Author Archives: Peter Lindop

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Benefits of Obedience – Part 4

Category : Biblical Meditation

The benefits that come as a result of our obedience to God are numerous and overwhelming in their scope. Thus far we have considered the basics of obedience and key concepts related to obedience as well as learning some of the many aspects of obedience as revealed in Scripture.

Many Christians seem to know obedience is good and right, but have not meditated on the overwhelming blessing that comes as a result of it. Having looked at many Scriptures already through this series, with more wonderful quotes to come, we can only stand amazed at what God wants to impart to us if we can only absorb it and learn to obey. Let’s begin by seeing how obedience opens a doorway for blessing to flow into our lives.

Establishes Us as a Holy People/Treasured Possession

Towards the end of Deuteronomy, a covenant is recorded between God and Israel. In it, Moses records that Israel proclaimed the Lord to be their God and in response, the Lord proclaimed that Israel is His special people.

“This day the LORD your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. Today you have proclaimed the LORD to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice. Also today the LORD has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep all His commandments, and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honour, and that you may be a holy people to the LORD your God, just as He has spoken.” Deuteronomy 26:16-19

It is important to notice that God doesn’t just promise that Israel will be special in some small way – “He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honour, and that you may be a holy people…” That is an amazing promise to His believing people.

Deuteronomy 28:9 brings out the condition that will enable us to be established as a holy people to God Himself and that is “if” we keep the commandments of the Lord our God and walk in His ways:

The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.

Then let us look at a passage that highlights this same truth in the New Testament which is from Peter’s first epistle:
Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; 1 Peter 2:7-9

In the beginning of this passage, we read about two groups of people: believers and those who are disobedient. Those two groups are incompatible. We cannot be believers and disobedient at the same time because when we believe, it moves us to obedience.
Peter contrasts these two groups. First he talks about the disobedient stumbling and then talks about those who are obedient as a result of their belief. This second group is called “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people” While we, His people, don’t necessarily feel like we are these things, that is what God says. When we start believing what He says about us, then we will start to be the people He has destined us to be.

A Portal for Blessing

The book of Deuteronomy has a great deal to say about obedience and disobedience. Blessings as a result of obedience and curses as a result of disobedience. Within the book, Deuteronomy 28 is divided into two distinct parts – the first 14 verses tell us about the tremendous blessings that are ours:

Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God. Deuteronomy 28:1-2
Starting at verse 15 (54 verses in total), we see the alternative:

But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you…

The condition is two-fold: diligently hearing and obeying the voice of the Lord. This brings out the important truth that you can’t obey if you can’t hear. How important it is that we cultivate the ability to hear God’s voice through the Scriptures as well as through His Holy Spirit, also showing discernment concerning the prophetic voices in our midst.

This truth is even more simply stated by Jesus’ response when, “a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”

But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 11:28
That is the heart of the matter – we are to “hear the word of God and keep [obey] it!” – then we will be blessed.

Brings Blessing to our Children

It is wonderful to think that when we hear God’s voice and we obey it that we receive blessing, but God in His kindness takes things a step further. Not only does He promise to bless us, but to bless our “children after [us] forever”.

Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God. Deuteronomy 12:28

A Way to Life in Time and Eternity

Even without having something concrete to base our reasoning on, the vast majority of Christians would agree that life and length of life is a good thing. We feel robbed when a child or young person dies because it seems like their potential to live and love has been taken away early.

Appreciating the fact that early deaths remain a mystery and something that we must submit to the sovereignty of God, the Bible does indicate that life is a blessing that comes, and is supernaturally protected, as a result of faith and obedience.

That well known verse in Habakkuk 2:4: “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” Which is quoted by Paul in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11 as well as by the writer to the Hebrews in chapter 10:38.

Now we have seen previously that true faith necessarily precedes obedience and the Bible also teaches us that if we obey God’s commands that we will live by them.

“Notwithstanding, the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, and were not careful to observe My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them’ Ezekiel 20:21 (see also v13)

It is a wonderful truth to know that through faith and obedience we receive life which God Himself protects, but Scripture also talks about the lengthening of life based on our obedience. Here we read God’s promise to Solomon:

So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” 1 Kings 3:14

If that were not enough – to have life and to receive the promise of a lengthened life through obedience, Jesus takes us out of time and into eternity when He says:

Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” John 8:51

Commenting on the life that Jesus affords us through His death and resurrection, Derek Prince says the following:

This, then, is the essence of the gospel message. There is a divine, eternal life that has its source in God alone. God has made this life available to us in Jesus Christ. As we receive Jesus by faith in our hearts and yield our lives to Him in full obedience, we receive in Him the very life of God Himself. This life is not something reserved for another world or a future existence. It is something that we can experience here and now. “He who has the Son has the life” (1 John 5:12). We have everlasting life at this very moment—and on into eternity. It is ours to enjoy from the very moment that we truly put our faith in Jesus Christ.

An Invitation to Prosperity

In the opening paragraph of Chapter 1 in Derek Prince’s book The Promise of Provision, he makes the following statement:

One distinctive aspect of God, as He is revealed in the Bible, is His abundance. God is not poor. He is not stingy. He is not limited. He is a God of abundance. His grace is abundant. His love is abundant. His provision is abundant. If we are to represent God accurately to the world around us—the way He really is—then we must learn to represent Him as a God of abundance.

There has been so much misrepresentation of this truth that many people seem almost scared to broach this subject, but Scripture is quite clear that God’s people are called to prosper. As it says in 3 John 1:2, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health just as your soul prospers.”

There are numerous verses that inform us on how we come to enjoy this prosperity. Here are a few:

Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ Deuteronomy 6:3

And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; 1 Kings 2:3
Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and true before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered. 2 Chronicles 31:20-21

Blessed is the man… [whose] delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. Psalm 1:1-3

In the first passage, we are told to “hear” and “be careful to observe [the Law]”. The second passage tells us to “keep the charge of the Lord” which is “to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgements, and His testimonies”. The third quote about Hezekiah, we learn that “he did what was good and right and true before the Lord” and that “he did it with all his heart”

In Psalm 1, we read that the blessed man is the one who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night. All of these things caused prosperity and just as they were available in each of these examples, they are available to us too.

Conclusion

You can begin to see why I opened this article with the sentence, “The benefits that come as a result of our obedience to God are numerous and overwhelming in their scope.”

In Part 4, we have seen that obedience establishes us a “holy people” and a “treasured possession”. Furthermore it is a doorway for blessing – not only for us, but also for our children forever. We have learned that obedience opens a way to life both in time and eternity and that it carries with it the invitation to prosper.

Prayer Response

Thank you, Father, for the wonderful blessings that you long to pour out on those who are obedient to your voice – through your Word and the direction of Your Holy Spirit. I pray that as I grow in my obedience, that you would develop my character in such a way that I can handle the blessings that you shower on me and my family and all that I do. In Jesus’ name. Amen. – Peter Lindop


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The Obedience Quartet – Part 2

Category : Biblical Meditation

In meditating on this subject of obedience, I came to realise that there are four concepts which flow to and from one another. As you consider one, it soon becomes clear that it causes or encourages each of the other three. Here are the first three: Love, Fear of God and Obedience which are found together in this instructive passage:

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good? Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (emphasis added)

The other concept which is inextricably linked is forgiveness.

All these concepts are held together by faith since the hearing of God’s voice requires faith to move us to obedience, love, a fear of God and forgiveness.

Let’s look in more detail at the relationship between each of these concepts.

Obedience and Forgiveness

Psalm 119:67 tells us, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” The Psalmist is telling us that at one point, he had gone astray but then there is a change. It is implicit that, as he had been afflicted, he had recognised his sin, received forgiveness and come to a place of obedience. Forgiveness leads to obedience.

The Lord’s Prayer reminds us that we should forgive others (Matthew 7:14-15) so when we are obedient to the Word, then obedience leads to forgiveness.

Obedience and Love

In Foundational Truths for Christian Living, Derek Prince says the following: Throughout the whole Bible the supreme test of man’s love for God can be expressed in one word: obedience.

In the Old Testament, God stated this truth to His people in Jeremiah 7:23: Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people.

True love for God is always expressed by obedience to Him.

In the New Testament, likewise, Jesus, in His parting discourse to His disciples, emphasised above all other requirements this point of obedience. In John chapter 14 He stresses this point three times in succession within the space of a few verses: If you love Me, keep My commandments. (v.15)

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. (v.21) (see also 1 John 2:5 and 2 John 1:6)

Then He puts two alternatives of obedience and disobedience very clearly side by side, for He says: If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. (v.23)

And then, on the contrary: He who does not love Me does not keep My words. (v24)

In the light of these words, it is plain that for any Christian to profess love for Christ without obeying the will of Christ revealed in His words and His commandments is mere self-deception.

The supreme commandment of Christ in the New Testament is love. Without love, it is impossible to speak of obedience. But if we go on to examine the nature and the outworking of Christian love, we discover that the New Testament offers us the pattern of a life that is controlled in every aspect by this love.

This works in both directions. We are obedient because we love God, but we also love in obedience to His Word where we are told in Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Obedience and the Fear of God

Let’s consider now the coupling of obedience and the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is something that tends to evoke one of two reactions on opposite ends of the spectrum – either people completely disregard it and seek a buddy-buddy relationship with God, or the concept related to “fear” effects a carnal fear in them (If God is so powerful how could I ever approach Him?). Somewhere in between is a path of understanding and blessing that is healthy and wholesome.

The fear of the Lord is a respectful attitude towards the God who loves us, but who cannot put aside His holiness. It enables us to come humbly before God to receive what He offers us with thanksgiving. The Bible has a great many positive things to say about the fear of the Lord. For further study, I recommend Derek Prince’s book Where Wisdom Begins (formerly titled Gateway to God’s Blessing).

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses juxtaposes observation of the statutes (The Law) with fearing the Lord and then goes on to say that this is for our good always. Not just sometimes, but always.

And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 6:24

Another instance of obedience and the fear of the Lord is in Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple:

…that they may fear You, to walk in Your ways as long as they live in the land which You gave to our fathers. 2 Chronicles 31:21

We are called to fear Him and walk in His ways, that is, to be obedient. Then a similar passage is found in Psalm 128: Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. (v1)

To round off, we will look at an example from the New Testament which we touched on in Part 1 of this series from Hebrews 5. It is said of Jesus who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Hebrews 5:7-8

As we saw previously, Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered, but He was heard because of His holy fear. Both obedience and fear of God are integral to the process.

Love and Forgiveness

Both directions of this relationship between love and forgiveness are illustrated in Luke 7:47: Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.

This verse tells us that the woman who anointed Jesus with perfume ahead of His burial had her many sins forgiven “for she loved much”. Her act of faith and obedience showed her love for Jesus. That love, in turn, was the key to receiving forgiveness from and through Jesus.

The second part of the verse shows us the other perspective: “to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” By this we understand that the measure of our love is related to the amount of forgiveness we have received.

The more the Holy Spirit shines His light into our hearts and reveals areas that need repentance and forgiveness, the more we are willing and able to love God and man. Consider an unbeliever who has not yet come to acknowledge his need of forgiveness – he doesn’t understand God’s love and thus cannot express it himself. When he comes to faith, shows repentance and receives forgiveness, God’s love becomes a reality and he can begin to “love because He first loved [him]” (see 1 John 4:19)

Love and the Fear of God

The love and the fear of God may seem to be two incongruous concepts, but they balance one another perfectly. Often due to our upbringing, we have a bias towards one or the other. Some who have been in churches where the love of God is highlighted, have a great expectation of good from God but may not have an awareness of His holiness which breeds a reverent fear. On the other side, those who have suffered from an orphan spirit may need healing to appreciate the love of the Lord in more of its fullness. This is because an orphan spirit is a door-keeping spirit who lets in spirits like loneliness, poverty, passiveness, rejection, apathy and fear of man.

I don’t believe it is possible to read the Bible extensively and not become engendered with a deep reverence for the Lord. Judgements throughout the ages as well as the prophecies yet to come of individuals, nations and the forces of evil receiving due punishment for their sin are all included in scripture as a witness of God’s requirement for righteousness and holiness only made possible through Jesus.

A helpful picture of the love and the fear of God operating together is of walking along the straight and narrow way which leads to life. It is the love of the Lord that draws us on, closer to Him. It is the fear of the Lord that keeps us from straying. How does it do that? There are two main ways – firstly because we don’t want to disappoint our Friend, Saviour, Lord and King or impede our fellowship with Him who has given us everything we have that is of any value; secondly, we have an understanding that persistent willful sin has severe consequences – not because God wants to be mean, but because He is true to His holiness.

Forgiveness and the Fear of God

The relationship between forgiveness and the fear of God is easy to see in experience. Let us take the example of a person who criticises the government. In her opinion, the government doesn’t do as they ought and so she makes it her objective to point out their faults. Whether or not her assertions are correct, God does not invite us to harbour a critical spirit or to judge outside of the jurisdiction God has given us.

One day, in reading the Scripture, the Lord directs her to 1 Peter 2:17 which says: Honour all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

The Holy Spirit convicts her that she hasn’t honoured “all people” or the “king” and his government. Conviction from the Holy Spirit is something that is often very deep, but is always meant for our good. She looks again: “Fear God” and asks the question, “Have I shown God and His ordained government appropriate honour and respect?” She makes the right decision and repents of her disrespect, criticism and of being judgemental. In this first part of the story, fear of God has brought her to a place of forgiveness.

In this newfound forgiveness, the woman one day reads Matthew 7:1 which says, Judge not, that you be not judged!

Again, the Holy Spirit is at hand to guide her. The forgiveness that she received enables her to realise that had God not shown her grace and forgiveness which empowered her to change her old ways, she would have been awaiting judgement for her judgemental attitude and her critical ways. Her forgiveness, then has opened a way for increased fear and awe of God.

A Beautiful Interdependence

Each of these concepts interplaying helps us to position obedience in our hearts and minds. Obedience doesn’t need to be a scary idea all on its own, but encourages and is encouraged by Love, Fear of God and Forgiveness.

Here is how we could show the relationships between each of these concepts:

Faith Response

Lord Jesus, as I continue to learn obedience and how it is interconnected with love, fear of God and forgiveness, please help me to put aside all my fleshly fears. I recognise my need to trust You in this process as I lay down my will and become thoroughly obedient to Your will. In Your name I pray. Amen

- Peter Lindop


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Positions Everyone!

Derek Prince talks about the specific measure of faith God gives us. He says:

He [God] has ordained you to serve a specific function as a specific member of the body of Christ. The faith He has given you is designed for your position in the body. If God wants you to be a hand, He will give you “hand” faith”. If He wants you to be an ear, He will give you “ear” faith. If He wants you to be a toe He will give you “toe” faith. But if you are a toe and you are trying to be nose, there willbe a complete imbalance between what you are trying to do and the faith that you have. The reason is not that you do not have enough faith, but that you are trying to use your faith for something for which it was not meant to be used. It was given for the specific job and place you have in the body of believers.

My hand does a wonderful job as a hand. It opens my bible, turning the pages. It does most everything I ask of it. But should I try to do those jobs with my foot, I would be in trouble. If you are always struggling for faith, you are probably trying to do the wrong job. You are a hand trying to be a foot, or a foot trying to be a hand. This is God’s way of guiding you into your place.

The reason for the enquiry was that this man is disabled in some way, is unable to attend church and struggles to see how he can be an effective part of Christ’s body, the church. He said that he finds this situation painful.

It set me thinking again about gifts, callings and positions within the church. Derek has much teaching on this subject because he believed it was imperative that all Christians rise up and take our positions if we are to see the Kingdom of God come in all its glory.

One of my favourite quotes from the booklet The Harvest Just Ahead goes like this:

I believe without a doubt that God knew all along about the population explosion. And I believe He has a purpose for it. Let me suggest it to you this way: if the programme of Joel is carried out, if the Church is purged of its duplicity and immaturity, if the Church is filled afresh with the Holy Spirit, experiencing divine unction and power, if the Church is gathered out of its little corners and sects and from behind its little barriers and becomes one again in Jesus Christ, such a Church could go forth into the world today in the power of the Holy Spirit. And going forth in power, the Church could see more souls saved in the world in a few years than have been saved in all the years from the time of Jesus until today.

Reading this always excites me. It gives me a glimpse of what God wants to do with his church. First there is a purging of the dross (duplicity or double-mindedness and immaturity) and then a fresh move of the Holy Spirit bringing divine anointing and power followed by true unity within the body.

The word unction always reminds me of the beautiful hymn, The King of Love My Shepherd Is, which contains the phrase “thy unction grace bestoweth”. For me, this is a beautiful picture of the Lord pouring out His grace upon us to prepare us for the position to which He has called us.

Most of us will have thought about positions within the body of Christ in the context of able-bodied Christians, but what of those who are not so able whether it be through disability, infirmity, old age or similar? I believe this is a challenging question for both those who are physically strong and those who are not – let’s always remember that God has no second-class children.

As I prayed on how to respond to the e-mail, the Lord reminded me that when we talk about the body, we almost invariably talk about the more noticeable parts. We need to remember that there are extremely important parts that are not nearly as noticeable. Consider bones for a moment. We think of a foot or a hand and perhaps we will think of the muscles which enable it to move. Do we remember that if the hand were muscles and skin it would be basically useless without the bones to give it form and strength or the joints and tendons which keep it moving in the right way?

The abilities that each part of the body has is made up of both natural giftings and abilities and also, and more importantly, spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 lists nine such gifts with which we are all familiar: To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

Commenting on this passage in Rules of Engagement :

All these gifts are “manifestations.” The Holy Spirit Himself is invisible, but through these gifts He manifests Himself. He impacts our senses in ways that we can see or hear or feel.

All of them are “for the profit of all.” Through them Christians can minister to one another. The gifts all serve some practical purpose. They are tools, not toys.

All these gifts are supernatural. They are not the product of natural ability or special education. An illiterate person may receive a word of wisdom or of knowledge. Similarly, the gift of “faith” goes beyond the faith that we all need for salvation. It is also distinct from the fruit of faith, which comes by a process of natural growth. It is a supernatural faith that goes beyond our natural ability and produces supernatural results.

We need to trust that God has the perfect position for each one of us and that He longs to see us live and move in that place for His glory. When we consider a dancer or artist or musician who does what they love and loves what they do, we see someone who is fulfilled. Sometimes we see people who are completely in the wrong position and the result is misery.

As we find our place in the body, the Lord equips us with unction and power and bestows on us the gifts of His Spirit that we need for that position. Have you ever tried using the wrong tool for the job? It is possible to use a spanner for a hammer just as it is possible to use a stapler to turn up a hem, but the wrong tool for the job is never God’s plan. He positions us and empowers us according to His perfect plan that we might function effectively within the body.

After finishing a job with a plumber friend, he was cleaning his tools and said to me, “If you look after your tools, they will look after you.” It got me thinking not only of the practical application, but also of the spiritual application. The practical application is clear – you have invested a lot of money in buying good tools to be able to work most effectively and efficiently; as a result, you are able to earn a living to look after your family and yourself. Neglect your tools and they will be dull for the jobs and it will be harder work to get the task done.

From a spiritual perspective, we need to use the spiritual tools that the Lord gives us according to His purpose and will, and they will help us to be effective in building the Kingdom. If we neglect those tools, or use them for jobs that they are not made for, they too will be dull and the job won’t be as easy or as well done.

What about those who are disabled then? Do they have a place? Of course they do! Perhaps it is in encouragement or intercession or exhortation or a host of other things, but if God calls, He has a place and a position and will anoint us and empower us to do what He has purposed – all for His glory!

Prayer Response:

Father, please help us to see myself as you see me – with a specific calling for which You will give me Your anointing and power. May we also see others from your perspective, that every member of Your body has a place and a purpose regardless of their natural strength or abilities.

Purge us, anoint and empower us and bring us into complete unity as we grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ. Amen

- Peter Lindop


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A Glorious Church

Don’t you love the way God uses a multi-pronged approach when teaching us His ways? Many times, I have been amazed at the way that I will hear the same truth from different people as well as in what I read in the Bible and elsewhere. This helps to get my attention and cement the new truth in my heart.

Our walk with God is a pilgrimage, a journey. Proverbs 4:18 says,

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. NIV

Commenting on this verse, Derek Prince says:

The righteousness of the Bible is a path. And we enter into that path through an encounter with the Son of Righteousness, the Lord Jesus Christ. And when He shines into our lives, that’s like the first gleam of dawn. It’s the beginning of light.

And then, as we move on in that path, the words are beautiful: “The light shines ever brighter till the full light of day.”

If you are walking in the path of righteousness, today’s light is brighter than yesterday’s and tomorrow will be brighter than today’s. So do not settle down and say, “I’ve arrived,” because that’s a mistake, that’s a deception. The path of righteousness leads us always on until we come into the full light of the noonday sun and to the full and final revelation of God in eternity.

As we continue to progress in our walk, God gives us new revelation which challenges us and makes us more like Jesus. In my own walk, I have recently been challenged concerning my thinking regarding End Times.

We live in a world which so often focusses on the negative. The Media is driven almost exclusively by what is bad and many people find it depressing and hopeless. Thankfully, as Christians we have a brighter hope of an eternity in the presence of God.

How many of us, though, live with a resignation that things are going to get worse and worse until eventually, Jesus will come back and sort out the problems? We know that ultimately only Christ’s rulership can solve the world’s issues – there is no politician or leader who can do that. Only Christ’s authority can deal with this world’s brokenness. But, let us not forget that Jesus has vested that authority in us, His church.

In Rediscovering God’s Church, Derek teaches us from Psalm 110 –

The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! (Psalm 110:1-2)

I believe that all three Persons of the Godhead are represented in the first two verses of Psalm 110. In the first verse, we read that God the Father says to Jesus the Son, “Sit at My right hand.” Then, in the second verse, we see that God the Holy Spirit stretches forth the sceptre of Christ’s authority from Zion, the assembly of His people, and says, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies!” Sometimes, we are so conscious of the enemies that we forget that Christ is already ruling. His enemies have not all been subdued under His feet yet, but He is ruling supreme in the midst of His enemies – right now, through us! The Holy Spirit extend the sceptre of Christ’s authority over the nations, kings, and rulers of this earth. And He does this out of the assembly of God’s people who are met in divine order through prayer, the ministry of the Word, and the gifts of the Spirit.

We need God’s grace to shift from the back foot of defensiveness against the enemy to the front foot of extending Christ’s authority in a world which so desperately needs Him.

One of the influences that has helped me shift my thinking on this is reading the manuscript of a new book of Derek’s teaching which is being released later this year called Living a Salt and Light: God’s Call to Transform Your World. The content is taken from a “re-discovered” series of messages given at a conference in 1968 but the teaching is as fresh and up-to-date as if it was given today.

The book is focused on the concept that by exercising Christ’s authority in the world, we are not just “salt and light”, but we are “the salt and the light” – if we do not do the job, then it will not get done. If we do not do the job, then Christ will not return.

The Lord has greatly challenged me through this new book to be more proactive in prayer and intercession, teaching and preaching, seeking to be active in the gifts of the Spirit as well as proclamation and spiritual warfare. Each one of God’s people has a role to play. Each person will have greater emphasis in certain areas according to their giftings and that too can change through the years and the seasons.

Getting back to Rediscovering God’s Church, the last chapter is one of great victory – The Glorious Church. The end of time will not be an anti-climax for the church, it will be a timewhen the church has within it, “the manifest, visible, tangible, personal presence of almighty God.” Derek says in that final chapter:

A church that is permeated with the presence of God attracts people. When people sense it, they will say, “What is here? I’ve never felt anything like this. It’s different. What do these people have that I don’t?”

That is the glory of God, and it is awesome. When the glory of God was revealed to Israel, the people bowed with their faces to the ground:

When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshipped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “He is good; His love endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3 NIV)

God’s presence was so powerful that no one could remain standing. This is the kind of church for which Jesus is coming.

Christ …loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word… (Ephesians 5:25-26)

Jesus redeemed the church by His blood so that He might sanctify it by the pure water of His Word. The blood and the water of the Word are both needed to make the church ready for the coming of the Lord. I always honour the blood of Jesus. His blood paid the redemptive price by which we are bought back out of the hand of the devil. Then, after we have been redeemed by the blood, it is the purpose of God that we should be sanctified and cleansed by the washing of the water by the Word. His purpose is clear:

…that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (verse 27)

Therefore, here are three signs that identify the church that Jesus will come for:

1. It is to be glorious.

2. It is to be marked by the manifest presence of God in its midst.

3. It is to be spotless, holy, and without blemish.

From the Scriptures, Derek paints for us a beautiful and glorious picture of the church. Let us avail  ourselves of the water and the blood that we might be ready for the return of our Lord.

Prayer Response

Lord, we thank-you that you have called us to be part of Your solution in this world. Help us to prepare ourselves for the return of Christ by exercising the authority which you have given us. Help us individually and corporately always to be on the front foot, extending Christ’s authority in the areas you have called us to work. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


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Building A Kingdom

What do you do? It’s a question that gets asked frequently when we meet someone new. The answers will vary, but usually, it will be something along the lines of what work you do or that you are retired or a housewife etc. In one sense there is no wrong answer to the question, but sometimes our perspective needs broadening.

Having recently returned from a trip to Israel, one of the things that I found remarkable is how much development has taken place since I was last there three years ago. It led me to thinking that what many Israelis seem to understand is that they are building a nation. I went on a very nice railway which I didn’t even know existed, roads and hi-ways are in the process of construction and the nation is taking shape.

What am I doing? What are you doing? Are you a teacher, mum or executive, or do we rather see ourselves as building a nation or even more exciting, a Kingdom?

A Common Hindrance

Many people are in the process of building, but it is a personal kingdom. When I say a personal kingdom, I’m not just talking about a rich businessman who seeks to get wealthier but rather anyone who has their own interests above those of King Jesus. I have seen this in different places, but perhaps none more clearly than in the church in Africa.

It may be that the hardship of a poor life makes the ground fertile for this deception, but I have seen numerous pastors who lord it over their flock. They receive an income from their people and they like to keep them subdued on a supposedly lower level. There is a spirit of control that hinders pastors from releasing their people to their calling and full potential.

It seems to me that there is also a fear that the people who are under these pastors may flourish and grow and the pastors themselves wouldn’t be seen in as good a light.

I don’t believe that this fear is well founded providing the pastor is genuinely seeking first the Kingdom. Having meditated on this at length, I have come to the conclusion that the end time harvest is currently hobbled by people in authority not releasing those under them to their God-given place.

No Competition in the Kingdom

Consider it this way – Pastor Jake has a congregation of one hundred people. Their tithes pay his salary and the upkeep of the church, He preaches each week, does some visits, evangelises if he has time. Jake doesn’t encourage people to seek and grow in their callings because that may cause competition for leadership and decision-making. The congregation seems static, but in truth it is stagnant.

In a contrasting scenario, Pastor James has a congregation of one hundred people. His heart is to see people released into their calling. He looks after his flock, encourages them to read the Word for themselves and to cultivate their listening to the Holy Spirit. Pastor James isn’t called to be an evangelist, but trains those who are and they see a growth in numbers. He is not threatened by others with a gift for teaching or pastoring but builds them up. In a year or two the church has grown sufficiently to plant another fellowship.

We each have our own calling. Psalm 139:16 says, “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Those words were not written concerning someone else, but concerning me and concerning you – each of us as individuals.

In Ephesians 2:10, Paul writes, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God prepared good works for each one of us to do. You cannot do mine and I cannot do yours. It eradicates competition because although our callings may be similar, they are not the same.

Changing Our Perspective

When we stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ, do you think we will be commended more for keeping people under us or for releasing them? The way I like to think about it myself is this: if I work in the service of the Lord all my life, let’s say I receive a reward with a rating of 10. What about if I dedicate myself not only to the service of the Lord, but to the service of others – helping them to recognise and grow into their callings? Does it not make sense that God would additionally reward me for the work that those people go on to do? If you think about it like that, then the more we give, the more reward we get. If we seek to withhold the releasing and equipping of others to be and do what God has ordained, then we thwart the purposes of God.

Hear what Derek Prince has to say along these lines concerning apostles:

What about apostles? Let’s look at two Scriptures about apostles which is just illustrating this principle. Ephesians 2:20: And you are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets . . .

Where are the apostles and prophets? In the foundation. Where’s the foundation, the top or the bottom? The bottom.

And what about Revelation 21:14, it says:

The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them were the names of the twelve apostles of the land.

See, I know a brother who grew up in what’s called the Apostolic Church of Britain where the great emphasis has been on apostles and prophets. It’s a Pentecostal movement, it has its good points. It’s been extremely legalistic. And there’s been extreme emphasis on the apostle and the prophet in each local assembly. This brother, who is now a well-known minister of the word, as a young man revolted against this. The legalism and the imposition of authority, and the self-aggrandizement of the ministry. He turned his back on it all but he said to me and to some of us brothers two or three years ago, “My attitude changed when I learned this: That apostles are not someone at the top holding you down. They’re people at the bottom holding you up.”

The greater you are, the lower down you go. That’s the principle. It’s not getting to the top, it’s getting to the bottom.

The last Scripture, Romans 15:1.

We then that are strong ought to [rule the weak, is that right?] bear the infirmities of the weak . . .

More and more I see this is the test of strength. It’s how much can you bear of the weak? This is, I think, a beautiful example. With this I promise to close. The principle of discipleship. God showed it to me in a mental vision in the branches of the vine. He said, “The longer you’ve been grafted into the vine, the more important it is not that you bear grapes but that you bear branches.” Your strength is not in the number of grapes that you bear, it’s in the number of branches you can bear. And anybody that’s been a Christian 10 or 15 years should have branches growing out of him. And the fruit that he bears then is not the fruit that’s at the end of his branch but it’s the fruit at the end of the branches that he’s bearing as a branch.

In other words, strength is bearing. The more you can hold up, the stronger you are. It’s not keeping people down, it’s holding people up.

Seeking First the Kingdom

In conversation with a man who has recently earned his PhD in Theology, he said he was going to work in a secular job to earn money so that he could bring his family over from Africa. Then he would begin to build his ministry. I don’t think that any job needs to a considered “secular” if we are doing God’s will, but the impression I was given was that he was putting God aside for a while and then when he had things in order he would resume what he wanted to do for God.

It left me thinking that this supposedly learned man had missed a key Scripture: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” If he was primarily focussed on seeking God’s Kingdom, then he could be confident that God would provide every need including reconciling his family to be with him.

That is just an example, but in truth this is something that we all face from time to time – what are we doing with our lives? Are we doing our own thing or are we building a Kingdom?

The Coming Kingdom

Secrets of a Prayer Warrior

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When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, whether we recognise it or not, we are praying for the Kingdom of God to come on earth as it is in heaven. The familiarity of the words sometimes makes them pass our lips unnoticed and we fail to absorb their tremendous significance. But how does the Kingdom come?

Derek Prince addresses this in Secrets of a Prayer Warrior:

The first way that the Kingdom comes is inwardly. Jesus told the Pharisees of His day that the Kingdom does not come by watching and waiting for it externally. He said that the Kingdom of God is within you or in your midst (see Luke 17:21).

There is no kingdom without a king. When any king comes in, he brings his kingdom with him. Every true believer who makes Jesus King of his life, therefore, can have an individual experience of the Kingdom. That means displacing “self” from the throne of one’s heart and placing Jesus on that throne. Anyone who does that finds that the Kingdom of God sets in with righteousness, peace and joy.

But I believe there is also a corporate expression of the Kingdom. It is in the true community of believers, which is called the Church. This is the fellowship of those who have made Jesus King in their own hearts and lives and relate to one another on that basis.

It is the responsibility of the Church in any place to model the Kingdom of God, that by our attitudes and our relationships and the way we live we challenge the world with a glimpse of the Kingdom. People should be able to look at the Church and say, “So that’s what the Kingdom of God is like.” They should see in her righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. I tell you that where the Church demonstrates these things, the hearts of men and women are nearly always open to the truth of the Gospel. If the world does not see the Kingdom in the Church, it will probably not believe our message.

If there is one place that the Kingdom should be demonstrated first and foremost, it is in the believer’s family. And if there is one place that Satan is attacking today, it is the family. The family was designed by God to represent the Kingdom, and Satan wants to blur, obscure and eliminate the message of the Kingdom. He is afraid of the Kingdom because wherever the Kingdom is established, his power has come to an end.

The King Comes

The glorious reality, is that this is not just a theoretical kingdom or something that is beyond our reach. In the words of a well-known song, “Soon and very soon we are going to see the King”

The Kingdom can come invisibly—both in the individual hearts of believers and in the corporate fellowship of the true Church. But that is not the ultimate. The ultimate is the visible establishment of God’s Kingdom. And just as the invisible Kingdom requires a King, so does the visible Kingdom. Only when the King Himself has returned visibly and in Person can the true Kingdom of God be established on earth. Personally, I have to say I feel it presumptuous for the Church to suggest that we can do the job and finish it off without Jesus. The Bible says that we should be eagerly longing for His appearing.

A friend of mine who is a preacher has a rather droll way of expressing himself. He said that when Jesus returns, the Church should do something more than say, “Nice to have You back!” Believe me, friend, things are going to happen on earth between now and then that will make us desperately anxious to see Him back. God is going to arrange that.

That is the primary purpose of God—the establishment of His Kingdom on earth visibly with a visible King ruling over it. Everything that God does is directed toward that. Until we make that our priority, we are not really aligned with the will and purpose of God. That is why Jesus told us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come. We are required to align ourselves with His purpose.

Prayer is not a way for us to get God to do what we want. A lot of Christians think it is. It may work out that way, but that is not its purpose. Prayer is a way for us to become instruments for God to do what He wants. When we become aligned with God’s purpose, we are going to pray prayers that are irresistible. There will be no power, human or satanic, that will be able to resist the outworking of our prayer.

An Apt Response

When confronted with truth, we always need to make an appropriate response. If we haven’t yet invited Jesus into our hearts as King, then that is the first step. We could pray something like this:

Lord Jesus, I recognise my need for a Saviour – someone to save me from myself, sin and the Devil. Thank-you for dying on the cross in my place and making a way for me to be reconciled to God. I turn from my sin and ask that you would forgive me all my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. In Your name I pray. Amen

Once we have the assurance that Jesus is King in our lives, we can pray further:
Heavenly Father, thank you for Your Son Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords (Rev 19:16). I pray that the eyes of my heart would be enlightened in order that I may know the hope to which You have called me, the riches of Your glorious inheritance in Your holy people, and Your incomparably great power for us who believe. (Eph 1:18)

Help me to be Kingdom-focused in what I think, believe, say and do. Lord I pray that you would use me in the establishment of Your Kingdom and that by Your grace I would be an instrument for Your glory. I pray as Jesus taught us to pray, that Your Kingdom would come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus’ name. Amen

- Peter Lindop


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Amplification

A Life of Progress

When we are saved through our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, we begin a journey of becoming increasingly like Him. Just as a baby grows and matures as it feeds and exercises, so spiritual infants also grow as they feed on the Word of God and exercise their faith. Being “born from above” embarks us on a life not just of adding  (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31), but of multiplication (2 Peter 1:2).

Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus saves “to the uttermost those who come to God through Him”. As someone once put it so beautifully, “Jesus saves us from the guttermost to the uttermost!” It’s a pilgrimage that takes a lifetime.

Maturing Characters

As our children grow, we expect more of them not just physically, but in terms of character too. Parents are called to teach their children in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6) and this includes dealing with unacceptable character traits. If they are selfish, we aim to teach them to share. If they are disrespectful, we teach them respect and so the list goes on.

What we all too often overlook is why we do this honing of their young personalities. A few years ago, one of my sons took it upon themselves to discipline their younger sister. I found myself telling him that you never hit girls and then thinking to myself I said – I know that’s right, but why is it so important? As I asked the question, the Lord dropped this answer into my heart, “Because he will grow up”. As so often happens with me, the Lord doesn’t give me the full, obvious answer, but leads me on a journey of discovery. As I meditated on it, I realised that the importance of boys never hitting girls is that when they grow up and their strength is increased they can wield a fist at a woman and do serious harm – with plenty of evidence in society to back it up. We need to learn appropriate behaviour in our youth and our weakness so that when we are bigger and stronger we use our strength for good.

If we don’t have the long-term view in our sights, we don’t see what small habits or sins can become.

Amplification

As in the story of my son, each of us is growing up in the Lord and our Father is teaching us many valuable lessons. In the normal course of events, increasing age, skills and experience affords promotion in the workplace, church and other arenas. This can be likened to amplification of sound.

Old recordings on cassette tape or vinyl record will often have “pops”, ”whistles” and “hisses” in the background. When you turn up the volume, you don’t just get louder music, but also louder “pops”, ”whistles” and “hisses” so that while it may enable more people to hear the music, it doesn’t improve the quality. With modern technology, it is possible to record the music into a computer and to clean it up to remove the unwanted noises, but that still doesn’t improve the music.

God wishes to exalt us and in that sense to amplify us – be it in any area of our lives – so that our increasing influence can be used for His glory. But, if He amplifies us in our “just saved” state, there are going to be lots of “pops”, ”whistles” and “hisses” which also get amplified.

Take for example a young man who gets saved in college and decides to change career path to go into full time ministry. As with many young men, he has been exposed to pornography which he works very diligently to avoid in his new Christian walk but he never completely gains victory. If he is exalted too quickly, before God has dealt with this issue of pornography in him, then the potential is that when he is senior pastor or perhaps has influence at regional or national level, that this weakness for sexual temptation gets the better of him. Owing to his raised position, the negative effect which happens as a result of a man like that falling from grace is equally increased – the media will be onto him like a hound trailing blood and those under his authority may be left like a flock without a shepherd.

As another example, let’s consider a person with a sharp tongue and a critical eye. When used in the playground, it may gain influence and some respect, but if this sin remains undealt with, then the potential for ill grows with that person’s influence. Imagine for a moment that this Christian becomes a high-ranking government official. Again there is potential for Satan to use this character trait to his advantage and bring the person and the church into ill-repute with one misplaced remark.

Trump Cards

A story I have mentioned before but which bears repeating in this context, is of a pastor whose ministry was flourishing, but one of his children became very sick. The doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong and so didn’t know what treatment to follow.

The pastor was at his wit’s end and spend some hours on his face lying prostrate before the Lord. After a long time, the Lord spoke to him and said, “You’ve never dealt with martial arts”. In an instant he remembered that before becoming a Christian he had been involved in martial arts and while he had stopped doing it, he had never repented and renounced his involvement. And so, when he was prospering in ministry, the devil played his trump card which God wouldn’t stop.

Are there any trump cards that the devil holds in his hand concerning our lives?

Instilling Good

Getting rid of these footholds of the devil is very important, but there is another side as well and that is to replace them with good things. Consider the singer who went off key once again – if we had a recording of the concert and we removed the part that was not in tune, it would leave a void. We need to also add those things that are good.

Scripture is full of good things that we should be doing and right attitudes that we should cultivate. 2 Peter 1:5-7 gives us some wonderful counsel: “giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” Here Peter is reminding us that we need to be diligent to “add” different good things so that ultimately we reach the goal of love.

Amplifying the good things in our lives is what God delights to do.

Two Examples of Amplification

An Old Testament Example

The familiar story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50) helps us to understand this principle better. As a young man, the Lord gave Joseph dreams of greatness which he shared with his family. Resultantly, his brothers sold him as a slave where Joseph went through some very difficult times in Potiphar’s house and then later ended up in prison through false accusation.

God used this time of hardship to mould Joseph’s character so that when he was exalted, his character didn’t buckle under the weight of his calling.

After all that happened in the story, we read in chapter 50 what transpired following Jacob’s death. The brothers were fearful that Joseph would now take revenge since his father was deceased. We pick up the story at verse 18:

Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?  But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Joseph harboured no bitterness in his heart because God had dealt with those issue through his suffering.

A New Testament Example

The writer to the Hebrews tells of how God was pleased to perfect Jesus through suffering:

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  Hebrews 2:10

This is one of the many statements in the Bible which encourages us that the result of suffering for righteousness is glory. It was true of Jesus and it is also true for each of us.

The world tells us that the way up is through ambition and self-promotion, but God’s ways are different. We have seen, though, that if we are not adequately cleansed and prepared, that our faults and sins are also magnified with our increasing sphere of influence.

In the instance of making upward progression, at first-glance, God’s ways may seem counter-intuitive. Jesus tells us on more than one occasion that it is humility is what leads to exaltation (Matt 23:12; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14).

In his wonderful message on this subject entitled The Way Up is Down, Derek Prince teaches us from Philippians 2:5-11 where we are encouraged to have the same attitude as Christ. He took seven steps down to death and then there is a turning point with a “therefore” and we learn the seven upward results of Jesus’ humility:

“Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place,” number one.

Number two, gave Him the name that is above every name. The King James says “a name” but the correct translation is  “the name.” There’s only one name that’s above every name. And that’s the name of Jesus.

The third aspect, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow. And then four, five and six are the different areas of the universe in which knees will bow.

Fourth, in heaven.

Fifth, on earth.

Sixth, under the earth.
The three great areas of the universe are all going to acknowledge the exaltation of Jesus by bowing their knees.

And seventhly, finally, every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God theFather. Seven steps down and seven steps up. But He could not take the steps up until He’d taken the steps down. I invite you to meditate on that “therefore”. Therefore, God gave Him the highest place in the universe.

Getting Cleaned Up

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder why things happen to me which seem unreasonable or unduly hard. Can I believe that God has allowed it for my good? That He has orchestrated the circumstances so that He can deal with some insufficiency or sin in my life? Perhaps you too have found yourself wondering how long a certain situation can go on without seeing a break-through.

Is it possible that we haven’t learned the lessons from the current situation so the Lord won’t permit us to proceed until we have dealt with a problem, learned a skill or used a gift or Scripture at our disposal? So often we ardently want to progress in the things of God and use our gifts and abilities for His Kingdom, but our characters have not been refined appropriately and so God, in His mercy, withholds our progression.

James understood this when he wrote as follows:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

It is this process of testing, perseverance and maturing that prepares us to reign with Jesus. Paul reminds of this “faithful saying” – “If we endure, we will reign with Him.” (2 Timothy 2:12)

For A Purpose

It is so important that we have an eternal perspective on these things otherwise we may not have the strength to continue. Returning to the illustration of a child being moulded through love and discipline, it stands to reason that just as we want our children to be godly when they grow up, so our Father also wants us to be like Jesus as we mature.

When we put to death our fleshly nature and we allow Jesus to shine through us, then we bring glory to God. We become testimony to the fact that God’s grace is sufficient and that when the cross does its ever-deepening work in us, we become increasingly like Jesus.

Hebrews 12 speaks in some depth about the purpose of discipline in our lives and tells us that discipline is a sign of God’s love (v6) and an indication that we are God’s children (v7,8).  Furthermore it tells us that God chastens us for our profit and so that we may be partakers in His holiness (v10). Ultimately, God’s purpose is to produce through us fruit (a harvest NIV) of righteousness.

When we look back from eternity, our sufferings will seem as light affliction (2 Corinthians 4:17). God puts us through testing every moment (see Job 7:18) to help us to grow and to ensure that He can trust us. Adam and Eve were perfect in the Garden of Eden, but their perfection was untested. God tests us so that by His grace, we can come forth as gold (Job 23:10).

Prayer Response

Do your current challenges make more sense in the light of God’s working in your life? Can you see that His desire to amplify you brings with it the need to deal with negative aspects of your character foster the positive elements so that that the increase is good.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that Your love for me demands discipline and purification. Thank-you that you will exalt me in due time as I humble myself before You and allow You to cleanse me of all impurity. If there are any “trump cards” that the devil holds over me, please do what you must to reveal those so that I can repent, renounce and be free.

I commit myself to You, Lord, and ask You to help me to endure every moment of testing with the understanding that it is working for me a greater weight of glory (see 2 Corinthians 4:17). For Christ’s sake. Amen.

- Peter Lindop

 


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A Great Chasm Divides

Are you ever amazed at just how many contrasts there are in the Bible? Could we be missing the obvious because the opposites presented are so frequently stated – God wants us either hot or cold, we are either wheat or tares, we are either part of the bride or the harlot, we form either the harvest of the righteous or the harvest of the wicked and so the list goes on.

No Neutrality

In his radio programmes entitled “No Neutrality”, Derek Prince speaks about the problems that occur when we are not wise to the clear distinction between good and evil, the Kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness:

Compromise has become one main characteristic of our contemporary culture. Most issues today are put to the test of expediency rather than of morality or justice. I think this is true in our personal lives, it’s true in business affairs, it’s true I think in legal issues and I think it’s true with the course of government as a whole. If a thing generates money, practically no other endorsement for it is needed. There really are no longer any absolutes. Nothing is black and nothing is white. Nothing is really good, nothing is really evil. We only have various shades of grey. Worst of all, in many areas, the church has the same attitude as the world.

Flagrant evils abound all around us. Abortion takes the lives of millions of innocent little children every year. Famine stalks the earth; an estimated 10 million people die every year of malnutrition and famine—and most of them small children. Pornography defiles our nation. It is carried in the various media of the nation; it’s become a billion dollar industry and yet, in the midst of all this, masses of professing Christians show little or no concern. They sit as comfortably on the fence as they do on their church pews.

However, let me tell you something: when the Holy Spirit comes, He changes all this. That’s why many people are afraid of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit penetrates a church, He electrifies that fence on which they’re all sitting and people just have to jump off on one side or another but there’s no more room for neutrality.

You see, Jesus Himself left no room for neutrality. He was totally uncompromising. His ministry brought into focus two opposing kingdoms: the Kingdom of light and a kingdom of darkness. Between these two there is no neutrality, no peace, and no compromise. Ultimately, each of us must align ourselves with one or the other of these two kingdoms: the Kingdom of light or the kingdom of darkness.

Time For Decision

From one perspective, life is a series of decisions. From choosing whether to get up when we awake, to what time we go to bed and what we do or think or say at almost every moment in between. We choose what we will eat, what we will wear, where we will go and what words to use in a variety of contexts. We also are faced with making “big” decisions like our careers and whom to marry.

But when we come to know Jesus, die to ourselves and take up the new life that He offers us through His Spirit, our decision-making approach undergoes a paradigm shift. It is not all about “I”, but about “Him”. It is not a question of what will bring us glory, but what will glorify Jesus. It is not about following the rational thinking of our carnal nature, but the direction of the Holy Spirit. It is not about law, it is about grace. It is no longer about slavery but about sonship. It is not so much a question of pursuing a career as much as finding out what God created us to do. Perhaps we can even believe that it is not about whom we want to marry, but about preparing ourselves in such a way that enables God to bring the right person at the right time if He chooses to – just like He did with Adam and Eve.

Each decision is significant and has the potential to either build us up or break us down. One of the best ways to empower our decisions of today is to look at the results of tomorrow.

Making the Right Choices

The Bible has many reminders for us to consider the future and so compel us to make the best choices today. Look, for instance, at Hebrews 10:23-25:

 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Verse 23 talks about holding unswervingly to the hope that we profess. The first thing to notice is that we have to do something – we have to hold unswervingly. Also, there is a requirement that we profess this hope about our future – we are not permitted to remain silent about it.

You may have heard people say that they have the attitude to “Live and let live”. By this they mean that they want to live as they choose and allow others to do the same. In reality, though, it is a fallacy. If the person is an unbeliever, then ultimately their destination is not life but death so in the first place, they are not living but dying.

If the person is a believer, they cannot remain silent about their hope and expect to live – that doesn’t meet God’s requirements. Scripture tells us that if we deny Him, He will deny us before the Father. This truth about professing our faith and our hope is further confirmed in Revelation 12:11 where John writes, “They overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony and did not love their lives to the death.”

The compelling reason to keep holding on is the truth that “He who promised is faithful.” If we don’t have full confidence that God will fulfil His Word in its entirety and bring us into eternal life, then as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:9,  “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 reveals how this living hope transforms our actions. It commends us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Note that the writer to the Hebrews shows us that this new life is not an ego-centric life, but an other-centred life. Furthermore, he tells us that this life of encouragement should increase as we see the Day approaching.

One Choice Two Destinies

Each person has an option as to whether they will trust Jesus as their Saviour and Lord or not and this decision and the resultant unfolding revelation that comes through the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit will go on to determine the choices we make through life. It is what we do that is the outworking of our faith. It is not our works that save us, but works are the evidence of faith.

In Luke 16:19-31 we read the familiar story of Lazarus and the Rich Man:

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

If we consider the future elements of this passage, there are numerous things to note:

1. The decisions made while living on earth affected the destination at death. Lazarus was laid at the rich man’s gate, but the rich man chose to do nothing about him. Lazarus endured and was later comforted.

2. There is no curtain blocking the view from Hades to Abraham’s side. The rich man could see Abraham and Lazarus in the distance.

3. There was recognition of character after death. The rich man knew who Abraham and Lazarus were and was able to communicate with Abraham.

4. There was no way to change each one’s destination because a great chasm divided “Abraham’s side” from “Hades”.

5. Abraham’s side was a place of comfort. Hades was a place of torment.

6. Jesus reveals that those who do not listen to Moses and the Prophets will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead which He then went on to do. The story is talking about Lazarus rising from the dead, but there is a prophetic illustration of Jesus’ resurrection which would be rejected by those who did not truly heed Moses and the Prophets.

Much of what is taught in churches today is about the love of God. It is a wonderful, compelling message but needs to be balanced by a healthy fear of God. These two aspects complement each other beautifully and help to keep us from straying into error.

Where Wisdom Begins

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Some years ago, I taught a group of Christians on the fear of the Lord and there was an outcry at the end. The older, more mature Christians were quiet because they could see it all came from the Bible but they didn’t know what to make of it. The younger Christians were indignant. It is something we hear very little about and yet it is a truth that has tremendous blessing attached – who wouldn’t want that?

In his book, Where Wisdom Begins, Derek Prince says,

The Bible has a good deal to say about the fear of the Lord. But great numbers of Christians misunderstand the concept. Of all the themes of Scripture, the fear of the Lord contains some of the most outstanding promises of God’s favour and blessing. In fact, I know of no other theme of Scripture that has more blessings to offer than the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 33:6 ends with eight little words: “The fear of the Lord is His treasure.” The fear of the Lord is not something to be afraid of or to despise. Rather it is God’s treasure that He is sharing with His people.

When we have a healthy, reverent fear of the Lord, it keeps us on an even keel through life and helps us to keep on the narrow Way that leads to life. If the rich man had feared God, he would have been looking to help those in need and received reward as a result. Instead he sought his own prosperity and was excluded from “Abraham’s side”.

Making the Right Choices

Oftentimes, Christians are well-intentioned, but they fail to make good judgements as to what is good and edifying, and what is spiritually corrosive. This may come in many forms, but two particular areas are in alternative forms of healing and medicine and alternative exercises. There are many books on the market which cover these in details, but just to mention a few: homeopathy, reiki, acupuncture, martial arts and yoga.

Some time ago, we received a letter in the office from a Christian who was confused when they had learned that reiki was no good for Christians. She said that she thought it was good because it was just like laying on of hands. As I looked for a way to explain the difference, the Lord showed me that it was the spirit, and thus the power behind it, that was different – the laying on of hands is something initiated by the Holy Spirit for different reasons, but including healing. The Spirit prompts a believer to lay hands on another person and it is Jesus’ power, released through His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection that brings forth the healing. Reiki, on the other hand, is not Holy Spirit-led and its power is not from Jesus which leaves us with no other conclusion than that it is from Satan.

A friend related a story to me the other day of his previous pastor who was doing very well in the things of God and then his child became sick to the point of death. The doctors could find nothing wrong that they could treat and so the pastor spent a few hours on his face before God crying out for mercy. After a long time, God said to him, “you have never dealt with your involvement in martial arts.” Now the pastor didn’t do martial arts any longer, but the Devil still had the trump card which he could play in the season of success. When he had repented of this past sin, his daughter recovered fully.

Let us be sure to discern the spirits behind the activities which we are involved in and let us clear out the basements, closets and attics of our hearts and minds to ensure that there is nothing lurking there that the Devil can take advantage of when it suits him.

Prayer Response

Heavenly Father, I thank you that you have called me to in the Kingdom of light. Please would you electrify the fence in every area where I have compromised and impassion my heart with the matters close to Your heart.

Please give me increasing appreciation of the hope that I have in Jesus and give me the courage and the words to profess that hope before men. Open my ears to hear the promptings of your Holy Spirit so that I will make good decisions that edify me and make me more like Jesus each day.

With so many subtle delusions of the enemy, I recognise my need for discernment and grace. Please bring conviction in every area that needs repentance and make my heart a fit place for King Jesus to live. I see clearly that there is a great chasm that will divide between the righteous and the wicked and I declare my dependence on your grace to lead me in the way everlasting.

In His name I pray. Amen

– Peter Lindop


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Upside Down

Imagine you are walking in the mountains and you get to a sign which points down to the valley with the word “summit” marked on it – what would you make of it?

How about if you were in an airport looking for the rooftop viewing area and the sign directing you there took an escalator to the basement?

The Bible contains many such paradoxes – to truly live we must die; we are like grass on the rooftops or a vapour in the wind and yet our heavenly Father cares so tenderly for us.

As we travel on our journey through life, there are often times when things don’t make sense as we are going through them, they seem somehow upside down, but God reminds us in Isaiah 55:8 that, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways.” Sometimes God’s ways seem unintuitive, but as we are led by the Holy Spirit, we know in our hearts that they are right. Following His leading and direction requires faith, and the wisdom of the Way sometimes only becomes apparent in retrospect.

In Matthew 23:12, Jesus says something that seems paradoxical and unintuitive:

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Derek Prince used this verse as the basis for a teaching called The Way Up is Down. In it, he explains that just as there are physical laws of nature, that there are also spiritual laws. Like gravity which doesn’t cease for any man, spiritual laws are always in operation throughout the universe – in the spiritual and the physical realm. One such law is that when we exalt ourselves, we are subject to humiliation, but when we humble ourselves, God will exalt us in due time.

Lucifer Grasped

On the negative side, we have the prime example of Lucifer (light bringer) in Isaiah 14:13-15. Here God is charging him with his sin:

You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.

Derek Prince explains:

There is the most perfect contrast in this respect between Lucifer, who became Satan, and Jesus, who was and is by nature the Son of God, God Himself. Satan reached up, slipped and fell. Jesus stooped down and was lifted up. If you can focus your mind on those two beings, you’ll see the most perfect illustration of this truth. But the truth applies in every area of every life in every time and situation. Let me say it again. The way up is down.

Jesus Stopped

There were two notable occasions where Jesus humbled Himself on our behalf. The first is in the creation. Now, God’s response to this rebellion was something that only God would have thought of, as I see it. And I’m giving you some of my insights or intuitions or opinions, whatever you want to call them. Notice the root problem was pride. And I believe God saw that once and for all this issue of pride had got to be dealt with in such a way that when it was finished, that problem would never occur again. And so God decided to make a new kind of creature: his name, Adam [or man]. And as I understand Scripture, this creature was made in a way that no other creature was made. Of all the other creatures it says “God spoke” and it was done. With the word of His mouth and His Spirit He created the heavens and their host, all that was in them. But this one was different and I’m going to read just one verse in Genesis chapter 2 verse 7. This is one of my favourite verses.

Genesis 2:7:

And the LORD God formed man . . .

And in Hebrew it’s a proper name, Adam. And Adam is directly related to the Hebrew word for “earth” which is adama. It’s also related to the Hebrew word for “red” which is adon and it’s also related to the Hebrew word for “blood” which is dam. So that word immediately evokes a whole context of associations.

And the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being. (NIV)

I prefer the version “a living soul.”

So how do we picture this happening? I’ll tell you what I believe. I believe it happened the way it’s recorded. I believe that the second person of the Godhead, the one, in a sense, who had been the focus of the rebellion, came down to earth, stooped down, took some dust, mingled it with water, formed clay and moulded the greatest piece of pottery or sculpture that the universe has ever seen. A perfect body. Beautiful, but lifeless. And then, this eternal being, God in person, stooped still lower down, put His divine lips against the lips of clay and breathed into that body of clay the spirit of life. And the inbreathed Spirit turned that clay figure into a living, human personality.

Seven Steps Down

The second occasion where Jesus humbled Himself on our behalf is concisely and eloquently contained in Philippians 2:5-11

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The passage opens with the encouragement that we should have the same mind as Christ Jesus or, as the NASB says, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form as God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.”

There He’s in direct opposition to Satan who did consider equality with God something to be grasped, reached up, grasped for it, slipped and fell … irretrievably.

Then we have the seven steps downward:

1. Jesus made Himself of no reputation. He laid aside all the attributes of divinity.

2. Jesus took the form of a bondservant. He took the form of a servant. He who was the Lord became the servant. However, there are various kinds of servants in the universe. He could have become equal with the angels and been a servant. The Scripture says in Hebrews “He was made a little lower than the angels.”

3. Jesus came in the likeness of a man. He became a man, not an angel.

4. Jesus took on the appearance of a man. He could have taken on what I would call “the Adamic perfection.” He could have appeared as Adam appeared in majesty and beauty and glory before the fall. But He didn’t appear like that. Because when He walked the streets of His hometown, Nazareth, there was nothing special externally to distinguish Him from all the other people of the town.

5. Jesus humbled Himself. Not merely was He a man of His time but He was a humble man of His time. He was not a prince, He was not a wealthy man, He was not a political leader, He was not a military commander. He had none of those aspects or functions which impress people in the natural.

6. Jesus became obedient to death. Not merely lived as a man but died as a man.

7. Jesus died on a cross. The ultimate of humiliation, shame, rejection and agony.

So those are the seven great steps down to the lowest place of all, the place of the criminal, the reject. Rejected by men and even rejected by God the Father on our account.

The Pivot

Now, in verse 9, look at the first word. What is it? Therefore. You see, this is the outworking of a divine law. This is not an accident. Jesus was not exalted because He was God’s Son. He was exalted because He earned it. You see that? There are two therefore’s in this passage. I’ll show you another one in a moment. See, even Jesus was subject to this law. There is no one in the universe who is not subject to this law. Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Seven Steps Up

Now let’s look at the exaltation which also has seven aspects to it.

1. Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place

2. God gave Him the name that is above every name. The King James says “a name” but the correct translation is “the name.” There’s only one name that’s above every name. And that’s the name of Jesus.

3. At the name of Jesus, every knee should bow.

And then four, five and six are the different areas of the universe in which knees will bow.

4. In heaven.

5. On earth.

6. Under the earth.

The three great areas of the universe are all going to acknowledge the exaltation of Jesus by bowing their knees.

7. Finally, every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Seven steps down and seven steps up. But He could not take the steps up until He’d taken the steps down. I invite you to meditate on that therefore. Therefore, God gave Him the highest place in the universe. For many years I thought it was all worked out in advance. Jesus was just going to do certain things and then God would automatically exalt Him. But I saw that it wasn’t so. Jesus had to meet the conditions to be exalted. And if He had to meet them, believe me, you and I have to meet them, too.

Application

Now, if you have a translation similar to mine, the 12th verse, which is the application to our lives, begins with what word? Therefore. You notice the second therefore? Therefore, it’s going to work for you and me. That’s what it says. It worked in Jesus, it’s got to work in us. The same attitude that was in Jesus has to be in us.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed— . . .

Humility leads to obedience. And pride leads to disobedience. Pride was the source of rebellion in Satan.. . . not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

So the working out of our salvation with fear and trembling is the working out of this principle. That we have to humble ourselves to be exalted.

The opportunities to learn this lesson seem ever-present. In the opening examples, looking back from the summit, it is easy to see that going down into the valley was the only way to get to the top via a passable route; going down the escalator revealed a lift to the rooftop.

When we look at our circumstances, it is sometimes difficult to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading since we sometimes think that we can see the end from the beginning. Even if we catch a glimpse of the finish line, only the Lord knows what truly lies between here and there.

Prayer Response

Heavenly Father, thank-you for Jesus and the perfect example He is for us. Help us to make the continual decision to humble ourselves before You and not to choose our own way. Quicken us by your Holy Spirit to surrender our wills to Yours, confident that our surrender will ultimately result in our exaltation – by You and in Your time. Amen

– Peter Lindop


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Spiritual Senses Part 5 – Touch

Thus far we have looked at the four senses of sight, taste, smell and hearing. In this article we will consider touch which differs from all the others because it is a “two-way” sense. By that I mean that each of the previous four senses detects things coming inward, but when we touch, it can both help us to detect things that are touching us and enable us to touch others.

Feeling Our Way

Like all of our senses, touch has positive and negative aspects. We all know what it is to feel good and what it is to experience pain. Up until now, we have looked at senses from a spiritual and a physical perspective but these senses also exist within the realm of our souls too.

As humans made in the image of a triune God, we are made up of three parts: spirit, soul and body. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Paul writes, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Let’s consider touch, as an example, from each of these perspectives – physical touch is easy to comprehend: the smoothness of silk or the roughness of a pineapple’s skin; in the realm of the soul, consider being touched by a story or a poem compared with being falsely accused; spiritually we are either touched by God or by the power behind the occult, the Devil.

Senses are given to help us feel our way through life at different levels and sometimes we wish their input wasn’t so strong.

The Part of Experience

There are countless ways in which we can get distorted views of touch. In our sex-charged societies many people are grasping at an illusion of intimacy through extra-marital sex. Along that line, I have come back numerous times to a quote by Derek Prince which goes as follows: Any people who allow themselves to have sexual relationships without first making a covenant commitment are really prostituting their personalities.  This goes deeper than terms of sexual morality.  I believe in actual fact that person is desecrating the most precious thing that he or she has: their personality.  They are exposing their entire personality to someone who is not willing to pay the price that God requires.

Of course, not all experiences are negative – there are a great many positive experiences too, but an important thing to recognise is that past experience plays a significant part in how we think about touch.

Healing Touch

If those previous experiences of touch are still so influential in our lives, it seems obvious that we need to seek God’s intervention and healing for every past negative encounter. In the following fairly long excerpt from Derek Prince’s booklet, The Divine Exchange, he helps us to recognise the problems and the glorious solution to shame, a key issue for those who have suffered themselves or abused others in this area of touch:

The exchange at the Cross covers also the emotional forms of suffering that follow from man’s iniquity. Here again, Jesus endured the evil that we in turn might enjoy the good. Two of the most cruel wounds brought upon us by our iniquity are shame and rejection. Both these came upon Jesus on the Cross. Shame can vary in intensity from acute embarrassment to a cringing sense of unworthiness that cuts a person off from meaningful fellowship either with God or with man. One of the commonest causes – becoming more and more prevalent in our contemporary society – is some form of sexual abuse or molestation in childhood. Often this leaves scars that can only be healed by the grace of God.

Speaking of Jesus on the cross, the writer of Hebrews says that He “endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Hebrews 12:2).

Execution on a cross was the most shameful of all forms of death, reserved for the lowest class of criminal. The person to be executed was stripped of all his clothing and exposed naked to the gaze of passers-by, who jeered and mocked. This was the degree of shame which Jesus endured as He hung on the cross (Matthew 27:35-44).

In place of the shame which Jesus bore, God’s purpose is to bring those who trust in Him to share His eternal glory. In Hebrews 2:10 the writer says: For it was fitting for Him [God] … in bringing many sons to glory, to make the author of their salvation [that is, Jesus] perfect through sufferings.

Aspects of Touch

Touch has a very important and far-reaching place in each of our lives. There are many different angles that we can look at it from – all of which can teach us something of the spiritual realm.

Touch As Defilement

Under the Old Covenant, there were many laws given about touching unclean things that would bring defilement. One side of this is highlighted in Leviticus 5:2-3:

‘If a person touches any unclean thing, whether it is the carcass of an unclean beast, or the carcass of unclean livestock, or the carcass of unclean creeping things, and he is unaware of it, he also shall be unclean and guilty. Or if he touches human uncleanness—whatever uncleanness with which a man may be defiled, and he is unaware of it—when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty.’

On the other side, we have the fact that when someone who was “unclean” touched something, then that object would become defiled. Numbers 19:22 says, “Whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean; and the person who touches it shall be unclean until evening.”

When we minister to or have contact with people who are still in, or those recently rescued from the occult, we need to be aware of this matter of defilement. Let’s remember to continually pray for cleansing of ourselves, our families, our homes, our land, our churches, our offices etc. from every occult influence.

Touch As Anointing

In his message entitled Transmitting God’s Power which deals with the laying on of hands, Derek Prince says the following: The function of laying on of hands in commissioning people is used to recognise but not appoint, the persons of God’s choice. It is used to set apart a person to a certain task or ministry. It is used to endorse a person with authority. And it is used to equip a person with all the spiritual authority or gifts that person will need.

We have examples of this in both the Old Testament and the New. In the Old Testament, we remember the stories when Jacob (Israel) blesses Joseph’s sons (Genesis 48) and when Moses anoints Joshua (See numbers 27:18-20 and Deuteronomy 34:9).

The New Testament records for us that Paul said to Timothy: Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of hands of the eldership. 1 Timothy 4:14

Touch As Strengthening and Encouragement

There are a number of passages where the Lord or His angels touch His servants to give them strength and encouragement. Here are some examples.

In Jeremiah 1:8-9, we read “Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord. Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.”

Daniel experience this sort of touch more than once: “Now, as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me, and stood me upright.” (Daniel 8:18) and then again in chapter 10, “Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands.”v10 …”And suddenly, one having the likeness of the sons of men touched my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke, saying to him who stood before me, “My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength.”” v16 … “Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me.”

Following the Father’s audible endorsement of Jesus, Matthew records in chapter 17 verses 6 and 7: And when the disciples [Peter, James and John] heard it [the Father’s voice], they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.”

John experienced this sort of strengthening again in Revelation 1:17 where it reads: And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.” Although we may not all experience these “open” visions of heavenly beings, we all need the Lord’s touch to strengthen and encourage us. This leads us to a related yet distinct purpose of touch…

Touch For Healing and Grace

Too numerous to list are the times in the Bible where touch is used for healing and to impart grace. Jesus goes before us where He touches the infirm and even the dead and brings wholeness and life. Sometimes we think of a healing touch as putting a hand on a shoulder and praying, but Jesus shows us a different way – He put His fingers in ears, spat and touched a mute tongue, reached out in compassion and touched the leper, spat on blind eyes and Mark tells us that “And as many as touched Him were made well.”

I’m not advocating a new ministry programmes for “spitting healing” and such like, but just like Jesus we do need to be following the Father’s lead in every situation.

The other side of Touch for Healing and Grace is that because of the creative and healing power flowing from Jesus, Luke tells us that, “the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.” (Luke 6:19). There is also the beautiful story of the children being brought to Jesus “that He might touch them” because the parents recognised that His touch conveyed blessing and grace.

When we consider ourselves, what are our views on healing? Do we seek healing primarily from God or the doctors? Health care professionals offer a wonderful service to society, but we must remember to keep our eyes on the Lord and let Him choose whether He heals us directly or through doctors. For a warning in this regard, read the story of King Asa in 2 Chronicles 16:12. When we do seek God, do we limit Him in the methods we will accept or do we cry out for mercy no matter how the Lord chooses to send it? Are we like the multitude who press in to Jesus to touch Him, or do we watch Him from afar? When we press in, let us remember that the number one reason that we should be pressing in is not just for a gift of healing or provision, but because it satisfies our deep need for relationship.

Touch As Relationship

This aspect is perhaps one of the most obvious, but possibly also the hardest to do well. Different relationships require varying measures of touch to remain appropriate and when cultures collide, there is sometimes awkwardness when a genial handshake from your culture is met with a kiss on the lips from another culture – and that between men!

Lydia Prince once remarked that when she read John’s writings, she felt as if she were reading a love letter. John refers to himself as “the one Jesus loved” and he tells us that he leaned on Jesus’ chest at the Last supper. He describes Jesus in the beginning of his first letter as: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life”

When we love someone, we can demonstrate our feelings through physical affection. I love it when my children bowl me over when I come in the door after being away from home. They love to curl up on my lap as I read to them. It is wonderful to be able to hug a dear friend or family member whom you haven’t seen recently and often the memory of a parting touch lingers long in our memories.

Husbands and wives have a deeply special privilege of touch through sexual intimacy to the exclusion of all others, but if the relationship is not healthy, touch is diminished and both parties suffer. A lack of touch, not just amongst couples, but throughout society is known to cause separation, loneliness and even pre-mature death.

Owing to its power, we need to be careful whom and how we touch because it has tremendous ability to beautify but also to devastate relationships.

Touch As Sanctification

The expression to sanctify means to make holy. The writer to the Hebrews says that we should “pursue… holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

We know that under the Old Covenant, the Israelites were made holy through the sacrifices which covered over their sins. In the New Covenant, Jesus, the Lamb of God was slain to wash away our sins.

In the book of Isaiah, he relates a story where God brought conviction that he was “a man of unclean lips”, but God also provided a remedy:

“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:

“Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” Isaiah 6:5-7

Personally, I have experienced a similar thing in the presence of the Lord and He is taking a “spiritual audit” when He puts His finger on a certain issue and says, “It’s time to deal with this now”. The remedy is always the same, the cross of Jesus, and as I repent and ask for forgiveness, His blood washes away the sin.

Hebrews 9:12-14 juxtaposes the two covenants beautifully: “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

Touch As Ministry and Service

As with most good things, there is a potential that we expect them for ourselves, but fail to give them to others. In his booklet Orphans, Widows, the Poor and Oppressed, Derek Prince says: “The key to happiness is not being loved, it is having someone to love – that’s what makes life exciting!” We shouldn’t just hope that others will touch us in ministry and service, but be the first to do it to others.

In many cases, loneliness can be removed from us by finding people to serve and to love. If anyone had the right to be separated and superior, it was Jesus and yet He chose to minister and serve people and as He did so, He touched them at every level. It is not always easy to be warm with people whom you are serving if you don’t ever touch them. Having said that, if you still need healing in the area of touch, then it is better not to touch than to do so insincerely or inappropriately.

Touch As Discernment

In 1 John 1:1 which we looked at earlier, part of John’s evidence for the truth that Jesus was who He claimed to be is “That which…our hands have handled”. I don’t know if you have ever considered buying something, perhaps seeing it being demonstrated at a show, on TV or on the internet. You think that you have found what you are looking for, but before you are content to pay the money, you want to touch it, feel it, handle it.

When a doctor does an examination, he shouldn’t just look at you and ask questions, he examines by touching so that he can discern a lump, a swelling, a break and so forth. Touch is a form of testing and discernment that helps us to make better informed decisions.

Touch As Evidence

When a parent says that they love their child, but they seldom touch them, the actions don’t fit the words. When a mother rubs her baby’s back to help break a wind or a father holds their child’s hand as they cross a road, their touch is evidence of their love and care. When words and actions don’t correlate, we lack integrity because we aren’t the same all the way through.

Following Jesus’ resurrection, John relates how Jesus used touch as evidence for Thomas: And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” John 20:24-27

Touch can be powerful evidence which backs up what we are saying. Touch as evidence is a safety net that helps us to test our beliefs. It also helps others to test us to determine the genuineness of our faith.

Prayer Response

Loving Father, thank-you that you have touched my life and brought me into relationship with You through Jesus’ death and the power of Your Holy Spirit. Please forgive me if I have ever touched anyone inappropriately (knowingly or unknowingly) and enable me to be sensitive to others.

Help me to give and receive touch in my body, soul and spirit to Your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen

– Peter Lindop


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Spiritual Senses Part 4 – Hearing

Category : Spiritual Foods

Have you heard anything remarkable recently?

There are so many wonderful things to hear – a symphony, a crackling fire, cracking ice, a friend’s voice, Christian’s worshipping the Lord in word or song, running water, crashing waves, a baby’s cooing, birdsong and wind in the trees amongst so many.  But there is something infinitely more beautiful and precious than any natural sound – the sound of the Lord’s voice.

Some argue that the Lord ceased to speak to His people after the first apostles died, but to me that defies logic, the Scriptures and personal experience. All through the Scriptures, God speaks to people from the beginning to the end. The New Testament opens a new phase of speaking to us – not just for the select few but for all who would listen; not only through the Scriptures but also through the Holy Spirit.

Faith Comes By Hearing

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe  that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” If faith is a prerequisite to pleasing God, then how do we get faith? We learn the answer in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”

Hearing is the link between faith and the Word of God. We can have the word of God before us, we can even hear it being read, but if we don’t hear it with our hearts and not just our ears, it will never produce true faith.  If it never produces faith, then it is impossible to please God. Hearing is the key.

How Can We Listen Well?

Once we appreciate the need to hear, an obvious progression is to ask how we can listen well. King Solomon helps us in Proverbs 4:20-22 where he writes:

My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.

These verses both give us the directions and the resultant blessings. They speak of a teachable heart where we store up God’s Word as Psalm 119:11 says, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.”

Having a humble heart which is teachable is tremendously important as a Christian. Sadly, it is often the new Christians who have the soft hearts and as people grow older in the faith, they lose their soft heart – possibly due to pride or injury. When we stop learning from the Word and being changed into Christ’s likeness, we stagnate and need to be restored.

The Word of God – Scriptures

Not just reading, but hearing the Word of God is vital. Paying attention and applying it in our hearts, we find life and health. Provided we read it with the illumination of the Author, I don’t think that it is possible to pay too much attention to God’s Word for it is living, powerful and discerning; it produces the new man, provides spiritual nourishment, increases mental illumination and effects physical healing; it enables victory over sin and Satan, cleanses us and acts as a mirror to show us our true selves. Derek Prince used to say that our attitude to the Bible is our attitude to God Himself.

The Living Word

In addition to the Bible, we have the living Word – the Lord Jesus. We read in John’s Gospel those familiar verses, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… And the Wordbecame flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father fullof grace and truth” John 1:1, 14.

Then again 1 John 1:1 Jesus is called the “Word of life. And finally in Revelation 19:3, John shares the revelation of Jesus, that through eternity “His name is called the Word of God.” When we talk about “hearing by the Word of God”, we need to be thinking both of the Scriptures and the Lord Jesus. An excellent test that you are hearing the Lord correctly is to test it against Scripture – He will never contradict Himself.

In his gospel, John records a beautiful discourse by Jesus as He reveals Himself as the Shepherd and His flock (that’s us) in chapter 10. Three times, Jesus speaks of the relationship where the Shepherd speaks and the sheep listen. “The sheep hear his voice; and He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” v3 “…they know His voice.” v4 “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me.” v27

There are many appropriate responses when we encounter Jesus, and one of them is shown emphatically in the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. Matthew 17:5-6, “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.”

Derek used a phrase which seems appropriate just at this point: I want to say to you with all the emphasis at my command…hearing Jesus’ voice by His Holy Spirit is vital!

Blurred Line

We know that Jesus is the Word of God but it is impossible to draw a line to say that only Jesus (out of the Godhead) speaks to us. In John 14:23, Jesus said: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word; and My Father will love Him and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

This verse firstly tells us that keeping God’s Word (the result of hearing) is a sign of our love for God. When we do so Jesus gives three amazing promises: 1. The Father will love us; 2. God (plural) will come to us; and 3. They will make Their home with us.

The first question to ask is how does this happen? Looking back a few verses, John has given us the answer in versus 15-19.

If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

Jesus says here too that there are two conditions: loving Him and keeping His commands. He then goes on to promise that if we do that, He will pray to the Father who will send the Holy Spirit who will live in us. But then He says, “I will come to you.”

I think that it is important to see that God (pl) lives in us and regularly speaks to us – our part is to hear Him.

In Conversation

When we speak of hearing from God, it is from a relational perspective. If we read the Bible as an abstract book, then we won’t get much out of it, but if we read it as God’s message of love and redemption it will be full of relevance.

Considering hearing from an earthly perspective is easy. Think of a spouse, a close friend or a parent – someone you have a good relationship with. To talk to them without listening and hearing what they are saying wouldn’t help to maintain a good relationship. The same is true in our relationship with the Lord. When we pray, that is one side of the conversation. When we listen, that is the other side. If we pray but never listen to the response, how does that leave the relationship?

If our prayers are a list of requests, then the situation is exacerbated. Imagine having an arrangement with a friend where you go to their house for five minutes a day and read a list of your problems and your wants and then leave! But that is exactly how many people come to God – let’s remember to think about it from His perspective too.

I’m sure you know people with whom you struggle to get a word in edgeways. Does God feel that way about some of us? Ecclesiastes 5:2 offers us some advice: “Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.”

You can see the point – when we pray, “Lord, what shall I do in this situation?” He really does have an answer which He would love to share with us if we will just hear Him.

If you’re still thinking about whether God wants to be part of the relationship and the conversation, consider these three quotes taken from Derek’s series: Strength through Knowing God –

Basically, you talk about power, people’s ears open.  You talk about healing and they’ll come almost endlessly.  You can talk about other dramatic aspects of Christian ministry and people are ready to listen.  But I hear very, very little that’s really being taught about God Himself.  I want to suggest to you that anything that is not rooted in God is going to be swept away by the floods of evil.

God’s primary desire is not to bring us into a covenant or into a law or into a promised land.  But it’s to bring us to Himself.  That’s His deepest longing and His firmest purpose.  And I want to suggest to you that it’s the only place of safety in the contemporary world, it’s to have that deep, intimate, personal relationship with the Lord  Himself.

I want to emphasize that if you bypassed God, you’ve missed it all.  If you’re just interested in doctrine or church structure or even missions, but you’re not wrapped up in God, you’re missing it.  God will bless you, He’ll help you, He’ll do what He can for you.  But I believe if you could hear what’s going on in heaven, you’d hear a deep sob in the heart of God, “They want everything I have to offer, but they’re not interested in Me.”

You can see that it is very important to your relationship with the Lord that you not only pray, but also listen and hear what He wants to say to you. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can be led by the Lord. This is something that we grow in as Christians and there are no short cuts, but it is worth every sacrifice that you may have to make.

The Way to Maturity

Romans 8:14 was one of the Scriptures that Derek Prince loved to help people to understand. In this quote he is talking about Deliverance from this Present Age as part of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross:

If you’re going to be led by the Holy Spirit, you have to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. You have to cultivate a relationship with Him. Let’s look at just two Scriptures which speak about this. Romans 8:14:

For as many as are regularly led by the Spirit of God… [I put in the “regularly” because that’s the continuing present tense.] …As many as are regularly led by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God.

The Greek word is a mature son, not a little baby but a mature son. When you are born again of the Holy Spirit, you’re a little spiritual infant. To grow from infancy to maturity there’s only one pathway, being led by the Holy Spirit. As many as are regularly led by the Holy Spirit, they are mature sons of God. So, if you want to be a mature son of God, what do you have to do? Tell me. Be led by the Holy Spirit. There is no other way. It’s a limiting clause. As many as and only as many as.

Cultivating A Listening Heart

It is not possible to truly mature in the Lord until we learn to hear His voice and to obey what we hear. The reality is that many Christians I speak to have never heard the Lord speaking to their spirit so it begs the question: how do we cultivate a listening heart?

I think that one basic requirement is we have an expectation that the Lord will speak to us. That is the first measure of faith that we need. There is a verse in Jeremiah that some people like to refer to as God’s phone number – it is Jeremiah 33:3 and it says: “Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” If that isn’t an invitation, then I don’t know what is!

That verse also shows us another important aspect which we have already seen – a teachable heart. Not only should we have an expectation that God will speak to us, but that He will show us things that we don’t know.

The next is to cultivate a space for the Lord to speak into. This is both a space in our hearts and a space in our time. What I mean by that is that if we over think things and we keep going to our minds for solutions, we won’t have space in our hearts for what the Lord wants to say. Similarly, if we don’t make the time to be quiet and listen to the Lord when there aren’t any interruptions, then we will struggle to learn the sound of His voice.

When we set aside time for the Lord, we indicate that He has priority in our lives and that we have a genuine desire to hear from Him. It follows that trying to have a conversation with someone who is obsessed with their mobile phone (as an example) is difficult, so why would God choose to have a conversation with us when we are otherwise engaged?

The Response

Once we have heard from the Lord, we need to respond appropriately. Jesus is our Brother and our Friend, but He is also the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords so we should come before Him with appropriate humility.

If the Lord speaks words of affirmation, then we can thank Him; words of revelation or prophecy call forth our praise and our worship; words of correction need to be met with a contrite heart and repentance. Whatever it is, we need to appreciate that God speaks to us because He loves us and wants to develop relationship with us.

Prayer Response

Father please help us to make the time and the space to begin to hear you speak to us. Create in us an expectation that you love to speak to us and direct us in every aspect of life. Help us to come with teachable hearts and to be obedient to what we hear. In Jesus’ name. Amen

– Peter Lindop


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Spiritual Senses Part 3 – Smell

What do you love the smell of? Fresh bread, lemon zest, percolating coffee, or a bouquet of flowers? Whatever it is, smell is tremendously evocative. It triggers memories, influences emotions and tests contamination – it allures and it repels.

Our sense of smell is one of the ways that we encounter our world, but unlike other senses, we have less choice with smell. If you don’t like the sight of something? Close your eyes. Too loud? Block your ears. Can’t abide the taste of yeast extract? Don’t eat it. Dislike slimy textures? Avoid them. It is arguable that if you don’t like the smell of something, you can go somewhere else, but it isn’t always that simple. You’re unlikely to move house when you can smell a dead mouse rotting under the floorboards. Or perhaps God has prompted you to speak to the homeless man on the street to share the good news of His Kingdom – will the bad odour deter you?

Two Side to the Story

On one hand, we smell things. As volatile (easily evaporated) molecules come on the air into our nostrils, receptors in the top of our nasal passages detect different odours. According to biologists, humans can detect more than 10,000 different smells through specialised hair-like neurons.

On the other hand, we give off a distinctive scent too. Each of us has an odour-type which is as unique as our fingerprints.

As we consider smell and all its components, we need to be mindful of both sides – the “smeller” and the smell.

Let’s briefly compare Good Smells and Bad Smells:

Good smell bad smell

Signals Which Require A Response

If we stop to think about it, there is basically never a time when we don’t smell anything. Let’s remember, though, that the smell itself is not the issue – it indicates the presence of something else whether good or bad. There may be a beautiful smell of roses in a room but remove the roses and the pervading smell dissipates.

It is easy to appreciate that smells give us signals from a distance – inviting, warning, attracting and repelling, but how should we respond?

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 says:
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

These verses show our approach as Christians and then juxtaposes two responses and two results. The approach is that God leads us in triumph in Christ and in so doing, diffuses the fragrance of the knowledge of Him in every place. Every place? Yes, everywhere we go as Christians, we are diffusing this beautiful fragrance of Christ.

The two responses are determined by whether people are being saved or are perishing. And the results of those responses lead either to life or to death.

Derek and Ruth Prince once had a wonderful experience of enjoying a divine fragrance here on earth. Ruth had been battling pain which the Lord revealed had come from lying spirits. They prayed for release and then this is how Ruth described it:

I rose to my feet and went to the kitchen for a glass of water. Suddenly Derek called to me, “Come quickly!” When I returned to the bedroom, I gasped! The whole room and adjoining bath were fragrant with the scent of roses—like an English garden. It was as if the Lord Himself was there. I fell on my face on the floor in adoration.

This is a wonderful story and one that helps us to connect the earthly to the heavenly and to appreciate the close connection of the two. Note that the response was not to the fragrance, the adoration was for the Lord. The beautiful aroma alerted Derek to the presence of the Lord.

Doing Something About It

We have to process different smells on a continual basis and it is impossible to analyse every situation, but let’s consider a couple:

Babies

Babies have a wonderful smell yet it is one that can be quickly overpowered by a dirty nappy! What do we do? Reject the baby? No, of course not – we clean them up.

The same is true of spiritual babies – they are born again, and we are encouraged by the freshness of their testimony of grace. However, they still have many areas that need to be cleaned up and often they need help. Perhaps there is a deep wound of rejection and they are unable to relate appropriately within their new church family. Some church folk find this a bit offensive, like a bad smell, but Jesus has made provision for every one of our needs through His death on the cross. This is where we must see through the fault to the need and help them to apply the finished work of the cross – we assist in cleaning them up.

Married Couples

Marriage is designed to be the closest of all human relationships – one that mirrors the relationship of Christ and His bride. Owing to the closeness of the relationship, there is little escape from the issue of odour. The closer you get to the source, the stronger the smell grows.

Where marriages aren’t arranged, undoubtedly smell is a major influencing factor in bringing a man and a woman together. If you look up the word “aroma” or “fragrance” in a concordance, most of the references in the Bible come from the beautiful, poetic book describing the relationship of a man and a woman, Christ and His bride – Song of Solomon. In this book, each scent which is described is attractive and alluring – the way it should be.

Once the relationship has been well established (on a firmer foundation than smell alone), an open relationship brings in the added dimension of discussing smells: Darling I’ve noticed your breath has been smelling recently – perhaps you need a trip to the dentist? Or, Honey, that new soap you’ve started using isn’t quite doing the job – what about going back to your usual kind?

Of course these sorts of discussions can’t happen effectively unless there is the relationship to support them, but ideally we should be doing this not only in marriages and families, but within the church family too.

The point I’m trying to make, is that if there is a bad smell – physical or spiritual – there is something to be done about it. It requires honesty, wisdom and grace both to approach someone about an issue and to receive such a comment from another. If we don’t, though, we find ourselves in a difficult situation – we’re all a bit smelly, but we’re all a bit touchy about hearing that, so we do nothing. The result is that we don’t enter into the fully fragrant life that God has made available.

A Different Perspective

Let’s take a brief look at this from God’s perspective (as far as possible). Consider that He is the parent and we are the baby/child. He is the Lover and we are His beloved.

When we believe, we are given a robe of (Christ’s) righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) and when we are baptised, we are clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27). If Jesus hadn’t made provision to cleanse the source of our bad odours, we wouldn’t have a chance. The good news is that He does, not just because it is His duty, but He likes us and He wants us. I think that sometimes we get caught somewhere in the middle where we are grateful that God has rescued us from hell, but are not really sure that He is looking forward to our company in heaven.

Deuteronomy 32:9 reminds us, “For the Lord’s portion is His people.” You and I are what God is seeking to take out of history as His own portion. And so He sets about cleaning us up and preparing us for spending the rest of eternity with Him.

A Worshipful Offering

God doesn’t only begin to clean us up in the hope of producing a neutral smelling person. Far better, He shows us the way to produce sweet-smelling aromas for His enjoyment.

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2

Here then is our example – to walk in love like our Saviour, Jesus, as an offering and a sacrifice.

The picture of the sweet-smelling aroma of Jesus is foreshadowed in the Old Testament sacrifices. Helping us to make that connection, here is how Derek Prince explains it in his book Entering the Presence of God:

When we offer our lives to God there are two figurative actions we must take: we must pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it. All through the Bible, oil is invariably a metaphor for the Holy Spirit. We cannot offer anything to God unless the Holy Spirit enables us to offer it.

Frankincense is a kind of aromatic gum that comes from trees. In its natural state, it is usually white in colour and has no particular attractive qualities. But when it is burned, it sends forth a beautiful and distinctive aroma that typifies worship. In fact, in most instances in the Bible where you find the word describing incense or scent or aroma, it refers to worship.

So, when we offer ourselves to the Lord, we have to do it by the Holy Spirit, and we have to do it with worship. But something different happens to the frankincense:

He shall bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense. And the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. (Leviticus 2:2)

There has to be a priest to make the offering. He takes a small portion of flour and the oil and casts it into the fire of the offering. But—and this is very important—he includes all of the frankincense. The worship (the frankincense) goes only to the Lord. It is a sin to offer worship, to give frankincense, to anyone but the Lord. I believe this is a lesson that many high profile Christians need to learn. In recent decades, we have seen too many distinguished, well-known figures come tumbling down in disaster and disgrace. I think one reason may be that they have sometimes permitted their followers to take a little of the frankincense and give it to the preacher.

As a preacher, I never want frankincense. Often people will approach me with flattering words, for which I am grateful, but worship goes to one person only—and that’s God. Remember, anyone whom we worship becomes our god. If we worship the preacher, we are making him our god. And that is a terrible thing to do.

Here we have a warning never to receive worship ourselves. There are three other warnings I want to leave with you.

Choosing, Using and Losing Your Sense of Smell

The first is something I have alluded to earlier in the article: Sometimes we need to choose what we smell and what we filter out. Consider the need to overcome the nauseating smell of a rubbish dump to rescue someone. I think that the converse also needs a warning: discerning what smells good from what is good. A scenario to describe this may be where a man’s wife uses a particular perfume. He has been travelling away from home and passes through the bar area of the hotel en route from the reception to his room. As he walks, that beautiful scent catches his attention but he must beware – it is the right smell, but the wrong woman.

The second warning is that we must use our spiritual discernment just as we must use our sense of smell. When we have so many smells around us, it may seem strange that there are many things that we can’t smell. A dog can reputedly smell 1000 to 10,000,000 times better than humans depending on breed – that’s a lot of things we’re not smelling! An example of this danger is Carbon Monoxide. It is tasteless and odourless, but it kills. We need spiritual discernment to find those things that are affecting us and others that don’t seem to smell, but are “the aroma of death”

The last warning is that of losing your sense of smell. This can be a temporary thing like when you have a blocked nose, but we need to be healed of nasal congestion. Again, losing your sense of smell has an element of discernment, but is more about attitude. When we become complacent about what is a good smell and what is a bad smell, then we place ourselves in danger of not responding rightly. We must be active in our discernment so that we are not deceived by losing our spiritual sense of smell.

Prayer Response

Lord, even as I read through some different smells, I can feel how they affect me – memories surface and emotions swirl.

Help me to seek that which smells good – things from You. And please strengthen me to follow Christ’s example and to offer the sacrifice of worship as a sweet-smelling aroma to You.

Father, when there is a constant bombardment of smells, both good and bad, help me to be active in my discernment. I recognise my need for help not to be deterred by things which smell bad in places where you have told me to diffuse the fragrance of the knowledge of You.

In Jesus’ name. Amen

– Peter Lindop


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Spiritual Senses Part 2 – Taste

As a child, whenever an exam or test approached for creative writing, my mother would remind me to write about what I know. As I prayed about what to write last month and the Lord directed me to the theme of Spiritual Senses, I protested saying that I didn’t know much about it. I could hear His smile as He replied, “Yes, that is why you are going to do it, so that I can teach you.” It is a good reminder to me that I am not the source of anything I write that has eternal value, just as Derek Prince wasn’t the source of what He spoke and wrote. Now, let’s begin our journey of discovery…

Internal or External?

Of all the five natural senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, the first 3 may seem to be external. I say seem, because in truth, what you see may be external, but it is only as the light passes through the eye, gets captured on the retina and passed through the optic nerve to the brain that the image is seen. Likewise, sound goes into the ear, vibrates on the ear drum, is picked up by the various apparatus and passed down the auditory nerve to the brain and we “hear”. As you think about it in this way, it is clear that touch may also seem to be external, but only as the touch is processed by the brain that we “feel”.

Taste, though, is different. In order to be able to taste something, we intentionally receive something into our mouths where we use this form of discernment to see whether it is good or bad. So, ahead of tasting, there comes a decision whether to take something in or not.

I think that this is why Job says, “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look at a young girl lustfully.” The covenant was the decision and the eyes are the gate. In a sense, if he had said, “I have made a covenant with my heart…”, then the images could have been received with the wrong motive, stored in the brain and then begun the fight – the heart wants to resist them, but the brain now has them stored. I think every man has known this war at some time.

It is a good reminder to keep the gates closed by decision and this is no less true in the area of taste.

Taste and Trust

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him.Psalm 34:8

This verse is a wonderful beginning to our discussion on taste. It brings out the important relationship between taste and trust. Taking an apple from the fruit bowl, you use your other senses to help you decide whether it is good to eat. You look at it to check for bruising, rot and mould. You may smell it and touch it to see whether it is ripe enough, or too soft and over-ripe. Before you take your first bite, your other senses have helped you assess whether it is good to eat.

When you have made the choice to eat it, you have formed a trust that when you take a bite, the taste isn’t going to be bad. It may still be disappointing if the apple is floury, but at least it isn’t bad.

David is reminding us that to taste the Lord, we need to trust Him. The more we trust Him, the more we can taste and see that He is good. At first we may be uncertain about aspects of the Lord, but as we grow in our love and knowledge of Him, we trust Him, even if He tells us to bite into a lemon! It may be sour, but what we may not yet understand is that He is protecting us from spiritual scurvy.

Taste as Discernment

As I’ve alluded to before, taste is a form of discernment. Even if our other senses told us that an apple was good to eat, if we bite into it and it has rotted from the core, we can spit it out.

I once attended a homegroup meeting for the first time. The church it was attached to was well known, so I had an element of trust – it looked good. As the evening started, there was some teaching about Miriam and Moses and prophetic song. Some of it wasn’t smelling too good at this point, but it was when we were told to hold hands and effectively conjure up prophetic song that I had to speak out. I had taken a bite, but didn’t like it. The response to my protest was, “I don’t see the problem, it’s not like we’re lifting tables…” There was no doubt – I had to spit it out.

Three times in the book of Job, the tongue or the palate is described as a discerner:

Is there injustice on my tongue? Cannot my tongue discern the unsavoury? Job 6:30

Does not the ear test words and the mouth taste it’s food? Job 12:11

For the ear tests words as the palate tastes food. Job 34:3

Our tongues have a very important task, both physically and spiritually to keep out what is bad. Something Derek Prince used to say about Bible teaching in general, is that you eat the fish and you spit out the bones. If something doesn’t taste right, you need to spit it out.

The wonderful thing about the Lord, is that He is always good for us. When we taste Him, there will be times that we are uncertain about the flavour or the texture – it’s not what we’re used to – but we know that He is always good. We can trust Him completely.

Tasting the Word

Different places in the Bible reveal God’s Word as being like milk, bread or solid food (1 Peter 2:3; John 1:1 & John 6:33, 35, 48; Hebrews 5:12-14). Psalms, Proverbs and Ezekiel tell us that it is sweet like honey (Psalm 119:103; Proverbs 24:13-14; Ezekiel 3:1-3).

Those all sound like good things, but how do we practically taste God’s Word? As we’ve already learned from the Psalmist, David, we need to trust it. If we don’t trust it, we won’t have the confidence to taste it.

Then, we need to receive it. That means that we not only accept it, but we make it part of who we are. Psalm 119:11 encourages us: “Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” When we receive God’s Word and meditate on it, it becomes part of us and part of our defence systems against sin and evil.

Commenting on the Parable of the Sower where Jesus talks about receiving the Word, Derek Prince says the following:

In each case, the seed was the same. In other words, there was no difference in the seed. The only difference was in the kind of soil into which the seed fell. And there were actually four kinds of soil: by the pathway, the rocky soil, and the soil with thorns and, finally, fourth, the good soil. Now, we are focusing on the good soil. But I pointed out that even in the good soil there were three levels of productivity: one hundred times, sixty times and thirty times. And, in commenting on His own parable in Luke 8:15, Jesus indicated the threefold response which is needed to be totally productive: first of all, to hear the Word; second, to retain it; and third, to persevere in what you’re given to do.

The apostle John tells us right in the beginning of his gospel, in the first chapter and first verse, that Jesus is the Word of God. Now it follows that one of the clear ways of Tasting the Word would be to taste Jesus. You might ask, “How that is possible?”

Feeding on Jesus

In general, we don’t eat unless we are hungry and we don’t drink unless we are thirsty. So tasting usually comes as a result of hunger or thirst.

In the gospels, we read the story of the Last Supper where “Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to His disciples and said, ‘Take and eat. This is My body’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’” Matthew 26:26-28

Communion is one key way of feeding on Jesus – through it we eat His body and we drink His blood. If we look at it from a purely physical perspective, a human begins its existence as the fusion of two “half” cells – one from each of the parents. From there on, it grows from what the mother eats and drinks. After it is born, it feeds and grows from the mother’s milk which is made from what she eats and drinks. After the child is weaned, it continues to grow from what he/she eats. This continues all through life.

Bought With Blood

To buy

It has been said that, “we are what we eat.” There is certainly some truth in this. If we eat a healthy, balanced diet, we will hopefully have healthy bodies. Too little and we get undernourished and thin. Too much and we get fat. What about feeding on Jesus? Could it be that as we feed on Him, it brings us health and nourishment? At a molecular level, the minerals that we consume as food and drink become what our bodies are made up of. What about at a spiritual level? Could it be that the more we feed on Jesus the more we become like Him?

Speaking on this in his book Bought with Blood, Derek Prince says the following:

In John 6:54–56 Jesus said:

“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”

This concept offended some of Jesus’ disciples to the point that they did not follow Him any longer. It still antagonizes people today. After all, there is something rather offensive about blood. Whenever I think of blood, my stomach begins to turn over. When I was a small boy I could not look at blood without actually vomiting. It took me years to get over that revulsion. Something in every one of us does not like the thought or spectacle of blood.

Some things that are offensive, however, are necessary. The cross is an offense, but without it there is no redemption, no hope. Our hope depends entirely on the merits of the blood of Jesus.

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53

Why? Because the life is in the blood.

For us to have life, we must feed on Jesus. We must appropriate what is in His blood.

To Taste Death or Not to Taste Death

Some wonderful news is that if we taste what is good – Jesus and His Word – we don’t need to taste what is abhorrent – Death. We know that people still “die” and will continue to do so till Jesus returns, but as Christians, our “death” is only a passing out parade. Jesus has made a way that we may be with Him in paradise.

John 8:52 says, “If anyone keeps My Word he shall never taste death.” That sounds to me like a promise too good to be passed up! Thankfully, we are not left wondering how or why this is possible.

This is the heart of the gospel of peace – Jesus has paid for our sins through His death on the cross. This is how the writer to the Hebrews explains it:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.  Hebrews 2:9

We don’t have to taste death because Jesus has done so on our behalf.

This is how Paul expresses it:

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3

Our baptism in water identifies us with Jesus’ death, burial and most wonderfully, His resurrection.

Gracious Father, my only appropriate response is to give deep, heartfelt thanks. Thank you that I can trust you completely to be good, thus I can taste more of You continually.

Make me hungry and thirsty for You. Help me to use my spiritual taste buds to discern what comes into my mouth, to feed on Jesus and on Your Word. As I do so, please make me more like Jesus.

Thank you that when I was baptized, I identified myself with Jesus’ death so that I do not have to taste death because He has done it for me.

In His precious name I pray. Amen

By Peter Lindop


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Keys to Fruitfulness

Category : Spiritual Foods

The Bible has many references to Christians being like trees or branches on a vine. Do you remember the man in Psalm 1 who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly nor stands in the way of the sinner, nor sits in the seat of the mocker? The Psalmist tells us that, “He shall be like a tree, planted by the rivers of water, which bears its fruit in its season, whose leaf shall not wither and whatever he does shall prosper.” Wouldn’t you like everything you do to prosper?

Jesus uses the parable of the vine in John 15 to show us how we need to abide in Him if we are to be fruitful. In his book, You Shall Receive Power, Derek Prince teaches us from this passage:

If, by the Holy Spirit, you are united with the resurrected Christ, through that union you will bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. The union of the regenerated spirit with the resurrected Christ by the Holy Spirit produces the fruits of righteousness. The regenerated nature does not need to strive to produce righteousness. All it has to do is be united with Christ. So this is a life of yielding, not struggling; union, not effort.

The analogy of the vine and the branches in John 15 helps us to better understand this life. Jesus said to His disciples,

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. (John 15:1)

Vines are fruit-bearing plants that need very careful pruning. If you fail to prune a vine at the right time of year, in the right way, it ceases to bring forth grapes.

Jesus was therefore saying, “I am the vine, and My Father is the one who does the pruning.” He went on to say,

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4–5)

A branch does not go through a lot of effort to bear grapes. It doesn’t make resolutions and say, “I’m going to bring forth fruit.” Instead, it is united to the trunk of the vine. The same life that is in the trunk flows through the branches in the sap, and the life in the branches brings forth the appropriate kind of fruit. Jesus said, “‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’ If you will remain related to Me, in Me, joined to Me, you’ll bring forth much fruit.”

Jesus also gave us a warning that is very important. He said we have to expect to be pruned. “Every branch that bears fruit He [the Father] prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). Some Christians have problems because they are not bearing much fruit. They struggle with situations that are the results of their bad decisions or actions. Other Christians, however, experience problems because they are bearing fruit. These problems are really spiritual pruning. If you have ever seen a vine pruned, the process is ruthless. The branches are cut right back to the stem. You would think the vine was never going to bear fruit again. But the next year it is more fruitful than ever.

Note that a beautiful picture of the three persons of the Godhead emerges in this Scripture passage about the vine and the branches. The Father is the vinedresser, Jesus is the vine, and the Holy Spirit is the sap that flows up through the vine and into the branches. This life of the Spirit is what brings forth the fruit. Not the fruit of our best efforts, and not the fruit of religion, but the fruit of the Spirit.

When the Father is pruning us, we must not give up in the midst of the process. We shouldn’t say, “Why is this happening to me? I’ve sincerely tried to serve the Lord. I’m really doing my best, and I’ve done this, this, and this.” We have borne fruit, and now we are going to be purged. During these times, we need to breathe a sigh of relief and praise God. It is a good sign.

The main point I want to emphasise is that bearing the fruit of the Spirit is not an effort. All our efforts won’t do it, just as no effort will produce one grape in a thousand years. Only union with the Vine will do it. Many people want the overcoming life of the Spirit, but they don’t realise there is no instant version. Victorious, Spirit-filled living is arrived at by God’s process.

Pruning

The parable of the vine is very helpful in understanding the spiritual pruning that we undergo in our own lives. Pruning can be painful, but it is imperative if we are to produce the highest possible yield of fruit.

At the DPM-UK property, Kingsfield, we are in the process of cutting back many of the big trees that grow here. It has led me to think more about how God cuts us back for our good. I am no arborist, but I can see how many of the principles of pruning apply spiritually.

Protection

One advantage of a pruned tree, for instance, is that it is less susceptible to damage in a wind storm because it has less branches to catch the wind. If a gale were to rip off some living branches, the tree may be vulnerable to disease, or be blown right over. Think about the root to branch ratio – A pruned tree has a relatively firmer foundation through its root system than an unpruned tree.

When we apply this to our lives, we can sometimes look back and see how God cut us back in a way that was perhaps painful, but later we saw His wisdom when we realised that had it not been for the fact that we were less exposed, we wouldn’t have survived a particular storm. This leads on to the fact that we must choose to yield to God’s pruning.

Yieldedness

Sometimes, like Abraham, we are given a choice. Genesis 22 starts like this,

“Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning …”

Abraham was tested severely, and he could have chosen not to yield. The fact that he did yield to God’s pruning and offered his son meant that many years later, God would offer His Son for our sake. We know that God provided a ram in the thicket to be sacrificed in place of Isaac, but at the point of obedience, Abraham was not to have known that.

Israel’s son, Joseph, was pruned, though for part of it, he had no choice. He had no choice in the fact that he was sold into slavery or later put into prison, but he did have a choice as to how he yielded himself to God’s pruning in Potiphar’s house and later in the king’s prison. As Joseph himself said later to his brothers in Genesis 45:8, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” Joseph had come to understand God’s sovereignty in the situation and he had yielded himself to God’s pruning.

In the previous verse, Joseph says, “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” Notice that in both Abraham’s situation and in Joseph’s situation, humbling themselves before God brought forth salvation. Can we accept that when we yield to God’s pruning in our lives that God can use it to bring salvation to others?

Shaping and Positioning

A well pruned tree is beautiful. In botanical gardens, or the gardens of some stately homes, it is possible to see trees that are over 100 years old that have a lovely shape and continue to bear lots of fruit. I have seen some amazing trees that have been espaliered to grow up against a wall which again, produce lots of fruit.

Different trees have different uses. The small woodland next to the DPM property was previously owned by a nursery who planted lots of different trees together. The trees were never sold and eventually they formed a small woodland. Amongst those trees are some cherry trees which have competed for light with the other trees and are 20-30 feet tall. Their fruit is small and bitter and way too high to be picked easily.

God chooses how to shape us and where to position us. Our part is to trust Him and to believe that He desires what is best for us. Perhaps we too are like the cherry tree competing for light with ash and beech trees – tall but not doing what we were made for.

Fruitfulness

In the quote from You Shall Receive Power, Derek reveals the primary reason why we are fruitful when we abide in Jesus – it is due to the sap of the Holy Spirit that flows through us from the Vine. It is the union that brings for the fruit.

It is very easy for Christians to do too much. There may be lots of church programmes to get involved in, people to visit or studies to do, but in another message, Derek Prince reminds us that there is no reward for un-commissioned work. What we are doing may be good in itself, but if God hasn’t commissioned us to do it, then He has no need to reward us for it.

This is an area where God’s pruning can be very useful. Consider yourself as a branch which divides and divides again. The sap of the Holy Spirit is flowing through each of those tiny branches, but the fruit that grows is small. Now consider asking God to prune you – it is painful and you have to yield. You come away with one or two branches, but when the new season comes those couple of branches yield big, beautiful, sweet fruit because the Gardener has done His work.

The Gardener Gets the Glory

Sometimes it is easy to overlook this fact, but when others look at a vineyard or enjoy the produce, they look beyond the luscious fruit to the one who brought it forth – the Gardener. When we yield to the pruning of the Father, onlookers will see the well pruned vines and look beyond the branches to the strength of the vine. But as they consider the Vine, the glory ultimately goes to the Father who has tended that Vine and made it what it is.

Are you ready to abide in the Vine in a new and fresh way, yielding to the pruning of the Gardener?

If you would like to do that, pray along with me:

Heavenly Father, we read in Your Word that we will be known by our fruit. I want to produce a bountiful harvest of fruit for Your glory. So today, I choose to yield to Your process.

I ask You to graft me into Jesus in a new and deeper way that I may abide in Him always. I choose to trust You to prune me in such a way that will bring the greatest harvest for Your glory.

Lord, by whatever means necessary, please keep me from pride – from ever accepting glory for the fruit that you produce through me. That glory belongs to You alone.

In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen


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Spiritual Senses Part 1 – Sight

Category : Spiritual Foods

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man answered, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Mark 10:51

Blind Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” and yet, when Jesus had called him near, Jesus still asked him this unexpected question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Has Jesus ever asked you this question? If He has, what did you answer? What would you answer?

It is easy to give a superficial answer to the question because you feel you know what you should say, but as the Lord is challenging me, so I want to invite you to explore this further.

The story recorded in Mark 10 is also found in Luke 18:35ff and while this was clearly a physical healing, I want to relate the principles to spiritual sight. Not many are physically blind, but all of us have some measure of spiritual blindness. 1 Corinthians 13 says, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror.” (v12)

In thinking about blindness and sight, I am also reminded of the Laodicean church from Revelation 3, quoting from verse 17, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me … salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” NIV

This is not necessarily an indictment against any of us, but I want to highlight a few things from the passage in Revelation compared with the story of Bartimaeus:

  1. The first is that the spiritual description of the church in Laodicea is similar to that of Bartimaeus. He was a blind beggar and I would imagine that “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” would describe him quite well.
  2. The second is a contrast. Bartimaeus acknowledged his need of mercy when he cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” Jesus says of the Laodiceans in the book of Revelation, “but you do not realise…” We must recognise our need to see.
  3. The third is an encouragement, and that is that there is a solution. Jesus tells us that we can buy salve from Him to put on eyes so that we can see. The need to buy the salve tells us there is a price that we must pay. Bartimaeus had to seek the Lord despite the ridicule of the crowd.
  4. Healing requires faith. Jesus tells Bartimaeus, “Go your way, your faith has made you well.” The Laodiceans are told, “be zealous and repent (NKJV)” and no one will be zealous or repent unless they have faith that their actions will result in change.
  5. Accompanying any encounter with Jesus is an offer of closer fellowship. In Bartimaeus’ story, Scripture tells us that, “immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.” The passage in Revelation 3 goes on to say, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.”

Let’s hear the question from Jesus again, “What do you want me to do for you?” Perhaps like Bartimaeus we say that we want to see, but what does it mean to see spiritually? One aspect of spiritual sight is understanding.

Understanding

A good way to get a better perspective of spiritual understanding is to look at the opposite which could be described as dullness. In Luke 18:31-34, Jesus is telling His disciples that He is going to die. Luke reveals, “But they [the disciples] understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things that were spoken.”

Another of many possible examples, occurs following the miraculous feeding of the five thousand and then the four thousand. We pick up the story in Mark 8:17:

But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened?  Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?”

They said to Him, “Twelve.”

“Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?”

And they said, “Seven.”

So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?”

I must confess that I once read this passage a number of times and ended up saying, “Lord, I don’t know how, but I do not understand.” As often happens, the Lord allows me to meditate on it for a while before revealing the answer, but one day, as I was reading John 6, my eyes were opened and I understood what God wanted me to see in Mark 8 – that Jesus is the bread of life. I had been looking at the numbers and trying to establish patterns or progressions, but what Jesus was doing, was revealing something of His character – He who is our Bread/Sustenance, our Provider and the One who “calls into being things that were not.” (Rom 4:17)

The Word and the Spirit

Appreciating the dullness part is quite easy – we see it all around us, and all too often, we see it in ourselves. So, how do we remedy the situation? Where do we go to get understanding? Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” This verse reveals something critical in our search for understanding. When you think about a mouth, what are the main two things that come out of it? Words and breath.

Derek Prince brings out this synergy between the Word and the Spirit when describing creation in Come, Creator Spirit:

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth. Psalm 33:6:

But where the English translations mostly say “breath,” the Hebrew word is ruach which, as we all know, is the word for spirit. So, it is really by the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all their host by the Spirit of his mouth. I think the word breath has a beautiful suggestion because if you or I speak and utter a word, inevitably our breath goes out with that word. We cannot speak without emitting breath. The suggestion is that whenever God speaks a word, His breath, His Spirit goes with it. So you may say there are two divine agents of creation: the Word of God and the Spirit of God. And that is an exciting thought for us, because you and I as believers in Jesus have been created anew by the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Which means that the same agents that brought the universe into being are at work in our lives. In other words, it is impossible to exhaust the power that is potentially available to us through our relationship with God in Jesus Christ. The same forces that brought the universe into being are working in the lives of each one of us.

Discernment

A key aspect of understanding is discernment – an extremely important gift for Christians today. In Gifts of the Spirit, Derek Prince explains it like this:

There is a way of seeing people that is not a vision and yet enables you to see what is important to a problem or situation – discernment is very useful.

Sometimes, it is also rather frightening and at times almost embarrassing to know what you wish you didn’t know. We have to be prepared for this.

Hebrews 5:14 contains a very important fact about discernment that is also true, in various respects, about all the gifts:

Solid food belongs to those who are of full age [mature, grown up], that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Discernment, particularly, can be cultivated. Hebrews 5:14 speaks about the necessity of exercising your senses to discern good and evil. To continue on your Christian journey always falling for every kind of trap Satan puts in your way is not to the glory of God. Neither is being unable to discern between the sincere person and the hypocrite. Many of us fail God by not exercising the discernment He has made available to us.

Spiritual Sight

Along with understanding and discernment is the very important yet arguably more subjective area of seeing in the spirit. The Bible has many examples of this throughout the Bible where people encountered angels, saw God in His glory, saw the hosts of heaven. In Acts 2 Peter, quoting from Joel 2, says, “Your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams.” It happened then and within the church there are many who claim that it happens now and many who refute it, but what are we to think? When you start reading about people seeing in the supernatural, are you still so keen to ask Jesus to be able to see?

I must state what is hopefully obvious and that is that I am talking specifically about the God-given gift rather than the occult.

The Lord challenged me in this not too long ago when I watched the testimony of a woman who grew up encountering angels all the time and going to heaven regularly. Her (Christian) parents never discouraged her in this or told her she was crazy, so she grew up embracing the supernatural realm. She is relaxed in it and talks about it like you or I would talk about a recent trip.

As I watched, I noticed a struggle going on in my heart. Part of me said, “Wow! That is wonderful, I want to experience more of that.” And the other part of that was questioning whether it was possible, or even right to seek such experiences.

As I wrestled with it, the Lord asked me a question, “You are very keen to hear My voice, but are you keen to see My face?” The question Jesus asks you about this area may be different, but for me, this was a supreme question. I began to ask some difficult questions: Paul tells us that we should desire the greater gifts like prophecy. I say I want the gift of prophecy, but do I really want to be a seer (another name for a prophet – one who sees)? The Bible has some graphic descriptions of the spiritual realm – am I prepared to see something like that? If God pulls back the veil to let me see things in the spiritual realm, do I trust Him sufficiently not to expose me to darkness I can’t handle? Am I sufficiently confident in my identity in Christ not to give in to fear if I see evil exposed? Am I sufficiently grounded in the Word for Him to trust me with that sort of revelation? Scripture tells us that what is seen (with natural eyes) is temporary, but what is unseen (except with spiritual eyes) is eternal. Am I ready to be exposed to that which is eternal?

It is an interesting, ongoing journey for me which has certainly pushed me beyond any comfort zone. You will remember the story of Jesus walking on water and Peter wanting to do the same. I think that story holds the key to our safety – keeping our eyes on Jesus. When our eyes are fixed on Him and our desire is for more of Him rather than specifically wanting “seeing” experiences, then we can trust Him to expose us or not to expose us to these things as He pleases. Ultimately, though, I believe that we should long to see Him (2 Timothy 4:8) – to be so confident of His love that we can look Him in His eyes and not be ashamed because He has redeemed us from every evil and cleansed us completely.

The Word tells us that when we see Him, we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2) – what a glorious thought!

Let us return for a moment to the story of Bartimaeus:

  1. Are we in any way wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked? Yes, surely there is always room for growth – to see more and to be clothed more lavishly with Christ.
  2. Do we recognise our need to see? I certainly acknowledge my need for more understanding and revelation.
  3. Are you prepared to pay the price for the salve? Will you devote yourself to look in the mirror of the Word by the illumination of the Spirit’s lamp?
  4. Do you have the faith required? Will you be zealous and repent of anything untoward that the Lord reveals so that He can heal and restore you?
  5. What will you do when Jesus opens your eyes? Do you have the courage to follow through with the purpose of the revelation?

If you have felt a stirring within your heart to see more of Jesus and to grow in your understanding and discernment, then join me in praying:

Heavenly Father, I want to see Jesus! May I be like Bartimaeus calling out for your mercy and as I trust in you, please heal my spiritual blindness.

Help me always to remember my first love (Rev 2:4) and never to aspire to spiritual experience outside of my experience of Jesus. Grant me Your Spirit of Understanding (Is 11:2) and help me to cultivate discernment. Keep me within Your love, I pray, and deliver me from all evil.

For Christ’s sake. Amen