Friday, May 27, 2016

Freedom Prayers

In the last while, I have been receiving great comfort and encouragement from praying according to Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. More recently, I moved backwards in Ephesians to consider how Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:15-23 helps us appreciate the prayer-focus later in the letter.

When I connect these encouragements to prayer with the real-life struggles of God’s children, I see how liberating it would be if we prayed for these things rather than believed our lives were too difficult for God to handle.

I will not elaborate at the moment, but I present both these prayers with the encouragement that all who love the Lord Jesus Christ can pray these things in faith that they are God’s will for us, and, therefore, God will most assuredly answer our prayers. In addition, his answers will surely liberate us from anything that holds us back from growing up in Jesus Christ our Lord.[1]

Praying Ephesians 1:15-23

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Praying Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
 Expectation: Do not be surprised if God exposes things in our lives that are of the “poor in spirit” variety of problems that makes us “those who mourn”. However, he does this so we will meekly accept we cannot fix what is wrong with us, and that we will have such a sincere hunger and thirst for his righteousness that he will transform us from whatever ails us, into the ever-increasing likeness to Jesus Christ our Lord.[2]

We just have to pray, and watch in anticipation of how God answers.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Not so incidentally, it is in Ephesians 4:1-16 that Paul gives such a clear description of how Jesus designed the church, his body, so that “the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (vs 16).
[2] The Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-12 show the qualities of heart we find in ourselves when God is blessing us (poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hungering for righteousness), so we ought to expect to see those things as God works to conform us to the image of his Son. II Corinthians 3:18 tells us to expect our transformation to look like growing “from one degree of glory to another”. Praying according to God’s revealed will is one way to join him in this work. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bible Study: God’s Sovereign Grace in Salvation

Consider this passage from God’s word with a special emphasis on the sovereignty of his grace in bringing us into his eternal salvation.
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1)

Copy/paste the study below into your word processor and prayer journal whatever the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart through this Scripture. Ask God to show you what each part communicates of his sovereignty to accomplish what he has chosen to do, and his grace in doing for us what we do not deserve.[1]

“In him”

“you also,”

“when you heard the word of truth,”

“the gospel of your salvation,”

“and believed in him,”

“were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”

“who is the guarantee of our inheritance”

“until we acquire possession of it,”

“to the praise of his glory.”

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Of course, reading the whole context from Ephesians 1:3-14 is an even greater study to emphasize both God’s sovereignty to do what he set out to do, and the grace that would move him to do so.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Narcissism, Depression, and Other Obstacles to Freedom

For a long time, I have known that the number one obstacle to freedom in Christ is our propensity to depend on our sarks, or our flesh, rather than on the Holy Spirit. In the early 90’s, when one of my mentors told me to expect to see church folk more committed to self-protection than to knowing and doing the will of God, I was shocked. Twenty-five years later, not so much.

Last night I was listening to another mentor sharing about how to minister to narcissistic people.[1] He said that narcissism is essentially a fear-based response to shame. Focusing only on one’s admirable qualities protects one’s heart from thinking about the shameful things that have happened to us, or that we have done.

The Narcissist expresses his or her self-protection in the distinctive characteristic of self-justification. They are never wrong; criticism against them is never right. They are willing to attack, explode with demeaning expressions of anger, shame, and threaten shame on our loved ones, in order to justify themselves, and defend their own shame-filled hearts.

The only cure to sarkiness of any kind, especially this fleshly dependence on self-justification, is to set our minds on the Holy Spirit of the Living God. Paul uses the whole of Romans 7 to show us the damaging and deadly work of our flesh (sarks), and Romans 8 to glorify the supremacy of life in the Spirit.[2]

I can’t believe how many times I have heard depressed Christians defend their depression as some inherent right because it is a sickness they cannot help. God’s Spirit is the cure to our depression, as surely as he is the cure to our fears, and our lack of faith.

He is also the cure to our narcissism, or the narcissism in others, if only we would be willing to deny our selves (sarks/flesh), and be filled with God’s Holy Spirit instead.

What stands out to me these days as the wonderful way of connecting our own sarkiness (no matter how it is expressed) to the ministry of God’s Holy Spirit, is the way Paul prayed for people in Ephesians 1 and 3.[3] In particular, I am impacted by the things Paul prayed for our inner selves, or our hearts.

Why is this so important? Because our propensity to depend on ourselves (sarkiness) causes us to surround our inner selves with walls of self-protection. Narcissism is a shame-based self-protection designed to keep everyone from knowing what has happened to our hearts. Depression is a self-protective numbing of our hearts so we do not have to feel what is in there.

So, the things Paul prayed for our hearts, or our inner selves, is hugely significant in presenting hope and healing to sarky people. Even when it looks hopeless in addressing someone’s narcissism because they become so cruel in their self-justification, or when our attempts to speak hope into the hearts of depressed people seems to do nothing more than fortify their attempts to avoid feeling anything at all, we still have prayer, and prayer to someone much greater than our hearts.

As the apostle John wrote, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”[4]

Many church folk never discover this reality, that God is greater than our hearts, and, because he knows everything, he can do a far greater job of protecting our hearts than we have done. Narcissism and depression do not work at liberating our hearts from guilt, shame, and fear. But God is greater than our hearts, and so we pray for each other according to his revealed will.

What stood out to me this morning from Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 was this little phrase, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened”.[5] Please study the whole prayer, but, for the moment, consider God’s will for you and I, that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened.

Why do we hide the eyes of our hearts behind walls of self-protection and self-justification? Because the eyes of our hearts have seen too much of shame, and guilt, and fear, and have protected our hearts the only way they have known how, by sarky self-dependence.

The way we pray is that God would enlighten the eyes of our hearts. God, my depressed brothers or sisters cannot see how good and glorious you are, so please enlighten the eyes of their hearts. My narcissistic loved ones cannot see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, so please enlighten the eyes of their hearts so they will hunger and thirst for your righteousness by faith to replace their deadly self-protection.

After considering this one little phrase, I looked up others that declare God’s good plans and intentions for our hearts. I list them here in point form so you can pray through them for yourself and any narcissistic, and depressed, and sarky, people you face in your life today.

Look at all these provisions God has made for our hearts:

·         “shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6)
·         “having cleansed their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9)
·         “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5)
·         “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6)
·         “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17)
·         “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7)
·         “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ” (Colossians 2:2)
·         “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15)
·         “that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (I Thessalonians 3:13)
·         “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (II Thessalonians 3:5)
·         “’This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds’” (Hebrews 10:16)
·         “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22)

We may have zero encouragement that a narcissistic loved one is open to considering what is wrong with them, but we have complete encouragement to pray for them according to the revealed will of God. We may think we have failed in every attempt to encourage a depressed loved one to put their hope in the Lord, but we cannot fail when we pray for them according to the will of God and seek what God would do for them through his Spirit that we can never do in our own strength.

The bottom line is that there is far too much we can pray for one another for us to accept narcissism, or depression, or any other sarky self-dependence, as is. We can accept that people are starting there, but we must pray that God will lead them to be the worshipers who worship in spirit and truth,[6] no sarky hindrances allowed.

No matter how hopeless someone appears, pray these things, watch for what God is doing, and then join him in his answers to prayer, even if they begin with the person in the mirror (his usual modus operandi). God has given us the things to pray according to his will, so pray without ceasing, and with great expectation.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Characterized by “excessive self-admiration and self-centeredness’ (Encarta).
[2] Romans 7:1-25; Romans 8:1-39
[3] Ephesians 1:15-23; Ephesians 3:14-21
[4] I John 3:19-20
[5] Ephesians 1:18
[6] Jesus’ revelation that the kind of worshipers the Father is seeking are those who “will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23) has been a great encouragement to us in praying for people to have the freedom to do so!

Monday, May 23, 2016

The “Free Indeed” Rights of Freedom in Christ

The focus of In2Freedom is to encourage and help people to first experience the new birth into the life of Jesus Christ, and then to experience daily growth towards maturity in our Savior. In the same way as we are born into this world, and then grow to maturity as a human being, God causes his children to be born again, and then to grow up to be like his Son.

Because we must see everything to do with being a child of God from our heavenly Father’s perspective, we must look at God’s plans and intentions for us as his children, and expect him to fulfill his purposes in each of our lives. If we are children of God by faith in Jesus Christ, everything God intends for our maturity is ours by the same faith that brought us into our so great salvation in the first place.

What, then, are the rights of the children of God in this earthly lifetime that we must keep before us by faith so we can experience victory over any sins, obstacles, injuries, or stumbling stones, we face along our way through life? If Jesus said that, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”,[1] there must be some kind of experience of “free indeed” that is our inherent right as God’s children.[2] No matter what we are facing, and how hard life may seem to us, we must accept nothing as defeat of our freedom in Jesus our Savior.

For starters, we must not think of our “free indeed” experience of life as freedom from struggles, hardships, disappointments, or heartaches. God’s children will always be humbled by our own fleshly propensity to sin,[3] and will always have experiences with suffering for the sake of the righteousness of Jesus kingdom.[4] Painful and difficult things will come our way. We will feel all manner of negative feelings towards ourselves when we sin, and discover God using such things to teach us to depend on him instead of our selves.[5] We will face all kinds of emotional distresses because of people’s sins against us. This can’t be helped. When people hurt us, we hurt, simple as that. Our freedom lies elsewhere.

Neither must we think of the “free indeed” experience of life as freedom from obedience to the rule of righteousness over our lives. While we are no longer under obedience to the law, we are still called to “the obedience of faith”.[6] We understand that we are unable to achieve legalistic righteousness through keeping laws and rules to such perfection that no gracious work of God is required. However, when the righteous live by faith, they are constantly pursuing the righteousness that comes through faith.

We must be clear that life in Christ is not liberation from righteousness, but from the bondage to the law that guarantees our failure to be righteous. Instead of liberation from righteousness, we are blessed with a hunger and thirst for righteousness that is satisfied in us through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,[7] by the grace of God through faith.[8]

If our freedom is not from hurtful and traumatic experiences, and it is not freedom from suffering for Christ, and it is not freedom from the longing and desire to be just as righteous as Jesus is, what freedom is our right as children of the Living God?

In short, it is the freedom to be born again by the Spirit of the Living God,[9] and the freedom to grow up to be like Jesus.[10] While the world, the flesh, and the devil,[11] may do all they can to steal, and kill, and destroy,[12] God will completely fulfil all his purposes in our salvation.[13]

The grand testimony of God blessing us “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”,[14] assures us that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”[15] Since the work of our justification, sanctification, and glorification, is God’s from beginning to end, we must set before every child of God the hope of the “free indeed” experience of life in Christ, and in the body of Christ.

What’s the point? That it doesn’t matter how badly you may be feeling over some way you have sinned against your Father in heaven, or how traumatically you have been affected by someone else’s sins against you, nothing can defeat God’s work of saving every one of his children, and leading them all to maturity in our Lord Jesus Christ. The work of salvation is his, and this includes both our justification by faith (the new birth), and our sanctification by faith (growing to maturity in Christ).

How practical is this? That any of us can identify whatever we are struggling with in our relationship with God and his people, present it before the glorious throne of grace as one pouring out our very hearts in God’s presence,[16] and come to know God in the midst of whatever we are going through better than we have ever known him before.

As was said three millennia ago, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”[17] Whether we literally face a physical threat to our lives, or face God’s work of crucifying our flesh daily, or feel such pain in our hearts that makes us wish we could die, the answer is the same for God’s children today as it was for God’s children them, “for you are with me”.

Or, as was said as recently as two millennia ago, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”[18]

If this post has raised questions for you about your own experience of the new birth, or has brought to the surface any difficulties you are facing in enjoying the “free indeed” experience of growing up in Christ, make sure you ask God to unite you with other believers who will join in bringing such things before your heavenly Father in prayer and mutual ministry.

After all, God’s word tells us to, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”[19] No matter your need in any aspect of salvation, drawing near to God as a fellowship of believers will lead you into the provision of God that fulfills Jesus’ promise to make us “free indeed”.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] John 8:36
[2] By “inherent” (a basic part of something), I do not mean inherent to us as the children, but inherent to our adoption as the sons of God (see John 1:12-13; Ephesians 1:1-14 shows how our adoption as sons (vs 5) fits in to the full picture of our salvation).
[3] Romans 7:1-25 is Paul’s explanation of how we are released from the law, but not from our flesh (sarks). Our freedom is not from our flesh, which still wants to do what is contrary to righteousness. Our freedom is from the law which gives sin the advantage over our flesh by its ability to keep our flesh doing what we ought not to do. The battle with the flesh will continue throughout this earthly lifetime, but not as a life of hopeless defeat because we can never do good enough. Instead, Romans 8:1-39 shows how life in the Spirit gives us victory over the work of the flesh so that we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (vs 37). While we will not experience freedom from our flesh/sarks, we are freed from the law which guarantees our defeat, and free to live in the Spirit no matter what we are facing of our own sin, or the sins of others against us.
[4] Matthew 5:10-12
[5] Matthew 5:3-6, the first four Beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, show how God blesses us from poverty of spirit through to hungering and thirsting after righteousness so we can experience him satisfying us by grace through faith rather than us living with the constant consciousness of our moral and spiritual failure.
[6] Romans 1:5; 16:26
[7] Matthew 5:6
[8] Ephesians 2:8-9
[9] John 3:1-8 presents Jesus teaching Nicodemus about being born again by the Spirit of God.
[10] II Corinthians 3:18 shows how God is working to conform us to the same image as our Lord Jesus Christ “from one degree of glory to another”. I Peter 1:3-9 is a beautiful summary of the complete work of salvation from our new birth, to our guaranteed inheritance in heaven.
[11] The three enemies of the church, always working together in wicked conspiracy against our Savior.
[12] John 10:10
[13] A main theme of the whole book of Revelation is that all God’s purposes in our salvation will be completely fulfilled. He has even given us his picture-book to hold before us a sense of what it will look like when we join the great multitude of believers rejoicing in our so great salvation. My contention is that there is nothing in this earthly lifetime that should hold us back from rejoicing “with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (I Peter 1:8-9). Although the experience of forgiveness and healing may be required for specific sins and wounds, salvation and maturity our the inherent right of our adoption as the sons of God.
[14] Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:1-14 gives the full picture.
[15] Philippians 1:6
[16] The “pouring out our hearts” approach to God is not only well-substantiated in God’s Book, but is very manly as well! Of course, it is womanly at the same time, but women usually do not need to be told the obvious, if you will. See the following Scriptures that show men setting the example of pouring out their hearts before the throne of grace: Psalm 62:8; Lamentations 2:19. At the same time, be assured that God calling his people to pour out our hearts before him includes the practical work of making room for his love, since, “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
[17] Psalm 23:4 (see Psalm 23:1-6 as the beautiful context!)
[18] Romans 8:31
[19] Hebrews 4:16

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Consideration ~ God’s Glory in Creation

If we were to see God as if in a silent movie, and see all he is, and the Father he is, and the things he does, and the quality of his workmanship in creation, we would see “glory” stamped on everything.

If we would try to think of a word that describes what we see in God creating the light out of darkness, and making substance out of nothing, and orchestrating the movements and orbits of all the stars, and moons, and planets, and populating the earth with all manner of living things that thrive together in ecosystems, and symbiotic relationships of all kinds, we would have to use some synonym for “glory”.

Synonyms for glory: magnificence, splendor, beauty, wonder, grandeur, brilliance, exaltation, credit.

Yup! God cannot be described in who he is, or what he does, without the wondering hearts of his children calling out something like,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12)

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 7:12)

No wonder that, in heaven, “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:23)

And who said the Book of Revelation is difficult to understand?

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

The In2Freedom Experience

After considerable circumstances of discovering that God’s children struggle with very difficult and painful trauma from their pasts, and that these things consistently hinder them in their freedom to grow up to be like Jesus, I settled into a way of looking at my ministry that I describe something like this:

“Leading people to freedom in Christ
so they can experience God 
in a real and personal way.”

Eternal life is to know God.[1] We enter this eternal life through the justification that is by faith,[2] and we continue to experience this eternal life through our sanctification, or our growing up in Christ, also by faith. This redemptive work of God is leading us into the fulfillment of Jesus’ words, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”[3]

What, then, are we dealing with when people have a testimony of turning to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith (justification), and yet they experience such limited freedom to grow up in their salvation (sanctification)?

In the simplest of terms, my long journey to an answer comes down to this: their inner being is unable to relate to God in faith over whatever traumatic experiences that are still hurting them from within. They need ministry from the body of Christ.

Now, I know that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”[4] I also know that people cannot “hear” without someone teaching and proclaiming the word of God to them.[5]

Therefore, my ministry in life, as expressed through home church ministry as well, is to present the word of God so people can hear whatever God is ministering to their inner beings for the healing of the brokenhearted and the binding up of their wounds.[6]

I have used the logo “In2Freedom” in order to summarize my belief that there is one kind of freedom in our justification by faith, and a second kind of freedom in our sanctification by faith.[7] Justification sets us free from death to life; sanctification sets us free to grow up in Christ.

My aim in ministry is to present as many possibilities for people to interact with God’s word in order that they could see how the words of Christ will minister to whatever ails them in their inner beings. As every experience of sin, and trauma, and doubt, and unbelief, is met by the very words of God as breathed-out in his Book, the Bible,[8] I expect to find people who discover faith growing in the dark and hidden places, just as God promises to do for all who come to him through his Son.

So, if you benefit from the encouragement to experience freedom in Jesus Christ, share this around; consider who you know who seems to know they have justification by faith, but their description of sanctification, or growing up to be like Jesus, doesn’t match God’s expectation of us, “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”[9]

The same words of Christ that brought us to life through our justification will lead us to freedom in our sanctification as well. And, the journey to freedom will become a journal full of testimonies of how we daily come to know God better than we have ever known him before.

Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”[10] I will keep posting things to help us abide in Jesus’ word. Through his words, we will grow in our experience of knowing the truth, and the effect of that truth in setting us free.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] John 17:3
[2] Romans 5:1
[3] John 8:36
[4] Romans 10:17
[5] Romans 10:14
[6] Psalm 147:3
[7] There is a third freedom coming, referred to as our glorification, but that is something we will not experience in this present earthly lifetime.
[8] II Timothy 3:16-17
[9] 2 Corinthians 3:18
[10] John 8:31-32

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Question of Faith

This morning, these two expressions from God’s Book blessed me so much that I’m sharing them to see what will happen.

First, a verse that has guided my focus for the past 24 years, refreshed my soul once again:
19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (John 5)

As we consider what Jesus did in his ministry, we must interpret every single act of ministry as the Son of God doing “only what he SEES the Father doing.”

One clue of how Jesus knew he was seeing what his Father was doing is identified in Jesus’ encounter with a paralyzed man and his friends:

2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus SAW their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9)

What did Jesus see? He “saw their faith”. The salvation Jesus brought is a salvation that is “by grace… through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9). When Jesus saw faith in someone’s heart (and eyes), he knew his Father was graciously working.

Now, we know that, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17), so, we know that the place to look for faith in each other’s lives is wherever we are in God’s word, hearing the words of Christ.

With that in mind, I encourage those of you who love the Lord Jesus Christ and eagerly await his appearing to answer this question. I present it in a positive and negative form. Pick the one that matches your time in God’s word today. Feel free to answer in a response to this post, or think of someone in your church fellowship you could share this with and see what God is doing in each of you for the building up of your mutual faith.

Question in the positive: What were you reading in God’s word today that stirred your heart to faith in whatever the words of Christ were speaking to you?

Question in the negative: What were you reading in God’s word today that convicted you that Jesus was saying, “O you of little faith”, in relation to whatever the words of Christ were speaking to you?

Whichever question best applies, it should make clear to us how God is working. It is now our place to, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Higher-and-Deeper of Transformation

Years ago, I noticed that Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman[1] involved a pattern. He would show the woman something about him she couldn’t have known, and then show her something about herself she needed to face in order to fully experience relationship with him.

By the end of that particular study, I had identified the Jesus-focused things as “Highers”, and the people-focused things as “Deepers”.[2] I realized that I had seen this in many parts of Scripture, where God’s revelation of himself in more glorious ways than people knew him resulted in them seeing their poverty of spirit more deeply than ever.

While I would not claim to present this as a doctrine of God’s activity, it has proved helpful to me in facing those times in my life that cannot be explained any more precisely than “yucky”. Even while facing thoughts and feelings that fit the profile of the psalmists’ description of hopelessness,[3] I remind myself that every Deeper I have ever faced has always been preceded and followed by the gracious Highers of God.

The Deeper of the last few days, yucky as ever, has been the deep, poverty-of-spirit feeling of some kind of inner detachment. We were made for love-relationship with God and his people, life confronts us with traumatic experiences that wound our souls to such an extent that they run for cover, and God blesses his children by leading us to see this deeper need.

Why does God do that? Why does he bless us with such poverty of spirit that we mourn what is inside us, and such mourning of our wounded, sinful, messed-up condition that we meekly admit we can’t fix it, and such a sense of resigned meekness that we find ourselves hungering and thirsting after the very righteousness we do not have in whatever part of our inner selves that is staring us in the face?[4]

Answer: because then he can satisfy us with the righteousness that is by faith. In this gift, he delivers us out of the domain of darkness, including whatever lingering effects we need help with throughout the course of our lives, and transfers us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,[5] including all the ways we need to continuously be “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”[6]

This mornings “Higher” came, as usual, out of nowhere. Actually, it came from the Holy Spirit who daily teaches us the words of the word,[7] but, as far as my perspective, I could not see it coming. The treasure was found in this phrase,
29 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. (Romans 8)

It was the three words, “in order that”, that grabbed my attention. My detached soul, my wounded soul, disowned and rejected by so many people, needed to come before this glorious message of grace.

What was the message? That God had decided things before the beginning of time that would do everything necessary in our lives “in order that” he could bring about this glorious and wonderful thing, that Jesus would be, “the firstborn among many brothers.”

Everything I had ever heard in arguments about God’s right to love people beforehand, to predestine them to something he decided they would have and experience, and sovereignly work everything in their lives together for a particular good,[8] had hidden this wonderful treasure from sight. The purpose of all God’s fore-loving, and predestining, and calling, and justifying, and glorifying,[9] is that the kingdom of his beloved Son[10] is a place where Jesus becomes the firstborn brother among many brothers.[11]

How do I fit into this? I am a brother among brothers. There is no distinction between me and all the other brothers. We have all “received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”[12] God, “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” and his act of predestining us to this adoption secures our place in the brotherhood of believers over which Jesus is our firstborn brother.

Again, while the objective revelation of Scripture speaks of these things more gloriously than anyone could miss, the ministry of these things to my inner being is carried out through the personal activity of God by his Holy Spirit. And what the Spirit is saying to me today is that all the work of God is an “in order that” that cannot fail.

Therefore, I can confidently say with older brother Paul, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”[13] What completion? That every one of Jesus’ brothers will be fully conformed to the image and likeness of our Savior so that he can be the firstborn over a kingdom of priests[14] of whom he is not ashamed to call his brothers.[15]

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] John 4:1-42
[2] It looked to me that the things Jesus showed about himself took the woman higher in her thoughts than she had ever gone before, and the things he showed her about herself were taking her deeper into herself than anyone had ever taken her. Together, this brought her through the Beatitudinal Valley where she wanted to know him as her Messiah.
[3] Psalm 40:1-3, 69:20, 88:7
[4] See the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-12. They show that, as we find ourselves experiencing each of the things described, we are to consider ourselves blessed by God for the grace that draws us into such a journey of transformation.
[5] Colossians 1:13-14
[6] II Corinthians 3:18
[7] Jesus was very clear in his letters to the seven churches (the complete church through the completion of time) that he wanted everyone to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22). We ought to expect our time with God in his word to lead us into this ministry of the Spirit.
[8] See Romans 8:28 as a necessary part of the context to understanding verse 29.
[9] Romans 8:30 is also a necessary part of the context to understanding verse 29!
[10] Colossians 1:13-14 again.
[11] I am not saying I didn’t know this. I’m only glorifying God for the way he teaches and reminds us of his truth through the daily ministry of his Holy Spirit. Sometimes we need to learn about a familiar subject, but at a new grade level, if you will.
[12] Romans 8:15
[13] Philippians 1:6
[14] I Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6, 5:10
[15] Hebrews 2:11 (see context of Hebrews 2:10-13)