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.