42:  To Reckon or Not Reckon, that is the Question

42: To Reckon or Not Reckon, that is the Question

The Higher Christian Life

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The Cross Not Only Paid For Your Sins…

We have been looking at the three key truths that will allow you to experience the surrender that leads to the Higher Christian Life.  Let’s take a moment for a quick review.

Truth One – You are incapable of pleasing God or producing anything good with your flesh (your sinful nature) no matter how hard you try.  It cannot be done, has never been done, will never be done, by anybody, ever.  And you can find the foundation of Truth One in Romans 7:15-25, especially verse 18.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find – Romans 7:18.

So Truth One states you can’t, no matter how hard you try.  But Truth Two reveals He can, beyond all you can imagine.  Truth Two reminds us that God has given you the Holy Spirit to live in you.  And one of His purposes for His Spirit dwelling in you is to work in you “both to will and to do (why) for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).  In other words, the Holy Spirit now living in you is able to do in you “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20).  And, by the way, the power that works “in us” is none other than the Holy Spirit.  (Note:  Did you notice how many times the phrase “in you” was used in this paragraph?  It is not something to gloss over lightly).

This brings us to Truth Three.   But first, a bit of warning.  Truth three is not something to be believed only, but to be experienced, just like the Higher Christian Life.  For without experiencing this truth, firsthand, you will not gain the wonderful benefit of it nor the changed life that comes with it.  Finally, all the benefits of Truth Three are contingent on faith.  And it is in your faith the enemy will attack.  Maybe even today.  So be forewarned.

Let’s look at Truth Three.


You Are Also to “Reckon” Yourself Dead to Sin

Truth Three states that when Christ was crucified, He took with Him to the cross not only your sins, but also your sinful nature (the “old man”).  Let that truth sink in for a moment.

Remember, your “old man” refers to your unregenerate human spirit consisting of the Adamic life prior to salvation.  And the “new man” refers to the regenerate human spirit, indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  Basically, the “old man” is all that you were before salvation, and the “new man” is all that you have become after salvation.  You can find these terms used in Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22 and 24, and Colossians 3:9-10, among other places.  It should be a familiar concept to you.  But one not usually carried to its logical conclusion.

Watch how this plays out so clearly in Romans 6.  First, the foundation:

For if (since, because) we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be (united together) in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that (what) our old man was crucified with Him, (why) that the body of sin might be done away with, (why) that we should no longer be slaves of sin – Romans 6:5-6.

Next, the logical progression based on the foundation:

For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if (since, because) we died (how) with Christ, we believe (our choice, see below) that we shall also live (how) with Him, (how) knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. (why) Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died (past tense), He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives (present tense), He lives to God – Romans 6:7-10.

And finally, the conclusion about our old man and his death on the cross.  But remember, this truth only becomes real to you by experience.  Or, as Romans says, when you “reckon yourself” to this truth.

Likewise (in the same manner) you (personal) also (like others who have experienced what you now seek), reckon (to impute, consider, count, reason, think, to be of the conviction) yourselves (personal) to be (present tense, currently, at this very moment, right now) dead indeed (truly, on the one hand) to sin, but (on the other hand) alive to God (how) in Christ Jesus our Lord – Romans 6:11.

Note the obvious, if you “reckon yourself” to this truth, its power becomes real to you.  But if by doubt or disbelief you refuse to believe what the Scriptures say about you and your old nature, you will still struggle with failure because, per Truth One, “you are incapable of pleasing God or producing anything good with your flesh (your sinful nature) no matter how hard you try.”  The choice of either being an overcomer or one who lives in constant defeat is based on the content of your faith.  You will either “reckon yourself” to be what the Scriptures say you are, or you will choose to take your eyes off Jesus and focus on the waves and sink like Peter (Matt. 14:30).

The choice is always yours.  Always.

The following is the sermon that goes into much greater detail about Truth Three than I can present in a short blog post.  I know it is much longer than the usual podcasts, but I would encourage you to listen and let your mind embrace the possibilities of Truth Three.  And remember, Satan cannot attack the truth.  He cannot make Truth Three not be true.  But he can, and he will attack your faith and belief in Truth Three.  And if he succeeds, the power found in Truth Three will be lost to you, and you will languish in defeat with your life of holiness and most likely fail to experience all of the Higher Christian Life.  Or, if you simply trust Him and “reckon” (to impute, consider, count, reason, think, to be of the conviction) yourself to be what the Scriptures say, then watch out, for the best is yet to come.

So choose wisely.

Until He Comes,

Steve

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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41:  Holy Men Spoke as They Were Moved by the Spirit

41: Holy Men Spoke as They Were Moved by the Spirit

The Higher Christian Life

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We Need Holy Men of God to be Moved by the Spirit

When we begin to seek God’s wisdom through a deep study of His Word, it is good to remind ourselves of exactly what we are doing and how the Bible is unique from all other literature.  It is more than the words of man, it is the very words of God.  I know, for the skeptics, that statement seems presumptuous, maybe even arrogant.  But it is nonetheless, true.

Let’s look at just two truths about the Scriptures that will begin to reveal to you the depth and character of His Word and the blessings that come from studying and applying it authoritatively to our lives.  First, the nature of His Word.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work – 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

This statement about Scripture seems clear enough.  But as you dig a bit deeper into the meaning of these words, you will find a treasure of truth hidden just beneath the surface.  Let’s begin by defining a few Greek words.

All (pás – each, every, any, the whole, in totality without exception) Scripture is given by inspiration of God (theópneustos – to breathe or blow, to be divinely inspired), and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work – 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Note, “all” (pás) means every bit of Scripture, from the list of names in Numbers to the judgments found in the Revelation.  But at the time this was written, all primarily referred to the Old Testament.

Note also, the word translated “inspiration of God” (theópneustos) only occurs in this passage and gives the idea of God breathing His Word into human men who were moved or inspired to record what God said.  It (theópneustos) is a compound word combining “God” and “to breathe.”  That is why some translators use “God-breathed” (NIV) or “breathed out” (ESV).  But in the end, the message is clear.  All Scripture (the Old Testament in this passage and the New Testament in 1 Cor. 2:9-16) is breathed by God and divinely inspired according to His will.  And, as such, it is flawless, perfect, infallible, unchangeable, true, and of immeasurable value, because it reflects the nature of its Author.  It is the Word of God.

All Scripture, “is given” to us, as a gift from God, “by” or through the “inspiration of God.”  Not the inspiration of man, but of God.  But some may ask how this process takes place?  What differentiates this inspiration from God from the inspiration Beethoven experienced, for example, when he composed his inspired symphonies?


What Does it Mean to be “Moved” by God?

Let’s see what Peter has to say about this important question.

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is (gínomai – to begin to be, comes into being or existence, originates, happens) of any private interpretation (or, it doesn’t originate in the mind of man), for prophecy never came by the will of man (or, it doesn’t originate in the volition of man), but holy men of God spoke as they were moved (phérō – to bring or carry along, to be continually carried) by the Holy Spirit – 2 Peter 1:20-21.

Look at the word, moved.  In Acts, this word is used to describe how the wind blows a ship across the water from one place to another (Acts 27:15, 17).  The imagery should not be lost on us.  Peter is describing how the Holy Spirit fills the sails of men with the breath of His Word and gives them divine inspiration and revelation to record what He wanted them to write down.  Sometimes God “breathed” His words into human writers in much the same way dictation is taken down.  For example, to Jeremiah God said, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth” (Jer. 1:9).  But we will look more into this at a later time.

Remember, the only One who knows the mind of God is the Holy Spirit (John 15:26).  Therefore, only the Holy Spirit could have inspired the Scriptures.  As the verse says, “but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by (who) the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).  The Scriptures did not come from the inspiration or the mind of gifted, even spiritual, men.  No, the inspiration came from the Holy Spirit and was given to “holy men” who were moved or continually carried along as they wrote what was given to them to write.

This is the value of the Scriptures we hold in our hands.  But there is more.  There is a great benefit that comes to us by a study of God’s inspired Word.

And is profitable (ōphélimos – advantageous, helpful, useful, beneficial) for (1) doctrine, for (2) reproof, for (3) correction, for (4) instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work – 2 Timothy 3:17.

Note the four-fold blessings:  Doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.  This is the path of sanctification, of living the Higher Christian Life.  But there is one last blessing we want to uncover in this verse, and it is found in the word, complete.  One of the goals of Scripture is that the “man of God may be complete, (how) thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The word translated “complete” (ártios) means “qualified, proficient, fitted, capable, furnished or equipped with every necessary component for a task or purpose.”  Let that sink in for a moment.  God has supplied all we need to be all He wants us to be, right in His Word.  The key to experiencing intimacy with Him, to becoming His light among the darkness, to understanding the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:6), to be conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29), to realizing we are “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10)— everything imaginable, is found in His Word.  And it is given to us as a great blessing.  One that only needs to be read to be received.

So let’s begin this journey together, shall we?  Let’s look into God’s Word and see what of His wisdom we can claim for ourselves, what we can learn from Him as dearly beloved children, and how our faith in Him might grow as we see the day of His return approaching (Heb. 10:25).

Until He comes,

Steve

The Higher Christian Life

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What Happens When We Confess Our Sins

What Happens When We Confess Our Sins

Mary’s Redemption

The Chosen is one of the most moving portrayals of Christ that has ever been put on film.  And I’ve watched them all.  Every time I watch an episode, I am compelled to surrender more of my life to Jesus.  And this segment is no exception.

In this clip, you will see a perfect picture of how the Lord responds to us when we try to live the Higher Christian Life in the flesh and fail.  And we will always fail.  It can be no other way.

Do you remember the first of our three truths?  Truth one simply states that you are incapable of pleasing God or producing anything good with your flesh, your sinful nature, no matter how hard you try.  It cannot be done, has never been done, will never be done, by anybody, ever.  Why?  Because it says in Romans 7:18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.”  Case closed.  End of story.  Done.

We must stop trying to do what only the Lord can do through us.  The Higher Christian Life is found in our surrender of ourselves to Him and Him living His life through us.  There is no place for self-effort.  Only self-surrender.


And If We Fail?

You will fail.  Count on it.  In fact, it’s in the Lord’s design for you to fail, to come to the end of yourself, and cling to Him in total surrender.  So when it happens, don’t run from God in shame like they did in the Garden.  Instead, confess your failure, admit your shame, acknowledge your inability to live a life of sanctification by your own efforts, and receive the forgiveness displayed in the short clip from the Chosen.

I think these next three minutes will show you what true forgiveness is all about.

Enjoy and be blessed.

Until He comes,

Steve



The Higher Christian Life

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40:  Bible Study is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

40: Bible Study is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

The Higher Christian Life

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First, What Does it Say?

Before we actually begin to look at the Proverbs to glean the wisdom of God, we first need to remind ourselves what Bible study entails and how to mine the depths of God’s Word for the treasure often buried just below the surface.  Note, we are committing ourselves to Bible study to experience God and His wisdom.  Not Bible skimming or even Bible reading.  Those may have their place in our spiritual lives, but not if we strive to have a deeper intimacy with the Lord and experience the Higher Christian Life.

Bible study is not a sprint.  We don’t begin with the goal of trying to get as much done in the least amount of time so we can cross this item off our to-do list and move on to something more important.  That is a recipe for failure, frustration, and a stagnant Christian life.  And it is a great slight to God’s inspired Word (2 Tim. 3:16).

No, Bible study is a marathon.  It is a life-long endeavor that produces a mature believer “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17).  And it takes time, as all things of value do.  Proper Bible study is like the difference between dining on a fine meal in an upscale restaurant with close friends or whoofing down a Happy Meal in the front seat of your car alone.  Both meet your hunger needs.  But only one is a deeply satisfying, pleasurable experience.

There are just a few things we must know about any passage of Scripture we will study, especially if our goal is to have the Lord speak to us about something in our lives through His Word.  First, we need to know exactly what it says, what each word means.  Not just in our language today, but what it meant to those to whom it was written so many millennia ago.  After all, language changes.  And what something meant in English 75 years ago may not mean the same thing today.

For example, before the ’60s, when someone said, “Cool, man,” it was always about temperature.  But that all changed over time.  So that now, when we hear that statement, we never think it has something to do with how cold it is outside.  Or, in the time before World War II, the phrase “gay” had nothing to do with sexual orientation.  Instead, it referred to an attitude of cheerfulness and lighthearted excitement.  In 1934, Fred Astair and Ginger Roger starred in the movie, The Gay Divorcee.   This musical had nothing to do with the sexual orientation of either party.  But if that movie was released today, we would probably assume we knew the reason behind their divorce.  Ah, one of them was gay.  And this is how words can mean something different over time.

Understanding this, we need to know what a passage said when it was written, the culture in which it was written, and the people for whom it was written.  That is why a Greek and Hebrew Word Study Dictionary is so important.  But we’ll speak on that in a moment.


Then, What Does it Mean?

Then, after we determine what a passage says, we have to determine what it means.  And this is where the marathon part of Bible study comes in.  The rule is simply this; we do not move to another passage until we fully understand what our current passage means.  There is no skipping over it or “I’ll get back around to that later.”  Our task is to stop, prayerfully meditate on the passage, use whatever resources we have available to help us in our understanding (see below), ask the Lord to reveal His meaning to us, and wait until we discover His hidden treasure of truth, before moving on.  No matter how long it takes.

After all, if we spend an hour in His Word reading three chapters but get nothing out of it, we have wasted our time.  But if we spent the same amount of time on one verse and God reveals His will to us in that verse, we are encouraged, enlightened, changed, and growing in our likeness to His Son (Rom. 8:29).  And our lives are forever transformed by His Word.  It’s the marathon that builds endurance, not the sprint.

Let me close by giving you a few pointers to help in your Bible study.

1.  Slowly read the passage several times out loud.  Emphasize each word and phrase as you do.

2.  Ask questions about the text.  Who, what, where, why, how long, for what purpose, etc.

3.  Ask the Lord to show you why He led you to this part of His Word today?  What is He trying to show you?  What does He want to reveal to you?

4.  Spend some time studying each word?  What do they mean in Greek and Hebrew?  Is their meaning different than what I assume they mean today?  Has the language changed over time?  Hint:  Spend extra attention on the small words, all, any, if, then, know, but, etc.

5.  What are the implications of what I just read?  Why did God lead me to this passage today? How can I apply this in my life in both my actions and my attitude?  Is this further explained in the next few verses?

6.  Spend some time looking for other passages that will further explain and support what the Lord is saying in the passage you are studying.  And if so, where?  What is God trying to show me?

7.  What principles or truths can I learn about God?  Hint:  Make this about Him, and not you.  Is He showing you something about His character and nature in what you are studying?

8.  Finally, ask God to show you how to live in the truth He has just revealed.  This is where your faith grows.  Ask Him to place you in situations, no matter how difficult, where your faith in the truths He just revealed to you will be tested.  After all, we are promised in James 1:3, the “testing of our faith produces patience (hupomonḗ – endurance, the ability to withstand hardship or stress).”  And endurance is what we are seeking in the times in which we live.

Remember, Bible study is not a sprint, but a marathon.

Last quick point, you will need some resources to help with your Bible study.   Let me suggest the following:

Study Bible:
MacArthur Study Bible – NKJV.  This is probably the most important resource.  All translations are not equal, no matter how easy or difficult they are to read.

Greek and Hebrew Word Study Dictionaries:
The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament by Spiros Zodhiates
The Complete Word Study of the Old Testament by Spiros Zodhiates

Bible Commentary:  I would suggest using one from the latter part of the last century, such as the Pulpit Commentary, Spurgeon’s Notes and Sermons, etc.  However, if you are looking for something more contemporary, try the commentaries by John MacArthur and/or James Montgomery Boice or the writings of AW Pink.  Note:  Try not to do a random Google search for the meaning of a particular passage.  There is much truth and deception online about everything— source matters.

For solid Biblical answers online, try the following:

Blue Letter Bibleblueletterbible.org
Got Questionsgotquestions.org
CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) – carm.org
Grace to Yougty.org
The Ministry of Chuck Misslerkhouse.org

Enjoy your time with Him, and tomorrow we will begin to do exactly what I have described in the book of Proverbs.

Until He comes,

Steve

The Higher Christian Life

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39:  How to Discover the Wisdom of God

39: How to Discover the Wisdom of God

The Higher Christian Life

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Christ Jesus, Who Became For Us…

This past Sunday, we talked about how we as Christians and His church are to respond during the dark times we see encroaching all around.  What are we to do?  How are we to think and feel?  What is God’s will in all of this?

Just think about what we have experienced as a culture since the beginning of the year.

In DC, there was a rally turned riot (depending on how you view the events of January 6th) that many claim was the beginning of an insurrection against our government.  Not surprisingly, most of the media and the talking heads blamed this on Trump.  And now we have an active House investigation that will probably drag on into sometime next year designed to discredit Trump and his supporters.  Bring back any memories?

There has been a massive social media de-platforming of voices and opinions that dare to differ from the FPC (for public consumption) talking points of the left.  In fact, as of today, the head of the Taliban has a Twitter account to share their anti-American propaganda, yet our former President has been banned for life.  How does that happen in a free society?

The Covid-19 thing seems to never go away.  First lockdown, masks, social distancing, remote employment, shortages, restricted travel, canceled holidays, schools, sports, concerts, etc., and everything else that comes with an authoritarian nanny state.  Nonetheless, we all agreed to go along for the good of others and the fear of contracting Covid.  Then the miracle cure was rolled out at warp speed, the Vax, the Jab, which turned out to be neither a cure nor a miracle.  And the full-court press was on.  The pressure our society is piling on those who choose not to be vaccinated is unprecedented.  So much so, tens of thousands of nurses may lose their job in the next 45 days, among countless others, unless they submit themselves to a jab that has yet to be FDA approved and has a morbid history of ever-increasing harmful side-effects, including death.  This is discrimination at its worst.  But the voices of the media are silent.  How is that possible in America?

Corporate America, both large and small, is now requiring its employees to be fully vaccinated as a condition of continued employment.  Companies like Amazon, Amtrak, Citigroup, Delta, DoorDash, Facebook, Ford, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Tyson Food, Uber, United Air Lines, Walgreens, Walt Disney, and Walmart are leading the way.  And the list gets bigger every day.  When in our nation’s history was it legal for an employer to require an experimental vaccine, with documented harmful, short-term, and unknown long-term side effects, as a condition of continued employment?  But that seems to be our new reality.

Welcome to our brave new world.

On August 9th, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote in a memo that the Pentagon will mandate full vaccinations (which now include all current and future boosters, with no end in sight) to members of the military and all Department of Defense employees by mid-September, if not sooner.  For those who refuse the mandate, the consequences are unclear at this moment.

Last year, many of our school children received a failed education due to Covid.  But they were passed anyway so as not to collapse the educational system.  Unfortunately, we learned zoom classrooms are a poor substitute for face-to-face learning for millions of young children.  And masked face-to-face learning cripples social development in our children.  But once again, here we go down that same failed trail of fully masked children in school, regardless of their vaccination status.  Why?

As a people, the trust in our sacred institutions, school, government, courts, media, the press, and the church, are at an all-time low.  The constant barrage, 24/7, of competing opinions and differing experts talking out of both sides of their mouths makes us wonder, who can we trust?  Who speaks the truth?  Who do we turn to for direction?  And for the believer, the church is just as divided on these issues as the rest of those who do not know our Lord.  So, who speaks for God today?  And who can help us sort all of this out for my family and me?

And the list can go on.  Inflation, the immigration crisis at the Southern border, corruption in our government, the supply line breakdown and corresponding shortages of goods and raw materials, BLM, our national Afghanistan facepalm, rioting in our cities, China and Taiwan, natural disasters such as drought, wildfires, earthquakes, and tsunamis, just to name a few.  “And the beat goes on.”

So what is the church to do?  How can we know what our Christian response should be, must be, to what may soon be forced upon each of us?  Is this all part of the end times?  Are we just watching the death rattle of the American experiment?  Or is it both?


…Wisdom From God

Not surprisingly, the answer is found in discovering more of God, and for a good reason.  What we need is wisdom from God to know what to do and how to respond, which is only found in Jesus Christ.  And God’s wisdom is imputed to us by the Holy Spirit who, as we talked about in detail last week, now lives in each of us.   In closing, consider this incredible verse.

But of Him (or because of Him or by His doing) you are (what) in Christ Jesus, who became (gínomai – to begin to be, to come into existence) for us (you and me, the church, the called-out ones)
(1) wisdom from God— and
(2) righteousness and
(3) sanctification and
(4) redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD” – 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.

The wisdom of God we so desperately need literally “began to be” or “came into existence” in us in Christ Jesus.  He “became for us” the wisdom from God, the righteousness of God, our sanctification in God, and our redemption to God.  All these attributes, so badly needed today, are found in Him.  And He now lives in us in the Holy Spirit.

So for the next few days, we are going to continue what we began on Sunday and look at God’s book of wisdom, the Proverbs, using the tools we discussed (and will review later) to discover the source of all the answers, to all the questions, that trouble us today.  And when you hear from God and His glorious wisdom becomes second-nature to you, then whatever darkness comes your way, whatever may happen tomorrow, you will confidently say, “Thy will be done” (Matt. 6:10), and “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

Until He comes,

Steve

The Higher Christian Life

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