Wednesday, March 21, 2018

P2 - How Jesus Christ Provides For Christians That Feel Spiritually Drained

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Romans 15:5-6 "Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."


In our last post, we considered how Jesus Christ provides for the Christian whenever they feel spiritually drained. We introduced this subject by first identifying the typical spiritual ailments that afflict all Christians. In this post we aim to explore how Christ has specifically provided for any Christian that has experienced what it is like to be spiritually, physically and emotionally drained. 

1. Jesus' incarnation enabled Him to experience fatigue

Jesus did experience, as man, what is was like to get drained. In Luke 8:46 we read of the account where a woman with a severe hemorrhage sought Jesus for healing. She was crawling along the ground among the mob of people encircling Jesus. The woman desired to touch the hem of his robe. In Jewish culture it was common for the men to have tassels on their robes that symbolized the promises and commands of the Torah or God's law.  As soon as the woman did this, Luke 8:46 tells us: “power went out from him to heal the woman”. Jesus sensed this "draining".

To remind the reader briefly: Jesus of Nazareth ever remained God. Isaiah 40:28 asserts that God never grows tired nor weary. Jesus of Nazareth ever remained the Divine Person of the Son. With that said, the reader must remember that from the moment He entered into the virgin's womb, the Holy Spirit joined a truly human nature to the Son of God - resulting in union of two natures within the Person of the Son. Henceforth, the Son of God could experience reality as both God and man. He never grew tired in His deity and yet, He would experience the fatigue of human existence as a man. The Lord Jesus Christ knew what it felt to pour out Himself for the sake of others. 

2. Jesus became incarnate to model how getting alone with the heavenly Father will replenish the spiritual fuel-tank of the Christian

To cite one more example of Jesus' experience of being "drained", consider Mark 8:24. Mark 8:24 plainly states that Jesus was fast asleep in the bottom of a boat. The Son of God did experience fatigue as such experience touched His humanity.

Yet, we never once see Jesus get distressed, delay obedience nor get discouraged over fear that God may had somehow abandoned Him. As one writer has note:

"our Lord was often imposed upon by life, by people and by circumstance, yet, He never once was unsettled in His spirit."

Whenever Paul cites Jesus in Romans 15:3, He describes how Jesus "never pleased Himself". Jesus willing took whatever this world and humanity threw at Him. He put Himself last. Is it no wonder we find Jesus retreating in solitude to get recharged with the Father (see Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 6:12).  Such an example set before the Christian by the Lord Jesus portrays the path to replenishment - namely finding time alone with God.

Most certainly, other important disciplines are needful for replenishment, which the Apostle Paul lays out in Romans 15 (meditating on scripture, making time for God's people and majoring on the Holy Spirit's leadership). Yet, Jesus gives us the foundation for refueling the spiritual tank of the Christian-life - time alone with God. Why? All the other Christian disciplines are but means to this singular goal of knowing the Heavenly Father through the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Jesus became incarnate to provide the Christian what they need whenever they get drained 

The Apostle Peter's sermon on the life of Jesus in Acts 10 gives abundant testimony of all that Jesus did in the course of His earthly ministry in the Gospel accounts. Acts 10:38 records an excerpt from that address:

"You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."

Jesus went about "doing good". Jesus went about "healing all who were oppressed by the devil". Yet, in the midst of all the business of ministry and life, Jesus never lost His sense of the presence of the Father. Whenever a Christ-follower is able to walk-about with that supreme awareness of God's working in and through them, others will take notice. With the work of ministry and the involvement of one's soul in communion with God comes the draining of one's physical body. Jesus never let the work of God take priority over His time-alone with God. Jesus would get drained - but never empty.

By becoming truly man, the Son of God provided the resources every Christian can access in living daily for Him. The Apostle Peter describes the Christian's access to the benefits accrued by Christ in His incarnation as that of "partaking" or "participation" in the Divine nature (compare 2 Peter 1:3-4). Paul uses different terms to describe this availability every Christian has to get refueled in their spiritual walk by the vocabulary of "union with Christ" and "drinking in of the Spirit" (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

The Person of the Son will ever have residing in Himself the two natures of true deity and true humanity. The wonder of the Christian in union with Jesus is that all He is and all He did makes me a beneficiary of all I need to live out effectively for Him in this world. Quite literally, I'm living the Christian life as Christ, in-turn, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, lives out the life in me (see Galatians 2:20).

Friday, March 16, 2018

P1 - How Jesus Christ Provides For Christians That Feel Spiritually Drained

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Romans 15:1-3 "Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. 2 Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”


The Christian life is a call to die to self, put others ahead of ourselves and to fix our eyes on Jesus. Each of the aforementioned elements do not follow from the carnal drives that remain in the Christian. Christ-followers find propensities within themselves to put themselves ahead of others. One author has termed the "self-life" as the "me-in-me" life. The self-life is the number-one competitor to ongoing Christian growth. The goal of Christian-growth is to have "Him-in-me" characterizing Christian-living, rather than the all-to-often "me-in-me" mentality. Thankfully every Christian has access to Christ by the indwelling Person and work of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 3:16; 6:19-20; Galatians 2:20; 5:16; Ephesians 5:18).

What can lead to feeling spiritually emotionally or physically drained

If dealing with oneself is not enough, we find in the opening verses of Romans 15 certain spiritual maladies that affect all Christians. Seasons come into the Christian's walk that are characterized by "weaknesses" and "having no strength" (see Romans 15:1). Such spiritual-liabilities may arise not so much as a direct result of overt sin as through the process of emptying the spiritual gas-tank. Everyone experiences what it is like to get "drained". Following the point beyond what were terming "spiritually drained" is a matter of whether or not the Christian does something about it through the Divinely appointed means of grace through Christ.  

To illustrate, I can recall as a boy how my father would let me borrow the family car. He always told me to make sure that whenever I was done - to fill the tank. My father always ran the car above the three-quarter mark. But do you know, as a teenage boy, I would run that car until it got near to "E". More than one time I would hear him say: "E" means "empty", not "enough". I won't comment further on my driving habits today, however, I too often find myself treating my Christian life much like I did the family car. If I would follow the Heavenly Father by the example set by the Son and empowered by His Spirit on a consistent basis, though I may still experience "drainage", yet, the gas-gauge might be able to never read "E". Each occasion of life is an opportunity for me to either "trust in the Lord" rather than to "lean on my own understanding" (see Proverbs 3:5-6).  

1 Thessalonians 5:14 elaborates for us on the "spiritual maladies already mentioned in in Romans 15:1 -  

“We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

Jude adds insight to the garden-variety ailments that afflict God's people, and what their fellow-believers need to do, in Jude 1:22 “....have mercy on some who are doubting.”

In the verses above I identify four maladies, the first resulting from interacting with the needs of others, whilst the remainder follow from the Christian either unintentionally or at times carelessly letting down their guard: drained --> discouraged, delayed obedience, distress.

How Christ is the resource for the Christian that feels drained 

Whenever the Apostle writes about the typical Christian experience, his inclusion of the Lord Jesus Christ is such a relief. Why? Christ came to partake of true humanity for three main reasons:

a). to atone for sin (Romans 5:6-8; 1 John 2:1-2).

b). to defeat Satan by becoming the New Adam (Romans 5:12-21; 1 John 3:8).

c).  to provide what was needed for His people to gain victory over the world, flesh and Devil in their humanity (Hebrews 2:14).

A quick study of Jesus' life reveals how he would get drained in the course of His everyday life. Spiritual, emotional and physical drainage is part-and-parcel of living in this world. Yet, unlike those of us who follow Him in faith, the Lord Jesus Christ never once lost awareness of who He was nor ever acted carelessly. Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4:13-14 that "whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst".

As we shall see, although Jesus did experience what it was liked to get drained, He never once had his spiritual gas tank read "E". That is, the Lord Jesus did get saddened but never discouraged (there is a difference, mind-you). He often faced opposition when doing the will of the Father but never delayed in obedience. His heart grew heavier with the pending approach of Calvary, yet, He never got distressed due to feeling like God was no longer in control. To describe Jesus' experience in another way: Jesus never let His well run dry. Three headings will guide us through considerations of how Jesus Christ, by His incarnation, provides everything the Christian needs to not go empty whenever they are feeling drained. To those headings we will look in the next post. 

More next time....

Saturday, March 10, 2018

P3 - The Judgment Seat of Christ - Why It Matters To You

Image result for gold silver precious stones

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."


Over the last few posts, we have explored the topic of "the judgment seat of Christ". This future event will feature Christ evaluating each Christian's post-conversion life. This event, as we discovered, will occur right after the rapture of the church. For those wanting to review the first post in this series, click here:

We also took the time to survey the types of rewards that Jesus will hand out to those persons demonstrating faithfulness to him in this life. For those interested in reviewing that post, please click here:

In this third and final installment of our series, we want to explore why there must be a judgment seat if the Christian's salvation is a settled matter. We will also suggest two life-practical reasons why Christians ought to take more seriously the kinds of rewards they'll receive while living their lives for Jesus.

Why the judgment seat of Christ, if the Christian's salvation is already a settled matter?

We've looked at when the judgment seat of Christ will occur and what we can expect from it. However, why would Jesus have each of His people stand before His throne for a time of examination and reward, whenever the issue of salvation is not in question? After all, isn't the point of salvation to simply save us from present and future wrath (see Romans 5:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10)? 

Hopefully, the reader has already understood that Christianity is much more than "fire-insurance". Christians are not only saved "from something", but "to something". The Gospel not only provides "fire insurance" but "life assurance". Think about how grateful every Christian will be when they stand before their Lord? Or, think about how much it can motivate present faith to hear the commendation of their Lord: "well done thou good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21,23). 

Two reasons come to mind as to why Jesus would have Christians stand before him at the "Bema-seat" to give an account.

a. Motivation for godly living. 

Think of someone going to school to get a diploma or a degree. How motivating it is to reflect on that time they step across a stage to get that piece of paper. Or, think about how athletes will train for months to get a medal? Again, motivation is a big factor in how well they train and perform. Motivation is more than appropriate as to why rewards are handed out in either case. Think about how much motivation the Christian needs to live the Godly life. I myself often think about "is it worth it"? 

Whenever I think about seeing the Lord Jesus, hearing his commendation and receiving rewards for having "lived the life well", the virtues His Spirit is working forth in my life are made all the stronger. Passages such as 1 John 3:1-3 connect the Lord's return to how much of a godly life the Christian will lead.

b. Majesty of Christ.

Whenever we turn to Revelation 4:10-11, we find reference to 24 elders, which represent the saints of God in every age. Notice the description of what believers will do when they see their Lord in Revelation 4:10-11,

"the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

Closing thoughts:

In these last couple of posts, we've considered the subject of the "judgment seat of Christ" or the matter of the Christian's future rewards. We considered the timing this examination of the Christian (following the rapture of the church, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 2 Corinthians 5:5-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; Revelation 19:7-8). We also looked at the particular areas and rewards Christ will give to each believer. We then considered why the judgment seat of Christ will occur. What final thoughts can we offer as we close out our survey of this vital area of Biblical revelation?So many thoughts could be offered, but for sake of time, let me mention a handful to tie our study to a close. 

All of the crowns we looked at earlier are not designed for the Christian to wear around in eternity to boast and say: "look what I've done!" Rather, the purpose of the rewards or crowns is to ascribe glory to Jesus Christ and say, in effect, "look what He has done"! The theme of heaven is the glory of God in Christ. The Christian is destined to reign with Jesus as an heir of God and co-heir with Him (Romans 8:14-16). To point the glory to Jesus Christ is much like Olympic athletes that gladly yield their accomplishments for the raising of the flag of their country while on the podium. The ultimate reason for the Bema-seat or Judgment-seat of Christ is for His church to shine forth and point to Him that made it possible for each Christian to stand before His throne. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

P2 - The Judgment Seat of Christ - What Will Take Place

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2 Corinthians 5:10 "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad."


In our last post we began considering the subject of the Christian's future rewards. For those desiring to review the previous post, click here:

We noted that this event, called "the judgment seat of Christ", will occur following the rapture or "catching-away" of Christians by Jesus from this planet before or near the beginning of the seven-year tribulation period. Quite frankly, the subject of future rewards doesn't get mentioned much in pulpits. The value of such a study and the preaching of it is in how it can motivate Christians to more godly living.

As Paul writes in Romans 14:10-12, each Christian will stand before the Lord to "give an account". The opening text in today's post, 2 Corinthians 5:10, indicates that during the judgment seat of Christ examination, believers will be evaluated on the basis of what they did with respect to "deeds done while in the body". Paul's remarks in 2 Corinthians 5:5-10 provide the logic behind why believers must have their physical, glorified resurrected bodies re-united with what will be their perfected, immaterial souls following the rapture of the church. In today's post, we aim to answer the question about the kinds of rewards Christ will issue at His judgment seat or "Bema-seat". 

What kind of rewards will believers receive at the judgment seat of Christ?

As we consider the cluster of texts that discuss the judgment seat of Christ, we discover three particular areas and five particular rewards handed out once every Christian is with the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The three main areas in which each Christian will be examined are the following:

a. The ways in which we conducted our lives following saving faith. Romans 14:10-12

b. The works we did will be examined as to whether they subtracted (i.e. wood, hay, or stubble) or contributed (i.e. gold, silver, precious stones) to the Kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

c. The witness of the Christian will be scrutinized with respect to words said and opportunities to share their faith (2 Corinthians 5:5-10)

In the above three areas, the New Testament bears out five main rewards or "crowns" that represent areas of responsibility each Christian has in the course of daily Christian-living. The late Bible scholar J. Dwight Pentecost notes the following headings for these rewards:

a. Incorruptible Crown, given for the mastery of the old-man or the flesh (1 Corinthians 9:25).

b. Crown of Rejoicing, given to soul-winners (1 Thessalonians 2:19).

c. Crown of Life, given for enduring trials (James 1:12).

d. Crown of Righteousness, for loving His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).

e. Crown of Glory, for feeding the flock (1 Peter 5:4). 

Whenever I scan over the above five rewards and three main areas, I'm immediately convicted, challenged and comforted all at once. The conviction comes when I find myself not doing as well as I ought often-times. I sometimes neglect witnessing opportunities or choose to follow the flesh rather than the Spirit. Some days are "wood,hay and stubble" days for sure. 

The above scriptures challenge the Christian to strive all the more to live a life that is pleasurable to God. After-all, the Christian is saved not only from wrath, sin and hell; but also to to good works (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:12-13; 1 Peter 2:9-12; 2 Peter 1:3-4; Hebrews 10:24-25). It is then I find comfort in knowing that all the good works that I am expected to do post-conversion are as a result of the Holy Spirit empowering me to do such (again, Philippians 2:12-13). Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that such works were "prepared in advance". Thus, in that glorious time in heaven, right after the rapture, whenever I stand before Christ, the glory will not be in my rewards. Rather, the glory will manifest in the raising of the banner of His glorious name. It is in Jesus' accomplishments on the cross that believers derive any credit to live this life and to stand blameless before His throne. 
More next post....

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

P1 - The Judgment Seat of Christ - When It Will Take Place

Image result for Olympic medal ceremony
Romans 14:10-12 "But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God. 12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God."


Anytime one watches an event like the Olympics, one of the most dramatic moments comes in the medal  ceremony. Not only are gold, silver or bronze medallions placed around the necks of the athletes, but what follows adds to the ceremony: namely, the raising of the flags represented by each participant receiving such rewards. Even though the athlete competed, trained and won the given event, yet it is the particular country that is made prominent. To compete for one's country justifies the years of hard training to perform for those few moments. 

How often do we read of the Christian life as mimicking an athletic competition? 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 states for example:

"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable."

In Romans 14:10-12, Paul makes mention of standing before the "judgment seat of God". This phrase derives from the world of the courtroom, of the orator speaking from a raised platform or of ancient games such as the Olympics in Athens or Isthmian Games in Corinth. The word behind this phrase is that of "Bema Seat". The "bema-seat" or "judgment-seat of God" (or Christ) is to be the set-aside time when all Christians will stand before Christ. This time of examination, of reward, is distinguished from the Great White Throne judgment that we read about in passages such as Revelation 20. 

What occupies the interest of today's post is why the judgment seat of Christ (as it is so named in 2 Corinthians 5:10) is so important to believers. Why should I care about an event that is in the future, in heaven? Why should the judgment seat of Christ make a difference if one's salvation in Christ is not going to be in question in that time? Below we will explore, in brief, the answers to such questions as we explore the Christian's future reward ceremony.

When will the judgment seat of Christ take place?

Romans 14:10-12 is an island of eternity situated in a sea of time. Romans 14 is chiefly concerned with godly decision-making and how one lives their life for the Lord. The pressing matter of Romans 14:10-12 concern the Lord's overall evaluation of how each believer has lived their life. 

It is popularly held by many Christians that such a rewards ceremony - or time of evaluation - occurs postmortem. The Bible doesn't support such an opinion. For those dying in Jesus at this current time, the immaterial self or soul (with spirit) is separated from the body. Whenever we read texts such as 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, which speak on the judgment seat of Christ, we find Christians receiving their rewards as embodied persons. 

There is only one event in the New Testament that has the immaterial self, severed at death from the body, being reunited with that same-said body in glory and immortality. That said event is none-other than the "catching away of the church" or what is also called "the rapture of the church" (the term "rapture" derives from the Latin "rapturo" meaning "to snatch"). Passages such as 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 explain this event of the rapture:

"For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord."

In an undisclosed time, the Lord Jesus Christ will return in the clouds of heaven to perform the mass miracle of resurrecting dead Christians and translating the physical bodies of living believers. Consequently, both the "dead in Christ" and "those remaining and alive" will have glorified resurrected bodies in union with their perfected immaterial selves. Other texts such as 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 give us the setting for the Judgement Seat of Christ. This collection of texts point to the timing of the "Bema Seat" or "judgment seat of Christ" as none other than following the rapture of the church. 

We know for sure this is the case due to seeing a completely prepared church (i.e a prepared bride) returning with Jesus Christ at the end of the future seven year Tribulation period in Revelation 19:7-8. John records in his vision of Revelation 19:7-8 the following words - 

"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints."

The particular passage just quoted provides the end point that marks the completion of the "bema-seat" of Christ spoken of by the Apostle Paul. Hence, while Christians are standing before Christ's throne in Heaven for reception of rewards and evaluation of their lives lived out in this present age, the justice of God will roll out upon the inhabitants of this planet that remain under the tyranny of Anti-Christ (see Revelation chapters 6-18).   

The subject of the Christian's future rewards is unfortunately rarely heard in today's pulpits. The immediate profit gained from the subject of future Christian rewards is the way such a topic gets people to thinking about eternity. How one lives in the here and now does matter. W.A. Criswell, the great Baptist preacher of yesteryear, preached once on the subject of the judgment seat of Christ and the Christian's future rewards. He made the following comments in a sermon:

"And as I walk to the throne of grace, and the Lord looks in the Book and He reads the Book of Life and my name, and He reads the book of the works, and He sees what I’ve done, may the Lord have cause to say, "Well done, good and faithful servant [Matthew 25:14-30]; pastored that church down there; preached My gospel to those people down there; tried to comfort their hearts down there; tried to be an exponent of the message of Jesus down there.  Welcome, welcome, thou blessed of My Father.  Well done thou good and faithful servant.  Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

Criswell later remarks:

"That’s the way to do.  That’s the way to build.  That’s the way to live.  Now, I’m not preaching to you.  I’m preaching to me. O God, help me to be a better Christian.  Lord, help my tongue to say blessed things, good things, helpful things, encouraging things.  Help my tongue to name the name of Jesus.  Help me toward my family and toward the circle of my home, and help me among the people with whom I work."

That is what makes a study on the judgment seat of Christ so invaluable to the Christian life. Each Christ-follower is caused to examine how they ought to live for their Lord today, since how they lived for their Lord will be examined in that day each stands before their Lord to give an account. In our next post, we will explore this topic further by answering the question: "what kind of rewards will believers receive at the judgment seat of Christ?"

More in the next post....

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Set-Apart Life - Illustrating Christian Living From The Life Of Jacob

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Hebrews 11:21By faith Jacob, as he
was dying, blessed each of the sons of
Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the
top of his staff.


Every New Testament truth has at least one Old Testament counterpart to illustrate its meaning. When it comes to the Christian life in the New Testament, the life of faith in the Old Testament has the same underpinnings (salvation by grace through faith alone, with a post-conversion process of sanctification). The opening verse from Hebrews 11 demonstrates the appropriateness of using Jacob as an illustration of the believer's life.

The point of today's post is to consider the Christian-life as the set-apart life. The moment God calls a person unto faith in salvation, the setting-apart begins in conversion. The new-believer quickly learns that conflict must occur in dying to oneself to effectively live by the leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God calls every Christian to die to self and to the world. This process of dying to self and to the world marks the ongoing progress of sanctification. In today’s post, we will appeal to Jacob’s life as an illustration of God’s call to the set-apart life.

1. Conversion: The call to die to sin, live for God. Genesis 28:10-22

Jacob was in his mid-seventies when he left his father's home to travel to his Uncle Laban. Israel's ancient origins centered on three patriarchs: there's Abraham, the father of faith; there's Isaac, the son of promise and then there is Jacob, the patriarch of the twelve tribes that would comprise the nation of Israel itself. Father, son and grandson - three generations of men called to function prominently in Israel's history. 

Jacob and his twin brother Esau had a turbulent relationship. Jacob in particular was a schemer. He stole Esau's blessing and connived his way through life (see Genesis 27:36). Jacob had followed his own voice. He was a man of means. Jacob was, to put it plainly, a "self-made" man. It is in Genesis 28 that we find Jacob confronted with a powerful dream from God. The dream is centered upon a stairwell descending from top to bottom. This mysterious ladder or stairwell would later on be revealed as somehow picturing Christ Himself, the only way from God to man (see John 1:51). 

Once Jacob had this dream, in Genesis 28, his life would never be the same. Jacob's grandfather Abraham had his conversion experience in Ur of the Chaledees in Genesis 11 and 12. Isaac, Jacob's father, had his own dramatic encounter with God at Beersheba in Genesis 26. Just because Jacob came from noble stock, did not guarantee Jacob's own personal conversion. Jacob, like his father and grandfather before him, needed to experience a death to sin in conversion.

Each one of us require this reality of what Jesus calls being "born-again". In John 3:8 Jesus reminds us:

"the wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone born of the Spirit."

The wind of the Spirit of God blew in Jacob's direction. John 1:12-13 reminds us too that "as many as received Him, as many as believe on His name, He gives them the right to be called 'children of God'". The reality of this "new birth" (or its Old Testament counterpart, circumcision of the heart, see Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4) is not brought about by man making the first move. Instead, God moves by His Spirit upon the person, with the person in turn responding by the Divine gifting of faith which is made his own (see Ephesians 2:8-9; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). 

Jacob could not climb up to God. He couldn't climb by way of pedigree - even though Isaac was his father. He couldn't climb by way of religion - even though it was modeled to him by Isaac and even more so by Abraham himself. Jacob could not climb to God by outward moral life, even though when compared to Esau, he had not done anything overtly (that we know of) to grieve his parents hearts in comparison (Jacob of course had issues of character and heart that he kept hidden, save from God of course). The ladder of salvation needed lowered to Jacob. 

Jacob was called to conversion in Genesis 28. He was called to die to sin. Romans 6:6 describes salvation in these terms:

"knowing this, that our old self was crucified with him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin." 

As a result of Jacob's conversion, things changed in his life. We find out in Genesis 28:19 that he renames the city with which he had stayed nearby from "Luz" (meaning, 'perverse, corrupt, turn') to "Bethel" ('house of God'). Jacob recognized he had a dramatic encounter with God. In Genesis 28:20-21, Jacob makes vows and pledges to remain in continuity with God. He expresses desire for God to remain in fellowship with him. In Genesis 28:22 we see Jacob pledge to begin tithing all he has with God. Three "books" change in Jacob's life: the date book, or how he will spend the rest of his days; the pocket book, or how he sees himself transferred out of ownership into management of God's resources; and then lastly, the book of his heart.   

2. Conflict: The call to die to self, and God to live out through you. Genesis 32:24-32

We so often paint the Old Testament figures with a romanticized brush. Did Jacob walk flawlessly with God after his conversion in Genesis 28? Like you and me (if we are truly honest), the life following salvation is at times bumpy. Jacob's 20-year stint at his uncle Laban's home was anything but easy. He still relied upon himself to get out of trouble. Even though Jacob's awareness of God's hand in his life grew steadily, he still had not truly died completely to self. 

Self is that principle that remains a part of the Christian even after conversion. Self is, as one author put it, "me-in-me". The problem with me is "me". When it comes to that grace of "onward and upward" growth in Christ, called sanctification, the journey entails less of "me-in-me" and far more of what hopefully will manifest "He-in-me". To put it another way, the enemy of all spiritual growth in God is "me". Jesus tells us in Luke 9 and Luke 14 that the call to discipleship is a call to "die to self" and "take-up one's cross daily" to follow Him.

Dying to self is both a crisis and a process. The crisis is likened unto what we see in Genesis 32, with the angel (presumably a 'theophany' or disguised revelation of God or Christ Himself, see Hosea 12:4-5) wrestling with Jacob. Jacob needed his will broken. Jacob was strong in the natural. I can testify to how often God has taken me through this. To have strength in the supernatural, the natural human propensity to rely upon oneself must be severed (see Ephesians 5:13-14 or Paul's confrontation with Peter in Galatians 2). Such "crises" can occur at moments of hardship, trial, severity and loneliness. Jacob was experience the perfect storm of God's breaking process.

It is the process of dying to self that categorizes the mane of Christian living. As one old preacher once noted: "He (God) chooses, then bruises then uses, and not until then".  Romans 8:12 summarizes - 

"then, brethren, we are under obligation not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh, 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit, you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

More to the point, the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:31b, "I die daily". So what was the outcome of the epic wrestling match between Jacob and the Angel? Jacob's name was changed to Israel. Jacob's walk or manner of life was altered. We read in Genesis 32:31 "Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh."

3. Consecration: The call to die to the world, and live with God and He with you. Genesis 35:1-8

The Christian life is a life by which God calls His people to a "set-apart life". Jacob has illustrated to us what occurs in conversion, or the call to die to sin. Next, we witnessed how Jacob experienced both crisis and process in the call to die to self. As each Christ-follower lives on in this world, the conflict with one's inner-self is a daily reality. Romans 7 and Romans 8 are two chapters that take us through what we've looked at thus far. There must needs be a conflict with the self. The Christian must daily urge the "old-man" to "die by crucifixion" in order to experience that sweet fruit of victory in Romans 8. 

However, Jacob's walk of faith would experience a third major epiphany of sorts - namely, consecration. Consecration is simply the call to die to the world. God had Jacob return back to the very spot he was converted in Genesis 28. Genesis 35:1-4 picks up the following conversation of God with Jacob - 

"Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; 3 and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”

Life didn't get easier for Jacob. Many think when they get spiritual victory, whatever follows is trouble free. It is one thing to get victory. It's quite another to stay "in the saddle" so-to-speak. There were matters in Jacob's life that had arisen since Genesis 32. He needed to die to the world. Galatians 6:14 reminds us:

"May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." 

So what is the "world" described in these verses? 1 John 2:15-17 gives the textbook definition - 

"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."

The idols of Jacob's family a "fellowship issue", meaning that the time to deal with the baggage of his former way of life had come. Further progress in closeness with God could not move forward until the hidden things were buried and abandoned. Jacob took the lead. You and I, in order to live out a life of consecration, must identify those areas we have put in the place of God (the true meaning of idolatry) and abandon them. Only when Christ is most treasured will we leave behind the trinkets.

This event propelled Jacob into two directions all at once. He now would live on with the name of destiny ascribed to him back in Genesis 32: "Israel". The scent of God's heavenly calling would follow him wherever he went. The other direction entailed the loss of his beloved wife. Following God does not guarantee immunity from trouble. Jacob (now Israel), would carry-on this ongoing process of dying to self and dying to the world. Any saint of God, whether Old Testament, New Testament or church history, has experienced this outline of Christian living that we find in these verses. It is truths such as these that illuminate us to the life of faith as being the set-apart life.  

Monday, February 26, 2018

How To Prime The Pump Of A Prayer-life That Runs Dry - Meditations and Suggestions

Image result for prime the pump
Jude 1:20-21 "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life."


As a child, our family had a water-well located on our property. Most of the time, the pump that brought-up the water from the well and into our house worked quite well. However, there were those occasions where my father would need to go out to the well-pump and pour a gallon of water down the shaft where the pump was located. Why? To "prime the pump". When the hot summer days would come, very little water was feeding into the well. These episodes of "priming the pump" kept the water-supply flowing into our family's home.

When the Christian experiences "dryness" in their prayer-life

Anyone who has been a Christian for a while experiences those seasons where the well of prayer seems to grow dry. Whenever things get dry - panic sets into the heart. Oftentimes, Christians will try various sorts of activities to "prime the pump". It was the devotional author Oswald Chambers that once remarked that spiritual activity is the number-one competitor of spiritual vitality. I have too often made the mistake of "getting busier" rather than stopping long enough to get alone with God in prayer. 

The method for priming the prayer-well of the Christian-life is found in Jude 1:20-21. In the opening verses above, we find a three-corded strand that is not so easily broken. If the reader may note, I have underlined three commands that Jude issues in getting our prayer life back on track. 

Priming the pump of the Christian's prayer-life

First, he commands us to "build ourselves up in the most-holy faith". This first command has to do with doctrine. Doctrine is the pearl necklace of the Christian life. Pearls of truth, stranded together, make for a well-adorned mind and heart. Today, many Christians believe they can get along fine without doctrine. Unfortunately, experience divorced from doctrine leads to fanaticism. Doctrine cleanses the mind. Doctrine gives meat to the bones of the Christian faith.

So focusing upon sound doctrine - particularly the doctrine of God - is needed to prime the pump of the prayer-life. Why else did the Lord Jesus begin His famous prayer with "Our Father, Who Art In Heaven"? He taught His disciples the need to focus on God. 

I have found that when I begin my prayer-time, it is helpful to focus upon God's attributes, names or actions. Equipping oneself with such doctrinal truth requires exercising oneself in scripture. We only get out of our prayer-life what we put into our time in the scripture. 

Jude then issues forth a second command in Jude 1:20, namely - "praying in the Spirit". This second command occupies the main point of today's post. We want to know how to prime the pump of the prayer-life. There is a big difference between "praying" and "praying in the Spirit". Once I heard Charles Stanley preaching on the subject of "how to hear God". Praying in the Spirit involves making God's leading, will and voice priority. Thus, as Dr. Stanley preached on how to hear God, he noted four requirements which he laid out in short order: prioritize, pursue, persist and pray. Once I have adorned my mind with the doctrine of God, I am positioned to pray in the Spirit. Will I prioritize God? Will I pursue Him? Will I persist and stay in the saddle? Only when these steps are carried out is one then ready to pray and hear God. 

We then see Jude deliver a third command in Jude 1:21, namely "keep yourselves in the love of God". I recall when I fell in love with the woman that would become my wife. Life transformed. I could not get her off my mind. Her qualities, her voice and her words stirred my heart to want to know her more. I knew that she was the one with which I wanted to spend the rest of my life. For almost 25 years we have been married. To this day I can say that I love my wife more than I did in those early days. You see, I have kept myself "in the love of my wife".

Now when it comes to God, we realize that He is the Maximally Great Being. Jude emphasizes this final command. As a matter of fact, the first two commands are impossible without this last one. Keeping oneself in the love of God requires His indwelling Spirit in the Christian and a mind devoted to thinking about Him. Meditating upon God's qualities, His words and being insures that God does not quickly become an abstract idea. 

God saves the Christian to have an experiential relationship with Him, grounded in truth and empowered by the Spirit. The Christian is urged to die daily by taking up the cross (see Luke 9:23-24). There must needs be a cross to issue forth the spiritual life.

A simple exercise that can take what we learn from Jude and "prime the pump" of the prayer-life

I have found it helpful over the years to refocus my attention upon the A,B,C's of God. Beginning with God will ensure I end with God in prayer. Psalm 121:1-2 reminds us: 

"I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth." 

So, whenever my prayer-life runs dry, I first consider God's Attributes (such as omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, mercy, love, justice, holiness, etc). I may take a sheet of paper and write "Attributes" at the top left and then begin to list underneath that heading as many attributes as I possibly can. Next, I think of God's "Blessed Names". One may write this heading at the top center of the sheet of paper, and then begin to list as many names of God as one can think. Names of God such as Jesus, Lord, King, Jehovah-Jireh (God my provider). One writer has estimated there to be over 1,000 names of God found in the Bible. Thirdly, I then write on the same sheet of paper to the upper-most right this phrase: "Consistent acts". This final designation deals with what God has done, is doing or will do. God is my Creator, Savior, Lover of my soul, Protector, Friend, Deliverer, Soon coming king, etc.  

By the time one goes though the above little exercise, the tone is set for prayer. If one's prayer-life is extremely dry or non-existent, having the Book of Psalms open before you, or Isaiah 6 or Revelation 4-5 is a must. Such chapters in the Bible are exclusively God- centered. Psalms such as Psalm 2; 90; 102; 110 and 150 are God-centered Psalms. The Book of Psalms was designed and inspired as the hymnbook of Israel. Whenever one alloys a Psalm to their sagging prayer-life, the beams of prayer are strengthened. Reading a Psalm like Psalm 73 reminds the reader of how certain saints got "out-of-the-rut". 

Closing thoughts

May this post and these suggestions serve you and me today. God is calling every believer to prayer. Might we take the instructions we learnt from God's Word and "prime the pump" to activate once more His ever-fresh supply to our faith in God.