God’s Thoughts and Our Thoughts

Isaiah 55:8-11(NKJV) 8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

This week we are looking at the affect the heart of man has on his ability to walk in the spirit. We have seen over the past few weeks that walking with our spirit, our inner man, in control is key to fulfilling our destiny and walking in a manner that is pleasing to God. Our spirit is that part of our being which was born again at salvation. It is perfectly in tune with God.

The soul of man is made up of his intellect, will and emotions. Since the soul sits between the spirit, which is at one with God, and the body through which we live out our lives on earth, the soul is the most important part of our being when it comes to whether we will walk in the spirit. The deepest part of our soul is something Jesus calls the “heart.” Within the heart is stored all of the experiences we have had in our lifetime. This creates a “filter” through which everything we hear from God and through which every bit of teaching or ministry we receive must pass in order to be effective.

As we ended last time we had concluded that the heart must change if we are to be successful in our Christian walk. The main thing God has given us to accomplish that change is the Word of God. Today I want to look at an important passage of scripture when it comes to this process of changing the heart or renewing the mind.

In Isaiah 55 we see some characteristic things about God’s word. The Lord makes a declaration that his thoughts and ways are higher than ours. This is obvious. He is God and we are not. It is not hard for me to accept that as theory, however we must also accept it as reality. The thoughts that I have which do not flow from God’s thoughts are lower and less true. God’s thoughts always release the Law of the Spirit of life. (Rom 8:1-4) My thoughts often release the law of sin and death.

My thoughts stored in my heart are what determines the mind set through which I see life. They are the filter the Word of God must pass through to affect my spirit and through which the voice of God must pass to affect my outward life. God’s thoughts make up His mindset. If I can replace my thoughts with His, I can change my heart. However, His thoughts are higher than mine. His higher thoughts lead to higher ways. I cannot think his thoughts, can I? Yes you can.

If Isaiah 55 ended with this very poetic statement it would not help us at all. However the prophet does not stop here. He goes on to speak of rain and snow. What do rain and snow have to do with thinking God’s thoughts?

Everyone knows that rain is necessary to bring life to the soil. If there is no rain the crops cannot grow. Where there is no rain the climate is desert and nothing much can live. However in the northeast we are also familiar with snow. In the winter it seems that nothing is growing. The trees are black or brown with no leaves on them. The grass is not growing. The fields are all beaten down. If the snow melts enough to see the ground there will be nothing that seems alive.

In the spring the rains come and the trees bud and life is once again renewed. However, we know that if there is not enough snowfall we will likely have very dry conditions during the summer. The rain will be enough to bring forth spring, but it takes the water from the winter snow to cause the water table to be high enough to get us through the heat of summer.

In these verses God compares something to the rain and the snow. The rain produces immediate results, but the snow keeps working behind the scenes to water the earth and bring forth life. It does not look like the snow is doing anything, but it is. What is God comparing to rain and snow in this scripture. His Word.

God’s thoughts are higher than ours, but thank God he wrote his thoughts down. Just as our minds contain rational thoughts we think every day and “heart” thoughts that make up the underlying pattern of how we think, the bible contains what God thinks about any subject as well as the pattern of how He thinks. We do not naturally think God’s thoughts, but we can read his thoughts.

Not only do we obtain information when we read God’s thoughts, but just as rain and snow transform the earth and bring forth life, God’s thoughts from his written word have the ability to impart life to us and transform our thoughts to be more like his. Jesus said his words are spirit and life. (John 6:63) Hebrews 4:12 says the Word of God is a powerful living thing. The Word of God has been given the power by God to change how we think.

How does it do this? Just as the rain and snow come to the earth, sink into it and saturate it with life by giving moisture, the Word will sink into our heart and impart the life of God to it. It will begin to “reprogram” our heart. This happens as we allow the word to “rain” on our mind by hearing it and meditating on it. Just as one rain shower cannot solve a drought, one message or one study session cannot change our heart. It takes the rain and also the snow to make the change.

Sometimes we feel the rain of the Word and we know that there is something happening. Other times It is the winter months of our lives when we are putting the word in and it does not seem to be doing anything. However it is working. It’s working under the surface where we cannot see or feel it. It is watering our heart and changing our thinking.

If you expand the study of Isaiah 55 to verse 13, there is a wonderful description of what the rain and snow of the Word will produce in the life of the believer. It does not happen overnight, but it does happen if we give ourselves to it. Let me close today by quoting these powerful verses.

Isaiah 55:12-13(NKJV) 12 “For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the Lord for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Out of the Heart

Matthew 12:35(NKJV) 35A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.

This week we are looking at the nature of man and what is the determining factor in our ability to walk with our inner man, our spirit, in control. Since our spirit is the part that is born again it will automatically respond to God. Our body tends to want what it wants, but it can be trained. Once it is trained it will respond according to that training. Our soul is another matter.

Our soul, consisting of intellect, will and emotions, has been conditioned from birth by the world system. This system is controlled by spiritual death. In our study of the two laws mentioned in Romans 8, we have determined that the law of sin and death is the dominant law. The law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus can be applied to override it, but if things are left to themselves sin and death will be the major influence. Therefore it is the main influence that has conditioned our soul.

Not only has it affected our conscious thinking through everything from education to the media, it has also affected our unconscious thinking. This is the area that Jesus called the heart. In our heart, or subconscious mind, every experience, word and emotion we have ever had is stored. All of these things make up a “mind set” through which every conclusion, interpretation and action must pass.

From Hebrews 12 we have learned that the heart is the point of division between soul and spirit. If God is speaking to us via our spirit, the revelation must filter through the heart to affect our outward life. When I read the Word of God, hear preaching or receive ministry, it must traverse the same region of my being to get to my spirit. What we really see from the Word, how we actually receive what God speaks to us and how we respond to ministry is all determined by the filters that are set up in our heart.

This is why Jesus makes the statement he does in Matthew 12. My spirit is full of Good things. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 tells me that if I am a new creature, all things have become new and all things are of God. There is no bad thing left in a born again spirit. However what is in me cannot get out except through my heart. Therefore out of the “treasure” of the heart come both good and bad things.

If I have an area where my heart is not full of hurts and misconceptions I will be able to receive the Word of God into my spirit unaffected. The result will be the good things that God wants for me. If, however, there is an area of truth that must filter through some “bad treasure” stored in my heart, I will not be able to process the truth correctly and evil things will result.

One of the most common examples of this is the person who has had a bad relationship with a parent, especially a father. They read the Word about the heavenly Father’s love. They may even sense the wonderful love of the Father coming from their spirit. However, because their heart is full of bad memories and emotions related to their earthly father, they simply cannot believe what they hear or feel.

In a case such as this the person will read the words of Jesus that say “the Father himself loves you.” (John 16:27), but they will hear, “The Father himself loves you if you do everything right and don’t do anything to displease him.” They do not have good treasure in their heart and they cannot get good things out.

They may feel the love of God, but they will reject it as somehow false. Their experience with their earthly father left them with a feeling that his love was not real or it was conditional or it was abusive. Whatever the relationship was, it is hard for a person with this kind of heart “treasure” to relate to God as a father.

One of the most difficult things for many people is the fact that the memories themselves may not even be conscious, but the emotions attached to those memories will surface during similar experiences. Keeping our illustration in tack, if a person with an abusive father hears teaching about the requirements God places on us in the Word, he may feel the same emotions he felt when his earthly father placed unfair requirements on him as a child. I have dealt with people who left the church in rebellion because they just could not get passed the emotions connected to this kind of situation.

They were not really responding to what they were hearing preached. They were responding to a set of emotions that surface from the heart that were actually connected to the experience they had with their father. This often happens in marriage, parenting, the workplace. Anywhere we experience something that stirs up emotions from our heart we may respond, not to the current situation, but to the original hurt or bad experience.

This is just one example of how something in the strata beneath our conscious thinking can affect our current life. It is one way that the heart will cripple our ability to hear what God is saying in our spirit and our ability give that revelation the proper interpretation. It is also how we can hear or read the Word of God and come up with some interpretation or message that is anything but what the bible is really teaching.

What then is the solution? Change the heart. If we are going to walk in the spirit we must change the heart. Once again Paul’s words in Romans 12 are key. To be transformed we must renew the mind. This involves changing what we think by filling our conscious mind with the Word, but to be completely changed we must also change our heart so that we change how we think.

There are many things that can help us in this process. Godly counsel can be effective. Personal ministry of all kinds, such as prayer and deliverance can be key to helping us on this transformative journey. However the one thing that God has given us that will finally be able to change our heart is the Word of God. Let me quote yesterday’s scripture once more.

Hebrews 4:12(NKJV) 12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The Word of God is alive. It is powerful and it can deal with the thoughts and intents of the heart. It is the Word that has been designed by God to reach into that deepest part of our soul and change it.

There is much to say about this and we will look at more tomorrow. Today, read the two scriptures I have quoted. Look at the context of each of them and begin to ask the Lord to help you apply the word to your heart. Maybe you have seen yourself in the things I have written today. Go to the Lord and ask for healing. Open the Bible and pray that God will lead you in his word to the living powerful seeds that will help change the treasure of your heart. You will be on the road to transformation.

One Person Three Parts

Hebrews 4:12(NKJV) 12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

2011 is a year for us to take a giant step forward in fulfilling destiny. To fulfill our destiny we must learn how to walk in the spirit. This simply means to walk with our inner man in the position of control in our lives. Last week we found from Romans 8:5-7 that the mind is the pivotal part of our being which determines if we will walk with our spirit in control.

This week I want to begin by taking a closer look at the nature of man. As we have previously stated man is a threefold being just as God is. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One God, three parts. Man is Spirit, Soul and Body. One person in 3 parts. Each part has a purpose.

The spirit of man is the central part of his being. I believe it is the real person. It is that which was created in God’s image and it is that part which fell in the Garden of Eden. It is the part of him that was born again at salvation and became vitally joined, once again, to the Lord. The spirit is the part of us that communicates with the realm of the spirit where God lives.

The body is the container for the soul and the spirit. It is the part of us that is designed to communicate with the natural world. It does not have motivation of its own except for appetites that cause it to crave what it needs to be sustained. However these appetites can easily get out of control. The body will desire what it likes to the exclusion of reason.

Before the fall this tendency was meant to ensure survival. However after the fall things were introduced that the body will desire to the point of its own destruction. Any appetite can become a lust or addiction. The thing about the body, however, is that it was also designed to be trained. It can be trained to desire what it needs if we take the time and effort to do so.

The part of us that exists between the spirit and body is the soul. This is the part that contains the intellect, the will and the emotions. It is designed to process the information that comes from the body and pass it to the spirit. It is also designed to process the information that comes from the spirit so that it can be expressed through the body. It is the channel through with the psychological and intellectual world flows.

Since it is placed between the spirit, where the communication with God occurs, and the body, where our whole being is expressed to the outward world, it occupies a place of extreme influence over our behavior. Every word we read in the bible must pass through the soul to get to our spirit. Every word, thought or idea that comes from God must be processed by our soul before it can affect our lives. No matter who we are or what our life experience is, the soul will color how we see everything from God to other people.

This is what Paul was talking about in Romans 12:2.

Romans 12:2(NKJV) 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Salvation is a transformation, or rebirth, of your spirit. However to be completely changed we must renew our mind. This is the process of changing our soul so that it can process the things of God in such a way that our spirit, that part which is in harmony with God, has a clear and efficient channel to our body, that part which expresses the God within to the world. When that happens we walk in the spirit and we live the abundant life the Father intends for us.

I want to introduce another part of our being today. Look at Matthew 12:35

Matthew 12:35(NKJV) 35A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.

Here Jesus says that good things or bad things come from the treasure of something called a person’s heart. In the New Testament there is a Greek word for spirit which means the source of life. There is a word for soul which means the seat of the emotions, intellect and will. This word is neither of those. This is the Greek word kardia from which we get the term cardiac referring to the physical heart.

Obviously Jesus is not talking about the pump in our chest which circulates blood. What, then, is he talking about. I always thought the heart was another term for the spirit, however this word is never translated as spirit. It is also never translated as soul. It is always translated as heart, hearts or some variation thereof. What is this part of our being that Jesus is referring to. Since both good and bad things come from it, I want to know.

The clue for me came from today’s scripture. The word has the power to divide soul and spirit. If something can be divided there is a point where it comes together. There is some point in me where soul becomes spirit and spirit becomes soul. What is that point of division? I believe it is the heart of man.

The heart is the deepest level of our soul, our intellect, emotions and will. It is the part that lies underneath our consciousness. Science calls it the sub-conscious mind. It is the repository of every experience, every thought and every word spoken to us. Science knows that the human brain has the capacity for such storage. All of the information is in there, but the brain is not able to fully access it all consciously. That does not mean it is not there.

We have all heard of people with photographic memories. These people do not have brains that store information that the rest of us cannot store. They have brains that access information that the rest of us cannot. The information is there either way.

Since the heart is the point of transition between soul and spirit, it is also the place where the information passing between them is processed. As it is processed it is “colored” by all of the stored information that has been deposited by our life experience. This includes both the memories and the emotions associated with the memories.

This part of us determines how we think. Our conscious mind is what we think at any given time. Nevertheless, underneath those conscious thought is a layer that determines how we process those thoughts. That layer is the heart. Out of the good treasure stored there come good thoughts. Out of the bad things stored there come bad thoughts or interpretations…..More tomorrow.

Carnally Minded or Spiritually Minded

Romans 8:6-7(NKJV) 6For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

(This will be my last post for this week as I am off to Delaware to celebrate Dr. B.J. Pruitt’s 80th birthday.)

Yesterday we looked at the primary reason we do not walk in the spirit. Romans 8:4-5 tell us those who walk after or in the spirit mind the things of the spirit. Those who walk in the flesh mind the things of the flesh. The pivot point is not what we do with our bodies. They can be trained. It is not what we do with our spirit. Our born again spirit will naturally follow God if it is strong enough to be in control. It is our mind or soul that must be renewed in order to allow that to happen.

In today’s scripture, Paul uses the term “minded.” If we are “minded” a particular way that means we tend to give our attention to a certain direction. To be spiritually minded means we are continually giving our attention to the things of the spirit. If we are carnally minded we are giving most of our attention to carnal things. Whichever direction we are focusing our attention will determine how we see life.

There are some people who are sports minded. They see everything through the prism of the sporting world. They think about sports, the make sports analogies they will filter most of what they think through some kind sport. Others are car minded, shopping minded or music minded. Some teenage girls are boy minded and boys are girl minded. Most of us can remember those days.

On a deeper level, some people are money minded, success minded or sexually minded. Their whole life is evaluated from that view. Many people who have suffered abuse see everything through their abuse. Their reactions are based in the abuse as well as the way they handle relationships. For some this is a crippling thing.

One of the starkest examples of being “minded” a given way is anorexia. When a person is minded this way they cannot see themselves any way but fat. They may be skin and bones to everyone else but to their own eyes they see a fat person. In severe cases young women have starved to death with plenty of food available. They are minded in a destructive way.

To be carnally minded means that we see life through “glasses” dominated by the carnal world. Our reactions to problems are based on what is possible in the carnal world. We let carnal, or fleshly, things dominate our desires and motivations. Christians who are carnally minded do not understand the bible and cannot put a priority on spiritual things. They will never live the abundant life of John 10:10 because they will never rise above carnal thinking.

To be spiritually minded is just the opposite. Our view of life is dominated by the spiritual. We see a problem but we respond on the basis of what is possible in God, not just what is possible in terms of our carnal abilities or situations. We focus on the word of God and his promises not on the severity of the situation.

If we are spiritually minded our priorities are set by spiritual things. We set the bible and God’s ways as the standards for our behavior. What God says we can do we believe we can do. What God says we should not do we do our best to avoid. Our motivations are based in spiritual things. That does not mean we have no carnal desires. It does mean that those desires do not dominate us.

There is much more I could say but hopefully you get the picture. The thing we must remember is that we do not just choose which way we are minded. We are minded one way or another. If we want to change the way we are minded we must make a decision to do so, but then we must do what is necessary to make that change. It will take time and effort. Yesterday we looked at Romans 12:1-3 where Paul calls the process of changing how we are minded the renewing of the mind.

We will look at this process in detail later. Today let’s focus on the scripture above. Romans 8:6 tells us that if we are carnally minded we are releasing death into our life. In other words we are yielding to and enforcing the law of sin and death. If we are spiritually minded we are cultivating and applying the Law of the Spirit of Life. We will have life.

What does “life” mean in this context. It means all that God has for us. It means victorious living in the midst of difficulty. It means health for our bodies. It means provision for our needs. It means the ability to fulfill our destiny in God. Life is what man is looking for whether he knows Jesus or not. This becomes consistently available to us if we can become spiritually minded.

On the other hand verse 7 tells us that the carnal mind is enmity or hatred for God. It cannot be subject to God. In other places Paul tells us it cannot understand the things of God. They are foolishness to the carnal mind. That is why so many born again people never rise above the low life of the flesh. They never do what is necessary to become spiritually minded.

How can you make this change? Again, the Word has much to say about this, but let us look to the words of Jesus in Mark 4 for a beginning.

Mark 4:24(NKJV) 24Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.

In the Amplified Bible it comes out this way.

And He said to them, Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you–and more [besides] will be given to you who hear.

We must ask ourselves what we want out of life. This verse tells us that the amount of time we give to spiritual things will determine the amount of power we walk in. If we want to renew our mind and become spiritually minded we are going to have to set our mind on spiritual things more than we do. If we will not do this, we will be carnally minded. It is just that simple.

Start where you are. You cannot make this change overnight, but you can find some time you are spending on carnal things and carnal thinking and give that time and attention to the Word. It will not be easy at first but the rewards are well worth the effort.

What Keeps us From Walking in the Spirit

Romans 8:4-6(NKJV) 4that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

In yesterday’s post we looked at the 3rd and 4th verse in Romans 8. In them we discovered that what the law could not do, God did for us in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What was it that God did? He set us free from the Law of Sin and Death by giving us access to the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.

These two laws represent forces, or two kinds of power, that flow from the realm of the spirit into the earth. The Law of sin and death is a flow of death and corruption that has effected creation since the fall of Adam. It produces all that is evil in the human condition and it pushes man to sin against God. Containing this force is what has given rise to all human culture and society.

The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus is a flow of creative power that was released at the resurrection of Jesus. Anyone who desires to can receive this life by receiving Jesus as their Lord and Savior. When they do so, this flow of life causes their spirit man, originally created in the image and likeness of God and corrupted at the fall, to be “reborn” and connected once again to the life of God. At that point man is no longer a “child of Wrath” as he is described in Eph 2:1-3. He becomes a child of God and the power of the Law of the Spirit of Life becomes available throughout his or her life.

This power can cause us to rise above sin and death. It applies to our behavior. We no longer have to be bound by sin. It applies to our lifestyle. We can rise above sickness, poverty and all the negative effects of the fall of man. It applies to our purpose in our earthly life. We can access this power to fulfill our destiny and accomplish the will of God for our generation. (See 1 Corinthians 12-14 and the gifts of the spirit.)

The power of the Law of the Spirit of Life is released by walking in the spirit, or living with our inner man in control. As long as my flesh, the combination of soul and body, control me, I will not access the power of the Law of the Spirit of Life. In that case I am yielding to the law of sin and death that is present in the earth because of the fall. (Vs. 4 above) What is the key to walking in the spirit? What keeps us from doing so if we are saved and able to? The answer is clearly stated in Verse 5.

5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

The answer may seem too simple and yet it is the key to walking in the spirit. We do not walk in the spirit because our minds are dominated by the flesh. It is just that simple. We think the problem must be our body. It is not. The body can be trained. We do have to build up our spirit man, but that process is hindered if we do not have our mind in order. The pivotal part of our being that must be changed is our mind. If we think right we will walk in the spirit, if we do not we will not.

When Paul uses the word “mind” here he is not talking about just our intellectual capacity. He is talking about what can also be called the soul. The soul is made up of three parts. First is our intellect. This is our reasoning capacity. It is our logic, what we have learned and everything that applies to rational thinking. Our soul also involves our will. This is the capacity given to us by God in the garden of Eden to make choices. This is a very powerful part of our makeup. It is what finally determines everything we are. Finally it is made up of our emotions.

It is interesting to look at these aspects of our composition. In western society we have chosen to elevate the intellect above all else. We use reason and logic to control the law of sin and death. In literature we see the struggle between intellect and the “dark” side of humanity in such works as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” If Dr. Jekyll can control his emotions he will not become the evil Hyde. However, because his will cannot override the chemicals he takes he cannot control the evil within.

The evil within is the sin nature and the law of sin and death. The will is not strong enough in itself to overcome these powerful forces. Sooner or later they will come out. However the will is the part God has put in the soul with which we make choices. In our culture we usually see the choice as being between bad emotions and good emotions strengthened by our intellect. That is the weakness that keeps us from walking in the spirit.

The choice we must use our will to make is the choice to receive Jesus. That is the choice that will produce a change which can influence everything. That choice changes us at a level below both intellect and emotion and gives the will another power to access. That is the power available through the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. However as long as our minds are still programmed to see things only through the soul and the body, the flesh, we will never make the choice to access that power.

This is a very large bible subject and we will spend a great deal of time talking about it. For today I want you to look at one verse and think about what it means.

Romans 12:2(NKJV) 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

We become “New Creatures” when we are born again. Our spirit is joined to God and life is released on the inside of us. However, Paul uses the word “transformed” here. This means totally changed. The most important change is the new birth. Without that nothing else is possible. Once we have been born again we need another process to cause the total transformation of our outward life. That process is the “renewing of the mind.” This follows perfectly the statements in Romans 8:5-6.

What does it mean to renew the mind. It means to learn to think in a totally different way. That is what we must do to walk in the spirit. Walking in the spirit will allow us to access the Law of the Spirit of life. Accessing the Law of the Spirit of Life will allow us to overcome the lusts of the flesh, access the power of God and live the kind of life Jesus talks about in John 10:10.

John 10:10(NKJV) 10The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. (The Law of sin and death) I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus)

God Did It!

Romans 8:3-4(NKJV) 3For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

In our church this year we have studied the journey of Israel from Egyptian bondage to freedom in Canaan. It is important for us to see that God did not deliver Egypt for the wilderness. The wilderness had its place and purpose in the life of Israel but it was not the point of what God wanted for them. He really delivered them for a destiny. They were to occupy the region known as Canaan in order to ultimately produce the Messiah of the world there. That was their destiny.

I believe we are a generation of destiny as well. God has delivered us from the bondage of sin and will ultimately take us to heaven. However God also has a plan for the church in the earth. We are to win the lost and make disciples of all nations. That is our destiny. We have not been saved just to escape hell. We have not been saved so we will have a better life. We have been saved for and with a purpose.

To fulfill that purpose, or destiny, we must learn to walk in the spirit. This simply means to walk with that part of our being which was created in the image of God in control. We are a spirit. We have a soul, consisting of intellect, will and emotions, and we live in a physical body. At the fall of man the spirit was separated from God and joined to the devil.

Ephesians 2 says we were all “by nature children of wrath.” This is the definition of death from a spiritual point of view. Jesus defined life in John 17 as knowing the father. When man fell he died. The Hebrew says, “in dying you shall surely die” speaking to Adam. The second death is physical death which is a result of the first death, spiritual death. Romans 5 tells us this “death” passed upon all people born of Adam’s seed.

The New Birth is the reversal of this condition. Before Jesus came, the spirit of man was separated from God and joined to death. Death emanated from his spirit. He had to keep that death contained or it would destroy him and everything around him. That death produced sinful behavior, sickness, fear and all other negative aspects of the human condition.

Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages, or result, of sin is death. The first two verses of Romans 8 reveal to us that there are two spiritual laws at work in the earth. The Law of sin and death and the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. The Law of sin and death describes a power that is in effect because of the fall of man. It is akin to the natural law of gravity. If things are left to themselves this is the law that will affect us.

Jesus made available another law called the Law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. This gives us the power to overcome the law of sin and death. If we apply the Life of Christ to our lives we will release all that is positive in God’s will for us. When we sin, we are opening the door to the law of sin and death.

We are born again and heirs of life however, what we do and how we live will determine how much of that life becomes available to us. If we build what it takes to release the life of God we will have it. If we yield to sin we will partake of the law of sin and death. It is just that simple.

It is so important that we see this. God is not withholding anything from us. He is not just a mean old man that gets “annoyed” at some of the things we do. He is a loving father that wants us to have all that he has provided for us. He tells us not to do certain things because they will activate the law of sin and death. He tells us to do other things because he wants us to be able to fly above sin and death and partake of the wonderful life Jesus provided for us.

How do we unleash this law of life. We walk in the spirit. How do we walk in the spirit. I believe we must first believe and receive the scripture above.

God gave the Mosaic law to be a limited way to protect us from the spiritual Law of Sin and Death and enable us to live in the spiritual Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ. The Mosaic law, however, could not totally free us from sin and death. It was weak because it had to function in the flesh. It contained rules and sacrifices for the breaking of those rules. All of this must be applied by the flesh. Sooner or later the flesh will fail, we will sin and the Law of sin and death will get the better of us. Romans 8:3 tells us plainly that the law could not set us free.

Romans 8:4 tells us something else. God did it! Did what? He set us free from the Law of Sin and Death. Not partially free, but totally free. It is possible for you to overcome all forms of sin and death in your life. You can do it because Jesus made the way. We must begin by accepting and believing that truth. Experience tells you it cannot be done. Your failure tells you that you can overcome it to some degree but you will always fall back into sin. This scripture tells you it is possible for you to overcome sin and death completely.

In teaching on these things over the years I have used the forces that make and airplane fly to illustrate how the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the Law of Sin and Death. If you apply the laws of lift and thrust to an airplane wing it will fly. If you stop applying those forces gravity takes over and you fall back to earth.

There is another type of machine, however, that I think shows us what we can have if we will do what is necessary. A rocket creates so much thrust that it can take us out of the earth’s atmosphere until gravity has almost no effect on us. I believe that is what we can have if we will give ourselves totally to the Lord.

If we will apply the lift and thrust of the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus we can fly above the Law of Sin and Death. If we will fully surrender to the Lord we can create so much thrust in our lives that we can come to a place where sin and death do not even apply to us. We will still die physically, but we do not have to give in to the effects of sin and death as long as we are here.

We will continue to study this and learn how to apply the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, but for today just meditate of the fact that God did it. He set us free. It is possible and if it is possible I am going to do it. How about you.

The Son of Encouragement

Acts 4:36-37(NKJV) 36And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

We have been studying the need for accountability in the body of Christ. This is particularly important for leaders, but we are all leaders on one form or another. If we are going to maintain our walk with God we need people who have the right to “speak into our lives.” This means we are submitted in heart to someone who can say the hard things to us and we will listen.

The best form of accountability relationship is the parent child relationship. As children we are accountable to our parents. However as parents we must be willing to lay down our life for our children. Within this “servant leadership” structure, accountability is not something to be feared. It is what gives us the environment to grow.

In the Old Testament we see this in many forms. We studied Joshua and Moses yesterday. We could also look at Elijah and Elisha, Samuel and Saul or any number of others. In the New Testament there is a person who gets little attention but typifies the kind of relationship we need in the church today. His name was actually Joses, but the disciples saw something in him that caused them to change his name to Barnabas. This means “son of encouragement.”

After he is mentioned here in Acts 4, we next see him in Acts 9. Saul, later the great Apostle Paul, comes to Jerusalem preaching the Gospel. The disciples there are afraid of him because they know his past. Barnabas takes him under his wing and tells the others that this young man has truly been converted. Because of the actions of Barnabas, Saul is accepted in the church at Jeruselam.

In Acts 11 news comes to the Jerusalem church about a move of God in some other areas. It is not Saul they send to investigate. At this point Barnabas is the senior disciple. He is called on to see what God is doing in this far away region. As he travels he thinks of the young Saul and his zeal. He returns from Saul’s hometown of Tarsus and brings him to the city of Antioch.

We can see the nature of Barnabas. He is not just thinking of himself or his ministry. He remembers Saul. Where others see a threat he looks into the future and sees the potential for Saul to become the great Apostle Paul. He brings him with him even though Saul can be a little arrogant and headstrong. He speaks into his life and opens the way for him.

In the twelfth chapter Barnabas takes an offering to Jerusalem from Antioch. Again he takes Saul with him. Upon their return they have another young man with them. It seems Barnabas has picked up another project named John who is also called Mark. Together they fulfill their ministry in Antioch.

In chapter 13 a group of prophets and teachers are together praying when the Spirit of God speaks through one of them.

Acts 13:2-3(NKJV) 2As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

I want you to notice who has “top billing” in this pair. It is not Saul, soon to be Paul. It is Barnabas. At this point he is the important one in the group. He is the one called the leader. He is taking Saul and John-Mark with him. Soon, however, things begin to change.

On the island of Paphos there is a challenge to the preaching this group is doing. God moves mightily through Saul. The challenger, a sorcerer is blinded as a result of Saul’s declaration. In verse 9 we see Saul called Paul for the first time in Acts. He is not know as Saul again.

In verse 13 an important change takes place.

Acts 13:13(NKJV) 13Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.

Barnabas has been replaced as the leader. It is Paul’s party. How would you feel if you were Barnabas? Would you have been Jealous or offended? Would you have sulked and pulled away from Paul. There is no sign of any of this in Barnabas. Why not? He is a father in the faith.

As the story progresses we see Paul increasing in fame and influence. He becomes the speaker for the group. Barnabas remains with him through the trip. I believe he continued to encourage Paul and was proud to see his young protégé grow in ministry. They have no problems at all between them over Paul’s rise in prominence. They do however get into a dispute.

In the 15th chapter the son of Encouragement once again rises in Barnabas. Paul is ready to start another journey, but Barnabas wants to take John-Mark with them. The problem is that Mark did not finish the last journey. He quit in the middle. At this point in his life Paul considers only the mission. However, Barnabas sees something in this young man and insists they take him along.

The contention becomes so great they part company. Paul takes Silas and Barnabas takes the work in progress, Mark. Maybe Mark reminded Barnabas of another young man he had taken in. Many years later Paul calls for Mark to be sent to him. Listen to Paul’s words.

2 Timothy 4:11(NKJV) 11Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.

I wonder if he was thinking of his dispute with old Barnabas? I wonder if Paul finally saw how important the son of Encouragement was to him. How many others had this man effected.

Many of us would like to be like Paul, the great apostle who wrote two thirds of the New Testament. We might like to be like Mark who, as a close associate of Peter’s wrote a beloved Gospel. How many of us would say, let me be like Barnabas. Let me forgo recognition and the influence that comes with it. Let me instead be one who will take another under his wing and nurture him in ministry. Let me encourage, correct and train another so he becomes the one out front.

We all know Paul and we all know Mark, but many of you have just met Barnabas. Yet without him we might not know either of the other two. Think about that and find a Saul, a Mark or some other younger one to pour into. Find and appreciate the Barnabas in your life. Without them the church could never be what God intends it to be.

Scriptural Examples of Spiritual Authority

Exodus 24:13(NKJV) 13So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up to the mountain of God.

In our discussion of spiritual accountability we have come to some important conclusions. If we are going to be in authority we must first be under authority. Many of the leaders that we have seen fall in the church over the last 20 or so years could have been saved if they had been in accountability relationships. When I say this, it must be understood that if you will not submit to those you claim accountability to, you are not really accountable.

We have also seen that authority in the body of Christ cannot be exerted over those under it. Authority in the church must be submitted to by those who are following. The way this is encouraged is by servant leadership. We do not lead for our own benefit but for the benefit of those we lead. Leaders in the body of Christ are leaders in servant hood above all else.

Finally we have discovered that the most common and best earthly example of servant leadership is the family. The father and mother in a home lead so that their children can be nurtured, protected and brought full productive adulthood. Any parent who is a real parent would lay down his or her life for this.

In the church, we certainly treat our physical children this way. However, I believe that we also need to understand that we have spiritual children as well. Those younger in the lord than we are should be our collective spiritual children. Every level of leadership should understand that the family model should be seen throughout the leadership structure of the Church. The 5 fold ministry from Ephesians 4:11 exists to release the rest of the church into their place in the body. We are all fathers and mothers of someone.

Let us examine a scriptural relationship that highlights how this works. We will look today at an Old Testament example. Tomorrow we will see this at work in the New Testament. First, look at the relationship between Moses and Joshua.

Joshua is a young man at the beginning of the exodus. We first see him in the Exodus 17, some time after the incident at the Red Sea. Moses picks him to lead a battle with the Amalekites. In the 13th verse it says that Joshua won a great victory, however he only won it because Moses, aided by Aaron and Hur, was able hold his hands up throughout the battle. Joshua won, but we see it was only because of Moses’ anointing. In this we see how Joshua’s accountability and Moses authority worked together to win a victory for Israel.

It seems to me that Moses would not have picked Joshua to lead the attack on the Amalekites if he had not seen something in this young man. In today’s scripture he is called Moses’ assistant or minister. The Hebrew word here means “menial servant or worshipper.”

The picture here is not of someone who is in a position of authority with Moses. It is rather of someone who is a personal assistant to Moses. He takes care of Moses personal needs and stays with him, learning and observing what Moses does and how he leads Israel.

We know that when Moses goes up Mount Sinai to receive the commandments from the Lord, Joshua is halfway up the mountain waiting for Moses. Moses was there 40 days and nights, sustained by the presence of God. Joshua was not in God’s presence, however he stayed just as long as Moses. When they were on the way down the mountain we see an incident of how Moses trained Joshua.

Exodus 32:17-18(NKJV) 17And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18But he said: “It is not the noise of the shout of victory, Nor the noise of the cry of defeat, But the sound of singing I hear.”

Joshua had experience as a warrior. He heard the noise coming from the Israelite camp through his experience. In his relationship to Moses he was being prepared for a larger role. He would always be a warrior, but Moses is instructing him in the art of leading the people. That will be his role in the future.

As the story of Joshua and Moses unfolds we can see the servant accountability relationship of a spiritual father and son being played out. Joshua submits himself to Moses as a servant. He does not get the kind of position one might expect from his victory in Exodus 17. Instead he is called to Moses side with no real authority. He does, however, partake of Moses experience. He walks in relationship with him for many years, learning his heart as he submits to his leadership.

He observes Moses as he continually serves his people, giving his time and energy for them even when they rebel against him. He see’s Moses, who God calls the “meekest man on the earth” handle the rebellion of his own brother and sister as well as many others. Finally he is sent out as one of the spies to the promised land. We can see how the influence of Moses life affects Joshua by his response to what he sees. He is one of only two who know that the promise of God is true no matter what. The final act between them is when Moses lays his hands upon Joshua to anoint him to take his own place as leader of the people. (Deut. 34:9)

In this we can see the father son accountability relationship at work. Joshua becomes one of the great stories of the bible. Unlike most of the great characters in the history of Israel we do not see a major flaw in Joshua. He makes some mistakes, but there is no major sin like we see in David. We do not see any major character issues that cause him to fall. He is much like Moses in that respect.

I believe we need to see this kind of relationship in the church today. Whatever your place in the body, you need to look for spiritual sons or daughters that you can impart to. You need to ask God to knit you to spiritual fathers and mothers who can help you grow. In this context we do not have to be afraid of accountability. It can work as it was intended to work. It can produce a generation that will go farther than the church has ever gone because we can build upon what others have done instead of starting new every generation.

Tomorrow we will look at one of the greatest men in the New Testament that you may never have considered.

The Nature of Spiritual Authority 2

Ephesians 3:14-15(NKJV) 14For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

In our study this week we have seen from Luke 7:7-8 that to be in authority one must be under authority. We have also determined from Matthew 20:24-28 that the nature of spiritual authority is different than that of physical authority. In the world authority is exerted over weaker or lower people by those with power. In the Kingdom of God it cannot be this way. Spiritual authority must be submitted to by those under it. There is no leverage given to spiritual leaders that will make people submit or obey.

The source of spiritual authority is, of course, God himself. He places one over another, but the thing that causes people to submit to that authority is the character of the one in authority. We find that Jesus tells us that the spiritual leader is a leader by virtue of his servant hood not his ability to dominate. A servant leader knows that he leads for the benefit of the people under him not the other way around. This is a very different thing.

What is the most common form of servant leadership? It is the leadership that exists within a family that is functioning as God intended. A father is the leader of his family. However every good father understands that his leadership is designed to provide for his family’s well being. A true father will lay down his own life to protect his family. The family recognizes that, in order for him to do his job, he must be submitted to and obeyed.

The mother is included in this authority structure. She too is a servant of the family and will do all she can to protect and nurture her children and her husband. These old fashioned but universally understood ideas are the basis for how authority must work in the body of Christ.

In our foundation scripture we see that the whole family draws its name from the Father God. I believe this tells us that the family relationship is God’s idea and that it is a model for all authority structure in the church. If we see spiritual authority in this light, whether we are in authority or under authority, it will change how we function and cause us to maintain the proper attitudes. The end result will be a body of Christ that can work together in peace and harmony. The proper kind of accountability will be maintained and the shipwrecks we so often see in the church will be limited.

A wise prophet of God and dear friend of mine, Dr. Eldon Wilson says that every believer has the choice to become either a king or a father to those under him. I believe this also applies to woman. They can be a queen or a mother. There are some significant differences.

A King creates subjects. A father creates sons. A subject has no choice but to obey. A son obeys because he knows the father loves him. A subject cannot disagree with his king and maintain relationship. A son can disagree with a father. Once a subject commits treason against a king, there is no way back. A son can always come home again. This is a powerful contrast. Which are you? Are you either?

Some people think they have no responsibility to anyone else. They are neither fathers nor kings. They subscribe to the “live and let live philosophy.” It is easier than walking in the responsibility of being a father, however it is not the way God intends us to be. If we are kings we do damage to the body of Christ. But if we are neither we leave a hole in the church and we are unproductive. We need fathers and mothers in the church.

Look at this prophecy in Malachi.

Malachi 4:5-6(NKJV) 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 6 And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

This is a Messianic prophecy. It predicts that Elijah will precede the coming of the Messiah. However, in the next verse it tells us something he will do that does not seem to have anything to do with salvation. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and vice versa. I believe one of the effects of Jesus on humanity is to restore this idea of spiritual authority to the earth.

Let me illustrate from my own life. I have six children, three sons and three daughters. When I was very young in the ministry I heard someone say, “If you win thousands to the Lord but lose your own family you have accomplished nothing.” In my youthful zeal I thought this was a foolish statement. I believe I had two or three children at that time and I thought surly it would be more important to win the multitudes than preserve my family. I did not want to lose my family, but the Lord would understand.

As I got older I began to understand that God is a father. As I watched my children grow and begin to go through some of the hardships of life, I realized that I would do anything to see to it that they would be successful and happy. I would gladly lay down my life to protect them. The idea of losing them became totally unacceptable to me. I was beginning to understand God’s motivation in sending Jesus to save us.

At the same time, I was the leader of my home. My wife is an excellent and Godly wife and mother and was willing to submit to me as I grew. At the same time I understood her wisdom and honored and respected her. In my home my children obeyed me. I am not saying they did not challenge the authority or that we never had conflicts. We did, but to this day they know that I am their father. The youngest is 21, but every single one respects me as father and will continue to submit to and obey me when possible.

Why? Because they know that my authority and leadership has always been there to protect them, provide for them and give them a place to grow and function. They know I am for them. They know that I want them to succeed. They know I love them completely. They do not think I am perfect. They know quite well I am not, but they know I am here for them.

As a pastor I have made that same kind of love and commitment the foundation of the authority I walk in. I am not perfect in this arena of authority either, however I think for the most part people know that I am here to help them, to provide for their spiritual wellbeing and to help them fulfill their destiny in God. We are a team and a family committed to doing the will of God in our area.

This is the foundation for all authority in our church. Our vision is to see this kind of nurturing authority release each member into the fullness of God’s will for their lives. I believe each one of us has the responsibility to be a mother or father to someone in the body. Are you?

The Nature of Spiritual Authority

Hebrews 13:17(NKJV) 17Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Our personal relationship with Jesus is direct. No man stands between you and the Lord. However we must realize that this same Lord has placed others over us to help us in our walk here on the earth. God calls us to be accountable to people that we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears as long as we live in physical bodies in a physical world. This is necessary if there is going to be authority in the church.

The next question we must answer is how this accountability is supposed to work and to whom are we to be accountable. There have been many abuses over the years in the area of accountability. In the 1970’s there was a movement called “shepherding.” This was an attempt to apply the principles we see above in a practical way. Unfortunately this movement went awry and caused some major problems.

The problem with the “shepherding” movement was that it became too structured and began to intrude upon areas of life that were inappropriate. I believe this happened because it was a human attempt to accomplish something that must occur on a spiritual level. People were placed in accountability relationships and required to check most of the decisions they made with the people they were under. While this was good in some ways, anything that is governed by human wisdom will fail.

Another human attempt at solving the accountability problem is denominational structure. Although many denominations started out with the right idea, for the most part the accountability within them is political and often impersonal. The body of Christ is not an organization. Whenever organization takes control it is able to solve many problems, but the solutions will be without life. Most of the time the evolution of the organization will be toward preserving itself not preserving the people within it or the Kingdom of God.

There is something we must realize about spiritual authority and therefore about spiritual accountability. Look at this verse from Matthew’s gospel.

Matthew 20:24-28(NKJV) 24And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

The disciples of Jesus had come to Jesus with the question of who among them would have the most authority. Who would be accountable to whom? Jesus answer reveals something about the nature of authority and accountability in the Kingdom of God. In the world authority is exerted over those who are under it. Jesus says very clearly, “It shall not be so among you.”

In the Kingdom of God authority can only be submitted too it can never be exerted over others. In both the shepherding movement and most denominational structures, the authority is enforced on those within the group. This is the wrong way for Kingdom authority to work. We must choose to submit to Godly authority. Those in authority have been given almost no leverage with which to force others to obey. If they choose not to obey all that can be done is to encourage them, show them the scripture and in extreme cases ask them to leave the church. Leaders have been given no natural leverage over anyone else.

How do I really know this is true? First of all I believe the bible teaches it. The above scripture and many others point to it. However, I can also look to how God deals with each of us in our walk with him. God forces no one to repent and be saved. That is the choice of each individual. God does not force any believer to live morally and spiritually right with him. If we want to sin we can. It does not please God and it will open the door to death in our lives, but if we choose to do wrong God will not stop u.

God does not force anyone to do his will. We can choose to obey the voice of God or not. We can follow his path for our lives or we can choose our own. If we choose our own, it will not go well in our lives. Nevertheless, God will allow us to make that choice. He will receive us into heaven even though we did not do his will on the earth. I believe we will miss out on rewards, but he gives us the choice.

If God does not force a believer to obey him, what makes any leader think they have this right? They do not. Leaders have the right to require certain things but not the right to force the requirements to be met. If we are going to be under authority it is up to us to submit to those that God places over us. Any structure that forces submission is out of God’s order according to Matthew 20.

How than can authority in the Kingdom of God be communicated to those who need to be submitted. Jesus gives us the answer in this scripture. If we are going to be in authority we must be the kind of people others will willingly submit to. We must be servants.

Christian leaders must understand that they are not leaders so that those who follow them can serve them. That is the pattern in the world. In the church leadership exists to serve those who are lead not the other way around. When that principle is in place people will follow willingly. They will understand that the leader exists for their good not for their exploitation. In this context the body can flow in order and balance.

What is the purest human example of this kind of authority structure? It is the family.

More tomorrow.