Monthly Archives: July 2017

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?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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 your 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 write 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.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized