Sunday, March 26, 2023

Knowing by the Spirit

2 Corinthians 5:16:

16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.

Paul said they no longer knew Christ according to the flesh, even though they, (not Paul but the other apostles), did once know Him in the flesh. Those who knew Jesus when He was here on Earth, didn’t continue to base their relationship with Him on a fleshly level once He died and was resurrected. In the same way, Paul said, they didn’t recognize anyone according to the flesh—whether they were Jew or Gentile, rich or poor etc.

So how did they know Christ, and others, if not through their fleshly relationships? By the spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:11:

11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.

No one knows the mind of a man except the spirit that is in him. And no one knows the mind of God except the Spirit of God. The only way to know God is through His Spirit. The only way to know people is through their spirit. If we want to know God’s thoughts, we have to know His Spirit, and the same is true with people. (It’s worth noting that when we come across people who are filled with the Spirit of God, we already “know” them to a certain degree because we share the same Spirit).

So, if we are to get to know someone by their spirit, how do we find out what is in their spirit?

Matthew 12:34-35

34 …the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.

You know what is in a person’s heart by what they say. This is how you get to know people, through talking with them—through words. We get to know God through His Word as well.

John 6:63:

63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.

Jesus’ words are spirit and life. Words are spiritual. They reveal the spirit they come from. Jesus’ words give life because He is life (John 14:6) and comes from the Father of life. We come to know Him and His life through His words.

John 6:67-69:

67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Peter told Jesus that they knew He had the words of eternal life. Through these words they had come to know and believe that He is the Holy One of God—the Messiah. They came to know Him through His Word.

John 14:25-26:

25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

While Jesus was here in the flesh He spoke directly to His disciples, but once He ascended to the Father, the Holy Spirit came in His place. The Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds us of all that Jesus has said and done. We know Jesus, and the Father, through the Spirit, and the words which reveal His Spirit. We get to know our brothers and sisters in Christ this same way—by getting to know their spirit, through their words which reveal their spirit.

In the Garden, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God daily, but when they sinned, they didn't want to talk to Him. They didn’t want Him to know what they had done. They knew their words would give away what just happened, and they did (Genesis 3:8-11).

Matthew 7:21-23

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

These ones that the Lord will tell to depart from Him, even though they did miracles and prophesied in His name, are those whom He doesn’t know. Those He never knew. Those who are not of the same Spirit as He is. They are those who practice lawlessness—who sin—those who do not do the will of the Father.

The Lord knows those who do the will of the Father—who keep His Word. These are the ones He knows. He doesn’t know a person just because they use His name to prophesy, cast out demons or do miracles.

If we want a relationship with the Lord where we know Him and He knows us, we need to spend time in prayer—walking and talking with Him—to get to know each other. We know Him through His Word; and by keeping His Word He knows us, recognizing that we are of the same Spirit.

Consider these verses from the gospel of John:

John 15:

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

We are to abide in Him, and He in us if we are to bear fruit.

6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

If we abide in Him AND His words abide in us, our prayers are answered. We become fruitful. Those not abiding in Him are thrown away as a branch that has dried up.

8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

The Father is glorified when we bear much fruit, and in so doing we prove we are His disciples.

10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

When we keep His commandments, we remain in His love, and His commandment is to love each other as He has loved us.

Once again, by spending time daily with the Lord, abiding in Him, allowing His Words to abide in us, we will develop a relationship with the Lord, come to know Him more intimately, bear fruit which glorifies the Father, and ensure that He knows and us, recognizing that the same Spirit which is in us is in Him.

Loving the Unseen God

 1 John 4:20:

20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.

What does this mean?

When John wrote that one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen, he didn't mean we must love what is seen (your brother) first before we can love God. We know this is true because Jesus said the first commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:35-40). We are to love God first, then others.

Yet John is saying that we can’t say we love God if we don’t love our brothers and sisters in Christ, or we’d be lying. Why is this?

Because if we love God, we’ll keep His commandments.

John 14:15:

15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

What is His commandment?

John 15:12:

12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

So if we love God, we will keep His commandments to both love Him (Matthew 22:37) and each other (John 15:12). If we don’t love each other then we are not keeping His commandment, and if we don’t keep His commandment then we don’t love Him.

Simply put, our love for God is evidenced by our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

John 13:35:

35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Everyone will be able to tell we are disciples of Jesus by our love for other believers.

However, this kind of love is a sincere love, not just hypocritical deeds to make it look like we’re a good Christian. The proper motive for loving other believers is that we are doing so because we love God and want to keep His commandments.

1 John 5:2:

2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.

In other words, when we love God, and love others out of obedience to Him, then we know that we really do love His children. We have the proper motive. Our love is genuine.

Yet remember, it’s not just the appearance of love that is evidence of our love for God, but genuine love which comes from loving God first. This will only work if our love for the Lord remains alive.

Matthew 22:37-39:

37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Notice the order Jesus gives. We are to love God first, then people. If we love any person before God, then we have placed an idol before God. They have become an idol in our lives, something worshiped above God Himself. They will take a higher priority in our time, money, etc. God is a jealous God, and this does not set well with Him!

When we place people as a higher priority in our lives above God, then even our prayers can become manipulative as we seek the will of the person we are praying for above the will of God.

As always, it’s important to look at our heart motives in the things we do, including our love for others. On the one hand, we don’t want our love for people to take a higher priority over our love for God. Yet on the other hand, our love for people is evidence that we love God.

Taking time daily to revive our love for God through intimate time with Him in worship and prayer will help us guard against this kind of idolatry and keep our motives pure.

Monday, March 20, 2023

The Fruit of Faithfulness

I believe God is cultivating the fruit of faithfulness in His Church. I believe the lack of it has been why we have not seen certain victories we'd like to. I believe He's teaching us:

  • Faithfulness over rebellion. 
  • Humility and submission to His will over brute force. 
  • Proper prioritization, patience, and peace. 
  • True faith and trust in Him. 
  • Not to fight with stubbornness, thinking it’s our stubborn "faith" that will win a battle.
  • We need faithfulness —loyalty to Him, no matter what comes our way.
God cares about our heart and priorities which is why we need to hear from Him and be faithful to that.

Stubbornness is from the root of pride, and rebellion. Faithfulness is from humility and submission to the will of God. Faithfulness goes a lot farther in dispersing the enemy out of areas he has illegally occupied because its backed by the Spirit and power of God. We speak the Word of God in faith, or faithfulness. We are faithful to His Spirit and to His true intention of those words.

Stubbornness is a false faith. It’s forcefully exerting our will over another’s. It takes a lot of energy, and it will wear you out. If we get our way as a result of this false faith, then our pride and rebellion are reinforced. It’s the mercy of God that we don’t get “answers” to our “prayers” when we’re operating in this kind of stubbornness.

The goal of the antichrist spirit is to exalt another’s will above God’s (or anyone else’s). This is witchcraft as well as rebellion. A message which puts greater priority on people seeking things they want above seeking God’s leading falls into this category and is flat out wrong.

There was a lot of preaching back in the 1970-1980’s by people who looked down on those who said, “If it be Your will” when they prayed. They were sometimes ridiculed. Of course, some were saying that to replace seeking God’s will, more as an excuse or a way to place blame when things didn’t work out right. But in spite of those errors, our intention should always be for God’s will to be done above ours. Jesus confirmed in the garden before He died that He was committed to God’s will being done rather than His own (Luke 22:42). If you don’t know the will of God, consider that an invitation to ask Him, but don’t assume that your will is automatically His, or that you know what His will is in each situation without seeking Him first.

Some of those preachers back then, and even today, were sincere in their efforts to get people to know the will of God and pray it boldly, without doubt. But some were actually feeding their own lusts and encouraging others to do the same. And some went farther than that and took advantage of Christians with out-of-control lusts using that for their own selfish purposes.

In any case, many listeners to these messages were not strong enough in their faithfulness to God to resist the temptation to believe they could get whatever they wanted if they just stuck it out long enough—if they just had stubborn faith. These words preached to them were planted in an immature, covetous, or lustful heart and produced stubborn “fruit,” a false “faith,” not the fruit of the Spirit which is faithfulness. We must be emptied of all stubborn selfishness and sinful cravings of the flesh to keep from falling into this kind of deception and error.

Stubborn “faith” takes a lot of energy. When Saul when was persecuting Christians, he thought he was working for God, pleasing God, but he was really opposing him. In Acts 26:14 the Lord told him it is hard to kick against the goads. Fighting God takes a lot of energy. Some people today are getting burned out. They are fighting many battles in their own strength. Political battles. Other battles. They are getting worn out fighting God, or an enemy on the wrong battlefield. They may think they have a determined faith when in reality they’re kicking against the goads or in a battle they were not sent to fight.

When things are difficult we must discern whether it's because we’re engaging the enemy we were sent to confront, or whether it’s because we’re fighting God. If we’re on the wrong battlefield He will tell us, and draw us back to Him. If we don't respond to Him, then we end up fighting Him. We need discernment. 

We might think we’re engaging the enemy when all we’re doing is trying to fight him in our own strength. Our motivation is not that we were sent by the Spirit into this battle, but that we are angry, fearful, full of despair, or just arrogant enough that we refuse to do anything that would look like retreat. Complete surrender to God and His way is what we need to “win” our battles. And winning to God often looks different than what winning looks like to us.

Any teaching which sends the message that if you just had real faith, you would always get what you want, rather than focusing on how to hear the Spirit of God reveal the will of God to you, cultivates stubbornness and rebellion in a person. It’s like tares sown among wheat. When a vulnerable person hears this, especially a new believer, they are not receiving the true message of the Gospel. Once a child is spoiled on candy, it’s hard to get them to eat their vegetables. They will end up viewing God as their servant, expecting Him to give them everything they want just like a spoiled child. The sad thing is, this causes great harm to themselves and to the body of Christ.

New believers need to be taught that not only are they entering a family with an inheritance when they are born-again, but they are entering a kingdom, an army. They are soldiers. They will be inconvenienced at times. It will be hard at times. Yes, Father God will bring them through the tough battles, but if the enemy can keep them off the battlefield while looking for the pleasures of life, or lead them to the wrong battlefield altogether, they’ll be fighting the air, wearing themselves out, and not accomplishing anything for the kingdom of God in their lives or others, despite their best efforts.

Let’s respond to God cultivating the fruit of faithfulness in us. The body of Christ needs this fruit maybe more than we ever have before. Let us pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.” (Matthew 6:10). Let’s find out the gardens and battlefields He wants us to work in, and then do what He says. He’s not going to neglect taking care of us. We don’t have to worry about that. If we seek His kingdom and His righteousness first, all of that will be taken care of (Matthew 6:33).