to further develop a God-honoring relationship in Christ.
  8. All helpers are to be listeners and learners:
  9. Listen to learn to love to lead.
  10. Don’t assume.
  11. Understand what the person is saying: clarify clichés and terms.
  12. Understanding the person in his situation is the key to discipleship.
  13. Next the person is to give appropriate truth to the person in his situation given his level of willingness, his knowledge, and his spiritual maturity.
  14. The importance of methodology
  15. Be alert to the fact that the person invariably begins with how he feels, his experience, and his own logic and most often in terms of his trouble often called suffering.
  16. The person is BOTH a suffering sinner AND sinful sufferer.
  17. Labels matter.
  18. Maintain the proper balance between sinner AND suffering.
  19. Ask questions with an inside-out focus.
  20. Inquire about the person’s thinking, wanting, motivation, and resultant actions.
  21. Your goal and your method
  22. The key is to function as a God pleaser.
  23. Minister biblical truth so that it functions vertically – the person’s relationship to God – and horizontally – the person’s relationship to others.
  24. Most sheep/counselee’s/patient’s focus is primarily horizontal (change him or her or the situation).
  25. Any vertical reference is often distorted: view of God, self, and others:
  26. Determine what biblical truth is needed that best fits the person in his situation.
  27. Learn and teach God’s way of change: “put off” and “put on.” by determining:

1) Help determine the genesis of wrong thoughts, desires, and actions

2) Develop the need and even urgency of putting off by putting on.

3) Give hope because of the resources that every believer has in Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

4) Help determine the proper biblical replacement and the how if it. Be specific.

5) People change and get victory in the concrete.

 

VII. Helps for the helpers: pastor, counselor, doctor, and patient/counselee

  1. Think “whole-person” and man as “duplex.”
  2. The inner man affects the function of the outer man: inner-man activity of thinking and wanting affects a person’s feelings and activity.
  3. The outer man affects the function of the inner man.
  4. The outer man-inner man connection depends on how and which part of the body is affected.
  5. The physical/material is the area of medicine that is most familiar to people.
  6. Person: what is wrong with my body? Fix me. Give me relief.
  7. Doctor: attempts to find an anatomic and or physiological defect and treat it – accepts the Medical Model of disease.
  8. If no defect found, he still applies the Medical Model and treats – often with psychotropic drugs.
  9. Mental illness and emotional breakdown are loaded terms.
  10. The mind/heart and the brain are not synonymous.
  11. Feelings (they are anatomic rightly understood) and emotions (non-anatomic) are not synonymous.
  12. The mind/heart is immaterial and non-physical.

1) Broken heart: bad feelings

2)  Takotsubo cardiomyopathy has been referred to as acute stress-induced cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome, and “broken-heart syndrome.”

  1. The mind/emotions are not broken.
  2. Often they work overtime in the realm of thinking and wanting.

1) Wrong thinking and wanting leads to symptoms that are called physical.

2) Wrong and thinking is exposed at the time of the event/situation.

  1. Man thinks in his heart (IM) and brain (OM). There is a connection between the outer and inner man that does not appear to be a defined anatomic neural circuit.
  2. Man’s duplexity and its relationship to behavior require serious biblical thinking.
  3. What is needed? There is no science-Bible/biblical truth dichotomy.
  4. The answer is biblically-directed, whole person considerations.
  5. The result will be appropriate application of biblical truth by all involved.
  6. Thinking “whole-person” duplexity means that the outer and inner man is linked.
  7. Wanting, thinking, and doing are both IM and OM activities
  8. Feelings are linked to thinking and wanting so get to the person’s thoughts and desires.
  9. Man is not his feelings but functions as if he is.
  10. The trio of feelings, experience, and unaided human reasoning competes with the Word of God especially in the areas of progressive sanctification, problem solving, and decision making.

 

VIII. By divine plan, the goal of every believer to please God. He does that by becoming more like Christ: Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 5:9 (metaphor of Christian oyster).

  1. This includes the pastor, counselor, doctor, and the patient.
  2. The believer is the most changed person.
  3. He is to be the most changing person.
  4. In part, he does that by bringing biblical principles to bear as he considers his physical problems.
  5. The goal is honoring God by getting victory in the problem not necessarily out of the problem.
  6. Victory is defined as:
  7. Being controlled and directed by biblical principles rather than the desire for relief.
  8. Pleasing God rather than self in the situation
  9. Using the situation/condition to develop Christlikeness
  10. Victory may not include “cure.”

 

  1. The pastor, counselor, and doctor are the teacher and modeler of the above principles as good theologians-stewards:
  2. Stewardship defined: the God-given responsibility of taking care of that which has been entrusted to you with accountability.
  3. Stewardship involves the inner and outer man and every aspect of man as God’s image: thinking, wanting, and doing.
  4. Teach and model biblical stewardship and expect its practice.
  5. It is much more than tithing and giving.
  6. It is a whole-person activity.
  7. The pastor helps the sheep/patient regarding:
  8. The patient’s physician and his relationship to him:
  9. Is the doctor a Christian?
  10. If he is, what does that mean practically for both patient and doctor?
  11. Does the doctor bring biblical principles to bear on the patient in his problem?
  12. In determining:
  13. The doctor’s goal in caring for him.
  14. How the doctor’s practice of medicine differs from that of an unbeliever.
  15. In evaluating the medical diagnosis and treatment.
  16. What is the diagnosis and its basis?
  17. What is the solution, if any, and its basis?
  18. The pastor helps the counselor and doctor regarding:
  19. Understanding that the discipline of medicine at its core is pagan.
  20. Understanding that the problem is not science but the scientist (including the physician) as he evaluates “facts” (no fact is neutral – it is interpreted according to truth or falsehood).
  21. Developing biblical skepticism regarding medicine and its practice:
  22. He takes doctors under his wing.
  23. He finds a doctor and counselor who is a learner and you be a learner.
  24. He teaches them from the Bible and partners with them.
  25. He finds one that is theologically sound or is willing to be.
  26. He helps him see the better way which is pleasing God in the midst of God’s hard Providence. The situation is from God and the patient’s tool for growth.
  27. He helps him see that the consistent, humble application of biblical principles re: the whole person is the best care he can give his patients.
  28. It will be slow.
  29. Doctors may be a valuable ally or an effective enemy.
  30. Find out.
  31. Pray for them.
  32. Doctors are vulnerable and may unknowingly help undermine the gospel message.
  33. Be aware of prayer meetings.
  34. Gear prayer requests toward wisdom issues: growth in Christ and not simply relief/cure.
  35. Teach that God’s answer of no for relief is never no to growth in Christ.
  36. Help the people to be excited about growth in Christlikeness.

 

  1. Thoughts about going to the doctor and receiving medical care
  2. The patient should go to the doctor, not to get, but to please God as a good steward.
  3. Poor stewardship can be manifested via too few or too many visits to the doctor.
  4. Good stewardship can be few or many visits to the doctor.
  5. The same balance applies to exercise, sleep, food, and medications.

 

  1. Thoughts about giving medical care
  2. Does the MD administer or minister? What is it that he does and how?
  3. The goal is to please God and help the patient do the same.
  4. Teach the MD to bring appropriate biblical truth to bear on himself and the patient.
  5. The physical condition of the patient does not alter the essence of biblical truth but it may change how/in what way biblical truth is ministered.
  6. He needs to know theology and medicine well.
  7. He must apply proper theology including man’s duplexity/whole person.
  8. He must have confidence in the Word AND confidence in his use of that Word.
  9. He uses his Bible as his guide.
  10. It won’t tell him the specifics of diagnosis and treatment.
  11. It will direct the physician and the patient in the Truth/truth which is real freedom.
  12. Christian physicians and pastor should develop a biblical skepticism for medicine: its approach to people, its goals, its agenda, its philosophy and its practice.

 

This material may not be reproduced in any form without the author’s permission: jimhalla@yahoo.com

 

 

The Science of Division and Separation Part I-IV

The Science of Division and Separation: Part I

One-ism or Two-ism, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

One-ism and Two-ism

 

The title is intended to attract your attention. The American culture is in the throes of change of gigantic proportions. However, the change is not new. In fact, it has its roots in the angelic world prior to the creation of man and in the Garden after the fall. Yes, there is a real Adam and Eve! For whatever reason, Adam chose to decide for himself, his wife, and his posterity, how he, and they should live. The fundamental choice of human existence is and always been worshipping and pleasing the Creator or the creature (self and others). Mankind can’t have it both ways. Throughout the ages man continues with those two mutually exclusive choices.

The American culture looks very much like Ephesus and Rome of biblical times. Those cultures were dominated by the mantra: for me, to me, and by me. Feelings, logic divorced from biblical truth, experience/tradition, and subjectivity ruled. Self-realization and self-actualization – me first, second, and third was at the expense of others. There was no appeal to the God of the universe. The me-first mindset will continue until Christ’s return.

The Christian Church and individual Christians have bought into the movement and the influence of Eastern mysticism and spirituality, psychology, and Greek philosophy. As a result, the culture and the people are naturalized, materialized, Eastern-ized, psychologized, and spiritualized as opposed to being supernatural-ized and Holy Spirit-energized. The inward work of the Holy Spirit was and seems to be non-existent. Sadly, churches have bought the lie. There has been a return to the New Age thinking of Gnosticism – which is really old age! There is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9).

Dr. Peter Jones uses the terms One-ism and Two-ism when he speaks of the attack on the Creator-creature distinction. Fundamentally, the issue is truth vs. falsehood and light vs. darkness (Rom. 1:18-23). Some speak of this phenomenon as culture wars. Psalm 2 labels it rebellion against Yahweh and His Anointed. So-called marriage problems are actually people problems. Marriage and culture are not the problem. They are the milieu in which hearts are exposed and choice id expressed – me or God.

Cultural One-ism is in contrast to biblical One-ism – God is God, Creator and Controller God, and the creature is not. Cultural One-ism is in conflict with a biblical worldview and is at odds with true spirituality as defined by the Bible. Cultural One-ism focuses on a self-created reality which divinized nature; mankind worships himself as he worships the creation. This One-ism is based on the impersonal and sameness of everything and everybody. It disallows distinctions and separation. Consequently, it denies the transcendent and the holy as defined in the Bible as self-apartness, otherness and distinctiveness which are words used to describe the Triune God.

Cultural One-ism denies and works aggressively against biblical One-ism and biblical Two-ism. It works against the biblical notion that everything and everyone has its rightful and distinctive place. It denies biblical One-ism because it denies the essence of God as the holy, other God. It denies the twin pillars of the Trinity which are unity and diversity. Consequently, it denies all Intratrinitarian activity such as creation, re-creation and redemption, and heard and answered prayer.

Dr. Jones equates Two-ism and biblical spirituality. He defines this biblical worldview as the biblical insistence on the truth of distinctions – good and evil, true and false, male and female, God and creation. In essence, Two-ism refers, in part, to the doctrine of two ways: clean and unclean, holy and unholy (Lev. 10:10-11).

Man, the creature, is not the Creator and God is distinct from His creation. In Two-ism, holiness is normative for God. Remember, holiness refers to otherness, separateness, distinctiveness, and worth of all honor and glory. God is Lord of lords and King of kings whether acknowledged or not. God is worthy to be worshipped for who He is. Worship of any other object or being is idolatry.

According to Scripture, Two-ism is God’s revelation of Himself and is one key to the cosmos. This latter point is of extreme importance today as culture is caught up with its self and pushes and demands oneness and consequently, human autonomy as was demonstrated in the Garden. Each individual becomes their own supreme being.

It is interesting how culture has linked oneness and autonomy. Autonomy refers to self-expression and rule. The concept and actions that flow from it compete with the Triune God.  By popular demand the one consumes mankind and has decided for me, by me, and to me. The one is me. The one has thrown a web around the many so that the one and the many are one. Sameness is key but to what? Without distinctions there will be no progress in any area of society. The program of all chiefs and no Indians sounds communistic and socialistic. It is anti-God. Someone has to be different but this fact is denied. Yet the one who is setting the rules is different as he functions as number one. There should be no number two’s unless you are number one!  In non-biblical two-ism, all are number one.  Others follow. The definition of cultural one-ism is used to justify all that is non-biblical. It calls right wrong and wrong right which is an abomination to the Lord. (Isa. 5:20).

 

Application:

  1. What does the phrase: “All is one” signify to you?
  2. If all is one then all is God or part of him. If true, there is no hierarchy. Yet the one espousing this oneness is number one! What significance would that have for creation and control of the universe? How could Adam be wrong using that definition of oneness?
  3. If all is one, where does authority, ethics, morality, and worship fit and why?

 

The Science of Division: Part II

One or Two, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

The Significance of Distinction

 

Our discussion must begin with the Bible. The Bible is God’s self-revelation, the only standard of truth. Otherwise a person starts with self and ends with self. God Himself is three-in one and therein is unity and diversity. There is order within diversity. At creation, God demonstrated His way of operating in His world. From the beginning God is the God of order. He has been and will continue to be the Separator and Orderer. The book of Genesis opens by recording God’s eternal existence and His creative activity: In the beginning God was…. The Bible presupposes an eternal, active God.

The Triune God created chaos and from chaos came the cosmos (Gen. 1:1-2: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void and the Spirit of the Lord was hovering over the water.). God brings order to His world His way for His glory. Later in Genesis 1, Moses uses the refrain that God commanded separation: 1:4 (light from darkness); 1:6-7 (the waters); and 1:14, 18 (the lights). Genesis 1 closes with the concise statement: God saw all that he had made and it was very good ... (Gen 1:31).

Genesis 2 teaches that God created the animals and He created Adam and Eve, the crown of His creative activity (se Psalm 8). The Triune God created mankind specifically male and female. Gender was not neutral or an afterthought. It was ordained by God. In the creation account of Genesis 1-2 we learn the non-negotiable truth that God is Creator and Controller and He is a God of separation and distinctions for His purpose and glory. The good of His creation and mankind follow God’s zeal for His name and character.

Turning to the rest of the Pentateuch, we learn more about the science of division. As Moses taught in the book of Leviticus it was a matter of life and death – it still is. The overarching theme of the Pentateuch is God opening a way for sinful humanity to dwell in His Presence. One of the themes of the book of Exodus is intimate knowledge of God which highlights the separation-distinction motif. True knowledge of God leads to true knowledge of self which leads to fear of the Lord and life in His Presence. Hope, comfort, and joy follow.

God used a variety of means to reveal Himself so that both Pharaoh and Israel would know that I am the Lord your God.. (Exodus 6:7-8; 14:4, 18; 16:6, 12). God’s revelation of Himself had a purpose: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is living, trustworthy, and makes and keeps His promises (Exodus 3:14-15; 6:6-7). Therefore He saved His people at the expense of the Egyptians who were enemies of Israel and His enemies.

The so-called plagues (actually miracles) were signs and wonders used by God to reveal Himself as Controller and Deliverer. They fit the separation-distinction motif described in Genesis. God separated Israel from the Egyptians and vice versa (see Exodus 7-12 and 8:23; 9:4-6, 26; 10:23; 11:7; 12:13, 25, 27). God’s power was evident as the Egyptians received the wrath of God and Israel was saved. The ultimate sign and revelation of God and His separating activity was the Passover (Exodus 12-13). The blood on the doorpost was God’s sign to spare the Israelites and kill the firstborn of Egypt. Distinction was the key – it was a matter of life and death.

Application:

  1. Define One-ism and Two-ism using culture and the Bible as reference points.
  2. The Trinity is an example of One-ism and Two-ism: how?
  3. Marriage is an example of One-ism and Two-ism: how?
  4. Discuss the separation-distinction motif.

The Science of Division: Part III

One or Two, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

The Significance of Distinction

 

The book of Leviticus further delineates the science of division. The book focuses on how God opened a way into His presence. Mankind’s descent began when God judged Adam and Eve and exiled them from the Garden and His presence. Prior to their expulsion, God promised hope through salvation (Gen. 3:15). Adam was faced with an ultimate question: how could man, unholy and sinful, be allowed into the presence of a holy God? We know the question was a prominent concern of Adam (Gen. 3:20-21; 4:1). In fact the question is captured by the psalmist in Psalms 15 and 24. He asked the question: who can ascend the holy hill? The immediate context was worship in God’s presence but it rings the note: how can unholy man enter into a holy God’s presence and live and enjoy fellowship (15:1; 24:3)?

Israel experienced God’s holiness and dwelling in His presence as a purified and consecrated people through the sacrificial system. When you read the Pentateuch, especially the book of Leviticus, you can’t fail to miss the constant refrain: be holy as I am (11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 21:8, 15; 22:9, 16, 32). The sacrificial system was put in place so that the Israelites could enter God’s presence symbolically and enjoy fellowship with Him. Proper separation, distinguishing clean and unclean, was God’s way to enter into His presence and glory. For the Israelites it was a matter of life and death (Lev. 9:6, 22-24; 10:1-3; 16:1ff). The book of Hebrews shows us that the Old Testament sacrificial system pointed to Christ, the true Passover Lamb (Heb. 6:13-20; 10:19-22; John 1:29, 36; 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Another message of the book of Leviticus is atonement. In the ritual, sacrificial system, the principle of separation and distinction was manifested with the daily choice of a male animal without defect. Gender mattered. Entering into a holy God’s presence, which was signified as a consuming fire, could be deadly unless it was done God’s way, at God’s time, and in God’s house. Ask Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-3). Several passages later God tells Aaron, the high priest, that he (and the people) must distinguish clean from unclean (Lev.10:10-11). The clean/unclean system (found in Leviticus 11-15, 17-27) was a means of alerting the Israelites, singularly and corporately, to the fact that all day, every day, in whatever they thought and did, they must consciously choose God and His way. Separation and distinction was a daily, constant refrain of the Israelite. In the New Testament, Matthew 25:31-46 affirms the divine right and privilege of separation and distinction: at the last judgment God will separate the sheep and the goats.

When the creature assumes the position of Creator, he advocates gender neutrality and non-biblical One-ism. As a consequence, he separates himself from God which is a deadly activity because the creature dishonors God. Such it is today. There is nothing new under the sun. Our culture has returned to chaos: darkness and deadness. Culture today has returned to the pre-creation, anti-creational state of chaos described in Genesis 1:1-2 and typified by Pharaoh’s anti-life measures against Israel.

God’s eternal design is to use sinful man and his activity to rectify the situation. Throughout the ages, arrogant and ignorant man attempts to blur all distinctions (Cultural One-ism). In contrast, God separates for order, for structure, and for purpose (Two-ism) – fellowship and intimacy with Him. As the priests in Leviticus were commanded, all believers must learn the science of division as a matter of life and death. The priests were to distinguish between sacred and common, clean and unclean, and Creator-creature. If you attempt to destroy division eventually you will fail. God won’t allow His world to remain in pre-creation darkness and death. Ask Pharaoh.

 

Application:

  1. Where are you on the issue of separation-distinction?
  2. Are you a One-ist so that the god you know is in everything and has nothing to say about your thoughts, desires, and actions?
  3. If are a Two-ist, what is your science of division? Are you wise and in the light – God’s light and truth – as you apply Prov. 3:5-8; 5:21-22, and 26:11 regularly? It is a matter of life and death.

 

Part IV: The Science of Division and Separation: One-ism or Two-ism, Unity or Diversity, Trans-whatever

 

This question about existence/being is age-old, inherently complex, and the philosopher’s delight. It is easy, a no-brainer, to conclude that man exists. I am because I am. My senses and my reason give me facts. I must interpret them. A logical question follows. The fact that man can ask questions, get data, and interpret data is proof of existence/being and a rational reality.  Another question surfaces: what reality? The fact that man exists does not answer the question of his origin (where did man come from?) or a corollary question: what is man?  These are simple questions but have invoked a plethora of thought, consternation, and answers through the ages.

Human beings can only answer the question if man is a rational, faith-based, question-asking, and answering being. And he is! Every answer that man gives is to some degree based on an informed faith. The combination of faith and rationality brings to the forefront trust and belief in something or someone.

Enter the concept of One-ism and Two-ism which moves us into the realm of the Creator-creature. Is the Creator and the creature the same and how would you know? All people agree that there is reality, truth, and faith. Even that agreement confirms the existence of a rational, faith-based being. One-ism and Two-ism are terms that describe a faith-based interpretation of reality as a person thinks he knows it; the interpretation is based on truth from some source, within or without. The truth may be his and or as defined by someone else. Faith has a subject, an object, a standard, and content. Faith is based on truth by whatever standard a person declares.

One-ism is based on “natural” faith and focuses on nature – the natural, physical, and material. Man’s origin and the origin of matter can be summarized by the illogical belief that nothing plus time plus chance equals order and complexity (a phrase coined by RC Sproul). A seemingly, self-described, self-professed logical person concludes that the supernatural is non-existent especially in terms of origin and being. God has no place in the person’s existence. All is considered one such that distinctions are non-existent. Causeless effect is the key to reality, man, and the material universe. Chance, a powerless abstraction, has been raised to the status of a thing and a force that has power in its self.

One-ism teaches that nature is the origin of all things and divine; that human beings are part of nature and therefore divine; that all people are pure and innocent; that there are no distinctions within mankind; and therefore the creature is exalted and worshipped. Thus there is no Creator especially a divine One. I call this creature equality. There is no maleness or femaleness. This is called gender equality. Truth is considered subjective, relative, amoral, and personal. I call this pseudo-truth equality. Feelings rule. People with this mindset follow Adam’s example in the Garden. Attempting to push God aside, they do their own thing. Choice becomes for me, by me, and to me. Selfishness reigns. You would think that since distinctions are not allowed and non-existent, there would be no graded selfishness and there would be peace and harmony – one for all. On the contrary, when the cultural one-ist’s virtual reality is invaded by someone who is more selfish, there is hell to pay. The old adage, “don’t rain on my parade,” describes the hypocrisy of one-ist and cultural one-ism.

Biblical Two-ism is biblically defined. It too is faith based. It is Holy Spirit directed and energized. Scripture is its standard and its source of truth. Scripture declares that God is; that He is Creator and Controller; and that mankind (without distinction!) suppresses the truth of God and consequently themselves (Rom. 1:18-20). Truth suppression implies truth, a Truth-teller and Revealer, and a suppresser. The Bible leaves no doubt regarding distinction. The Creator-creature distinction is the greatest, the most magnificent, the most wonderful, and the most profitable distinction that mankind (without distinction!) can have. It is a gift.

 

Application:

 

  1. God’s essence is one of unity and diversity rightly understood. He is the Triune, three-in-one God. What significance does that fact have for you and the culture you live in?
  2. God’s unity is unity of being/essence. He is one. Examples of that unity are given in Scripture and include the Church (Eph. 2:11-15), believers (Gal.3:27-29), and marriage (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:24). What significance does God’s unity have for you?
  3. God’s diversity is one of function. Within the Godhead, there is order and function so that the one God is the Creator, Controller, and Redeemer. Each member of the Godhead has different functions which are summarized by: saved from God, by God, for God, and to God. How do you respond?

 

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation Part I-VIII

Life Before and After Salvation: Part A

Saved: So What?

Introduction By Way of a Brief Summary

 

We hear much talk regarding salvation. You might have been asked: are you saved? How would answer that question? Being saved means different things to different people. Some have no interest in “being saved.” They would answer by asking: “saved from what and by whom? I am able to take care of myself. I am just fine.”

Others might say they belong to a church, go to church, or have been baptized. Others might say they have made a decision for Christ or that they have accepted him. When pushed they might say that they have taken Jesus into their hearts and surrendered to Him. All of these are interesting phrases but are they correct and what do they mean?

The words translated in the Bible as salvation and saved are pregnant terms and carry the intent of rescue and deliverance. To be saved means that a rescue operation has occurred, deliverance has happened. Notice, each meaning indicates something was done to the person. That something indicates that the person – his whole person including thoughts, desires, and actions – underwent a change. What kind of change? In the surgery suite, on the operating table, a patient may have his bad appendix or gallbladder removed. He was a passive bystander to something done to him. .He was operated upon; he was rescued and delivered from a physical illness.

In a similar way, being saved means an operation occurred in the person. However, it was a divine operation done within the person’s heart by the holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). There are many results of this heart operation one of which is the person is now a believer – a child of God (Galatians 4:4-5) and a new creature in Christ in a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Radical changes have occurred.

Yet the Bible also teaches that a response to the question, “what must I do to be saved” is necessary. Paul and Silas answered the Philippian jailer’s question by encouraging him “to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you and your household will be saved” Acts 16:31).  He did and he was saved.

Salvation is a gift received by saving faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Saving faith does not initiate the gift of salvation. Rather, it is the response to the offer of salvation. The response to the offer is testimony that the person has been given the gift of saving faith. Scripture uses various terms for saving faith such as believe on, believe in, or believe upon Jesus Christ. By this terminology, Scripture teaches that saving faith is more than mere assent or acknowledgment of a person. Saving faith involves knowledge of and trust in, reliance upon, and dependence on Jesus Christ in contrast to trusting self. The object of faith has changed radically.

Life after salvation is a major corollary of the “so what” of salvation. Once saved, what is the big deal? The big deal includes saved from something to something. The believer is saved from the misery of this life and hell eternally. He is saved to a life of God-pleasing as opposed to self-pleasing. As a new creation, the old is gone and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). The believer is equipped to put off the habituation of self-pleasing developed while a member of Satan’s kingdom and family (Romans 13:12-14; Eph. 4:22-24). He does this by putting on God-pleasing thoughts, desires, and actions.

Being saved means approaching self, others, and daily life in a completely different way. Pleasing-God becomes a modus operandi. Passages such as 2 Corinthians 5:9 (making it your ambition to please God) helps you reevaluate your life situations from God’s perspective and respond in a God-honoring manner.

 

Application:

  1. As one saved, how has your thinking about God and self changed? To help you, write out your thoughts about God and self prior to your salvation and since your salvation.
  2. Do the same for desires.
  3. As one saved, how does changed thinking and wanting affect your daily actions?
  4. Put thoughts, desires, and actions together. Repent when any or al of them are self-pleasing and rejoice in the Lord when there is evidence of God-pleasing daily.

Blessings as you do.

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part B

The Gospel: Defined

 

In Christian ministry there is emphasis on preaching the gospel and rightly so. The audiences are varied. From the pulpit the gospel message is preached in the context of the passage. Some groups have emphasized preaching or speaking the gospel to themselves. In that scenario, the individual functions as the preacher and the audience. There is value in knowing and telling the gospel truth because the truth sets you free. Jesus Christ and the Scripture are truth (John 14:6; 17:17).

In a different vein, the term gospel is often mentioned in evangelistic terms. That is, the gospel is used in “getting people saved.” One other area in which the term gospel is used is in the area of life after salvation. However, this life is often described in terms of using the means of grace such as attending worship services, receiving the sacraments, praying, reading the Bible, and evangelizing. A gospel emphasis is a wonderful thing. However, in order to help people individually and corporately to get victory daily, it is important to define the gospel. It is also important to define how to use the gospel and biblical truth to fulfill God’s original design for mankind. I order to do that we must go back into the eternal counsel of the Godhead. From eternity past, God determined that His people would be in His presence forever in worship and fellowship. Creation and redemption are linked and are the means by which the Triune God accomplishes His original design.

The term gospel means the good news or good tidings. Later the term meant God-story – the story about God. Today the word refers to the message that Christ and the prophets before Him and His disciples after Him announced and lived out. In Mark 1:14-15, Jesus proclaimed the gospel as the fulfillment of the times and the coming of the kingdom of God and the call to repent and believe (see Matt. 4:17). John the Baptist preached the same message (Matt. 3:2). The message of the coming of the kingdom is linked with the salvation of God’s people (Luke 4:18-22; Isa. 61:1-3). Throughout the Bible the coming of the kingdom and the salvation of God’s people are linked to the salvation which includes judgment.

The fulfilment of the times was a reference to Israel’s expectations. Israel was wrong. Paul further defines the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and Romans 1:1-4. Paul and Peter preached the fulfillment by Jesus of all Old Testament expectations (Acts 2:16-36; 13:16-41). The gospel message and its proclamation is linked with the Old Testament. The gospel of the kingdom comes through the acts of God in the history of His people (see Romans 4 and Galatians 3-4). The gospel was preached to Abraham (Gal. 3:8).  The gospel message is truly the old, old story.

The good news is always linked to bad news. In explaining the gospel it is helpful to define both the good news and the bad news. The bad news refers to man and mankind’s lost condition. He is blind yet sees only the things of unsaved man and the unsaved world think relevant to their own interests. He is deaf to the things of God but is attuned to things of self. He is dead and in darkness because his heart is far away from God. He has no desire to or will to move toward God (Rom. 8:5-8; Eph. 2:1-3). To deny the presence and severity of the bad news is to deny the beauty and awesomeness of the good news. The good news is the continued apostolic message that the Godman Jesus is the Savior of the world who has come to do His Father’s will and save a people for the Triune God.

The gospel then is God’s full-orbed message of the what, the why, and the how of salvation. It has been given by His messengers throughout the ages and reached its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16-17: I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes, first the Jews then the Gentile. For a righteousness from God is being revealed, a righteousness that comes by faith, from first to last just as it is written: “the righteous will live by faith.” This was not a new message. Elsewhere he wrote: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst (1 Tim. 1:15). Five times in the Pastoral Epistles Paul used the phrase, here is a trustworthy saying, to emphasize a key truth (1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8).

 

Application:

  1. God has preserved His message of salvation for many reasons. Name some.
  2. The gospel message is twofold: what are the two sides?
  3. What are the key ingredients of the gospel?

 

 

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part C

The Gospel: Trinity

 

Succinctly, the gospel is the good news of salvation for hell-deserving sinners through the Person and work of Jesus Christ applied by the Holy Spirit. The gospel is good news to be believed; not good deeds to be done. But good deeds will follow once a person is saved. News has to do with something that has already happened; not with something yet to be done. The good news of the gospel is that Christ humbled himself as the Godman, lived perfectly, and died on the cross for guilty and condemned sinners. Christ is not only a crucified Savior. He is a resurrected and seated Savior as the Author and Perfector of saving faith and the Pioneer of entrance into God’s presence (Eph.1:3; 2:6; Col. 3:1-3; Heb. 4:14-16; 6:18-20; 9:11-14). Christ’s sacrificial work as both the Sacrifice and the high Priest is finished but he continues His priestly work of intercession in two venues. First, He returned to heaven as the exalted Son of God (Heb. 12:1-3). He is seated at the place of prominence and He is always interceding for His people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). Catch the truths: Jesus descended and He ascended. He is enthroned and He is glorified. He is sitting down indicating that His work was complete as Savior. Yet He is, and always will, remember the Triune God’s plan to save a people and His finished work. The Triune God will not renege on His promise to save a people for Himself. Second, Jesus continues His priestly work through the Holy Spirit, who among other activities presents the prayers of believers to the throne of God. He energizes and motivates the saints for growth in Christ (Rom. 8:26-27).

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul described the gospel in terms of a message preached, a message received, and a message acted upon. Paul was making the same gospel message known to them and others. Nothing was new under the sun. In contrast, Paul emphasized that everything was new under the SON.  In verse three Paul gives the gospel message according to Scripture. The gospel message is a Savior who died for believers’ in their sins and for their sins according to the Scripture. Further, the message speaks of Savior who was buried and rose from the dead. Paul emphasized as did the Scriptures that Jesus lived, died, was buried, and rose. Salvation and resurrection are linked. In Romans 6:9-11, Paul carried this thought into the individual’s growth in Christ. In those passages Paul taught that resurrection life begins on this earth at regeneration. Therefore the believer is the think forgiven and act forgiven (v.11).

For Paul and all the apostles, the gospel is a message about a Person, Jesus Christ under the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ the Savior lived perfectly and He died perfectly. He is a buried and risen Savior, all according to Scripture. Paul gives the good news but the bad news assumed: mankind was in a horrible condition helpless and hopeless but blind to his condition and God’s answer.  Biblically speaking there is no good news without bad news. The two are linked in God’s redemptive plan.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18 ff, Paul described the gospel as the message of the cross: For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. You must remember the context of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul addressed the congregation in order to resolve a number of serious problems were evident in the Church. The situation ridiculed God and the gospel. These problems resulted from self-serving, self-grasping, self-exalting individualism. The people were convinced of their spiritual vitality but factionalism, division, and strife abounded (1 Cor. 1:11-17). It was in this context that Paul brought biblical, gospel truth. Throughout the letter Paul used the motif of contrast: a true theology of the cross in contrast to wisdom of the world. The letter can be considered as an application of truth given in the context of a contrast: the counterfeit wisdom of the world or the wisdom of the cross which is considered foolishness to unbelievers.

The gospel preached and heard is the presentation of God Himself as He gives Himself in His Son by the Holy Spirit. It always demands and gets a response. Gospel truth heard and applied was necessary if the Corinthian people were to honor God individually and corporately.

 

Application:

  1. What is the value for hearing and knowing the gospel?
  2. What does one need to hear it correctly and apply it in his or her life?
  3. Paul contrasted gospel truth with what? Biblical truth influences a person’s thoughts, desires, and actions. How would knowing and applying gospel truth resolve the problems in the Corinthian church (see 1:11-17)?

 

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part D

The Gospel: Saved From God the Judge

 

In order to correctly understand the gospel message, we must determine what sinners are saved from and what they are saved to. The answers link the bad news and the good news. The foregoing sentences assume the presence of sin, sinners, and a Savior who is willing and able to accomplish the redemptive goal of salvation. They also assume a present journey and an eternal destiny for every person.

Every person is conceived and born into a state of condemnation, guilt, misery, and trouble. The sinner remains in that condition unless something happens. Sometimes the sinner continues in his rebellion against God. As a result there is misery in this life and hell eternally (Rom. 5:12-14; 6:23). The sinner may recognize that he is “not right” and seek to save himself or he seeks some help, a nudge, from someone or something. In either case, he is his own savior. That person may or may be saved. The person who preaches personal lawkeeping to earn the favor or acceptance of God is preaching a false gospel. Paul cursed these preachers (Gal. 1:6-9). Those who live by this creed have accepted the false gospel.

Salvation involves many aspects. Biblically the doctrine of salvation incorporates such terms as redemption, reconciliation, deliverance, rescue, and escape. All of the words are predicated on the condition of the person: misery, trouble, condemnation, and guilt. From these and more the individual is delivered. The sinner has been acted upon by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). The Holy Spirit is the prime mover. The saved sinner recognizes his true condition as he exercises the gift of saving faith. He recalls, remembers, and mediates on the gospel message of Jesus and John the Baptist and repents and believes (Mark 1:15; Matt. 3:2; 4:17). Fruits of repentance and growth in Christ are continuations of the initial heart change through enabling or sanctifying grace (Matt.3:8-10; Luke 3:10-14; Acts 2:36-39; 2 Cor. 5:9, 14-15; Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Thess. 4:1-3; Heb.12:14).

Salvation is comprehensive in a number of ways. There is the initial heart change and the truths surrounding it and thee is a life lived as a believer. The individual as a whole person – thoughts, desires, and actions – is saved. As a result of the heart change he will begin to think God’s thoughts, desire what God desires, and obey not simply out of duty but out of privilege and blessing. In another sense the comprehensiveness of salvation is pictured by the answers to these questions: who is saved, from what is he saved AND what is he saved to. The sinner is saved from God, sin, himself, and Satan. He is saved to God for God by God.

First, the sinner is saved from God by God because God is the just Judge of His creation (Gen 18:25; Ps. 62:12; Matt. 3:10; 8:12; 24:51). His very nature of holiness, purity, and justice demands that He right all wrongs and punish sinners (2 Thess. 1:5-10). He acts this way in part to protect and honor His name – He is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5; 34:7-8, 14; Deut. 4:24).  It is important to remember that God saves sinners as Judge for Him. He saves sinners as Redeemer by Him. He saves sinners as Father to Him. In eternity past, the Triune God determined that the Father gifted a people to Jesus (John 6:37-43; 17:1-5). Jesus would live a perfect life and take the death penalty in place of the sinner – as his substitute (Rom. 3:21-26; 2 Cor. 5:21). All mankind deserves the full wrath of God and hell. All mankind deserves the cross but NOT as payment but as penalty. Perfection, active and passive is the key in redemption. No mere man is perfection. Prior to the cross, Jesus kept the law perfectly and completely. He ALWAYS pleased His Father. Jesus went to the cross and stayed on the cross as the Perfect Sacrifice in place of the sinner (1 Peter 1:18-19). He completed His Messianic work and declared it complete-done (John 19:38). Jesus went to hell on the cross. He fulfilled the good Law’s righteous requirement of death to sinners. He satisfied the justice of God (Rom. 3:21-26). As a result, God removed His wrath. The enmity and hostility of God toward the sinner was removed as far as the east from the west – totally and completely never to return again (Ps. 103:8-12; Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21).

The redemptive story is an amazing story of divine origin. Human logic could not and did not conceive of the Triune’s God redemptive plan. Fallen man who suppresses and resists the truth of God’s Being and power, rejects God (Rom. 1:18-20). Synonymously man rejects the truth about himself. Therefore unsaved men reject God’s plan of redemption.

As a corollary, the sinner is saved from something to something. The sinner is saved to God for God by God. The Bible pictures the concept of saving-to in several ways. The now-believer has been rescued from Satan’s family and kingdom and transferred to God’s family and kingdom (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). He has a firm foundation and an inseparable relationship with Christ so that He is God’s forever. God is his Father and Jesus is his Brother as his Redeemer. The believer’s one purpose in the kingdom is to grow in Christlikeness as he helps advance the kingdom and grow the Church. Salvation is an Intratrinitarian activity as given by Paul Ephesians 2:18 and 3:12. Believers are saved to God, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit.

 

Application:

  1. Summarize the gospel message.
  2. What do you learn about Christ and about mankind?
  3. What is your understanding of God, you, and the gospel message? What difference does it?

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part E

The Gospel: Saved From Sin’s Power

 

To reiterate every sinner is saved from God, sin, himself, and Satan. The subject of the previous blog was saved from God, to God, by God, and for God. Saved from sin has a number of facets. It includes being saved from the power of sin and sin itself.

By way of reminder, the Bible emphasizes a marked concern with sin and sinners. In fact, the Bible radically proclaims the fact of sin, denounces it, and announces consequences of unrepentant sin and God’s judgment. One of the primary purposes of Christ’s mission was to deal with sin and sinners. Sin is what creates the problem between God and mankind (Isa. 59:1-2). It is impossible to separate sin and the sinner.

Man was born a sinner as a result of God’s judgment upon Adam because of his first sin. As a result all sinned in Adam (Rom. 5:12-14; 6:23). As a result, every person of ordinary generation is conceived and born in sin, and as a result he sins (Ps. 51:5; 58:3; Gen. 8:21). These are a universal truths that if missed have dire consequences for this life and the next.

Scripture teaches that the sinner is saved from sin. Christ died for sins/our sins (Matt.1:21; John 1:29; Gal. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Rev. 1:5). Yet we know that sin is not hell – sinners are. Scripture also teaches that Christ died for sinners (Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32; 19:10; Rom. 5:8; 1 Tim. 1:15). What does it mean that the sinner is saved from sin? Consider these several nuances. Saved from sin and saved from sinning are different. Sinners do sin even saved ones. But saved sinners don’t continue in sin as a patterned lifestyle (1 John 3:6, 9; 4:10). Moreover, the believer is steeped in several truths. If the believer does sin, he knows that there is no condemnation from God as Judge (Rom. 8:1). He also knows that there has been, is, and will be Fatherly forgiveness (1 John 1:7-9).  If he sins, and he will, he knows attempting to that forgive himself is competing with God. It is saying that God’s redemptive plan did not deliver and the person must do the job that God failed to do.

We need to be careful. The word sin can be used as a noun or verb. Sinner is always a noun. Man sins because he is a sinner as described above. Sin as a verb indicates that the sinner has missed the mark, crossed over the boundary, or is out of step with God’s standard. Ethically, sin is an act of omission or commission in relationship to God’s law and to God. Thus sin is always relational and vertical. It is Coram Deo; every sin is against God and may or may be against another person. Sin is always legal and judicial.

In addition, saved from sin and saved from sinfulness are not synonymous. By sinfulness I mean the continued bent, inclination, and orientation that every saved sinner has due to his prior membership in Satan’s kingdom and family. Every person is born with the nature – capacity, bent, inclination, and or orientation – to serve self and oppose God.

When sin is a noun, it is more than an ethical act. It is revolt against God. That is what Adam did in the Garden and that is what every person does when he sins. From an eschatological perspective (the last days), sin is Satan’s hated of God played in the life of an individual. Such is the influence of membership in Satan’s family and kingdom. Sin as a verb is the display of the satanic influence in the world and within the person including the believer. Sin as a noun is much worse than any human logic can perceive. The cross affirms this fact.

Sin as a noun is interesting. At its core, sin is anti-god and self-pleasing: for me, to me, by me. As a noun sin can mean a governing principle such as in Romans 6:14: For sin shall not be your master because you are not under law but grace. Here Paul perceives sin as an enslaving power or influence. Sin is thus personified. Certainly sin is more than a principle or an abstraction. Sin is real. The sinner is real. Paul’s point here is that sin functions as an operating principle for the whole person. In verses 16-19 of Romans 6, Paul speaks of two kinds of slavery: that to unrighteousness – sin – and that to righteousness. Paul presents the unbeliever as a sinner and one who is under the influence – either satanic influence that leads is self-pleasing and antigod thoughts, desires, and actions in some form vs. Holy-Spirit wrought and directed activity in the believer of Christlike growth and God-pleasing thoughts, desires, and actions. Paul captures this contrast in such passages as Galatians 2:20 and 5:16-18.

 

Application:

  1. In the Bible sin is both a noun and a verb. What is the significance?
  2. Give some characteristics of sin.
  3. How do you know sin is a big deal?

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part F

The Gospel: Saved From Sin’s Power and Penalty

 

The believer is saved from the power of sin but not from sinning. What is sin’s power? It is the patterned desire to please self and thereby compete with God as His enemy and as a rebel. Sin holds a person in bondage. Sin and its resultant lifestyle offers much but delivers little (Ps. 36:1-2; Proverbs 5:21-22; 13:15b). However unless there is a supernatural change from the inside-out, the sinner persists always and eventually returning to the vomit of self-pleasing (Prov. 26:11). Self remains on the throne to the degree it can as if it deserves to be there. When the Bible teaches that the believer has been saved from the power of sin, it refers to the bondage of sin as an operating principle, a driving force, a lifestyle patterned after Satan as a legacy from membership in Satan’s family and kingdom. Yes sin is more than that as discussed in the previous blog but it at least that which drives a person to please self in lieu of God and others. Sin is anti-Matthew 22:37-40.

What gives sin its power? It is the law and death (1 Cor. 15:56; Heb. 2:14-15; 9:27). Man ignorantly and arrogantly seeks to be his own lawmaker and lawkeeper. This is inherent in all men post-fall. The law calls for more lawkeeping. God’s law is good and for a good purpose (Exodus 20:18-21; Rom. 7:7-12, 13; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). Try as a person might perfect obedience to God’s law is impossible. In response a person will generate more efforts to obey, establish a new law that can be kept by him, or depend on Christ’s personal lawkeeping. God’s purpose for the law is also given in Romans 5:20-21 and Galatians 3:19. The law has a condemning function to drive people to Christ and His lawkeeping. Moreover the law has a knowledge function, a constraining function, and a humbling function. It points out who God is, who man is, and what sin is. It shows sin’s deception and the sinner’s sinful view of self and God.

Sin as a verb and as a noun was an ever-present reality. There was physical death prior to Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Thus the sting of death and the power of sin have also been a present realty post-fall. Personal lawkeeping by sinners has never been God’s design for salvation. God require perfect obedience from Adam prior to the fall. As given in Romans 5:20-21 and Galatians 3:19, the purpose of the law was never for salvation. It functioned as “pointer.” It pointed to the way of salvation through a perfect Lawkeeper who kept the law to its fullest. The law pointed to Christ.

A person will either establish laws other than God’s such as the Pharisees did. Their laws were not God’s law but they were keep-able in their own strength. Who needs a personal Savior when we have ourselves? The sting of death is sin. If no law and no required lawkeeping, then there would be no sin. If no sin, then there would be no death. The power of sin is the law. Man by nature is a covenant being, a worshipper, and a lawkeeper. The issue for every person is which law, by whose lawkeeping, and for what reason?

The power of sin is the law and its call for lawkeeping. Moreover what lies behind lawkeeping is crucial.  Every person is aware that there is a God who they will meet at the Judgement seat. An atheist can deny this fact verbally but the Bible teaches that everyone must and will give an account (Matt. 12:33-36).

At salvation the power of sin or sin as an operating principle or an influence has been broken. The believer has been saved from his bad heart. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the believer does have the capacity to please God in all areas of life. The believer has the capacity not to sin. There has been a radical transformation! What the believer has is the capacity and orientation to please God.

The believer has been saved from the penalty of sin. He has been saved from the condemning function of the law (Rom. 7:1-6; 8:1-3). At salvation the now-believer renounced his allegiance to self and his own lawkeeping. Simultaneously he professed trust and rest upon Christ and His lawkeeping. Therefore, even though miseries in this life continue the believer trusts, hopes, and obeys and enjoys salvation life because he enjoys God (Genesis 3:8-10; Proverbs 13:15; Rom. 5:12-14; 2 Cor. 5:9, 14-15; 1 John 5:3-4; Ps. 34:8). Life is simplified so that pleasing God becomes an ever-increasing present reality (Rom. 6:9-10; 1 John 3:1-3).

The believer is set free from the condemnation, guilt, and shame that came from God’s judgment of Adam’s first and the sinner’s present sins. The law has a convicting function. Aware of his sinfulness and even sinning thoughts, desires, and actions, the believer knows that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. The believer knows and trusts that he has been saved from his bad record (Romans 3:21-26; 8:1). This was possible because Jesus took upon himself the now-believer’s record of enmity and rebellion against God. Jesus was considered guilty and paid the price of hell on the cross. Jesus paid it all. Yet the true believer never uses his freedom as an excuse to sin (verb) or to have sin be his guiding light (sin as noun) – see Romans 6:1, 15.

Sin as a noun and sin as a verb are both associated with separation from God. However, the Bible teaches that God is no longer separated from the now-believer. God took the initiative to place on Christ the bad record of every now-believer. He reconciled himself to the believer as only He can as a true Promise-maker and Promise-keeper (Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-21).

 

Application:

  1. The believer is saved from the power and penalty of sin. What is the significance of these facts?
  2. What is the power of sin?
  3. What is the penalty of sin?
  4. Where does Christ fit?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part G

The Gospel: Saved From Himself and from Satan

 

Let me complete the thought that the sinner is saved from sin. Yes he is saved from its power and its penalty. But the believer is not saved from its practice. The saved sinner is able not to sin in principle but in practice he still does. The believer is saved from sin but not sinfulness which is summarized as the tendency and acts of self-pleasing that continue throughout his earthly life.

A question arises: is the sinner saved from the presence of sin? Again terms needs clarification. Is the question referring to sin as a verb? In other words, is the believer saved from sinning? The answer is no. The believer will continue to please himself. Is the question referring to continued corruption in the believer’s heart? The usual answer is yes, there is remaining corruption in the whole person.  Even though the believer is a new creation living in the new creation ushered in by Christ’s first coming, the believer still sins (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 John 1:8-10 – 2:1).

The coming of Christ and the new kingdom is much bigger than an individual believer. That fact should be a blessing, comfort, and encouragement to every believer. Jesus’ coming ushered in a new world order – the new creation (John 1:4-5). Jesus’ coming was fulfillment of the promised and long-awaited Messiah, who would lead His people out of bondage and oppression into a new existence. Jesus’ coming changed the whole world order. The new order includes salvation and life after salvation.

The believer has been regenerated – given a hew heart and a new nature. He is a believer because he has been regenerated (John 3:3-8). Also he has positional holiness – he has been set apart by God for God (1 Cor. 1:2; Acts 20:32; 26:18). According to Romans 6:9-10 and Romans 8:30, resurrection life and glorification begin now for the believer. There is a future fulfillment but eternal life begins on this earth. Yet we all know that the believer – you and me – still sins. In that case, sin is a verb and an ethical act. Sin as a noun, an operating principle of self-pleasing, continues until the believer goes home. On earth, the believer dies more and more to self and sinfulness as he lives as the new creature he is in the new creation.

To repeat: first, the sinner is saved from God; second, the sinner is saved from sin’s power and penalty, Third the sinner is saved from himself. Left to himself and his own resources the unbeliever thinks, desires, and acts as if he is his own god and this is his world. He lives the lie. He exchanged truth – the reality that God is Creator and Controller – for the lie that man is number one and God does not exist or is not the Being that the Bible teaches that He is (Rom. 1:18-23).  Proverbs 4:18-19 provides a contrast: The path of the righteous is like the first glean of dawn, shining brighter till the full light of day; but the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. Unfortunately, for a time believers functioned in the same manner as an unbeliever. The habituation of self-pleasing is a result of membership in Satan’s kingdom and family. The unbeliever is destined to a life of darkness and deadness thinking all the while that he is top dog and making headway to somewhere. Left to himself he has no use for God and does not seek him. His life is one of discontent, dissatisfaction, and misery all the while denying the reality of his condition.

One of the beauties of salvation is the reality that the truth sets you free. The believer does not live a patterned lifestyle of denying and exchanging the truth for a lie. Rather he denies himself by denying self-pleasing. He is busy being enamored with and enjoying God. His desire is to honor God by pleasing Him thereby imitating Christ.

Fourth, the sinner is saved from Satan. 1 John 5:18 expresses this fact: We know that anyone born of God does not continue in sin. The one who was born of God keeps him safe and the evil one cannot harm him. Although satanic influence remains in the believer, the believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and not Satan. The believer’s heart is exclusive the Holy Spirit’s dominion. Satan and the Holy Spirit don’t co-exist. Man believer and unbeliever, have only one nature. The saved sinner was a member in Satan’s family and kingdom. Membership in that kingdom had devastating results. It consumed and motivated the unbeliever in some form daily. Within every believer, a legacy of self pleasing remains which is manifested by the mantras of I wants and I deserves. Satan is the master of this lifestyle. The believer has been removed and transferred into God’s family and kingdom (Col. 1:13). Even this removal leaves its mark: habituation in thoughts, desires, and action that are anti-God and pro-self. At salvation the believer has a new heart (John 3) and is a new creation (2 Cor.5:17) but satanic influence remains but doesn’t control him. Again, this is a radical supernatural change. There is a war within (Gal. 5:16-18).

 

Application:

  1. Write out your view of the bad and the good news.
  2. Personalize the bad news: how does it fit you as an unbeliever and now as a believer? Write out how the bad news is really bad.
  3. Do the same with the good news and write out how the good news is really good.
  4. Consider how you functioned as a member of Satan’s family and kingdom with all your self-pleasing tendencies and activities.
  5. Consider how you are to function as a believer and member of God’s kingdom and household.
  6. Consider the fact that unless God saves you, what awaits you in this life and the next life is the bad news. If God has saved you, what awaits you in this life and the next is summarized in the good news. Write out your response.

 

 

Life Before and After Salvation: Part H

Progressive Sanctification: Saved to God, for God

 

Not only is the sinner saved from God as Judge; from sin’s penalty and power; from himself; and from Satan, the sinner is saved to something. He is saved to God, for God, by God. Accordingly, he properly praises God as Paul did in Romans 11:33-36. Paul had completed expounding God’s redemptive plan in terms of: a. Persons – the Father who planned, the Son who purchased, and the Spirit who applied the benefits of Christ’s meditorial work; b. persons – salvation came to both Jews and Gentiles; c. means:  salvation and life after salvation came by grace both  saving and sanctifying, alone through faith alone.  In chapters 1-3 of the book of Romans, Paul had set forth mankind’s (both Jew and Gentile) depravity, deadness, defiance, and darkness – the bad news, really horrible news. Beginning in the later part of chapter 3 though chapter 8 or some say chapter 11, Paul expounded the good news about a great God. The Triune God had saved a people for Himself, both Jew and Gentile!

In response, Paul burst out with a doxology – a type of Gloria Excelsis Deo: glory to God in the highest (Luke 2:14). Verse 36 of Romans 11 reads: For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever amen. Paul reflected back on mankind’s condition and God’s wisdom, knowledge, power, love, and justice. He was in awe personally, corporately, and cosmically. His logical response was to glorify his God.

The believer has been supernaturally removed from Satan’s kingdom and family and placed into God’s family and kingdom (Col. 1:13). This is a remarkable and majestic transfer to say the least (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). The believer is God’s. He has been saved by God to God – he is a member of God’s family and kingdom; and he has saved for God – as His child he is grow in Christlikeness and pleasing the Father.

The believer is now a God-pleaser in principle and develops more and more as a God-pleaser. The believer is called into God’s service and is equipped for that work. The believer is to “work out” his salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12-13). The working out of one’s salvation is called progressive sanctification. Progressive sanctification is another term for life after salvation.

Believers are saved as a testimony to God’s love, mercy, and trustworthiness. The believer’s salvation – both regeneration and growth in grace – are truths to be known, enjoyed, and lived out to the praise and glory of God. Moreover, God saves/saved individuals and corporately. God’s Church, as well as individual believers, is to be growing in Christlikeness (Eph. 2:11-16; 4:11-14).

Paul knew himself (1 Tim. 1:12-16 – chief of sinners; Eph. 3:8 – least of the saints; 1 Cor. 15:9 – least of the apostles). For Paul, his salvation was “out-of-this-world.” It was unbelievable. His view of salvation linked the bad news – man’s total depravity and enmity for God – and the good news – the wisdom, power, love, mercy, and justice. God saved not simply sinners but His enemies. Paul took his salvation seriously, in part, because God took it seriously. God gave Himself and of Himself. He did what no Being can or desired to do (Rom. 5:6-10). Paul knew that his God was an awesome God which is truly an understatement.

Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews (Phil. 3:3-6). He was steeped in the sacrificial ritual system detailed in the book of Leviticus. Daily the head of the family would bring a choice male animal without defect. The offering cost the person and his family. From the heart, the offering was the best the family had to offer. The man would slit the throat, blood would be spilled, and the high priest would complete the offering as atonement. Clean and unclean would not mix. The offering was the Lord’s, for the Lord, and to the Lord who deserved the best. Once a year, the privileged high priest took the blood of the animal – bull and ram – and presented it as a sin offering. Paul understood the holy/clean-unholy/unclean motif. He understood the cost to enter into the presence of God.

Today, on this side of the cross, believers have received the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They have been bought and are no longer their own. The ransom has been paid in full. The believer is God’s. Now the believer offers himself, not a dead animal to God (Rom. 12:1-2). This offering is to be daily or better – 24/7. God sets the rules, gives insight and encouragement through the Holy Spirit by the Word, and gives sustaining grace so that the believer develops as Christ did – pleasing the Father. Following in Christ’s steps is logical because the believer is not his own and Jesus is the only person the Father was well-pleased (Matt. 3:17; 17:5).

Saved for God is summarized as becoming more like Christ in thought, desire, and action for God’s sake and glory. God is most glorified when His people are becoming more like Christ simply because Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings and the believer’s Brother. It is putting on Christlikeness thought by thought, desire by desire, and action by action daily. It means growing in knowledge and grace (2 Peter 3:18). As Jesus learned, it means to trust and obey in the problem for God’s glory and the good of His people (Heb. 5:8).

 

Application:

  1. What does the phrase, saved to God for God mean to you? What is its significance?
  2. The trilogy: saved by God, to God, for God – focuses on salvation and life salvation. Explain.
  3. Saved for God involves growth in Christlikeness and producing the fruit of the Spirt. How are you doing in these areas?

Grieving the Holy Spirit: Part I-III

Grieving the Holy Spirit, Part I

Background

 

In Ephesians 4:30 (And don’t grieve the Holy Spirit with/in Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption), Paul gave a command. In the original language, we read: you, you stop grieving or offending the Holy Spirit. Or, cease what you are doing. Paul made the point: stop the habit of grieving the HS. Of what is he speaking?

The context of Ephesians 4 is critical for gaining a proper understanding of the passage. Paul spoke of relationships especially within the church. He was speaking of relationships and Church body life. He emphasized a fundamental choice: living for self vs. living for God (see Eph 4:1-2, 17-19). This choice is part of the great divide. After Adam’s sin, self took center stage. The person would always choose self unless there was an inner-man change. The believer was changed to please God but he is tempted to remain loyal to self.

  • In verse 1 of chapter 4, Paul, as a prisoner of Christ, urged the people to live a life worthy of their calling (see Phil 1:27; Col 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12).
  • In verses 2-3, he gave a general sketch of what that lifestyle and patterned way of living would look like for the believer: be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
  • In verses 17-19, he gave an exhortation: that you must no longer live as Gentiles (unbelievers) do. Paul says DON’T.
  • In verses 18-19, he offered a general description of how unbelievers conduct themselves: wrong thinking (futility of their minds), wrong desires (given over to sensuality, that is senses-driven and controlled wanting), and wrong actions (self pleasing at the expense of or in lieu of pleasing God and others).

Paul taught that unbelievers live as patterned self-pleasers in varying degrees. Self-pleasing comes in various forms and in various degrees. Self-motivated, self-directed self-grasping, and self-exaltation mark the patterned lifestyle of all unbelievers. However, Paul is speaking to believers – the congregation. A self-pleasing lifestyle carries over into the believer’s life because life after salvation is not a perfected life. That awaits heaven.

Paul’s call to live a life worthy of the Triune God had a dual exhortation. Paul centered his command on a put offput on motif. It is a continuous and dynamic process of progressive sanctification. Notice verses 22-24. In the original language these verses are infinitives, not imperatives. The implication is not that believers should put off the old man and put on the new man. Rather, believers are in Christ. They have a relationship with Him (Gal. 2:20). Therefore, since they are in Christ, believers have had the old man put off – what they were as unbelievers. Moreover believers have put on the new man again because they are in Christ. This initial putting off and putting on is purely the work of the Holy Spirit. For believers, this dynamic which has occurred to and for him is true in principle but not in practice (see 2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:9-11). Paul’s call is for believers to be what they are in Christ. They must and can because they are in Christ! Moreover, being in Christ means that every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Paul goes on to describe the believer’s new lifestyle in terms of communication (4:25-32). Here are four summary rules regarding communication: be honest (v.25), keep current (v.26), attack the problem not the person (v.29), and act not react (v.31-32).   Since the Church is the bride of Christ and God communicates with His Church via the Spirit and the Word, communication between believers is actually communication with God. Communication is God’s gift to mankind. Misuse of it is an attack on the Giver and grieves the Triune God. Moreover, God is a self-Revealer and self-Communicator in His Son and in His word by His Holy Spirit. He expects and deserves God-centered communication between believers and God and between fellow believers. This way of communication is part of the put off and put on process.

With that background, we turn our attention to Ephesians 4:30. I think it is best to translate the original term for grieve as to offend (see Romans 14:15 for a similar use). Scripture makes clear that believers are sinning saints and saved sinners. This side of heaven every believer sins. In the context of self-pleasing, the believer offends the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person. When you offend him, you offend the Triune God. The Holy Spirit takes any offense against the Trinity personally.

 

Application:

  1. When is the last time you grieved/offended the Holy Spirit?
  2. What were the circumstances?
  3. In the area of interpersonal relationships and communication, how have you used your words to glorify God and bless the other person?

 

 

Grieving the Holy Spirit, Part II

The New Testament

 

The negative command not to grieve the Holy Spirit given in Ephesians 4:30 is one of a kind. There is no other command like it in New Testament. As we learned in the first blog, the exhortation was given to the Church in the area of relationships and communication (see the rules of communication – Ephesians 4:25-32). Paul taught then and now that relationships matter and communication is a gift and tool to grow relationships vertically (Godward) and horizontally (man-ward). The life of the Church body depended and depends on godly communication. This makes perfect sense when you remember that the church and the individual believer are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19-20; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 1 Peter 2:4-9; Rom. 8:9,11; 2 Tim. 1:14; Jam. 4:5).

When a believer sins against another believer, he is sinning against the Holy Spirit who indwells both. Grieving the Holy Spirit carries a definite personal touch to it. The Holy Spirit did not humble Himself as Christ did. Jesus took on human flesh and became what He was not – the God-man. The Bible does not speak of the Holy Spirit’s humiliation. But consider what is at stake by Paul’s exhortation. Functionally, the Holy Spirit applies the merits and blessings of Christ’s redemptive work. He personally indwelt Christ and He indwells the Church and individual believers. In the new heaven and the new earth, the Trinity will be reunited so to speak. Salvation is a glorious Intratrinitarian activity Eph. 2:18; 3:12). What the Triune God did in saving a people for Himself is simply stupefying and magnificent. An attack on one member of the Trinity is an attack on the whole.

The Holy Spirit has personal distinctions. He is a person and not an abstraction or a force. Man is the image of the Triune God and not the other way. The Holy Spirit is God, is called God, does the works of God, and receives honor as God. There is an affective aspect to the Godhead including the Holy Spirit. Our God is a jealous God and protective of His name (Exodus 20:5, 7). He is offended (Gen. 6:6). The jealousy of God mandates exclusive and singular devotion to God by His creatures. As a holy God, He is the just Judge of the world (Gen. 18:25; Heb. 12:18-24).  He will right all wrongs. He is establishing His kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace.

God sent his Holy Spirit to Christ (Isa. 11:1-5), to the Church, and to the individual believer. Christ, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, will return as the just Judge of all the earth. Further, the Holy Spirit came to earth to regenerate, to enlighten, and to illumine believers. The Light, Jesus Christ, came into the world and the Holy Spirit turned on the light in the world and in the heart of every believer (John 1: 5, 7, 11; Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21).

The Spirit is called Holy because He is set apart. Yet He indwells His church and His people. The term holy carries the idea of otherness and separateness. The word relates to purity. The holiness and purity is the basis for the first exile – Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden. The words and concept means that God is untouchable and far removed from his creation in His very essence and nature. Yet, He approached His creation and especially His Church and believers in his Son. Therefore, believers approach God and enjoy fellowship with Him because of the indwelling Holy Spirit as He applies the work of Christ.

The Church and the believer are to be ever mindful of the Holy Spirit’s presence and influence (Eph. 5:15-18).  In these latter passages, Paul gave the Church direction as how not to grieve the Spirit. Paul began with a warning: be careful regarding your patterned manner of life (v.15). Paul wanted the people to catch the big picture. All believers had a patterned way of lifestyle as unbelievers. It was characterized as “I want,” “me-first,” “my rights,” and “please me.” Paul taught that the lingering influence of membership in Satan’s kingdom was still formidable – in the Church and in the believer. Note well: the problem was and is within, as well as outside. By virtue of their union with Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit, they were to redeem the time on this earth as wise people rather than as fools (v. 16-17). The word translated as redeem is related to the Greek marketplace and indicates a buying back or out of. It is the picture of what Christ did at the cross – He paid the ransom price. Similarly the believer is to use his time as a down payment on pleasing the Triune God.

In verse 18, Paul gave an antidote for grieving the Holy Spirit. Be drunk with the Holy Spirit and not with wine. Paul drew attention to wine’s comprehensive and all-pervasive influence. In like manner, the effects of the presence of the Holy Spirit are to be in evidence. The Church and the believer are to be so motivated, influenced, and governed by the presence of the Holy Spirit that the Church as a body and individual believers are becoming more like Christ in thoughts, desires, and actions (Eph. 4:1-2). The Holy Spirit is burdened and grieved when there is anything less than growth in Christlikeness. His indwelling would be for naught.

In Ephesians 5:19-21, Paul described a general way what pleasing God will look like in body life. Believers are to speak to one another, rejoicing in their hearts, and giving thanks. Discontent and ingratitude grieve and burden the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:14-17). Please notice that all the passages mentioned emphasize communication, both vertically and horizontally.

 

Application:

  1. Please write your view of the Holy Spirit.
  2. How do His presence in you and the Church influence you at home and in congregation? What changes do you need to make in terms of relationships?
  3. Please read Isaiah 63:10 and Psalm 78:40-41, 56-58 in preparation to study the Old Testament’s view of grieving the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grieving the Holy Spirit, Part III

The Old Testament

 

The book of Isaiah unveils in large degree the fullness of God’s justice and judgment, and God’s salvation – mercy and love. Yahweh is the Holy One of Israel; the phrase is used some 26 times throughout the book (only six times elsewhere in the Old Testament). As the holy One of Israel He must judge and punish rebellious people. The book of Isaiah catalogues Israel’s rebellion. They were an idolatrous group who chose self over Yahweh. They trusted in self and called good evil and evil good (Isa. 5:20). The first 35 chapters address Yahweh’s judgment on Israel.

Yet the Holy One of Israel is a compassionate God. His compassion is a major subject of chapters 40-66. God redeems His people (35:9; 41:14). The redemption points back to the “old” exodus and points ahead to the “new” exodus which ultimately points to Christ (Isa. 43:2, 16-19; 52:10-12; Luke 9:51; John 14:1-3). The New Testament picks up Isaiah’s theme of the proper way for the exiles to return (Isaiah 11:16; 40:3; 57:14; 62:10 and Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23). Repentance is the key. Repentance by definition is a change in thinking which leads to a change in desire and action.

It is in the context of the continued call to repent that Isaiah pled for Yahweh to remember and keep His covenant promise of redemption. Isaiah holds out Yahweh’s kindness and steadfastness in the face of Israel’s patterned rebellion: Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them (Isa. 63:10). In rebellion and in contradistinction to Yahweh’s goodness and long-suffering, the people rebelled. In the place of gratitude, joy, and obedience, there was self-pleasing. The people were at enmity with their Creator, Benefactor, and Deliverer. At the time of the exodus from Egypt, Yahweh warned the people: don’t rebel (Exodus 23:21). But they did and repeatedly! (17:1ff; 32:1ff).

In the Old Testament, it is clear that the Holy Spirit is alive and well. He is a person distinct from the Father and the Son. He is one with the Father and the Son so that the Trinity is at work in both the Old and New Testaments.

By virtue of the people’s rebellion and on the basis that Yahweh is the just Judge of all the earth, God became what He was not before – an enemy who fought against His firstborn son, Israel (Exodus 4:22-24). His righteous judgment ushered forth from His holiness and righteousness. Yahweh is King who is establishing His kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace initially through the lesser David who pointed to the greater David, Jesus Christ, the true King and the true Israel. .

The book of Isaiah carried a twofold message: judgment and deliverance. When John the Baptist and Jesus came on the scene, they proclaimed that the kingdom of God was here and the only logical response for God’s people was repentance and faith (Mark 1:5; Matthew 3:2; 4:17).  Salvation and judgment are linked. There are consequences for rejecting the Triune God, whether it is the Holy Spirit or the Son.

Grieving the Holy Spirit was a patterned way of life for the people of Israel. Acting contrary to the very nature of God is grieving the Holy Spirit. Acting contrary to what the believer is in Christ is grieving the Holy Spirit. All that is opposed to holiness and goodness opposes the Holy Spirit. In essence, pleasing-self is rebellion against God. It is highlighted by self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, self-trust, and self-exaltation. When self is king, there is no room for God and no fear of the Lord. We should not assume that rebellion against God is reserved only for the Israelites. No, grieving the Holy Spirit can be evidenced in the daily life of any believer. Being vigilant and aware of who God is and who you are is one antidote against grieving the Holy Spirit.

 

Application:

  1. Isaiah opened and closed his book (1:2 and 66:24) with an announcement of condemnation for those who rebelled. Write out your thoughts regarding Isaiah’s opening and closing.
  2. Examine yourself according to Hebrews 4:12 and record thoughts, desires, and actions that indicate rebellion against the Triune God.
  3. What is the answer for rebellion? Please base your answers on the first, second, and tenth commandments as given in Exodus 20:3-7, 17.

 

 

 

 

 

Joy Part I-VII

Part I: Joy Defined

 

The phrase – rejoice in the Lord – is a common command in the Bible. It is a major theme in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The command teaches several things: a person has the capacity to rejoice independent of circumstances; the act of rejoicing is a whole person response and involves thoughts and desires about self, God, and the circumstances; and a person can rejoice and trust either in the Lord or in something or someone other than the Lord (Ps. 46:10; Proverbs 3:5-8).

The command recognizes the biblical teaching regarding antithetical thinking. Throughout Scripture the Holy Spirit uses the motif of contrast: right – wrong; saved – unsaved; light – darkness; and joy – dissatisfaction. Among other truths, the Bible teaches that joy is dependent on a relationship. It is most closely associated with fellowship with God through the Son and with fellow believers, and by the Spirit (2 John 12; Phil. 3:1; 4:4, 10). Joy is relational. True joy springs forth from a proper relationship to God and to others.

Inherent in the concept of biblical joy is the idea of enjoyment and most specifically of enjoying God. It carries with it the theme of satisfaction and delight. The way one rejoices and enjoys God is by being gripped by Him. Simply defined, gripped by the greatness of God is the growing realization of and response to the reality of Who God is and what He has done, is doing, and will do. It is losing everything for the surpassing privilege and blessing of knowing the Triune God as the Supreme Being (Phil. 3:7-11). It is the capacity of every believer because of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Joy is radical and supernatural because God has done miraculously remarkable things: redemption accomplished through the active and passive obedience of Christ and redemption applied by the Holy Spirit – salvation which includes regeneration, the new birth, and growth in Christlikeness – sanctification.

Joy is a deep-seated satisfaction and inner contentment in the fact that God is God, a Being like no other who creates, controls, sustains, redeems, and brings to consummation His glory and the good of His people. The term deep-seated refers to the inner man, primarily the heart, and the outer-man especially the brain. God’s agenda is Intratrinitarian in design, scope, and effectiveness, is being accomplished, and will reach consummation when Jesus returns. This mindset and truth about God and His control is antithetical to the culture’s counterfeit wisdom. Joy involves proper thinking about God and self and the application of biblical truth rightly motivated. Joy flows from and ushers in a humble, confident trust in God and His good control. Joyfully, biblical truth is the believer’s grid for evaluating circumstances not vice versa. A response to the circumstance is a response to God. Therefore the believer responds to his situations and others in a radically different manner than he did as an unbeliever. He does not depend on feelings, experience, or reason divorced from biblical truth.

Moreover, joy is an attitude of confidence that is expressed in thoughts, desires, and actions that is based on the non-negotiable truth that God’s plan, promises, purpose, presence, power, and provisions for every believer and His Church are sure and certain. What is best for God is best for the Church and the believer. Joy is a whole-person activity – inner and outer man – that controls and results from one’s thoughts, desires, and actions toward God, others, and circumstances. Therefore, joy is not dependent on people or circumstances but rather on the God of circumstances.

 

Application:

  1. According to Psalm 16:5-11, Psalm 33:21, and Nehemiah 8:10, where does joy come from?
  2. What characteristics of God did David emphasize in Psalm 16 that led him to be joyful?
  3. What does each of these psalms say is the reason for joy and what is the result in the psalmist’s life? Psalm 5:11; 40:16; 51:12; 63:11; 64:10; 86:4; 90:15; and 92:4.
  4. How will you apply these truths in your life? Be specific.

 

 

 

Part II: Joy: Beauty and Benefits

 

In the last blog I defined joy as an inner –man attitude/thinking of confidence, a deep-seated satisfaction and contentment that God is God; He is trustworthy, and He is working in all things for His glory and the good of the believer. Joy is a whole-person activity – thoughts, desires, and actions. Joy is real, rational, and relational for the believer. It is given by the Holy Spirit. It is every believer’s gift, pleasure, and blessing,

Joy is the result of proper thinking and wanting. Joy is not simply a feeling or an emotion. It does not develop on its own. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and as such must be cultivated (Gal. 5:22). It should characterize all believers now (1 Peter 1:8) as they anticipate the joy of being with Christ forever in heaven (Rev 19:7). Joy always looks ahead to the fulfillment of God’s promises with the confident expectation that He is working in all things for His glory. This forward look motivates the believer to vigorously and aggressively pursue growth in Christ on a daily basis (1 John 3:1-3). Therefore, the believer is never under the circumstances or a victim to them or others.

Among other things, joy acts as a buoy that holds up the believer and keeps him afloat God’s way for God’s purpose in all types of situations (1 Peter 1:6-7; James 1:2-8; Romans 5:1-5). Joy results in faithful tenacity, endurance, and courage (Colossians 1:11; Romans 15:13; Hebrews 12:1-3). The believer stays in the race (not the rat race but on the road to becoming more like Christ) God’s way for His glory and the believer’s good (Heb.12:1-3; James 1:12).

Joy helps the believer have a proper vertical reference (to God) and maintain an eternal perspective. A proper vertical reference to and in life enables the believer to develop the fruit of joy. As a result, he uses what is unpleasant to become more like Christ (2 Cor. 5:9; Rom. 8: 28-29; 1 Thess. 5:18).

Joy, also, has an object – God. The believer’s joy is grounded in God’s promises and His trustworthiness. Moreover, joy is commanded (Ps. 16:11; Phil 1:18; 3:1; 4:4, 10; Romans 15:13; 1 Thess. 5:16). God does not give commands that His people are not able to keep. Those two facts are encouragements in themselves. In 1 Samuel 17, David joyfully took the fight to Goliath because he knew it was God’s fight. In Philippians, Paul calls the congregation to rejoice in the Lord on at least three occasions. Things did not look so great for Paul (1:12-18) and there was division in the Philippian Church (1:18, 4:1-3). Yet he called for the people to rejoice in the Lord. On what basis did he make the call?  Paul understood God’s purpose: the advancement of His kingdom by the spread of the gospel and by the individual growth of each believer. Paul understood that God was working and he joyfully submitted to God who bought and brought him out of the pit of hell and set him on firm ground. Viewed from this perspective, Paul could not help but be joyful. A joyless Christian is an oxymoron and sad commentary on the cross, the resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

 

Application:

  1. How are you doing in your pursuit of fruit bearing according to Galatians 5:22-23? The Holy Spirit produces His fruit and the believer pursues and grows it.
  2. Joy is closely aligned with faith and hope. Read and study Galatians 2:20. What do you learn about the old “I” and the new “I”? How does joy differentiate the old “I” and the new “I”?
  3. How does the pursuit of joy help you understand Matthew 7:24-27 and I John 5:4?

 

Part III: Joy: Relational Significance

 

Joy seems to be a misunderstood term. It is a fruit of the Spirit so it is in the possession of every believer (Gal. 5:22-23). It may be associated with feelings but at its core, it is the response of the believer as a whole –person in terms of thought, desire, and action to God’s work of getting people saved (regeneration) and having people grow in Christlikeness (sanctification). Therefore, God’s providence – His control – is rightly pictured in terms of God’s plan and purpose.  God’s providence – bringing people and events into a person’s life – is a demonstration of a good God’s eternal plan and purpose to accomplish His goal.

Joy begins relationally and develops relationally. Once in proper relationship to God, God’s truth becomes for the believer a blessing and not a burden. God’s providential control points to God’s purpose of bringing His people into His presence which begins on this earth with regeneration. Joy develops experientially as the believer experiences the greatness and glory of God (1 John 3:1-3; 5:3-4). The growing believer simply can’t get enough of God (Ps. 34:8; Rom. 12:1-2; Phil. 3:7-11).

Picture your best ally, your most intimate friend, your most trustworthy person, your greatest warrior and protector, and most supreme of all people. These are relational terms. The object of your joy, awe, respect, understanding, and appreciation is a person who has promised or done something for you.  For believers that object is a Person – the Supreme Being – Mover and Shaker – of the whole universe seen and unseen.  When you bring God down to mankind’s level, it is easy to consider the Triune God in similar terms as a person does for Santa Claus, Captain America, Superman, or any other super hero. The object of joy is on the giver and the gift. Only the believer changes his perspective of the Giver and what He gives. The believer’s mindset changes from the perspective of the eternal, infinite, and spiritual, and infinite as opposed to the finite, material, and physical.

There is a higher plane of reference for God than mentioned above. He is not simply the best of the best, a good guy, or a person who has super powers. He is the exalted King of kings and Lord of lords. Therefore His Church and individual believers have a much different view of God and His providence. Salvation and the events leading up to the Messiah’s coming – redemption accomplished – and individual salvation -redemption applied – is from the hand of the Triune God. Joy in the Lord is just that: Joy in the Lord Himself (Exodus 15:2; Jonah 2:9). In both situations, Israel, individuals, and an individual were delivered from God’s wrath and fury. The events and the deliverance are all God’s providence. Moses got it but the Israelites and Jonah did not. Sadness and misery prevailed. Yet God remained true to Himself and His people.

If your joy is focused on the gifts of the Giver your joy will never be complete (John 15:11). In the night before He died, Jesus wanted His apostles to focus on their relationship to Him and Him to them. Christ’s joy was the believer’s joy because Christ is united with each believer. Paul especially referred to this concept by the phrase in Christ – union with Christ. What Christ has the believer has. What Christ did the believer is counted has having done. Where Christ is the believer is. There is an already concept – these things have been done in Christ to and for the believer and the Church.  But there is the not yet: consummation has not come but will when Jesus returns. In the meantime, joy is one key for the believer. Rejoice! Enjoy Christ and the Triune God!

 

Application:

  1. Joy is not an option. Describe joy, the object of your joy, and the reasons for joy.
  2. Describe your closest personal relationship. What are some terms you use to describe it and why? How does your relationship compare and contrast?
  3. Explain how a joyless Christian is an oxymoron.

 

Part IV: Joy from Selective Psalms

 

In an earlier blog I asked the question: what does each of these psalms say is the reason for joy and what is the result in the psalmist’s life? I referenced eight Psalms: Psalms 5:11; 40:16; 51:12; 63:11; 64:10; 86:4; 90:15; and 92:4. I will now consider the subject of joy from the perspective of the psalter.

Book I:

  • Ps. 5:11: But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them that those who love your name, may rejoice in you.
  • Ps. 40:16: But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The Lord be exalted!”

Book I of the Psalter ranges from Psalm 1-41. David is considered the author of all the psalms in book I except perhaps Psalms 1-2. The major themes are the rise of the Davidic kingdom of peace and righteousness and confrontation as the kingdom is being established. Enemies abounded – from within and without. Yet what was on David’s agenda was a desire to please Yahweh as His representative and agent. Therefore Yahweh’s enemies were David’s enemies. David was confident in God’s trustworthiness in making and keeping promises. He sought the Lord’s presence personally (Ps. 5:7).  As king and as David completed Psalm 5, his words extended to all of God’s people, the godly (5:11). David knew he was God’s agent and Israel was Yahweh’s people and therefore David’s. David does not take revenge but he does hunger and thirst for God’s righteous judgement (Ps. 5:6-10, Matt. 5:6). In the first book of the Psalter David is on the run. Yet he is joyful and he calls on God’s people to do the same.

He knows and acts upon the fact that Yahweh is King and in control. He longs to be safe and secure. He knows that will come in due time. Now he continues to practice joy to and in the Lord.

Psalm 40 (Book I) is among four psalms that have as their theme a guilty sufferer (Pss. 38-41).  All four carry the plea for forgiveness by the penitent sinner. Psalm 40 is one of the psalms that speak well of the Torah – the law of the Lord. David the psalmist opens with the confidence that Yahweh is present and hears and answers prayers (40:1-3). David is a Yahweh-seeker and encourages others to seek Him, to rejoice in Him, and rejoice in the activity of seeking of Him. David is confident in Yahweh and his own relationship with Him. Joy is relational and joyful believers express that reality.

Book II:

  • Ps. 51:12: Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Book II of the Psalter includes Psalms 42-72. David is considered the author of Psalms 51-71. Whereas conflict and the rise of the Davidic kingdom was a major theme in Book I, the theme of book II is the glories of the Davidic kingdom and communication to those within and without the kingdom. In part, Psalm 51 is David’s response to Yahweh’s summons given in Psalm 49-50: Yahweh summoned the nations in Psalm 49 and His people in Psalm 50. In Psalm 50, the universe is to be Yahweh’s witnesses as He judges the people. Psalm 51 records David’s response to God’s summons – confession and repentance. David does not want Yahweh’s rejection. The way open to fellowship is the way of purity (see Pss. 15:3; 24:3). David desired the presence of God via the indwelling Holy Spirit (51:10-12). In the context of the unconfessed sin of self-pleasing David confessed patterned self-pleasing since his youth. His confession was in the midst of his failure to be Yahweh’s kind of commander (he was not with his troops), adultery, murder, lying, and unconfessed sin and sinfulness. David confessed and repented (51:3-5). He prayed for joy and gladness in contrast to the unbearable burden of carrying his own sin (51:8, 12). Joy is linked to right standing with God and knowledge of being a forgiven child of God.

 

Application:

  1. David knew and sought Yahweh. Being in His presence was important to David. Give some reasons.
  2. Joy was an expression of union with Yahweh and His ever-presence. David was stripped of many of his resources forcing him to do what/ See 2 Cor. 1:8-10, 4:8-10, and 12:7-10 for help in answering the question.
  3. David failure to confess is pictured in Psalms 32 and 38. In those psalms, God’s presence was a burden. Unconfessed sin carries a burden. David ran as far from Yahweh as he could. The presence of Yahweh and the seeming absence of Yahweh were both burdens. What is God’s answer as given in 1 John 1:7-9?

Part V: Joy from Selective Psalms

 

In this blog I continue our survey of joy from selective Psalms. Psalms 63-64 are found in book II and Psalm 86 is found in Book III.

  • Ps. 63:11: But the king will rejoice in the Lord; all who swear by God’s name will praise him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
  • Ps 64:10: Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him.

Psalms 61-64 represent the cry of the messianic king to Yahweh for His intervention.  David is still under attack as he worked to establish the Davidic kingdom of peace and righteousness. He has been banished. Yet his hope is in Yahweh (62:2, 4, 6-7). He thirsts for Him (63:1). David recalled experiencing Yahweh’s which whetted his desire for Yahweh Himself (63:2) and his holding fast to Yahweh’s presence, power, and goodness (63:8). He reached a climax as given in verse 11: he will rejoice. David was a man of joy in the midst of trying times and God’s frowning providence. David knew he was a winner because Yahweh reigns.  David continued his line of thinking in Psalm 64 (1, 7-10). In Psalm 64, David names all the righteous people as rejoicers.

  • Ps. 86:4: bring joy to your servant for to you O Lord I lift up my soul.

This psalm is an individualistic psalm of David. It is a prayer of David to Yahweh. David, Yahweh servant, asks for Yahweh to bring joy to him (verse 4). David sounded a triumphant note in verse 9: all the nations will worship and bring glory to Yahweh. David was focused and acknowledged the Kingship of Yahweh. That fact, not the circumstances brought joy, hope, strength, and comfort to his whole person.

Book IV:

  • Ps 90:14-15: Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days; Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.

Psalm 90 is a prayer of Moses and it opens Book IV of the Psalter (90-106).

Book IV celebrates Yahweh Himself as the eternal dwelling of His people but at a time when Israel is in exile (90:1-2). The theme of Book IV is life in exile. It was not a joyous time for Israel. They had not learned their true nature – idolaters. They had not learned Yahweh’s true nature – holy, majestic, Warrior King, and trustworthy. Moses had encouraged the people who had been in exile in Egypt. Now the organizer of Psalter rightly conjectured that those in exile would benefit from knowing that Yahweh was still King and in control. Therefore Moses in Psalm 90 encouraged the exiles to seek and enjoy Yahweh as King of kings and Deliverer (Deuteronomy 32-33). In spite of and because of the circumstances, Yahweh is alive and well. So rejoice!

  • Ps 92:4: For you make us glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.

Psalms 92-100 are a special collection of psalms termed Yahweh Malak (the Lord Reigns). They reinforce Yahweh’s ongoing and pervasive kingship. The Lord is King (93:1; 96:10; 97:1; 99:1). There is a worship context in Psalm 92:1-4. As these verses show, joy and gladness are linked not only to Yahweh’s Kingship but the acknowledging of it and enjoying it. One of the simplest means for doing that is to remember that circumstances don’t define God’s Kingship. They are opportunities to rejoice AND to come to a deeper understanding of the foundation of the believer’s joy – Yahweh Himself. Yahweh who does al things well will bring His people to Him (Ps. 140:12-13); 141:8-9.

 

Application:

  1. The Psalter covers some 500 years of redemptive history sometimes known as the promise-plan of God. Joy and ultimate victory is a major theme in God’s plan.
  2. Where does the concept of joy fit into your daily life?
  3. What would convince you that Christianity is joyful and that the Christian is to be joyful?
  4. What is the antithesis of joy? See Philippians 2:14-17 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 for information to help you answer the question.

 

Part VI: Joy in the Gospel of John

 

In the New Testament, the noun (chara) occurs some 60 times and the verb some 72 times. Only the believer has and demonstrates joy. Only he knows that God is in control, up to something, and His control is good. Joy is something the believer does in response to God’s control. The believer, and only the believer, knows the truth and acts on God’s truth. Therefore, joy and rejoicing do not depend on circumstances. Rather circumstances (God’s providence) must be interpreted in light of God’s good control.

Joy is the privilege and blessing of the Christians only. Joy is not attainable outside of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Joy is a reality for every believer. Therefore every believer in any circumstance has the capacity and the privilege to rejoice.

Joy is linked to faith, hope, and truth. Such was the case in John’s gospel. John was the apostle of love, love being a major theme in his writings. Yet several times John appeals to joy most notably in the upper room discourse: John 3:29; 15:11; 16:20-24; 17:13. Joy, faith, and love have an object and are linked with knowledge in regards to God and the rejoicer. Moreover, each are fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

  • John 3:29-30: The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waited and listens for him and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine and is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.

John the Baptist was asked about the seeming rivalry between his ministry including baptizing and that which Jesus was doing. John announced there was no popularity contest. Jesus had received His position from heaven. John responded with joy. He was content with his position – Jesus’ forerunner and announcer much like the relationship between Jonathan and David (1 Sam. 18:1-4). Simply to know that he was accomplishing his task and that Jesus had come brought his joy full circle. He expressed the fullness of his joy in verse 30: I must decrease – he must increase. He had done his job well and he was blessed to see the fruits of his ministry.

  • John 15:11: I have told you this so my joy may be in you and that your joy will be made complete.
  • John 16:20-22, 24: I tell you the truth you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child has been born into the world….Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive and your joy will be made complete.
  • John 17:13: I am coming to you now but I say these things to you while I am still in the world, so that you may have the full measure of my joy with you.

These three passages are found in the upper room discourses (Olivet Discourses). That time was recorded in chapters 13-17, five of John’s 21 chapters, almost 25% of the gospel.  Jesus is the Teacher par excellence but He is more. In chapter 15 Jesus drew an analogy between a vine (Him) and the branches (the apostles). Life and fruiting bearing was the key which would only occur only if the branches were properly connected to the vine. In verses 9-10 Jesus drew the connection between love and obedience. In verse 11, Jesus gave an insight to Himself: He has joy and His joy came from pleasing His Father manifested by trust and obedience (John 4:31-34).  Joy is a reality that becomes evident as one grows in his relationship to the triune God. Fruit of that growth is often described as glorifying God through trusting and obeying. Joy, knowledge, trust, and obedience are linked.

The passages in John 16 are quite amazing. To a group of men no less Jesus used the example of the pain and burden of child birth. Trouble (affliction, tough times) is part of childbirth but so is joy – when the mother gives birth. She looks beyond the pain to the gain. So, too, Jesus’ mission which included the cross would bring trouble and pain but this was only a prelude to the joy of the resurrected Christ. Trouble and pain rightly understood and responded to points to an everlasting, non-refundable joy. A resurrected and exalted Christ clarified trouble. Joy was Christ’s as He stayed the course and finished the race of pleasing His Father. The believer’s joy is a byproduct of Christ’s joy. It is to be modeled after Christ’s approached to life – pleasing His Father for the joy of it and the results it would bring for the Triune God, Himself, and His people.

In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father. He looked forward to the Ascension and coming to the Father. Yet He continued to teach (17:13). Again He prayed that His joy would be completed in the disciples. After His death and before His post-resurrection appearances, the disciples were joyless. The apostles were to stay in the world – they had work to do (17:15). They would accomplish that work through the gift of joy. Their joy would them be

complete. In this way they modeled Christ. Only the believer has joy and only the believer will have that joy completed. Completed joy is a concept that reaches its fulfillment in the second coming. Therefore it is proper to ask the Lord to come now.

 

Application:

  1. How does John link joy, love, obedience, and knowledge?
  2. What do you think about joy and its completion? What your plans in this regard?
  3. What do you need to grow in the joy of your salvation? Be specific.

 

 

Part VII: Joy in the Letter to the Philippians

 

The letter to the Philippians is sometimes termed the epistle of joy.  It is also a missionary “thank-you” letter. Paul linked thankfulness and joy. There are numerous references to joy throughout the book (1:4, 18, 25, 26; 2:2, 16, 17, 18, 28, 29; 3:1; 4:1, 4, 10).  Paul’s reference to joy is highly significant since Paul was in bonds and facing the possibility of a death sentence (1:20; 2:17). Notice the subject of Paul’s joy.

Given the circumstances, Paul knew that an active and knowledgeable love for God and the brothers was a key.  He knew that the brothers through holding fast to God’s word would bring victory. Preservation in biblical truth would enable perseverance in the face of God’s providence and tough times (2:12-13).  Preservation of the saints was necessary, predicted by Christ, and followed Christ’s example (Matt. 10:22; 24:13; John 8:31-36; 15:18-21; Heb. 12:1-3). A key for Paul and the Philippian Church was the proper teaching and hearing of the Word and the proper application of biblical truth. This would enable perseverance.

At first glance, the circumstances were anything but encouraging. They were miserable. Paul was in prison, false teachers were on the scene, and there was division (1:12-18; 3:1-2; 4:1-2). Paul knew the Philippians wondered how to make sense of and understand God’s providence. Moreover, what is joyful about their situation? Do they judge God by the circumstances or the circumstances by biblical truth? This choice remains for every believer until Christ returns. Paul gave the Holy Spirit’s resounding answer. Joy and its sidekick peace is not dependent on circumstances but on the God of them and the believer’s relationship to and with Him.

Paul began his letter by combining joy and thankfulness (1:3-4). The church had entered into gospel ministry with Paul. Paul prayed and thanked joyfully. He appreciated them as fellow believers and for their participation in the fellowship of the gospel – their time, money, and prayers. Paul looked beyond rivalries. Verse 18 of chapter 1 contained his reasoning. No matter the motivation of his rivals, Paul focused on one issue: that Christ may be preached. He rejoiced in that fact no matter the motive of the preachers and false teachers (see 3:1-2).

In verses 25-26 of chapter 1, Paul recorded another source of joy: their welfare as measured by their progress in the faith and their joy. Their joy as growing Christians was one means for the completion of Paul’s joy (2:2). Paul knew of division within the Church. He would address that issue in chapter 4 (4:1-2). Now he was setting the stage by giving them a way to make his joy complete: have the mind of Christ – to think alike and to be bound in mutual love (2:3-5).  Paul wanted the Philippians to move to God and others by sitting self aside.

Paul, in Philippians 2:16-17, addressed one aspect of running the race of progressive sanctification: instead of grumbling, complaining, and making life miserable for other, Paul encouraged them to hold to and hold out the Word. He encouraged them to present truth to all involved including themselves. Application of that truth specifically and daily would follow. They would trust God for the results enjoying the time to grow individually and as congregation. Ownership was a major key for victory. They are God’s people then and forever! Paul encouraged the congregation to look around and rejoice with the brothers as faith is lived out. A growing congregation is a blessing to all involved, a source of joy, and a testimony to the Triune God’s faithfulness. Paul closed chapter 2 with the desire to send back to them faithful Epaphroditus. He was their gift, a blessing to Paul, and a mercy-healing by God. Paul was joyful for him and for them.

Paul closed the letter with a series of exhortations to rejoice – to be glad (3:1, 4:1, 4, 10). In chapter 3, Paul gives the simple exhortation without a reason given: rejoice in the Lord (3:1). I suspect Paul was contrasting what he rejoiced in as given in verses 3-6. The point is: rejoice in the Lord and not in your self-grasping, self-exaltation, and self- sufficiency. He begins chapter 4 by expressing his affection for the church. Among other things they are his joy, his crown (4:1). Yet he followed in verse 2-3 with the problem of strife and disunity. The very people that were his joy and crown were anything but that. He urged the women and the congregation to close ranks (see 1:27-2:2).  He then moved quickly to another exhortation in verse 4: Be glad/rejoice in the Lord and adds always. Wow! Joy is something a believer has and does but only if his perspective is proper: first vertically (to God), second horizontally (to others), and self is last or not at all (see Matt. 22:37-40). He then initiated a short teaching section on contentment (4:10-13). Joy, thankfulness, and contentment are three legs of a footstool that flow from and express satisfaction with God, for who He is and what He does (Pss. 37:3-5; 73:25-26).

 

Application

  1. What is the role of biblical truth in developing joy in your life?
  2. What do you need to learn and mediate on in order to b God’s kind of rejoicer?
  3. What drove Paul’s joy and how did he manifest his joy?

 

Love: Part I-VII

Love: Part A

God’s Love: 1 John 4:7-12

 

Love is a common, simple, four-letter word that is so misunderstood. The culture talks about lovers when referring to fornicators and adulterers. Objects of love may be people, animals, activities, and objects. The idea of the word love carries the idea of attraction, desire for, wanting, and feelings – often warm and fuzzy ones. So often a term is used without defining it. Many would say that everyone knows what love is. If that is your starting point, you will miss God’s definition as given in the Bible.

Too often, Christians have bought the culture’s concept and brought it into their understanding of God and themselves. God’s love is unconditional is a common refrain in some areas of the Christian community. Most don’t know what the phrase means. In fact, it is difficult to track down the origin of the phrase. The term is not used in the Bible so it has an extra-biblical origin. But words and terms do matter. Christians must be careful when they use terms that convey a low view of God and His Word and a high view of man.

Actually the term is a selfish one because it suggests that the “lover” does not care about the condition of the one receiving love or affection or overtures or interest. This raises the issue of the purpose of love and loving. Unconditional love carries the idea of giving with no strings attached. Rather as we shall see, God’s love has one sole purpose: it loudly and clearly proclaims His glory. By loving an unlovely and unlovable people by human standards, he saves a people who don’t deserve to be saved (Rom. 5:6-10; 2 Cor, 5:18-21). God loves to show His glory by bringing about a change in people – from His enemies to becoming His family members. God love is supernatural. The noun and verb are linked and at times are inseparable.

Many wrongly interpret God’s love as unconditional. The idea that God loves in spite of himself and in spite of the one loved is unbiblical. God’s love is informed – it is intelligent. God knows himself fully and completely. God knows His creatures. We need to unpack the idea that God’s love is conditional or unconditional or perhaps both depending on one’s definition by searching the Scripture. Scripture has much to say about God and love. One defining text is found 1 John 4:7-12:

v.7: Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

v.8: Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.

v.9: This is how God showed his love among us; He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

v.10: This is love; not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

v.11: Dear friends since God loved us we ought to love one another

v.12: No one has ever seen God; but if we love another God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish love as a noun and as a verb. The phrase God is love defines love as a noun and God as the supreme Lover. As such, He loves; here love is a verb. From John, we learn that God is love  – a noun (v.8). It is of His essence, His nature, and His Being. Therefore, to correctly understand the concept of love, one must begin with God. Most theologians consider love as one of God’s moral perfections. It is included under the heading of God’s goodness. The fundamental idea of God’s goodness is that God is, in every way, everything that he as God should be. We might call this perfection. God is Perfect. God is good in and for himself. He is also good for His creatures. He is the only and highest good. Goodness and love are linked. Because God is good he is love and he loves. Rightly understood the word love is a mini-definition of God. He is love and He defines love.

Love at the very least involves relationships and action. In this sense we can and should say that biblical love is conditional. Love and loving rests and begins with the Triune God. Love is conditioned by the character of God. If there is no God, there is no love either expressed as a noun or as a verb. From John’s first letter we learn that love is Intratrinitarian. All persons of the Godhead are Lovers. Consequently, there is love within the Godhead. What this love looks like we do not know. We were not there in eternity past.

We do know that there is perfect knowledge, harmony, and functionality within the Godhead. Love involves knowledge and it is conditioned by God himself. Therefore love is conditional. He can’t help but love! It is an absolute necessity for him to love. That fact is a relief for sinners!

Intratrinitarian love is impossible for man to comprehend. John makes this point in verse 12. The Church and the world get a glimpse of God and His love of Himself by His love of others – both His children and enemies. Again love and loving is conditional. They are dependent on the very nature of God. Since love is an action there is evidence of it. Notice that the term or concept of feelings has not entered into the discussion. Generally and properly it is taught that the ultimate demonstration of God’s love to mankind is the sending of Christ, the Messiah and of Christ himself. It is interesting that the Bible emphasizes the evidence of God’s love to mankind. This in itself is a loving action. Trying to comprehend God’s love of himself may be near impossible for man, fallen or unfallen. Therefore God would have believers look at the cross.

Application:

  1. Contemplate the Triune God’s love of Himself. What are your thoughts and how do they influence your love of others?
  2. How do you define love? What is the significance of the fact that God is love?
  3. Consider mankind’s fallen state: why should God love a rebel?
  4. How is it possible for Him to do that very thing?

 

 

 

 

Love: Part B

God is Love

 

Our subject is God’s love and its conditionality or un-conditionality. We began with God because the Bible begins with God (Gen. 1:1-2). God is love (1 John 4:8). He is the eternal God. God’s love of himself is eternal, complete, relational, perfect in knowledge, and active. God loves himself and his creatures because he is love.

God is known by mankind but not as he ought. This limitation is in part due to effect of sin on man’s thinking and wanting and because of who God is. Therefore, God’s love of himself is beyond human comprehension. We know from nature and the Bible that God is the Revealer and that he has created man as his image bearer. Therefore, man is a revelation receiver, interpreter, and implementer. God desires that he be known and accurately. If God’s love of himself is beyond human comprehension, how then will mankind know God and love? John gives the answer in 1 John 4:8: v.12: No one has ever seen God; but if we love another God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (see John 13:34-35). Jesus gives a similar answer in another venue: John 14:8-9. He tells Philip that if the disciples have seen Jesus they seen the Father which is one reason for Jesus’ coming (John 1:18).

Why would God spend so much blood and effort proving to sinful mankind that God is love? Number one, as we have noted, the love of God for himself is beyond human comprehension. Number two, the love of God is conditioned by the very nature of God and the nature of fallen man. Number three, love of enemies is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural. It is humbling. God loves himself, the perfect Being. How do we grasp that truth as finite and fallen creatures?  In a sense, God stacked the deck. To say that God loves his friends seems palatable and reasonable. To say that God loves his enemies will get a Whoa. The person will ask how that is possible. It gets better and deeper: in some way, God loves his enemies with the same love that he loves himself. That seems impossible but it is a reality. It is a reality only because God is love and his love is conditioned by who he is and who man is.

God’s love is conditional because it depends on his very nature and does not depend on man. Salvation is a reality only if God loved hell-bound, self-loving, and self-pleasing rebels. There would be no salvation if God was not love. Again, God’s love and loving acts are conditioned on God’s nature. No other love or Lover could save man let alone desire to save man.

Fallen man is in danger, lost in guilt, and condemnation. Misery awaits him in this life and the next unless God supernaturally intervenes. We speak of God’s supernatural intervention as salvation and redemption. So we should. We must remember that God is love and He loves independently of man’s fallen condition and estate.  It is as if mankind was placed in the worst condition possible so that salvation would be a WOW activity. God’s love is conditioned by his very nature and nothing in man. In fact, sober judgment would say don’t love the unlovely. Yet God does. This is in stark contrast to the Triune God’s love of himself.

To say that God’s love is unconditional is imprecise if not incorrect. God himself conditions love. His nature is to love and the clarity of his love is shone most clearly when the object of his love is an enemy. The phrase, God’s love is unconditional, misses the point of God’s nature. The word suggests that God is a love machine and that it is his job to love with no strings attached. It emphasizes that God’s love as unselective. He loves everybody without distinction because of something inherent in the person and not in God. That is precisely the opposite point! Everything in fallen man points to leaving him alone. In contrast, there is something in God (his nature is love) that demands him to love. Loving himself perfectly, completely, and eternally does not seem to motivate fallen man to praise and humble fallen man. Apparently God’s love of himself had no impact on the fallen angels.

It is true that God’s love is conditioned by his nature and is highlighted by the state and character of fallen man. There is no condition that any one person can bring to bear on God in order to force him to love that particular person. The person is the recipient of God and his love. He does so because God is love and not because he deserves it. He has nothing – he has no bargaining chip to force God to redeem him.

Once loved by God, there are conditions on the one loved in terms of duty, privilege, and blessings (2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 John 5:3-4). The loved one is expected to change in his thoughts, desires, and action toward God, self, and others. The personal cost to be loved by God is zero. God saves. Once a person is saved, there are costs. God expects a return on his investment. He gave his all-in-all and the believer is to give himself daily, 24/7. Growth in love of God and others (neighbors and enemies) is part of the believers spiritual DNA.

 

Application:

  1. Clarify the terms conditional and unconditional love.
  2. God’s love is conditional: agree or disagree and why?
  3. God’s love is unconditional: how is that a dangerous concept? What truth may it carry?

 

 

 

 

 

Love: Part C

God’s Love: Conditional

 

From 1 John 4:7-12, we learned that God is love. Because He is he loves. God loved and loves himself eternally and perfectly. There is no defect within the Trinity. God’s love of himself is beyond human comprehension. The New Testament speaks of the Father’s love of the Son and the Son’s love of the Father and by implication the Holy Spirit’s love of the Father and the Son. Simply, there is a love fellowship between the three persons of the Godhead (The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14 ESV).

As a consequence or a fruit of Intratrinitarian love, God loves his people. God expresses a common goodness to all his creatures (Matt. 5:43-48; Acts 14:17). But He loves his own in a salvific way. It is a wonderful truth that God’s love is conditional: it is dependent on His very nature. It is good that the condition for God to love does not rest with man.

From man’s perspective one may say that God’s love is unconditional. There is nothing in man to warrant God to love him. The fact that man is made the image of God is his only claim for God to exert kindness to mankind. As Creator, God does extend kindness to men for a time. The fallen angels have no salvation or offer of it. Post-fall there is much about and in man to warrant God’s wrath and never to be loved by God. However, God’s love is conditional: it is conditioned by God himself.

God loves simply because He is love. Thank God that he loves his enemies. One object of God’s love is unlovely people. By man’s standards they are un-loveable. Yet God loves his enemies. There is nothing in a person that forces God to love him or her (Rom. 5:6-10; John 17:9, 14, 20-24). Yet God loves them with a purpose – to bring a people to himself. God’s agenda is for them to become like his Son. There is nothing in man to force God to think and act in a certain way. There is much in man that requires God to act in judgment on mankind. Yet God loves his enemies. Therein is love that God loved first (1 John 4:19). John was speaking to believers. God loves his people in a saving way.

Christ demonstrated Triune love by his perfect obedience before the cross and his perfect death on the cross (John 3:16-21). In addition, we don’t see God but we see others. When self-pleasers, even believers, are kind to others, the world and especially the Church is presented with an insight into God’s love of himself (John 13:34-35; Matt. 5:43-48). Love is more than kindness but love includes kindness.

The ultimate expression to the world of God’s love is the estate of humiliation of his Son which includes the cross. In that way God loves those who don’t deserve to be loved. Rather they deserve wrath and condemnation. This act of sacrifice on the part of the Triune God points to God as the true Lover. The cross defines supernatural love and pushes the believer toward heaven. There he gets a glimpse of Intratrinitarian love. Seeing Jesus and witnessing his teaching and miracles does not match the cross in terms of revealing the nature of God (John 14:6-9). But even the cross must be seen from eternity past and the love that the Triune God has for himself. Humanly speaking love can be defined as God gives, as He meets a need, no matter the cost, with the correct motive, and by His standard (John 3:16; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:2, 25). God’s love of himself is displayed as He loves the unlovely (Rom. 5:6-10).

It is on the basis of God’s very Being that John tells his congregation that they are to love one another – it is a necessity (v.11). Moreover, believers are to love one another because love comes from God (v.7). John sets forth several non-negotiable truths: God is love and he is the fountainhead or source of all love. Several corollaries follow. First, only believers can love. Unbelievers cannot love because they are not born of God; they are not regenerated. Second, loving one another is not a suggestion; it is rooted in who God is and who the believer is in Christ. Third, loving one another is a testimony that God is love, that His love is radical and supernatural, and that the true lover of others is one who is loved by God and loves God (1 John 4:12, 19).

 

Application:

  1. In your thinking, clarify where God’s love originated. What significance does that have?
  2. What are the conditions on God to love?
  3. What are the conditions on man to love? How is it possible for man to love?
  4. Loving others is an expression of being loved by God.
  5. What did it cost you to be loved by God?
  6. What did it cost God?

 

 

 

Love: Part D

God’s Love: Conditional and Unconditional

 

John told his congregation that God is love (1 John 4:8). Since God‘s nature/Being is love, love characterizes all aspects of God’s Being: His holiness, justice, righteousness, mercy, and goodness. Again love must begin with the Trinity. Salvation is an Intratrinitarian activity that is steeped in the very Being of God. In eternity past, only the Godhead existed. He existed in perfect wisdom, harmony, and functionality. When we speak of God’s holiness, anger, righteousness, and justice, we are to understand that God, in and through love and holiness, placed His righteous judgment and wrath on Christ at the cross. He poured out his anger on Christ. He judged Christ and all believers.

In love, Jesus took the anger every believer deserved. In that sense, sin as a noun, has been given its due: at Jesus’ expense God punished and destroyed sin – its guilt and condemnation. In love, an angry, righteous God was working for each believer as well as himself. Christ went to hell on the cross. God loved his enemies through his Son. In his anger, God lovingly placed Jesus on the cross as a substitute for each one of his people. Moreover, the Holy Spirit indwells the Church and the believer to disarm the sinful disposition of self-pleasing through personal lawkeeping – one aspect of sin’s power. The unbeliever is too busy with self: self-pleasing, self-grasping, and self-exaltation (Rom. 8:5-8; Gal. 5:16-18; Eph. 2:1-3; James 4:1-3). The Holy Spirit is at work enabling God’s people to become more like Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit brings about changes in a person: his desires, attitude and actions and his belief and behavior. In contrast to the unbeliever, the believer is able to please God rather than self. Therefore a believer loves both God and others because he has first been loved (1 John 4:19).

Let’s consider again the term unconditional love. Is God’s love unconditional? From John, we learned that God is love. His love and its expression are conditioned on that which he is – he is love. We rightly expect God to love – it is his nature. However, too often, we begin with ourselves as recipients of God’s love. We must begin in eternity. As discussed in earlier blogs, the first evidence of the fact that God is love is within the Trinity. He loves himself totally and perfectly. Who else was there to love? One can only be amazed that He moves outside of the Trinity to find objects of his love. In marked contrast to himself is perfect, he loves those who are undeserving and unlovely (Rom. 5:6-11). Therefore God’s love is not conditioned by anything in man, about man, or what man can do. There is nothing inherent in fallen man that makes him lovely. Although he is still the image bearer of God, he is lost until saved/loved by God.

God’s love is based on the simple and profound fact that God is love. Although this fact is expressed most clearly within the Trinity, God would have us look to the cross for a clear picture of Intratrinitarian love. God loves himself because of himself. Therefore, God loves fallen men in spite of themselves and in part, because they are the image of God. As mentioned in other blogs, God meets man where he is. The creature, fallen or not, does not comprehend God and the fact that God is love. God meets mankind at his level. Fallen man does not deserve God’s love – he deserves God’s wrath. Yet God, in His holiness, justice, righteousness, goodness, wisdom, and power, loves unlovely people. Contrast the two objects of God’s love: the Triune God and fallen sinners, rebels. What a contrast! God presents himself as the Lover par excellence. God’s love of his enemies does not simply point to the cross but to him. If God was not love, there would be no cross.

Look to the Trinity, then to the cross, and then to your love of others, friends and foes alike. You will begin to discover that God is love, conditioned by His very nature and independent of man’s condition. In fact to love “good” people requires very little (Matt. 5:39-42, 43-48; Luke 6:29-30).

John 14:8-9 records Jesus’ short conversation with Philip. Philip wanted Christ to show (demonstrate) the Father to them. Perhaps Phillip wanted a theophany or a spectacular revelation. As all Israel claimed to want, Philip asked for a sign. Jesus was the Sign – a living Sign. The Messiah was standing before Phillip. If Phillip had seen Jesus with spiritual eyes, the Father and the Triune God would have been seen as well. Christ revealed the Triune God and the true nature of love.  Do you see Him?

 

Application:

  1. Meditate on God, His love, and the object of His love. Write out your response.
  2. How does the fact that God is love and that you have been loved as a believer influence your relation to God and others?
  3. What is the big deal about having a loving God such as yours? Be specific.
  4. Think through the fact that you have been loved to and through death: Christ’s death and your spiritual death to self, sin, and Satan. By virtue of the fact that God is love, He has invested more in you than you have invested in yourself or in him.
  5. What significance do those facts have in your life; why and why not?
  6. Now, as one loved, you are called to love as you have been loved. Consider this working definition of love: give of self to meet a need in order to please God. Write out specific ways that you have been or can be a true lover.

 

 

 

Love: Part E

Is Self-Love God’s Way?

 

The movement of self-love, self-image, self-worth, and self-esteem has been in the rave reaching a climax even within Church in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The concept was touted as Self Esteem: New Reformation by Robert Schuller. The one common denominator in the terms is self. The key was to look to self for a better view of self based on a subjective standard of worth chosen by the person and verified by his feelings. Maslow’s need theory and self-actualization are based on self, self, and self. The concepts are still around but have lost some of their steam. However, it is proper for Christians to ask if there is a godly way to love self. In addressing the issue of self-love, consider these five facts:

  • The Bible’s presupposition that man loves himself (Matt. 22:37-40)
  • God loves Himself (1 John 4:7-8);
  • Man is the image of God and therefore was initially designed to love himself God’s way (Gen. 1:31);
  • The fall and God’s judgment corrupted man and man’s capacity for biblical self- love (Rom. 1:18-20; 8:5-8);
  • John brings love of God, neighbor, and self together in 1 John 4:7-12, 19.

In this blog, I will address the first two truths.

 

  1. Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:25-37 summarize the dynamic of love by including a twofold exhortation which summarizes the Law and the Prophets. In each case Jesus summarized the essence of the Christian duty and privilege with the words: love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself. Sadly, the teaching of Jesus has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. This misunderstanding has led to the false teaching that Jesus gave three commands; that without love of self, one can’t possibly love God and others; and that love of self precedes any other activity (Maslow’s jargon). In essence, self takes center stage and self-pleasing and getting becomes the lens by which the person interprets God, self, others, and life (actually those events that God brings into a person’s life).

In each portion of Scripture mentioned above, Jesus gave only two commands. Jesus presupposed that man already loves himself. The Holy Spirit reinforced that presupposition in Ephesians 5:28-29, 33. The husband is to love his wife as he loves himself and his own body. Jesus and Paul highlighted the intensity, fervency, constancy, and quantity of love which was considered a verb. An object of love is assumed. By design God is that object. He deserves and demands to be loved. He is the only being with the credentials to justify those facts. God has designed man to glorify Him by loving him in his presence forever. Biblically, love as a verb is the act of a person giving himself to another out of welfare for, loyalty to, and respect for another. It is a devotion word. In contrast, self-love is giving self to self for self. This activity can take many forms.

  1. In 1 John 4:7-8, John writes that God is love and the Lover. Intratrinitarian love teaches the believer how he is to love God, others, and self correctly. Whom did God love? He loved himself from all eternity! Love involves knowing, giving, and enjoying. God gave Himself to Himself. He withheld nothing. Intratrinitarian love focuses on each person of the Trinity. Each person has revealed Himself completely, totally, and comprehensively so that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit know and are known by the other. God holds nothing back from Himself. Therefore, God’s love is exhaustive, knowledgeable, revelational, and relational. Love of man by man is to follow the Intratrinitarian pattern. Man is to move outside of himself to the other person. Being known by God and knowing God are prerequisites for properly loving God and thereby loving self.

Love is considered an aspect of the goodness of God. A fundamental idea of the goodness of God is His worthiness. God in every way answers in all parts to the ideal which he is in himself. God sets the standard because he is the standard. God is in every way all that God should be. There is no part of God that is lacking; there is no part of God that is not good. Since God is good in himself and for himself, He is good for and to his creatures. He is the highest good and the fountain of all good (1 John 4:7-8). His goodness is revealed in his common kindness to both friend and foe alike; in the salvation and sanctification of his people; in his mercy, and in His long-suffering. God out of and from love graces his people.

The love of God is a specific aspect of His goodness in which God eternally communicates himself not only to himself but to his creatures. He gives himself in word, deed, and person. He The Triune gave himself in Christ, the living Word (John 14:6). God through the Son, the Scripture, and the Holy Spirit is the Revealer of himself (John 17:17). Motivated by love, God desires His creatures to know Him and to enjoy him, now and eternally. God moves from the Trinity toward fallen creatures. God has a proper self-focus. God loves himself but that love moves from him to others. He is best honored and served when his enemies become his children and serve and honor him.

 

Application:

  1. How are love of God and love of self linked?
  2. How is it possible for any being including God to love?
  3. What was one effect of Adam’s sin and God’s judgment regarding th dynamic of love?

 

 

Love: Part F

Is Love of Self God’s Way?

 

In last blog I considered two foundational truths in the study of self-love. The first consisted of the command to love God and neighbor even though every person is steeped in self. A second truth focused on God the Lover and source and model of love. In this blog I consider a third foundational truth.

III. Adam and Eve were created as image bearers of God and very good (Genesis 1:26-28, 31). They were designed to live in God’s world his way for his glory and for their own good. Their good was linked to God’s glory and the benefit of all mankind. They were designed to properly love self.  Pre-fall they were properly related to God and to each other. Love of self was proper because they were in proper relationship to God. Proper relationship with each other and self logically followed. Love of self was based on a true knowledge of and a proper orientation to God, self, and others. It was proper and best for Adam and Eve to love themselves and each other. The way to properly love self was by loving God which led to loving each other.

Proper love of self requires a person to view himself from the same perspective as God did and does. Man is the image of God and as such God loves man. God loves man for His own sake. One theologian wrote: God loves in mankind Himself. God loves himself first and most, completely and perfectly. That is a source of comfort and joy for all believers. Since God loves himself as part of his very nature, so, too was man designed to love self because man is an image bearer of God. Pre-fall, man was in proper relationship to God, others, and self. Therefore, he was able to imitate love of self as modeled by God’s love of himself. Adam had a right concern about himself and Eve as they were in proper relation to God. A denial of these pre-fall facts distorts is actually is self- hatred which has drastic consequences (Proverbs 8:32-36).

Biblical love is factual, relational, and revelational. Therefore self-love involves proper knowledge of self as a whole person – body and soul, and proper application of biblical truth. The goal for man is to return himself to God daily as he prepares for eternity. God calls all mankind to give an account of who they are and how they have responded to the duty and privilege of rightly loving self. Rightly loving self will be demonstrated in proper love of God and others. Proper self-love looks away from self to God. Every person is to return to God that which is due God. That something is the person – all of him. The believer is equipped to please God. This is what Jesus did (John 4:31-34; 5:19-30)! He calls the believer to do the same when he exhorted the disciples to deny self, take up his cross, and follow Jesus (Matthew 10:32-38; 16:24-28; Mark 8:31-9:1; Luke 9:22-27; 14:25-27; John 12:25-27). Self-pleasing can be ONLY be equated with biblical self-love when love of self considers God and others first and from God’s perspective. In pleasing His Father, Jesus was practicing and modeling Intratrinitarian love. He was modeling biblical self-love. Jesus was consumed with pleasing God and therefore loving himself. He had a proper view of self-love because He had a proper of self and God.

In eternity past the Triune God covenanted to save a people for himself which was a most loving activity (John 6:35-43; Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:28-30). The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are self-lovers and God-pleasers par excellence. Proper self-love is linked to pleasing God. In fact, proper knowledge of self leads to proper knowledge of God; a proper knowledge of God leads to a proper knowledge of self. If there is no God, there is no love. There is only selfishness and misery follows in this life and the next.

 

Application:

  1. What is the significance of the truth that God is love for you?
  2. Love is factual, relational, and revelational: explain.
  3. Properly loving self is first focused on the Triune God, His nature and commands and secondly on your neighbor. How should you and will you apply these truths to you?

 

 

Love: Part G

Is Love of Self God’s Way?

 

In this final blog I cover two additional truths that help to clarify the biblical doctrine of self-love.

  1. Jesus understood the effects of the curse of sin. Post-fall, the two underpinnings of love – proper relationship and proper knowledge of God and self – were lost. As a result of the fall and God’s judgment, man was and is out of proper relationship to and with God, others, and self. As a result, man suppresses and resists the truth of God and self (Rom. 1:18-20). He then functions as a truth exchanger and an idolater (Rom. 1:21-25). This mindset and lifestyle continues unless God supernatural intervenes.

Self-love and idolatry are almost synonymous. The capacity to properly love – God, others, and self – has been corrupted. Proper self-concern was eliminated and replaced by selfishness. Self takes center stage. Following satanic counsel became mankind’s modus operandi which took the form of self-pleasing via self-worship. Man became an idolater! He served and serves himself at the expense of pleasing and serving God. Proper biblical love of God and neighbor became non-existent. Consequently, the sinner used God and others to get for self.

  1. 1 John 4:7-12, 19 is a summary of God’s explanation for reversing the effects of the fall in the area of self-love. It builds on Matthew 22:37-40 and the parallel accounts in the gospels. John presupposed sinful self-love and highlighted God’s solution. He began with God as the fountain of all love – God is love and he loves (v.7-8). God is Lover par excellence. In response to God’s love of him, the believer truly loves. Only the believer can properly love. He is and will grow in loving God, others, and self God’s way.

Man’s capacity to love is derivative and initially it was properly directed toward God and others. Once God judged Adam and with him the whole human race, the capacity to love was directed toward self for self away from God and others. Upon regeneration (born of God – v.8), the believer can truly loves because he has been loved by God (v.19). The believer was regenerated, in part, so that he could love God and love others God’s way. As a result, self-love begins not with self but with God and others. The biblical view of love including self-love destroys the validity of all psychological theories. Proper self-love looks away from self to God and others. With that, we have come full circle and are back to a Matthew 22:37-40 and a proper understanding of love.

 

Application:

  1. Define love.
  2. How does your love model God’s love of Himself?
  3. How is it possible to self-love?
  4. What does godly self-love look like and from what does it spring?

 

 

 

 

Part I-IX: Prayer: What is it?

Part I: Prayer: What is it?

 

Prayer is a function of who God is and who man is. God is the Revealer, Creator, Controller, and Redeemer of His creation and creatures. God is man’s environment – He is omnipresent. Man lives as a dependent creature in God’s world. There is no escaping God (Ps. 139). Every being acknowledges or suppresses the presence, power, and righteousness of God (Rom. 1:18-20). Every person is aware of disharmony and strife in the universe and offers varying explanations and responses to it.

As the Revealer, God communicates with man. Man was created a revelation receiver, interpreter, and implementer. It is in the context of God’s self-revealing nature and man’s recipient nature that God speaks to man. God expects and equips man to speak to him. Graciously and intimately, God commands AND woos His creatures to communicate with Him – pray, often and without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).

Prayer is vertical. It is man’s communication to God and with God. The prayer of the believer is always addressed to God. Prayer is relational and involves giving. Man as a child of God gives himself – his time and effort – to God. In giving, man acknowledges, and hopefully rejoices that God is his Father and that He hears him.

Man praises God in the act of praying. He acknowledges God’s presence, power, plan, provisions, promises, and purpose. Man’s words are to be a fragrant offering to God who has given man the privilege of being known by Him and knowing Him. Every believer has the promise of being heard and having his prayer answered in God’s time.    As a man prays he is to give a good word to God for Who He is and what He has done as a privilege, blessing, and not simply out of duty. Prayer may petition God often seeking to know God intimately – His Person, goodness, promises, and power.

There are several Greek words in the New Testament that help form a basic knowledge regarding prayer. I am indebted to Dr. Jay Adams work in this area. The first word (proseuche) is broad and the most common word for prayer. It has the general meaning of speaking to God. All other words for prayer include, in part or the whole, talking to God (Eph. 1:6).

A second word is deesis. Prayer includes asking. This word expresses a particular or specific request (Luke 1:13; Phil. 4:6; Heb. 5:7). Prayer is an entreaty perhaps growing out of a particular need for any number of things. Asking for God’s help and or wisdom for knowing God and applying His truth are such examples. Another word for an aspect of prayer is eucharistia – thanksgiving. When he prays, the believer gives God a grateful acknowledgement of God’s goodness and power (2 Cor. 9:11-12; Rev. 7:12). The word has the idea of looking back and remembering. Paul exhorts, even requires, the Philippians to pray thankfully rather than to worry, thereby acknowledging God’s sovereign goodness and control (Phil. 4:6). An unthankful believer is an oxymoron; ungratefulness and discontentment are partners leading to unrest, strife, and disharmony, all of which are attacks on God (Phil. 2:14-17).

Another word for prayer is enteuxis which is used only twice in the New Testament (1 Tim. 4:4-5; Heb. 4:16). The word is multifaceted in its meaning and includes boldness, access, confidence, as well as intercession. Another word is aitema also used only twice in the New Testament (Phil. 4:6; 1 John 5:15). It carries the idea of request and petition. One other word to consider is hiketeria which occurs only once and carries a strong element of humility (Heb. 5:7).

The brief overview of prayer would not be complete without mentioning confession and adoration (1 John 1:9; Ps. 103:20-22). Confession – agreeing with and saying the same thing about self and actions or inactions, desires and thoughts as God does. Confession of sin as well as the truthfulness about God is essential for the Christian and honors God. Adoration is a biblical practice. In fact, it is the very essence – the soul – of prayer. Without it, God functions simply as a Giver at the service of the one praying. Rather, prayer that praises God for who He is, what He has done, and what He will do imitates Christ and moves people to a greater and proper understanding of God. In that way, God is praised.

 

Application:

  1. Define prayer.
  2. What are its essential features?
  3. How has your view of God and yourself influenced your prayer life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part II: Prayer and the Greatness of God

 

Prayer is what believers do out of a desire for a closer fellowship with God. Praying is a discipline. Talking with God is a product of a growing relationship with Him. Likewise, a growing relationship with God fosters prayer. Dr. Jay Adams writes that “Without prayer, God is a picture on the wall” and “Without prayer, there is no vital connection with God…” (See A Theology of Christian Counseling). These short sentences highlight the necessity of being a praying believer. In fact, any other kind of believer is a misnomer.

God hears and answers every prayer of the believer and even the unbeliever who may cry out as He did to the sailors in Jonah 1. Some people deny the fact that God hears and answers every prayer. This capacity is a reflection of His Tri-unity and His greatness. Often times the Triune-impact of hearing and answering prayer is missed. Prayer, in its doing and in its hearing, is Intratrinitarian. The Trinity is involved in every aspect of the believer including prayer. Believers are to pray to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit (John 14:13-17; 15:16-17; 16:14-15, 23-24, 26; Rom. 8:26-27). While the unbeliever can never pray that way God in His common kindness is involved in the life of every creature (Matt. 5:43-48; Acts 14:17; 17:24-31)

Moreover, heard and answered prayer is a reflection of God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Because the Triune God is omniscient, He knows every aspect of the prayee and his situation. It stands to reason that since God is omnipresent, He hears all prayers from all His people all the time. And since God is omnipotent He responds to and answers every prayer. Prayer brings the believer face to face with the living God and His awesomeness. God is transcendent – holy otherness and distinctness from mere men – and He is immanent – God’s closeness to His creation and His creatures. God’s answers maybe no, yes, or wait. He answers in His time, His way, for His glory, and for the benefit of His people.

As Paul closes his first letter to the Thessalonians he gives several commands:

  • rejoice always (5:16),
  • pray always – without ceasing (5:17),
  • be thankful in all circumstances (5:18),
  • don’t quench the Holy Spirit (5:19),
  • don’t despise prophecies (5:20),
  • test everything (5:21), and
  • abstain from every form of evil (5:22).

Verses 16-18 form a trio (joy, prayer, and gratitude) regarding the believer’s mindset and attitude toward God and consequently others. They speak of the relationship of God to the believer and the value the believer places on it. Paul, as the psalmist did, is calling the believer to be still and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10). The believer’s prayer life is a gauge of his view of God, of himself, and of God’s relationship to him.

 

Application:

  1. Examine your prayer life in terms of when, what, and how often.
  2. Examine your prayer life in terms of its content and intensity.
  3. Define prayer and its place in your life. Compare and contrast your communication with your best friend/spouse and with God. What motivates both?
  4. Determine what changes you need to make and your plans to make those changes.
  5. Get busy implementing those changes and record how your relationship with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit changes.

 

 

Part III: One Definition of Prayer

 

Consider this definition of prayer: “It is the language of creative dependence upon God from whom all being is derived.” (BM Palmer, Theology of Prayer). Dr. Palmer draws our attention to prayer under three aspects of language and communication:

  • Prayer is the appeal of the creature to the Creator. The creature calls out/speaks to God out of creaturely dependence on Him as Creator and Preserver of all His creatures and His world. From this perspective, the creature graciously petitions and thanks God acknowledging His presence, power, purpose, plan, promises, and provisions. Rightly understood, prayer mines the depth of biblical truth especially about God.
  • Prayer is the wail of the burdened sinner – guilt and conviction. From this perspective, the believer speaks the language of confession, repentance, and supplication. The believer is aware that repentance and confession are his friends because they honor God who forgives sin as Judge and Father.
  • Prayer is the worship of the informed, intelligent, and joyful person. The language is one of praise and adoration for who God is and what He has done and has promised to do.

The triune God is the object of our prayers. As in worship, God is the audience. The key is the God of prayer and not our prayers (Romans 8:26-27). Prayer may be offered to each Person of the Godhead/Trinity since God is one-in-three. Each person is God. The goal of prayer must be right. Since the ultimate end of all things is God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31), prayer to any other end is not honored – it is lost. God will not be mocked. He guards His honor and glory. He will not share it with another (Isa. 42: 8; 48:11).

The manner of prayer includes the following:

  • We must pray with understanding: 1 Corinthians 14:15. Since the believer has the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) and since faith is to be informed/intelligent, God honors prayer that is biblically-derived. Praying God’s thoughts and God’s words are a blessing and an encouragement. It pleases God. A right view of God, self, and others gives fabric and body to the believer’s prayer.
  • We must pray believingly: Hebrews 11:6; Mark 11:24; James 1:5-7. God is trustworthy and His promises are yes and amen in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20-22). Praying with doubt dishonors God and attempts to cast a shroud over His trustworthiness and good control.
  • We must pray fervently: James 5:16. The intensity of our praying should be a reflection of our commitment to pleasing God and not how “badly we desire to have something.” An intense desire to imitate Christ will drive and secure a God-pleasing prayer life.
  • We must pray constantly – without ceasing: 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Luke 18:1ff. The Holy Spirit is encouraging us to pray regularly – that is, with a habit of seeking God’s presence one on one. Constant communion with God is a privilege and blessing only for the believer.
  • We must pray sincerely: Pss. 17:1; 145:18. Covenantal faithfulness is a hallmark of God’s dealing with His people throughout redemptive history. A pure, undivided heart in coming to and speaking to God is a prerequisite for the believer’s daily faithfulness to God. Our speaking to God is no match for God’s revelation to us and for God’s sincerity to His Son and to His people. We can’t outdo God especially in the area of communication.

 

Application:

  1. Meditate on who God is and what He has done for His church and for you: see Ephesians 1:3-14 and Ps. 103:1-5.
  2. Write out how your answers influence your prayer life.
  3. Record the changes in your prayer life and the results.

 

 

Part IV: Prayer: Giving and Getting

 

Prayer is a reflection of the prayees’s (the one praying) view of God and his view of prayer. In prayer, the believer gives and gets. The believer is to give himself as he goes to God in prayer. Praying is an act of worship with God as the audience. It is a whole-person activity in which the person acknowledges that God is God and he is not – that it is God’s world and not his. When praying, the prayee acknowledges that God is good. The Triune God has the best interest of all of His children because His prime motivation is His own honor and glory.

The prayee also gets. He properly worships God when he begins with contentment and satisfaction based on a right view of God and himself. The believer has the blessing and confidence that he has been heard. Presenting praise and requests to God pleases and honors God. Rightfully, the believer expects an answer to his prayer. Yet God is not bound by time, space, or even His creatures. God does answer in His time not ours (Psalm 90). How is it possible that the infinite God relates to finite man and answers prayer? God lived and lives in a finite world in His incarnated Son and through the indwelling Holy Spirit. God meets the believer as the ever-present Triune God. The believer should be joyfully content with these non-negotiable facts.

Believers go to God in prayer, in part, in response to who He is and who they are – dependent creatures designed to be in proper sync with God. Fervent, regular prayer is one way that the believer manifests his proper relationship with God and its costs. It cost God His Son; the Son His place in heaven and His humiliation on earth including the cross; and the Holy Spirit indwelling Christ the Messiah, the Church, and the believer.

Also, believers pray because God commands them to pray: ask, seek, and knock (Matt. 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-10). These verbs are words that express more than mere action. They express a habituated pattern of communication with God. They teach persistence – not selfish grasping. God answers according to His timetable and in His way.

Matthew 7:7-11 comes after Jesus’ exhortation and command to avoid hypocritical, pharisaical judging (7:1-6).  Heavy stuff you might say. Hearing the strong exhortation recorded in Matthew 7:1-6 and command in 7:7-11, the disciples then, and you now, wonder what is the source of the strength to first judge self honestly, fervently, and with a goal to remove hypocrisy. Jesus knew His people then and now. He answered His disciples when He taught them to come to Him in prayer (Matt. 7:7-11). That teaching holds for the Church in all ages.

Similarly Luke 6:9-10 contains Jesus’ teaching on prayer. These passages follow Jesus’ teaching on the Lord’s Prayer (6:1-4) and on the tenacity and boldness of a persistent prayee (6:5-8). They precede Jesus’ teaching on the type of Father that believers have (6:11-13). In prayer, the believer is invited to plumb the depths of God’s graciousness as the Giver of all good gifts (James 1:5-8, 17). God’s wisdom is manifested in His answer to prayer whether it is yes, no, or wait. Believers will never have an unheard or unanswered prayer. Scripture gives various reasons for God’s no – a seemingly unanswered prayer. I will consider several of those reasons in a later blog.

 

Application:

 

  1. As you ponder the subject of prayer, consider God. He is your God who woos you and commands you to come to Him in prayer.
  2. What is your reaction and what are the reasons for your reaction to God’s invitation and command?
  3. When you seek intimacy with God through prayer, what are your goals and your hopes?

 

 

Part V: Prayer: Why Pray?

 

Many have asked that question. What is your answer? Some answers include: “I don’t know;” “God commanded it;” and “It is my way to let God know my feelings.” Others may think and even say, “It is how I get something from God.” Many books have been written on prayer but the subject still deserves to have the believers’ full attention.

To begin, the problem of not praying is you and your view of God and yourself.

If you do pray, what are your thoughts about the reason you pray? These will be linked to your view of God, prayer, and yourself. Let’s begin with how you define prayer. It is many things to many people. Basically, prayer is God-centered communication by the believer as he talks to God. In that sense, prayer is relational. Prayer, or the lack of it, expresses your view of your relationship with Christ and its significance. The relationship cost God His Son and cost the Son His place of glory in heaven and on earth for a time. The relationship is beneficial to you and obligates you to please God. There is joy and comfort when you are in proper relationship to God. There is misery and discontent when you are not.  In essence, prayer is based on your personal relationship with God. More accurately, prayer is a reflection of the importance and significance that you place on that relationship in contrast to the importance that God places on it.

We know it is Christ-like to pray. Jesus had the pattern of prayer in His own life. He carved out time to be alone with His God (Matthew 14:23; 26:36-46; Luke 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28-29; 11:1; 22:32, 41; 23:34, 46). “Jesus-in-prayer” is a special theme of Luke’s gospel. Jesus prayed often (Luke 5:16). Because we are in Christ and are new creatures in Christ, we are called to imitate Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). God-honoring prayer is one way believers do that.

Prayer makes a statement, audible or otherwise, about your view of God. As mentioned previously, God must be omniscient to know all aspects of every particular situation in order to answer every prayer. He must be omnipresent to hear every prayer that has been raised at any and all times and in all places. And God must be omnipotent in order to respond to every prayer in a way that He wishes and has ordained and is best for the believer. By its very nature, prayer assumes a transcendent God – His greatness and otherness – Who is powerful and good and has come to His people in His Son and His Spirit.

Certainly prayer is commanded and therefore it is doable (1 Thess. 5:17). What are some characteristics of Godly praying?

  • It is God-centered – directed only to the Triune living God.
  • It is relational: the believer seeks to communicate with God because God deserves it, the believer was re-created for it, and God is honored.
  • It expresses the significance of one’s relationship to God in daily life.
  • It is a testimony to the divine fact that this is God’s world not yours (Ps. 46:10).
  • It is commanded (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and therefore it is doable.
  • The believer benefits as he tastes the goodness of God (Ps. 34:8).
  • Prayer acknowledges your dependence on God in visible terms.
  • Prayer is a matter of the heart (Prov. 4:23) and your heart is the heart of the matter. Therefore it is not easy post-Fall to pray because the tendency to put self first (self-righteousness, self-sufficiency) still lingers in the believer as a legacy from previous membership in Satan’s family and kingdom.

Application:

  1. Write out your view of God and prayer.
  2. Give reasons for praying and not praying.
  3. Read passages such as 2 Corinthians 5:9, 17; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:1-3 and answer: how do the passages motivate you to pray? Give reasons for that motivation.

 

 

 

Prayer: Part VI: Seeming Unanswered Prayer

 

We have heard it and maybe even said it: “God has not answered my prayer.” The statement focuses on presumptions about God: His unwillingness to answer, His impotence, or a presumed lack of hearing on God’s part. But we know that God hears every prayer. This hearing is attributed to His Triune nature. The answer moves us to a question: does God answer every prayer? There are places in the Old Testament that may seem to suggest that God does not hear every prayer (Psalm 39:12; 54:2; 55:1-2; 66:18). Upon reading these passages one can conclude that God does not hear and therefore does not answer some prayers. However, the word hear may refer to more than the physical act of hearing; it may refer to heeding or paying attention; or it may refer to hearing and answering unfavorably or favorably. No matter how one considers God’s response to prayer the issue remains: does God hear and answer yes or no or wait to every prayer?

God does hear and answer every prayer. Any other answer denies God’s omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. Yet this fact does not mean that God grants every request in the way the one praying presented it. God does say no to the healing of a person in this life or to some other similar request. The Father said no to Christ in the Garden (Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:36; John 12:27-28). He said no to Paul (2 Cor. 12:9-12). God does not grant every request in every circumstance. In fact, Scripture teaches that some prayers are not considered worthy of being answered in certain situations. The following is a partial list of some of those circumstances. Again I am indebted to Dr. Jay E. Adams for his insights. God does answer, heed, and respond unfavorably to prayer that:

  • Is hypocritical. In Psalm 66:18, the psalmist speaks of cherishing sin in his heart as a reason for prayer that is not honored by God. It is heard prayer but God says no. Cherishing sin is a way of saying that the person says one thing and means another. He may be grieved by the consequences but he does not have a proper vertical reference. Repentance is not his focus. God will not be mocked. A hypocritical prayer is a reflection of a hypocritical prayee.
  • Issues from doubt. The prayee is a doubter and his prayer is an unbelieving one. God says to this type of prayer. In James 1:5-8 we learn that God is a generous Giver and Answerer of every prayer. Believers are to pray without doubting because God is the Listener par excellence and He uses His power and goodness to answer in His time, in His way, and for His glory.
  • Is resentful and the prayee is bitter. In Mark 11:24-25, we learn that asking God to give to you while failing to give to another is a surefire means of a prayer that God does not honor and in which God  say no. God will not be mocked. God is not a grudge holder, He shows no partiality, He loves His enemies, and He expects His children to return good for evil (Rom. 2:4, 11; Matt. 5:43-48; Rom. 12:17-21).
  • Is pharisaical. In Luke 18:9-14, the Pharisee’s prayer was public (see Matthew 6:4-5) and was recited to others and to himself. Honoring God was not his focus. God was not impressed. The Pharisee did not go away justified. God says no to this type of prayer and He does not honor the prayee.
  • Is self-centered and me-focused: James 4:1-3. Fights and quarrels – strife – result when believers are self-focused and motivated by the “I want” and “I deserve.” James teaches that believers do not get what they ask for when it is wrongly motivated – to please self at the expense of honoring God and loving others (Phil. 2:3-5). Their prayer is an extension of their self-focus.
  • Is unbiblical: John 15:7. Prayer that is contrary to God’s revealed word or a prayer that is directed toward getting for self at the expense of glorifying God or a prayer for one’s own glory and benefit at the expense of the welfare of others is prayer that God does not honor. Also, praying for wisdom and blessing without emphasizing doing and privilege is useless and senseless, a prayer that God does not honor. Rather, blessing comes in the praying and in the doing (John 13:17; James 1:22-25).
  • Is self-addressed: Luke 18:9-14. The Pharisee prayed in his name so that God would hear his recital. He moved in front of God on his own merits and highlighted them before God. He was interested in his glory and his feelings. His heart was far from God. Rather, prayer is to be made in Christ’s name for the Triune God’s glory (John 14:13-14; 16:24-26).

 

Application:

  1. Review your definition of prayer, the subject of prayer, and your requests.
  2. Are you a non-praying Christian? If so why?
  3. When was the last time you were faced with “unanswered” prayer? What was your response?
  4. What changes have you made as a result of reading the blogs?

 

Part VII: Prayer: God Does Tell People Not To Pray.

 

It seems strange that God exhorts people to pray without ceasing and then tells some people not to pray for others (Luke 18:1; Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17). The passages mentioned highlight the beauty, necessity, and trustworthiness of continued and regular prayer. Passages such as 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2:13 indicated that Paul practiced what he preached. He prayed continually – regularly – for his people (Rom. 1:9-10).

One place we encounter Yahweh’s interdiction on praying is found in Joshua 7:10. After Israel’s utter defeat at Ai, Joshua humbled himself before Yahweh and prayed. We are given part of the content of his prayer: What then will you do for your own great name?  Joshua was in danger of missing the point. The people were the problem. Idolatry was rampant in the people of Israel who had entered the Promised Land with great hopes and expectations. They had their marching orders but failed to honor Yahweh (7:3-5). In response Joshua tore his clothes (7:6) and asked Yahweh why they had been defeated (7:7). However, Joshua’s why took his readers back to the Garden and Adam’s response: the woman you gave me (Gen 3:12). Joshua’s why question blamed God for giving the Israelites into the hands of the Amorites. Yahweh responded by telling him to stop praying and get up – to get off his knees (7:10). Yahweh would have none of his arrogant blame shifting! Yahweh gave him the answer for the defeat (7:10-12). They had sinned against the first three commandments. They had worshipped themselves. Instead of praying they were to repent – consecrate themselves (7:13). We read of a similar situation in James 4 and 1 Peter 5 (James 4:4-6, 7-10; 1 Peter 5:6).  One reason for prayer that is interdicted and not honored is hypocritical prayer and its timing was wrong (See last blog and Ps. 66:18). Such was the case with Joshua. The call for the Israelites as they entered into the Promised Land was given in Deuteronomy (1:6-9; 4:39-40; 6:1-3; 7:1-6). Praying when the Israelites should have been busy trusting and obeying is not a substitute which honors God or that God honors. In this case, a specific idolatrous culprit (Achan) was found but Israel was an idolatrous nation.

Another place where prayer is interdicted is found in the book of Jeremiah (7:16; 11:14; 14:11-12). A true prophet, among other things, prays for his people. Yahweh told Jeremiah not pray for the people. Yahweh would not hear Jeremiah’s prayer. Certainly Yahweh heard the prayer BUT He told Jeremiah that He would not pay any attention to it. He gave the reason: unrepentant, patterned self-pleasing idolatry. God desired and deserved to have Israel’s heart. Instead they lived and worshipped their way, for self, by self, and to self. Again God would have none it. There was no hope for this nation UNLESS they repented. Jeremiah continued to pray for the people but the nation as a whole was judged by God as idolaters (Jer. 18:20).  God was calling Jeremiah to communicate to the people their drastic need for repentance – an about-face in thoughts and desires, which would usher in new and God-pleasing actions. Growth in Christlikeness for the individual and the church – the corporate community – was God’s design for His people.  Prayer was never designed to be a solitary activity.

 

Application:

  1. List some times in your life where prayer consumed you at the expense of using the situation to grow in Christlikeness.
  2. What made it easy for you to pray rather than changing thoughts, desires, and actions according to biblical truth rather than according to feelings?
  3. How will you use praying as a means of imitating Christ and using it to trust and obey?
  4. How does repentance fit into your prayer life?

 

Part VIII: Prayer and Power

 

I am sure you are familiar with the refrain the power of prayer. This saying seems to imply that there is power in prayer. If so, to what power is the statement referring? How is that power made manifest? The phrase seems to imply that answered prayer my way is testimony to the phrase: there is power in prayer. 

The phrase also raises the question: how does God get things accomplished in His world? Do accomplishments occur only because of the power of prayer? How does the statement the power of prayer address the issue of unfavorable results (those not preferred by the prayee)? How does it address seemingly good and pleasant times for unbelievers such as cures for diseases, financial gain, and improvement in his status in life and the opposite for believers who have been prayed for?

Power in prayer may be a slogan to encourage believers to pray and to pray without ceasing.  As noted in previous blogs, God commands and invites His people to communicate with Him via prayer regularly. God has a loving and caring relationship with His people. He delights to hear from them. His people should delight in pleasing Him. Therefore praying is a blessing and a privilege, not simply a duty or a means to get something. Enjoying and understanding the beauty of prayer comes from knowing and acting upon certain truths:

  • You have a relationship with the Lord of lords and King of kings.
  • The relationship was established by the shed blood of Christ and its benefits applied by the Holy Spirit.
  • The relationship was designed in part for greater fellowship with the Triune God in anticipation of eternity in His presence. Fellowship begins the moment one is regenerated and is experienced on this earth through prayer.

Prayer itself has no power. The God of prayer is power of prayer. The Triune God is the author of prayer and the God of every believer. The Father ordains and commands it, the Son intercedes for His children, and the Holy Spirit motivates and directs the believer as he prays. God’s presence, power, promises, plan, purpose, and provisions are encompassed in prayer and praying.

Consider these truths:

  • God does not need the believer’s prayer to accomplish His ordained will – that which comes to pass.
  • “Good” things happen to believers without a prayer being raised asking for them.
  • Unbelievers experience God’s goodness often without any prayer by others requesting or demanding it.
  • Good things happen to all kinds of people whether prayed for or not: the rain falls on the just and unjust, the wicked prosper, and “bad people” – God’s enemies – are restored, and Yahweh restored Israel in  spite of her prayer-less self (Matt. 5:43-48; Acts 14:17; Ps. 73:1-5; Jer. 1:9-10; 12:15; 48:47; 49:6, 39; Deut. 30:1-10).
  • God is generous and a liberal Giver – James 1:5-8. He gives Himself in His Son, Holy Spirit, Scripture, Church, fellow believers, and enabling, sanctifying grace. The believer’s prayer and praying can never match God’s resources and generosity.
  • The God of prayer and not prayer itself is the key. The God of prayer is the God of His people and prayer is His ordained means for His people coming into His very presence.

Godly prayer, godly praying, and the righteous prayee are a testimony to and for belief in the Triune God. Only the true believer has a correct view of God, himself, and prayer. Humbly the believer seeks the presence of the omnipresent and omniscient God in a most intimate way. He seeks, asks, and finds. He finds God Himself. Throughout Scripture and by the example of saints throughout history, the believer is graciously and powerfully exhorted and motivated to pray in God’s will, for God’s will to be known and followed. He is to pray confidently, humbly, and expectantly. The believer should appreciate the fact that Christ, the God-man, prayed regularly. He knew He was heard. He prayed for what He had been promised: His people (John 6:37-43; 17:20-23), the Gentiles (Isa. 49:1-12), and the glory of the Triune God (John 17:1-5).

 

Application:

  1. What are your thoughts regarding the power of prayer?
  2. Is it an open sesame slogan?
  3. When the results that God gives as He answers prayer are less than you desire, what do you think of prayer and its power? What do you think of God?
  4. What changes should make re: prayer and the God of prayer?

 

Part IX: Prayer:  How have you responded to God’s no and wait?

 

Our discussion now moves to the believer’s response to prayer. The believer’s view of himself, God, prayer, and God’s providence (control) are key characteristics when considering a response to prayer. Some may assume that they deserve to have prayers answered their way and right now.  Others may deny God’s goodness and pray doubting. Others may make praying without ceasing the defining characteristic of their life. The last sentence may contain thoughts that may be unnerving. How is it possible to pray too long or too much or too intense?

As in every aspect of the Christian life, motivation and knowledge are keys. Why do you pray? What motivates you to pray and to who are you praying? Prayer as an expression of awe and gratitude and an outworking of fellowship bought with a price is a blessing for the prayee and a monument to grace and the God of grace. One’s motivation (reason for praying) is tied to a person’s response to God’s answer. If one approaches God in prayer with a high view of himself, that believer can expect God to say no.  God’s no is a blessing but so often non-recognized and even rejected. God will not be mocked (Gal. 6:7). God’s no in any situation is best for God and the believer. The fact that the believer does not understand is not key.  A no answer to prayer is a time to reflect on the request, you the requestor, and God who answers every prayer. While not directly related to prayer Genesis 50:15-20 gives a succinct insight into God, His providence, and the believer’s response. Joseph seemed to be a pawn in God’s “hand.” He was God’s agent but no pawn. There were many times when Joseph could not figure out God. Yet he remained faithful. God’s will came full circle. The dreamer of Genesis 37 (verses 6 and 9) is the dreamer in Genesis 42-43 (verses 6 and verses 26, 28). In Genesis 50 (verse 15-20), he declared God’s wisdom in contrast to the wisdom of the brothers and also his. God meant their evil deeds to produce great and good things which would honor God and protect Israel and even Egypt. Joseph continued but increasingly acknowledged and enjoyed God’s control.

In 2 Corinthians 12, we encounter Paul, his vision, God’s revelation, and his physical malady. In response to the latter, Paul prayed earnestly (12:7-8). He beseeched God three times for relief. Paul thought the best situation for God, the Church, and his kingdom work was for him to have a body without the particular malady that God had given him (see. Gal. 4:19). In contrast to God’s response to Joseph, God responded quickly. It was no and He gave a reason: God’s grace was more than enough for Paul to be all that God wanted him to be (12:9). One can only respond with a big WOW! But what follows is more amazing. Paul responded using unfamiliar words. Paul prayed for and delighted in more problems. How can that be? Paul was growing as a believer AND an agent of God.  His wisdom was no match for God’s (1 Cor. 1:18-32; 2:1-6). He understood that answered prayer is a given and a blessing. The answer is less important. He looked beyond the problem to the God of the problem. Therefore he delighted in God’s providence and His purpose – for Paul and every believer to become more like Christ. The ministry that had been given to Paul as a gift would continue and Paul rejoiced. Part of his ministry was demonstrating to believers how to properly respond to God’s no.

Everyone knows the story of Job. He was declared a righteous and blameless man by God (Job 1:1; 2:3). God used Job to demonstrate to Job, Satan, believer, and the world that He was King, Savior, Protector, and worthy of allegiance. Job was besieged by problems outside his body (1:1:13-19), with his body (2:7-8), and with his friends (chapters 3-31) who did not understand themselves, Job’s situation, or God and His control. Consequently, Job prayed for explanations, then relief, and ultimately he demanded that God explain Himself. Rather, God gave Job Himself. God’s perspective, not Job’s, was the key. In the end, Job got it. His prayers changed. Knowing chapters 1-2 of the book were not important for Job humbling himself and repenting before God. He received something far more glorious: God Himself. God had a humbled and repentant Job intercede for his friends who God then spared. Job was rewarded many-fold. Job was a type of Christ. But unlike Christ, there was no voluntary submission to God’s will and Job did not initially humble himself before God. God’s presence and prayer was a burden (6:4; 7:20; 10:1-4, 8-17; 13:27; 19:13-23; 23:3; 30:16-19; 33:7).  God answered Job but in His way and in His timing. Job was grateful for God’s ways.

 

Application:

  1. Review God and prayer.
  2. God answers prayers – His way, in His time, and for His glory and the benefit of the believer. Compare and contrast your prayers and your response to God’s answer with those of Joseph, Job, and Paul. What do you learn?
  3. List your prayer requests in order of priority, your motivation, God’s answer, and your response. What do you learn about God, self, and prayer?