Life In The Spirit
God Works Through Becoming, Not Understanding
Jesus talked about the necessity of building your house upon the Rock so that it could withstand every storm and adversity. Just as a physical house is only as strong as its foundation, the same is true of our lives. When we build our lives upon Christ, we will have the strength to endure all things that come against us through Him.
John 16:5-7 (NKJV): “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”
The disciples couldn’t understand why Jesus had to leave. They understood that Jesus was the Son of God, they understood that He revealed to them what the Father was like, and they understood that only He was able to do the miraculous. What they didn’t realize were the plans that God had for them to “do the works of Jesus and greater works than these” (John 14:12). However, in order to walk into their purpose, they would have to let go of the Jesus they understood in order to receive the Spirit of Truth. God required that they step into a new way of relating to Him: not from without but recognizing and allowing the Spirit to do a work within each of them.
Too many Christians are holding onto a Jesus that they understand, a Jesus that makes logical sense, and a Jesus that is defined by their doctrine. However, until they are prepared to let go of the Jesus they understand and embrace the Spirit of Truth, they will never realize the power necessary to walk into God’s purposes and plans for their life. It is the Spirit that establishes us in the life of Christ, or on the Rock, not our understanding: “The Holy Spirit is the one who gives life, that which is of the natural realm is of no help. The words I speak to you are Spirit and life…” (John 6:63, The Passion)
Jesus says in John 14:12 (The Message), “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”
Jesus is speaking to house builders - those in the construction business. He’s talking to Born Again believers who have an interest in building a life around the things of God. It is interesting to note that the houses looked similar; it was the foundation that set them apart. Many Christians have a love for God, they can quote the Word, they understand Kingdom principles, they regularly read and study the Bible, but there is no foundation to their house. The criteria for successful Christianity is not how long we’ve been Born Again or how often we go to church; it’s “Can your house withstand the storm?” When our prayers are not answered and God’s promises are not realized, we’re left thinking, “I don’t understand.” When the sick that we pray for don’t receive their healing and when God’s provision seems absent, we’re left thinking, “I don’t understand.” In these three words is so much. It is an exclamation of exasperation, a declaration of perplexity; but, ironically, the question itself contains the answer. The fact that I don’t understand indicates the approach I have adopted when engaging the things of God: my understanding.The investment I have made with the Word was towards the goal of understanding, not becoming. I’ve never let go of the Jesus I can understand in order to gain the life of Christ that I am to become.
Understanding is valuable in our world. We invest twelve years at school to gain the tools necessary to navigate life. I’m pleased to see a diploma on my doctor’s wall; it’s an affirmation that he has received the understanding necessary to function in the office of a medical practitioner. Understanding is of great worth in the world, but it is useless at constructing foundations! No matter how much I understand patience, I cannot get it established in my life. I can study peace all I want and explore what every psychologist and psychiatrist say about it, and still find it conspicuously absent when crises hit. In the Kingdom, understanding is not the path to becoming.
A foundation is important because it is the rock that I am to build my house upon. My foundation defines my being; and who I am determines what I’m capable of doing. Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne – some of the world’s most acclaimed artists created masterpieces, not from what they understood, but from who they were. Creativity was the foundation to their lives – it was the rock off which their artwork was created. People who do not have a creative foundation can study color, form, perspective, and technique. Their understanding will allow them to produce a picture, however, it will never be a masterpiece. It’s because creative masterpieces are not a function of what I understand; they are a product of who I am.
As a foundation, creativity defines a person’s being and the result is that all of life is viewed from that perspective. Everything is processed through this creative filter, and we realize that creativity is more than an inspiration to paint; it’s a reality that informs a sense of knowing – I don’t have to study the principles to know when symmetry is out of balance; I just know it! When the Spirit of Truth establishes the rock in my life, it becomes a foundation that informs my being, influences my perspectives, defines my expectations and becomes “the substance of things that I hope for, even though they may not be seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Romans 8:29 tells us that we are to be “conformed to His image”; God is talking to us about the foundation that defines our life. The appeal is to build our house on the rock that is constructed in His image. Every time we have a thought, a feeling or a need that is outside of His nature, it is telling us that we have a place in our life where the foundation is compromised – it’s a place that is not built to withstand the storm. We’re not to ignore or pretend that this input doesn’t exist; rather, we are to use it as a diagnostic tool and get into the Word of God. As we feed the Spirit of Life inside of us on the Word, which is spirit and life, so we allow the life that is in the seed of the Word to germinate and manifest. The resulting foundation that is established will allow us to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
John 15:26 says, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” It is important to note that we don’t build the foundation; it is the work of the Holy Spirit. If we want to establish our lives on a foundation of life and live from this foundation so that “rivers of living water flow from us,” it is the Spirit of Christ in me that must do this work. In my natural capacity, or my understanding, I’m incapable of creating anything from life that will be life-giving. This is what John 5:39-40 means when Jesus says: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”
The reason it was to the advantage of the disciples that Jesus should go away was that until the flesh had departed, the Spirit of Truth couldn’t come. Until we get beyond our fleshly approach to the Word, the Spirit of Truth cannot come. It is the work of the Spirit to reveal truth to us. The original Greek of truth, as used in this verse, is “the perfect realization of an idea,” as opposed to any imperfect manifestations of it. What it means is that the Spirit will establish in us a foundation that is the perfect expression of Truth; as opposed to our understanding, which is an imperfect manifestation of it. Jesus wants us to stop imitating the Word and allow the Spirit to do His work so that we become it. It’s how Christ is expressed in who we are, not what we know. When it says in John 8:32, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free,” the proclamation is that when the Spirit of Truth builds our foundation and we build our house, or our life, on this, we will know what it is to walk into a reality of this truth.
Created to Live From His Image
Many people try to find God through their knowledge and intellect, but knowing God only comes as we encounter Him through the Spirit. God has given us the Holy Spirit to reveal His truth to us and conform us into His image.
John 16:5-7 (NKJV) – “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”
In Genesis 1, God said, “Let us create man in our image, in our likeness.” Man is created in His image, to become like God Himself. God talked with Adam in the cool of the evening revealing aspects of His nature to Adam. The Spirit within Adam used the life within God’s words to define man’s image, perfecting him into God’s image.
In Genesis 2, the garden presents two ways for man to attain the likeness of God, which were typified by two trees: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. God’s way was the tree of life. His intention was that as God’s nature became the life of man, so he would come into the likeness and knowledge of God.
Satan tempted Adam with the idea of being like God. It was a power proposition: the suggestion was that by eating of the tree of knowledge, man’s eyes would be opened, and he would gain the power to create (up until that point, Adam lived from delegated authority from God). When Adam chose knowledge over God’s life, he went down a path that led to death. The desire to “know” became man’s greatest temptation. Even today, we fall for the idea that if we can understand the things of God simply from our knowledge about Him, it will unlock the power to release the supernatural life that is in the Word.
When Jesus told His disciples that He had to go away in the flesh, Jesus knew it was necessary so that they could realize their destiny: becoming the image of Jesus, not just understanding it. This would never be accomplished by the Jesus, the person; they needed the power of Holy Spirit within them – they needed the Helper.
This was a major point of transition for the Disciples; it would cause them to step beyond much of what they knew into a paradigm that they didn’t really understand or had much knowledge of. It would change the way that they engaged with God, from sense knowledge to faith. It would no longer be Jesus in the flesh who was accessible to their senses; it would become the power and working of the Spirit within that could only be accessed and understood through faith.
Although unaware of it, they were also transitioning from the dispensation of the Word (where God communicated to man primarily through the prophets), to dispensation of the Spirit within (where they would personally relate to God within them). The believer who doesn’t understand and embrace what all of this means, runs the risk of staying stuck in the way things used to be; they’ll never walk into what it means to be created in His image.
In the Old Testament, flesh could not touch that which was holy. If flesh, which was sinful in nature, came in contact with the presence of God, there was instant judgement and the wage would be death. It happened when Uzzah touched the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6) and was true for those high priests that entered the Holy of Holies. This is part of the reason why Jesus had to die for our sins: in paying the price, He made us righteous. As righteous people we became holy people – temples that could house the presence of God. Without Jesus making us righteous, the Spirit of Christ entering flesh would be an impossibility.
The Holy Spirit is the one who defines that which is of God within us. It is that part of our being that is separate, complete, and perfect. Jesus not only came to make us righteous, but to bring human nature back into fellowship with divine life, to make us partakers of His divine nature, and to reintroduce us to our true identity. Redemption is not only righteousness, but life. It is not only knowing that I’ve been restored to God’s favor and fellowship, but I can become it. The first part is the work of Jesus for us; the second is the work of the Spirit within us. Just as we accept Jesus’ salvation, we must accept that the Spirit will make the life of Christ our identity. It’s of great importance because the root of our lives determines the fruit of our lives.
Galatians 6:8 says, “He that sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” This truth is so evident when we see Jesus’ attempts to reveal Himself to us through His Word. When the Word is accepted and held only in our intellectual understanding, we rob the spiritual truth of its power to produce life, the power which redefines our identity. It is only as the Word enters our spirit that it becomes life. As long as the Word lives in the intellect and reason, it satisfies our imagination but only exists as reason and argument. It is nothing more than a shadow of divine truth. Truth is designed to be substance and reality that gives us possession of the life which others only think and speak of. Failure in the lives of Christians comes because the Word is held apart from the power of the Spirit, “…their faith was in the wisdom of man and not in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:5) Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself…and follow me.“ (Luke 9:23) Too many people follow Jesus without denying themselves, and nothing needs more denying than our own wisdom – the fleshly mind exercising its influence on the things of God.
The life is in the seed; we need to plant it! The Word held in our understanding is like seed stored in a barn. Many people have barns full of seed that have never been planted into the Spirit, so the life that is in the seed has never been realized. John 3:6 reminds us, “What is born of the flesh is flesh; what is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The Word, or seed in our thinking, the flesh, speaks of potential; but seeds never germinates on the shelf, they must be planted in the Spirit.
Mark 4:26-28 says, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.”Sowing to the spirit is about trusting the Spirit to create life in me. It is an act of faith. It is not about what I think, see, or feel, but believing that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to fulfill it. The Holy Spirit plants the truth of God in our spirit as a seed and lives in it as a divine life. It is the Holy Spirit that strengthens and grows the seed. He does this from within; not in word but in power. The Spirit reveals Christ and all that He has for us. He makes Christ, who has been only a thought, and builds it into the root of our life.
The Spirit’s work and the growth of the seed are recognized by faith. Even when I cannot see the least evidence of it, I am quietly and reverently to believe that He lives in me. There is an introspection where our soul looks at its own thoughts, feelings, and purposes to find the proof of the seed. This is unhealthy and not of faith; it turns our focus from Christ to self. In faith, we should unreservedly give ourselves up to be renewed by the Spirit and surrender every faculty of the soul to be sanctified and guided by the Holy Spirit within. Faith is the one faculty of our spiritual nature by which we can recognize His work.
God’s way is that through life comes the knowledge and likeness of God. When I eat from the tree of life, I get to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Ps 34:8) Tasting is an experience. It is when we taste something that we gain a more accurate understanding than by simply knowing the ingredients or understanding the recipe. God’s intention is that life be birthed in us, and, as we live from this place, so we will gain an understanding of it. In Matthew 16, Jesus says to Peter when he recognizes Him as the Christ, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” We understand the things of God when they define our image and we live from them. Joy, peace, and patience are not revealed through flesh and blood, but by the power of the Spirit that is within. When these attributes define my identity and I live from them, so I get an accurate understanding of them. Only the Spirit has the power to make divine life, our life.
Experiencing By Accident What I Tried to Get Intentionally
Foundations are hugely important because they create the basis upon which something stands or is supported. A structure is only as strong and stalwart as the strength of its foundation. For us, the Word of God must solidify our foundation, and, at the core of that foundation is God's love.
Ephesians 3:14-20 (NKJV): “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.“
The foundation to our life determines the lens through which we view life. For example, people have opened themselves up to input from a variety of sources which has created a foundation from which they view President Trump. When a new policy is introduced, some people will comment on how it is another example of his hatred, while others will see it as a great and positive leap forward. The policy never changed; however, the lens through which it was viewed determined the takeout. The same principle holds true for the way in which we view God and His Word. If truth doesn’t define the context, it will result in a distorted subtext. When truth doesn’t define the foundation of our life, our view and concept of God will be distorted.
At school, my children’s world is defined by their principal. By conforming to his rules and staying within the boundaries of his regulations, they are good students. Respect for his authority defines their behavior and knowing that contravening this will result in consequences from the principal, ensures their compliance. However, at home with dad is where growth takes place from a foundation of love. He does everything necessary to develop them into their full potential, all through the filter of love. They are trained, pampered, offered grace and favor just because of who they are. The foundation created in each environment is quite different, and, as a result, the lens through which my children view their principal as opposed to their father is very different. It’s the same with God. Many Christians still perceive God from an Old Testament paradigm as Almighty God; they have never allowed the foundation of their life to be defined by Father God of the New Testament. The result is that the lens through which they view God is distorted, and they see Him as an authoritarian disciplinarian who punishes and withholds good from them. When the foundation is composed of wrong beliefs, we don’t clearly see God for who He truly is. We need a new foundation.
1 John 4:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
When it says that “love is of God,” the word “of” in the Greek means “originates out of.” Love originates out of God; it is the only place that we can find it. Love is who God is. Love defines His nature, which defines who He is and how He expresses Himself. We get a clearer picture of what love looks like when we read Galatians 5:22: “But the fruit of the Spirit of love is joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” This is who God is. He can only be joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We should wake up every morning knowing that today is another wonderful invitation to experience the love of God. He blesses us because He is kind; He works with us through our failures because He is longsuffering and patient. He heals us, delivers us, and provides for us not because we pray harder, or follow the mechanics of faith, or study the Bible more diligently, but because He is good. Things happen in our life because He is love and His relationship with us is defined from this place.
What this means for us is that every time we are loving, every time we live from one of the attributes of love, we are experiencing God. When we are not living from love, we do not experience Him. Living from His nature that is established in us by the Spirit allows us to experience Him, and it influences what our future looks like.
When it says “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God,” the word “know” is “ginosko” in the Greek and means “knowledge that is gained by encounter.” Love isn’t learned from scripture or by accumulating Bible knowledge; it can only be gained by experiencing love itself. It is only the Holy Spirit in me who can get peace, patience, goodness… established as the foundation of my life. Knowledge of these attributes gives me understanding, but it cannot build it into the core of my being; I need an encounter with the Holy Spirit that changes me. 1 John 4:8 says, “He that loves not, does not know God.” It means that where we have not had an encounter with the Holy Spirit, there is no foundation that allows us to experience God or see Him as He truly is.
Ephesians 3:16 says, “…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” God will be the agent that strengthens us from the inside out. He is the one who is going to build a new foundation in us by Christ dwelling in us. The word “dwell” is Greek for “set up camp.” Christ is going to set up His tent in the heart of people, and He is going to live there. It is introductory language to Kingdom living. God is saying that every part of our being that is established in His love, becomes a place within us that falls under the rule of the King and is governed by Him. This is how we expand the Kingdom and its influence in our life. We need to let the finished work of Christ be the object of our meditation.
Meditation on the Word is spiritual digestion. This is where the spiritual nutrients are extracted, and the Holy Spirit shows us what our life will look like in the context of this truth. It is an action that happens “by faith.”
“That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend…” - “Being” in Greek means “always have been, currently are, and always will be.” God wants us to discover that we are, have always been, and always will be the object of God’s love. There has never been a moment in our existence when God didn’t love us. God has always loved us, even before we were born again – “while we were yet sinners, Christ loved us.” Until we can first experience His love for us, we are not capable of loving.
“Comprehend” means to “appropriate to self for beneficial effect.” Up unto the point that we are established in the love of God, we are not able to appropriate spiritual things to the place where we gain their benefit. Only when we are rooted in God’s love will the truth of the Word become a reality to us. The biggest challenge that Christians have is that the Word doesn’t seem to work for them. They are getting scripture, confessing it, binding and loosing, following the formula of faith and the results just aren’t there. God wants us to know that His blessing, provision, healing, protection and all the other benefits that go with Kingdom living are given to us because He loves us – not because of anything we do! It is only when Christ is established in us that we will comprehend spiritual truth. When we are convinced that we are the object of God’s love, then we will be “able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height.” Being grounded in love cleans our lens and allows us to see the full capacity of all that God has for us.
“Knowing the things of God which passes knowledge” tells us that there is a place in relationship with God where knowledge cannot take you, or where mere knowledge of scripture cannot get you. Knowledge puffs us up. It will fill our head with understanding and give us an appearance of being spiritual and mature, but it is only the love of God that can get us to grow to our full stature. Only the love of God can walk us into a life-transforming encounter with the Word – “that you may experience the fulness of God.” All that God has for us is only experienced when we are rooted in God’s unconditional love for us. To live the fulness of the Christian experience requires that we be grounded in who He is and not in what He gives.
The Abiding Presence
God has called us to be conformed and to carry the nature and image of Himself. The Holy Spirit has been given to us to enable us and to abide with us forever. In Him, is our strength and ability to become the image of God to the world around us.
Ephesians 3:17-20 (NKJV): ““that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”
As we move from “slaves of sin” to “children of God,” all too often we take our baggage with us.
We are so used to a slave mindset that we find it difficult to fully adopt to our new position as children of God. But it’s vital that we do so. Our ability to get grounded in the love of God becomes the foundation that releases God’s power in our life. Too many Christians know about this place, but they don’t live from it; they understand it, but they’re not established in it.
Knowing “the love of Christ which passes knowledge” tells us that there is a place in relationship with God where knowledge cannot take us. When we live from His unconditional love, we experience powerful attributes like trust, unity, understanding, confidence – attributes that are only available to those who live from relationship, not understanding.
When we are grounded in the love of Christ which passes knowledge, we will know “all the fullness” of God. Healing, provision and protection and all the other attributes of God’s nature that constitute His fullness. To know the fulness of God comes from a life established in His unconditional love. It is based on relationship and is not accessible through knowledge. All too often we are looking for His blessing as opposed to being grounded in relationship with Him.
Things begin to happen in our life when we live from a place of love and not belief.
It’s a powerful truth that can only come through experience, not knowledge. Our faith is not in what we know, but in who He is. Sometimes our belief is in what God can give us, instead of God the giver. For example, if one of my children was jumping out of a tree and both Dave and I said that we would catch them, they would have to make a choice. Knowledge would tell them that Dave was taller, bigger and stronger; however, they would still choose to jump into my arms. The reason is that we have a relationship grounded in love that would inspire their trust. Confidence comes from love, not ability. Most Christians believe that God can do something, but they don’t always know that He will. They believe that He can heal, provide, and deliver; they just don’t have the confidence that He will do it for them.
God tells us that He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” The power that energizes our life is the love of God. The degree to which we are established in relationship with Him determines the ability to which He can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Living from love is powerful. It introduces the blessings of God into our life, something that mere knowledge is unable to do.
To introduce and get each of us established in relationship with Him, we have been given the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit not only draws us to Christ, but He reveals to all believers the nature of Christ that inhabits them. Without the Holy Spirit there is no possibility of relationship. The introduction of the Holy Spirit was prophesied by Joel in Joel 2:28, “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions...” This all took place 2,000 years ago at Pentecost. Those in the Upper Room who were praying for the Holy Spirit were filled with the Spirit and spoke with other tongues. People in the street commented on these strange happenings, calling it odd, mocking it, and some even saying that they were drunk. But in Acts 2:17-20, Peter says, “…for these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams...“
It’s important to note that the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh – believers and non-believers. We think that the Holy Spirit is in the Church, only with believers; but it tells that He was poured out on everyone. This is the good news of the Gospel. The Spirit will no longer only be poured out on specific people for a specific purpose at a specific time as He had been in the Old Testament; but He will be poured out on all flesh. People who are not believers and who do not have the life of Christ in them are not all baptized or filled; but the Spirit has been poured out on the whole world for all of humanity. Because He loves people, He does things for them that they don’t deserve; it’s because His love is unconditional. God loves the world and this love motivates Him to do things in people’s lives that will give them every opportunity possible to engage in relationship with Him. Those in the Upper Room were filled; but He came upon all flesh so that when Peter preached, 3,000 people were added to the church.
Those who are not yet believers don’t realize and are not aware of the Spirit’s presence, but the Holy Spirit is there to do the job He was sent to do: draw people unto Christ, because “No man cometh to the Father unless the Holy Spirit draw him.” (John 6:44) Whatever opening is given to Him is used to start working in people’s lives. This is why we must preach the gospel, not religion. If we do our part to present Christ, the Holy Spirit does His job and will draw them. If He doesn’t do the job, we’re not able to save them. As believers, it’s valuable to know that every time we pray for someone, the Spirit is present. It takes the pressure is off us because He is the one who does the work.
John 14:15-16 says “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.”
Jesus says that the Helper will come and abide. Abide means “bond” – when the Spirit comes, He is going to bond with you forever. We have this idea that the Holy Spirit comes and goes, and we say things like, “The Holy Spirit showed up,” because we don’t fully appreciate that He will never leave us. This same idea permeates our worship. We think we need to do enough worship to get the Holy Spirit to arrive. But the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit is not because He showed up; it’s because we showed up. Our awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence is taken away by distractions. Praise and worship is for us, not Him; God doesn’t fall off the throne because we don’t worship Him. He is complete and whole in Himself. When we worship, our hearts and minds are turned towards Him and so we become aware of His presence; but it’s been there all the time.
The implication of this is that worship should be a lifestyle consideration, not an activity we engage in only on Sundays. If we adopt a permanent attitude of worship where we reverence and focus on Him, we will sense His presence on an ongoing basis. The key is not letting our hearts and minds be drawn away by the cares of this world. His presence is important, because where His presence is, things happen. When He’s present, people walk on water, blind eyes open, 5,000 hungry people are provided for, the lame walk, and Lazarus comes back to life.
Worship not only keeps our focus on Him and maintains an awareness of His presence, but it is also a tool for transformation.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 says “Now the lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” What we spend our time looking at, we become like. When we see Christ for who He is, we will be like Him. Worship focuses on and exalts the attributes of God. When I reverence, esteem, and elevate who He is in my life, I see myself for who I am in the mirror of who He is. We become like the “God” we look to, love, and serve. If we do not see God for who He is, we will still be transformed into the God we see. If we spend our time focused on the coronavirus we will be transformed into the image of fear. A few years ago, my boys went to a rodeo. They were transfixed by what they saw, and the result was that they wanted to be just like the cowboys that they had seen. So when they got home, they played bull riding, with dad being the bull! The point is that they wanted to be like what they saw. They dressed like cowboys, acted like cowboys and for that period of time, felt like cowboys. What we spend our time looking at, we will be changed into.
Glory speaks about God’s fullness, splendor and goodness. We glorify God in our life when we esteem His nature and choose to give it preeminence in our life. We glorify Him when we allow His nature to transform and define us. We are to move “from glory to glory”; we don’t glorify Him simply by describing His nature. Glory has to do with what I prioritize and focus on. We had a call from the school recently asking if one of our children would take care of a new student who would be visiting the school for a day. They told us that the reason they had chosen our child was because he was kind. This meant so much to us as parents because we recognized that by expressing kindness, he had given glory to one of our family values. It wasn’t about what he said; it had everything to do with who he was. Giving glory to God is not talking about His nature and attributes, but becoming it.
Breakthrough is Discovered in Crisis
The Word says that God is the same, "yesterday, today, and forever." In times of uncertainty, we can always rest on the fact that God is still who He is, all the time. Nothing catches Him by surprise, and He doesn't change with circumstances. When our lives are built on the Rock, we can walk through storms with confidence that God will see us through.
Mark 4:37-40 (NKJV): “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”
We must invest our confidence in our unchanging God.
Life happens. Circumstances change, situations fluctuate, and everything is fluid. It’s called crisis. In this environment of instability, what people want most is to be grounded; and the only place we can invest our confidence is in the One who is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). One of the greatest and most inspiring revelations we can live from is the truth that God is unchanging. It’s important to realize that our condition doesn’t determine God’s state; God is good, all the time. The storm around us may be formidable, but none of this changes the ever-consistent One. The best way to navigate a tumultuous reality is to be grounded and established on the Rock.
All too often when we find ourselves in a storm, we want answers. We want to know. However, in our effort to understand situations, we need to be guarded not to allow our environment to define our concept of God. Any time we allow our situations to define God, we are giving second-hand information and circumstantial interpretation access to our heart. Ideas like God is doing this to teach me a lesson, are both dangerous and toxic. Be guarded – the only place to gain a true and accurate concept of God is in His Word with the Holy Spirit giving us revelation.
God is good all the time. Period.
The most important truth that we can be established in is that God is good; and more personally, God is good to me all of the time! Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” Good is not only what God does; good is who He is. He cannot help Himself but be good and loving all the time, because this is His nature – this is who He is. Tasting is an action. I encounter His goodness through experience. We need to be reassured that no matter how the storm may rage, His goodness towards us will always be there. You may not be able to see how things are going to work out, and you may not be able to work them out yourself but stay grounded in the truth that His goodness will take you through. This is the place where I live from – the promise that I’m walking through the valley, and my intention and expectation is that I’m getting to the other side. The way in which we see God and His nature is never more important than when we’re in a storm. Where we land in defining God is going to determine whether we inherit His promises and experience breakthrough.
James 1:2-5 tells us, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Don’t run the risk of losing what can only be discovered in crisis. When it seems as though we are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience dynamic, new aspects to God’s nature that we never encounter when life is smooth sailing. It takes crisis to discover God the deliverer; it takes crisis to discover God the provider; it takes crisis to discover God the healer. Without crisis we never get to encounter the God who is more than enough. Crisis doesn’t influence or change the One who is the same yesterday, today or tomorrow; but it does offer us the opportunity to know Him more fully so that we “may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
In the book of Exodus, God took Israel out of the bondage of Egypt with the intention that they discover His goodness and love in their freedom. Israel’s challenge was that they understood their heritage, but they didn’t know God. Too many Christians have grown up in a Christian culture, Christian families, Christian denominations; we understand our Christian heritage, but we don’t know God. Knowing Him is fundamental to getting our lives built on the Rock. God was committed to introducing Himself to Israel and He used every opportunity to meet Israel at their point of need. When they were caught at the Red Sea, needed food or water, needed healing or protection – every place of need was an opportunity for them to discover who God was and to live from a new place of relationship with Him.
Unbelief is believing the wrong thing.
The hurdle that Israel never overcame was their unbelief. Unbelief is not the absence of belief; it is when we are believing the wrong thing. When Moses got Israel out of Egypt, it is not that they did not believe in God; it is that they believed the wrong thing about God. They believed that God delivered them out of Egypt to punish them. Every time they came to a hard place, like the Red Sea, they said, “Moses, why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness, so God could punish us?” They refused to believe that God delivered them to be good to them.
Ultimately, Israel’s believing the wrong things about God came at a price; their unbelief cost them their inheritance. Israel never entered the Promised Land that God had prepared for them. Hebrews 3:16-19, “For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So, we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief." Belief in wrong things about God will cost us our inheritance. When what we believe is in opposition to who He is, we end up obstructing what God wants to do in our life; our beliefs go to war with His grace. God wants to heal us, but our belief that healing has passed away works against the plans and purposes of God. God wants to provide for us, but if I don’t believe that I’m good enough to be blessed by God, I stand in opposition to receiving His provision. It’s how we end up as double-minded people. We are unable to reconcile God’s nature and our unbelief with the result that “we receive nothing from God” (James 1:8). When we do not relate to God for who He is, we cannot experience Him for who He really is.
The beliefs of our heart define the foundation for our lives.
In Mark 4 we read about the storm that came up while the disciples and Jesus were out on the lake. The disciples’ response was to wake Jesus and ask him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”After Jesus had calmed the storm, He asked them, “How is it that you have no faith?” The moment they declared, “Jesus, don’t you care that we are perishing?” is the moment they declared that they had no faith. Matthew 12:34 says, “From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”; so, declaring that Jesus didn’t care revealed that their heart was established in unbelief - a belief that was in opposition to who God is: caring and loving. What our heart is established in is important because it defines the foundation of our lives. When we’re talking about foundations, we’re talking about faith, because “faith is the substance, sub-strata, or foundation, of things hoped for…” (Hebrews 11:1). There are many ideas about faith, but I believe a most concise definition is: faith is being convinced and persuaded in our heart that God cares for us and about us. And because He cares so much for us, He will go to the utmost for us. Faith is not only realizing the truth of who God is, which speaks of His ability, but it is being established in the conviction that because He loves me, He will be good to me all the time. It is not only what He can do; but that He wants to do it for me. This is why “…faith works by love” (Galatians 5:6).
Too often when life is challenging and crisis hits, we think that we have to “fight the good fight of the faith….” (1 Timothy 6:12). Fighting the good fight of the faith is not using our faith to fight or resist the enemy; Jesus has already accomplished the victory for us. Fighting the fight of faith is getting our belief system, or heart, established in the finished work of Christ. Our faith is the shield in the armor of God; it is not an offensive weapon. It is the place from where we stand in confidence, “quenching all the fiery darts of the enemy” (Ephesians 6:16).
Jesus is so committed to getting us established in faith that in Mark 1:15 he encourages us to “repent and believe in the gospel.” Strong’s definition of repent is “to think differently or afterwards; that is, to reconsider.” Repentance has nothing to do with leaving our sins. It means to have a new foundation from where every thought is produced. It means that I stand on a new platform that will produce my new thoughts. Jesus is saying repent; change the foundation of your life so that it reflects the Gospel, the Good News. Having this new foundation will birth new thoughts and emotions, a new life. We struggle with the things of God because we refuse to repent; we refuse to change the foundation from which we approach and perceive the things of God. Jesus encourages us to repent because there is a new Kingdom; sin is bound, and you are free. In this freedom we are to discover the truth of who God is, and we are to get established in this truth. If we can make the switch, we will realize that new life is born in us as a result of living from a new foundation. Having a new foundation from where our thoughts, emotions, and life are born changes everything. From this place, we walk into our inheritance and we experience breakthrough.
Living From Dust
Our heart is the epicenter of our being; it encompasses the foundation of our beliefs. From that place, we live our lives - we live either in accordance with Kingdom or the world's system. Repentance allows us to change the foundation of our belief system to align with God's when we discover it's off-track.
Romans 8:1 (KJV): “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
The foundation that we build our life upon is of the utmost importance.
It is the place where the truths of Christ’s victory become part of us, the place from where we face the storms of life, and the springboard that introduces His reality into our world. Proverbs 4:23 says to “keep your heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life.” The issues of life in Hebrew are “the forces that drive our life.” The warning is to guard the most sacred part of our being because the ideas that gain access to our Holy of Holies will define the forces that drive our life and determine our future.
The foundation of our life is our heart. It is the center-most part of who we are and is made of material called beliefs. When Jesus said, “All things are possible to him that believes,” He was saying that when the beliefs that define our foundation reflect His truth, we will both know His purpose and step into these possibilities. Any time our beliefs are at odds with God’s will, it prevents us from realizing His design. It’s called unbelief. Unbelief is not the absence of belief; it is believing the wrong things about God. When God’s will is to heal us and we believe that healing has passed away, our belief goes to war with His grace, and the result is that we receive nothing. We have a responsibility to both guard our heart and actively engage in constructing beliefs that are derived from the finished work of Christ.
God has created a way for us to change our foundation; it’s called repentance.
When we discover beliefs in our life are faulty, God has created a way for us to change our foundation, and it’s called repentance. Repentance means to have a new foundation from where every thought is produced. If we can make the switch, we will realize that new life is born in us. Having a new foundation from where our thoughts, emotions and life are born changes everything. The reason people struggle with the things of God is because they don’t repent and change the foundation off which we approach and perceive the things of God.
Faith is supernatural, and what results in our life because of faith is supernatural. But God’s design is that the supernatural becomes our natural. Hebrews 11:1 says that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for”; it is the sub-strata, or foundation of things hoped for. Faith is living from a foundation, or set of beliefs, that are saturated in the finished work of Christ. Faith is how we take the things of the spirit and introduce them to our world. It is the bridge between the spiritual and the natural worlds.
"Condemnation" comes from the legal term condemned and means “to be judged as guilty and facing punishment.” Condemnation in this context speaks about a life where the fruit of the flesh rules in us, and we must fight sin. In Romans 7, Paul speaks about it further and says, “The good that I want to do I can’t do and the bad that I don’t want to do, I do.” He is saying he is condemned. He is in jail because whatever is controlling his body is preventing him from living the life that he wants to lead. Paul is in a place where he’s trying to deal with recurring issues. When we mess up, we feel sorry for a time and then we try to live right, only to mess up once again. I believe recurring issues extend beyond character to include life issues and God’s promises – areas of hope that we have never been able to appropriate for ourselves. Any time we have recurring issues in our life, we need to check our foundation. If depression is a recurring problem, check your foundation and what you believe. If you’re believing for protection but you get the flu every year, check your foundation.
To gain the best understanding of how all of this works, we need to go back to the One who designed and created us.
In Genesis 2 during creation, God spoke everything into existence, except man. When He created man, He spoke to Himself because we are made of His substance, in God’s likeness. Man was created by God from the dust of the earth, and then God breathed into him the breath of life – God’s spirit and nature. Essentially, man was dust and breath. At the fulcrum between these two elements is man’s soul, and at the center of his soul is his heart. This is his foundation. His heart. His beliefs. Living from God’s influence on his heart would allow him to experience God’s influence in his life.
In Genesis 3, during the fall, Adam said, “I am going to be like God - I am going to have my being by knowing good and evil. Good came from that which was put in his life from God; evil in the Hebrew means "to be full of labor, or to work hard." Adam began to believe that having knowledge of the good that was in his life and knowing how to work this good, would result in him acquiring God’s quality of life. Evil to God is man defining himself outside of God. The result of Adam’s choice was that he no longer defined himself from the influence of God’s breath, but by what he was able to do. He changed the material that defined his foundation and Adam began to live from dust. There are many Christians who love God, want His best for their life, read the Word, and attend church. The reason that they have recurring issues is because they’re living from dust. Our children have substance issues, relationship issues, and are the victims of poor choices; but out of love we’re always trying to fix their situations – we’re living from dust and not breath. We think of faith as something we need to work so that we qualify for God to give us something; we’re living from dust and not breath. We’re trying to be better, live purer, act lovingly, and think successfully – we’re living from dust and not breath. In all these situations, our foundation is built on my ability and not the gift of His influence.
When we change the foundation of our life and live from dust, the cost is God’s influence in our heart and in our world.
When Satan began to think that he was great, not because of God’s influence, but because of his ability, he fell like lightening from heaven. Jesus faced this same temptation in the desert. In Matthew 4, Satan said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, take these stones and make them into bread.” Jesus had the ability to do this but doing so would be a sin. Jesus understood that His identity as the Son was because He was the seed of the Word that the Spirit gave life to. It was the basis on which He related to God and resulted from breath. The temptation was for Jesus to make the foundation of His sonship His ability; to redefine it from breath to dust.
Living from dust introduces the idea that the goal of Christianity is to work towards a good life. The truth is that God is not as interested in us having a good life as He is in us having His life. In our early marriage there was an extended time when I lived in Africa and Sarah lived here in the States. If we had decided to have a family then and Sarah was to have fallen pregnant, it would not have been enough to get excited because she was able to bear fruit; I would have wanted her to bear my fruit! I didn’t want to raise someone else’s child. And yet we have this idea in church that it doesn’t matter where we get the fruit, so long as we get it. We fornicate with guilt, fear, control and condemnation. Falling pregnant from one of these may coerce people to work harder at the things of God, but it doesn’t give them the life of Christ. It reaffirms our living from dust and not breath. God had promised Abram a child, but because his wife Sarai was barren, he went to Hagar which was not God’s intention or seed. God knew that Abram and Sarai were not barren, and neither are you; if you can get the right seed, you’ll bear the right fruit.
Activating the Heart
Allowing God’s influence in our lives will transform our understanding, redefine our emotional set so that they evidence the fruit of the spirit, and get us confident that our decisions are inspired by Him. Healthy decision making is vital because it releases the future that we step in to.
Acts 26:12-18 (NAS): “While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.”
God designed us to live from the heart.
When Christians speak about living from the heart, our modern context characterizes this as schmaltzy and nebulous. However, God designed us to live that way - from the heart. It is the space to which He speaks and the place from where things manifest in our life. Gaining a better understanding of how we are designed in His image and how we are to function in unity with God, introduces us to His purposes for our lives.
Paul was a holy man. He believed in Jehovah, Father God, the God of Abraham and Isaac. He studied the law and prided himself on his knowledge and commitment to it. His beliefs were inspired and built around His understanding of God. As a pharisee, he would have been considered an elder in the temple. And yet he was “engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests” to track down and kill Christians. He couldn’t reconcile how Jesus could claim the title of Messiah, not free Israel from the tyranny of Roman rule, and die on the cross like a common criminal. Paul’s beliefs had him so busy looking for who he thought the Messiah would be that he missed who the Messiah was. His beliefs had him so preoccupied with the notion that the Messiah was to free Israel that he missed the Messiah’s intention to liberate humanity. When we live from the wrong beliefs, we run the risk of missing God. Our beliefs may make sense to us, we may be passionate and resolved about them, but that doesn’t mean that we are not misguided. We can be sincere, but sincerely wrong. When we live from the wrong beliefs, all too often we work against God’s plans and purposes in a situation. For example, people in an unfulfilled marriage often think that their partner is responsible for their happiness and fulfillment. Their belief is grounded in the idea that their partner is their savior, not Jesus. They look to their partner to fulfill their needs, when this is the place that Jesus should fill. Living from this belief puts unhealthy pressure on our marriage and excludes the possibility of God’s design taking form in our life.
Beliefs are powerful because what we believe, we become.
Things don’t have an influence on us unless we believe in them. What we believe about the coronavirus empowers those ideas, allowing them influence in our life. It starts to define how we think about the virus. It informs either our fear or faith components, and it drives the actions we take: social distancing, wearing masks, staying home, and washing our hands more frequently. And yet most of us have never encountered the virus. This is not intended to be a value judgement on the virus. What I’m trying to point out is how our beliefs are formed and shaped by an empowered idea – whether or not we ever encounter the coronavirus. When we believe truth, we find the spirit of that truth, the Holy Spirit, born in us. The quality of our life today is directly related to what we believe in our heart. If you find that you’re angry, living as a victim, critical and judgmental or defensive, there is probably good reason to explore the root of these beliefs. If our life is all messed up, it may not be the devil’s fault, the president’s or our family upbringing. The issue may be our beliefs.
Jesus appears to Saul and says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads?” The goad is a divine impulse or prick of the heart. God is saying, “Saul, it is hard for you to kick against the divine impulse I am having on your life.” It was initially easy for Saul because he knew so little about Jesus. However, the more he heard what these Christians were teaching, so the effect of the Word was making it more difficult for him to ignore the Holy Spirit’s influence. The Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of everyone, prodding them in a direction. John 6:44 says, “No one comes to the Father unless the Spirit draw him.” When people respond to His voice, they are saved. This means born again; newness of life for those who are not in relationship with the Father; newness of beliefs for those living from unbelief.
The Holy Spirit is always looking for openings to guide our beliefs into truth.
John 16:13-14, says “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” The Holy Spirit is the ever-active opportunist. He is always looking for openings to guide our beliefs into truth. He takes the words that God speaks and uses these to influence our beliefs. He is the Man of the Heart. The Holy Spirit is commissioned to take the things of Christ and use them to affect our hearts so that He can influence the course of our lives. When we are open to His influence on our heart, we position ourselves in a space where our thinking, feeling and will are changed to reflect His design.
Jesus says to Saul, “But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you.” Grace is going to introduce us to purpose. Our destiny and our purpose are inextricably linked. Our destiny is to be conformed to His image; to allow our beliefs to be made new by the influence of His Word. Stepping into destiny reveals purpose to us: it shifts the paradigm by which we understand situations, elevate our feelings to become spirit inspired, and redirects our will resulting in better, healthier decisions. God’s influence in our life is grace, and it comes from the Greek word “charis.” It means "the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.” Grace is God’s ability working in and through me. Unless we partake of grace and allow Him to influence our heart, we don’t see the manifestation of Him in our life.
God influences our beliefs through grace.
He made us in His image because He is a being that lives by influence. The relationship between the Trinity is defined by agape and operates by faith. Each member of the Trinity has a heart so open to one another that they have a divine influence (which is the word “grace”) on one another. The influence is so all-consuming that they are indistinguishable one from another and the only way to accurately describe them is as One. Grace is that power or force that influences. We preach the gospel of grace; the good news of God’s influence upon the heart.
When God said let us create man, He was talking about a being that could participate in the life that the Trinity enjoyed. Man had to have the ability to be persuaded (to respond to influence) and believe (from where things manifest in our life). 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” God wants to influence our life, but if we don’t allow how He has created us to become part of that process, then we are never going to truly change. God gave us the ability to imagine for good reason: He wants us to be able to “see things that are not as though they are.” Seeing the truth of who God really is and what He has done for us is to become more real to us than our circumstances. Visualization is the ability to see with our inner man, to see with our heart. Exercising the eyes of our heart is the key to being persuaded – the process of transformation.
Hosting grace is an invitation for God’s power to influence our heart.
Colossians 3:1-2 (NKJV) says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Setting our mind is talking about thoughts that involve emotions. The intention is to introduce us to an experience - and this is deeper than a mere thought. When we use the eyes of the heart to focus on the Word of God, it paints God-inspired pictures on the canvas of our heart. This is how we host grace; it is an invitation for God’s power to influence our heart. This is how we partner with God in the process of transforming our beliefs. God will never be real to us until we have a healthy visual concept of who He is. This is a reality that transcends theology; it is about our personal view of Him in our heart. Only when we see Him for who He really is will we experience the life-changing power of grace.
In Hebrews 4:11-12 we read, “… For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.“ Let’s look at the Greek for some of these words and then reconstruct the sentence:
• When it speaks of God’s Word that influences the heart, it is speaking about grace
• Piercing is penetrating or reaching
• Division is the act of distributing
• “Joints and the marrow” is a figure of speech meaning all parts of the person
• Discerner is a critical factor
Hebrews 4:11-12 paraphrased with the above is: “The influence of God’s Word upon the heart (grace) is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating and distributing life to the soul and every part of our being. It is the critical factor that defines how we will think, and feel, and will (act).” When God’s words influence our beliefs, making them new, it liberates us to live from our heart. When grace has its way, our understanding is elevated, our feelings are the fruit of truth, and our actions are decisive and divinely inspired. We are released to live life from our feelings – one of our most important drivers. This is where our Christianity comes alive, and we become passionately inspired. When we give grace license in our lives, we let God make us feel how He feels. One of the best things that God can do for us is affect our feelings. However, this liberty is contingent on us living “not by my will but thy will be done.” It must be based on the confidence that His will and mine are one; otherwise, we live as a double-minded man in confusion.
I’m Coming Out!
Identity is key to aligning ourselves with God's truths and to defining how we walk our journey and mature in Him. That's why one of the most dangerous things we can do is develop our identity outside of God. The resurrection of Jesus Christ gave us a new identity in Him. It caused old things to pass away and made all things new.
Jeremiah 1:11-12 (NKJV) -- ”Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word.”
Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem and its temple, exiling Israel’s king and many of the leading citizens. It ended the Jews existence as an independent kingdom, and they found themselves in exile in Babylon.
The Jews were suffering from an identity crisis; they had forgotten who they were and were caught in their reality. Any time we lose sight of who we are, we become products of our environment and no longer people of destiny. When we lose our identity, we forfeit our ability to influence our reality, and we end up conformed to our circumstances and situations as opposed to being agents of change – people who understand and live from their destiny in God.
One of the most dangerous things we can do is develop our identity independently of God.
When we do this, the result is that our character ends up being at odds with God’s. It translates into a characteristic of loss, uncertainty, and insecurity and makes us vulnerable, which only empowers our reality. God is quite the opposite; He is the One who is “more than enough”; He is established in truth and is grounded in the security of knowing the future because He has already been there.
Jeremiah is asked by God, “What do you see?” As a prophet, Jeremiah was to speak God’s words to His people. However, before he could speak, he had to see. Before we engage in any action, it’s important that we see. Vision, God’s design for our future, is going to come to our heart, not our eyes. In Luke 4:18, Jesus said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Jesus wants us to recover the ability to see our circumstances and our future through His eyes – through the finished work of the cross. It not only gives us direction but brings with it a supernatural empowering to make His design manifest.
Jeremiah sees the branch of an almond tree. The almond tree is the first tree to bud in spring, signaling the end of winter and the start of new life. Prophetically, it speaks of a coming renewal and restoration; it speaks of the resurrection and the implications of newness of life. When our heart is renewed, vision will be restored; and vision will reveal a future through the lens of resurrection power. It’s how we inject life into our reality. “I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Resurrection power from the finished work of Christ offers the opportunity to change our identity, not just increase our knowledge about God.
God is promising to do for the Jews what they couldn’t do for themselves. Resurrection power from the finished work of Christ offers the opportunity to change our identity, not just increase our knowledge about God. The effects are revolutionary and result in the creation of a new people. Jeremiah 31:33 says “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” God’s intention was to take His truth and use it to redefine “their heart”; it was about the old man passing away and producing within us a new man, a new identity that was formed in His image. He would “be our God” is His commitment to His word: “for I am watching over My word to perform it." God is committing Himself to be the one who will watch over the truth that defines our new man; and as we live from this truth, He will empower it to make sure that the truth manifests itself. “Living as His people” is to define our reality and our future.
God’s ability comes to our identity, not our reality.
Throughout the book of Jeremiah, repentance is referenced. Jeremiah recognizes God’s grand plan and understands that for us to participate in it, we will have to embrace a new foundation that will produce new thoughts and a new life. A new me will lead to renewal and restoration. In John 15:5, Jesus says,“He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” God’s ability comes to our identity, not our reality. Being connected to the vine redefines our identity which empowers us to deal with the issues of life. It is only when God has made an imprint on our heart that He can make an impression on our life. God’s faithfulness is to our heart, not our eyes – this is where the finished work of Christ is revealed.
God tells Jeremiah, “You have seen well.” The only way we see well is when we see life through the risen Christ. Only by seeing Christ raised from the dead will we clearly see the fulness of the gospel and our life in this context. Colossians 1:18 tells us, “He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead...” There are a couple of important points here: firstly, Jesus is the head and we, the Church, are the body – we are one, joined together with Him. Secondly, Jesus was the firstborn from the dead. He conquered sin and death and was the first to experience resurrection power and live the born-again life. Doctors will tell you that when the time of a baby’s delivery arrives, once the head comes out of the womb, it is a guarantee that the body is right behind it. When Jesus, the head, rose from the dead, He was the guarantee that you will rise from the dead as well. Jesus is the guarantee that you’re coming out: Receiving grace and the gift of righteousness lets us rule in life. When the eyes of our heart are enlightened, we will know the hope of life in Christ. God supplies all my needs according to His riches in glory. I have new life and am more than a conqueror. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I have traded fear for faith, despair for hope, sorrow for joy. I am forgiven and made clean through the blood of Jesus, and I am greatly loved by God. Jesus, the Head, is your guarantee that life will never be the same.
When I listen to the message of the resurrected Christ, faith is born in me.
The paraphrased version of Romans 10:17 is that faith has its source in the message heard; and the message is the finished work of the resurrected Christ. When I listen to the message of the resurrected Christ, faith is born in me and this new foundation brings forth fruit of life into my circumstances.Romans 4:19-22 tells us about Abram, “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Abram never staggered at the promise of God, which was to bring forth life through him. But both Abram and Sarai had natural limitations which meant that they couldn’t produce life. Sarai’s womb and Abram’s body were both dead. The reality was that no circumstances or situations were in support of what was going to happen. But what their reality communicated was not consequential because God said I’m going to bring forth life. God’s word led to the deadness of Sarai’s womb bringing forth life - Isaac. Don’t stagger at your reality or let it define your future because it’s not consequential with God. Out of the deadness of a three-day old grave came life, Jesus, the first born from the dead. From deadness of a heart of stone came life, you, a new creation in Christ. In the same way, from the deadness of your reality God is looking to bring forth life.