Tag Archives: Kingdom Discipleship

Praising God in the Midst of Plenty


When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
O LORD, when you favored me,
you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.

—Psalm 30:6-7, New International Version

When a believer is found to be in the midst of adversity, it is natural to call out to Jesus for deliverance. Throughout the Psalms, many inspired calls for help can be found; laments in the midst of calamity and rejoicing when deliverance comes.

Psalm 30 is no different. “I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths” (v1) “O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me” (v2). However, it is not the need for help that stands out in this Psalm but the reason the Psalmist found himself in need of help.

Continue reading

Thoughts on Revival


All the devils in hell and tempters on earth could do us no injury if there was no corruption in our nature—Spurgeon

When I hear people speak of revival it is often in terms of social transformation: bars are closed down; police have no work to do; courts and prisons are without use etc. It was one such conversation that sparked these thoughts about revival. The Holy Spirit spoke clearly to me revealing the heart of God for spiritual revival.

Continue reading

Marriage and the Covenant of spirits

Article by John Yates: Preface by Michael Fewson

The following article by John Yates touches on a foundational matter as he speaks of  ‘the Father of spirits’ specifically within the context of marriage. This fits well with what I have been meditating on and speaking about from Heb 13:5-6 “God has said… therefore we can say with confidence…” The precursor to this (Heb 13:4) is the mandate; “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

I pray you are enlightened by this article:

Continue reading

A Word for Today

I regularly get newsletters from around the world telling me what God is doing. Some newsletters encourage me to subscribe so that I can be kept up-to-date with what the Spirit is saying and doing. When reading Scripture however, I tend to find not so much words about ‘what God is saying for a city or nation’ but words that encourage me to be more like Christ, to honour others greater than myself or to die daily to the flesh. I find words that call the church, as the expression of God’s wisdom, to be to the glory of God.

Recently in prayer the Holy Spirit gave me a word: contentment. Now I admit it is not a very grandiose word, it is not a word to build great organisations or structures but, if it came from the Spirit of Jesus Christ then it is a powerful word.

Contentment strikes at the heart of the dominant idolatry of society today. The marketing industry exists to convince us that what we have is not enough, our desires cannot be satisfied without their products and our relationships cannot be successful without their help.

Discontent is the feeling or expression of greed. While people in the church may not overtly demonstrate lust, many express a growing discontent with their possessions, position or pleasure.

This has become the fruit of years of preaching in many circles that focus on ‘what man wants’ rather than what God requires. If you preach a message that God wants you to be happy, healthy and wealthy; that Jesus only wants the best for you – and then call that ‘best’ possessions, pleasure or social status – it should follow that the end result will not be holiness, Christ-likeness or the praise of God’s glory but a discontent with what we have now.

The world and its desires will pass away
The apostle John beautifully outlines the foundational expressions of idolatry as being sensual craving, lust for possessions and social standing or power.

1 John 2:16-17 For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. NIV

He continues by telling us that such desires – which apply to everything in the world – will pass away with the world but that the person whose desire is for God will not pass away with the world but live forever.

Being content with what you have
So, what of this word I have received? I believe contentment is a word for the church and it is for now; it is time for the Body of Jesus Christ to learn to be content in any and every situation.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, runs through the highlights of his life to the Corinthian church.

2 Cor 11:23-28 I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. NIV

This is markedly different from the ‘highlights’ of many of today’s guest speakers at conferences and seminars. I wonder if many of our conferences would draw a crowd to someone with Paul’s credentials?

Anyway, the point is that Paul does not once boast from a position of strength as we would understand it, but from one of weakness. He does not encourage us to follow a God who wants us wealthy, or living for pleasure or for political or social status, but to forsake worldly pleasures and follow Jesus Christ.

1 Tim 6:6-9 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. NIV

I have learnt the secret of contentment
Yes it seems that there is a secret to being content. Paul explains that he had to learn contentment.

Phil 4:10-13 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. NIV

Contentment is the expression of a heart of faith towards God. If I am hungry and in need, I am content; if I have a full stomach and lack nothing then I am content. This is a complete contrast to the children of Israel in the desert. They received God’s provision of manna but constantly grumbled. They had His presence at the tent of meeting and in the tabernacle but still they were discontent. They had God’s personal presence, God’s personal provision and God’s name as a standard among the nations of the area and they were still discontent.

They longed for the pleasures of Egypt even though they were slaves there. The provocation of the Israelites towards God was their discontent.

Ps 78:17-18 But they continued to sin against him, rebelling in the desert against the Most High. 18 They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved. NIV

What then is the secret to contentment? The Spirit reveals it clearly throughout Scripture:

Heb 13:5-6 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”

6 So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?” NIV

The secret to contentment is found in our posture. Many struggle to follow Christ because they are looking back, just like the people in the wilderness, longing for what they have left. The secret to contentment is in the promise of God’s presence and the hope we have in Christ.

Only when we crave the pleasure of God’s presence, only when we long to possess the inheritance of sonship, only when we value being named after the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will we be content in any and every life situation.

Godliness with contentment is great gain
Contentment is to be satisfied with your position on earth until God changes it – if he does. It does not mean that we should not pray for God’s provision but we should not crave and desire more than we need. As Scripture says, if we have food and clothing we will be content with that.

The spirit of discontent is not at work in those who are truly poor or genuinely in need, it is at work in affluent societies and in churches that have become ensnared by the pleasures of this world.

So, the word for today is contentment:

Heb 3:7-15
7 So, as the Holy Spirit says:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the desert,
9 where your fathers tested and tried me
and for forty years saw what I did.
10 That is why I was angry with that generation,
and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.'”

12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. NIV

Free to Believe or Believe to be Free

John 8:31-36 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. NIV

Truth and freedom, two words that are held in high regard but seldom pursued let alone understood. When Jesus told Pilate, “I came to testify to the truth”, Pilate replied, “what is truth?” When Jesus told the Pharisees that the truth would set them free they replied indignantly, “we have never been slaves of anyone!”

Truth and freedom are relative terms in a pluralistic society. One is “free” to “believe” whatever “truth” one chooses. Rather than truth bringing freedom, freedom is relative, a place from which everyone can believe and therefore do what he or she chooses to believe is truth and thus good..

Jesus’ word turns this idea upside down – or right side up – by declaring; freedom is the state into which you enter once you receive and believe “the truth”. This is a radical enough thought on its own, that if I do not have the truth I am in fact not free but enslaved by a lie.  But it does not stop there. The Pharisees objected that they were born free but Jesus declared that truth which brings freedom is personified in Jesus Christ.

Truth that Frees

So what is the truth of Jesus Christ that brings us into freedom?

The simple answer is the gospel or the message of the cross. The word of the cross is made clear by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Roman church; 

  • Before God there is no-one who is righteous, all fail to express the glory of God in creation and are objects of His wrath. The law given to Moses and that which is written on our conscience reveals our powerlessness to redeem our position in that all people are slaves to sin and are unable to live free from sin’s power and control. Even if we come to believe the truth that the law is good and should be obeyed we are not free to obey that law and live righteously before God.
  • The conclusion of this revelation is summed up by the cry “wretched man that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death?”
  • The answer to the realisation of bondage to sin and death and the cry for freedom is found in the person of Jesus Christ.

The personal word of God in Christ Jesus is heard at the cross;

  • Jesus, in His humanity, receives the penalty of the guilty verdict hanging over all people – the wages of sin is death. The righteous requirement of the law is death.
  • On the cross the wrath of God was poured out upon Jesus as he experienced (and revealed) God’s wrath as forsakenness. Matt 27:45-46  From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”-which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” NIV
  • Jesus’ resurrection declares justification before God for all who call upon His name. Rom 4:25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. NIV

Truth that Condemns

When Jesus declared “the truth will set you free” there was a very clear truth that is found and received only in Jesus Christ. The truth that sets people free does not begin as a word of affirmation -people are basically good, they really do want God and they just need to be loved on- but it begins with a word of guilt, condemnation and wrath. Now, just as God’s righteousness is being revealed, it begins with the revelation of His wrath. People are slaves to sin, guilty as hell itself and condemned to the death of Godforsakenness.

Jesus made it clear that He came to save those who would believe as John 3:16,17 states:

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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

However, Jesus does not stop here. He declares clearly and emphatically in the next few verses that people are already condemned. They are not in a neutral state but are already under God’s wrath and those who do not believe are not condemned by Jesus BECAUSE they are already condemned; and that is because their hearts love darkness rather than light:

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. NIV

Unless a person can receive the truth that they are wretched they will never find freedom in Christ. Partial truth does not bring freedom but only a different form of slavery. The Pharisees were too righteous in their own eyes. Pilate was pluralistic concerning truth and regardless of which position is taken, “all stand condemned before God” and are therefore “wretched”.

Truth that Cries for Deliverance

“Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death” is the cry of one that believes the truth. “What must we do to be saved” is the belief that slavery is your present predicament and wrath your inevitable reward.

The prayer of the Pharisee was one of slavery because there was no truth in it.

Luke 18:10-14 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” NIV

The tax collector believed the truth and cried for freedom.

Truth that brings Freedom

The word of the cross that screams guilt and condemnation over all of humanity also cries out “it is finished, the penalty paid, the wrath appeased, righteousness revealed.” The truth of condemnation is also the truth of deliverance from sin to all who believe. Whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned; they will not perish but will be free.

As Romans reveals,

Rom 8:1-4 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. NIV

“So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Conclusion

There is no freedom in believing what we want to believe only bondage and slavery to that belief. Society offers freedom of belief but Jesus gives belief that frees.

Belief that frees begins with the truth that in my flesh there is nothing good. I am a slave to sin in my sinful flesh and powerless to do anything other than to reject and hate God.

Belief that frees is one that cries for deliverance from slavery to this body of lust which hates the life and light which is Jesus Christ. To daily live according to the desires of the flesh is to deny the truth that in Christ freedom is not only deliverance from God’s wrath but also freedom from the power of sin in the flesh. Freedom and power to daily crucify the flesh.

And finally belief that one day this corruptible body will be made incorruptible, mortality will put on immortality and salvation’s final work will be complete.

The Truth will set you free so believe and be free in Jesus Christ.

reaching towards unity in the faith

God’s express purpose in revealing himself to his own was that he would be their God and they would be his people. A people who represent Him and show forth His manifold wisdom and are remade in His likeness. This likeness has now been revealed through Jesus Christ who is the image of the invisible God and the perfect representation of His being.

God’s character is complex and there are many aspects to it but I am interested in looking at unity in the church as a result of the work of Christ. One of the most amazing things that is seen at the cross is the absolute unity of the Godhead in the unfolding of the plan of God. As much as the sufferings of Christ are in fact the sufferings of God, the Godhead agreed to its administration, its cost and its out working.
If we are to be a people who are remade in the likeness of God, then unity in the church is not a pipe dream. It is the will and purpose of God for us. As the family of God, we have received all we need to be united in the same way as the trinity is united.

The unity of the Spirit

Eph 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. NIV

There are many things that unite people in the world. People are usually united by their interests, status, race and other matters which in fact also serve to divide them from others. But God is building a spiritual house and we are that house. God is not interested in the natural divisions that are between us because they are born of sin. God’s desire is to build a spiritual house that is spiritually united in Christ and at the same time set apart and divided from the world that has rejected God and the knowledge of God. This looks like a people from every nation, tongue and creed united by the work of Christ and the ongoing work of the Spirit.

Eph 2:14 speaks of a wall of hostility that used to divide Jew from gentile. This barrier as well as every natural barrier is pulled down in Christ. The prejudices that arise because of sin in regard to race, possession, intellect and gender are all null and void in Christ Jesus. The interesting thing about the work of Christ in uniting people from such different outlooks and walks of life is that as much as their hearts are changed, God requires them to renew their minds. They must now learn to keep the unity of the Spirit that they have been given.

Scripture tells us that we are one body with many members. There is a diversity of roles and functions that we must learn to love and accommodate. We are also told that we are of one spirit. In these roles complementing each other, there is a need for us to move according to the same spirit that would have us grow in patience, love, kindness and gentleness toward each other.

The unity of the Spirit is in essence the unity of God that is in us because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. This unity is fragile and requires humility because having been redeemed from darkness, our habits and thoughts are often in opposition to God and what He is doing. We have come to God as former self-promoters, pleasure-seekers and possession amassers. This is fertile ground for prideful divisions, selfish ambition and envy. But God would have us KEEP the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Having received peace with God through Christ in repentance, God demands that we remain humbly repentant and obedient to the work of the Spirit that unites us, and is at work to transform us into Christ likeness.

Keeping the unity of the Spirit speaks of fervent effort to remain in what has been given to us by grace despite ourselves. That which we have received spiritually now must be out worked in our lives by the growth into a unity of desires and affections for the will of God.

The unity in the faith

Eph 4:13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. NIV

The journey of the house of God into Christ likeness was never meant to only be something received but always something participated with. By this I mean that we were never called to be robots. God could easily have made us obedient without ever having had us have choices. But God desired to pour out His grace to enable us to know Him and love Him. This is why He revealed His true character at the cross, reconciled us to Himself and called us to repent.

Part of our inheritance from Adam, is that we naturally doubt God’s goodness and word as Adam did. God unites his church with Him and with each other by the blood of Christ but desires that His children should cooperate and choose to be united because they desire to be like God having come to trust Him and know Him. This is the meaning of Eph 4:11-13. Jesus gave ascension gifts to the church so that, in teaching the church to obey Jesus’ commands, they would bring the church to the knowledge of the Father and His Son (which is eternal life) and to putting their full trust in every statement God ever made which would look like obedience to Christ’s commands.
The unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God is a place of maturity that we are called to. It is the place of those who having known God through Christ now can distinguish good from evil. Formerly this was not possible. John 1:5 says that the light – Jesus Christ and his message – came into the world, but the darkness has not understood it. In loving darkness, humanity has forsaken the knowledge of God prompting God to give them over to their own futile thinking. This unbelief has acted as an opportunity for the devil to veil their eyes to the glory of God so that they cannot see it or in fact understand it It is the place of those who having known God put their full trust in Him through Christ for salvation, for life and godliness. They fear trusting themselves and flee from their own will while actively pursuing God’s. They join with Apostle Paul and declare that for them to live is Christ.. It is no longer they who live but Christ who lives in them. They count all things as rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ their Lord.

There is a great deal of difference between the unity of the Spirit and the unity in the faith, as well as the believers at either level. The unity of the Spirit is a disposition of the New Creation and the new heart and spirit received from God. It is a disposition of humility towards the body of Christ which recognises the ‘measure of faith’ received as well as the vacuum of knowledge and love and the need to be nurtured and taught by those gifted by Christ. The unity in the faith is that place of maturity entered into by mature disciples who are able to distinguish and understand the light revealed in Christ Jesus. Whereas the unity of the Spirit is to be kept as an obedient servant even though the knowledge is limited, the other is to be reached through the renewal of the mind which has come through obedience.. The unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God is a place of active duty and following. No longer is the unity just received and kept, it is actively built upon unto love in the body of Christ and unto the absolute headship of Jesus in His church.

The transition

The transition is simple but many do not find it. Just as the yoke of Christ is easy and many choose against it, the narrow way of the transition is obscured from those who choose to make this world their home.

The first step of transition is to remain on the firm foundation of Jesus and Him crucified. Having seen the character of God through the cross, it is integral that we remain with our first love. We cannot forget who God truly is. Instead we must be adorers of Jesus who cannot get past His awesome sacrifice and the incredible love of God for those He has called.

The second step is to put off the old self. We have been made new creations in Christ who are united with God. We cannot obey the old master any longer. This is the source of all divisions and strife in the church. Believers will get into an argument and decide that they must be right and cannot choose the humility of keeping the unity of the Spirit by accepting to be wronged or wrong. Close relationship will always challenge the sin nature to arise. But obedient children will always keep the unity that was given to them at the highest price. They will war against their sin nature rather than be led by it. And they will judge their own sin and be led by the Spirit to overcome rather than excuse themselves.

The third step is to recognise Christ’s will in giving ascension gifts (see Ascension Gifts of Jesus) to the church. This is often misunderstood and rejected. People cannot expect to bring themselves to maturity while rejecting God’s will for the church. This is naïve and disobedient. If Christ gave gifts, then rejecting them is akin to rejecting His love. We are called to the humility of not thinking of ourselves as higher than we ought. This looks like not being our own gods or leaders but instead letting those given to the church to call us to obedience to Christ and actually following. (I am not speaking of blind obedience to people who do not show the fruit of godly lives – although this is often twisted to excuse disobedience).

The next step is to grow in obedience as a result of faith and a growing knowledge of God which leads us to love for the house of God in practical and spiritual ways that leads the house to growing into the headship of Christ where He is able to lead His church as He wills because a mature people have learnt to hear His voice, obey it without question and love Him and His purposes.

Conclusion

As mentioned above, this transition is not found by many. Even though I have chosen to give steps above, this cannot be lived out without the Spirit of God leading. If this is applied legalistically, then there is no doubt that people will find themselves on any number of wrong roads.
But for those who have put their faith in Christ, who rejoice in the presence of the Spirit and who worship in spirit and in truth, there is nowhere else to go. Jesus has the words of life and he calls us to obedience and to an ever-growing knowledge of Him which will end in seeing Him face to face. To those who long for this, commit yourself to humble obedience, unshakable faith in God and love for the bride of Christ.

To Him be the glory in the church,

Amen.