Archive for the ‘Church’ Category


Titus – a letter written with a fix for broken churches

Men whose lives display the power of the Living Word and the Presence of the Living Christ!

Paul had left Titus in Crete to shore up churches that were “broken” and had gone renegade.

What is a “renegade” church?

  • Church that has allowed self-focus and self-interests to negate the Power of the Word and the Presence of Jesus Christ
  • A self-focused Church is a deserter from the “Body of Christ”

Titus 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—

These churches had not been started by Paul. A short two or three month stop before heading to Rome in Acts 27 was not sufficient to start churches. Besides, Paul was under guarded arrest, awaiting appeal before Caesar. This trip to Crete mentioned in Titus was probably after Paul was released for a couple years. Paul had seen a need among the churches on Crete, and made a point to return and work on fixing the problem. Paul and Titus probably visited Crete sometime between AD 63-67. They preached among the many cities, where churches were already established. What Paul saw led him to leave Titus there to straighten out the “renegade” churches. Paul went on to Greece and sent this short business-like memo to Titus via Zenas and Apollos (3:13). The Letter to Titus is meant to encourage Titus, and to reinforce his mission there on the island of Crete. This memo reveals Paul’s vision of the church, and is foundational for us as we begin GraceLife Community Church. There is no room for churches that do not show forth the power of two spiritual realities-The Power of the Word of God and the Presence of Jesus Christ in their lives. This is the test that Paul applied to healthy churches, and the churches on Crete had failed. They were not influencing the culture of Crete with the power of the Gospel. Rather, the churches were becoming infected with the Cretan way.

Paul charged Titus with an “Elder-Fix”

Two Forces were at Work on Crete

  • The Cretan Island Culture
  • The Gospel of Jesus Christ

These first churches started on Crete when those who were saved at Pentecost returned home. Acts 2:11 records that Cretans were in the audience when the tongues of fire fell upon the disciples. They heard the mighty rushing wind. They cried out “what must we do to be saved?” They repented, came to Christ and were baptized. They went home, told other Cretans, and churches were born.

Something happened to these churches. Instead of growing into Christ, and effecting the culture of the communities around them, the Cretan island culture crept into the churches. They became “broken” as far as demonstrating the power of Christ. Churches went renegade, and Paul wanted to correct the problem.

Crete was called the island of a thousand cities. Evidently they could not get along with each other, could not trust each other, and as a result, would get mad and move and start a city somewhere. This happened with the churches as well. People would get upset and leave to form their own church in a city nearby. Because the churches had become infected with the Cretan Island culture, they were benign when it came to changing people’s lives. The Gospel of Christ had become of no effect.

The character of Cretans was well known in Paul’s day. Just as saying to Corinthianize meant to prostitute, to call someone a Cretan was to say they were liars and not to be trusted. Putting labels on people is nothing new. There were no red-necks in Paul’s day, but there were Cretans.

God’s solution to confront godless culture has always been MEN! God used Noah to rescue His creation. God used Abraham to counter a society of idol-worship. God used Judges to restore order and worship to people who had forgotten the power of God. God used Elijah to stand against a godless nation. God used John the Baptist to prepare a nation for His Son. God

The Church combats Culture & Division with Christ-Led Elders

Set things in ORDER – things that are lacking, failing

„  Picture of a Physician setting broken bones.

Elders were needed because things were broken, things were lacking, things were absent and the churches were failing.

If you have ever broken a bone, you know how painful it can be. I was moving a concrete stop block that weighed over 80 pounds, and dropped it on my foot. It shattered my big toe. The ER Doctor showed me the X-Ray and said there was not much he could do, as it was shattered in several pieces. So he molded it back together as best he could. Now if it had been my arm or leg, you know they would have used as many pins and screws to get it back to normal.

These churches may have known something was wrong, but they needed Dr. Paul to set things right!

In Paul’s short stay on Crete, he saw that the churches were failing to present the true LIFE of Jesus Christ on the island. The churches were failing to impact the culture around them.

1. Christ-led Elders were the “fix” to broken churches.

Titus 1:5-9 indicates how “elders” are the fix to a broken/renegade church. More correctly, an elder team is the solution. But these elders should be of a certain mold. They must be cut from the same cloth. They must exhibit the LIFE of Christ that is within them. Elders are to be the spiritual “Father’s” of the church. They are to be examples of the Living Christ to their people. The Elders are to be the watchful father’s over the church family, fiercely loving and fiercely protective.

If you think of the church community as a flock of sheep, the elders are a team of pastors, shepherds who make sure those sheep are fed by day and protected by night.  They ensure the nourishment of the sheep.  They will kill any wolf that comes near.

Furthermore, the elders will serve as the vanguard for the invasion of Christianity on Crete! The Cretans had an ugly reputation, and it was showing in their churches. They were not influencing the culture, but the culture was impacting the churches.

Do your actions and personal habits, honesty at work bring curiosity to others about the God you worship?

2. Churches need Men who Live in Christ if they hope to manifest a Living Christ to those around them.

Paul described these men as “blameless” or “above reproach”.

The Greek word for without one single fault (above reproach) is: anégklētos, it means making legal charges against someone in a court of law, but the person is not convictable when a person is properly scrutinized.

Titus 1:6-7(ESV) if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,

Titus 1:6-7 (KJV) If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

There are several Greek words for blameless

  • amémptōs <G274>, unblamed.
  • ámōmos <G299>, unblemished, unspotted.
  • áspilos <G784>, without spot;
  • anégklētos <G410>, legally irreproachable;
  • anepílēptos <G423>, irreprehensible, one who cannot be caught and accused[1]

Who is Blameless in the Bible?

„  Noah was blameless – Gen 6:9 (upright, perfect)

„  Abram was blameless – Gen 17:1

„  Jews were to be blameless when it came to following sorcery and fortune-tellers in the Promised land.

Deuteronomy 18:13-14 You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.

„  David described himself as blameless – 2 Sam 22:24-33

„  The Eyes of the Lord run to and fro looking for the man whose heart is blameless toward Him (2 Chron 16:9)

„  Job was a blameless man – Job 1:1

„  Satan was blameless before God, until sin was found in him – Ezekiel 28:15

„  Daniel was blameless – Dan 6:22

„  Zechariah and Elizabeth were blameless – Luke 1:6

„  The Corinthians were called blameless by Paul

1 Corinthians 1:8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

„  You and I are even called blameless

Ephesians 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Philippians 2:14-15 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Paul described himself as blameless under the righteousness of the law  (before he came to Christ) – Phil 3:6, yet described himself as the chief of sinners after he came to Christ.

From the list above, we can become confused about who is blameless. Clearly some of these people had serious character defects. Noah got drunk, Abram lied twice to protect himself, and had sex with Sara’s handmaid, David was an adulterer and a murderer, the Corinthians were divided and tolerating gross moral sin. The one man whom I would consider the most blameless, Paul, considered himself the worst sinner alive. Who then is blamless?

About Blamelessness

Hebrews 11 is a great chapter about blameless men, men who knew the Living God, men and women who saw Him by faith. Anyone of these men (or women) I would love to have as an elder in my church (except Samson, because he scares me).

Hebrews 11:13-16 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

They are giants of the faith because they dared to see the invisible. They dared to believe the impossible. They set God before them in their life’s journey.

They were not perfect, they made their mistakes, but they were blameless because they lived by faith in God and they did not allow the godless culture around them to drag them down. In fact, their home was not of this world. They looked for the city of God! But something amazing and even unbelievable is written in Hebrews 11:39-40.

As blameless and upright as they were, they cannot be made perfect without you and me!

Hebrews 11:39-40 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Why? Because none of us is blameless and perfect without Jesus Christ! He is the something “better”! We share in the heritage of these giants of the faith when we by faith walk and live in Jesus Christ. We are BLAMELESS in Christ!

Blameless Men are first and foremost Living in Jesus Christ!

Jesus was called amomos-no internal sin and aspilos-no external sin, but was never called amemptos (without accusation or reproach), because Jesus said in Luke 6:26 – “Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you”

Although our Lord in 1 Pet. 1:19 is called ámōmos, without internal sinfulness and spot, and áspilos, without external sin or spot, He is never said to be ámemptos, without accusation or reproach, as He Himself taught in Luke 6:26: “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you.” Although He Himself was without internal and external spot or blemish, yet there were those who spoke evil of Him or who brought momphé <G3437>, blame, against Him which led to His death.[2]

With regard to Titus, he was to ordain Elders who had exemplary lives as far as their civil obedience and family commitment. The Overseers of the Church are to be living examples of the blamelessness of Jesus Christ.

„ Any righteous man regardless of faith in Christ can pass an FBI ‘vetting’ process. „ But can you pass the GOD vetting process? Only if you are living in the power of the righteousness of Jesus Christ!

 1.  True Blamelessness is only in Jesus Christ (on the inside)

  • 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless (amemptos) in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

2.  True Blamelessness is only through Christ (on the outside)

  • Colossians 1:22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless (amomos) and above reproach (anenkletos) before him,

3.  True Blamelessness is to those who are diligent to abide in Christ (before men)

  • 2 Peter 3:13-14 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
  • Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless (amomos) before the presence of his glory with great joy,

Elders are diligent to abide in Christ

Five descriptors tell what blamelessness is not; while seven descriptors tell what blamelessness is.
  • „Blameless as a man, and blameless in his office (bishop is an office)

Paul puts these in the form of a list, because he’s talking to Greeks.  Paul’s list shows his awareness of how the Greeks communicated virtues.  Had he been talking to a predominately Hebrew culture, he would have communicated this in the form of a parable (as Jesus did in Luke 12:42, “Who is the faithful and wise manager?”).  Elders were to be upright, not liars; holy, not evil brutes; and disciplined, not addicted gluttons. They were to be examples of what the culture was not.

1.  MUST BE A GODLY LEADER OF HIS FAMILY

Titus 1:6-13 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

It may sound ironic, but when a leader puts his family first, the community benefits.  When a leader puts the local community or the church community first, both his family and the community suffer.  Titus 1:6 insists (along with 1 Timothy 3: 5) that starting at home is always the key to affecting others in a positive way.  Leading one’s household well gains credibility to lead the family of God.  You don’t need an MBA to manage God’s church; but you do need a mature marriage and strong parenting skills.  (Maxwell 2007, 30)

It is inaccurate to think of the elders primarily as a board of directors overseeing a 501(c)3 tax exempt non-profit organization; or some religious version of a for-profit corporation.  It is misguided to think of the eldership like the United States Senate, or some power-based body.  When we do that, we will inevitably get frustrated at the comparison because the church will seem so back-woods.  We read Titus 1 about the elder being the husband of one wife and children who must not be incorrigible.  We think, “What’s up with that?  What’s Paul got against women?   And what does parenting have to do with knowing how to run an organization?”

Fundamentally, the church is a family.  In Titus, local churches met—not in mortgaged facilities—but in homes!   Titus 2 lists the typical groups in a family structure!   So, the church is a family.  God’s plan for the organization and leadership of the local church family is derived from His plan for the organization and leadership of the nuclear family.  As husbands/fathers in marriage/family have been divinely called as servant-leaders to initiate in providing and protecting the family entrusted to them, so such godly husbands/fathers are divinely called to the stewardship of providing and protecting the spiritual church family.   The family and the church family are the only two places where God has called and expects godly, Cross-bearing, Christ-focused husbands/fathers to be the initiating servant-leaders.   Headship is not about “calling the shots” or being “bossy” or “getting the final say” or having the “final word”; headship is the divine calling to be the first to be nailed to the cross.  To be the first to feed the sheep, protect the sheep, and stay up all night to watch the sheep; and if need be, lay one’s life down for the sheep. Furthermore, a spiritually healthy eldership will ensure that all the gifts from all the believers—children, students, women, men—are being fully utilized for the building up of the entire church family! 

2.  MUST BE DILIGENT STEWARDS OF GOD

For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God;

a.  THE DON’TS:

    • „ not self-willed,
    • „ not soon angry,
    • „ not given to wine,
    • „ no striker,
    • „ not given to filthy lucre;

b.  THE DO’S

    • „ But a lover of hospitality,
    • „ a lover of good men,
    • „ sober,
    • „ just, (conformance to man’ laws)
    • „ holy, (conformance to God’s laws)
    • „ temperate;

3.  MUST BE A TEACHER & DEFENDER OF THE WORD

„ Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Elders are to protect believers from false teaching by teaching sound doctrine and refuting inaccuracies about Christ and the Gospel. The Gospel that has transformed these elders!  They’d better master that which has mastered them!   Those who were once foolishly enslaved, and deceived (3:3) have been changed by the best news ever—the Grace of God has appeared!  Grace has come to prodigals and predators—and now some of them are elders!  Only Jesus can do that!  

4.  WHY ELDERS?

Only a transformed liar can reach other liars. Only one who stands against the culture can transform the culture.

For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;

Our culture needs rescuing. Our society is failing. We need men and women of faith, not afraid to see Him who is invisible, Not afraid to follow Him who the world mocks and jeers at. Not afraid to stand counter to their culture, to show them the way to Jesus Christ.

The people are going down a slippery slope, after money, after themselves. They need to see visible evidence of the power of Jesus Christ!

Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England in the early 1500’s was known as the man for all seasons, for he stood against King Henry VIII who made a mockery of the church and divorced Catharine of Aragon for Ann Boleyn. His stand cost him his head, but his influence upon the politics of England endured for centuries. He was called the man for all seasons!

Elders are men for all seasons! In season, out of season, they stand upon Jesus Christ. They hold fast to His Word. They follow Him who is invisible!

Reinhold Messner became famous as the first person to climb Mt Everest without supplemental oxygen. In fact, he has climbed all 14 mountains over 26,000 feet without oxygen.

Yet, one day between his conquests, he found himself locked out of his house, and was climbing his fence to reach an upstairs window when he fell, injuring his leg. I thought to myself, here was a man who could conquer mountains, but could not conquer his home. We need men of God who lead their homes in following God, and in so doing, they conquer the world with the Power of Christ!

What good does it do if he succeeds in the world but fails at home? God needs men of the Word who conquer at home, live Christ at Home, raise families devoted to God’s Word and change the godless culture of the world around them!


[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “ámemptos”.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “áspilos”.

Advertisements

The First Century Church Experienced the Power of Grace and Touched the World with the Power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They did so because they were not ashamed of the Cross of Jesus Christ. They were not ashamed of following a God who had been cursed on the unspeakable Cross of Crucifixion. They were not ashamed because they were LIVING PROOF of the Power of the Cross over the corruption of the flesh. Jesus Christ was not only Savior of their Souls, He was the Savior of their LIVING! 

Church must emphasize a 24/7 devoted living in Christ and His commands, not just a segregated devotional (quiet) time.

Church must emphasize a 24/7 praying life not just a prayer time.

Church must direct Disciples how to bring their spiritual existence into touch with the physical reality of living.

Church must lead Disciples to put into daily practice what Christ commanded and taught.

Church is a Community of Love in Christ centered around a Grace Missional purpose to bring the lost and hurting into the reality and power of Christ.

Church builds Disciples not motivated by guilt but empowered by forgiveness and redemption.

Church builds Disciples who Share Christ with friends and neighbors because they Love and Trust Jesus Christ.

Church builds Disciples who Give because they Love and Trust.

Church is Powerful to the Community when it is a Powerful Community of Love that empowers people to Break Bad Habits (Spirit conquers Flesh).

Church is Powerful as Disciples grow past guilt to productive change built upon Confession and Abandonment to Jesus Christ.

Church preaches Repentance to Abandon the fleshly world and live in the Spirit of Grace

Church leads Disciples to Abandon themselves to God’s Grace and God’s responsibilities for them.

Church leads Disciples to Greater and Growing Trust in God, because mistrust leads to sin.

Church leads Disciples to the Dominion of God’s Kingdom over their own Kingdoms.

Church that Grows and Develops Disciples will constantly Apply the Truth of Redemption to the Disciple’s Life.

Church will constantly strive to bring ALL lives into Christ’s Life.

Church will Grow from a Growing Relationship with Christ’s Life.

  • Church can change if there is a goal that can be accomplished with specific steps of action.
  • That goal is to build Disciples who experience and share the Reality and Power of Christ’s Life in their daily living.

When I owned an Asphalt Paving company we decided to get into concrete, and so we did in a big way. We even did footings, slabs and walls for new construction. I learned a great deal about foundations for commercial buildings. You don’t just dig a trench and pour concrete. You must consider where the main support beams are placed, what the weight load of the walls will be, what type of soil the foundation is on, and many other factors. The foundation is a really big deal that I had taken for granted. Good concrete alone is not enough for a solid foundation. You must use steel re-bar, and the amount and configuration of the re-bar depends upon the load at that point. Even concrete slabs have to consider the weight of the objects they will support. As part of our foundation work we did some banks which had bank vaults. Most vaults nowadays are actually pre-fab concrete units that are shipped in and moved in place. The vault door is added later. But the slab of the vault is poured 12″ to 24″ thick, with 2 to 3 layers of 3/4″ re-bar tied on 12″ centers. (We did one with 6″ centers). They do not want the vault going anywhere! It also indicates the weight (and importance) of the bank vault. Before concrete, I never thought about foundations. Now I consider them wherever I go. I even took this picture of some awesome re-bar for a building going up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Judging by the re-bar pile, they still had a lot of tying to do!

The church of today is so often about programs. We need programs to keep drawing crowds and making people ‘feel’ like they are Christians. So often ministry programs for children, seniors, life groups, special events, and whatever must pass the “feel good” test. Will it “minister to a felt need” and make everyone “feel good”. Modern ministry must have an emotional draw or it usually dies.

The church that Jesus began and the Apostles modeled was centered around discipleship, making disciples. Emotional feelings quickly fade in the face of persecution. There must be something more about being a church than “feel good” programs. That more is true discipleship. We tried to get a “discipleship program” going within a year after coming to my present church, Pleasant Prairie. But we were only 3 years removed from a tragic ‘split’ that nearly destroyed a church that had been there for 36 years at the time. The people were not ready for a discipleship program that did not meet the need to rebuild their emotional being. There were emotional scars of bitterness and unforgiveness that needed attention before discipleship could begin. Inward hurts hinder the ability to look upward and outward!

God has recently burdened me that it is time to more clearly define the mission of our church. God has been sending some great men and families our way, but we need to have a clearly defined discipleship path. Our church is ready to stand and embrace discipleship as our core value, but I do not want it to be a “program”. Discipleship does not automatically have a “feel good” component that builds excitement. Most Christians seem to view discipleship as something for Paul’s and Timothy’s, people who serve in a major capacity. Even leaders in the church seem to shy away from intentional discipleship. Too often Christians are ‘comfortable’ where they are at. Convenience and comfort are often core values of most American Christians.

The Holy Spirit was leading me to preach on the Life of King David. He is a great example of a man of God. There is no more transparent life in the Bible than King David. But the Holy Spirit was also burdening me with the need for a clearly defined discipleship path in our church. For some reason He led me to the ‘last saying’ of King David in 2 Samuel 23:5. I won’t get it to it in this writing, but through this, the Holy Spirit is revealing some awesome revelations about discipleship and how the church can embrace it, accomplish it and even have a “feel good”  component at the same time. 

So the next few posts will be the “Laying of the Foundation” of what I am calling “David Discipleship”. We don’t often associate King David with discipleship, but I believe his life is the very definition of discipleship, beginning with the revelation of His last words.

Now to bend and tie the “re-bar” of David Discipleship:

If the church is not to be about “programs” but about making disciples, what is a disciple? 

Disciple: One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another. In the New Testament, the word is Mathētés. Here it means more than a mere pupil or learner. It is an adherent who accepts the instruction given to him and makes it his rule of conduct[1]. The general designation of mathētés was given to those who believed on Christ. Jesus clearly defines disciple in John 8:31: (ESV) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”.

What is Discipleship?

If a disciple is an adherent of another person’s teachings, what is discipleship?

A consensus of definitions produces this: Discipleship is the process of learning about the teachings of another, internalizing them and then acting upon them. Most discipleship programs focus on the learning process, with the emphasis on knowledge.

Peters Perspective on the Discipleship Process

Peter turned out to be the most dynamic of the early disciples of Christ. He had learned a great deal after spending three years at the feet of the Master Teacher. Yet when it was time for the rubber to meet the road, Mighty Peter failed, and denied his Master in a dramatic fire. Where was that knowledge then? What good did his earlier confession do at the moment when it mattered most? Peter sheds a glaring light upon what a discipleship program should be about.

2 Peter 1:1 (ESV) Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ…

2 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV) 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge (epignosis)[2] of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge(gnosis) …

Peter’s Insights into Discipleship:

1. Equal Faith <–> Righteousness of Christ

  • Discipleship grows from Faith that is provided by the righteousness of our Savior Jesus Christ. That faith makes each believer equal in the sight of God. That equality is not based upon knowledge, but upon the righteousness provided us by our God and Savior Jesus Christ!

2. Growth <–> Relational Knowledge

  • Our growth in life and godliness is by His divine power and only through knowing Him in His glory and excellence.

3. Growth <–> Precious Promises

  • Our growth is only by His divine nature becoming our nature through the power of the Word and His precious promises.

4. Growth <–> Focus on His Virtue becoming our Virtue

  • Discipleship must focus on His Virtue becoming our Virtue. We first add virtue to our faith, and knowledge to virtue.

VIRTUE is the Greek “areté” which denotes in a moral sense what gives man his worth[3]

Why is Virtue Important to Discipleship?

There are four synonyms to Areté in the Greek according to Zodhiates…

  • dóxa – glory;
  • dúnamis – power;
  • chárisma – gift;
  • ōphéleia – usefulness[4]

Virtue is a quality that is difficult to define, but definite in its impact. From the synonyms we glimpse the power of this little word. Here is my humble attempt at a definition.

Virtue is the strength of the character of Christ internalized into my life as I follow Him. Virtue brings worth and value to my life. Without His virtue I am weak and ineffective.

Virtue grows from an obedient relationship!

Discipleship programs are not effective if their focus is primarily upon knowledge (ginosis). It must be knowledge that grows from a personal on-going relationship with Jesus Christ Himself! (epiginosko). I know far too many graduates of Christian Schools and Colleges that display little if any of the life of Jesus Christ. A surprising number no longer go to church. Knowledge is not enough to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Look at Judas. He had three years of instruction from Jesus Christ, and yet there was no changed life!

Discipleship is Life-Changing only if it is Life-Giving!

Discipleship must lead believers into a life that is above the natural, a life that is empowered by the Righteous Life of Jesus Christ. His virtue of LIFE becomes our virtue by our dying.

We Have No Virtue worth Propping up

Discipleship is not a self-improvement course. It is not a way of “improving” your Christian walk! We are ugly before we are saved, we are ugly after we are saved. The only beauty we can ever have is the beauty of Jesus Christ.

COULD YOUR HEART PASS THE HOLE IN THE WALL TEST?

God told Ezekiel to dig a hole in the King’s wall. He was startled by the abominations being committed by the ‘supposed’ righteous leaders of Israel.

Ezekiel 8:8-13 (ESV) 8 Then he said to me, “Son of man, dig in the wall.” So I dug in the wall, and behold, there was an entrance. 9 And he said to me, “Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.” 10 So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. 11 And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up. 12 Then he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.’ ” 13 He said also to me, “You will see still greater abominations that they commit.”

No matter how ‘spiritual’ we pretend to be, or how much ‘Bible knowledge’ we possess, no one can pass the “Hole in the Wall” test. Our hearts are full of abominations through sin. The harder we try to be a good disciple, the further we alienate ourselves from the heart of God! The heart of God is centered around the virtue of His Son, Jesus Christ! The only virtue worth having is not man-centered but Christ-centered!

Discipleship finds all that we need in Jesus Christ

1 Corinthians 1:30-31 (NIV) 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Discipleship which focuses on knowledge will always lead to pride and self-effort. Discipleship which focuses on virtue will always lead to humility and dependence.

Therefore I define Discipleship as:

Discipleship – “the intentional process of making the virtue of Christ my own, through submitting to His Lordship and Direction, and the daily Hope of Gaining Christ”

Discipleship is simply gaining by trading (diapragmateúomai)[5];

The King will demand an accounting of what you have GAINED by trading

Luke 19:15 (ESV) When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business.

I believe we will be judged at the ‘bema seat’ and our judgment will simply be an accounting of what we traded to gain for the sake of becoming like Jesus Christ! We will be judged for how we ‘gained’ Jesus Christ! Christians are to be about the business of trading their lives to gain Jesus Christ!

Paul said it best in Philippians 3:8: Philippians 3:8 (ESV) Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

So the ‘re-bar’ of discipleship is the Virtue of Jesus Christ! Any substitution or absence of His virtue will result in a foundation that is weak and doomed to fail.

Our Hope of Glory is Christ IN me

Colossians 1:27 (ESV) To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.


[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 936.

[2] Epígnōsis: In the NT, it often refers to knowledge which very powerfully influences the form of religious life, a knowledge laying claim to personal involvement. When used as an obj. (Eph. 1:17; 4:13; Col. 1:9, 10; 2:2; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:25; 3:7; Titus 1:1; Heb. 10:26; 2 Pet. 1:2, 3), it shows the relationship of the learner to the object of his knowledge (2 Pet. 1:8). Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 624.

[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 252-251.

[4] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 252.

[5] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “megauploaddiapragmateúomai”.


My daily reading brought me to Jeremiah 23 and suddenly it seemed that God was speaking directly to ME through these verses. Something has been bothering me lately about the state of the Gospel message in the United States. It seems that there is a consistent ‘theme’ being presented by Christian radio stations (KLOVE) and by media preachers, that God loves us no matter where we are at, that He is always there for us, and that He will get us through whatever problem we are facing. After all, God is a caring loving God. It seems we have switched our preaching and our gospel message to a man-centered appeal. After all, it is all about ME, isn’t it.

We all need a god who is on our side, who is there for us, to help with our problems.

KLOVE had a gal call in with a real heartbreaking story about being young, pregnant, and her boyfriend dumping her. She was in church feeling all alone and abandoned. Then the pastor seemed to be speaking directly to her when he said, “God will be a husband to you. God will love you better than any earthly husband.” She felt so encouraged and touched by that message. Then she proceeded to tell how she had met someone new, a great guy, had become pregnant AGAIN and had been dumped, AGAIN. But sure enough, while sitting in church, another pastor said the same thing, “God will be a husband to you!” Now she is with another ‘great’ guy.

I am not questioning her sincerity, nor her love for God, but the thought ran through my head,”if God is your husband, why did you cheat on Him?” Are you going to keep going back to him every time some jerk gets you pregnant and dumps you? When will you learn to stop having sex before marriage?

Smooth talking preachers want to tickle the ears of their listeners. They don’t want to explain that God is a God of Justice as well as mercy. Sure, He loves us unconditionally, but when God’s love touches someone, it will always change them! God will always work to bring His justice and righteousness into our lives! God’s mercy and love is ALWAYS given with the intent of bringing righteousness and justice into our lives.

God’s mercy and love is ALWAYS given with the intent of bringing righteousness and justice into our lives.

“Do not listen to smooth talking preachers”

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to his people: Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you, filling you with futile hopes. They are making up everything they say. They do not speak for the Lord! They keep saying to those who despise my word, ‘Don’t worry! The Lord says you will have peace!’ And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires, they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’ “Have any of these prophets been in the Lord’s presence to hear what he is really saying? Has even one of them cared enough to listen? Look! The Lord’s anger bursts out like a storm, a whirlwind that swirls down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not diminish until it has finished all he has planned. In the days to come you will understand all this very clearly. “I have not sent these prophets, yet they run around claiming to speak for me. I have given them no message, yet they go on prophesying. If they had stood before me and listened to me, they would have spoken my words, and they would have turned my people from their evil ways and deeds.Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the Lord. “No, I am far away at the same time. Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord. “I have heard these prophets say, ‘Listen to the dream I had from God last night.’ And then they proceed to tell lies in my name. How long will this go on? If they are prophets, they are prophets of deceit, inventing everything they say. By telling these false dreams, they are trying to get my people to forget me, just as their ancestors did by worshiping the idols of Baal. “Let these false prophets tell their dreams, but let my true messengers faithfully proclaim my every word. There is a difference between straw and grain! Does not my word burn like fire?” says the Lord. “Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces? “Therefore,” says the Lord, “I am against these prophets who steal messages from each other and claim they are from me. I am against these smooth-tongued prophets who say, ‘This prophecy is from the Lord!’ I am against these false prophets. Their imaginary dreams are flagrant lies that lead my people into sin. I did not send or appoint them, and they have no message at all for my people. I, the Lord have spoken! Jeremiah 23:16-32

“Am I a God who is only close at hand?”

We hear preachers say that God is always there, always ready to forgive, but God asks the question here, “Am I a God who is only close at hand?” The answer is NO!, God can be far away at the same time! We may confess a sin here and there, but our life and the intent of our heart still denies the Word of God. Our confession is only because things are not working out. Absent is a heart felt desire for God’s Lordship of our life!

How long will this go on?

“Have any of these prophets been in the Lord’s presence to hear what he is really saying? Has even one of them cared enough to listen?”

Preachers, instead of pleasing our people with futile hopes, and heart wrenching stories, God calls us to spend time in His presence. Instead of modeling your messages after the latest ‘popular preacher’, isn’t it time we spend time in God’s presence, hearing from His Word what we should proclaim to our people?

We need to preach a God-centered Gospel. We need to proclaim mercy, righteousness and justice, for in these God delights (Jer 9:23-24) We need to stop preaching “God in the Box” sermons. God is not just someone we can call upon every time we need some help. We can’t carry God in a box. He is close, but He is distant as well. Sometimes everything won’t be alright.  Sometime God will work what He wants. And what He wants is our total devotion and obedience to His Word! He is God, and we need to spend time trembling before His mighty power!


Our Journey through the Cross will stop in Romans 8.

Here we discover what the Cross is all about. It is about the life that Jesus died to give all those who by faith make Him their life. It requires a turning away from our self, our sin, our flesh and embracing Jesus Christ as our Lord, our Life, our Savior.

By faith in what Jesus Christ did for us on the Cross, we are justified by God. We are declared righteous, we are declared His children. By faith, the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus shed upon the world at Pentecost, comes and makes us His dwelling place. We are set apart for God’s purpose.

Coming to the Cross and accepting Jesus as your Savior means that you will now live by the cross. We must take up our cross daily, and just as Jesus humbled Himself as a servant, so we must humble ourselves before Almighty God and take up the cross He has given to us.

We have this assurance from the Master himself, that we will not bear our cross alone. In fact, our cross becomes easy and light, as long as we realize that He carries it for us. For the cross means that we no longer live, in fact our old man is dead, and the life that we now live, we live by Jesus Christ.

This is the message of Romans, and Romans 8 reveals what it means to be a Christian. Romans 8 is the insider’s guide to the Christian Life. The Christian Life is all about walking after the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit communicates and manifests Jesus Christ in our lives. Romans 8 details our New Life in the Holy Spirit.

1. The Holy Spirit Joins us to Christ

He brings about a vital union with the Lord Jesus.

“He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17);

It is a spiritual and inward union with the Lord Jesus. This is what Romans 8:1-2 describes:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2

When we are born again, the Holy Spirit joins us to Jesus Christ and we live in the Spirit of Life! God is all about Life, and sin is death. Being joined to Jesus means we are no longer under condemnation, no longer under the penalty of sin, no longer under the judgment of death, separated from Holy God by all eternity in Hell.

You and I, if we are truly born-again children of God, have got to know that, right inside of us, a union has been effected between Christ and ourselves, and ourselves and Christ; that we are joined to Christ. That union has been affected; we have been made one.

No more me, but We!

The Lord’s way of illustrating this truth is the marriage union. Paul says, “the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31, 32). ‘One flesh’. Just as married couples, we are made “one flesh” with Jesus Christ.

Now, if a marriage is what it ought to be, those two people are so ONE, that to separate them is to cut one person in two, and only leave two halves, and not a whole. This explains how death can leave a spouse so empty, so alone, as if part of them is gone. This explains how even years later, divorce can leave an ugly scar upon ones soul.

That is the illustration of our union with Christ. We are not complete until we are united with Christ; our completeness is in union with Christ.

If we do not have Christ with us, we are only half here. If we lose the Lord, we are torn in two. Jesus is that much a part of our lives.

We can – by disobedience, by playing with sin, by disobeying the Lord, by this or that – bring about such an effect, so that we feel as if something has happened; the Lord is there and I am here, and we are not together. It is as though we have been torn in two, are not complete.

This is the beginning of the Christian life; the very foundation and basis of the Christian life:

We and Christ have been made one; not two – one!

Jesus is not our homeboy. He is not someone we go to when things get bad. He is not a good luck charm we wear around our neck. He is not a wristband that says WWJD. We are united as one with the very creator of the universe. This union is a mystery, but it is so real and so powerful that to divide, to walk away and have an independent life – it is to destroy your own identity, to tear your own spiritual personality in pieces; and that is how it is, if we get away from the Lord in any way.

So here, the very first thing that we find about this life in the Spirit, is that there has come about between us and Christ, and between Christ and ourselves, a oneness, which is not in any outward, visible sense, but in a vital, inward reality.

So the first thing is “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (v. 2) – the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus – that is the union: our union with Christ.

2. The Holy Spirit Leads Us

Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans 8:14

When we are joined to Jesus Christ, we are not left to our own abilities. In fact, we must humble ourselves and give all of ourselves to Christ, so that the Holy Spirit will lead us. The operative word is “LED”. He is the leader. It is not a shared responsibility. There can be only one BOSS. This is why Paul wrote that:

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:7-8

To be led by the Spirit we must “walk AFTER the Spirit”

God reveals why we cannot walk after the flesh and why we must walk after the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:29:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son… Romans 8:29

God has a goal for each one of His children- conformity to the image of His Son.

“Conformed to the image” (summorphous tēs eikonos) means both an inward and an outward likeness. This is no happy fake smile Christian. All that Jesus Christ is we are to be. His loves, concern, his righteousness, his passion for the temple, his compassion for the lost, all are to be ours. It requires more of Him and less of me.

What is being ‘led by the Spirit’? Take the example of Israel.

God came down into Egypt, into the dark world of their bondage and tyranny in Egypt. He came down with His great purpose; He took possession of them; and then He gave them the symbol and figure of the Holy Spirit in the Pillar of Cloud and Fire. Paul says ‘They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud’ (1 Cor. 10:2).

What was the pillar of cloud and fire given for? Well, it is an illustration. It is a type of the Holy Spirit. It was given to lead them into the Land of Promise, where God had intended them to be. He had come down into Egypt, got hold of them, pulled them out, and brought them into the Wilderness for that purpose.

The Spirit was ever moving ahead of them, in the Pillar, to get them into the Land.

That is being “led by the Spirit”. As the Lord said, speaking of His people: “Israel is my son… Let my son go…” (Ex. 4:22, 23). As Paul wrote: ‘Now these are the sons of God, who are led by the Spirit of God’.

However, what does it mean? It means that we are always moving on, ever moving on in the way of the Spirit, leaving the old world further and further behind, and getting nearer and nearer to the heavenly promised land.

  • Now, if the Christian life is normal, this is true of the Christian life. This is not something abnormal; this is ‘normal Christian living!

The more you go on with the Lord, the less and less you find it possible to accept this world and to settle down here, and the further you seem to get away from it. Alternatively, it seems to get away from you.

The things of the Lord get nearer and nearer, and more and more engrossing, taking up more and more of your life. You find that, whereas at one time, you could compartmentalize your time, you could spread it out over various things, now you are more and more being absorbed (not obsessed), but absorbed in the things of the Lord; you have no time for other things.

What about your Work?

You go to work, you do your work, you give yourself to your work, you do it honestly… but the thing that has a grip on you inside is the Lord’s interests – what delights the Lord. If you are going on with the Lord, what you want more and more is that which tastes of heaven. Your desire is unto God and His desires.

The Holy Spirit wants to lead us on nearer and nearer to the fullness of Christ.

3. The Holy Spirit brings us to Confidence in our Father

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15

The Holy Spirit opens us up to seeing God as our dearest Daddy, the one who cares for us with unconditional love. We no longer live our lives in fear of what can or might happen. We know that we are in the hands of our dearest Daddy.

God is including us in His plan, and that plan involves us becoming conformed to His Son Jesus Christ.

Many of us have experienced horrible tragedies. Many of us have suffered terrible injustices, abuse. There are many ways we react to such experiences.

We can blame others, we can hold on to our pain and grow bitter, we can become frustrated and angry, and we can lash out and be vengeful. None of these reflects the heart of one who sees his life held in the arms of his dearest Daddy.

Living in the Holy Spirit is a life that is confident in the God’s power and God’s Purpose for your life. Living in the Holy Spirit allows us to believe what Paul wrote: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”. Romans 8:28

4. The Holy Spirit Bears Witness

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Romans 8:16

The indwelling Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. How does He do it? The Holy Spirit does not constantly speak in our ear, and say: “You know you are a child of God; you are a child of God”.

He says what He does because of our being children of God – that we know it.

We know how others can do certain things that we cannot; there is something that we have in our heart that makes us aware that this is, or this is not, according to the Father’s mind. The simple truth is this – we know: “the Spirit beareth witness”; we know. This joint witness of the Holy Spirit works with the Spirit of Sonship mentioned in verse 15 wherein we cry “Abba Father”. We know we are God’s child.

Bear witness with is summartureō, “to bear joint witness with” some other person, “to bear joint-testimony with” some other person. “Our spirit” refers to the saint’s human spirit energized by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit bears testimony to our human spirit that we are children of God (teknon, without article, thus, children of God by nature), and our Spirit-energized, spirit thus joins the Holy Spirit in a joint-testimony to that fact. Wuest’s Word Studies

Have you gone through such severely bad times that you started to wonder if you are the Lord’s?

I can recall occasions when the Lord Himself definitely held me, or spoke to me, and made me know that this was right, and this was wrong. It was something that I never received from outside; I never got advice, counsel, or anything; but I knew it in myself! ‘You just can’t – no, not now! You just cannot do it.’ It was as real as, or more real than, any audible voice.

What is that, coming right from the inside? That is the Spirit bearing witness with my spirit that I am a child of God. A child of God does not behave like that; a child of God does behave like this; a child of God does not do those things; a child of God does do these things.

The Spirit says: ‘Others can; you cannot; you are a child of God.’

It is very real – the Spirit bearing witness. That is to be the basic law of our Christian life. In addition, every one of you who is a child of God ought to know what I am talking about

This is what it means to be a Christian. It is something real on the inside.

Next, the Holy Spirit, coming inside, has created and constituted a new kind of human being, a different kind of humanity from all the rest of humanity.

5. The Holy Spirit Makes us Different

(from all other people who are not children of God)

  • He leaves His mark upon us!
  • Our focus is different, our understanding is different, out wants are different. Instead of self-focused, we are God focused.

A.We See Purpose in Suffering

And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. Romans 8:17-19

B.We Groan As We Wait For Our Adoption.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:23

The difference is not that they have decided to be religious, and to go to meetings, and company with Christian people; do this thing and that thing, and give up a lot of other things – that is not it at all.

Their very being, their very constitution, has been changed; they are different people.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Jesus said: ‘You are from beneath; I am from above’ (John 8:23). That is exactly true of every child of God. We too can say: I am from above: this is no longer my place; this is no longer my home; I am no longer at rest here in this world. I have a new nationality. I have a new country, a new land; here in this world I am just an alien.

That becomes a very real thing to the child of God.

Just as Righteous Lot was vexed by the evilness of Sodom, so too we must always be on guard against the wickedness in this world.

Never try to violate it – never try to be at home in this world. If you do, you will be doing damage to your new constitution – because it is that, you see, that is your testimony. It is not that you try to be different at all. Never try to be different; never pretend to be different. The world can spot phonies.

If the Spirit lives in you, you will be different. That is the mark of the Holy Spirit. If you want any proof of that, you will find that, from the moment of your new birth, the Devil knows you! You are a marked person, just as Christ was a marked man when He was here.

The Spirit coming in makes us different, and it is just that difference that is the basis of everything for the future, for the Holy Spirit wants to use us.

6. The Holy Spirit Gifts Us

The next thing, in the life of the Spirit, is that the Holy Spirit gifts us, and qualifies us for a place and a part in this great purpose of God.

With God, it is not a matter of your natural abilities. It is a matter of you allowing the Holy Spirit to work His gift in you and through you.

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28

The Holy Spirit Intercedes for us. He wants what is best for us! In fact, God uses our weaknesses and even our failures as instruments to build up his body and work to conform each other to Jesus.

Early in my Christian life, I was very conscious of many lacks, deficiencies, and things that I wished I had. I had ambitions and dreams that I was never able to realize. God did not want me to be somebody else. God wanted me to be what the Holy Spirit was gifting me to be.

On the one side, there are many who have very great natural abilities and qualifications, or qualifications acquired through study, but they are not necessarily spiritual people. Moreover, it never does mean – and you can prove this – that, because you have a tremendous background of scholarship, education, or qualification of that kind, you have a special aptitude for grasping spiritual things.

That is a great thing to learn early in the Christian life: it is not what I have, or what I do not have, naturally – the Holy Spirit is qualification for what God wants!

The New Testament speaks of ‘gifts of the Spirit’ and truly, if you allow the Holy Spirit to lead, He will reveal the gift that He has given you. It will motivate your service to Christ. Do take that to your heart. It may be that you are one of the least, and that you feel there is not much hope for you; but, if you have the Holy Spirit, He can and will qualify you for something that is your particular part in the whole.

The Holy Spirit has come to give us something we do not have naturally, and we cannot get naturally – it is the particular equipment of the Holy Spirit. It is never fleshly talent or abilities. It is a gift that is spiritual from the Holy Spirit.!

7. The Holy Spirit Puts us to Work

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:29-30

I want to come to one more very important aspect of this whole matter of the Spirit.

Let us go back to the Old Testament, to the last section of the book of Exodus, which, as you know, contains the whole account of the making of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. In addition, you will know that it was through the Holy Spirit that the whole thing was made, constructed; that the Spirit came upon certain men for that work, and then, under those Spirit-governed men, gathered all the people together. All the people came into action.

While it does not definitely say so, it as good as says that the whole nation was in this business. They were all doing something about it; they all had something to give. Some had linen to give; some had other materials to give; but they all had something. I suppose you could see ‘sewing parties’ all over the camp, and men at work busy  at this thing and that – some on wood, some on  gold, some on silver, some on brass – all the different materials; everywhere they were occupied with the work, and it was all under the direction and instruction and counsel of Spirit-filled men.

They were all under the government of the Spirit. The Anointing, so to speak, spread itself all over the whole mighty host for work. Now my point is this: the Holy Spirit puts His Body to Work.

Just think, here are some women making a curtain for the Tabernacle. Well, are they going to have their own little ‘tabernacle’ made of their one little curtain, all to themselves? Here are some men making a part of wood, perhaps to be overlaid with gold: is that the Tabernacle? Are they going to have a special little tabernacle of that thing that they are making – a little church of their own? It is nonsense, you see.

All this, by the Spirit, is one thing – it is the Body of Christ at Work.

They are not each living and working for their own little bit, they are living and working for the whole. They have the vision of the whole, and their whole life is taken up with the whole – not with just their little bit as an end in itself. They are living and working for the Tabernacle in completeness. The Holy Spirit has brought them together, and bound them into a oneness. All their work and focus is one, because they are under one Spirit.

8. The Holy Spirit Unites Us

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:31-37

If you and I are really under the government of the Holy Spirit, under the anointing of the Spirit, we shall not have any little private things of our own, any little ‘hole in a corner’ business of ours, any detached and unrelated thing to which we are giving ourselves. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, and of unity in vocation. What it will amount to, dear friends, is this: we shall live for the whole.

Moreover, if it is a matter of our local relationships – such as here – none of us is to be living other than for the whole: we ought to be living for the complete thing. Our position must be ‘I am not living and working as an individual: I am living and working as a part of a whole. And, in the appointment of God, for the time being, my local ‘whole’ is here, and I am living for that; I work for that; that is my vocation.’

So many people are wondering about their service: wanting to be in the Lord’s work, or to do something for the Lord – some sort of ministry, some sort of work – and to know what their work is; and they are asking: What is my work? What is my ministry? What is my job? It is always ‘my’, ‘my’, ‘my’… The answer is: Your job is ‘they’, is ‘them’.

Your value to God is a related thing. You will find the Holy Spirit coming in and using you when you link yourself on with all the rest, and become part of the whole.

If you keep yourself in any detachment, He may not do anything at all with you; He will just leave you; you will be doing nothing, and be counting for nothing.

You see, we are really in “Ephesians”. “Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, Ephesians 4:1 and the context or Eph 4 all concerns our relationship one to another in our daily walk. We are not to say “this is not my job; this is not your job, as something personal, as if we were not connected to one another.

It is the Church’s job; it is not yours: it is not mine. Whenever people go off on a personal, unrelated, line they become an end in themselves; and when they go, that is the end. The thing started with them, and it finished with them; and now you have to start all over again.

Therefore, we go back to our illustration from the Old Testament. The people found their inspiration, and the Lord’s blessing upon them, as they saw all the time the whole, lived for the whole, and regarded everything, every detail, as a part of the whole. You live for the whole!

In the church you don’t see it through your eyes. You do not let a little matter get you all upset if you are focusing on God’s greater purpose through the WHOLE. You are not in a church for your own interests. Have the whole view of God’s Church, and you will find that the Lord’s blessing is there. There may be difficulties, but the Lord will stand by you; and there will be something that would not be there if you just became a little company by yourselves, in a corner, living for yourselves, turned in on yourselves.

The Christian life is never about you and what you want for yourself. No! That is not the Living in the Spirit! Catch the vision of God’s purpose!

God works to conform each one of us into the likeness of His Son! That is His purpose, and He uses the WHOLE body!

We started from within – the Spirit doing His work within, joining us to Christ, leading us to our relationship with our Abba Father, making us different, working in us and then working our His purpose in us, gifting us, putting us to work with others, uniting us to a bigger purpose, accomplishing what is on the heart of God.

The end of our Journey Through the Cross is dying to ourselves and what we want, and being conformed to Jesus Christ. That is where we are going.

How? By the Holy Spirit within, and by our Living in the Spirit.