Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Enemy's Strategy: Keep ‘Em From Taking Bold Steps!

In my tenure as a disciple of Christ, I have had my ups and my downs. Some of the ups have been higher than high and some of the lows have been lower than low! Someone has said that following Jesus is like being on a roller coaster. Well, that analogy seems fitting until you have truly hit the lows in following Jesus. The lows on a roller coaster are extremely fun and exciting, but the lows I have experienced in following the Lord are not fun in any way. As a matter of fact they have been some of the darkest and most depressing times in my life. Being a Christian is easy. Following Jesus is brutal and definitely not for the faint at heart.
Let me explain by asking a question. "How many of us would walk through Wal-mart or the grocery store and say to everyone we meet; "Hi, how are you? I just want you to know I love Jesus. Hope you have a good day." Seriously! How many? Would you? Have you ever done anything like that? Most of us would have to say "no, I have never done that". I am wondering just how many would say; "that's just crazy I would never do that!"? Sure that is extreme with some folks, but it should not be something that we would 'never' do. The fact is that most Christians just would not do it because of the fear of 'what' others would think of them. Who wants to be considered a weirdo? Who wants to be thought of as a fanatic? Who wants to be labeled a "Jesus Freak"? I mean come on, I love Jesus but let's not get carried away.

OK, let's calm it down to just a light roar then. How many of us would simply just do what is right when we know it's right? I can hear all believers saying, "I would!". Of course we all would, wouldn't we? I am not so sure about that. I remember shortly after I got saved and boldly saying that I was going to tell everyone about Jesus. Then I ran into a popular young lady and reneged on my commitment. I felt the pressure and caved! I did not want to appear weird in the eyes of this pretty girl. Sure I was a young believer but still that haunts me to this day that I wimped out. What I find though after years of following Christ that there are those within the body of Christ who do the same thing today. Not just those who are young in the faith, but so many who have been saved for years, those who are seen as pillars in our churches; SS teachers, deacons, elders, and even preachers! For instance, how many times have you ever wanted to clap in church or raise a hand in worship or just sing out with enthusiasm yet held back from doing so because you didn't want to seem weird. Don't even think of going down to the altar to pray. People might think you did something wrong. I say; "WHAT"?! If we hold back in these things, we can rest assure we will never do anything bold for Christ. That's Satan goal! Paralyzed Saints who are satisfied with going to church yet never crossing that line and embracing boldness.

I went to seminary with guy who got saved and started living for Jesus. He was from a religious family who was from another Christian denomination. Because of his stance, his family literally disowned him! He is a pastor today who still boldly follows Jesus! Jesus in Matthew 10:34-36 said; "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household." Wow! Those are pretty inflammatory words by Jesus. I find that many who follow Him don't know this verse or simply ignore it hoping it will never be brought up. My friend, following Jesus means taking bold stands that will cause others, even brothers and sisters in the Lord to ridicule, mock, and turn on you. If we are concerned with what people think of us, we will never do anything bold for God! The enemy's strategy is to play on our pride in order to keep us from taking 'foolish' bold steps for God! Then again, the foolishness of the cross is the power of God!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Breaking Free

Part 1
By Scott Myers
Why is it that so many believers find it practically impossible to live the spiritual life and walk in the freedom Christ gives? Let me ask that in a different way. Why do we Christians simply find it hard to really live the Christian life? What I find even in my own life is that even though we love Jesus, want to truly live a life committed to Him, we simply fail and many times fail miserably! What’s up with that? Why can’t we just get this thing together? I mean, God saved us and gave us ‘new’ life, gave us His Holy Spirit to live in us, and gave us the power to live this ‘new’ life, yet it just doesn’t happen. What? Hasn’t it been said over and over again by preachers, pastors, Sunday School teachers, evangelist and even those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that Christians are ‘supposed’ to live like Christians? If a person has truly trusted Jesus Christ and he has truly been born again and he has truly been saved then he will certainly live like a Christian and possess an overcoming life, right? WRONG! Wrong a million times! Sure, Christians ‘should’ live like they are Christian, but that does not imply, nor does Scripture imply or directly say that it is automatic. Even though many hold to this falsehood and proclaim it adamantly, Scripture just does not say that.
OK then, where does that leave the multitudes of Christians when it comes to really experiencing and living the life we have been given by God? How are we to really ‘break free’ and express this ‘new’ life and experience an overcoming life? If Jesus meant what He said in John 10:10, that He came to give us life and to give it to us abundantly, then surely it is possible to experience this life, isn’t it? Of course it is! The answer lies within the pages of Scripture. Let’s examine some scripture and glean some very important truths concerning this very vital, but very basic topic.
Scripture divides man in to different parts in order to distinguish not only who he is but also how he expresses himself. Scripture in one place talks of man being tripartite (three parts) while in another place it divides man into 2 parts. Let’s look at the latter first and learn the distinction and in doing so gain some transformational truth that will equip us with everything we need to break free and live life to the fullest and live as overcomers.
The Inward Man and The Outward Man
In Romans 7:22 the Apostle Paul says; “for I delight in the law of God according to the inward man” and then in Ephesians 3:16 he speaks of being “strengthened with the power by His Spirit in the inner man”. In 2 Corinthians 4:16 Paul tells us; but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
The fact is that when a person is saved, God, in the person of the Holy Spirit enters into man’s spirit. It is at the moment of a person’s faith in Christ God supernaturally brings man’s dead spirit to life as He takes up residence inside of man’s spirit bringing spiritual life and salvation – one in the same. The spirit of man is the very core of man and is what Scripture refers to as the ‘inner man’. It is this place, the spirit of man, that the Spirit of God resides and fellowships with man and man with God. This inner man died when Adam and Eve sinned against God the first time and is what comes to life when man exercises faith in Jesus Christ for the first time. It is man's spirit.
If the spirit of man is the core of who he is and represents the inner man, then just what is the outer man? The outer man, as Paul referred to as decaying deals NOT with his physical body, but instead with man’s soul. The soul, ‘Psuche’ in the Greek refers to man’s thinking (judgment, how he thinks), his emotions, and his volition (will). All of these are that which is in a fallen state. Man’s judgment, emotions, and volition (man’s will) stand in direct contrast to God’s will. The spirit is housed within the soul while the soul of man is housed within the body. The tripartite nature of man speaks of his spirit, his soul, and his body. It deals with him having a spirit, being a soul, and living in a body. Our subject at hand deals with the first two – the spirit and the soul; the inner man and the outer man.
Therefore the inner man is where God resides and fellowships with man while the soul is how man expresses himself. It must be understood then that if we are to ‘break free’ and experience real life, that abundant life, then our inner man must break free. It is in this breaking free that we find the ability to live life as we should – free in the Spirit. In other words, our inner man, our spirit mingled with the Holy Spirit must be set free if we ever expect to live that life! That means that it has to break through something. It then becomes obvious then that our inner man must break through the outer man. The inner man is housed or ‘shelled’ in the outer while the outer is housed in the body. The inward man must be released and this is where the difficulty lies. Many followers of Jesus Christ find themselves wanting to live that abundant life Jesus spoke of, but simply cannot do it. The willing and the wanting to are there, but the actually doing is not to be found. This is because the ‘inner man’, his spirit wants to but cannot break forth and live. It is hindered from breaking out and being set free. God desires that our inward man break forth and be released, but it’s not easy. Let’s look at a passage in John.
Jesus gives us a great analogy in John 12:24. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.“ Can you see the principle here? This illustration sets a foundational truth concerning believers breaking free and living the life God intends for us to live. When a grain falls into the earth and dies it brings forth ‘new life’. The grain must die and dry up and burst open in order for the life that is inside the grain to come out. If the grain does not crack open, the life will never come forth. Notice that the grain must die. The grain is the shell of the wheat and it must die and crack open in order that the wheat come forth. Life is on the inside and must find its way to the outside if it is to live and bear fruit. This illustrates exactly what must take place with believers.
Notice what Jesus said in the very next verse. “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” At face value, it would seem that Jesus changes the subject or at least take a different direction, but in reality He explains his previous statement. The word Jesus uses for ‘life’ is that Greek word again ‘psuche’ (soo-kay) which we get the word ‘psychology’. The word itself that means ‘soul’ or as here is translated as ‘life’ actually refers to the life we live. Remembering that it involves three parts; the intellect (how we think), our emotions (how we feel), and our volition (what we choose to do, i.e. our will). Verse 25 could also be translated as’ “He who loves his soul loses it, and he who hates his soul in this world will keep it to life eternal.” Remembering that life = soul = how we think, how we feel, and what we choose to do.
It then becomes obvious that first of all that Jesus is not referring to spiritual salvation for that comes about through faith in Jesus. This passage deals with verities other than eternal salvation, something beyond the spiritual salvation moment. When a person is saved, he is saved for eternity and does not have to worry about keeping it (saving/preserving it) to 'life eternal'. He has it and it is secure. The reference to 'keeping it or saving it to life eternal' refers to obtaining and keeping an overcoming life that will somehow have an impact in eternity. When we hate our life and deny our own ‘thinking, emotions, and volition' now in this life, the inward man will emerge and live an abundant, overcoming 'God' life AND we shall get something later for doing such. Notice Jesus said that he who hates his soul/life now. Hating one's life is equivalent to 'denying oneself, taking up his cross, and following Jesus'. Giving up one's own life now is sowing it to God and the keeping it to eternal life thus means giving up something now and getting something yet future. Denying one's life is work. It's hard work and it takes effort. Sowing is work! Whatever a man sows, he shall reap. Spiritual salvation is a gift that cannot be worked for, so that means the life that is kept to life eternal is something else. Gifts cannot be earned, rewards must be earned. The reaping must deal with God rewarding a person in the future for giving up his life now. The spiritual life, the abundant life, that inner life, the life of the inward man and the reward of such a life is what is in view here, not eternal life.
What we find among those who possess the life of God (i.e. who are saved), many simply do not bear it! In other words, not all who have God’s salvation experience it. Among those who possess the life of the Lord are either in one of two distinct conditions: imprisoned and unable to break free or set free and expressing life!
Now back to the great illustration. Just as the grain must die and break in order for the wheat to break forth and bear fruit, so must the outer man die and break in order for the inner man to break forth and bear fruit. Our souls must die in order for our spirits to emerge and release life!
The question then is not how to obtain life, but rather how to get that life to come forth! There must be a breaking forth and we must find just how that is to take place!