Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sharing ~ The Things We Hide in Our Hearts

As soon as I woke up this morning, it felt as though God gave me the topic of his transforming work. It was quite simple, but of the not-so-easy variety.

Lesson Plan: to replace what I have hidden in my heart that is of the world, the flesh, and the devil, with what God would hide in my heart of his word and his Spirit. In a sense, there is nothing new here. In another sense, each return to a lessons feels like looking at the same subject, but from the next grade up, if you will.

Starting place: we all know what we have hidden in our hearts (the stuff we don’t want people to know about because we are afraid we will lose them). We all know the kinds of things inside us that are not of God. We also know we guard these things as ours, and ours to do with as we please. We are also quite willing to sacrifice others, even those quite close to us, on the altar of our self-protection, as long as no one, God included, discovers or uncovers what is in our hearts.

God’s transforming work: it all begins with this glorious reality in Jesus Christ, that, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). It is because of this that we can also exchange whatever the world, the sark, and the devil, have put in our hearts, and what God is working into our hearts through the power of his word and his Spirit.

11 I have stored up your word in my heart,    that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119)

 Key thoughts:

  • “I have”, not, “I’ve thought about”
  • “your word” not mine; not even my thoughts about your word
  • “in my heart” not my head (although the head must receive the word!) 
Lesson: store the word of God in our hearts instead of all the sarky thoughts we have hidden there since childhood, or as the result of specific sins on our part, or specific sins against us by others.

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3)

Key thoughts:

  • "Let” = allow, surrender, actively welcome and receive
  • “the word of Christ” = the whole word of God, but specifically with this personal element that this is Jesus our Savior speaking to us as the head of the body of which we are a part
  • “dwell” = have a home in us
  • “in you” = in our hearts, souls, minds; captivating our inner beings
  • “richly” = none of the sarky limitations and justifications; only the desires of our new hearts to delight in the words of our Savior with all our hearts
  • “teaching… admonishing… singing… thankfulness” ~ all things we could do if it was the words of Christ dwelling in our hearts; all things we see stymied and stifled when our sarks keep all those sarky and sinful thoughts in control
  • “in your hearts” = obviously God is not the one encouraging us to think he is interested in our forced behaviors; he wants us to enjoy the free expression of our new hearts, and is telling us how he will do it
  • “to God” ~ rather than to the glory of the world, the sark, and the devil 

Lesson: our parts is to “let” this happen since God is clearly working it into his children. And, since faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the words of Christ,[1] it seems pretty clear why the world, the flesh, and the devil want us listening to them instead of to him. Freedom comes when we “let” God switch it around. Willingly.

Note: While I was looking up the above verse, I read the one that comes just previously. It stood out.

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3)

Question: What would happen to us if it was the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts rather than the sarkiness of our self-protection demanding our complete subservience?

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5)

Key thoughts:

  • “be filled with the Spirit” is parallel to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”
  • The effect of both is the same; the way we address one another, and sing to and with one another, is determined by what we put into our hearts, and what, or whom, rules within our hearts

Lesson: to hunger and thirst for this transfer, that we could sing and make melody to the Lord with our hearts instead of whine, complain, fear, justify, hide, criticize, judge, and whatever else the world, the sark, and the devil, use to poison or hearts with their work to steal, kill, and destroy.[2]

Am I honestly motivated by these lessons? Yes. Does it sound hopeful to me that such a transfer can take place? Yes. Do I accept that I must see the crud in my heart in order to clean up my act, so to speak? Yes.

It really is no different than so many things in life. An oil change is not adding new oil to old, but draining out the old and adding the new. A barn cleanup is not throwing new hay on top of manure-covered floor, but shoveling out the filth to make room for the clean hay or shavings.

God calls us to put off the old, and that has to include the old junk that is in our hearts. We are to live out of the renewed mind that is ours in Christ Jesus. And, we are to live out of the new self that is already created to be like Jesus Christ in true righteousness and holiness.[3]

Everything is in place for us to have transformed lives filled with the love, joy, and peace, that is ours in Christ.[4] It requires is to store God’s word in our hearts, to let the words of our Savior dwell in our hearts richly, and to be filled with the loving presence of the Holy Spirit. If we let the word and the Spirit of God fill our hearts, we will bear the fruit that makes people want to be in our church (us included).

Free Bonus: God even gives us a prayer that leads our hearts into his presence seeking these things with all our hearts. It goes like this:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 

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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.[5]

© 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] Romans 10:17
[2] John 10:10
[3] Ephesians 4:20-24
[4] Galatians 5:22-26
[5] Ephesians 3:14-21

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Throwing Off the Theories of Men

If you have been reading my blog regularly, you know I have been processing what God’s word says about spiritual gifts, particularly the much debated gifts that are of a more obvious supernatural character than some of the others.[1] When God’s word explicitly tells us to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts,[2] do we receive this revelation in the obedience of faith, or explain away our need to participate through some expression of clever reasoning?[3]

I have shared about the three “camps” on spiritual gifts, with Cessationists[4] and Charismaniacs[5] representing the pendulum-swinging extremes that are both unbiblical because of the Scriptures they deny. I have sought to show that the position referred to as Continuationists is the only one that accepts the whole counsel of God on the matter, and seeks to live by all the Scriptures that apply. What God’s word says is much clearer than what man’s reasoning claims.[6]

In my journey through this issue, putting my attention on what is revealed rather than what is reasoned, I have settled that the Continuationist position is not only about spiritual gifts, but the only way to look at the whole of the New Testament. At least as I take my position in this regard,[7] it is not only that I believe the revelation regarding all the spiritual gifts was intended for the whole church age until the return of Christ, but that I hold to this one facet of faith (spiritual gifts) because of the greater belief that the New Testament is a solitary diamond that is given to the church until the return of Christ, and every facet of the diamond is still part of the diamond, and still fully in effect as God meant it.[8]

Since I have always known that the Charismaniacs are wrong in their exaggerated obsession with the supernatural spiritual gifts, and I have been indoctrinated in the Cessationist position (while always knowing that the reasoning was not revelation. but not sure what to do with this conclusion), I have had to work out with God how I feel about the possibility of losing people for coming out as a Continuationist. It is not easy on the heartstrings to count the cost of surrendering oneself to the unavoidable conclusion that the whole counsel of God means the whole counsel of God.

I look back to my childhood when I first became aware that family members were not of the same mind regarding God’s place in our lives. It was impossible for me to simply grow up in a viewpoint just because it was the only one taught in my home. The disagreements were unavoidable, and I had to know for myself which was correct so that I could live with whatever I concluded was true.

In the end, I did not choose between family members, but between worldviews. One has proven itself false time and again, while the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ opened my eyes to see that all Scripture is breathed-out by God and is a rock solid foundation for every aspect of life.

In a similar way, my conclusion about Continuationism is not based on a favorite teacher, or a denominational stance, or a reaction to the mishandling of God’s word. It is the simple conclusion that the whole New Testament was written to the church for the whole of the end times, and will only cease to be necessary at the return of Christ at which time the written word is replaced by the presence of the Word.

This morning, as I again wrestled with how much to say about spiritual gifts (including how much our home church needs to hear about this, along with how much others might benefit from our journey), my attention was turned from the negative concern of who I could potentially lose, to the positive and exiting focus on how much I can lose!

In other words, I can lose both the false teachings of the Cessationists and the Charismaniacs. I do not need to deny God’s words for the spiritual gifts on one side, nor God’s words about the decency and orderliness of using the spiritual gifts on the other.

I also realized, at least in a deeper way, that I get to joyfully throw off the false belief that parts of the New Testament teachings are only cultural, and that I need to rely on people to tell me which parts those are. I get to throw off the whole mentality that man gets to dissect the New Testament into cultural sections we do not need to put into practice. Instead of throwing off those supposedly cultural teachings of the breath of God, I can throw off the counterfeit teaching that God would speak something to his church that was so limited in time and focus that we need some popular preacher to tell us God didn’t mean what he said.

I also rejoice to throw off the contemporary teaching that what the New Testament teaches about sin, particularly sin in relation to sexual purity and the marriage relationship, is somehow no longer in effect. I rejoice to throw off any of the false teachings about men and women, about no longer obeying God’s word that “marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”[9]

The point is that, instead of fearing who might throw us off because we take the most biblical position on Scripture, we are invited to rejoice in God’s word no matter what denominational positions we must throw off, no matter what popular teachings we must deny, and no matter whom we might lose along the way. It is our freedom to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”[10] no matter who we lose or gain along the way.

When Paul neared the finish line of his race, he gathered the elders of the Ephesian church together so he could say goodbye to them, and leave them both warned and chellenged about what was ahead. In his testimony to these men he declared, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”[11] Paul’s example continues to encourage pastors around the world to seek this same innocence before God, that we do not shrink back from teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God to the churches under our care.

Paul then gave positive instructions and encouragement to the elders in their oversight of Jesus’ church. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”[12] Pastors are to care for themselves, both as individual elders, and the brotherhood of elders who care for the larger community of the church. They (as the whole collection of elders) are also to concern themselves with “all the flock”, meaning the care of the whole church, not just any isolated little group.

Along with this positive exhortation, Paul warns about the negative things as well. A shepherd is just as focused on protecting his flock from harm as he is in leading it to health. So, Paul declared, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.[13]

Two problems were on their way. One was that “fierce wolves” would infiltrate the church, seeking to steal, kill, and destroy,[14] just like their father, the devil.[15] The other was the heartbreaking revelation that some of their own number, some of the men who were already elders in the church of Ephesus, would rise up and begin speaking “twisted things” in order to “draw away the disciples after them.”

In other words, we face two dangers. One is that we will encounter false teachers coming into churches and seeking to destroy the church Jesus is building. The other is that, even from within churches, people will rise up to distort and twist Scripture so they can be the center of attention for the disciples.

What’s the point? That it doesn’t matter who is telling us not to “observe” everything Jesus has breathed-out in the New Testament Scriptures.[16] Our aim is to have innocent hearts that declare and live by the whole counsel of God.

For me, this aim was once burdened with the fear of who I would lose. Now it is woven through with joy over how much I get to lose, and throw off, in order to, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation”.[17]

Our longing for the pure spiritual milk, including living by every word that comes from the mouth of God,[18] is like any other diet. It requires throwing off some things that are bad for us, and replacing them with other things that are good for us. In this case, we can joyfully throw off any false teachings, no matter who promotes them, and joyfully hold to every God-breathed word of Scripture with all our hearts.

© 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] If you haven’t read my posts, just look up the blog label “spiritual gifts” for what I have shared.
[2] I Corinthians 14:1
[3] I believe the difference between revelation and reasoning is significant, and yet this difference is often sadly missed in the debate over spiritual gifts.
[4] Cessationists believe the supernatural spiritual gifts ceased with the apostles rather than continue because the apostles taught them to the church.
[5] Charismaniacs is not a reference to Charismatic churches per se, but to those groups that obsess about the supernatural spiritual gifts rather than include them in the decent and orderly way the apostles instructed.
[6] It should be noted that this is always the case, but we are easily drawn back to idolize reasoning the way the serpent first made use of the method in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3 for the way Satan reasoned with Eve in order to deceive her, and lead Adam to bring sin into the world).
[7] I do not know if there are nuances of the Continuationist position believed and taught by others with which I would disagree. I simply present my view that the revealed teachings of God regarding spiritual gifts continue until the return of Christ, just as everything else taught in the New Testament, since that is the way it is taught in the breathed-out words of our heavenly Father.
[8] Yes, I know that many New Testament teachings are distorted by teachers of the word, and no, this does not mean that we reject what God really says and teaches. We do not throw away what is real just because there are so many counterfeits. Neither do we reject what is revealed because a favorite teacher has found a way to reason away their denial of New Testament Scripture.
[9] Hebrews 13:4
[10] Hebrews 12:1-3
[11] Acts 2:26-27
[12] Acts 20:28
[13] Acts 20:29-30
[14] John 10:10
[15] John 8:44
[16] Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission, includes our obligation to teach Jesus’ disciples to observe everything he has commanded and taught. This includes all the God-breathed words of Scripture, for they are the unified expression of the Triune God.
[17] I Peter 2:2
[18] Matthew 4:4

Monday, October 17, 2016

Home Church Video ~ The Work of God is Rest For Us

Throughout the course of my ministry I have encountered many Christians who struggle with the “performance mindset”. It is the belief that our standing with God and people is based on how well we perform rather than on what Jesus completed in his redemptive work.

Sadly, many of us have been taught this performance mindset by friends, family, and churches that have judged us as failures according to some standard of their own design. If we don’t measure up, we don’t fit in.

It is also common to hear of people brought up in legalistic churches that have made it sound like the New Testament is simply an extension of the Old Testament law. Whatever they hear in the New Testament sounds like laws that must be obeyed for fear of losing relationship with God and his church.

In this home church message we focus in on some wonderful and uplifting Scriptures that show that the only performance that really matters is what God has performed on our behalf. We no longer live as though under the law, but as beloved children who live by grace through faith.

Knowing how much God has already worked for us gives us the freedom to enjoy this work by faith. God will not fail to complete the work he has already begun in all who have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

© 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.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Sharing ~ One Heart to Another

Almost every day I share with our church family whatever God spoke into my heart that morning. I do this partly to identify the specific work of God in me in order to encourage others to consider how our parts of the body of Christ are to work together. And, I do this partly to testify to everyone that God never fails to speak something from his word so that we know something of what he is doing and how we ought to put it into practice.

Most of my blog posts come out of my morning time with God, and the sharing I have already done with our portion of the church. However, there are many times when I’ve wondered if I should just share my sharing (with minor edits to remove anything too personal, of course), and let God apply it to hearts however he sees fit.

With that in mind, here is how God ministered to me today. It is more than just some thoughts for the day, or an intellectual study of doctrine. Rather, it is seeking to unite people to: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”[1] While we may not be able to get together (you and I) to teach, admonish, sing, and give thanks, we can take whatever encouragement God gives through this fellowship in his word and find others we can share with for the building up of us all.

Today’s sharing:

Zealous For Good Works

First, as I began praying this morning, I had the phrase, “eager to do good,”[2] pop into my head. I knew the passage it came from, so I thought I would consider it in context. After looking at it, let’s just say that I wanted to do a Bible study on the whole book of Titus! It kept uncovering layer-upon-layer of truth and exhortation that basically smacked me upside the head (my interpretation) and reminded me that Jesus is building a church that is:

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (I Peter 2)[3]

This identification of who we are (yes, who we ARE in Jesus Christ), makes my heart feel very serious about whatever God is doing in me and in my church family. I am not what my sark keeps telling me I am.[4] I am not what childhood memories tell me I am. I am not what my failures tell me I am. I am what God has made me as a member of the body of Christ, as the one people who belong to him through the shed blood of our Savior raising us to life in God’s Son.

Second, when I looked at the passage from Titus, I was reminded of so many things. I fear doing a “summary”, because that is like hoping someone will read the travel brochure and get as much out of it as I got making the journey. Alas, here’s my best shot.

I was reminded that everything revolves around this encouraging and hope-filled expression, “For the grace of God has appeared”.[5]

This truly changes everything. No matter what we are going through, and how our sarks and souls battle over who is in charge, the reason we have hope of being anything at all in our Lord Jesus Christ is that “the grace of God has appeared.”

This one phrase is a whole world of teaching and reminders that should encourage us all about anything we are facing. So often I find discouragement attacking our souls because that old works-based, performance-oriented mindset interprets the will of God as something so impossibly burdensome that we give up all hope of ever attaining what he says in his word.

However, when we see the whole gospel of the kingdom, the whole collection of writings from one end of the New Testament to the other, as the expression of God’s grace appearing, then the only way we can look at anything God expects of his church is that his will will be done because he is the one doing it.

After all, since the big picture is that God is taking sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God, fallen short of his “very good” design for us in his own image and likeness,[6] and he is presently conforming us into the same image as our Lord Jesus Christ “from one degree of glory to another”,[7] we can’t ever think of this as something WE can do. Of course it is going to sound impossible to our old selves.[8] It can’t be any other way.

When we read that “the grace of God has appeared”, it is like our Firstborn Brother has just shown up to take on our worst enemies, or to help us do some impossible task. When we are afraid of something inside us that our heavenly Father relentlessly leads into the light, we have our Firstborn Brother appearing, holding us in his hands as the powers of darkness rage all around us. We are not hopeless because things are impossible for us, but we are filled with hope because our Firstborn Brother has brought the grace of God into our lives to more than match anything we are facing.

What God is connecting for me is the truth that “the grace of God has appeared,”[9] with his description of me as part of, “a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” The message is clear: the grace of God turns us into “a people” who are “zealous for good works.” Our sarks can scream, “Not so! Not so!” all they want; the fact of God’s grace appearing in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and in the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, tells us that God will not fail to do what he has purposed.

How do I handle this? Here’s how Paul told Titus to handle what is written about the work of God’s grace:

15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2)
In the Positive:

  • Declare: (teach ~ NIV) proclaim the whole counsel of God
  • Exhort: (encourage ~ NIV) urge people to walk in the obedience of faith
  • Rebuke: (rebuke ~ NIV) confront those who choose anything contrary to God’s word with the aim of leading them into the fullness of God’s will

In the Negative:

  • Let no one disregard you: (despise ~ NIV) Titus was to so honor the whole counsel of God that he would not tolerate anyone in the church disregarding the teachings he was passing on, or disregarding him as a messenger of these teachings of sound doctrine

I always find it difficult when I’m the one trying to be a faithful man teaching the apostolic teachings to others.[10] However, the focus is never on the man, the person proclaiming the whole counsel of God, but the fact that it is the whole counsel of God and we who are entrusted with the message of the New Testament are not to allow people to disregard or despise us for presenting all Scripture to their hearts and minds with the aim of nurturing obedient faith in all who profess the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Note: Paul had already talked about the other kind of person who professes faith in Christ earlier in the letter. He described them as, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.[11] It is in this context that Paul wanted Titus to remind the people that the grace of God makes us a people who are “zealous for good works” rather than “unfit for any good work”.

Conclusion: Whatever I face today, I will look at how the grace of God has already appeared, and how it is going to present ministry to me to help me be zealous for good works no matter how impossible it might appear. My Firstborn Brother is with me/us to the very end of the age. We can do all things through him who strengthens us.[12]

© 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] Colossians 3:16
[2] Titus 2:14 (as I recalled it from the NIV); “zealous for good works” in ESV.
[3] See also Revelation 1:5b-6, and 5:8-10, for parallel descriptions of who we are as the children of God’s kingdom.
[4] I use “sark”, the transliteration of the Greek word “sarx”, in reference to what our English translations identify as the “flesh”. The sark, or flesh, is that part of us that continues to seek what is contrary to the will of God even while we have a new nature in Christ Jesus that pursues righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Spirit.
[5] Titus 2:11; see context of Titus 2:11-14
[6] Genesis 1 shows how God made everything “good”, and, upon completing his creation of man declared that everything was “very good”. Genesis 1:26-27 shows that God originally created us in his own image and likeness, what is then described in greater detail in Genesis 2. Genesis 3 shows how sin entered the world and corrupted everything we do as human beings, leaving us with the indictment that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
[7] II Corinthians 3:18
[8] The contrast between what we can expect of our old selves, and what we can expect of our new selves, is presented very clearly in Ephesians 4:21-24, with the greater context of Ephesians 4:17-24
[9] Titus 2:11
[10] II Timothy 2:1-2
[11] Titus 1:16
[12] Philippians 4:13

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Home Church Video ~ Lessons for Abiding in Joy

Often, I present my sharing with a dual purpose. One purpose is to testify to whatever God ministered into my heart through his Spirit at any given time. I’m sure that, if God wanted my part of the body of Christ to hear what he had to say on this particular topic, other members of the body of Christ would benefit as well.

The other purpose is to give a lifetime of testimonies to how God always speaks through his word in the most real and personal of ways so we can know the mind of Christ for us on any given day as if we had just sat on his lap for a morning visit.

In this home church message we draw both these purposes together to testify to God’s constant desire that we could abide in his joy, and that God will speak into our souls whatever we need every day we seek him in his word and prayer.

Open your heart to whatever you need to know this “good news of great joy”[1] that causes us to “believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory”.[2] And, whatever any of us lack of experiencing the fullness of Jesus’ joy, ask, and you shall receive.

© 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] Luke 2:10
[2] I Peter 1:8

Friday, October 7, 2016

God is Working; Join His Work

This morning, some things just kept snapping into place, something like lightbulbs going off and making very clear what I ought to believe and seek and do.

First, there is no doubt that God graciously calls his church to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts as he teaches them in his word.[1] If we think of this corporately first, that we want all the spiritual gifts in the whole church of our community, with each of our gatherings having our place in this just as much as everyone else, we can trust God to distribute the gifts just as he said.

How do we join God’s work? By earnestly desiring the spiritual gifts, however he chooses to distribute them.

Second, it is the world, the flesh, and the devil, that keep telling God’s children nothing is working because, as long as they can keep us believing that, we will both feel and act accordingly. However, God is always at his work,[2] always working everything for good,[3] always carrying his work on to completion until the day of Christ,[4] so we know the three hucksters of evil are lying to us.

How do we join God in his work? Our new hearts keep looking for his work by faith, rather than following the three hucksters of evil by sight.

Third, the biggest AHA-Moment so far was the clarification that, if we want the experience of recognizing that “God is really among you” as Paul talks about,[5] we need to “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts”[6] as they are described in God’s word.[7]

In other words, instead of doing nothing until we “see” God doing something (what the three hucksters of evil want us to think), we are to take God’s teaching about spiritual gifts to heart, handle the gifts by faith, and, in faith, earnestly desire them until we see them working among us. When we are a church that expresses itself in spiritual gifts, especially prophecy, then everyone will see the evidence of the work God has been doing the whole time, just waiting for us (his body) to do what he has been directing us to do.

One of the problems in getting Christians to trust God and seek spiritual gifts is kind of like this: we who are the body want the right to do nothing while we look at our head (Jesus) to prove he is doing something. However, Jesus is speaking to us as his body to do the things he is thinking of doing, but cannot do until his body parts will respond to the impulses he is sending down to us from our head. However, we are telling our head that we won’t do the things he is speaking to us about until we see him doing something.

I hope you see the hopeless delusion of the parts of Jesus’ body refusing to do what they are told until they see him doing something, since his doing something invariably requires us to do what he is doing since we are the parts of his body through which he is working. We will see HIM doing something when WE do what he is directing us to do.

How do we then join God in his work? We first accept everything he teaches about spiritual gifts as his good, acceptable, and perfect will,[8] and then we join his work by faith, earnestly desiring the spiritual gifts, knowing that when he distributes the spiritual gifts as he wills, and we start using them as he directs, it will be evident that God is among us.

Today, we must repent of any ways in which we are telling God we have a right to do nothing until he shows us by sight that he is doing something. God speaks through his words, he shows us what he is doing right now, and, as we join him in his work, we experience him in real and personal ways.

Here is how Paul has instructed so clearly in the joining of God’s work:

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2)

God IS working something into us that requires that we will what he wills, and work what he works (just like Jesus), and our part is to agree right now to work this out with fear and trembling no matter how long it takes us to recognize spiritual gifts operating in our part of Jesus church. Because Jesus says it is his will, we first welcome his will by faith, and then put into practice whatever he says.  

© 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] I Corinthians 14:1, 39-40
[2] John 5:17, 19
[3] Romans 8:28-30
[4] Philippians 1:6
[5] I Corinthians 14:25
[6] I Corinthians 14:1
[7] I Corinthians 12:1-31; Romans 12:3-8
[8] Romans 12:1-2

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Unwillingness to Face Our Souls

It makes me smile any time some of the younger folk share something and I suddenly find myself telling a story that begins with, “When I was a kid…” Yup, I’m that old guy that walked to school uphill both ways, and… well, I think you get the point. I’m old enough to have stories that could prove helpful to younger folk should they like to sit around the fire and listen, so to speak.

I also find that the stories I like to tell are not just back-in-the-good-old-days reminiscing, but lessons learned over the years and how I would love to see people spared the mistakes I made,[1] or things I went through simply because I did not know any better.[2]

One of the patterns I have seen over the years is the difference between those who plod on seeking God in his word and prayer no matter what they are going through, and those who give it a try and decide it doesn’t work. Those who take God at his word, believing that faith comes from hearing and hearing from the words of Christ,[3] have stronger faith as they have kept listening to whatever the Spirit is saying to the churches.[4]

On the other hand, those who gave the reading of God’s word a sarky try, and didn’t get the drive-thru results they asked, seem to end up even more self-protective and sarky than before.

As I have analyzed and prayed and pondered the things I have witnessed, wondering why so many turn away, and so few persevere, I have discovered that there is a common theme to both the successes and the failures. In a sense, both revolve around the same things, or same issues, or same problems, but the faith-side looks at these things through the promises of God’s word and presses on, while the flesh-side looks at these things through the eyes of “sight”, and quits because they can’t “see” anything happening.

The point that everyone faces, choosing whether to handle these things by faith or in the flesh, is the true condition of their souls. I’m never sure if our North American culture is different than other countries or continents, but there is a very strong component of people living one life on the outside, and a different life on the inside. My institutional church experience was largely shaped by a focus on how people were acting on the outside rather than how they were doing on the inside.

On the other hand, my story now includes lessons learned from trying to reverse this focus. What happens to church folk when we do not applaud their good outer role-playing, but seek to know the condition of their souls? How do people react to us seeking God’s best for their “inner being” rather than honoring them with the church version of an Academy Award for their amazing acting?

Just in case anyone is wondering, pastors making church life about the condition of people’s souls is not optional. God’s description of pastors and elders is men who “are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.”[5] Caring about how people are doing in their souls is a necessary quality for leaders who are undershepherds to the flock of our Lord Jesus Christ.[6]

My primary aim in sharing this is not to focus on the problem of our sarky self-protection, but to share why we ought to be willing to face the dark night of our souls, so to speak, no matter how much it feels like David’s “valley of the shadow of death”.[7] I want to encourage you who are reading this to join the small band of people bringing their souls to Jesus, or, if already doing so, to let your light so shine before men that more people will see the good works of the faith-filled and glorify God for his wonderful gifts of grace.[8]

One of the ways we stir up our hearts to faith is by praying what is written in God’s own words. The Apostle Paul often told us things he was praying for the churches, giving us ample instruction in what we also ought to pray. In relation to the deep things of our souls he prayed, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”[9]

Paul prayed that the churches would experience the Spirit’s work in their “inner being”, and that their relationship with Christ would be “in your hearts”. That is how we pray for people when we are watching over their souls. We are not satisfied with good religious behavior on the outside, but must know that people are experiencing the abiding presence of Jesus Christ in their inner selves.

The question is, when we pray this prayer, and the next thing that happens is that it exposes the present condition of our inner being, messed up and needy as it is, will we keep going because of what God says he will do for our souls, or do we quit because we don’t like what we see? Does our journey into seeking the Lord about what ails us on the inside bring us before the cross as sinners who have been found by their Savior, or bring us before God’s throne stomping our stubborn little feet because God keeps choosing to do things his way instead of our own?

Yes, those who persevere in faith do so because they believe God’s will is better than their will (as Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done”[10]), while those who stop because they don’t like what they see do so because they believe their own will is better than God’s.[11]

When we discover that we are having a battle with our souls we didn’t really recognize, or haven’t wanted to admit, it helps to know that what we need is not first and foremost some new program to help us with our soul-issues. Ministry may come through programs offered in our churches, but it is not the program that saves and helps us. Our need is for the hearing of God’s word regarding his ministry to our souls. As God’s word says, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ,”[12] so we need to hear the words of Christ ministering to our souls. It doesn’t matter whether this comes directly from reading the Scriptures, or a pastor’s sermon sharing Scriptures we need. We could hear Scripture in a blog post, a Bible study, or a church program sharing these things. Whatever the case, faith is listening for what Jesus is speaking through his word.

Yes, I believe that tragic and traumatic things have affected us, and that we have been messed up in our souls in heartbreaking ways. Yes, I believe this includes everything we have done to our own souls through our sin and unbelief, and what other people have done to our souls through their abuses and cruelties against us.

The question is not whether God cares about the condition of our souls, the things we live with inside that we don’t want others to know about because we are sure they will reject us, but whether he has promised to do anything about our soul-condition. If he gives us promises aimed at the healing of our souls, then the way we pray for ourselves is not based on what we see, not even on what we have seen our whole lives, but on what he says.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”[13]

For some of us, such a Scripture may sound so familiar that we have never applied it to the deep things of our souls. Jesus explicitly declared his desire to give rest to our souls. Yes, rest. We are weary and burdened in our souls. We labor to handle what is wrong with our souls, always aware that we are just as heavy laden as Jesus describes. We are discouraged and frustrated and hopeless and depressed because we have failed to return our souls to joy, and have no hope that anyone else could do so.

But then we have Jesus speaking to us so clearly and precisely, telling us that he promises to give rest to our souls, and now we must decide whether we will come by faith, or refuse in our flesh. Will we relate to Jesus with the worship of trusting his words, or reject his offer because we refuse to do his will unless he packages it in sight-based details we can manage ourselves?

It is still true that God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”[14] If we are going to take God at his word, and agree with him that he does heal the brokenhearted, and he does bind up our wounds, will we trust him with HOWEVER we are brokenhearted and wounded because he promises to heal and bind up whatever is wounded? In other words, are we asking God to heal us without showing us that we are brokenhearted, or are we coming to him with everything to do with our brokenhearted condition (our sins included), because we want him uncovering every festering wound until everything within us is healed?

I simply add my testimony to the mix, and hope I can encourage someone out there to press on in something that has suddenly appeared rather hopeless, get into God’s word and listen to his Spirit is speaking to your inner being, and then join his work by faith until you can also testify that God truly does heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.

© 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] No, I do not believe that everyone needs to make their own mistakes. God has breathed-out many written examples of people’s mistakes with the intention of us learning from their mistakes and doing things according to his good, acceptable, and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).
[2] Apollos (Acts 18:24-28) is an example of a man who did not know the gospel any better than what he had heard through John the Baptist, but he was willing to learn from Aquila and Priscilla based on their fuller understanding of the gospel. So, Aquila and Priscilla “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (vs 26). The result was that, when Apollos continued his ministry, “he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (vss 27-28).
[3] Romans 10:17
[4] In each of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3, Jesus concluded with, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).
[5] Hebrews 13:17
[6] See I Peter 5:1-4
[7] Psalm 23:4; context: Psalm 23:1-6.
[8] Matthew 5:16
[9] Ephesians 3:16-17; context: Ephesians 3:14-21.
[10] Luke 22:42; context: Luke 22:1-71 is the whole chapter, with Luke 22:39-46 the focus on how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
[11] We should note that, not only do we see Jesus’ example of preferring his Father’s will even while the judgment of God against our sins was staring him in the face, but that he began his ministry with the forty day wilderness experience in which the devil presented a variety of temptations aimed at Jesus choosing some immediate benefit to himself rather than the long-term bigger picture of the will of his Father, and he kept choosing his Father’s will above his own (Matthew 4:1-11).
[12] Romans 10:17
[13] Matthew 11:28-30
[14] Psalm 147:3