The Chastains September 2017 Newsletter

Greetings from Tallinn! After almost 2 months in the U.S. this summer, we returned to Estonia August 18. It was such a blessing to be able to share a summer in the States with our family. This was the first 4th of July stateside for our two youngest kids. Over the course of our time there we were able to visit 7 different states. Not only did we have quality time with our families, but we also were able to visit with many of you and hear how you are.

Music

We want to thank everyone who has supported the Faleiro-Chastain album, which came out earlier this summer! Charlie and Gustavo are planning some future concerts in Europe and America. They hope to encourage local communities about Christian arts as well as engaging with the refugee crisis.

“Rue de la Convention” by Faleiro-Chastain is available on all the major music websites: iTunes, Amazon Music, GooglePlay, Noisetrade and others. Please check it out. Every sale, stream and share helps our work!

Charlie is beginning production in September with 2 new artists from Estonia and will produce the 3rd Canon Music Workshop in Moscow, Russia with the United Methodist Church of Eurasia in October. He will also be joining several Christian artists from various communities throughout Europe as they gather for the “Tribus” Conference in Düsseldorf, Germany in early November.

Please pray for these projects and gatherings – that Charlie will be effective in his “time management” with so many overlapping tasks and travel these next few months.

Miki’s upcoming Russia trip

Miki will be spending 5 days in St. Petersburg and Moscow early in September, where she will gather with some old friends and colleagues to spend some time teaching and Bible study with leaders from the Russian UMC. Although this is a short trip due to her seminary schedule, she is so grateful for the opportunity to see our brothers and sisters in Russia, and to have time for prayer and fellowship with them.

We have been experiencing more and more “hurdles” in our continuing work in Russia – so we want to be faithful in the limited opportunities we have there. Please pray for easy connections and that they may be a source of encouragement and instruction for one another, to the glory of God.

Malaysia Global Gathering – October

In late October, Charlie and our oldest daughter Isabel will travel together for the TMS Global Gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We hope that this will be a time for reconnecting with old friends, and for having good discussions on the ways forward in this new season at TMS Global. In particular, Charlie hopes to have productive meetings regarding the ongoing work with refugees, both in Europe and in other regions of the world where TMS Global is present.

As many of you know, we believe that this is going to continue to be a major global crisis, at least throughout our life times. We appreciate your continued prayers as we seek to work alongside brothers and sisters throughout these affected regions in order to discover the best practices in providing ministry for these displaced families and unaccompanied minors, and to learn how to care also for one another and to lean on Jesus Christ, the Giver of Life, more in our own lives each day.

Exploratory Trip to Italy

For a few years now, we have continued to feel the Lord shifting our view more and more into the refugee crisis throughout Europe, particularly within the Southern European nations of Greece, Serbia, and Italy. As a result of several months of prayer and a lot of conversation with many of you, we have begun planning an extended family trip, from mid-November through December, down into Italy.

This will be an “exploratory” trip, designed primarily for learning and connecting with others who are working and living there. While we are there, we have also been invited to attend a missions conference with a partner NGO in the refugee crisis, which is scheduled for November in Rome.

We can not say exactly what God’s plan is for us through this trip. Still, we feel we need to be open to the possibilities for expanded work in that region. Considering our experience over the years with orphans and street children in Northeastern Europe – as well as our continued development and education in spiritual retreat and pastoral care – we are giving significant consideration to the possibility of full-time work with unaccompanied minors.

We recognize that any possibility for this type of work in Southern Europe will require a number of miracles in relationships, communications, and provisions. We desire to approach this season delicately and are asking God to provide abundant humility, discernment, courage, and peace as He reveals His plan for our family.

To look back at how we got to this place in ministry, feel free to browse our video updates from refugee camps and squats here: https://vimeo.com/user2916213/albums


Seminary Update

As many of you know, Miki’s Masters of Divinity requirements at Asbury Seminary include 63 academic hours of class online, and 33 hours on one of the campuses, either in Wilmore, KY or Orlando, FL. We were very pleased that, with a bit of juggling and a lot of support from several of you, this summer she was able to complete 9 hours on the Asbury campuses. Miki has now completed the first year of the three year MDiv program and plans on maintaining a full-time schedule throughout so that she will finish up on time, in 2019.

We want to thank everyone who has supported Miki’s studies financially with the Ministry Partners Program at Asbury. Through this scholarship, Miki is required to participate in regular online sessions and to raise financial contributions each year of $6,980. By meeting these requirements, the remaining tuition balance (around $20,000 in total for her first year) is covered by the seminary.

For her second year, which begins next month, support of $5,300 has already been given or pledged by individuals and congregations, leaving a need of just $1,680 for the 2017-18 year.

If you feel you would like to support Miki’s studies, or if you would like to learn more about the reasons why she is pursuing this degree towards the development of her work here in Europe, please feel free to reach out to her at mikichastain@gmail.com. Support can be sent directly to:

Asbury Theological Seminary
204 N. Lexington Avenue
Wilmore, KY 40390
Please designate the check: Miki Chastain – MPP

Or go online:  https://myats.asburyseminary.edu/mpp if you prefer to make an electronic payment.

Thank you so much for walking with us through these busy times. We sincerely ask for your continued prayers and support, and invite you to be in touch with us.  It’s always a blessing to hear from you – to know how we can pray for you and see how God is working through your lives in addition to the efforts you do on our behalf!

Every Blessing to you and yours,

Charlie, Miki, Isabel, Jasper and Celia

PS:  Miki’s 8-week study on prayer is available on Apple iBooks and Amazon Kindle. Please check it out – and share it with your SS Classes and friends!   

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Prayer Study Week 8 – Love

At the core of all we know about God, everything He is, and everything He has done – the creation of the universe, pursuit of the heart of His children, the cross, the resurrection, and the coming restoration of heaven and earth – is love.

Likewise, at the root of our separation from God, and all of the suffering and darkness we see prevailing in our lives and in the world around us today lies one, insidious deception: We simply do not know the love of our Heavenly Father.

“And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.'” Matthew 3:17

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us…” 1 John 4:16-17

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

Do we have any idea how much God loves us?

Whether or not we are consciously aware of it, this question is at the heart of everything we say and do. The oppressive, often overwhelming waves of deception and darkness in this world work to keep us distracted. We are often so deeply sold into the lies of our worthlessness, that we are unable to begin to grasp the significance of this question as it defines all we think and feel. But, in the end, this is everything.

In the end, love is everything.

Love is the definition of who we are – creatures loved by our Creator.

Love is the definition of what the Church is – quite simply, the community of individuals who have submitted to the blood of Jesus Christ, and in so doing have begun to consider the possibility that Almighty God might actually love them.

And reaching into the core of the countless attacks and deceptions of the enemy against the children of God, we find this one, pervasive lie: “God does not love you. You are unworthy of His love.”

As we consider the foundation and authority of love in our desire for God, and in His desire for us, we can go back to the words in Hebrews 10:19-24:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great Priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…

When, by the blood of Jesus Christ, we enter into the Most Holy Place – the very presence of our Heavenly Father God – it is there that we first encounter the truth of His love. Every part of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives stems from our seeing and believing this truth – that God our Father deeply and passionately loves us. We are naturally healed and set free as the reality of God’s love is made complete in us.

Remember the guidance of Jesus Christ in Matthew 22:37-40, when He said “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'”

Everything hangs on love. Everything.

Final Meditation – The Cross

Remember the prayer of Christ in the garden, just moments before his arrest in Luke 22:41-44:

(Jesus) withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

In those moments before the crucifixion, our Lord was in anguish, even asking the Father to take away the cup awaiting Him at the cross.

Why? Remember, we are talking about the same man who said to His disciples in John 15:18-21, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.”

Jesus Christ had always been aware of the persecution that was coming for Him and His followers from the world. So, why do we see Him on the eve of His crucifixion crying out to His Father in this way? What was in the “cup” awaiting Jesus Christ?

In Deuteronomy 21:22-23, we find a part of the old law, which says, “If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole, you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.”

“Under God’s curse…”

Jesus Christ knew that at the moment He was hung on the cross, He would fall under the curse of His Father God. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul says that in that moment, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us.”

At the moment of the crucifixion, Jesus Christ became sin. He fell under the curse of God. Hanging on the cross, for the very first time Jesus Christ became completely separated from the perfect love of His Father.

Let’s go back to the story of Abraham and Isaac, which we find in Genesis 22, for an illustration of this experience for Jesus. In Genesis 22:2, God said to Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

We remember that Abraham and Isaac walked together for three days to the mountain, where Abraham then bound his son, Isaac, to the altar.

Genesis 22:10-14 tells us, “Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”

Abraham and Isaac’s story has a happy ending, with Isaac’s life spared, and God’s provision of the ram to be sacrificed in his place.

But, let’s try to imagine for a moment that the angel of the Lord had never appeared, that the ram had not been provided. Imagine that Abraham had gone through with the sacrifice of his son, had put the knife into Isaac’s chest, had turned his back on him, and had walked away.

Now imagine that moment for Isaac, lying on the altar, the knife protruding from his chest, watching his father walk away and abandon him as he lay there, dying.

This was the experience of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Certainly, our Lord did not desire to be beaten, or to experience the excruciating physical pain of the nails as they were driven into His hands and feet. But, were these the things filling the “cup” which He asked the Father to take from Him?

On the cross, Jesus Christ became sin, took on Himself the curse of the filth of our wretched depravity. And in response to His anguish in those moments hanging there, for the very first time, His loving Father turned His back on Him.

In Romans 3:25 Paul writes that “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” Paul does not blame the religious leaders or the government officials of that time for the crucifixion of Christ, but says clearly that it was God Who offered Jesus Christ as a sacrifice that day.

In that moment, Jesus Christ became completely cut off from the love of His Father. He experienced total rejection and abandonment by Him for the very first time. We see a glimpse of this in His reaction in Matthew 27:46, when He cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

It is only as we begin to understand the cross, to understand the fullness of the penalty that Christ paid there on our behalf, that we can begin to comprehend the freedom we have in Him. We are no longer subjugated to the rejection and scorn of our Father God. We are no longer bound under the condemnation of the world and ourselves – no longer the  “mistake”, or the “unlovable”, or the “unsave-able”.

Why? Because Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, experienced every bit of that in our place on the cross. Our penalty is paid. We are free.

The cross is the ultimate display of perfect love. Because of Jesus Christ, because of the cross, we are welcomed into the Holy Throne Room of our Heavenly Father, He Who is perfect love. By the blood of Jesus Christ, we are free to walk out from under the oppression and weight of the darkness and deception reigning in this world, and to find ourselves and to find God our Father, in His love.

Week 8 Meditation

This week, try to find a whole day, or even a day and a night, which you can set aside to get away from home and work and regular responsibilities, for time alone in prayer with the Father. As you are preparing for your time with God, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the types of tools you might need to have with you, which will help you to maintain a focus on His presence. Some examples include a notebook or sketch pad, music, an instrument, or a blanket or exercise mat for sitting.

Scripture meditation:

– Romans 5:1-11

– 1 Corinthians 13

– The book of Hebrews

This week, in your time of prayer, ask God to help you hear His voice, and to give you the courage to honestly consider His one question for you:

“Do you truly know that I love you?”

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Prayer Study Week 7 – Spiritual Warfare

The scriptures are filled with wisdom and instruction on the topic of spiritual warfare, as all of the children of God who have gone before us have encountered struggles with the enemy. Believers desiring to submit to the will of the Father must recognize that we will also be called to face these battles.

Who is our enemy?

As we approach this topic, we begin by remembering the guidance we have from Paul in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

Believers should not be tempted to turn our attention intently towards the enemy and his schemes. God our Father is fully aware of him, and will be our guide as we meditate on His Word and learn to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

However, neither should we ignore the reality of who our enemy is, particularly as we are sorting out issues such as unity in the Body, the building-up and sending-out of workers, and our own salvation.

Paul reminds of this truth in Ephesians 6:10-12, writing, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

The scriptures also provide us some guidance on the character of our enemy:

Revelation 12:9 provides a brief, but rich description: “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”

Note the wording here, describing Satan as the one “who leads the whole world astray.” It is important to remember that our enemy operates entirely through deception.

In John 10:10, Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Let’s consider these points a bit more:

1- The enemy comes to steal.

John 1:3 gives us some information about Jesus Christ, saying, “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.”

In Hebrews 1:2 we read, “but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through Whom also He made the universe.”

The scriptures are clear on this point: All of creation was created by God, through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is Himself Heir of all things.

But the enemy is a thief. He deceives the world, claiming that the blessings of God’s creation actually belong to him. A few examples of the gifts of God, which the enemy attempts to claim as his own, include the arts, science, sex, numbers, nature, the human body, family, and even the Church.

Through these blessings of God’s creation, we have the possibility for revelation of the life and love and truth of our Creator. However, when we submit to the deception of the enemy, we develop instead a posture of defense and hostility towards these gifts, often resulting in a growth of fear and legalism.

2 – The enemy comes to kill.

He wants to kill you and me. Every single temptation or distraction into which he tempts us is meant for the purpose of taking from us the life we have been given through Jesus Christ.

We recall the story in the Garden of Eden, when God said to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Shortly after this, we see man’s first encounter with the enemy, in Genesis 3. When tempting Eve to disobey God, the serpent said to her in verses 4-5, “You will not surely die… For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…”

This is a common deception of the enemy: “You will not surely die, but you will be like God. That sin in your life is not killing you. In fact, it is leading you towards real, true life! You’ve worked hard. People have hurt you. You deserve this. And it will make you feel better. It will make you feel more powerful.”

But there is something else feeding the power of the deceptions of our enemy, which is that his temptations and excuses are exactly what our old, carnal nature wants to hear. Without the blood of Jesus Christ, we are naturally drawn to the things that lead to death. The enemy is simply providing the excuses we need in order to ignore the evidence of the death, which is consuming us.

But through all of this remains the steadfast, still voice of our Father God, speaking in His unfailing love for us, saying, “You must not eat from that tree, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Proverbs 7 – Take a few minutes to read through this image of the tempter in Proverbs. This passage provides a rich description of the enemy’s strategy for luring individuals into the snares of sin and death.

3 – The enemy comes to destroy.

As we consider this description of the enemy who comes to destroy, it’s good to begin by asking the question – what does he seek to destroy?

Jesus Christ addressed this question in Matthew 21:12-15: “Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written’, He said to them, ‘”My house will be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it a “den of robbers.”‘”

We have additional insight for this question in Ephesians 1:22-23, when Paul writes about Jesus Christ, saying, “And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.”

This target, which the enemy seeks to destroy, is the Church. The very body of Christ Himself. Note that this does not necessarily include the church buildings in which we meet. More precisely, the enemy seeks to tear down the unity and the love that signifies the true Church. He wants to destroy the Body of believers, the fellowship of the disciples of Jesus Christ.

The scars of division and conflict, which have resulted throughout the history of Church, are clear evidence of the war the enemy wages against the Bride of Christ. Further, in these attacks we see him using precisely the same strategy we have already discussed – the strategy of deception.

In this account at the temple, Jesus Christ reminds us of the words of the prophet in Isaiah 56:6-7, that those “who bind themselves to the Lord to serve Him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship Him”, God has brought to His “holy mountain and given them joy in (His) house of prayer… for (God’s) house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

“God’s house will be called a ‘house of prayer'”. The instruction for the Church here is really quite simple. Yet, we are currently witnessing an epidemic in the Church of leaders and workers who are exhausted, consistently giving all of their time and energy, while struggling to find any free time for prayer.

Some of the deceptions of the enemy against the Church and God’s children:

– Deception that we are unwanted and are unloved by our Heavenly Father (so that we must “prove” to Him that we are worthy of His love).

– Deception that the wisdom and strategies of the world are more relevant than the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

– Deception that the glorification of men saves us.

How do Believers Respond?

Whether we are in the midst of an attack of the enemy in our own lives, or we are in an intercessory prayer session with someone needing deliverance, the scriptures give us clear guidance on how we can be prepared to respond to and resist the devil.

1 – Learning the voice of our Father God.

In John 10:1-5, we have the words of Jesus Christ, when he said, “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

In this passage, Jesus provides for us the 2 primary means for confronting the deceptions of the enemy in our lives:

a. Become intimately, passionately familiar with the voice of our Heavenly Father.

b. Flee from/ignore all other strange and unrecognizable voices.

True intimacy with and trust in the voice of our Heavenly Father is a primary line of defense against the deceptions of our enemy. This kind of familiarity with our Shepherd is achieved through a rich, committed life of prayer.

2 – Absolute submission to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 28:17-20, Jesus tells His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

As with every aspect of our reconciliation to the Father through Jesus Christ, we start by recognizing that in our own strength, we have no authority to defeat the deceptions of the enemy. If we attempt to fight these battles without falling on our faces in repentance and humility before Jesus Christ, and allowing Him to cover us with His blood and fill us with the Holy Spirit, then we will fail.

In Acts 19:13-16, we have an example of this reality in the account of the seven sons of Sceva:

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’ Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

An interesting point of this story is found in verse 15, when the evil spirit answered the sons of Sceva by saying, “Jesus I know, and Paul I am acquainted with, but who are you?”  It is important to note here that not only did the evil spirit know who Jesus Christ was, but he also knew who Paul was.

As our relationship and intimacy with Jesus Christ deepens, the whole of the spiritual world comes to recognize us as His followers, who are covered by His blood. It is our transformation in Jesus Christ, and our submission to follow Him, by which the enemy must submit to us when we speak in our Lord’s name.

3 – Denying worldly wisdom, submitting only to the wisdom of God, through the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 8:9-19, we have the account of the meeting of the apostles with a sorcerer from Samaria, named Simon. The author tells us that Simon was well-respected in his community, and that people from all classes followed and honored him because of his skills in sorcery.

Then we have the account of the apostles coming to Samaria, in verses 14-19:

But when (the Samarians) believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’

Simon’s request for the gift of the Holy Spirit here provides a good illustration of the error of reliance on the wisdom of man. Note that his desire for the gift of the Holy Spirit is not wrong in itself. The things we must consider – those things which God our Father considers – come from the condition of Simon’s heart:

a. Simon coveted the authority of the apostles, and he wanted that authority for himself. He sought the gift of the Holy Spirit out of a desire to see himself justified – so that he would be considered “righteous” and “honored” by the people of his community.

b. Simon attempted to gain for himself the authority and power of the Holy Spirit in his own life not through intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ, or through submission to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. He attempted to gain the gifts of the Holy Spirit through the quickest and most efficient means he knew – money.

Reliance on human wisdom has become a tremendous temptation for the Church today. Believers must humble themselves before the Lord in prayer, and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the areas in which He is calling us to turn our ears away from the wisdom of the world, and to wait on the wisdom He gives through the voice of the Holy Spirit.

4 – Meditation on the Word of God

In Ephesians 6:10-18, the apostle Paul gives specific guidance for believers facing spiritual warfare. In this account, he provides a detailed list of the elements of what he calls “the full armor of God”.

We have that list in verses 14-17: “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Each element of the “armor” described by Paul here is meant primarily as a weapon of defense against the attacks of the enemy, with the exception of one: The sword of the Spirit, which Paul identifies as the Word of God.

One of the most memorable examples of the authority of the scriptures to defeat the enemy is found in Matthew 4, the temptation of Jesus Christ in the wilderness. After spending 40 days and nights alone in the desert without eating or drinking, Jesus was hungry.

It was at this time that the devil came and waged attack after attack on Jesus. With each attempt, Jesus came back at the devil with the Word of God:

Vs. 4: Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Vs. 7: Jesus answered him, “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord you God to the test.'” 

Vs. 10-11: Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord you God, and serve Him only.'” Then the devil left Him.

The Word of God is nourishment for His children. We must commit to prayerfully meditate on His word. As it is opened up to us by the Holy Spirit, and as it is written on our hearts, we will be much better equipped when we are confronted with the devil.

The authority of God’s Word is also important during our intercessory prayers for others, particularly those needing deliverance. Very often, simply speaking the Word of God over a person can be very effective in seeing the authority of satan break in a person’s life.

Following are a few examples of scriptures that are very powerful when prayed according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus Christ:

– “Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.'” Matthew 28:18

– “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.'” John 14:6

– “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love.” John 15:9

– “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me… If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.” Psalm 139:1-12

– “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

– “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4

– “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies, through His Spirit, Who lives in you… For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.” Romans 8:11-15

– “We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4:16-18

Some Thoughts on Deliverance

It is difficult for us to fully understand, but there are circumstance in which individuals become particularly vulnerable to the deceptions of the enemy – perhaps through trauma or addiction, for example. In these cases, individuals may submit themselves to the authority of the enemy (or be handed over to the authority of the enemy in the case of children), resulting in a need for them to be “delivered” from the evil that has assumed a sort of control in their lives.

In these cases, it is often necessary first to address the source of the pain or deception, which originally led the individual to submit to the control of the evil spirit in their lives. This includes praying for God to reveal and to heal:

– deceptions of worthlessness,

– issues of terror, rage, or unforgiveness regarding others who may have abused the person for whom you’re praying,

– areas of addiction and sin, which make the individual vulnerable to the influence and control of the enemy.

Once these authorities of sin, pain, and deception have been broken, it may be necessary to directly address the evil spirit or darkness, which has taken control in the person’s life, and to command it to leave in the name of Jesus Christ. We have examples of Jesus Christ doing this during His times of prayer ministry with others:

– “‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!'” (Jesus Christ directly addressing an evil spirit.) Mark 1:25

– “Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”‘” Matthew 4:10

Deliverance ministry can be quite intense. When possible, prayer ministers should engage in this type of prayer ministry with the support of a prayer partner or prayer team.

However, believers should not be intimidated or fearful about engaging the enemy in the name of Jesus Christ, recognizing that the breaking of authorities of darkness and deliverance of evil spirits are natural parts of the declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As you sense the Lord leading you more deeply into spiritual warfare or deliverance ministry, consider researching other sources of information on these topics. I recommend the book Deliverance from Evil Spirits by Francis MacNutt as a place to begin (Chosen Books, 1995).

Week 7 Meditation

This week, set aside 40 minutes on 4 different days, for spending time in prayer and meditation on God’s Word. The focus of the prayer time this week will be spiritual warfare, and seeking revelation on the places where the enemy is maintaining a sort of authority in our lives. With this topic, it is a good idea to reach out to someone whom you trust and know to be spiritually mature, and who will be willing to meet with you to talk and pray through some of the things the Lord reveals in your time of prayer.

Scriptures meditation:

Day 1 – Psalm 23

Day 2 – Psalm 139

Day 3 – Isaiah 43:1-7

Day 4 – Hebrews 4:12-16

Things to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you (Jot down in your journal the things you hear Him speak to you, and share them in your time with your prayer partner):

– Any places in your life where you are struggling under the deception and authority of the enemy.

– Scriptures for you to begin to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, which will work to break down the authorities and deceptions which have gained some control in your life. (You may find some examples above under the subsection, “4 -Meditation on the Word of God.”)

– Revelations of the truth of God’s Word for you, which He desires to write on your heart, setting you free from the deceptions and lies of darkness.

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Prayer Study Week 6 – Stepping Out: A Practical Discussion

Experiencing the Peace of God

Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

John 14:26-27: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Throughout our walk with the Lord, our prayer life and intimacy with Him naturally go through different phases, or seasons. Some examples of various seasons through which we walk with God include:

Seasons of healing – For example, after intense periods of ministry, or in times of grief or recovery. In these times, we are often immersed in such deep intimacy, it seems we can almost feel God’s hands holding and comforting us.

Seasons of discipline – As our intimacy with our Father grows, He leads us into seasons marked with discipline and conviction. From the perspective of Jesus’ metaphor of the tree and its fruit from Luke 6, which we considered in the last chapter, these seasons of discipline can be understood as seasons of pruning. In these periods, the Holy Spirit brings to light areas of weakness and sin in our lives, of which He is ready for us to be made free through sanctification.

The writer of Hebrews describes these seasons in 12:4-13, reminding us, “the Lord disciplines the one He loves… No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Naturally, this “pruning” process will be uncomfortable, even painful for us to experience. As we submit to the Father’s work in these times of discipline, however, we will ultimately find new freedom to grow with new life and abundance, in accordance with His will for our lives.

Seasons of “front-line” ministry or service – As we submit our lives more to prayer and intimacy with God, we will find the circumstances into which we are called to serve to be darker and heavier, more and more beyond our own capacity of strength and wisdom. We will be more aware of the raging storms around us, and also of the reality that if we take our eyes off of the Lord, we will be overcome by them.

Each of these seasons is marked by various degrees and shades of emotional outpouring. The human responses of anger, grief, elation, laughter, tears, loneliness and exhaustion all surface at different points throughout the journey of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Regardless of the circumstances or emotional experience of any season, however, the scriptures clearly specify one unchanging indicator of our submission to the work and will of God, and that is peace of God, which unfailingly guards our hearts and our minds (Philippians 4:7). In fact, the peace we have in our Father often seems unreasonable in the midst of our circumstances and emotions.

As we draw closer to God in prayer and sanctification, we also begin to recognize those moments when we sense a removal of His peace from our lives. This may be an indication that we have made a mis-step, or have become distracted, and taken our eyes off our Him. Sometimes we might experience some discontentment due to an injury or offense we have taken, for which we need to forgive. At other times, our spirits may feel troubled simply as an indication of our growing discernment of areas of darkness in different places or persons around us.

In all cases, when we sense certain areas in our lives are void of the peace of our Father God, we respond by going directly to Him. We can begin by simply talking to Him, praying for example:

“Father, I am struggling, and I do not feel Your peace with me right now. Your Word says that everyone who calls on Your name will be saved. (Romans 10:13). I come to You now and ask You to help me in this time…”

Entering into Battle

As we briefly mentioned earlier in this study, certain seasons of our prayer life will necessarily require our willingness to engage in battle. The Old Testament of the bible is filled with examples of the Father leading His children into battle, for the sake of their own salvation, as well as for revelation of His glory and His kingdom on earth.

One example is found Deuteronomy 1, where we have the account of God’s sending the Israelites in to take possession of the land He had promised them. The Israelites knew of God’s promise. But they were also aware that the fulfillment of this promise meant that they would have to face the Amorites in battle.

In Deuteronomy 1:29-30, we see God encouraging the Israelites about the coming battle, saying to them, “Do not be terrified, do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you will fight for you, as He did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes.”

But the Israelites did not trust God, and they were unwilling to engage in battle with the Amorites. Instead of entering in and taking possession of the promised land from their Heavenly Father, they wandered the desert for 40 more years.

As our intimacy with our Heavenly Father deepens, we also are called into seasons of battle. We must begin by remembering against whom we are called to battle.

In Ephesians 6:10-12, Paul writes, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

What do these battles to look like in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ?

1 – Entering into battle for our personal salvation:

In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul gives us a bit more description of what it means to “battle” for our personal salvation, writing, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

What does this mean, to “work out (our) salvation with fear and trembling”?

Let’s go back to the well-known words we find in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

“whoever believes in Him…” It is vital for us to recognize the crucial difference between the idea of “believing in” someone as opposed to the idea of simply believing that someone exists. It is not enough for us to believe that God exists (even the demons believe that! James 2:19). Salvation comes as we begin to “believe in”, or to put our faith in Jesus Christ.

Let’s look again at the example of the desperate father in Mark 9:17-29, who came to Jesus seeking healing for his son. His son suffered from possession by an evil spirit, and the evil spirit was trying to kill his son, often throwing him into seizures, even trying to drown or burn him. As the father was speaking to Jesus, his son was thrown into a seizure. Then the father pleaded with Jesus in verse 22, saying “if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

We see Jesus’ response to the father, when He asks, “‘If you can’? ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'”

The question of salvation lies here: Do we truly believe in Jesus Christ alone? Are we so certain of the truth of Him that we have put all of our faith and all of our hope in Him?

Or are there still areas where we aren’t sure, where we’re still afraid to step out? Are there places where a shadow of doubt still lingers, where we’re only willing to say, “Lord Jesus, if You can…?”

Let us step into these battles for our salvation, crying out to Jesus Christ with the desperate father in Mark 9, “Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

2 – Entering into battle for personal sanctification:

As we discussed in week 4, sanctification is the process by which our hearts are naturally transformed as our faith and intimacy with Jesus Christ deepens. It is necessary to understand sanctification as a process, in which the old, deceptive ways of thinking and perception begin to break in our lives. By God’s grace, these old places in our hearts are replaced with the unfailing truth of His Holy word.

It is important to recognize that the process of sanctification in our lives will inevitably include seasons of battle.

In Romans 7:22-23, Paul discusses his own battles through sanctification, writing, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.”

In Genesis 32:22-32, we have an example of these types of battles, with the account of the night Jacob wrestled with God. On the evening of this confrontation, Jacob was preparing for the next day, when he would face his brother, Esau. Now, Jacob had greatly offended Esau years earlier, and so at the time of this account, he believed that Esau was coming to kill him:

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’

But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’

The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’

‘Jacob,’ he answered.

Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’

Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’

But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Then he blessed him there.

So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’

The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

This passage is not the simplest for us to understand. But, it gives a good illustration of the battles between our own depraved, carnal nature and the will of our Heavenly Father – battles which naturally occur in a life submitted to prayer and sanctification in Christ Jesus. A few points to note here:

1 – Jacob did not spend this night working out his own plan or strategy on the best way to protect or defend himself and his family from Esau’s coming attack. In this moment of fear and uncertainty, Jacob chose to spend his night alone with God.

2 – Jacob did not flee from God, but submitted to the battle. In fact, He clung to God until the victory came, saying to the “man”, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

3 – Through this battle, Jacob received his true identity. The man said to Jacob, “You will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

4 – Jacob walked away with the victory of blessing. But he also walked away with a permanent limp. This battle left him blessed with a deeper revelation of himself and God, but it also left him humbled with a greater realization of his own weakness and dependency on God. 

3 – Entering into battle on behalf of others/Intercessory Prayer:

Remember again Paul’s description of the Holy Spirit interceding for us in Romans 8:26: “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

As prayer ministers for others, we must recognize the significance and intensity of the calling into which we are entering. Through intercessory prayer, we walk beside others for a time and place through the spiritual battles they are experiencing in their own lives.

When we enter by the blood of Jesus Christ into the holy throne room of the Father in prayer for others or for ourselves, we must be prepared for the battles that will naturally ensue. These battles humble us. They open our eyes so we are more aware of our own weaknesses, and the reality that without surrender to the blood of Jesus Christ, and complete dependence on God to fight for us, we will be overcome.

Through these battles we are called to press into the confidence and faith we have in God. We may walk away with a limp, but we will walk away with new freedom and assurance of the unfailing love of our Father God.

Waiting

Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Romans 8:34 “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

Perhaps one of the most difficult disciplines in the life of prayer is learning to wait on the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s will for ourselves and for the people for whom we are praying. Whatever the burden we are lifting in prayer, we recognize that we are stepping up alongside the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ Himself, Who are already interceding in the presence of the Father.

A deepening prayer life naturally involves a denial of our own understanding and wisdom in the situations in our lives, and often requires much time and patience. We must learn not to be anxious or to rush in our times of prayer, but instead to trust God, to wait contently on the Holy Spirit, and to let Him lead us.

A few things to keep in mind as we are waiting and listening for the leading of the Holy Spirit in prayer:

1. The work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is towards the fulfillment of the Word of God. The guidance of the Holy Spirit will never contradict the Word of God. In fact, often we may sense the Holy Spirit leading us to pray a specific passage of scripture over a person or situation.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-18

2. God’s Word is always rooted in love – so will be the prayers of the Holy Spirit to the Father on behalf of His children.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

3. God’s Word never condemns. As we enter into prayer, we begin by asking the Holy Spirit to reveal if there is within us any root of bitterness or condemnation, which is preventing us from discerning His heart of compassion and love for someone else, or even for ourselves.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1

Humility

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

In present-day society, even within parts of the Church today, the concept of humility has become so foreign and twisted, we often forget the vital role it naturally plays in our deepening communion with our Father in prayer.

Paul discusses the idea of humility in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10: “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The sin of pride is one of the most insidious and deadly of all sins, because we often do not recognize it in our own lives, unless the Holy Spirit in His conviction and grace reveals it to us. Pride is not unlike a cancer that quietly grows until it consumes us, taking away our hope and our life.

Humility saves us from the deadly snare of pride. We should not be afraid of the humility that God brings into our lives – whether through our own weaknesses, or through insults, or hardships, or persecution, or difficulties. While painful at first, it is vital that we submit to the Holy Spirit in prayer, and ask Him to humble us, so that we will not be enslaved by our own pride, which leads to death.

Rest

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:7-8

The work to which we are called in ministry is both intensely fulfilling and overwhelmingly exhausting. It is difficult to describe the depth of the exhaustion that comes after a periods of time spent in ministry or battling in prayer, whether for ourselves, or on behalf of others.

The scriptures do warn us against falling into a schedule of sabbath rest that is simply founded in legalism and our own human mechanisms for coping or escaping our daily stresses and trials.

However, we are commanded to humble ourselves, and to recognize that in our own strength and wisdom we have nothing to offer the world around us. It is only through our intimacy with and total dependence on our Heavenly Father that we are enabled to serve at all.

If we consistently and pridefully refuse to submit to the command we find in the scriptures to get alone with our Father, and to seek our rest and renewal in Him, we will burn out. In fact, a powerful indication of the maturing of our relationship with God is a growing humility to discern when it is time for us to back off of the “front-lines” of ministry, and to get away with Him.

The Psalmist provides a rich image of the sabbath we find in God, in the 23rd Psalm, verses 1-3:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters,

He restores my soul.

Week 6 Meditation

This week, try to set aside half of a day to “get away” with God, even if this means taking some time away from regularly scheduled work and responsibilities. For example, consider taking a day trip away to a quiet place, or just arranging a time in your home when you can be alone for several hours.

As you are preparing for your time with God, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the types of tools you might need to have with you, which will help you to maintain a focus on His presence. Some examples include a notebook or sketch pad, music, an instrument, or a blanket or exercise mat for sitting.

Scripture meditation:

Hebrews 12:1-11 – Specifically: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Some questions to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you:

– Are there some battles, which you sense you are being called to face for the sake of your own freedom, which you are avoiding? What are some of the reasons that you are afraid to enter into these battles? Remember the word of God from Deuteronomy 1:29-30: “Do not be terrified, do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you will fight for you, as He did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes.” Ask God to reveal the truth of this to you – His promise to fight for you.

– Identity – As a result of Jacob’s refusal to give up in this struggle, he was given a new name – not the name by which the world knew him, but the name given to him by God. What are some of the names you carry which the world has given you? Are you willing to allow God to show you who He says you are, who He created you to be, even if it scares you?

– Submission – Jacob overcame in the battle, but walked away with a limp. The process of sanctification, whereby the authority of the sinful nature in our lives is broken, will likely be painful – or at least uncomfortable – and will leave us feeling broken and humbled in many ways. Are you resisting the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in your life because of uncertainty about how it will leave you? Are there aspects of your identity, which you are afraid to give up to Him?

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Prayer Study Week 5 – Evidence of Sanctification

Before getting into the different types of evidence we can expect through the process of sanctification, it is necessary to first draw a clearer distinction between: 1 – the object of sanctification, and 2 – the evidence of sanctification.

In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus provides a powerful metaphor to help us understand these two concepts, saying, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

The image drawn here by Jesus revolves around two central subjects: a tree and its fruit. In verse 45, He explains that the fruit in the metaphor represents the things we “bring out”, or those things that we allow the world around us to see. This includes our physical appearance, our circle of friends, our actions, and our words.

The tree in this metaphor represents our heart. Our heart is the source of the “fruit” that is produced in our lives. It is the essence of who we are. The substance of our actions, words, and behaviors is naturally and entirely determined by the substance of our heart.

Often in our approach to sanctification, our focus lies entirely on the “fruit” of our lives. A debilitating addiction, a painful relationship, uncontrolled fits of rage – it is at this “surface” level that we desire these areas of brokenness to be healed through the process of sanctification.

But this is not an accurate perspective of sanctification. When we focus solely on the transformation of the fruit of our lives, we become tempted to fall into the traps of legalism and our own wisdom and will to achieve what we are looking for.

In Deuteronomy 30:6, we have the prophecy of Moses, when he said to the Israelites, “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

When we submit to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, He doesn’t transform the fruit of our lives. He transforms the tree. Through sanctification, the old, broken essence of who we were is crucified with Christ, and we are resurrected in the body of Christ Jesus into new life. We become a new creation, with a renewed heart.

The transformation we see in the fruit of our lives is simply a bi-product, a natural consequence of the true transformation – or the sanctification – of our heart.

The Heart

What does this look like, this transformation of our heart through sanctification?

1 – Identity

Let’s look again at the baptism of Jesus Christ in Matthew 3, at the moment He received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:16-17 says, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.”

In that moment, along with the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus heard the voice of His Heavenly Father speak the truth about His Son. Upon hearing these words from His Father, Jesus Christ received one of the most vital components of His life of faith and obedience: He received His identity.

Now let’s go back to the story of the temptation of Jesus Christ in Matthew 4, immediately following His baptism. Notice the words the enemy uses Matthew 4:3 and 6, we he endeavors to tempt Jesus Christ. In both cases, he begins his attack by saying, “If you are the Son of God…”

Note here the specific target of the enemy’s attack. He is attacking Jesus’ identity.

Much of the brokenness and darkness in our lives stems out from lies and deceptions that we carry regarding our identity. The condition of our false, broken identity effectively distorts our perception of who we are, how valuable we are, how much we are loved, how worthy we are to know love.

Through our submission to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, the authority of the lies we believe about our own identity begins to break. Sanctification comes as we are able to hear the voice of our Heavenly Father speaking to us the truth who we really are. Holiness – freedom – comes when we are finally able to hear Him say to us, “You are My child, whom I love. With you I am well pleased.”

2 – Renewal of our Mind

In Romans 12:2-3, Paul writes “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The process of the renewal of our mind leads to a change in both our thinking and in our perception of the world around us. Our conceptions and assumptions of ourselves and of God and of the people around us are no longer based on the lies and fears and darkness that fill the earth, and which have always reigned in our lives.

Through sanctification, our perception of things changes, becomes founded on the truth of God’s Word. We begin to see the reality of things, in the way God sees them. Our thoughts start to spring up naturally from the truth of Who God is, and what His unfailing Word says. The scriptures are no longer just nice words on a page to question or to strive for in our own strength, but they become the reality by which we naturally walk out our lives. As the prophet says in Jeremiah 31:33, the Lord puts His law in our minds, and writes it on our hearts.

3 – Revelation of the Glory of God

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” John 12:27-28

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2

One of the greatest sources of deception and prison for mankind revolves around this question – to whom belongs the glory? Through the darkness of pride we are condemned to give all of our energy and time and hearts to the fruitless quest of the glory of man. Even in the Church, we struggle with the deception that praise and glory belong to man, and often find ourselves battling through human wisdom and politics in order to put ourselves and our voices up above those around us.

In Psalm 115:1, the psalmist writes, “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”

Ephesians 3:21 says, “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

1 Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Why do the scriptures insist that God receive all glory? Why did Jesus consistently pray for the Father alone to be glorified?

Because the only way for anyone to be saved from the death and deception of this world is to see and to know their Father God, by the blood of Jesus Christ. People do not need to see you and me. We can save no one. When we seek to have the glory – the attention and praise of man – brought onto ourselves, we make it more difficult for others to see the one, true Lord and Savior.

It is also important to recognize that man is not designed to carry the weight of the glory that belongs to God alone. When we ourselves become lifted up by the praise and adoration of man, or when we attempt to put other men onto pedestals reserved only for God, we put ourselves and others in danger of steep, painful falls into the temptations of pride, addiction, and idolatry.

The depth of the darkness in us and around us threatens to extinguish our hope, and our joy, and our life. Through sanctification, our eyes are opened, and we begin to see revelation of the truth of God’s glory all around us. We begin to see the overwhelming evidence of the reality of Who He is, and of what He has done.

Following are some of the things He desires to reveal to us about Himself:

1. He is near to us.

Psalm 46:1-7:

God is our refuge and strength,

an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;

He lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 

2. He is sovereign.

Psalm 103:15-19:

The life of mortals is like grass,

they flourish like a flower of the field;

the wind blows over it and it is gone,

and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting

the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,

and his righteousness with their children’s children—

with those who keep his covenant

and remember to obey his precepts.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven,

and his kingdom rules over all.

 

3. He is good.

Psalm 103:8-12:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,

nor will He harbor his anger forever;

He does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is His love for those who fear Him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 136:1: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.

The Fruit

In Galatians 5:19-25, Paul writes, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” 

When we read through this familiar passage, it is important to resist the temptation to see these words as simply a list of rules, which we must work to achieve in our own wisdom and will. We see that Paul is identifying these attributes not as the “object” of sanctification, but as the “fruit” of sanctification.

The first list here, what Paul calls the “acts of the sinful nature”, are those behaviors and tendencies which are a natural bi-product of a heart that has not been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, has not been reconciled to the love of the Father. Paul describes these fruits as “obvious”, easily recognized as acts rooted in darkness and fear that reign in our lives.

Deep in our spirit, we are aware that these types of actions – sexual immorality, idolatry, hatred, and rage – lead to our death. And yet, we find that we are condemned to continue to walk in them. As a result of the broken condition of our hearts, these types of behaviors draw us in, feeling almost natural, even as they choke all hope and life from our spirits.

In Psalm 51:10 we read the plea for sanctification: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

When we submit our lives to the saving blood of Jesus Christ, and become free to enter into the very presence of our Heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit begins His work of creating within us a new heart.

It is important to recognize that initially, as our heart begins to be transformed through sanctification, the old “fruits” of our lives may not stop immediately. But a clear indication of sanctification is that when these old fruits of sexual impurity, jealousy, rage and selfishness do show up, they begin to feel unnatural, even uncomfortable to us.

For example, if our heart is full of resentment and jealousy, we may be naturally prone to outbursts of rage. We may recognize that after each outburst, we are left feeling ashamed, isolated, and exhausted. But we feel bound, unable to control the resentment as it naturally arises in response to events and circumstances around us. So, despite our exhaustion and isolation, we continue to act out in these fits of rage. In fact, in our most vulnerable moments, these outbursts feel natural, even gratifying.

As we submit to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, however, the authority and source of the rage and jealousy within our heart naturally begin to break. Through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the nature of our hardened, resentful and jealous heart is transformed.

Initially, we may find that the outbursts of rage still come in situations that leave us feeling vulnerable. But through the process of sanctification, these fits no longer bring the same sense of gratification they once did.

Over time, we begin to hear the Holy Spirit warning us in our weak moments, when temptations come for us to fall into old habits. In those circumstances in which we were once prone to submit to the old rage, our renewed heart becomes repulsed by it. Instead of being overcome by the resentment and jealousy, we begin to turn into our Savior, and to the truth of His Word for us.

As the authority of old lies begins to be replaced with the truth of God’s Word for us in our hearts, we begin to experience freedom. The fruits of the Spirit, which Paul describes, slowly begin to spring up naturally in the places where the old fruit use to exist. A life of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness begins to overflow from within our renewed hearts, becoming a natural, even subconscious part of everything we say and do.

Other specific evidence of sanctification in our life:

1 – Repentant Heart

Psalm 32:3-5 says, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And You forgave the guilt of my sin.”

In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul draws a distinction between conviction that comes from God, and condemnation, which comes from the world, writing, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Before sanctification, we are bound to live under condemnation, or “worldly sorrow”, which is a natural result of the “old fruit” in our lives. Through sanctification, however, we begin to experience conviction, described by Paul as “Godly sorrow”, which comes from the Holy Spirit.

Conviction is not like condemnation. Condemnation grows up from deception and fear, and leads to paralysis and death. Conviction of the Holy Spirit, however, springs up out of the love and mercy of our Father, and leads to new life.

Conviction is necessary in order to make us aware of the temptations and sin through which we are being robbed of true life, which Jesus Christ bought for us on the cross. The Holy Spirit lovingly, but firmly brings these areas of deception and weakness into the light, in order that we may come to the cross, confess our sin, receive forgiveness, and walk out the freedom we have been given in Jesus Christ.

2 – Forgiveness for those who have sinned against us.

In Matthew 6:12, Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Matthew 18:21-22 says, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”

Further, Romans 3:10-12 reminds us that we are all guilty, as Paul writes, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.'”

Forgiveness is not a natural fruit of the sinful nature. When someone sins against us, in our own strength and wisdom we become naturally distrustful. We attempt to protect ourselves, building up walls of fear and anger around ourselves. Bitterness and rage often find their roots in our unforgiveness, as do isolation and resentment.

Through sanctification, the places of resentment and bitterness that we hold towards our enemies begin to be transformed into wells of empathy and compassion. The feelings we harbor of anger and vengeance towards others are broken, and we begin to see the depth of the pain and fear, which they themselves carry in their own hearts. Our fantasies of revenge are replaced with hope and prayer for our enemies, that they will come to know the love of their Father, in the Lord Jesus Christ.

As our own hearts are transformed, we begin to naturally walk in the peace and joy that come when we are able to let go of the fear and bitterness in our hearts, and to forgive. We discover true freedom when we allow the walls of protection we have built around us to be torn down, and learn to rest in the assurance that God alone is our Protector. He alone is our Defender.

3 – Unity in the Body

In John 17:21-23, Jesus prayed for us, saying, “Father, just as You are in Me and I am in Your. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one— I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”

In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

In the environment of much of the Church today, it is difficult to even imagine what real unity looks like. The Body has been so plagued with conflict and division that these words of Jesus Christ seem almost impossible. We have become so consumed with making our case, proving ourselves to be right, proving others to be wrong, that we have long since taken our eyes off of Him who is the Head of the Body, Who is Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

There are few things more effective towards the building up of love and unity in the Body of Christ than when we pray together. When we submit to the blood of Jesus Christ, and enter into the presence of our Holy Father God in prayer, our hearts are sanctified together. The walls and divisions, which we have built up between ourselves, begin to crumble. We begin to see joy and hope in our different perspectives. We begin to celebrate and encourage each other in our various gifts and passions, especially those that differ from our own.

When we commit to pray regularly together, we no longer see only the places of disagreement and offense among our community, but our eyes are opened to the truth that we are all children of God, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. In that place where we are sanctified together in the presence of our Heavenly Father, we lay down our defenses and our weapons, and begin to walk as brothers and sisters, in the peace of Jesus Christ.

Week 5 Meditation

This week, along with your regular quiet times, try to find one morning or afternoon on which you can set aside 2-3 hours to spend with the Lord in prayer. As before, try to find a place where you can get away in these hours from your regular work and distractions, to a place where you can have some privacy and solitude.

As you are preparing to get away, consider packing a bible, a journal, and some water. As you are packing, ask the Father to show you what else He’d like you to bring during your time away with Him.

As before, begin this time by just sitting or walking silently, and asking the Father to help you clear your thoughts of all of the worries and distractions of your day. Or you may want to start by reading through some scriptures, and asking the Holy Spirit to open up the Word for you.

Scripture meditation:

– Psalm 23 – As you read, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you your own spiritual walk in these words.

– Matthew 5 – In this passage from the Sermon on the Mount, ask God to deepen your understanding of the process of sanctification of the heart, through the examples Jesus gives here.

Some questions to ask the Father in this time:

– What are some of the “fruits” – thoughts, words, behaviors, addictions – in your life, which you are working to change in your own strength?

– Ask the Holy Spirit to come and show you the places of darkness and brokenness in your heart, in which these painful fruits find their roots.

– Ask the Holy Spirit to bring you courage to allow Him to crucify those old places – the “old” nature – even with uncertainty on what your new identity, your new life in Christ Jesus, will look like. (For further reading on this topic, see Neil Anderson’s book, Living Free in Christ (1993, Regal Books), giving particular attention to the subsection entitled, “Who I am in Christ”.)

*This week, it may be good to reach out again to the same person with whom you met and prayed last week. Spend some time with him or her talking and praying through some of the things the Lord reveals in your time of prayer.

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Prayer Study Week 4 – Sanctification

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17

What is Sanctification?

The word “sanctify” shares its roots with other, more commonly used words such as “sanctuary” and “saint”. All of these words originally were derived from the Latin “sanctus”, which means “holy” or “consecrated”. Sanctification is simply the process of being made holy.

What is holiness?

There is a commonly-held misconception that “holiness” means learning to obey a long list of rules and laws. But this image doesn’t represent at all the true essence of the process of sanctification, or what it means to be “holy”.

For a moment let’s consider the impact of the sin that reigns in our lives before sanctification.

In Romans 5:12, Paul writes, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned…”

In Hebrews 12:1, we read, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Even in the very beginning, in the garden of Eden, as God warned Adam and Eve about the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 2:17, He said to them “for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

The truth is that the sin and deception under which we live our lives without Jesus Christ is killing us. It is entangling us so that we are completely debilitated, unable to walk in the truth of our purpose and passion in this life. While many of us are able to maintain an outward appearance of health and wholeness, the reality of our spiritual condition is little more than a partially rotting corpse lying motionless on the ground, its heart barely holding a rhythm, its lungs filled with the putrid, toxic air of addiction and lust and murder and greed. Without the blood of Jesus Christ, we are, in the words of Paul in Romans 4:19, “as good as dead”. 

Holiness is not simply learning to follow an impossible list of rules and regulations, but it is our submission to the only One Who can possibly save us from the death of sin and darkness that reigns in our lives. Holiness comes as the authorities of death and deception are broken by the blood of Jesus Christ, and as we are cleansed by the washing of the Holy Spirit. Holiness means that we no longer walk under the oppression of the lies and deceptions we have always believed, but instead we learn to walk freely in the truth of who we really are – sons and daughters of God, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.

In John 8:36, Jesus Christ said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Holiness is freedom. Sanctification is the process by which we are set free.

Where do we start?

In Hebrews 10:19-22 we read, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

Look again at verse 19: “…since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…” This is where we begin.

Everything begins with the blood of Jesus Christ.

In Romans 10:9-11, Paul describes the experience of our salvation, writing, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’”

At the point in our lives when we begin to believe in our hearts and are able to honestly confess with our mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord, then we are saved. More specifically, our salvation means that our broken, carnal nature is washed and covered with the blood of Jesus Christ, and we are reconciled with our Heavenly Father.

Remember that without the covering of the blood of Jesus Christ, we can not enter into the presence of God. It is through the experience of salvation – our submission to the covering of the blood of Jesus in our lives – that we become legally free to enter into the “Most Holy Place”, into the very presence of God our Father.

But, we must be careful not to maintain the perspective that our salvation is the end goal – the end of the journey. In fact, in many ways, our salvation experience is precisely the beginning.

As we begin to enter into the presence of God, underneath the blood of Jesus Christ, our old, broken, carnal nature starts to feel uncomfortable, even threatened. Our old nature – our old ways of thinking, our old habits – begins to struggle to maintain the authority it has always held in our lives.

In Romans 7:15-25, Paul personally describes this battle, writing:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who does it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

The Way to Victory

What is the ultimate goal of the process of sanctification? What does victory look like?

We see a clue of this in John 12:24-26, when Jesus Christ describes sanctification through the metaphor of a seed, saying, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” But where was Jesus going? To where does He require His disciples follow Him?

Jesus Christ tells us that in order to be called His follower, we must follow Him first to the cross. Our only hope for sanctification, for walking out a life of freedom and truth in Jesus Christ, is by our allowing our old, broken selves to be crucified with Him on the cross.

In Romans 8:12-13, Paul describes this further, writing, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”

Again in Galatians 2:19-20, he describes the victory in his own life: “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

In his book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote:

Sin is blatant mutiny against God, and either sin or God must die in my life. The New Testament brings us right down to this one issue— if sin rules in me, God’s life in me will be killed; if God rules in me, sin in me will be killed. There is nothing more fundamental than that. The culmination of sin was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and what was true in the history of God on earth will also be true in your history and in mine— that is, sin will kill the life of God in us. We must mentally bring ourselves to terms with this fact of sin. It is the only explanation why Jesus Christ came to earth, and it is the explanation of the grief and sorrow of life.

(From An Updated Edition, 1992, June 23 meditation, Oswald Chambers Publications, Ltd.)

The only way to know resurrection into new life in Christ is through the death of our selfish, sinful nature on the cross. This is the way to sanctification. This is the way to freedom.

Week 4 Meditation

This week set aside 30-40 minutes a day, on 4 different days, for time in prayer with God.

This week the focus of the prayer time will be sanctification, and the process of dying to your old nature. In this week, it may be good to reach out to someone whom you trust and know to be spiritually mature, and who will be willing to meet with you to talk and pray through some of the things the Lord reveals in your time of prayer.

As in the previous weeks, begin each time of prayer with silence, and ask the Holy Spirit to help silence all other distracting thoughts so that you will be able to turn your attention onto Him.

Scripture meditations:

Day 1 – Go back and read again through Paul’s words in Romans 7:15-25.

Day 2 – Psalm 139

Day 3 – 2 Corinthians 5:14-17

Day 4 – Hebrews 10:35-39

Each day ask the Holy Spirit to begin to show you the following things:

– The dark places where you are battling in your own life. Specifically, ask Him to reveal those places of sin or deception in which you have lost hope, where you have become convinced that true freedom is impossible. Jot down the things that He brings up in your spirit.

– Revelation of His Word about each of these places of battle (specific scriptures which can minister to you as you begin to seek healing in this area).

– Ask Him to give you courage, and to teach you how to submit to the washing of the blood of Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in these places of sin, so that the authority they hold in your life will be broken.

– Ask Him to reveal to you the truth about who you really are, and to begin to write that truth in your heart as the old ways of thinking and living are crucified with Christ.

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Prayer Study Week 3 – What is Healing?

What is “Healing”?

“Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.” Psalm 30:2-3

“The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt.” (From THE PROBLEM OF PAIN by CS Lewis © copyright CS Lewis Pte Ltd 1940, 40.)

Why do we come to God for healing? What are we desiring or expecting from Him?

Sometimes, we come to the Father seeking healing from a physical illness. At other times, we might come to Him desiring wholeness in an area of emotional or spiritual pain. In different seasons of our lives, we may come to God seeking His restoration in a broken relationship, or His healing from a sin or addiction, or His deliverance in place of darkness in our lives from which we can’t break free.

Whatever our reason for approaching the Father in search of healing, very often we come to Him only once we have reached a place of desperation. As long as we are able to cope with or manage our pain through other mechanisms or comforts, too often we settle for just “getting by” in our daily lives. In these cases, over time hopelessness about real healing sets in, and we resign ourselves instead to simply maintaining an outward appearance of wholeness.

Beneath our polished exterior, however, our innermost selves continue to be plagued with doubt, isolation, shame, and brokenness. Ultimately, we become most fearful of exposure – afraid that the depth of the darkness inside of us will be revealed to the people around us. In the end, we are most often left feeling defensive, isolated, and exhausted.

It is only when the effects of the brokenness and darkness in our lives become unbearable for us to handle in our own strength, or when these things begin to seep out on the surface, disrupting our regular routines, relationships, and reputations, that we become desperate enough to seek out our Father. And when we come, we find Him waiting for us. He receives us there, at that place of desperation from the pain and isolation resulting from the darkness in our lives.

The Teachings of Jesus Christ on Healing

When we begin to look at the teachings of Jesus Christ on healing and wholeness, we see quickly that our own approach and perspectives on this topic are often quite different from His. We begin with one of His earliest known teachings, from Matthew 5:3-10:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

When we come to the Lord seeking healing, at first glance these words are not the types of things most of us expect to hear Him say. In fact, the images we have in these opening lines of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount seem contradictory to the idea many of us hold about what it means to have new life and healing in Him.

For example, when we come to the Father, we often expect Him to broaden our self-confidence – to deepen our assurance in our own strength, our own beauty, and our own wisdom. But Jesus teaches us that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are “poor in spirit”, to those who have abandoned all confidence in themselves, to those who boast only in their own weakness.

We come to our Father expecting resolutions to the difficulties in our lives, to be brought out of our times of grief and trial. But Jesus teaches us that the blessed are those who mourn, and that the earth will be inherited by the meek.

We come to the Father for protection and safety from the pain of the battle raging in our lives. But Jesus Christ tells us that the blessed are those who are persecuted for their righteousness before the Lord.

If we are being perfectly honest, a sincere consideration of this passage from Jesus Christ will cause many of us wonder if His promises of blessing and healing are actually things we want in our lives at all. “Poor in spirit”, “meek”, “merciful”, “mourning”, “persecuted” – these words and phrases do not depict our commonly held model of a person who is strong and victorious. Instead, they invoke images of someone who is vulnerable and dependent.

We don’t feel comfortable with the words of Jesus Christ in these verses, because the person He is describing sounds almost precisely like the person within us, which we are all working so desperately to keep hidden.

And this is exactly where our Father desires to be most. God’s purpose is ultimately to get to the innermost part of who we are, at the core of that place from which we are drawn to Him, and drawn to know true salvation and wholeness in Him. As the psalmist describes, “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” (Psalm 42:7)

Recognizing the Depth of our Brokenness

In Romans 3:9-11, Paul writes, “We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.'”

1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

What is the reason for our Father’s desire that we allow Him into the very deepest places of our spirit? What is at the heart of His purpose to bring healing and wholeness not only on the surface areas in our life, but even to the very core of who we are?

At the innermost part of ourselves, in that place which we desire most desperately to keep hidden, resides a gnawing, unrelenting awareness of the truth. And the truth is, we deserve the pain and rejection we experience everyday in our lives. We deserve the disappointment and alienation of the people around us. We deserve to be completely separated from God our Father, and to live in condemnation of eternal darkness and death for the deep pain we have brought through our sin against ourselves and against the people who love us.

We do not deserve to know love. We certainly do not deserve to know the perfect love of our Father God.

In our healing, the Holy Spirit desires for us to reveal entirely to Him the truth we hold in our core on the depth of the darkness of our darkest thoughts, the grip of the fear that paralyzes us, and the hopelessness of the isolation and accusations that condemn us. It is precisely at that place of utter hopelessness that He desires to pour in the salvation and restoration that can only come through revelation of Jesus Christ, on the cross.

Because of the cross, we are no longer condemned to suffer the penalty of eternal separation from the love of our Heavenly Father. In Romans 3:25, Paul explains that in our place, God presented His Son, Jesus Christ, as the sacrifice of atonement for our sin. The justice of hell, of complete separation from the love of God, which we deserve, God poured out instead onto His Son.

Everything that was poured onto Jesus Christ as He hung on the cross – the rejection and isolation from His Father, the complete separation from His Father’s love – all of this He did not deserve.

But we do. And at the darkest place in the core of who we are, we know it.

This is where God wants to do His deep work, at the core of our brokenness. At this place in our spirit where there is no doubt that we are nothing without a Savior, nothing without Jesus Christ. Where the severity of the price that Jesus Christ paid for us on the cross can no longer be ignored or trivialized. Where we can begin to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of the love of our Father in Heaven, through which He sent His only Son to bear our punishment, to pay the cost we owe, but which we could never pay ourselves.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The Kingdom of God

Another image to help us better comprehend the healing work that God does in our lives can be found in the words of Jesus Christ, when He was teaching the disciples to pray in Matthew 6. In verses 9-10, Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

“Your kingdom come…” The very first petition we see in the example of our Lord’s prayer is for the coming of the Kingdom of God. It is from this perspective that we begin to fully understand the healing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Jesus Christ spoke often of the Kingdom of God, frequently describing it to the disciples using metaphors and parables. In Mark 9:1, He declared that the Kingdom of God has come with power. In Luke 17:20-21, He explained that the coming of the Kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, but rather God’s Kingdom is among us, within us. In Matthew 6:33, He taught His followers to seek God’s Kingdom before all else.

In our broken world, it may be impossible to fully grasp the reality of the Kingdom of God. However, simply put, we can generally understand it to be wherever God reigns. God’s Kingdom can be found in the blooming flowers of the forest, in the first cries of a newborn baby, in the comforting embrace of a grieving widow and her daughter, even in the darkest alley where two hungry strangers share a sandwich. The Kingdom of God is among us, and can be found anywhere as we submit to the reign of our Father. We just have to be looking for it.

In Matthew 10:7-8, when Jesus was sending out the disciples to minister to the Israelites, He said, “As you go, preach this message, ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received. Freely give.”

Throughout His instruction and example on ministry, Jesus Christ never drew distinctions between “prayer ministry” and “evangelism ministry”. Rather, He taught all aspects of ministry – including prayer, teaching, preaching, and service – as integral parts of the fulfillment of the greater calling of His disciples – the proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

God our Father lovingly receives us when we come to Him seeking miracles of healing or deliverance in our lives. But as our prayer life is deepened, and we experience greater intimacy with Him, we begin to see that these miraculous works of healing are not the ultimate end themselves, but are simply the evidence and natural consequence of the establishment of the Kingdom of God in our life.

As our submission to the Father’s will grows through prayer, naturally the old authorities of darkness and deception in our lives are uprooted and broken. As we begin to submit our lives to the authority of Jesus Christ, and to allow the Holy Spirit to come in and write the unfailing Word of God on our hearts, then His kingdom is established in our lives, and healing and wholeness naturally come.

Week 3 Meditation

This week, along with you regular quiet times, find one morning or afternoon on which you can set aside 2-3 hours to spend with the Lord in prayer. Try to find a place where you can get away in these hours from your regular work and distractions, a place where you can have some privacy and solitude.

As you are preparing to get away, consider packing a bible, a journal, and some water. As you are packing, ask the Father to show you what else He’d like you to bring during your time away with Him.

As you enter into this time with the Lord, it may be good to begin by just sitting or walking, breathing, and asking the Father to help you clear your thoughts of all of the worries and distractions of your day.

The focus this week will be healing. The scripture for meditation will be Psalm 25. After some time of silence and prayer, begin reading slowly through this Psalm, stopping at the places that speak to you and point to where you are right now. Do not feel pressure to read all of the way through at one time, but take your time with each verse. You may want to right down the verses and thoughts that pop out at you while you read.

Some questions to ask the Father during this time:

– Are there places in my life in which I want healing, but am hesitating to come to You? Why am I hesitating? Doubt? Anger? Fear?

– What are some of the places in my life where You want to come in, which I have closed off in my own walls of protection?

(In this extended time of prayer, do not feel pressure to be actually “speaking” to God the entire time, or to be “hearing” anything specific from Him. The primary goal of this time is to simply be aware of His presence with you there, and to begin to perceive how He feels about your taking this time to get away with Him.)

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