Arm Yourself

1 Peter 4:1(NKJV) 1Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

I believe it is the will of God for man to dominate life not be dominated by life. The first two chapters of Genesis are, for me, clear in this. Another way we might express this idea is that the will of God for us is that we occupy until Jesus comes. That means we should be able to walk in the promises and principles of God consistently through our lives. This week we have been looking at some important elements that can help us get this truth functioning in our daily living.

A major key to occupying in life is determining what dominates our lifestyle. If we allow the world, the flesh or the devil to dominate our lifestyle we will not be able to occupy. If we allow our lifestyle to dominate our Christianity, we can never fully occupy. The only way we can occupy in the power of God is to let our Christianity dominate our lifestyle. That means that our Christianity must dominate what we do in our daily routine, in our attitudes towards money and wealth, in our family life and in everything else that makes up how we live

How do we cause our Christianity to dominate our lifestyle? The letters written by the Apostle Peter to the church contain some of the most practical instruction in the New Testament. In today’s verse, Peter tells us some things that will help us elevate our Christianity above our cultural lifestyle. This first sentence contains some powerful but slightly unnerving advice. We must arm ourselves with the same mind Jesus had, we must be willing to suffer in the flesh.

When we speak of things like suffering, there are all sorts of images that come to mind. We think of the martyrs in the early days of the church. We may think about the many people today who are suffering hardship and even death because of their faith in Jesus Christ. As I write this, a pastor in Iran is under a death sentence because he will not convert back to Islam. If he would recant his faith in Christ, he could go free. However, he has chosen not to do that and may die soon leaving a wife and young children.

This scripture links this idea of suffering with the suffering of Jesus. Jesus suffered unspeakable injustice, humiliation, and beating followed by one of the most barbaric forms of execution man has ever devised. None of us can imagine going through that kind of suffering.

There is no guarantee that we will never face the kind of persecution that believers must face in other parts of the world. I am personally grateful that I live in a country where we are free to believe and worship as we wish. I think we must do all that we can to keep it that way. We can guarantee that we will never suffer as Jesus suffered. Hebrews 10 tells us that Jesus suffered once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)

The suffering Peter speaks of is not something that only those in certain nations must face. It is not the suffering of persecution or at least not violent persecution. The suffering Peter is speaking of is something that must be faced by every believer no matter what country he or she lives in. It is not limited to a certain age in history. Every Christian in every age must face this suffering.

Let me make one thing clear before we go on. I do not believe Peter is talking about accepting sickness, poverty or emotional distress as part of our suffering. Any or all of these things may come into our lives, but they are also provided for as part of our covenant relationship with God. We may suffer in these areas because of the weakness of our flesh or the attacks of the devil, but we have every right to stand against this kind of suffering and expect to drive it out of our lives by the Word and power of God. The suffering Peter is speaking of here is a suffering that must be embraced not resisted. What is the nature of this suffering?

I believe the nature of this suffering is made clear in the wording of this verse. Peter says that the suffering we must endure is the same as the suffering Jesus did for us in the flesh. On the surface you might say, “That sounds like I need to be crucified.” However, Paul makes it clear in Galatians 2:20 that we were crucified with Christ. We do not have to endure what has already been endured. It is not the specific type of suffering Jesus endured that Peter is alluding to but instead what Jesus suffered to defeat. He is talking about suffering in the flesh to overcome sin.

Jesus had to suffer the full penalty for our sin in order to pay for all the sin of all mankind. It would make no sense for us to have to suffer in the same way. However, if we are going to defeat sin in our lives we must have the same willingness to suffer that Jesus did. We have to be willing to suffer self-denial in order to defeat sin.

We would like to say that, since we have been born again, we simply no longer want to sin. Every one of us who is honest will have to admit this is not true. There may be many sins we do find repulsive. This may include the sins we committed before we were saved. However, the bible says that anything that does not proceed from faith is sin. (Rom. 14:23 KJV) We all have areas we still struggle with. I do not have to list the possibilities here. You know what they are in your life.

Whatever they are, they are keeping you from fully occupying your land of promises. Hebrews 12:1-2 extends this suffering to weights that hold us back. Some things are not sin, but they are weights. If we want to dominate life and not be dominated by life, we must also conquer those things as well. How do we do that?

This verse tells us to “arm ourselves” with a willingness to suffer in the flesh. Before we confront the sins and weights in life, we must arm ourselves with the willingness to endure pain because we deny what we want. This is not a popular idea in America today. There are whole industries committed to telling you to indulge every desire of the flesh. We idolize those who have the resources to do just that. However, if we want to occupy until Jesus comes we are going to have to be willing to suffer the disappointment and discomfort of saying no to the flesh in order to do the will of God.

It is sad in a way that we must stress this today in America. This nation was built by those who chose to suffer losing everything so they could worship God. They left the comfort of civilization for the depravation of life in the wilderness. They sacrificed all to serve God with pure hearts.

Even those who did not build this nation for religious freedom understood that sacrifice was the way to success and prosperity. Hard work and self-denial for the sake of future and family used to be core values of our society. Today the idea of suffering any kind of self-denial is almost anti American. We want what we want and we want it now. We do not want to save we would rather give in to the deception that we can borrow and borrow and somehow miraculously the money will manifest to pay for what we buy. However, we must have more so we borrow more. This has become a global problem and still we refuse to suffer any kind of sacrifice.

We teach them that their self-esteem is more important than anything else is and we remove any kind of sacrifice from their lives. We think we are protecting them. Instead, we teach them that they are entitled to everything all the time. No disappointment is allowed. No sacrifice is required.

Willingness to deny the flesh and fully follow Christ will build self-esteem and give us victory in life. Take up this powerful armament today. In the end, you will not have less you will have more. You will not have a life of lack you will partake of the abundant life Jesus came to give all who call on his name.

My Christianity Must Dominate My Lifestyle

Colossians 3:1-4(NKJV) 1If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Yesterday, in our study of how to occupy our land of promises, we found that it is the will of God that we dominate life not that we be dominated by life. In Genesis God gave man dominion over the earth. The words dominion and dominate have the same root. It was the will of God for Adam to dominate the world in which he lived. Sin robbed him of that ability. When Jesus came and paid the price for man’s iniquity, he gave all people the ability to return to the state in which God had created Adam. We can, once again, rule and reign in the earth. We can occupy until Jesus comes back for us.

What does it take for us to attain this position? How can we go from the daily grind to daily victory? The answer is in what dominates our lifestyle today. If we allow the world, the flesh or the devil to be the dominant influence in how we live we will never be able to dominate life around us. We will continue to go from crisis to crisis trying to have some kind of happiness and trying to get by as best we can. However if we allow the Word of God and our relationship with him to dominate our daily living, we can walk in the joy of the Lord and the peace of God. Although we will still have challenges, we can have victory before, during and after each one. We can occupy, or maintain a dominant position no matter what comes our way.

The other two parts of the process we have discussed, possessing the land and driving out enemies, are things that require focused bursts of spiritual energy. We find a promise and stand on it in order to possess the land. This may take time, but it is focused. We know that we are trying to accomplish a specific thing. When we see the answer, we move on.

To drive out a specific enemy, we define that enemy and resist it until it is gone. This enemy may be in any one of three areas of resistance, the world, the flesh or the devil, but we know what we must resist, we apply the Word and we drive it out. When it is gone we may have to continue to guard against its return, but we know that we have won a battle and against whom.

Occupying is different. We occupy until Jesus comes. That is an open-ended statement. Although we know our occupation will last “until he comes”, we have no idea when he will come. We simply continue to occupy. We cannot release a focused amount of spiritual energy and say we are done. Occupying is every day. It is not just a battle it is a lifestyle. What do we mean by lifestyle?

Your lifestyle is what you do every day. It is the quality of life you live. It is the daily routine you follow. Lifestyle is a combination of all that you do in your day, week, month or year. Many things affect lifestyle. I have had the opportunity to do quite a bit of travel. One of the things that can affect lifestyle is where you live.

I love European bread. It is different from what we get where I live. I used to wonder why it was so much better and then I realized that the answer was lifestyle. We go to the supermarket and buy bread in plastic wrappers. We put some in the breadbox and some in the refrigerator. If we have purchased many loaves, we may put some in the freezer. That way we have it when we need it and we have to buy it less frequently.

All of the Europeans I have stayed with had a very different lifestyle where bread is concerned. They did not go to the supermarket for bread. I am sure they have bread in their supermarkets, but that is not where they got the bread they served us. In every home where I have been a guest, someone got up each morning and went to the bakery to buy fresh bread. I do not think I ever had bread that was two days old. We might have yesterday’s bread if there was some left over, but usually it was fresh that morning.

I would not think about doing that. In fact, outside of a supermarket, I would not know where to find a bakery. We just do not do things that way. It is not our lifestyle. As a result, our bread is simply not as good as what I have had in Europe.

This is just one small example of how culture and where we live dominate our lifestyle. I have spent much time in both Africa and India. The lifestyle there is even more different than in Europe. Many places I have spent time are either very poor or simply very primitive. I remember some of my first trips to India. It was a bit of a shock to look across the street at the “meat market.” It was a little stand with meat hanging in the open. The man would wave away flies while waiting for customers.

I can remember being awakened to a strange “fwap” sound. I found out this sound was my clothes being beaten on a rock to wash them. That is a very different lifestyle to the one I was used to growing up in the United States of America.

Many things dominate our lifestyle. Economic levels will dominate lifestyle. Education can dominate lifestyle. Geographic location or the type of job a person has can dominate their lifestyle. For a Christian to occupy their land of promises, Christianity must become the dominant force over their lifestyle. When I travel, I tell people that I am not an American who happens to be a Christian. I am a Christian who happens to be an America. My Christianity must have a more dominant place in determining my identity and lifestyle than any other factor.

Today it is far more common for us to see Christianity as an influence on our lifestyle. We allow all of the things I have mentioned, many more dominate our lifestyle, and we allow our Christianity to influence it. We fit our Christianity in to our busy schedules. We try our best to live as Christians in our business lives. We try to be good Christians in our relations with other people. We let our Christianity influence our lifestyle.

The problem with this is that when we are pressed it is what dominates our lifestyle that will win out. If it is a choice of doing what is necessary to succeed at work, we will let that dominate what we do. If it is a matter of the pleasure we really like or church, we choose the pleasure. If it is matter of standing up for our rights or acting in love, we usually choose our rights. That is our culture. That is our American lifestyle. However, what would be different if our Christianity was the dominant influence over our lifestyle?

If we are going to occupy until the Lord comes we cannot let our lifestyle dominate our Christianity, we must allow our Christianity to dominate our lifestyle. Today’s scripture gives us a very good picture of how we must see ourselves. We must set our affections on the things that are above. That means our Christian lifestyle and our Christian culture.

We must remember that our lives should be hidden with Christ is God. We were bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus. In a real sense, our lives no longer belong to us. They belong to God. In return, we get victory on the earth and eternity in heaven. However, that will not apply in our earthly life if it does not dominate our earthly lifestyle. Think about that as you go through your lifestyle today.

What Dominates You

Genesis 1:26(NKJV) 26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

In the last few weeks, I have been spending our time together talking about what it takes to occupy our land of promises. We have looked at the need to possess this land and the need to drive out the enemies that keep us from possessing it as well. However, I believe the idea of occupying is very important. If we do not occupy the land, what we possess and drive out will not remain. We will gain ground and lose ground. For myself, I am tired of that process. I want to possess my land of promises and drive out every enemy I can. I want to keep those victories and add to them until the Lord Comes.

How can we assure that we do that? We have learned that, while possessing and driving our emphasize certain emotional and relational aspects of our Christianity, occupying requires that we stand firmly on the Word of God in spite of emotions or a lack thereof. To occupy we must know the principles of God’s Word and walk in them daily. In WWII, the Pacific theater of war was very brutal. There were few “rules of war” observed there. When the role of the US military shifted from possessing ground and driving out enemies to occupation, they had to abide by the rules and principles that govern society. They could not simply kill people. They could not take their lands or possessions. There were rules that had to be followed. The same is true of occupying until Jesus Comes.

This week I want to emphasize something about occupying that we need to understand in order to be successful. That is that our Christianity cannot be part time. It must be fulltime. We cannot have a corner of our life that we reserve for religion and the rest of our life given over to the secular. We are Christians 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. We are Christians every waking moment of every day. You might be able to possess your promises and still have a divide between you “secular” and your “religious” life. You might even drive out some enemies that way, but your victories will be temporary. In order to occupy you must realize that your Christianity must dominate all that you are all the time.

Today’s scripture gives us a picture of the will of God for the believer. It is the state in which he created man. It is rarely the state we find ourselves in today. God created man to have dominion over the earth. By implication, God created man to have dominion over life. To say it way that might be more contemporary, God created man to dominate life and not be dominated by life. Most people live dominated by circumstances and limitations. They react to problems and do their best to get by with what little victory they can manage. That is not the picture Genesis 1:26 paints.

In Psalm 8:6 speaking of man the psalmist says this;

Psalms 8:6(NKJV) 6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,

God created man to be his representative on the earth. Man was originally vitally joined to God. When man fell in the Garden of Eden, his situation changed. Man submitted himself to the devil and went from the dominant influence in the earth to one dominated by the creation. Man was created to be the master, but because of sin he became the slave. Jesus came into the earth to put right what went wrong in the Garden.

When we receive Jesus as Lord and savior we return to the state God intended for us all along. We once again have the potential to dominate life instead of struggling to keep from being dominated. In Matthew 28:18 Jesus says these words;

Matthew 28:18(NKJV) 18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

Jesus has just won the ultimate victory over Satan. He has defeated him on his own turf; however, his victory is not for himself. Satan never dominated him in his life. Satan gained a dominant position over Jesus because of the sin of mankind. When Jesus threw off that domination at the resurrection, he did not do it for himself. He did it for you and me. His victory was your victory. You are no longer subject to the devil. In Christ, you have been returned to the position of dominance over life that God intended you to have from the beginning.

When Jesus said all authority in this verse, he meant it. He came from the resurrection with all the authority that Satan won in man’s fall. Paul calls Jesus the second Adam. What Adam had before he sinned, Jesus possessed at the resurrection. However, his next words were, “Go therefore and make disciples.” He did not just keep this authority. He transferred it to us so that we could be his representatives in the earth.

The first use of this authority is to make disciples of all nations. However, it is not limited to that. We can dominate life in every way. This is the will of God for us. We can occupy our “land of promises” until Jesus returns to “bring all things” under himself. (Ephesians 1:10)

What does it take to gain this dominant position over life? How can I go from the daily grind to daily victory? What must I do if I want my life is to reflect the authority Jesus speaks of in Matthew 28:18? I must look at what is dominating my lifestyle today. If the either world or the flesh dominate my lifestyle, I cannot be dominant over the world. If the Word of God and my relationship with the Lord dominate my lifestyle, I can and will dominate life. It is just that simple.

Tomorrow we will look more closely at this idea, but for today, take a moment and ask yourself, “Do I dominate life or does life dominate me?” Most of us would have to say that, at least in some areas, life dominates us. In those areas, look to see how you may be letting the world, the flesh or the devil dominate your daily living. Once you find the answer to that question, you will be on your way to gaining dominance in that area of life.

Check Back Next Week

Since we had guests this week and I did not preach at our church, I am going to take the week off from this space and concentrate on some other things.  However, we will pick up next week with possessing our land of promises, driving out our enemies and occupying until Jesus comes. 

God’s blessing on your week.

Pastor Bill Kiefer

Elias and Sandy Koteita at Living Word

This week we had guests at Living Word in Greene NY.  Elias and Sandy Koteita were pastors for many years in Santa Barbara, California.  Now they live in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.  Brother Elias, originally from Lebanon, has seen doors of ministry open all over the middle east.  He and Sandy have traveled to Egypt, Jordan and many other places as well as his native Lebanon.  This is an hour when God desires to visit Arab peoples and God is using Brother Elias in a mighty way among them.

The messages brought to our church this weekend were very powerful.  They will be available soon on our website,  Click on Media and Thismonth to find them.

After a long weekend, I will be taking today off, but check back tomorrow and we will continue our journey in the Word of God.

Striking the Balance 2

1 Corinthians 2:1-6(NKJV) 1And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 6However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.

Yesterday we began looking at Paul’s words to the church at Corinth concerning the balance between the experiences generated by the work of the Holy Spirit and the consistency developed by a commitment to the Word of God. The conclusion Paul reveals is that we must begin with experience. He first came to them with a demonstration of the spirit and power and not with “enticing words of man’s wisdom.” The reason he gives is that it is important for our faith to rest in the power of God not the wisdom of men.

If we are going to be successful in our Christian walk we must know God not just know about God. That comes from meeting the Lord Jesus Christ on a personal level. Such a meeting must result in an experience. It may involve things like healing or miracles. It may simply be the supernatural touch of the Master’s hand. That was my experience.

I was not healed in my body. I did not have an emotional trauma that the Lord dealt with supernaturally. I did not see a miracle that proved to me that God was real. I was a normal, healthy teenager from a good home. We were neither rich nor poor. However, I knew that he had touched me. I knew that I felt a presence that I had never felt before. It began with a sense of his presence in a prayer meeting, and came to fullness when I was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to pray with other tongues.

When all this was happening I knew very little of the Bible. I had been raised Catholic. I was not a devout Catholic by any means. I was taught that Jesus was the Savior and I believed God was real, but as to any real knowledge of spiritual things, I had none. My faith did not rest on an intellectual understanding. It rested on an experience with the Lord that I could not deny. I believe every Christian must be able to say that or everything else will simply be an intellectual exercise.

There was a time early in my walk with the Lord when I began to waiver. I knew the Lord was real. My faith was resting on the experience I had, but my level of experience was low at that moment. I was discouraged. I did not feel the same presence as I had when I first chose to follow Jesus. I realized I needed something but I did not know what.

We had certain teachers and preachers we liked to follow. I particularly liked testimony books with exciting stories about what God had done for other people. However, we did not really study the Word of God. The Word was not a priority for us. We were young. We wanted excitement. The Bible did not seem to provide that kid of excitement very often. Nevertheless, at this low point, I needed something more.

I believe I was experiencing a need for what it takes to occupy our lives in Christ. Experience is necessary, but it is only the beginning. Exciting and emotional encounters are wonderful, but we all know that life cannot be lived from one exciting experience to the next. We are truly successful if we learn how to be victorious between exciting experiences. Christianity is life and life is every day. Most days are simply not that exciting. Some days are downright boring. What will sustain us on those days?

In the midst of this time, someone gave me some teaching tapes. I am sure we had heard teaching tapes before, but I cannot recall any. I liked recordings of Christian comedians, but teaching was not high on my list. These tapes seemed different. They were on our covenant relationship with God. I had never heard anything quite like them before. The teaching was very good, but more importantly it was the right teaching for me at the right time.

I remember that the teacher was saying many things I knew, but he was bringing a deeper understanding of some basic truths. It was as if I could feel my spirit drinking in the nourishment of the Word of God as I listened. Those tapes changed my life. What I learned was important. However, more important was the process of receiving revelation from the Lord.

I had had many experiences in the Lord. My faith was securely grounded upon the knowledge that God was real and I had experienced the touch of his hand in my life. That has never changed, but it was when I understood the need to receive revelation from God that I began to grow up in the Lord. It was then that my experience became consistent. It was with the revelation that came from the teaching of the Word of God that I began building stability in my Christianity.

It has been some 38 years since I listened to those tapes. I have listened to more teachings since that day than I can count. I have thousands of recorded teachings of my own. I have written books and this blog. I have been teaching the Word of God all over the world for the past 24 years. I know that faith must rest in experience. I also know that for experience to become stability and power, we need to add real teaching from the Bible.

Paul knew this. He pointed out to the Corinthians that they started out with experience. Sometimes we forget those initial experiences as we grow in biblical knowledge. The foundation of our faith must stay on the power of God. It can never shift to simple knowledge. However, Paul goes on to remind the Corinthians in verse 6 that he did teach them once they were saved.

1 Corinthians 2:6(NKJV) 6However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.

If we are going to occupy the ground we will possess in 2012, we must grow in our knowledge as well as our experience. If the enemies we drive out of our lives in 2012 are still going to be gone in 2013 we must have an active understanding of the truth of the Word of God. We must build on our experience with the Word. At the same time, we must keep the knowledge of the Word fresh by continuing to build our experience. It is not one or the other it is both.

We see in verse 6 that the kind of wisdom Paul is speaking is not the wisdom that can be learned from the world. Read the rest of this chapter. You will find that the things we need to learn are things no one in the natural world can teach us. They are spiritual truths and they must be spiritually learned. Paul tells us that to a man who is only able to understand in the natural, the things we must learn are foolishness. However, to us who are born of the Spirit they are life.

We must first have an experience with God, only then will we begin to understand the wisdom God gives. God is far too vast for us to ever fully comprehend him, but we can begin to understand him to a degree. This is possible because he will reveal himself to us by the Spirit. If we are not alive in spirit, we cannot understand what he is teaching us. Thank God for the last words of this chapter. Because we are alive in the spirit, we have the mind of Christ and can comprehend what he is trying to teach us today.

Striking the Balance

1 Corinthians 2:1-6(NKJV) 1And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 6However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.

Yesterday we talked about the need for balance between the Word of God and the experiential working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This balance is most important if we are going to occupy what we possess by driving out our enemies.

We need to have an experience with the Lord. Emotionless Christianity lacks power and vibrancy. However, we also need to understand that we must have a foundation in the Word of God. This foundation will keep our experience within the framework of godly principle. It will give us something that never changes for the inevitable times when we do not feel the presence of God.

We have already seen this demonstrated in the ministry of Jesus. After he drove the moneychangers out of the temple, the bible says he taught the people what the purpose of the temple was supposed to be. In today’s scripture, we see this same balance in Paul’s ministry. He contrasts two ministry approaches he had taken in Corinth.

Paul says that when he first came to Corinth he did not come with “persuasive words of human wisdom. Instead, he came with a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. Paul is describing the initial stages of his ministry in Corinth. He was preaching the gospel to the unsaved residence of a heathen city. At that point, they did not need deep spiritual wisdom. They needed the Gospel.

Paul was possibly the most knowledgeable person in the scriptures who ever lived. Before he met Jesus, he studied under the greatest bible teacher of his day. After his conversion, he spent a great deal of time in the wilderness where Jesus revealed the truth behind the scriptures to him in the spirit. Much of what we hold as Christian doctrine today is based on Paul’s letters to the church. The church as we know it would not exist without his teaching.

However, we read in these verses that he made a conscious effort to refrain from speaking any of this to the Corinthians. He says, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” He chose to refrain from giving the Corinthians a message they could not understand. He simply gave them the Gospel.

The gospel message is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. That is what the unsaved person needs to hear. Jesus died for your sins. Jesus was buried as payment for your sins and Jesus was raised from the dead because your debt was paid in full. Anything more than that is irrelevant to the unbeliever.

Paul then says he backed up the Gospel message with the power of God. In the book of Acts, we read that Paul performed special miracles. That is the kind of power that the Corinthians saw in his ministry. Why did he withhold the knowledge that he had learned from his years of study? He tells us in verse 5.

1 Corinthians 2:5(NKJV) 5that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul understood that without experience and relationship, knowledge does no good. You do not learn your way into being a Christian. You must be born again to become a Christian. You do not choose the philosophy of Christianity; you meet the person of Jesus Christ himself. Being a Christian is about whom you know and what experience you have with him. If you do not know Jesus experientially, the knowledge of Bible philosophy and principle will do you no good.

I believe one of the tragedies of the church today is the number of people who think they are Christians because they were persuaded to accept the Christian religion but never met Jesus himself. They heard a message that had some impact on their mind or emotions, they came forward and repeated a prayer and someone told them they were saved. They may have been saved; however, I believe it is also possible that many of them never really met the Lord. They just accepted a philosophy but they had no experience.

When someone meets Jesus, he or she is changed. They will not fully understand this change, but they are changed. This inward change will manifest outwardly somehow. They will begin to want different things in life. They will begin to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit where sin is concerned. They will begin to speak differently. They will begin to understand the Bible on a different level. They may not experience all of these things right away but they should experience some of them.

If a person prays the sinner’s prayer and a year later there has been no impact on his lifestyle, I believe we need to ask the question, “Did he really meet Jesus. Did he really believe when he prayed? Did he really have an encounter with Jesus or did he just mentally accept that Christianity might be a better philosophy of life. Did he accept Jesus as Lord and savior or did he accept Christianity as a solution to some problems. I am not saying people do not come to Jesus when they are hurting and seeking answers. They do all the time. I am saying that if there is never a change they may not have actually believed on Jesus.

I believe the same can be true of the backslider. We all know people who “get saved” and do well for a time, but after weeks, months or even years, they fall away. They go back to their old lifestyle. I believe we must ask the question, “Were they ever saved?” Many times I have been in the counseling room with someone who is having problems and I have asked them that question. I tell them, if you were, we cannot do any harm by making sure. Then I ask them to pray again to receive Jesus as not only savior but Lord as well.

I think too many people are trying to do something by discipline based in the flesh that can only be done by being born in the spirit. I think too many people are Christians by knowledge but not by experience. This makes for the weak, ineffective church that we often see today. Why is this so? I believe it is because we have forgotten what Paul told the Corinthians.

We need to believe God for the power to preach the gospel. I believe God wants to do wonderful things for his children. However, until you receive Jesus as Lord and savior you are not his children. I believe that for Christianity to be real in a person’s life, his faith must rest in the existence of the power and person of God. If we believe in philosophy alone, our faith rests in the wisdom of men. Paul knew this because of his experience. He met Jesus in a manifestation of power. Then God taught him how to use the knowledge of the scripture.

I believe we need to believe for the power of God in healings and miracles to accompany our preaching. That is certainly part of what Paul was talking about to the Corinthians. However, we also need to believe for the anointing of God on our words. When we speak we need to forget about trying to explain things to people. We need to understand that they are not saved because we answer all their questions. They are saved because Jesus died for their sins. That is what we need to tell them and the power will be there to back up the message.

Without a faith that rests in experience and power, the knowledge of the Bible is irrelevant. However, what of those who have received Jesus as Lord? What do they need? We will begin with verse 6 tomorrow.

Dry Up, Blow Up or Grow Up

1 Corinthians 2:1-6(NKJV) 1And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the £testimony of God. 2For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of £human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 6However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.

This week we are looking at the third aspect of our mandate for 2012. I believe the church must possess the land that God has given us. This means cultivating an attitude that says, “What my Father has given me is mine. I will not allow anyone or anything to take it from me.” To accomplish this we must drive out the enemies that hinder us. Those enemies come from the world, the flesh or the devil. Finally, in order to keep what we possess, we must occupy the ground we take and do so until the Lord comes back.

This final area differs from the first two in some ways. Although all of three involve the actions of the Word of God, the Holy Spirit and a deep understanding of our relationship with the Lord, the first two emphasize the emotional and experiential aspects of our Christian experience. Occupation emphasizes understanding the principles and establishing the order of the Kingdom of God in our lifestyle.

For Pentecostal or Charismatic Christians, it is often difficult to find the balance between these two points of view. Many Spirit filled believers identify with the experiences associated with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is part of our joy and our identity that we are emotional about our relationship with the Lord. Feeling his presence is vital to how we worship. We do things like speak in other tongues and prophecy. These imply an actual manifestation of the Spirit of God in and through us.

In our church, we believe in an exuberant type of praise and worship that involves dancing, singing, clapping and shouting. We raise our hands to signify both surrender to God and the idea of reaching to the Father expecting him to touch us. Experience is fundamental to what we are.

On the other hand, we are a “Word” church as well. By that, I mean we believe in the absolute accuracy of the written Word of God, the Bible. We believe that the Bible is where everything in our Christian faith must begin. It is the first and final authority in every situation. Hebrews 4 says that the Word of God is a living thing. We believe that the Bible contains creative seeds that can change circumstances, bodies and our hearts if we apply them in our lives.

Although these two perspectives are not exclusive to one another, they are often difficult to reconcile. To those who lean toward the experiential part of what we believe, the Bible can seem a little dry. They want the excitement of the emotions and experiences we love so much. To those who are drawn to the stability of commitment to the Word of God, being overly concerned with experiences can seem chaotic and even dangerous. Of course, the answer is to find a balance between these two elements of our Christian walk.

I have heard this dilemma described way. If you have the Word of God but no spiritual experience, you will dry up. If you have spiritual experiences without the Word of God, you will blow up. If you have both the Word and the Spirit actively working in your life, you will grow up. To possess, drive out and occupy you must grow up. This is especially true in the area of occupying until Jesus comes.

I like to illustrate the balance this way. We fall in love, but we must learn to be married. If we are going to have a healthy marriage, we must have both elements working. Hollywood knows about falling in love. Actors fall in love on the screen and off all the time. Rarely does their love result in lasting relationships. They fall in love and then they fall out again.

Falling in love is an experience. It creates a relationship based on that experience. However if the relationship goes no farther than the experience it will end when the experience fades. Anyone who has been married a long time knows that the experience of love comes and goes. In the times when the feelings are not there, something else must sustain it.

There are also people who marry but are not in love. As a pastor, I hate to hear, “God told us to marry.” as the main reason a couple wants to go to the altar. I believe we should consider the will of God in marriage; however, I really want to hear that the couple also loves one another. It they do not, they may learn how to be married. They may stay married a long time, but the marriage will not be happy or healthy.

Without love marriage is just an arrangement for sharing the expenses of life, legal sexual relations and having children. To be a real marriage there must be some kind of emotional relationship between husband and wife. There must be some kind of passion for the marriage to be healthy. We need to fall in love and then learn to be married. Both are vitally important.

We see this same truth in raising children. Children are conceived in passion. Many young people have found themselves parents too early in life because their passion gained control and a child resulted. Even in marriage, children are not always planned. We have six. We planned one. (Of course we have always loved all 6.)

It does not take long to realize that what occurred as a result of passion takes a very long time to deal with. We must learn to be parents. We must learn how to raise children generally and who our child is specifically. When parents are not willing to learn and grow as parents, they raise flawed human beings. However, if there were no passionate attraction between the sexes there would be very few human beings in the first place. As in all things, balance is the key to life.

Do not let your Christian life be limited to the intellectual understanding of the Word of God. You may learn about God but you will not grow to know him personally. You may know the right things to say, you may act the right way and have an outwardly holy lifestyle, but without a passionate relationship with Jesus, you will have a dry, religious Christianity that will not give you the joy or peace that God promises. There will be very little power in you Christianity.

On the other hand, do not forget the foundation of the Word of God. Judge every experience by the Word. There will be days when you feel nothing, but the Bible will always be there. Sometimes your feelings will lead you off the best path, but the Bible is there to get you back on course.

Find a balance in your life. Always be open to experiential Christianity. Seek to know experientially the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is our right and our responsibility. God created you for relationship and relationship without experience is dead. On the other hand, make the Bible the foundation of everything you do, say and believe in your relationship with the Lord. You cannot go off track that way.

In order to occupy our land of promises we must not dry up or blow up. We must grow up through a healthy balance of both Word and Spirit in our daily Christian experience.

Godly Order or Worldly Order

Mark 11:17(NKJV) 17Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’

This week we are making the transition from possessing our land of promises and driving out our enemies to occupying that land. Possessing and driving out are more focused on experience and emotion than on understanding. However, to occupy we must learn how to do certain things in order to do the business of the Kingdom of God. As we look at Mark chapter 11 we can see this played out in what Jesus does.

First, he declares the temple his house. Second, he begins to drive out the moneychangers physically. One involves an attitude the other aggressive action. Then he taught them something. In a moment, we will look at what he taught, but I want us to see that he taught. He brought understanding as opposed to simply appealing to emotion. To occupy we must learn the principles and practices necessary to occupy.

What did Jesus teach the people? There are many specific lessons we can learn from his words concerning prayer, the Father’s house and what is appropriate in the presence of God. I want to look at the two categories represented by his words here. He describes the proper use of the Temple of God and the ungodly use of the Temple. I believe those two ideas are what we need to understand in order to occupy.

When Jesus arrived at the temple, he found a situation dominated by worldly order. What the moneychangers were doing was not necessarily a sin. The people needed to buy sacrificial animals. They also had to pay a temple tax. In that time, Israel was a trading crossroad. There were many types of money in use in the city. Certainly, Roman money was widely used, but so were local monies from other cities and regions. None of this money could be used to pay the temple tax or buy the animals needed. The moneychangers changed all this other currency to Hebrew shekels.

Of course, the moneychangers wanted to make a profit. They charged for their services. Often their fees were too high. They took advantage of the religious need of the people to make exorbitant profits. This made them, in the words of Jesus, a den of thieves. The business itself and the way it was being conducted were both part of worldly order and the temple was a place of divine order.

What Jesus is doing by his teaching is reestablishing godly order and godly principles in the life of the temple. He is doing that by teaching the people what that order is and the principles by which it must function. How does that relate to you and I? What does that have to do with occupying our land of promises?

We cannot occupy a land for the Lord and live by the order of the world. We cannot do business for the kingdom of God and walk in the principles that govern the world. To possess the land, we must believe that the land is ours. That is a relational and emotional state of mind. To drive out our enemies we must act aggressively to remove them from our “temple.” However, occupying involves knowing and applying godly rules and principles over the land we occupy.

We may drive out enemies by being emotional, but we cannot keep them out on emotion. We may take possession of a promise simply by knowing and believing the fact that relationship with the Father means that what he has given us is ours to possess. I would even say we couldn’t drive out or possess without knowing we are in relationship and having some emotion behind us. The question is how we keep what we have won. That requires understanding and commitment.

Jesus taught them what the Temple was for and what it was not for. He did this so that when he was gone, if they chose, they could maintain what he had accomplished by taking possession of the house and driving out the worldliness. When we learn how to walk in godly principles, we can, if we choose, maintain our possession and occupy it until the Lord returns.

I want to take ground from the enemy and possess it for the Lord. However, I do not want to continually win the same ground only to lose it and have to take it again. This was one of the great failures of the Vietnam War. American forces took ground but they never really held that ground. The focus was body count. How many of the enemy did we kill? The logic was if we killed enough, they would eventually give up. You cannot win that way.

I used the pacific theater of WWII as an example yesterday. In that campaign, we did not try to kill so many Japanese they would finally give up. We took ground. We robbed the enemy of resources with which to wage war. We understood that the Japanese would never give up until we stood in Tokyo and controlled the city. It took atomic bombs for that to happen, but when it did happen, the war was over for good.

The devil will never give up. He is going to resist you until the day you leave this earth. He contests every bit of ground we take from him. The only way for us to have peace in an area is to occupy that area with the presence and the principles of God. We must exert those principles over the areas of life that try to resist the order of the Kingdom of God. If we do not we will lose ground that once was ours in the Lord. The result will be what we see in most Christians. Instead of extending the Kingdom of God to more and more territory, they take possession of a promise or overcome a weakness only to lose that ground back to the devil and have to take it again.

I believe we must do better today. We must possess and we must drive out, but this time we must also occupy. We cannot just depend on the emotions of the moment or even the feelings of relationship that are so important to us. We must learn how to walk in the principles that will enable us to continue to extend God’s influence in our lives. We must learn how to occupy the land when we feel no emotions. We must learn how to be disciplined enough to stand against the wiles of the devil. Rest assured, he will use them against us no matter how well we may be doing at any given time.

If you want to occupy, you must examine your life and find areas where ungodly order is dominating when godly order should reign. Who is in control of the “temple grounds” of your life? Is your temple a house of prayer or a den of thieves? Are you trying to resist the devil but allowing “devilish” things to stay in your temple? Are you making the effort to learn and walk in the principles of the kingdom of God that are necessary to maintain control over you land?

Control is the key issue of occupying. Whatever controls the land is occupying the land. Are you in control through the power of God or is your flesh in control. Is the world in control of your temple? Is the devil? You can possess by emotion and relationship. You can drive out by action and aggression, but it takes a commitment to the principles and order of God to occupy.

The Final Dimension: Occupy Until Jesus Comes

Mark 11:17(NKJV) 17Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”

In our study of God’s plan for the church in 2012, we have keyed on three things we need to do. We need to possess our “land of promises.” We need to drive out the enemies that keep us from being able to posses that land, and finally we need to occupy the land until the Lord returns.

We have taken our pattern from two places. First, we have studied the journey of Israel from bondage in Egypt to destiny in Canaan. Their mandate as they prepared to enter the Promised Land was to possess the land and drive out all the inhabitants. Part of the definition of “possess” is to occupy, so the end result of God’s command to Israel was that they occupy the land. this land so that the Messiah could be born to them in that place, so you might say that the Lord gave them this land so they could occupy it until the Lord came.

The second place we have seen this pattern is in Mark chapter 11. In this chapter, Jesus comes to the temple and observes what is happening. He is not pleased with the situation, but it is late in the day and he returns to where he is staying. The next morning he returns to the temple and begins to drive out the moneychangers. As he does so, he declares possession of the temple. “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” The fact that he possessed the temple empowered him to drive out the moneychangers.

I believe we need to possess the promises of God. God has given us a life and a destiny in Christ. We need to take ownership of that life and destiny. Once we do that, we will be motivated to drive out the enemies that keep us from our possession. I want to remind you the areas in which these enemies exist. They come from the world system, the flesh, or attacks by the devil and his forces. The final thing we need to look at is the idea of occupying our promised land until Jesus comes.

We get this term from Luke 17. A master gives 10 people a mina each to invest while he is traveling. He tells these people to “occupy” until he returns. This word means to do business or to trade. To occupy our land of promises means to get busy in the work of the Kingdom. To do that, we must possess and we must drive out. However, let us take a closer look at what this means to us today.

In Mark 4:17, we find Jesus having completed the first two parts of our study. He has possessed the temple and he has driven out those “enemies that kept it from fulfilling God’s purpose. Now the word makes a bit of a strange statement. He has just done some violent things in the temple but the Bible says that Jesus next step was to teach.

Teaching does not seem to fit the atmosphere Jesus has created. We might expect some fiery preaching, but not teaching. The purpose of preaching is to stir up, inspire or bring conviction. It is usually not complicated, but it is often high in intensity. Teaching on the other hand brings instruction to provide something a person can use in order to build their life. It is does not need to be fiery or intense, but it must communicate something usable to the hearer.

Why does Jesus teach here? I believe it is because he has made a transition from possessing and driving out to occupying. To occupy we have to know what is expected of us and how to walk in those things. Teaching will accomplish that. One of the ideas expressed in the definition of “occupy is that of a military occupation. A military occupation comes at the end of a war. War is supposed to have rules, but they are few and not easily enforced.

When the United States was fighting Japan in WWII, the Japanese in particular did not really believe in the “rules of warfare.” They believed in winning and, to them honor was do live and die for the Emperor. As a result, they did many things that that eraged those from the west because they could not understand why the Japanese would do them. Things like suicide attacks and the poor treatment of prisoners because the Japanese saw surrender as dishonorable were unconscionable to the Americans.

As a result, the American troops tended to give no quarter either. They hated the Japanese for the way they fought. In the taking of Okinawa, the fighting was horrific. I have seen pictures of the use of flamethrowers. This is a terrible weapon but the US troops used it with no hesitation. The use of the Atomic bomb was the ultimate expression of how far the US was willing to go to bring the war to an end.

Once Japan surrendered things changed drastically. The US troops went from being a fighting force to an occupying force. I am sure their feelings toward the Japanese had not changed. The wounds were still fresh in American minds. The atrocities committed by the Japanese against prisoners of war were just coming out. I can only imagine the anger felt by those troops as they heard what these people had done to their comrades. However, they were no longer at war. Now there were rules that had to be followed.

One of the reasons an occupation must have rules that a war does not is that the goal is different. The goal in a war is to take possession of ground and defeat the enemy. An army must do whatever it takes to get that done. An occupation is meant to restore a people and a society to a functioning condition. It may also have a goal of reeducating that society to keep them from the behavior that led to the war in the first place. In both cases, there are rules and the rules must be understood.

When we are involved in possessing the land and driving out our enemies, the focus is emotional and experiential. Certainly there are rules to how we do that and how we are effective in the process, but the more important thing is our sense of relationship, possession, and our feelings of commitment and intensity. However, occupying is different. To occupy we must grow even more in maturity. We must learn to walk in the Glory of God for a long time. Isaiah 28 tells us that we do that by building line upon line and precept upon precept. In other words by teaching and learning.

I know many Christians who have possessed and who have driven out enemies. However, as time went by, they failed to occupy the ground and lost it again to the enemy. I believe we can no longer afford to do that. We must possess our land of promises. We must drive out enemies. If we do not do those two things, we will have nothing to occupy. Nevertheless, having done that we must occupy the ground, or we have accomplished nothing.

Take some time this week and ask the Lord what you need to learn in order to keep the ground you have taken from the devil. You cannot be sustained by emotion if you want to occupy. You are going to have to know the rules and the principles of the Word of God if you are going to hold onto what you have obtained by possessing and driving out. The Holy Spirit will guide you in the Word. Just remember, to occupy requires constancy.