Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Weapon of Praise ~ Ganeida

Today I want to look at another aspect of Spiritual warfare.  It is one of the easiest & most effective of all weapons to use yet it is the most overlooked.

Psalm 22:3 says:
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel…
When we look at our armoury for spiritual warfare a large part of it involves our tongue. That is because …if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. [James 3:2] Proverbs 21:23 says: He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.

Battle readiness includes all the things we have discussed previously: knowing our enemy; understanding that he is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour; that he fights to the death: no rules; no time limit; no morals. Battle readiness means preparing our battle shield of faith, building up our inner man by knowing the Word of God, speaking the Word of God, agreeing with the Word of God, praying the Word of God. Battle readiness requires that we abide in Christ; that we know the Holy Spirit & are able to use the Word of God as a double edged sword to fight the enemy.

All of this is both right & necessary if we are to have Christ’s victory in our lives but victory is a funny old thing.  Victory can be hollow. It can be empty & meaningless.  It can leave us feeling jaded & defeated because the cost can come at a very high price. So the first thing we must understand is what victory in Christ is.

Remember our key to everything is *In Christ*.  To be *in Christ* is to draw our strength, our power, our authority from the relationship we have with Christ; For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' Acts 17:28

There are many aspects to being *in Christ* but foremost is this: For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Romans 8:29 The bible puts this concept in different ways but the overriding idea is that we become conformed to the image of Christ. We are designed to look & act just like Christ & it is the Holy Spirit that enables this transformation to take place.

When we look @ Christ & spiritual warfare we see Christ using the scriptures, rightly divined, to wage war against satan & defeat him in the gospels. We must *rightly divine* the word because satan knows his scriptures too & is not adverse to using them to his own advantage & deceiving people.

However we are meant to be more than merely victorious.  We are meant to be overcomers. The usual image we have of the victorious Christ is of the resurrected Christ, victorious in his defeat of satan over death but is not of great help to us as we suffer trials & tribulations in this life, are persecuted & oppressed, slandered, mocked & maligned.

I have taught this before but I want to revisit it today because you later find this principle applied in Acts 16.
If you read the crucifixion account in all four gospels there is a record of the last words of Jesus known as the seven last words. They are:

·       Behold your son: behold your mother John 19:26–27
·       My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34
·       I thirst John 19:28
·       It is finished John 19:30
We know them.  We have read them at different times but we do not connect them with what Paul says in Hebrews 12:2 Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.

It is on the cross that Jesus takes care of business. Firstly he ensures that he is carrying no bitterness of heart.  He reassures the repentant thief.  He makes sure his mother is taken care of as a good son should. Then we have that agonising cry:  My God, my God!  Why have you forsaken me?

I want you to stop right there. I have heard some great sermons preached on this.  Invariably they point out that this is the point at which the full weight of our sin came upon Jesus & our sin separated the son from the father. If that is so, & if that is all it is, then John & Mary & the other women gathered there at the foot of the cross, had a huge problem. They believed Jesus to be the messiah.  The chosen one.  The anointed of God. And now God had abandoned him.  What were they to think? What in fact did they believe?

Jesus was an orthodox Israelite.  So was John.  So were the women. They would have recognised immediately that Jesus was quoting from psalm 22. In Israelite thought to quote one line of a psalm was to reference the entire psalm.  That is important to remember because one aspect of crucifixion is suffocation.  Jesus would not have had breath for much more than a short gasped quote.  It is shorter in Aramaic than in English. [Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?]
So when you reference the whole of psalm 22 this is how it ends:

22 I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honour him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

That is a whole different mindset to the line quoted isn’t it! Jesus made a passionate declaration of the goodness of God.  What’s more, unequivocally, He confesses He is not abandoned, scorned nor despised. Traditionally this psalm ends with those famous words:  It is Finished. Complete.  These are the words the High Priest utters as the last Passover Lamb is slaughtered.  There is nothing more.
Psalm 31:21 is referenced:
they put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

And Psalm 31:5

Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Please note: Jesus might not have the breath to sing but the scriptures He quotes reveal His mindset. He is not holding a pity party. It is not, poor me, poor me; why has God abandoned me? Quite the opposite in fact. This is His example on the cross & if you come with me to Acts 16 you will find Paul & Silas following that example.

23After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.

Now at first glance I grant you that this seems to have very little to do with what happened on the cross but in fact that is not true. Paul, in Philippians 3:5 describes himself like this: I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin~a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law.

In other words Paul is saying he knows what the scriptures teach.  Elsewhere he informs his readers that He was taught by Gamaliel himself; Gamaliel, the grandson of Hillel, the Jewish Dr of Rabbinical law. We have looked at how the Jews trained their scholars so we know that Paul knew these scriptures off by heart & the various ways that scholars interpreted them.

This is the background of the man who cast a demon out of a slave girl who was making her owners a pretty penny by fortune telling ~ & paid the price by being beaten & thrown into jail where we find him singing. At midnight.

Psalm119:62 says: At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws. Very possibly this is the psalm Paul & Silas sang & to this day it is the psalm of the Orthodox churches @ the midnight Office.

When we find ourselves in the midst of various trials & tribulations how do we respond?  Do we reflect Jesus, Paul & Silas by declaring the goodness & mercy of God in the midst of our afflictions or do we moan & groan & bemoan our fate?  If we want to see victory, if we want to be not just victorious, but overcomers, we need to make praise an integral part of our weaponry.

What’s more this is how God wants us to respond because there are promises for those who are overcomers.
·      To him who overcomes, I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7.
·      He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” Revelation 2:11.
·      “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows except him who receives it.” Revelation 2:17.
·      And he who overcomes and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations – ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ –  as I also have received from my Father; and I will give him the morning star.” Revelation 2:26-28.
·      “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 3:5.
·      “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” Revelation 3:12.
·      “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:21.

There is something about praise that defeats our enemy in a way that nothing else can.  Firstly it lifts our spirits by putting our focus on our deliverer & saviour instead of on ourselves & our problems.  Secondly it is a witness to those around us.  Thirdly it rebukes satan as the liar he is. Fourthly it is our victory cry. 

All through the ages the saints have gone to their deaths praising God: Those thrown to the lions in Roman amphitheatres, burnt as torches to light Nero’s orgies; sacrificed to idols. We have seen it too in our own time: The Coptic Christians in the middle east; Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Bali; Jim Elliot & cohorts…It is a common response in the face of adversity. We need to make it a part of our first line of attack.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Criteria for Renewal ~ Ganeida

In a very roundabout way we have been looking @ revival. One reason for this is that there is a 3 part process & we tend to use the single word *revival* when we actually mean one of three things ~ or perhaps all three.  Those three things are:

·      RENEWAL: When God touches the heart of a single individual
·      REVIVAL: When God touches a community of believers
·      AWAKENING: When the wider society is impacted

While we want to see all three things happen our big picture vision is for awakening ~ to see our wider community impacted for Christ.

I have spent a good deal of time going over different aspects of our call to live the Christian life to ensure we understand the basics & there are 2 main reasons for this.  The first is so that we understand how we need to position ourselves with Christ, what our part is, & that which belongs to the Holy Spirit.  The second reason is something we see far too often in the modern church. People get saved yet there are no mature Christians available to disciple them.  So the nature of revival is to not only see a move of God in our churches but also to see Christians maturing & able to disciple others.  This is how the early church grew. Remember we said the early Christians used 3 methods to establish new believers in the Faith:
·      Sound teaching
·      Righteous example
·      The Transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

And there were 3 distinguishing marks of the faithful
·      Separation from the world [John 15:18`19]
·      Unconditional love [John 13:34~35]
·      Obedient trust [John 14:1, 21]

This is why we have taken the time to establish an understanding of the fundamentals of the Faith: the nature of sin, the need for repentance, the nature of salvation & the work of the Holy Spirit.

You see we need to prepare ourselves to be used of the Holy Spirit. Matthew Henry once said:
"When God intends great mercy for His people, the first thing He does is to set them a praying."

We see this with the greatest revival in the bible recorded in Jonah. Jonah, as we have seen, was a most reluctant prophet of God’s grace & mercy. Before God could speak through him He had to bring Jonah to a point where he was obediently willing to be used & the first thing Jonah did was pray! He had to repent of his past actions ~ & that took some doing!  He was a most reluctant messenger!

You can contrast this revival with the one that occurs in the New Testament @ Pentecost.  You see a very similar process in place ~ & a very interesting process it is.

Firstly Jesus instructs His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until He sends His Holy Spirit.  That must have been interesting!  Think about it.  James & John, the sons of Thunder were there & we know they had been conniving for the top place of honour @ Jesus side [Matthew 20:20]: I can’t imagine that made them very popular with the other disciples.  Peter was there ~ & we know he had a bombastic & abrasive personality.  Matthew, the tax collector was there ~ a man who knew how to sit on a fence & walk both sides of a road. Nathaniel ~ a true Israelite, in whom there is no deceit [John 1:47]…

I can’t think of a more diverse group of people but they were all together in the one place & the KJV renders it as being *in one accord.* Now that is an interesting translation because it highlights something significant.  There were things that needed to be straightened out amongst these men.  There needed to be forgiveness, grace, mercy because they were very, very different types of men; very ambitious men; proud men; volatile men. As they waited in that upper room they were called to prayer & their prayer brought them into unity.

 They didn’t unify themselves but they did position themselves in a way that allowed God to work. For that to happen they had to forgive each other.  I don’t imagine Peter found it easy to forgive James & John for trying to steal a march on being first in the kingdom.  I don’t imagine John found Peter’s betrayal [especially after all his boasting] easy to forgive when he himself had stood @ the foot of the cross & watched Jesus die. Nothing grieves the Holy Spirit more than to have believers @ each other’s throats so it was imperative they forgive. I imagine that as they worshiped the one they all believed in the resentments fell away ~ as they do~ And as these men obediently humbled themselves they were brought into *one accord* & that accord released the Holy Spirit.

The process for revival has never changed.  It is recorded in 2 Chronicles7:14~16…if my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves & pray & seek my face & turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven & will forgive their sins & restore their land.  My eyes will be open & my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place.  For I have chosen this temple & set it apart to be holy~ a place where my name will be honoured forever.

We must be humble for God resists the proud.  Prayer prepares the way.  Repentance aligns us with God’s will.

The difference between Jonah & the disciples is in the operation of the Holy Spirit.  Jonah only knew the Holy Spirit as *the anointing upon* when he was ministering in his role as prophet but the disciples had a whole new relationship with God & thus a whole new relationship with His Spirit. They received *the anointing within.* We, both individually & corporately are the new temple which God has chosen & set apart to be holy.  Therefore we are called to walk in holiness.

The plain definition of holiness [hagios]is different, set apart. Thus the 3 distinguishing marks by the early church

·      Separation from the world
·      Unconditional love
·      Obedient trust

We are not meant to look like the world, talk like the world, act like the world.  We are to be different & to be different we are called to be like Christ. Our concerns & interests should be those things that concern & interest Christ.  Our obedience is to Christ, not the world.  Our love is the love that the Holy Spirit sheds abroad in our hearts.

Peter puts it like this: for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

Possession [peripoiēsis], which some translations render, peculiar people, can mean a specialty: something rare & wonderful; a treasure.

We are not meant to be part of the common run, but something that stands out, rare, unique, beautiful.

Christianity has changed so much since the first century that we have lost sight of what God intended His church to look like.  We have remade the church in our own image arguing that we need to be *like the world to win the world*, that we need to be *seeker friendly*, that we can have the world & Christ both.  Nothing could be further from the Truth. There can be no compromise with the world or the things of the world.

 Holiness has always been radical.  The world has never liked it.  True holiness is confronting.  It puts the lie to tolerance, acceptance, compromise. It crucifies our flesh. It strips away sin. It reveals our weakness.

For most Christians holiness remains an unattainable ideal because they haven’t been taught to shun the things of the world. It’s not easy.  Even if we monitor what we watch on t.v or listen to on the radio we have no control over the adds. Clothing is dictated by the fashion industry & the fashion industry has determined what is acceptable, modest, fashionable, rather than the word of God. Our topics of conversation are dictated by the world: gossip, sport, politics.

Most of us don’t have a persecution complex.  We don’t want to be ridiculed for our beliefs, look out of place, or be considered odd.  In fact it is such a fundamental desire to not stand out that God issued warning after warning to the Israelites:

"When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Deuteronomy 18:9~11.But they did them anyway.

God is very serious about the call to holiness.  Now we can be saved, washed, redeemed, Holy Spirit filled yet still not be walking in holiness but if we are serious about revival then we have to be serious about holiness.  Look again at the 2nd part of that verse in Peter: As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

It is not our tolerance, our compromise, our acceptance, our understanding that shows others God.  It is our holiness. A whole other way of being.  That is what the word of God says about it.  The world says other things but the world’s way has been tried & found wanting. The church has tried the world’s way & there has been an ever increasing decline in numbers & church attendance for decades. It is past time to repent & return to doing things God’s way.
Finally, the Holy Spirit works both individually & corporately so my walk in holiness is not going to look exactly like anybody else’s. Nor will yours. However there should also be commonalities: an ongoing separation from anything that compromises our walk with God; our love for the brethren & our obedience to Christ. It is Christ who draws all men unto himself so as we lift Him up by drawing closer to  Him …Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Help in our Infirmities ~ Ganeida

We have touched on how much we need the help of the Holy Spirit as we have discussed our Spiritual walk & aligning ourselves with the will of God in order that He might bring revival: personal, national, global.

Today I want to look more closely @ how that actually happens.  Please turn to Romans 8:26 ~ 27 which says: And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.

The first word I would like us to study is astheneia.  It is translated variously as weakness or infirmities. The Greek is a generic term that is inclusive of all types of sickness & disease. It includes nosos [a terminal condition for which there is no natural cure] Matthew 4:23, malakia [refering to a crippling disease of the muscles or nerves also Matthew 4:23] kakōs [to be mentally unwell, plagued by evil spirits, prone to bad thinking, or criminally wicked Matthew 9:12], mastix to be plagued or tortured by recurring pain or illness & arroustos ~ people who were so sick they were critically ill, even comatose [Matthew 14:14].

Understand that without the Holy Spirit operating in us we are literally sick: weak, diseased, crippled, mentally unwell, tortured ~ even comatose. We do not want to be that sort of a Christian.  That sort of a Christian is weak & ineffective.

Nor do we want to be the sort of Christian who knows the word but does not operate in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are word people, faith people.  We know that the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12

What we need to understand is that there were 2 different sorts of swords used in Jesus day. There were practice swords.  These were huge, 2 handed swords used in practice.  They were specifically designed to build strength & muscle but were absolutely useless in warfare.  In the same way knowing the word, using the word believing the word builds up our strength & muscle but when we are embroiled in the battle we use our fighting sword, a short, two bladed sword basically used for stabbing.

Now we understand that both edges of this sword are sharp.  One edge is the Word of God.  The other edge is us agreeing with the word of God.  We say what God says.  We confess what God confesses. This is our weapon of warfare.

However there is a missing element in all this, good as it is. The missing element is the Holy Spirit.

This is how it works.  We are jogging along nicely with our life & everything is pretty honky~dory.  Suddenly there is an eruption & we find ourselves facing a huge mountain ~ but hey! We’ve trained to deal with the mountains in our lives. We know we’re supposed to *speak to our mountain* ~ & so we land on all the bible promises that address our condition.

Financial crisis: Deutronomy 28:8 The LORD will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God gives you. Or Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Sickness? Exodus 23:25 Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you…

We know to pray the Word, speak the Word, believe the Word ~ & our mountain sits there.  It’s huge.  It’s ugly. And it doesn’t budge! We’re believing for our healing, our financial situation, our prodigals but our healing doesn’t happen, our finances remain in the red & our children are still apostate.

So we bind our mountain because we know the Word & the word says: I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven. And we loose. We may even get others to agree in prayer with us  and when that doesn’t work & our mountain still continues to sit there we fast & we use the name of Jesus & we confess the word, we pray & fast & bind & loose & still that mountain doesn’t budge!

Remember we said last week the key to so much of our being overcomers is to be *in Christ* for He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.

If we reference our opening scripture we learn: we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. Or we do not know how to pray as we ought… You see when we are in a battle we aren’t meant to be wielding our great 2 handed practice sword because that is not how it is meant to be used.  We will exhaust ourselves & do no good.  No!  For the battle we need our short stabbing sword.

Now those of you who studied the Christian’s armour learnt that each piece of equipment served a specific purpose. If you remember your history you know that a Roman soldier did not, as so many pagan cultures did, engage in single combat that was often fought without a shield. He fought from behind his shield & his shield was large enough to protect his whole body.  When he locked his shield with others they created an impenetrable wall.  Paul tells us that our shield is faith & we know faith comes by hearing & hearing by the word of God. That is our big practice sword.  We build our faith through the word of God.  Then when we are engaged in battle we fight from behind our shield of faith.

So why doesn’t our mountain move?  Because we need the Holy Spirit’s help. He converts the word into our short stabbing sword. The Holy Spirit helps us…when? In our infirmities! This is why we discussed the various types of sickness included in the word *infirmities* first. Whatever we are battling, however big our mountain, we are helpless in our own strength but the Holy Spirit is there to help us.

Now the Greek word translated help is synantilambanomai…Not only is this the first time this word is ever used, Paul invented it to describe Holy Spirit help. Syn refers to partnership, co~operation.  We are to partner with the Holy Spirit & co~operate with Him. Anti is against in its simplist construct but it implies something or someone that is a menace to society, dangerous & the lambanomai means to grab hold of someone, to aid.

When something or someone comes against us & we are caught in a battle & cry out for the Holy Spirit’s help he partners with us.  He is furious on our behalf because we bear His seal, the protection of Jesus blood & the love of the Father & so he rushes to help us.
  He intercedes for us ~hyperentynchanō.
In defining the word *intercession* Rick Renner explains there are 3 implicit meanings:
·      To fall into a ditch with someone
·      To share emotions & frustrations
·      Supplication/rescue
This is what the Holy Spirit does for us. He’s not perched on the ledge of our dilemma offering unwarranted advice.  He gets right in beside us sharing our emotions & frustrations, supplicating on our behalf & rescuing us.  And here’s the awesome thing.  He shares His emotions with us.  The Holy Spirit will always point us to Jesus the author & finisher of our faith.  He will always bolster our confidence in the one who rescued us.  He will remind us that we are to be joyful because of all that has been done for us & because we are so loved of God & we can continue to praise Him because God is good always.
Now, if we have been in our ditch for a while, if we have been battling our mountain in our own strength, it is going to take a while before the Holy Spirit makes a difference.  We need to learn to be quick to cry out for help.
The next really awesome thing is that the Holy Spirit knows exactly what to pray, how to pray it & what is needed.  He is very specific.  See if you are praying for people, if you are praying for a mountain to be moved, you need to be stabbing with your fighting sword to kill.  You don’t want to be inflicting superficial wounds. Is the sickness unto death or is it recurring?  Is it mental or nerves? Is it caused by satanic attack, genetics or a spiritual illness?  In the natural we cannot know any of these things but the Holy Spirit does & He will pray the specific will of God into the circumstance.
Perry Stone talks about the secret weapon in Ephesians 6.  It is not mentioned as a weapon by name but every Roman soldier carried 2 lances: a short one & a long one. I don’t want to side~track but  Ephesians 6:18 says Pray in the Spirit @ all times
When we allow God’s Spirit to pray through us we can know we are praying out the perfect will of the Father.  It will be specific.  It will target the right area & it will be effective. 
Lastly you don’t have to be smart to qualify for the Holy Spirit’s help.  1 Corinthians 1:27~28 tells us that God chose morons, the base [literally those considered so ugly they are not publicly presentable], social rejects & the foolish to confound the world.  When we have the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit He wars on our behalf, He wars beside us, & He guides us into the victory parade with Christ.
I am indebted to Rick Renner for a deeper 
understanding of the Greek &
Perry Stone for insights into the armour.