Archive for the ‘The Deeper Christian Life’ Category

Resting in God’s Shadow

November 19th, 2018

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)

What a marvelous picture of God’s grace – to rest in His shadow. This time of year in Europe makes us forget about the summer heat – it is already cold. In these days we think of standing in the sun to warm up rather than resting in the shade to cool down. But Israel is an arid and hot land, and in all such places shade represents comfort.

We rest in Christ. It is a matter of faith, that we can take all of our sins, all of our worries, relationships, responsibilities, and even our plans and dreams and leave them in His hands, resting in the comfort of His love. The author of Hebrews especially wanted the believers he was writing to to know of the power of resting in God.

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. (Heb. 4:9-10)

How can we rest in the shadow of the Almighty? How can we rest from the frustrations of our failures and the sense of frustration that so many things bring us on this earth?

We do this by trusting that He has forgiven us freely, entirely, and justly through the grace of God in Christ. Our past failures should not bother us any more. We can simply rest in the shade of the cross.

We do this by trusting in His Word – the very next verses of Hebrews 4 speak about the power of the Word of God. We can let the devotional meaning of the Word of God speak to our hearts. Many who insist on how much they believe the Bible do not spend much time actually meditating on it. So their words of support for the Bible’s truth sound empty and tension-filled due to the fact that they are not using it in their own lives.

We do this by surrendering circumstances, relationships, and responsibilities in His hands. God will surely be there to protect us and help us If we exist under the authority of His Lordship, then His shadow should give us freedom and relief from all the frustrations and pains of this world. Simple obedience and trust are the things that bring us into the confidence of God.

We also do this by worshiping Him, realizing how great and awesome God truly is. If we can rest in Him, we can empty our hearts from the tension, fear, and worries of this life. Are you resting in God’s shadow? He watches over us. Christ said:

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 12:5-7)

Daily Devotions, The Deeper Christian Life

The Battle for Our Thoughts

November 20th, 2017

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6 ESV)

We have a real problem with our thought life. Here Paul is in complete agreement with what we read from Moses in Genesis 6: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5 ESV).

The original Greek of Romans is clear enough, but it is challenging to translate. The thought in the original Greek that we struggle with to translate is phronema in the noun form, and phroneo in the verb. The shared meaning of these words is our thoughts on their most basic level – the innermost thought on the deepest personal level. The verb appears in verse five, “set their minds on the things of the flesh” or “do mind the things of the flesh” (KJV). The noun is in verse six, “to set the mind on the flesh” or “to be carnally minded” (KJV).

This is one spot in scripture that perhaps the Amplified Bible, that seeks to give every nuance of the original language, does the best job of translation, or paraphrasing the passage:

5 For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit.

6 Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever]. (Rom. 8:5-6 Amplified Bible)

Left to their own, our thoughts run toward evil, which is why we need the Lord to lead us in a new direction. The biblical explanation is that this happens only by the Spirit. We cannot dedicate ourselves into a new type of thinking, nor repent ourselves there, nor discipline ourselves there. All of these things are helpful tools – dedication, repentance, and discipline – when they are placed in the hands of the Spirit. But the power to change our thoughts at their most basic level is not ours.

Paul expressed the frustration that we all feel in the second half of Romans 7, that he did the things he hated to do, due to sin in him, or the flesh in him.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:21-25 ESV)

The celebratory exclamation at the end of this passage proclaims the victory in our hearts that comes through the gospel of Christ, that by the power and presence of His Spirit in our lives we receive a new nature, “The new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). God is ready, able, and willing to change our thoughts. We must take the step to receive His grace in Christ and to surrender to Him. The mind at its most basic level must be surrendered to the Spirit.

How we defeat this process is to hold on to secret sins, for they reveal our thinking at its most basic level. Whether it is a hidden stash of alcohol, a hidden desire to view pornography, a hidden bitterness and unforgiveness, jealousies and hatred, lusts for power, or whatever, the secret sin that we treasure and do not forsake utterly reveals our thinking at its most basic level – the innermost thoughts of our hearts. This is where the battle is fought, and we must let the Spirit search our hearts for every unpure thought or value.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Cor. 10:4-6 ESV)

The mind set on the Spirit, or to be spiritually-minded, as it is used here in Romans 8, does not mean that we think some spiritual thoughts or remember some scriptural promises, while we entertain lusts and prideful diversions – especially secretly. If our secret thoughts are unsurrendered we will not walk in the life and peace of the Spirit.

This calls for us to regularly pull aside and pray and surrender to God. We cannot do this unless God searches our hearts, and He works on His schedule, not ours. “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6), is the command of Scripture. Take time to let God speak to you on His terms, in His timing. Always be ready to listen, and to obey.

Spiritual Maturity, The Deeper Christian Life ,