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381: The Year of Sanctification

381: The Year of Sanctification

Many of us make resolutions this time of year.  It just seems natural.  Maybe we want to lose weight, get out of debt, or finish a long neglected project around the house.  But as a Christian, we want to somehow make our resolutions more spiritual.  That also seems natural.  So we often resolve something like this:

“I want to read my Bible more.”
“I want to pray more.”
“I want to share my faith more.”
“I want to love more, forgive more, worship more.”
“I want to live more like a Christian.”
“I want to know more of God and have myself conformed to the image of His Son.”

But the key to discovering the “abundant life” (John 10:10) Jesus spoke about is not in keeping resolutions, no matter how good they may be.  It’s living a life of holiness.  It’s practicing sanctification.  It’s being set apart or consecrated unto God.  After all, we belong to Him.

But sanctification never takes place unless we first understand the way God’s if / then promises work.  The promise comes after the condition.  The then follows the if.  Consider the following:

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

(condition one) Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
(condition two) and lean not on your own understanding;
(condition three) in all your ways acknowledge Him,
(promise) and He shall direct your paths.

Want to know more.  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Proverbs 3:5-6.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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The If / Then in Repentance

The If / Then in Repentance

We have previously talked about the importance of understanding our responsibility regarding the if / then passages in Scripture.  In these, the promise of God (then) is contingent upon some completed action on our part (if).  One always precedes the other.  One is always contingent upon the other.  When the if is satisfied, the promised then is realized.  But the opposite is also true.  If there is no if, there will be no then.  If no condition is met, there will be no fulfillment of the promise.  It’s Contract Law, 101.

For example, when Peter preached his powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost that ushered in the birth of the church, he closed his message with an if / then promise.  Let’s look at this in context.  First, Peter concludes his message with a statement about Jesus and their guilt in rejecting and crucifying Him.

Acts 2:36 – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified (now it’s personal), both Lord and Christ.”

Then, under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, the people cry out for an answer.  They long and seek for salvation, some deliverance from the guilt of their sin.

Acts 2:37 – Now when they heard this (the words Peter just spoke), they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Peter answers their question with an if / then promise regarding repentance and salvation.  They must do something (if) to receive salvation and the forgiveness of their sins (then).  If they fail to do what is required of them (if – repentance), then salvation does not follow (then). Watch how this plays out.

Acts 2:38 – Then Peter said to them, “Repent (if – the condition they must meet), and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (as an outward sign of their repentance and submission to Christ); and (then – the promise of salvation, the result of meeting the condition of repentance) you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Remember, the Holy Spirit is our proof of salvation.  Ephesians 1 says we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” in Him (Eph. 1:13-14).  Again, no Holy Spirit, no regeneration, no changed nature— no salvation.  But you already know this.


Turn at My Rebuke

Yet even after salvation, we find the same if / then conditions and promises still apply in our lives today.  This is especially true regarding the sins we commit as a believer and our refusal to repent of them and give them up in exchange for a deeper relationship with the Lord.  Look at your own life.  You and I have areas right now that we struggle with and refuse to submit to Him.  But you also already know this.  The end result of this inaction on our part is a grieving of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30) and a noticeable break in our fellowship with the Lord.  Can you relate?  Ever been there?

We even see this scenario played out for us in the first chapter of Proverbs.  In this chapter, the young man (representing you and me) is warned by his father and mother not to forsake what he has been taught and to not consent when sinners entice him to sin (Prov. 1:10).  The Lord then spends the next nine verses detailing the types of pressure each of us will face when we are tempted to sin.  There’s peer pressure, greed, anger, violence, acceptance, excitement— it’s all there.  Read it for yourself.

By the time we get to Proverbs 1:20, things change a bit in the text.  Now we have wisdom, the personified wisdom of God, calling out to this young man with the message of repentance.  In fact, we see wisdom calling out to anyone who will listen.  Wisdom calls out in the “open squares,” in the “chief concourses” and “at the opening of the gates in the city” (Prov. 1:20-21).  Wisdom is calling to everyone.  To those who are lost, it’s a message of repentance unto salvation.  To those, like the young man and you and me, it’s a message of repentance unto fellowship and a restoration of our intimate relationship with our Lord.

Wisdom’s message begins with a rebuke.  It’s like incredulously asking, “Just how stupid are you?”

Proverbs 1:22 – “How long, you simple ones (foolish ones, naive ones, stupid ones, moronic ones), will you love simplicity (what is foolish, stupid, moronic)?  For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.”

Wisdom asks each of us the same question: “How long, you foolish, moronic, stupid ones, will you love your stupidity?  How long, you fools, will you be enamored in your folly?”

Just like those who heard Peter’s charge in Acts 2:36, we also ask the same question:  “What must we do?”   The answer is simple.  But it’s an if / then answer.  It requires something of us in order to receive something from the Lord.

Proverbs 1:23 – “Turn (if – the condition that must be met) at my rebuke; Surely (then – the results of meeting the condition) I will pour out my spirit (Holy Spirit) on you; (then) I will make my words known (yada) to you.”

The promise is that God would pour (to gush forth, to flow) out the Holy Spirit on those who turned (turn back, returned) and repented at the rebuke (correction, reproof, chastisement) of wisdom.  And, as if it couldn’t get any better, He also promised to make His words known (yada) to those who repented and turned back to Him.  The word “known” is yada in the Hebrew and means to know, or be known, in a loving, intimate, experiential way.  The promise offered by the Lord is for Him to pour Himself out on us in the Person of the Holy Spirit and make His words become something we love because we have experienced them ourselves, first-hand, and have an intimate, loving relationship with Him.   Does it get any better than this?  Not for me.

But don’t get too excited.  This wonderful promise is conditional.  It’s the then side of the if / then equation.  There is something that is required in order to receive the promise from God.  Something each of us must do.

We must repent.  We must turn at the rebuke or correction and chastisement of the Lord.

It means to go back to where we were with Him before we jumped ship to blindly go after the trinkets and toys this world offers.  It means to embrace the eternal and reject the temporal, no matter how good the temporal may make us feel in the short run.  It means placing ourselves back under the Lordship of Christ as the Sovereign One.  We must repent of the selfishness of demanding our Christian life being about us, and not about Him.  And we must vow to never view Christ as a genie in a bottle, always at our beck and call, whose sole purpose, according to us, is to make all our dreams come true.

Turn.  Return.  Go back.  Repent.


But What If I Don’t?

I mean, what if I refuse to return to Him?  What if I’m ok where I’m at and don’t want to go through the pain and hard times that come with repentance?  What if I say, no?

I’ll close by letting you read what the Lord says about people who stubbornly refuse His rebuke.  These are sobering words.  Take them to heart.  Because they are a warning from Him.  Another if / then promise.

Proverbs 1:24-27 – “Because (if – the condition we have met) I have called and you refused, (if – the condition) I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, because (if) you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke, (then – the result of our actions) I also will laugh at your calamity; (then) I will mock when your terror comes, (to what extent) when your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.”

But it gets worse.  What happens when we reject the wisdom of the Lord and inevitably begin to experience all the “terror” and “destruction” that “comes like a whirlwind” (Prov. 1:26-27)?  What happens when the Lord gives us what we want and allows us to experience the consequences of our own sin (Rom.1:24-28)?  What happens when we’ve had enough of God’s chastisement, throw up our hands in defeat, and begrudgingly come to Him on His terms?  What happens then?  How will He receive us?

Read this carefully.  These are sobering words.

Proverbs 1:28-30 – “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.  (why) Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke.”

These are some of the most frightening words in all of Scripture.  They indicate there may come a time when our constant rejection of the Lord will dry up His grace.  A time when heaven is quiet and, no matter how hard we try, we can’t find the grace from Him we took for granted for so long.  The time may come, according to this if / then promise, when God allows us to experience the consequence of our sins and may give us exactly what we have asked for, what we have demanded— deliverance from Him.

Pray that day never comes.

And while you still can, turn at His rebuke and allow Him to “pour out my spirit on you” and “make my words known to you” (Prov. 1:23).  Because when He does what He has promised in the verse, you will begin to experience heaven on earth.

Return to Him today.

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380:  Fear is Not Your Friend

380: Fear is Not Your Friend

When we read the reason God gave each of us spiritual gifts, we find they are an expression or representation of the Holy Spirit to a lost world in dire need of Him.  Think about it, the Holy Spirit lives in each of us as a deposit or guarantee of our future inheritance in Him (Eph. 1:14).  In essence, no Holy Spirit, no salvation.  And because the Holy Spirit now lives in each of us, He also graciously gives us certain gifts that come from Him.  Some of these gifts we readily embrace.  Others we feel less than excited about.  But regardless of our personal feelings about what the Holy Spirit has blessed us with, we are given these gifts for the benefit of others.  They are to be used for others as a clear expression of Him who now lives in us.

Consider the following:

1 Corinthians 12:7 – But the manifestation (expression, to make visible or observable) of the Spirit (Holy Spirit) is given (to bestow, to give freely of one’s own accord and with goodwill) to each one (to each and every one separately and individually) for the profit (benefit, advantage, usefulness, help, to bring together for the benefit of another) of all.

Does this also apply to the “gifts of healings” and the “working of miracles” in the verses that follow?  What about tongues and the interpretation of tongues?  How about the gift of discerning of spirits?   Now it gets a little squirrely, doesn’t it?   Do you have questions about these gifts?  Are you wondering how your experience lines up with the Scriptural teaching about spiritual gifts?  Do you feel confused and somewhat in the dark when it comes to these controversial gifts?  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Most of the church feels the same way.  Want some answers?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on 1 Corinthians 12:9-10.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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Who Are These Guys?

Who Are These Guys?

Before we look at the book of Acts, let’s step back a bit and examine those chosen by the Lord to be His disciples.  Let’s look closely at the cast of unlikely characters Jesus assembled to make up His church.  Let’s see if we can determine what it was about them that He used to build His church (Matt. 16:18) and what it is about us that needs to change to be more like them.

First, unlike us today, Jesus did not spend His time building an army of half-hearted, mega-church followers whose spiritual lives were a mile wide and an inch deep. Jesus wasn’t interested in creating multi-campus institutions, church brands, best-selling books, popular podcasts, blogs, or prime-time television shows. He could care less about how many Twitter followers He had or His likes on Facebook.

Jesus focused His ministry on a handful of common men that He poured His life into, 24/7.  And He entrusted these men to faithfully share His message after He was gone.


Least Likely to Succeed

None of those Jesus chose were rich nor educated.  None of them were well-trained.  Some were fishermen, some probably merchants.  Others were common, day laborers.  One was a tax collector.  Another a closet revolutionary, a zealot.  They were just ordinary, blue-collar people from rural Galilee and the surrounding areas.  The only thing they had in common was that they had very little in themselves that would point to future success.

But Jesus called each of them unto Himself.  And as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”1

Yet none of those chosen by Christ boasted of a strong, spiritual upbringing.  None seemed to be overly religious or pious.  Jesus didn’t draw people from the largest pulpits or the finest seminaries of His day.  For some reason He wasn’t interested in the professional clergy.  He didn’t choose those whose father, or grandfather, or great-grandfather were noted preachers, missionaries, or professors.

None of the disciples were entrepreneurs or visionaries.  They were not great orators with charismatic personalities to whom we would be naturally drawn.  There wasn’t one valedictorian in the bunch.

In addition, they weren’t necessarily a moral, upstanding lot who had a firm grip on their emotions.  Some of them wanted to call down fire from heaven on those who were different than they were (Luke 9:54).  Others wanted to be first, the greatest, even to the point of trying to secure that position for all eternity in heaven (Matt. 20:21).  And they seemed to struggle with the pecking order in Christ’s kingdom, even to the point of arguing about it at the Last Supper (Luke 22:24).

They weren’t especially brave men.  In the garden, each panicked and fled in fear for his own life (Matt. 26:56).  No one, save Peter and John, followed Jesus to the end or was with Him at the cross.  But even then, when confronted, Peter denied he even knew his Lord and fled into the darkness weeping (Mark 14:72).

And they weren’t really spiritual men either.  They were not the kind of men we would have trusted with the message of salvation.  None of them believed or understood His words properly.  They were focused on the here-and-now, the horizontal, what they could see and touch and feel, and not on life in His kingdom.  They were clueless about the Holy Spirit (as many are today) and still suffered from racial and religious prejudices (John 4:27).  They were still looking for a Messiah of their own making (Acts 1:6).  Even after the resurrection, when their fears should have subsided, they went back to their old life, like it had been nothing more than a three year mission trip or a business venture that failed (John 21).  Jesus had to go and prevent Peter from sliding back into his old, comfortable life of being a fisher of fish— and not a “fisher of men” (Matt. 4:19).


They Had Been With Jesus

Those whom Jesus chose were just common folk like many of us.  But there was a difference.  One look at them and you would know “they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).  It was their connection to Jesus that changed everything.

Paul later said of the church:

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 – For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.

That’s the good news.  Jesus, both back then and also today,  calls and empowers frail and broken people just like us. He chooses, for His own glory, what the world calls “the least likely to succeed.”

Does this sound like you?

Jesus doesn’t want us to do great things for Him in our own strength for our own glory.  He wants us to let Him do it through us, by abiding and resting in Him (John 15:4).  He wants to take our hurts and failures and turn them into something glorious, for His glory— as a trophy of His grace for all the world to see.

Don’t ever think God can only use those you deem better than you.  Don’t be deceived into thinking what you’ve done or haven’t done, or what you don’t have or never will have, determines God’s plan for your life.  If you will simply give what you have to Jesus, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem, He promises to make all things new.

After all, just like the disciples, you also “have been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

For if He can use the likes of Peter, Thomas, Matthew, James and the rest of the disciples and use them to “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6), then He can also use each of us.

Including you.

So be encouraged in Him today.

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1  Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. (1959). The Cost of Discipleship, New York, NY: Macmillan.

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375 – Why the Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts

375 – Why the Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts

In our study on Spiritual gifts, the question before us is this: Why does the Holy Spirit give us His gifts?  What’s the point?  How does giving us gifts, that we don’t believe we have, benefit Him?

The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 12:7.  Here it says: But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.

Got that.  But what does this verse really mean?

The word manifestation means “expression, to make visible or observable.”  Think about that.  The “expression” of the Holy Spirit, or the way the Holy Spirit expresses Himself is “given to each one for the profit of all.”  Or, the way the Holy Spirit makes Himself “visible or observable” is by the gifts He gives to “each one for the profit of all.”

Do you see how important these gifts actually are?  And what specific gifts are we talking about?

To continue in context: for to one is given the (1) word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the (2) word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another (3) faith by the same Spirit, to another (4) gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the (5) working of miracles, to another (6) prophecy, to another (7) discerning of spirits, to another (8) different kinds of tongues, to another the (9) interpretation of tongues – 1 Cor. 12:8-10.

And this is only the beginning.  There is so much more to learn.  Are you interested?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

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