Monthly Archives: October 2020

19 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF LIGHT

19 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF LIGHT

Light, and its counterpart, darkness, is one of the major themes of Scripture.

John declared:

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.” 1 John 1:5 NLT

God is the source of all light. This includes physical light as well as revelation, enlightenment, understanding and righteousness.

In the beginning, before God sorted out the darkness and chaos that existed on the earth…

“The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” Genesis 1:2 NLT

… He spoke “light” into the situation. This light was not physical. We know that because He spoke the sun, moon, and stars into existence on the fourth day.

“Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And evening passed and morning came, marking the fourth day.” Genesis 1:14-19 NLT

What was this “light” that separated “day” from “night”? Sometimes we have to decide whether the Bible is speaking literally or figuratively. If it makes no sense to interpret a statement literally, we must look for its meaning in another way.

If there was no sun or moon to reflect God’s light, since He is the source of all light, this light must have come directly from God. Does the Bible confirm this idea?

John begins his gospel record by taking us back to the beginning of time. He wrote a commentary on Genesis 1 that clarifies what Moses wrote.

‘In the beginning, the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:1-5 NLT

So, it seems that John is telling us that the Father and the Son were involved in creation together. Of course, everything came about by the power of the Holy Spirit. All three persons of the Godhead were active in creation.

However, it is the Son’s presence in creation that brings enlightenment to us since the Son’s role is to explain the Father to humans. Jesus came to earth as a human being to explain the Father and His purposes for us so that we would receive the truth by faith and be restored to our position as God’s children in His family.

“And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.” Hebrews 1:2-3 NLT

“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” John 1:14 NLT

John called Jesus “the Word”. God spoke the word and the Word brought what God said into being through the Spirit.

I think that what John was getting at here is that Jesus, the light of the world, brings enlightenment, understanding, and meaning to what God did in creation and in all His dealings with us as part of His creation.

“The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:9 NLT

Before John started telling us his version of the story of Jesus, he made it clear that everything we need to know about our relationship with the Godhead only gets its meaning through the life and teaching of Jesus. He is the only one who can make sense of life for us. Every other philosophy or religion is nonsense, brings confusion and leads us away from what God purposed for the human race… true life as children in the family of God.

When we believe that this is true…

To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” John 1:12-13 NLT

… therefore, Jesus could say…

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12 NLT

LIGHT AND DARKNESS IN THE SPIRITUAL CONTEXT

We have looked at “light” in the context of revelation and enlightenment. Now we add to our understanding by seeing light and darkness in the context of righteousness and sin.

When Adam chose to disobey God, he stepped out of light into darkness. He lost his status as innocent and became guilty. His mind became confused and he could no longer receive or live according to God’s light.

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.” Romans 1:20-22 NLT

Adam, and the human race that was born through him, became God-haters. Their thoughts and lives functioned in the realm of sin, “darkness,” Jesus called it and, because of this, judgment will come on all who hate the light.

“And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.  All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.” John 3:19-20 NLT

Therefore, according to Jesus, everyone who has not received “the Light” is under judgement.

Jesus is “the Light of the world” but how can we be sure that we are walking in this light and following Him?

There is a close and intimate connection between the written Word of God and Jesus, the Word who became human. Everything that Jesus embodies for us was written down so that we would have a permanent and infallible point of reference.

Psalm 119 uses a simple illustration.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalms 119:105 NLT

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” Psalms 119:130 NIV

Paul told Timothy

“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17 NLT

So, once again, we come back to the importance of filling our minds and hearts with the written word of God.

Jesus assured His disciples that His departure would be of great benefit to them because He would send His Spirit to live in them.

“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you…. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.  He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me.  All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’” John 16:7, 13-15 NLT

It is the Holy Spirit’s role to imprint God’s Word on our hearts from which source He will bring to mind whatever we need to guide us on our journey to the Father with Jesus. He can only do this if the Word is in us and available to us when we need it.

We have been exploring two major interlinking themes in this series on engaging the powers of the kingdom. We are learning how to be true sons and daughters of God by overcoming the environment and influence of the world, the evil desires of our flesh and the lies of the devil that try to lure us away from our trust in God.

As children of light

“For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” Ephesians 5:8-9 NLT

… we are called to walk in the light. According to John, the test is simple….fellowship with our fellow believers shows that we are in fellowship with the Godhead.

“This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7 NLT

As we live our daily lives guided by the truth of God’s Word which the Holy Spirit helps us to remember, we will also be in harmony with our Christian family. The blood of Jesus will keep on keeping us clean from the effects of sin in our lives.

This leads us to our next topic… the power of unity.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

All Scripture quotations in this series

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

18 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION

18 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION

Just as God’s grace underpins everything He does for us and in us to enable us to overcome the world, so Jesus’ resurrection is the reason and the power to overcome.

Paul said that, without Jesus’ resurrection, we have no hope and are still dead in our trespasses and sins.

“For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:16-19 NIV

The resurrection of Jesus is an undeniable fact of history. Many unbelievers have tried to disprove the truth that Jesus rose from the dead but, from Biblical and secular evidence, no one has been able to disprove the fact.

Frank Morrison, an unbelieving lawyer, wrote a book called “Who Moved the Stone?” in which he set out to disprove the resurrection but, after examining all the evidence from a legal perspective, he could only conclude that Jesus really did rise from the dead. On the strength of his findings, Morrison became a believer.

Before we consider some important aspects of Jesus’s resurrection, we must understand that before God created the universe, before the beginning of time, His plan was to create people who would live forever.

Job, who lived during the time of the patriarchs, had this hope.

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” Job 19:25-27 NLT

David spoke of Messiah’s resurrection centuries before Jesus came to earth.

King David said this about him: ‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’” Acts of the Apostles 2:25-28 NLT

Despite the futility of life, Solomon recognised that God had a higher plan for man.

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart…” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT

Without the resurrection of Jesus, none of God’s plans for the human race would come to anything. Death, the last enemy, would never be conquered, and Satan would have the last word.

WHAT DID THE RESURRECTION MEAN TO JESUS?

  1. The resurrection was the fulfilment of prophecy and God’s seal of approval on Jesus’s work of salvation.

“And now we are here to bring you this Good News. The promise was made to our ancestors, and God has now fulfilled it for us, their descendants, by raising Jesus…”

  1. The resurrection affirmed Jesus’s identity as the Son of God.

“… He was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 1:4 NLT

  1. The resurrection confirmed Jesus’s sinless nature.

“But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.” Acts of the Apostles 2:24 NLT

For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’” Acts of the Apostles 2:27-28 NLT

  1. The resurrection sealed Jesus’s exaltation as Lord and Messiah.

“God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand…” Acts of the Apostles 2:32 NLT

“So, let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” Acts of the Apostles 2:36 NLT

  1. The resurrection guarantees the full harvest of those who will rise again.

“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.” 1 Corinthians 15:20 NLT

‘But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.” 1 Corinthians 15:23 NLT

  1. The resurrection completed Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT

“For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 NLT

WHAT DOES THE RESURRECTION MEAN TO BELIEVERS?

The resurrection power of Jesus affects both our present and our future.

  1. OUR PRESENT

Paul prayed…

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT

Through faith in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, we have become one with Him. This means that we share in all the benefits of His life, death and resurrection.

This truth has far-reaching effects on our everyday lives in the environment and influence of an evil world. According to Paul, we died with Christ (because we are “in Christ”) and we have been raised with Him to a new life.

So, just as His death and resurrection cut Jesus off from His life as an earthly being and restored Him to His position in glory…

“We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.” Romans 6:9-10 NLT

… so we, who died and rose again “in Him” by faith, have been cut off from our old, sinful lives and have risen to a new life in the realm of God’s kingdom.

“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-6 NLT

Through our baptism in water, we illustrate what has happened to us in the spiritual dimension. Not only that, but we also make a public declaration of our union and identity with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection and…

By faith we embrace the same power that raised Christ from the dead to raise us up from the works of the flesh that produce death, to newness of life in Jesus.

HOW CAN WE APPLY THE RESURRECTION TO OUR PRESENT LIVES?

To use the excuse that we are “only human” when we sin is to cancel God’s power in us to live new lives in Christ.

“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” Romans 6:1-4 NLT

What we need, to begin with, is a new understanding of what has happened to and in us when we believed the gospel.

“We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.” Romans 6:6-8 NLT

Based on this understanding, and believing the truth of what Jesus has done for us, we need to develop a new awareness.

“So, you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:11 NLT

How do we apply this awareness to our everyday lives, when we are under pressure to act and react like people of the world?

“So, you also should CONSIDER yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. DO NOT LET sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, GIVE YOURSELVES completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.” Romans 6:11-13 NLT

Paul gives us three courses of action to overcome the temptation to give in to the flesh.

  1. Consider…

This means that we stop and think first before we say or do anything out of the flesh. Emotion is often what we respond to first, but emotion always follows wrong thinking.

So, the fact that you are dead to your old nature is a done deal. Now let that thought (truth) dominate your mind in that situation before you make the next move.

  1. Do not let…

Say a firm  “No!” to what your flesh wants to do. It’s a choice YOU have to make and, once you’ve made it, grace steps in and gives you the power to do what you have decided.

  1. Give yourselves…

Since it is impossible to think two thoughts simultaneously, once you have changed your thinking from yourself to God, your mind is on safe ground and will lead you to take the right action.

This is resurrection power working in you that will train you to live by the Spirit and not according to the flesh. It will take a lifetime to learn but, if you keep applying these truths to your life, the journey will become easier.

“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” Romans 8:12-13 NLT

  1. OUR FUTURE

The resurrection of Jesus affects the way we deal with our present tests and trials in the light of our hope for the future.

Our life philosophy should never be either a  “karma-type” fatalism, what will be will be, or “let’s eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” way of thinking. We are tied to a hope for the future that is securely joined both to our present and to Jesus’ resurrection.

This is how the resurrection affects our future.

(The following points aren’t in any sequence or order of priority).

  1. Jesus’s resurrection gives us the hope of eternal life.

“Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.  Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” John 11:25-26 NLT

” Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.” John 14:19 NLT

  1. We will be God’s eternal dwelling place.

“When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” John 14:20 NLT

  1. The resurrection guarantees that we are justified, no longer guilty of sin

“He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.”Romans 4:25 NLT

  1. Jesus is the firstfruits, we are the harvest of the resurrection

“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.” 1 Corinthians 15:20 NLT

  1. Jesus’ resurrection conquered sin and death

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? ” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. ” 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 NLT

  1. We will be raised with new, indestructible bodies

“Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.” 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 NLT

  1. Our hope of resurrection motivates us

To live pure lives

“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3 NLT

… and to persevere in doing good

“But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NLT

  1. Our resurrection will happen in an instant…

“But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 NLT

… and we will be with the Lord forever

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NLT

Therefore, we, of all people, have everything to live for and to die for. We have powerful equipment to overcome our enemies in this life, both outside and inside of us… the world, the flesh, and the devil…

… and we have the hope that draws us towards, eternity. Death is no longer something to fear. It is the door to our eternal dwelling place with God. And the indestructible truth that gives us this hope is…

… that Jesus rose from the dead and is now

“…. seated… in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT

CONCLUSION

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” Colossians 3:1-4 NLT

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

All Scripture quotations in this series

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

17 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF SUFFERING

17 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF SUFFERING

This is a strange topic to include in this series! How can we use suffering to overcome the world?

The more I think about it, the more I realise that the Bible has much to teach us about suffering and how we can turn suffering to our advantage to overcome the world system by engaging the power of the kingdom.

“Suffering” is a huge subject with many mysteries. I don’t intend writing a thesis on the subject. I would rather examine suffering from the Bible’s perspective so that we can turn our hardships into tools to overcome the world and its ways.

Let me start with some observations about suffering.

  1. Everyone will experience suffering in some form because we are all part of a fallen world. Not even belief in Jesus will exempt us from suffering.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”John 16:33 NLT

  1. Suffering has many faces… physical, psychological, emotional, mental, and even spiritual.
  1.  Spiritual suffering is a topic on its own.

We can understand the causes of most suffering, but what about spiritual? Spiritual suffering is very real.

Job is a good example of spiritual suffering. His physical disease and the emotional pain of his loss produced the question, “Why?” All his emotional and physical anguish paled into insignificance in comparison with his spiritual suffering because God didn’t answer his question.

We suffer spiritually when we ask the wrong question, have the wrong attitude, or view our suffering from the wrong perspective.

  1. The Bible does not answer the personal question, “Why am I suffering?” Only God knows why He allows individuals to suffer. It does answer the question, “How?”
  1. God does not use suffering to punish us for sin. Jesus suffered and died to pay for all sin for all people for all time.

“He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” 1 John 2:2 NLT

  1. If we understand suffering from God’s perspective, it will always have a positive outcome for us.

“For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:10-11

To answer the question, “How must we respond to suffering?”, we must find our answer in the way Jesus suffered.

  1. JESUS WAS BORN TO SUFFER

“He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.” Isaiah 53:3 NLT

Jesus’ suffering was predicted centuries before His birth. Unlike most other humans, He was sent by the Father to suffer and die for the sins of the world.

  1. JESUS’ SUFFERING WAS TRAINING TO BE A SON

“Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8 NLT

Although Jesus was God’s Son, He had to learn to be human. Since His role as God’s sacrifice for sin was to be a perfect son, God used suffering to teach Him obedience because obedience to the Father is a hallmark of sonship.

  1. SUFFERING QUALIFIED JESUS TO BE A PERFECT HIGH PRIEST AND SACRIFICE

“In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.” Hebrews 5:9 NLT

God designated Jesus to be our High Priest in the order of Mechizedek, a type of Jesus because there is no record of his death. Since Jesus is alive forever, He remains our High Priest forever.

Unlike the Levitical high priests, Jesus did not offer an animal for the sin of His people.

“So, Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” Hebrews 9:11-12 NLT

  1. JESUS DID NOT SUFFER FOR HIS SIN BUT FOR OURS

“He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone… He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” 1 Peter 2:22, 24 NLT

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18 NIV

  1. JESUS’ SUFFERING RESTORES EVERYTHING TO GOD’S ORIGINAL PURPOSE

“Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Romans 8:20-22 NLT

“But it was the Lord ’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord ’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.” Isaiah 53:10-11 NLT

  1. JESUS WAS GIVEN THE GREATEST TITLE AND REWARD BECAUSE OF HIS OBEDIENCE TO GOD

” Lord” – supreme authority, and “head over all things for the church”.

“… When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:7-8 NLT

“Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11 NLT

“God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” Ephesians 1:22-23 NLT

7. JESUS’ SUFFERING EQUIPS HIM TO BE OUR FAITHFUL HIGH PRIEST

As a perfect sacrifice, Jesus took away our sin. As a faithful High Priest, He supports us in our suffering.

“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15 NLT

“Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” Hebrews 2:17-18 NLT

  1. AS OUR HIGH PRIEST, JESUS LIVES FOREVER AND, BY HIS DEATH, IS QUALIFIED TO MAKE INTERCESSION FOR US

“Making intercession” is not the same as “praying” for us. An intercessor is one who stands between the offender and the offended to present the offender’s case. He is a mediator or an advocate.

Jesus is both our mediator and advocate who is in the Father’s presence and presents His blood in our defense because we have been declared “not guilty”.

“Consequently, he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”Hebrews 7:25 NRSV

“There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5 NLT

“My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” 1 John 2:1-2 NLT

It was through His suffering that Jesus made salvation and all its benefits possible for us. Therefore, we must ask the question, “How can we use our suffering to benefit ourselves and others on this journey towards victory over our spiritual enemies?”

Since we can’t evade or escape suffering for whatever reason, there are attitudes and actions to adopt that, strangely enough, turn suffering into a joyful and beneficial experience.

However, we must first look at the sources of our suffering because each calls for a different response.

  1. The fallen world we live in.

Since we live in a world corrupted by sin, we are surrounded by sinful people who function in a corrupted world system. We are subjected to attitudes and actions from the world that prompt us to react out of the flesh and that reflect the same attitudes as worldly people… frustration, impatience, anger, resentment etc.

  1. The consequences of our own ungodly and foolish choices.

When worldly people do things that bring suffering on themselves and other people, they often blame God for “allowing” these “consequences” to happen.

We are also capable of making choices that have unpleasant consequences. However God does not protect us from the consequences of our sinful choices because we make the choices, not God, and we learn valuable lessons, if we are wise, from what we suffer. Unfortunately, these consequences won’t go away and may or will haunt us for the rest of our lives and even the generations that follow.

Abraham’s choice to have a son through Hagar is a good example of the results of one ungodly choice.

  1. There is a third cause of suffering we can dodge if we want to, but there are benefits that far outweigh the pain if we are willing to walk this path.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 NIV

HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO SUFFERING?

  1. Rejoice in trials and tests

Suffering that comes from any of the above causes only has benefits if we see beyond the immediate pain to the end result.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”James 1:2-4 NLT

Suffering, then, if we look beyond the present, produces strength of character and maturity that does not depend on circumstances for happiness and contentment.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5 NLT

Notice how joy is connected to the outcome of our endurance.

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:2 NLT

God uses hardships to discipline us so that we may be done with sin…

“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.” 1 Peter 4:1 NLT

… and share in His holiness

“For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:10-11 NLT

  1. Go to the throne of grace

“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT

Through God’s grace, we are given the power to endure suffering with the right attitude, i.e., the confidence that God is working for our good, instead of becoming fearful, angry or bitter.

Paul learned this lesson when God refused to take away his “thorn in the flesh”. .

“So, to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud…. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”… So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:4, 7, 9-10 NLT

Rather than bemoaning his sufferings, Paul learned to use them to experience God’s grace and enjoy the privilege of living by God’s power.

  1. Take your suffering responsibly if you have done wrong

“Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong….” 1 Peter 2:20a NLT

  1. Endure patiently if you are suffering for doing right

… “But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.” 1 Peter 2:20 NLT

  1. Look to Jesus as the perfect example

“For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment… For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” 1 Peter 2:19, 21-23 NLT

What was the outcome when Jesus suffered as He did without reacting?

When Jesus suffered without retaliation, His enemies could do no more to try to cause Him to sin. His confidence in the Father’s perfect justice enabled Him to put His case in the Father’s hands.

Jesus’ attitude was forgiveness because He was aware of the damage they were doing to themselves by pouring out their hatred on Him. He did not allow their hatred to enter His soul.

We can stop the injustice we suffer right there if we are willing to take it without anger and retaliation. Our enemies can do no more to hurt us if we don’t react. We can remain unaffected if we realise that what others do to us is the expression of who they are, not who we are.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 NIV

There is so much more to suffering than we can deal with here. Let me summarise:We all suffer in one way or another.

  1. Unjust suffering is the most difficult to understand or handle.
  2. Jesus is our perfect example.
  3. He refused to retaliate. Instead, He entrusted Himself to the Father’s perfect justice.
  4. We have access to God’s grace and the power to overcome.
  5. In the end, good will come of our suffering, if we trust in God’s goodness.

One last point…

God has made us co-heirs with Jesus but… there is a condition.

“And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” Romans 8:17 NLT

“It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:  If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:” 2 Timothy 2:11-12 KJV

I don’t think for a moment that Paul is saying that we are only heirs with Jesus if we lose our lives for His sake. That would disqualify most of us from sharing in this promise.

I have an idea that Paul means, not that we suffer for Jesus but that we suffer with Him. In that sense, we do as Jesus said, “Take up the cross daily.”  In that sense also, since we no longer belong to ourselves, we put to death our fleshly desires and live in submission and obedience to Jesus as Lord.

This means that we accept whatever circumstances we are in with joy and gratitude because God is working for our good in them to conform us to the image of His Son. Just as Jesus submitted to the Father, we submit to Him and, through our submission and obedience to His will, we learn what it means to be a true son or daughter of God.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

All Scripture quotations in this series

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF OBEDIENCE

16 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF OBEDIENCE

Like contentment, obedience should play a major role in the process of transforming us into the image of Jesus.

There are many examples in Scripture of obedience and disobedience and the consequences that followed the choices people made. Apart from Jesus, two examples stand out for me.

Saul, the first king of Israel, had every advantage to be a godly king. God called him, anointed him for his office and equipped him with the power of the Holy Spirit to rule wisely. He started well but eventually lost everything through his disobedience, including his life, because he became arrogant and self-sufficient and thought he knew better than God.

This was God’s verdict over Saul’s life when he called up Samuel from the grave…

“Why have you disturbed me by calling me back?” Samuel asked Saul.

“Because I am in deep trouble,” Saul replied. “The Philistines are at war with me, and God has left me and won’t reply by prophets or dreams. So I have called for you to tell me what to do.”

But Samuel replied, “Why ask me, since the Lord has left you and has become your enemy? The Lord has done just as he said he would. He has torn the kingdom from you and given it to your rival, David. The Lord has done this to you today because you refused to carry out his fierce anger against the Amalekites. What’s more, the Lord will hand you and the army of Israel over to the Philistines tomorrow, and you and your sons will be here with me. The Lord will bring down the entire army of Israel in defeat.” 1 Samuel 28:15-19 NLT

The consequences of Saul’s disobedience brought wide-reaching disaster on the whole nation.

David, on the other hand, earned a title from God Himself – “a man after my own heart” – because, even in his position as king, he was obedient to the Lord and loved and valued His Word.

“But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’” Acts of the Apostles 13:22 NLT

This does not mean that David was perfect or sinless. When he fell into terrible sin, he was quick to acknowledge his guilt and to cry out to God for forgiveness.

He had to live with the consequences of his failure but, unlike many of the kings who came after him, he never became arrogant and self-sufficient. He continued to do what God told him to the end of his life.

Of course, the most perfect example of obedience is Jesus Himself.

Many years before He came to earth, prophecies about His character and obedience abound in the Old Testament.

David wrote about the Messiah…

“Then I said, “Look, I have come. As is written about me in the Scriptures: I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.” Psalms 40:7-8 NLT

This was one of Isaiah’s visions about the Messiah…

“The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away….

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.” Isaiah 50:4-5, 7 NLT

Jesus’ own testimony was that of perfect obedience to the Father’s will…

So, Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I Am he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me.  And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” John 8:28-29 NLT

Jesus challenged His opponents to find anything in His life out of line with the will of His Father.

“Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin?”… John 8:46 NLT

THE WAY OF OBEDIENCE IS NO EASY ROAD

  1. Obedience demands humility.

Jesus’ humility took Him all the way from His position in the Trinity to a broken and naked body on a Roman torture stake.

“Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:7-8 NLT

  1. Jesus paid the highest price for His obedience to the Father.

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:6-8 NIV

OBEDIENCE HAS REWARDS THAT FAR OUTWEIGH THE COST

  1. Jesus’ submission to the Father saved Him from spiritual death and brought God’s answer to His prayer

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5:7-9 NIV

  1. Jesus’ obedience to the Father had a personal reward

” But it was the Lord ’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord ’s good plan will prosper in his hands.” Isaiah 53:10 NLT

” I will give him the honours of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.” Isaiah 53:12 NLT

“Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11 NLT

  1. Jesus learned obedience through suffering

” Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8 NLT

  1. Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will brought salvation potentially to the whole world, but especially to those who believe.

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:23-25 NIV

“Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.” Romans 1:5 NLT

“When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.” Isaiah 53:11 NLT

  1. Jesus’ obedience will restore the universe to God’s original purpose.

“Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” Romans 8:20-21 NLT

6.We have a share in Jesus’ victory because of His obedience

“But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.’ 2 Corinthians 2:14 NLT

OBEDIENCE HAS DIFFERENT FACETS

1. Obedience to the gospel

Being a believer is much more than a free pass to heaven or “having a relationship with Jesus”.

God entrusted to the church, through the Apostles, a body of teaching which encompasses everything that relates to our lives in the New Covenant. Like the Old Covenant which was God’s constitution for citizenship in Israel, the New Covenant is our constitution for life in God’s kingdom. This constitution is sometimes called “the Gospel (Good News) ” and sometimes “the Faith” or “the Way”.

Being a believer, therefore, is a commitment to obey all the requirements of this divine “constitution”.

“As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 9:13 NLT

Paul testified, shortly before he died,

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 NIV

  1. Obedience to Jesus, the Word of God

God’s Word is His divine “GPS” for navigating a difficult and treacherous road through life. We have three enemies that will do all in their power to lure us off the way that will take us to the Father…the world, the flesh and the devil.

Each of these enemies works through the powerful weapon of deception. Each offers us a way to live that doesn’t need God. Each holds out the prize of self-sufficiency and self-gratification. Each fails to show us the small print, i.e., eternal death – separation from God and everything good.

Jesus said, “I am the Way…” He is also the Word. To reach our destination, we must follow the directions given to us in the Word which echo His nature and show us the way.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalms 119:105 NIV

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV

“Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” Luke 11:28 NLT

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,  for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.” John 10:27-30 NLT

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:17 NIV

As we abide in Jesus, remembering that without Him we can do nothing, He guides us by His Spirit, reminding us of the words He has spoken to us. Our response is to follow the prescriptions of His Word which will neutralise the deception of our enemies.

  1. Obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if, through the power of the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” Romans 8:12-14 NLT

Since God’s Word is the expression of His will,

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” 1 John 2:15-17 NLT

GOD REQUIRES OBEDIENCE TO TWO SIMPLE COMMANDS

“And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.” 1 John 4:21 NLT

“And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us.” 1 John 3:23 NLT

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law…. Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:8, 10 NIV

THE FRUIT OF OBEDIENCE

  1. THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

When we obey the gospel, i.e., when we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that God raised Him from the dead, God gives us the Holy Spirit to indwell us as we become His temple.

“We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.” Acts of the Apostles 5:32 NLT

“Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.” 1 John 3:24 NLT

  1. FRIENDSHIP WITH JESUS

Friendship with Jesus is not automatic nor does every Christian enjoy the privilege of friendship with Him. It is reserved for those who obey Him.

” ‘You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.’ ” John 15:14-15 NLT

  1. FELLOWSHIP WITH THE FATHER AND THE SON

Relationship and fellowship are not the same thing. We may have a relationship with Jesus but be out of fellowship with Him because of disobedience. Sin does not change our relationship with Him unless we have purposely chosen to renounce our salvation. However, sin interferes with our oneness with Him.

“So, you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.” 1 John 2:24-25 NLT

  1. ANSWERS TO PRAYER

Prayer, in the deepest sense of the word, is not about getting what we want from God. It’s about sharing His heart and learning to be one with Him. He answers our prayers in accordance with His will when our hearts are in tune with Him.

“Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.” 1 John 3:21-22 NLT

  1. PROOF THAT WE ARE ALIVE WITH GOD’S LIFE

Loving our fellow believers us a fruit of our life in Him. It shows that we are” participants in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.” 1 John 3:14 NLT

  1. ETERNAL LIFE

Obedience to God’s constitution is also proof that we are citizens of Hid heavenly Kingdom.

“And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” 1 John 2:17 NLT

  1. A DWELLING PLACE FOR THE FATHER AND THE SON

God’s final purpose is to be at home in the hearts of His people.

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:2-3 NIV

Obedience is a hallmark of sonship; therefore, obedience prepares us for being God’s eternal dwelling place.

“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14:23 NIV

Obedience, then, to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is a powerful protection against our enemies, and a preparation for life with God in an eternal union with Him in heaven, His dwelling place.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

All Scripture quotations in this series

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

15 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF CONTENTMENT

15 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF CONTENTMENT

Perhaps this topic should have been included in our study on generosity. At least, it is a part of generosity, but I think it needs separate treatment so, here goes!

Much of what Paul wrote in his letters flowed from years of personal experience. His life as a believer was eventful, to say the least, full of dangers and deprivations. Yet his conclusion near the end of his life is startling and unexpected but true.

“Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” 1 Timothy 6:3, 6-8 NLT

What is contentment and how do we learn contentment when everything around us is so topsy-turvy?

DISCONTENT – THE HALLMARK OF THE UNGODLY

I think we can best learn what godly contentment is by first examining discontent and the fruit it produces.

Discontent is a powerful force that is driving the levels of crime to where they are in our country today. Why are people so discontented? I think it’s because of an attitude of entitlement which often follows oppression.

The “freedom” people experience after years of oppression develops into an attitude of entitlement as a compensation for what they suffered. “I want this or that. It’s my right. If I don’t get it, I will take it by force.”

The children of Israel developed this attitude when they were finally settled in the Promised Land. They threw off the yoke of God’s rule and became “free” to do as they liked.

The Lord comes forward to pronounce judgment on the elders and rulers of his people: “You have ruined Israel, my vineyard. Your houses are filled with things stolen from the poor. How dare you crush my people, grinding the faces of the poor into the dust?” demands the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Isaiah 3:14-15 NLT

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? History repeats itself over and over.

Entitlement is, in the end, the expression of lawlessness, rebellion and… greed, and is the way people live out their slavery to sin.

So, marches, strikes, protests, and mass action  fuel the fires of rebellion, resulting in violence and destruction. The end result is more loss and more suffering which produce more discontent. People who behave like this are fools because they never learn. They do the same thing again and again and think the outcome will be different.

This is typically the selfishness that characterises people who are without God and are caught up in the world’s system. “Sheep” is an apt term to describe worldly people. They mindlessly follow the ones who shout the loudest and never consider the consequences of their lawlessness.

CONTENTMENT – THE HALLMARK OF KINGDOM CITIZENS

By contrast, contentment is, or should be, the characteristic of God’s children. God is in the process of reproducing His Son in the lives of His sons and daughters which includes contentment.

(We must not confuse contentment with complacency. A contented person is at peace with his/her situation but, at the same time, will recognise and grasp opportunities for improvement when they come.

On the other hand, a complacent person is one who is apathetic, lazy and unwilling to do anything to change a bad situation even if he/she has the opportunity to do so).

Jesus is the perfect example of a true son.

What characterised His life? (This is something we should never forget)! His loving and willing submission to the Father. Jesus was perfectly contented with His life in the Father no matter what happened.

But Jesus was Jesus!

How can we achieve an attitude of contentment in God in a world of people seething with discontent?

Despite his circumstances in a Roman jail surrounded by Roman soldiers, here’s how Paul did it. “I have learned…” he said.

“How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:10-13 NLT

One of Paul’s early lessons as a believer is recorded in Acts 16. He and Silas, his companion, were thrown into prison for freeing a slave girl from demons. Instead of making a fuss about injustice, they sang songs of praise to God when they couldn’t sleep.

We know the outcome. Paul and Silas were freed and an entire Roman family believed in Jesus. That was tough but he learned by doing.

Contentment is not on the list of spiritual gifts or the fruit of the Spirit. Contentment, like obedience and generosity, is learned through practice. We learn obedience by being obedient. We learn generosity by being generous. We learn contentment by being content. These are choices we make, over and over until they are woven into who we are becoming.

Why is contentment of such importance to us, and to God?

1. Contentment is the expression of our trust in God.

We allow God to be God in our lives. If we are discontented with our lot in life, we are actually challenging God’s love. We are telling Him, “You don’t love me. If you did, you would do a better job of caring for me.”

2. Contentment frees God to make changes for the better in our situations.

Bad situations are a test of our faith in God. Look how God tested the children of Israel in the wilderness.

“Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:2-3 NLT

Their discontent revealed their faithlessness and brought God’s wrath down on them.

Job, on the other hand, trusted God and refused to curse Him despite his suffering.

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him… ” Job 13:15a.

After the test, God doubled what Job lost and blessed him lavishly for his faith.

3. Contentment allows Jesus to have the right to supreme authority in our lives. He chooses our situation and circumstances.

He earned the right to be Lord by taking our place in death and paying our debt of sin. Now He lives in us by His Spirit to reclaim us from the sins we still commit and raise us up with Him to reign with Him in life over our old nature and its pull towards sin and death.

4. Contentment protects us from jealousy, envy and covetousness.

Firstly, let’s examine what these words mean.

“Jealousy” has a good and a bad application. To be “jealous for” implies a protective attitude towards what is good. God is a jealous God.

“For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:2 NLT

“Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?” James 4:5 NLT

God is jealous for us because He knows that, without Him, we are nothing.

To be “jealous of” implies that I crave what someone else has, which often includes bad feelings towards the other person.

Envy and jealousy are not interchangeable. They don’t mean the same thing. Jealousy focuses on the object; envy is directed towards the person with the intention to do harm. The attitude of the religious leaders towards Jesus is a classic example.

“As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy).” Matthew 27:17-18 NLT

Envy recognises the good in the character of another and hates him for it.

Jesus told a story which illustrates this attitude.

“… So, when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.  When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.  ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’  

“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.  Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ ” Matthew 20:10-15 NIV

“Covetousness” is an inward attitude that drives both envy and jealousy. Paul recognised covetousness, aroused by the law, as that part of his sin nature over which he had no control.

“What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”  But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead.” Romans 7:7-8 NIV

The only cure for covetousness is contentment and the only way we can be contented is by learning to be content through the power of Christ.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13 NIV

5. Contentment protects us from worry, anxiety and fear.

Once again, worry, anxiety, and fear are the outcome of mistrusting God’s love. These three attitudes cancel confidence in God’s reliability to keep His promises. They open our minds to the devil’s lying suggestions and accusations that cast doubts on the character of God. They are a slap in God’s face by accusing Him of lying.

These are rough words but mirror the words of Scripture…

“If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.” 1 John 1:10 NLT

6. Contentment protects our minds from the devil’s lies.

It is impossible to think two thoughts at the same time. If you are anxious or worried, you cannot trust God. You mind is attuned to Satan’s insinuations that God is untrustworthy.

If you are grateful and value God’s goodness, you will be immune to Satan’s suggestions. Both thoughts cannot co-exist in one mind.

7. Contentment honours God by giving Him credit for all that He is and does for us.

Contentment is expressed by a grateful heart. Remember the mouth that is the opening to the well of salvation?

“But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honours me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” Psalms 50:23 NLT

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT

It is impossible to be thankful and discontented at the same time. Therefore, learning to be contented is a simple lesson if we give thanks “in all circumstances”.

“What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and praise the Lord ’s name for saving me.” Psalms 116:12-13 NLT

This verse kept coming into my mind this morning. The more I thought about it, the more I began to understand the role of thanksgiving in our lives that ties in beautifully with the topics we have been studying.

The best way to express our gratitude to the Lord is by “lifting up the cup of salvation”. What does that mean?

The basic meaning of “salvation” is “wholeness”.  God has given us His power in its many facets, the same power that raised Christ from the dead, to overcome the sin in us that produces death, and restore wholeness in us. Therefore, to engage the powers of the kingdom is the best way to show our gratitude to Him and, conversely, not to apply these truths in our various circumstances is the worst form of ingratitude.

It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that we show our gratitude for a gift best by using it. It is the same with God’s gifts. Not to “lift up the cup of salvation” means that we don’t value the benefits of His salvation. Paul pleaded with the Corinthians Church, which was full of sinful behaviour, not to receive the grace of God in vain.

“As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.” 2 Corinthians 6:1 NIV

To continue living in sinful reactions to our circumstances in life is to ignore God’s grace and devalue the power He has put at our disposal to “overcome the world”.

Ingratitude is the first step in a slippery slide that ends in a depraved mind.

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 Romans 1:28-29

8. Contentment gives us space to enjoy who we are, where we are, and what we have, which all come from God.

“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:14-17 NLT

When we live in an attitude of contentment, we create space in our minds to move around in our environment without the pressures of wrong desires and wants.

We acknowledge that what we are and have is from God. We are grateful for everything He has given to enrich our lives.

We value and enjoy who we are; we cultivate and use our gifts to bless others; we make good use of what we have and give away what we do not use to benefit others.

We stay where we are because God has put us there. Sometimes, God moves us through creating restlessness in our spirits. We learn to discern the difference between fleshly and divine discontent.

Fleshly restlessness often comes from wanting more or better…

Divine discontent is spiritual awareness that God is calling us away, perhaps to worse circumstances and yet, deep inside, we know it is the right thing for us. If God is in it, we will be contented, no matter what.

9. Contentment is the best way to de-stress your life.

Stress is a major factor in killing people today, either by stress-induced diseases or by suicide. Lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the number of suicides worldwide. Why? Is it because people have reacted to the huge changes in their lives by becoming discontented? In other words, they don’t know how to handle stress.

Stress and contentment are incompatible. If you have learned, like Paul, to be contented in all circumstances, stress will be excluded from your responses to change. Why? After all, God is still in charge.

Can you see, then, what a powerful tool contentment is to ward off the greed and covetousness that drives the world system. With the protection of contentment motivated by gratitude for God’s goodness, we can live in the most confined of circumstances without being driven by what us going on around us.

Through the power that Jesus supplies, we, can be free indeed.

“Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.  A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John 8:34-36 NLT

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

All Scripture quotations in this series

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.