Category Archives: exposition

Humility and the Will of God

   It has been a couple of weeks, but I would like to share some more thoughts on determining the will of God. I think there are times when the will of God is clear, but our own perception may be clouded by a lack of humility.

 Consider the words of Paul in Romans 12:3:

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

While this verse is introducing a discourse upon the role of believers as members of the body of Christ, the use of the word “for” would imply a continuation of the thoughts immediately preceding it concerning the will of God.

I am convinced that a lack of humility before God will always prevent us from discerning the will of God. I have written before about the satanic nature of pride and how it is at the heart of every sin.

If we are trying to decide if God is leading us to do something or not, one thing we should consider is the reaction of our flesh to the decision. If the step we are about to take causes our opinion of ourself to go up, then perhaps God is not in it. If the thought of following through on a decision fuels feelings of self-satisfaction or self-righteousness, then we should consider the fact that God’s will always brings glory to God, not man.

The will of God can be discerned only when we lay our life, along with our will, pride and ambition, on the altar of surrender. When we forget about self-preservation, our own advancement and the fulfillment of our own dreams we can enter into the perfect will of God.

I know that every time I have found myself outside the will of God, it is because I allowed pride to override humility, and I elevated myself above the authority of God in my life. Without exception, I was following my own desires, avoiding my own dislikes, or pursuing selfish ambition.

It was John the Baptist who said, “He must increase but I must decrease.” Is it any wonder that Jesus described him as being the greatest among men? John realized that the more of self that was laid on the altar of surrender, the more glory he would bring to Christ.

May God help us to lay aside the pursuit of our own fulfillment and to follow after His glory alone. When we do that, the will of God will become much clearer.


Proving the Will of God

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.   Rom. 12:1-2

In discussions on the will of God, it isn’t long before this text comes up and rightly so. It is one of the clearest and most pertinent scriptures pertaining to the matter, and of course, scripture is where we want to go to form our belief.

I appreciate all of those who have been participating in the discussion thus far. So far we are finding some slight differences of opinion, but hopefully we will all find common ground in this text, even though we may apply what we find differently.

There is a progressive development in ability to discern God’s will. It begins with our surrender to God. We will never be able to fully perceive or perform God’s will until we are yielded to Him. We must be willing to adopt the attitude that Christ showed in Gethsemane. The problem is, many of us treat surrender as if it is an act of death, but God wants us to live for Him.

The second step in this progression is rejection of the world. We cannot yield ourselves to God and still hold on to the things of this world. I think Jesus said something about “you cannot serve two masters.” Instead, our lives should demonstrate the ongoing transformation that is taking place inside our minds as God continually and progressively conforms us to the image of Christ. The more Christ-like we become, the easier it will be for us to comprehend the will of God.

This brings us to a place where we can prove the will of God. Three stages of His will are presented in verse two. I have heard some say that these are three terms that describe the same thing, but I believe both the Greek and English grammar indicate otherwise.

It should be our goal to “prove” or discern the perfect will of God. Many Christians grow to the point of doing that which is “good” and progress  no further. As some comments in the previous post indicated, it is God’s will for each of us to love God supremely and to love one another as we love ourself. This is “good” for all believers to do.

Could the “acceptable” will be the application of the “good” will? We find in the Bible how we are to show that love. James teaches us the meaning of Christian compassion. I John teaches us the definition of Christian fellowship. Ephesians teaches us about unity and worship. Etc., etc.

If this is the case, then perhaps the “perfect” will of God dictates the details of when, where and to whom we are to minister the grace of God. I do believe that God is concerned with the intimate facets of our life. The Bible simply says too much about our steps and paths being directed by the Lord for me to think otherwise.

My responsibility in determining the will of God is to yield myself to God, surrendering to His desire to conform me to the image of Christ. As He progressively performs this work of sanctification in my life, His plan for me will become increasingly clearer.

This chapter reveals some other factors that I hope to engage next week. In the meantime, feel free to express your thoughts on this topic.

With Christ in the School of Leadership

   Over the last few years, the topic of leadership has become a mega-industry, even within Christian circles. Due to various responsibilities and opportunities I have had in the past few years in my association, I have read stacks of books and attended dozens of workshops on the subject. Some of what I have learned I have found to be useful. Much of it left me feeling as if I had wasted my time.

   Here’s the thing, the church is not a corporation. I understand that for tax purposes and other legal ramifications certain papers must be filled out from time to time, but it is a grave mistake when we try to run the church according to the principles of Wall Street and Madison Avenue. The church is the flock of God, not a business.

   Pastors, God has not called us to be CEO’s. He has called us to be shepherds. We are to be leaders, that much is certain, but let us model our “leadership style” after Christ instead of Warren Buffet or Bill Gates.

   In Isaiah 42:1-4, we find some prophecies concerning the Messiah. Consider the description of Christ in the first verse:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.

   Notice that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is described as a servant. I do not say this to be critical of God’s servants, I have known many of them in my life and many of them have had profound impact upon me, but too many times it becomes so easy to forget our role. I have seen church leaders with overblown egos or insecurities who became control freaks. I have seen pastors who developed a sense of entitlement, as if their service automatically guaranteed that they deserved special treatment from the people to whom they ministered.

   Jesus did not build a network to defend his position. He realized that He was upheld by the Father who had chosen Him for the role in which He was placed. People of God, we should pray for God to grant us the humility to accept the purpose He has designed for us within His kingdom. It is not about our delights our aspirations. Above all, we should pray that God would deliver us from the spirit of selfish ambition that seeks to turn our area of ministry into our own little kingdom.

   Jesus labored in the strength of the Holy Spirit. He did not rely upon personal ability, a slick image or clever marketing gimmicks to get the job done. I am learning that God neither requires nor desires any abilities that I may think that I have to carry out His plan for me. If He can communicate His message through a braying donkey, a crowing rooster and even a silent worm, why does He need eloquence or good looks today?

   The last thing we can see in this verse is that He spoke the truth. He came to bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He did not teach us prosperity, how to be a champion or even how to win friends. Very simply, He came to teach us the why and how of being declared righteous before God.

   I hope that as pastors and church leaders, we will take our leadership lessons from the ultimate servant instead of trying to turn God’s kingdom into a corporate ladder. Truly, he who will be the greatest must be the servant of all.

The Dimension of Love

In this the children of God are manifest,and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore,slew he him? Because his own works were evil,and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not,my brethren,if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life,because we love the brethren.He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no, murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.  I John 3:10-15

As Christians, we are to identify with the love of Christ. Jesus declared this to be the defining mark of discipleship. This text would lead us to understand that righteousness and love are connected. Someone who does not love their brother is not righteous.

From the very beginning, it has been God’s desire that those who are created in His image love one another. Man was made with a capacity to love that no other creature possesses and yet, we often make ourselves the focus of that love rather than others. The only thing that will ever keep me from loving God and others as I should is self-love. Self-love that is ambitious, selfish, proud, defensive and easily offended, will always prevent us from obeying God’s commands to love others.

In these verses, hatred is identified with death. This world that is in the process of dying as we speak hates us just as it hated Christ. However, the transformation from death unto life that all believers experience awakens within us the ability to love.

There are times when a person can have such an absence of love in their heart, that they can have murderous feelings toward their brother. This is an indication that the person does not have a relationship with God. No murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

Love can only be found in the dimension of eternal life. It is not passive in our lives. It cannot remain sealed up in our hearts, but is shed abroad by the Holy Spirit.

If love is in us, it will be demonstrated.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

In this post we will be drawing from I John 3:4-9 the conclusion that God wants us to be fruitful. A comparision with John 15 will reveal a fairly strong correlation in the themes of abiding in Christ so that righteousness may be produced in us.

Whosoever  committeth sin transgresseth also the law:  for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of  God doth not commit sin; for his  seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of  God.

1.  The Standard of Fruifulness

Verse four warns us that we transgress the law when we sin. Some would argue, “Hasn’t the law been abolished?” In the words of John Phillips, “The law has been abolished as a system, but it remains the standard of holiness for believers”.

Holiness is the fruit that God desires for us to bear. Knowing that we are incapable of being holy on our own, God sent a perfect Savior into the world to take away our sins. We are liberated from the bondage of sin, set free to bring forth fruits of righteousness that please our Father.

2.  The Source of Fruitfulness

Rightousness is given as a way of identifying those who have been made righteous. This righteousness is a result of our abiding (fellowship) in Christ. The phrase “commiteth sin” that is found in these verse refers to an ongoing, habitual practice of sin that is coupled with an unrepentant heart. Fellowship with Christ precludes this practice, allowing Christ the vine-dresser to purge and prune us to make us more fruitful.

On the other hand, those who commit sin in such an habitual, rebellious manner are neither in fellowship nor relationship with Christ.

Righteousness defines those who are in fellowship with Christ. This is not self- or pseudo-righteousness, but is the genuine manifestation of the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness is not produced by the believer, but is seen in  the life of that believer as a product of the fellowship with Christ.

By the same token, those who do wickedness (again, an ongoing, habitual, unrepentant practice) are identified with the devil.

3.  The Seed of Fruitfulness

A believer is born of God. This is referring to the soul of man that is dead in trespasses and sins before salvation, yet is regenerated by faith and sealed by the Spirit of God. The incorruptible seed of the Word of God is planted within each believer. While the sinful nature of the flesh is still capable of committing sin, the soul is rendered incapable of doing so. This assures us of the eternal life that is found in Jesus.

Fruitfulness can only be produced by faithfulness in our fellowship with Jesus. How does your garden grow?

Our Blessed Hope

And now,little children,abide in him;that,when he shall appear,we may have confidence,and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore, the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that,when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
1Jo 2:28-3:3

If we look at the world around us, we can easily see that there is a shortage of hope. The morals of society are crumbling. War, poverty, disease and a host of other ills are rampant. This is nothing new, but it is certainly getting worse instead of better. 

When we think of hope, the thought often comes to mind of something that is nothing more than wishful thinking. A child eagerly anticipates the arrival of Christmas or a birthday, in hope of receiving a long list of presents. A sports fan goes to a ball game hoping to see their team emerge victorious. A nervous young man musters enough courage to ask that special girl out on a date. Often, these hopes are dashed by reality.

For Christians, however, hope is more than just wishing things were better. It is more than a pipe dream, but is an earnest expectation of Christ’s return as He promised.

These verses give us five characteristics of the blessed hope that resides in each believer.

  • It is strengthened by fellowship–I John 2:28.
  • It is demonstrated by righteousness–I John 2:29
  • It is grounded in love–I John 3:1
  • It yields expectation–I John 3:2
  • It produces purity–I John 3:3

Does the life we live reflect the hope that we have? To do so, we must be faithful in our fellowship with Christ. Others should see His righteousness on display through us. Consider the love of our Heavenly Father who has chosen to call us His sons. Rejoice in the expectation that one day we will be transformed into His likeness, and keep yourself pure after the pattern of Jesus.

The world desperately needs to see the hope that God so freely gives.

Antidote for Antichrists

In I John 2:20-27, we find three things we can use to defend against the deception of antichrists.

Knowledge of the Truth
Every believer has received an anointing of the Spirit that enables us to understand the truth of God’s Word. No believer has “special access” over others into truth.

We must use this truth to identify the lies of the spirit of antichrist. This illustration may seem trite, but it is well-known that when bank tellers are trained to identify counterfeit money, they are thoroughly educated in what the genuine article looks like. Thus, if a bill doesn’t match up with what they know to be authentic, they reject it as being a deception.

The same principle should apply to believers when trying to discern doctrine. We should be so thoroughly familiar with who Christ is as revealed in Scripture, that when a false presentation of Jesus is brought before us, we are immediately aware that it is heresy.

Continuing in Doctrine
We cannot allow the basic doctrines of Christ to be forgotten. These are the very bedrock upon which our faith rests. Regardless of variations within our systems of theology, all true believers base their doctrine upon who Christ is.

I believe that this should cause us to frequently review the words of Christ. We should stay grounded in His teachings so that we will not falter in our doctrine. This will also enable us to recognize an “imposter” Christ. Without exception, every cult in existence has strayed from the truth concerning the person of Christ.

Take Personal Responsibility for Learning the Truth
The anointing of the Spirit remains in every believer. This is the “Spirit of truth” which was promised to us by Jesus, himself. This renders every believer capable of discerning truth. May I suggest that in this case capability equals responsibility? I believe that we are required by God to know the truth.

Too many Christians are content to learn the truth vicariously. They are perfectly willing to ignore their Bibles, instead relying upon their pastor, teacher, or the latest book to fill their minds with the doctrine of Christ. There is no substitute for a Spirit-led believer opening the Word of God and laboring over a text until the meaning is ingrained in their heart.

In short, the Antidote to Antichrists is TRUTH. Know it and you will be free.

Beware of Antichrists

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. I John 2:18-19

While the mission of Jesus is to seek and to save those who were lost, Satan’s greatest objective is to prevent this from happening. One tactic that he often uses is deceit, particularly about who Jesus is. If he can cause confusion about the identity of Jesus, he can cause people to doubt that Jesus is the Savior of the world.

The spirit of antichrist is very present in the world today. There are many who deny either the existence of or the truth about Jesus Christ. John took steps to both defend the truth of Jesus, and to refute the false teachings of the Gnostics who were plaguing the Ephesian church. There are basically six doctrines about Christ that are consistently attacked by the spirit of antichrist.

  1. The Reality of Christ–they deny His humanity, deity, and virgin birth.
  2. The Righteousness of Christ–some insinuate that Jesus was sinful.
  3. The Relevance of Christ–some try to confine His relevance to one era of history.
  4. The Redemption of Christ–some deny the sufficiency of His atonement by adding works to grace for salvation.
  5. The Resurrection of Christ–many would deny the fact of the resurrection which is the keystone of the doctrines of Christ.
  6. The Return of Christ–by denying His return, they ultimately deny His lordship.

These antichrists may often seek to be identified with believers, but they are not the same. Christians should use great care and exercise discernment concerning the usage of the “Christian” label. Obviously, not everyone who calls themselves Christian is actually a believer. This does not mean that we are to attempt to judge what is in a persons heart, but by evaluating their teachings, we can certainly know whether or not they know the truth.

Tomorrow we will look at the Antidote for Antichrists. Until then, God bless.

Overcoming the World–Part 3

And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. I John 2:17

The third reason that believers should overcome the world is that it is only temporary. The world and all that is in it is already in the process of passing away. A believer who is enamored with the world will soon find that they are sailing on a sinking ship.

This world is full of the corruption of sin. There is not one thing produced by the world that does bear the stain of unrighteousness. There is not a person in the world who is to be held above all others in righteousness.

The things that we crave, obsess over and pursue will one day complete the process of decay and will be gone forever. I do not believe that they will even be remembered in eternity.

On the other hand, the person who does the will of God abides in continual fellowship with Him. This would tell us that the only way to perform the will of God is to eschew the world as much as possible. Our mind must be set on pleasing our heavenly Father. This would bring to mind the text of Romans 12:2, And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.

The wonderful thing that can be seen in all of this is that we CAN overcome the world. The corruption, moral decay, war, terrorism, persecution and all of the other ills of the world system should not dominate the life of God’s children. Praise be to God, we can be more than conquerors through the power of divine love.

Overcoming the World–Part 2

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. I John 2:15

In this verse, we see the second reason why believers should overcome the world. Love of the world conflicts with love of the Father. The Scripture draws a hard line here, it is impossible to divide our affection between the world and God.

While the love of God may be shared with other believers through koinonia, it cannot be shared with the world. As I stated in an earlier post in this series, it is both possible and desirable that Christians should maintain fellowship with unbelievers, (we will never reach them otherwise) we cannot enjoy the same level of fellowship with them that we do with God and the brethren.

The “world” here, of course, refers to the world system. It is descriptive of all that is produced and affected by the world. This would include materialism, secular culture, humanistic philosophy, religion and power. John was familiar with the pull of the world:

  1. As a commercial fisherman he was familiar with the temptation of prosperity.
  2. As a conquered Jew he was familiar with the temptation of political power.
  3. As a disciple of Christ he was familiar with the temptation of popularity vs persecution.
  4. As a bishop of Ephesus he was familiar with the temptation of worldly philosophy.

Loving the world produces negative consequences in the life of a Christian. It will cause them to forsake fellowship with Christ and other believers. It will cause them to become a respecter of persons, seeking the favor of men more than that of God. It will cause them to be overcome by their pursuit of pleasure and possessions. And it will prevent them from being able to please their heavenly Father.

This does not mean that we should not own or even enjoy the things that are in the world. It is impossible to live without the things of the world (some of them, anyway). We are not, however, to let them steal our affection away from God. He is to be the love of our life. With all that we are, we are to turn our hearts toward Him.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Look full in His wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.