So, we began this new series a couple of weeks ago where we are learning about the various gifts the Lord has given to His body. And again, I’m not referring to the gifts that are the face of the church that everyone sees and esteems; I’m referring to more of the internal bones and organs of the body that provide the support that it needs and help with the overall function of the Lord’s church. So, we are learning what these particular gifts are and how God has designed them to work together for the building up of His church.
We started at the beginning of Romans chapter 12 where we learned how to prove God’s will for our lives—which is important to discovering what our place in the body is. And we saw that in verses 1&2, this comes by first learning to present our bodies as living sacrifices and then by having our minds renewed to think like God thinks.
You see, so many believers strive to know God’s will for their lives, but they fail at these two very basic and fundamental things---for if we do not learn to lay down our lives and adopt the mind of Christ, how will we ever discover His will for us? We can’t. We won’t.
No, we must do exactly what Jesus did in the Garden—truly offering ourselves up to God’s will being done in our lives and letting that same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus. And just as Jesus walked completely in the will of His Father, so will we if we do these two things.
We then moved on to verses 3-5 last week where we learned that each member in the body of Christ has received a gift—that is, we have all been given a specific grace to accomplish a function in the church.
We saw that Paul went on to say in Romans 12:3-- “as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Now this statement has had a variety of views in the church today because some take issue with the fact that God would give different measures of faith to different believers. And while I certainly believe that God has given each one of us the same amount of saving faith and has not given any more faith than others, I do not believe that Paul was referring to our general faith; I believe he is referring to the faith that we need pertaining to the gift of grace that we have been dealt.
You see, the terminology that is used in the New King James version that I just read from is correct. Paul literally said that God has dealt to each one a measure of faith because there is no definite article used in front of measure in the original text which always means that it should be translated “a” instead of “the.”
The next few verses further substantiate this view because Paul goes on to say, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (verses 4&5). The word “for” at the beginning of verse 4 is a term used to indicate that the writer is explaining what he just said. The translators could have said, “Because as we have many members…” And just look at what Paul says in this verse… He explains how a body has many different parts (i.e., members) but all the parts have different functions. So, it is obvious that contextually Paul is not talking about every member of the body of Christ having the same thing, but having different functions, different graces, and different offices.
So why did he use the term “faith” in reference to the different measures of faith that were distributed? Again, it is because he is not referring to the faith—the like precious faith that every believer receives to receive the Lord and then to walk by (Second Peter 1:1). He is referring to the faith that is needed to use and operate in our giftings and graces. In other words, this means that we have been given all the faith that we need to walk in the grace we’ve been given. Which is a way to discover what we are graced to do—for the things we truly believe in are a lot of times the thing we are called to do.
So, we’ve all been dealt the cards we have. And although the cards might look different, they are all aces, baby! Yes, we are all different, but we are all important—for everyone has a special gifting from God! Yes, every man and woman in the body of Christ has been given a specific function and a specific ability that is to be used for the building up of the body. And we saw how these giftings are exactly that—gifts—for they are given by God’s grace and not by our own merit.
I took us through several Scriptures that teach us that this same word Paul used for “gift” was used to describe things God has already given us by His grace and are simply in need of stirring up on the inside of us. Therefore, our giftings from God are not based on merit or our works but on God’s grace in the same manner our salvation was, is, and evermore shall be.
THE POSITION OF PROPHECY
So, what I would like us to begin doing this week is start unwrapping these gifts that Paul revealed to us in Romans 12:6-8 by seeing what kind of things God has graced His body with. So, first, notice that Romans 12:6 says, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, let us prophecy in proportion to (what?) our faith.”
Notice, first of all, that this is saying that if one is given the gift of prophecy, then they are to use it. How? In proportion to the measure of faith that they have been dealt.
Again, as Paul says in the beginning of this verse, if we have been each given different measures of grace (again, not saving grace but gifting grace), then there must be different measures of faith given for us to operate in these different measures of grace we were given. Yes, each one of us have been given gifts differing depending on what part of the body we were placed in and each one of us have also been given different measures of faith in order to operate in that specific grace we have been given.
Now the phrase “let us use them” is not in the original Greek texts, but I believe it is appropriate because how many of you know that just because we have been given gifts of grace doesn’t mean they automatically will operate in our lives? No, we have to use the gifts given to us. You might say that we have to unwrap those gifts.
You see, we can have all kinds of gifts wrapped up under our tree, but if we never unwrap them and start utilizing what’s contained in the packages, they are a waste. God doesn’t want us wasting the gifts He’s given, church. No, He wants us unwrapping them and using them to bless others. Amen?
But the fact is in the remainder of this verse, the apostle Paul begins to get into some of the gifts given to the body of Christ. And the first one he mentions is one of his most talked about gifts in the Book of First Corinthians—the gift of prophecy.
This is the only one of the gifts of the Spirit that is “cross-posted” between First Corinthians chapter 12 and Romans chapter 12. So, that tells you that this is a very important gift for the edification of the body of Christ. In fact, when you study Paul’s explanation of the gifts of the Spirit in First Corinthians chapter 14, you see how strongly he makes the point that prophecy is better than tongues because of how it edifies the body. (This is a point we will get more into shortly).
Now as we begin to look at this gift to the body, it’s important to realize that we all can desire to be more used in this gift. Paul invited us to do so in First Corinthians 12:31 & 14:1 when he encouraged us to “earnestly desire the best gifts”—particularly the gift of prophecy.
But the fact is, even though we all are invited to prophesy, there is a gift of prophecy that is given to certain members of Christ’s body. And that is what he is referring to here in Romans 12:6.
Now while we all certainly can be used in the gift of prophecy, the fact remains that there are those who are specifically called to operate in the position of prophecy in the body of Christ. This obviously includes those called into the office of a prophet, but also would include those who are simply wired for the prophetic. These are those who are simply more inclined to the prophetic and tend more to seeing & feeling things than others. In other words, they can sense things others in the body cannot.
Church, this is a vital gift to the body of Christ because just as our physical body relies on its senses being intact, the Lord’s body needs the gift of prophecy to “sense” things in the spirit. Why? Because it can see things others can’t see. It can smell things others can’t smell. It can feel things others can’t feel.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that this position in the body is more important than others, but that it serves a function that others in the body don’t. So, for example, just as the foot needs to recognize the need for our body’s ability to smell, that same sense of smell needs to recognize the important role the foot plays. Although, they play totally different roles in the body, they value the contribution the other part plays and learn to work together for what’s in the best interest of the entire body.
So, as various members of the body of Christ, we need to value this part of the body that is called to operate in the prophetic gift.
But like I said earlier, prophecy is something we can all operate in, in measure—and this is based on our pursuit of it. So, let’s look at this gift in detail in First Corinthians chapter 14 to see what it does, so that we know what we are pursuing.
You see, God gives us specific instructions concerning both prophecy and tongues in First Corinthians chapter 14—how they are to be done decently and in order, etc.
Now the very fact that Paul tells this church how, when they come together, to not let tongues be the only thing they practice and how one, two, or three are to speak in tongues at the most and then one interpret, tells us one very important thing. Evidently, these gifts are under our control to some degree. Elsewise, he would not have given them instructions on how they are to operate.
So, let’s go ahead and begin reading in verse 1 and learn more about this gift of prophecy:
Now notice that in verse 1, Paul says to pursue love and to desire spiritual gifts. Basically, what Paul was saying was— “Okay, church, pursue what I talked about in chapter 13 and desire what I talked about in chapter 12.” In other words, he was tying together the truths he talked about in the previous two chapters right here in this statement, and then he goes on to say, “but especially that you may prophesy.”
Why is this so significant? It is because, as Paul will go on to say in chapter 14, prophecy is a beautiful summarization of both of these two truths that he laid out to us in these prior two chapters. Why? Because we should desire the gifts because we are pursuing love. In other words, we should be coveting the gifts of the Spirit not because we are being covetous, but because we desire to help and be a blessing to other people. It is all about love, my friends, and if we only want to be used in the gifts for our own glory, fame, and self-promotion then we are missing the boat. We are first to pursue love and then desire spiritual gifts in order to more effectively love people.
So, what does this have to do with prophecy? Why should we especially desire that we might prophesy? It is because prophecy edifies, exhorts, and comforts others and, therefore, is the best way to love people vocally. Amen.
Now let me throw this in here again—but the very fact that God told us to especially desire to prophecy shows us that we all can be used in this gift of prophecy. Yes, again, just because we don’t see it operating in our life yet does not mean we are doomed to a life of not operating in this gift. We can desire it! We can seek it! We can press into it! Amen!
But the following point needs to be made here again—Although we all can prophesy, that does not make all of us prophets. Prophecy is different than the office of a prophet, just as our personal prayer language in tongues is different than the ministry gift of tongues and someone able to teach is different than the five-fold ministry gift of a teacher.
So, let’s now look at this gift in more detail so that we can become hungrier for it—for we become hungry for what we feed on:
The apostle Paul goes on to say in First Corinthians 14:2-3— “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit, he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”
So, what we have here is Paul telling us why we should especially desire the spiritual gift of prophecy; it is because tongues speaks to God (which is certainly good for us as an individual). But if we are truly pursuing love, then prophecy should be the vocal gift that we desire most because it speaks words of edification, exhortation, and comfort to our brothers and sisters.
You see, while it is certainly important that we spend time speaking to God through praying in the Spirit in our own personal time, the greater good is to spend our life seeking to speak into the lives of our neighbor. While we can certainly edify, exhort, and comfort ourselves through praying in other tongues, it is more profitable to others to speak edifying, exhorting, and comforting words into them through prophecy. As we spend time speaking in tongues, we are focusing on building ourselves up, but as we spend time seeking to prophesy, we focus on building others up. This is love—the more excellent way.
So, I have concluded that a good definition of prophecy versus tongues is this: The gift of prophecy is a supernatural utterance in a known language just as tongues is a supernatural utterance in an unknown language. In fact, prophecy basically produces the same results as speaking in other tongues. We can see this in verses 3 & 4 when Paul says that prophecy speaks edification to men and tongues edifies ourselves.
So, what does it mean to “edify”? It means to “build up.” This is why Jude said in verse 20 that, as we pray in the Spirit, we build ourselves up on our most holy faith. Now Jude was referring to building ourselves up, not on our own personal faith, but upon our most holy faith—that is, the faith of Jesus Christ (the faith of the new covenant). So, in other words, Jude was saying that tongues is a means for saints to build themselves up upon the foundation of this new and better covenant—meaning, if you want to learn more and go higher in your revelation of the New Testament doctrine, then tongues is a vehicle for doing so.
In fact, in Isaiah chapter 28, we have one of the very few Scriptures in the Old Testament where tongues was foretold. It said, “For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people.” But what I want you to notice are the verses before and after this passage. Notice that he talks about line upon line and precept upon precept. This is that edifying that Paul and Jude referred to.
But what I want you to see here is that prophecy also edifies and builds up like tongues does. The difference is that tongues builds us up personally while prophecy builds us up corporately.
THE MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY
You see, back in the early church, tongues and prophecy were the two primary vehicles that God used to establish and build the church up on their most holy faith. In fact, prophecy was actually the main source of the New Testament doctrine that we call the holy canon of Scriptures (See Second Peter 1:20).
For many, that is a new revelation because what we have the benefit of seeing as the Holy Scripture is all recorded in our Holy Bible. But you do know that this Bible did not just originate from heaven, right? In other words, it did not fall out of the sky 2,000-plus years ago. No, it was written through inspired and supernatural utterance given to them in a known language! Therefore, the Bible is a result of prophecy because it was supernatural utterance given to each of these men in their known language.
In Second Peter 1:19, the Bible itself is called the more-sure word of prophecy! We call it the Word of God, but while it is certainly the Word (originated) of God, the vehicle through which God gave it to us is the Word of Prophecy.
Now there is an important lesson in this because Peter does not just call the Scriptures the “word of prophecy”; he calls it the “more sure word of prophecy.” You see, while words of prophecy that are given today certainly can be absolutely inspired of God and edifying, they can also be polluted, diluted, or completely uninspired.
This is why we are told to judge prophesies. The very fact that we are told to judge prophesies should show us that not all so-called prophesying is of God. Just because someone stands up and says, “Thus saith the Lord…” does not mean that everything that comes out of their mouth is of God. Just as the interpretation of tongues is just that, an interpretation, not a word for word translation, likewise, prophecy is not a word for word utterance given by God. A prophesy can include one thing that was indeed “Thus saith the Lord” and then another thing that was “Thus saith the dude.” This is because God’s living water flows through dirty pipes. Therefore, just as you would not just blindly drink something that flowed through a pipe, you shouldn’t just drink everything that flows through another person. You should judge it.
How many of you stay in a place somewhere that is not used that often and turn on the faucet and drink the water without first making sure the water is not corroded? I’ll tell you—I look at the water first and make sure it is not discolored and doesn’t stink before I put it in my mouth. In other words, I judge the water. I don’t judge the pipe because I am not qualified to judge pipes. What is on the inside of pipes is unknown and unseen to me. Therefore, I cannot judge pipes. But I certainly can judge the water that comes out of pipes through my senses.
Well, we should do this with prophesies: We should judge the words spoken; but avoid judging the one from whom the words came from. Why? Because they can miss it! It is not like God’s Words are continuously flowing through them. If it were a truly reputable and spiritual person, you might be able to be a little more trusting because, if the living water has flown through them enough, then they are more likely to be speaking by inspiration of God. But if it is like that place I described before, that does not have a reputation of being used efficiently in the past with a good testimony, then you better not blindly trust their “words.” You had better use your spiritual senses and determine if it is God or if it is just them.
HOW TO JUDGE PROPHECIES
So, how do we judge prophecies: Well, as we can learn from First Corinthians 12:3, those utterances inspired by the Holy Spirit will never defame Jesus and His finished work; they will always glorify Him. However, many Spirit-inspired utterances do not make reference to Jesus one way or another, so how do you judge these supernatural signs that are given to the Body? By obeying what Paul said after encouraging us to not despise prophecies in First Thessalonians 5:21— “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” You test all things! The Scripture teaches us to judge all prophecies—to judge them, first of all, by what I just said, “Do they glorify the deity and authority of our Lord, and do they glorify the finished work of our Savior?” Secondly, does that word you received line up with the Scriptures—meaning, does it contradict what is written. Always remember: “Thus saith the Lord” never is to be placed above “What is written.” Then, if they pass those two tests, you hold fast to that which “seems good”—meaning holding fast to the things which bear witness to your heart and you have peace with. Is that fire burning within you? Is the Spirit bearing witness inside of you? Does it seem right to your spirit and the Holy Ghost? If it does—hold fast to it! Don’t let go of the Word of Lord and it shall surely come to pass!
But the wonderful news is that even though prophecies are subject to inspection and can be off base, we have a “more sure” word of prophecy—namely the Word of God, and it never fails; it is always true; and we can be “more sure” that it is an unfailing prophecy.
So, the lesson in this is—make sure you do not always run around looking for a prophecy because they can fail. They are not a sure thing simply because they come through flawed vessels. Look unto the more sure word of prophecy and always, always, always, use God’s Word as the barometer to whether any words you receive contradict the truth or not.
Now we have seen that prophecies are given to, first of all, build us up—line upon line, precept upon precept—on our most holy faith. And we have seen that our most holy faith is God’s Holy Word. And this should not seem strange because look at all the prophecies that are recorded as Scripture.
PROPHECY EXHORTS AND COMFORTS
Then the apostle Paul goes on in First Corinthians 14:3 to say that another purpose of prophecy is to offer exhortation to others: Now to exhort means to encourage, spur on, or push someone forward.
You see, sometimes believers need to be encouraged. They need to know that God understands their situation. They need to be reminded of what His Word says to spur them on in their believing Him.
We see in the Scriptures how David encouraged himself in the Lord in First Samuel 30:6. Well, how did he do that? I guaranteed you that he prophesied to himself! He exhorted himself likely through the inspired songs that he wrote. Again, many of those songs were actually inspired Scriptures that he wrote called “psalms.”
Did you know that you can do this as well? While prophecy is mainly given to encourage others; you can prophesy to yourself and exhort yourself in the Lord. Amen! I have done this many of times. And do you want to know one way in which to do this? Through singing songs unto the Lord! Ephesians chapter 5 says that we are to speak to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. And in the verse before that he tells us to be continuously filled with the Spirit. How? By speaking to ourselves words of edification, exhortation, and comfort through singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord! Hallelujah!
Friends, this is prophetic in nature and what keeps us filled up with the Holy Spirit! We must learn to do what David did when he spoke words of prophecy to himself and exhorted his soul to bless the Lord! Amen. This is one of the best ways to exhort ourselves in the Lord. (Compare Colossians 3:16)
And, last but not least, Paul says that prophecies are given in order to bring comfort to people: Many people seem to think all prophecy is doom and gloom. But while prophecy can be giving bad news that is coming to pass, it is also to bring comfort to people. Like say a prophecy comes forth that says there is a famine coming, God will oftentimes couple that together with the good news that it will be done in so and so time, allowing people to get ready (This is comforting, isn’t it?).
OTHER FORMS OF PROPHECY
But one point that I want you to take away from this is that prophecy takes on many forms in how it comes forth. It is not just the time where one stands in front of you and says, “Thus saith the Lord…” No, prophecy can come forth in songs as one sings to the Lord. This can happen both corporately or in our prayer closet because as we begin to open our mouth in praise and adoration of God, the Holy Spirit can begin filling our mouths with a supernatural utterance that “gives thanks well”—just as tongues is a better and more inspired way to praise God.
Prophecy also can come forth in prayers: How many of you have ever experienced that as you were praying for a certain individual or a certain situation that you were maybe reminded of something concerning that thing you were praying about and then as you began praying words came into your mind and mouth that just flowed out of your heart. Well, that was likely a word of knowledge coupled together with prophecy!
Prophecy can also come forth in poetry or other writings. I have found that this is one of the ways that God has used me in prophecy more times than I could count. I used to accredit the inspiration that I feel when I write to just that, simply being inspired and as a gift pertaining to my calling. But what I can see now is that this is prophecy because this is all prophecy is. It is simply inspired utterance in a known language. So why can this not be expressed in writing?
There is also an element of prophecy in preaching and teaching and witnessing. Yes, we see many gifts of the Spirit in manifestation in the ministering of God’s Word. We can see the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and especially this gift of prophecy simply in the sharing of God’s Word.
Again, this was understood in the Early Church and where many of the Scriptural truths that we have today came from. They actually depended on prophecy to develop the doctrinal truths that we have today recorded in the Scriptures.
So, here is the lesson we should take away from this: We need to do more talking! We need to do more singing! We need to do more writing! We need to position ourselves to let this gift of prophecy flow through us! We need to give the Holy Spirit ample opportunity to distribute to us His inspired, supernatural utterance!
I’m convinced that there are some of us who have not discovered that we are called into this position of prophecy in the body of Christ and that is because we have not understood that prophecy can be packaged in so many ways.
So, begin to seek to speak words of edification, exhortation, and comfort into other’s lives! Do this by calling them on the phone, writing them a letter, etc. Be a good steward of the ability you have now to bless people with your words while in your heart hungering and desiring that this gift of prophecy flows through you more regularly. If you do this, you will see more of this supernatural utterance flowing through you, guaranteed. Amen.
THE GIFTS OF THE BODY
Part One & Two – Proving the Will of God & The Manifold Grace of God
If anyone knows the importance of having a physical body that is in good health and working properly right now, it is your pastor. Sadly, we don’t usually realize this until something isn’t working the way it was designed to. And as in my case, when something as important as our back gets hurt, it seriously compromises the overall function of one’s body.
Well, the truth is—all of us who are born again Christians don’t just have our physical bodies, but are a part of the body of Christ, which is called to work together in the same way our physical bodies do. And likewise, if one part of the body isn’t doing its part—particularly those hidden and unseen parts of the body—then the rest of the body can suffer for it. Amen?
So, this is the way we need to see every member of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ—as valuable and important parts of the church. No, not one of us is expendable and none of us are irrelevant. We ALL play a vital role in the health and growth of the body of Christ, not just those who hold the microphone or stand on stage.
So, from the example I just used, just like our spine & vertebrae are in the back and unseen, there are members of Christ’s body that might be in the background and unseen as well. And that’s what I want to start talking to you about today—the gifts that God has given each one of us and our function in the body of Christ.
Again, I’m not referring to the gifts that are the face of the church that everyone sees and esteems, but to the internal bones and organs of the body that provide the support that it needs and help with the overall function of the Lord’s church. We will learn what these gifts are and how God has designed them to work together for the building up of His church.
TWO KEYS TO KNOWING GOD’S WILL
So, let’s start today in the beginning of Romans chapter 12:
Verses 1-2 say, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
In these verses, what the apostle Paul was encouraging his readers with is that in light of all the mercy and grace the Lord has showered on our lives, we have a reasonable service—and that is to walk in that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. That means that the Lord has a plan for each one of us and expects us to walk in His will for our lives.
But the fact is that most Christians don’t feel like they know what God’s will is for their lives. I’ve found that most believers are confused as to what their purpose and calling is. But these verses not only teach us how important it is do His will, but how to know His will as well. This happens as we both lay our lives down for His sake and as we learn to renew our minds to His plan and purpose for our lives.
Sadly, the truth is that most don’t ever do these two things contained in these verses. They don’t truly present their bodies as a living sacrifice, by laying their lives down for the cause of Christ. They still want to do things their way and the way they feel but don’t resolve to give it all to Him.
Church, this is the first step to discovering God’s will for our lives—laying down our wills. Jesus had to do this, didn’t He? He could have succumbed to His feelings and said, “Father, I don’t want to present My body as a sacrifice for them. I’d rather do it this way or that way.” And guess what would have happened—or in this case, what wouldn’t have happened? No, crucifixion. And sure, that would have been more pleasant for Jesus, but it certainly would not have been good for us. But because Jesus prayed that oh so powerful prayer— “Nevertheless, not my will but your will be done”—we have had God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will be done for our salvation. Amen.
Let me give you a great example of how this works: I’ve seen this happen numerous times in how someone finds their mate.
There have been a few ladies whom I know who had a difficult time finding their husband. They dated and dated and dated, and it seemed like they would never find their Boaz. But when they finally came to the place where they laid that desire down on the altar and truly made seeking first the kingdom of God their priority, it was amazing how quickly their Boaz showed up in their field. It was as if the Lord was not going to let them find him while the desire for him had too great of a place in their heart.
And I believe this works in so many areas of our lives—if we would lay down our own desires and delight ourselves in Him, then He would give us the desires of our heart. Sounds like a Scripture, doesn’t it (See Psalm 37:4)?
So, finding the will of God begins with losing our own lives and laying down our own wills, but then there is another step to proving it—and that is found in Romans 12:2. According to this verse, our lives must be transformed by the renewing of our minds in order to prove His will. That describes us truly learning to think like God thinks and letting His Word—His thoughts—transform the way we look at things.
You see, I’ve found that one of the reasons people miss God’s will is because of the way they think. They still see things the way they always have and have not allowed God’s way of thinking influence their own mind.
For example, if one’s thinking never changes to understand that in God’s kingdom, we are all servants, then they might be confused to thinking that things work in His kingdom like they do here in this world. Therefore, their idea of what is being successful might not be the same as God’s. If one never comes to realize that love is the only true way, they might live their entire life trying to acquire the very thing that they are called to give.
Church, there are a lot of ways that a Christian might not have the mind of Christ, once we start thinking like God thinks, discovering His will will be so much easier. This is why we see so much in the Scriptures about meditating on His Word day and night when it comes to possessing the land promised to us and prospering in all our ways (See Joshua 1 & Psalm 1). It is because the renewal of our minds is key to experiencing His good, acceptable and perfect will in our lives.
So, that is what we are going to begin doing over the course of the next few weeks—renewing our minds to God’s will for our lives and discovering our place in the body of Christ.
THE GRACE GIVEN TO EACH ONE OF US
Now let’s move on to the following verses in Romans chapter 12 that begin to get into the various gifts and callings of God in our lives that prove His will …
Paul goes on to say in Romans 12:3-8, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
In verse 3, the apostle Paul starts off by saying, “For I say, through the grace given to me.” He was saying that it was through the specific gift of grace that he had received—which was obviously His calling to be an apostle to the body of Christ—that he was about to give this authoritative breakdown of how God distributes His grace to the rest of the body.
Then he goes on to say, “… to everyone who is among you …” This is an important phrase because as this verse goes on to say, God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. In other words, “everyone” who was a part of this church had been dealt a measure of faith for the grace given to each one of them.
Now we will get more into that in the weeks ahead, but the point I want you to see from these verses is that just as it was for the church in Rome, everyone among us have been given a measure of faith for the differing gifts of grace given to each of us. That doesn’t sound to me like any of us are left out. Does it to you? No, these verses make it apparent that we are all a part of the body of Christ and because of that, we all have certain graces and a measure of faith that has been given to us. (I’ll get back to this in a moment)
But let’s continue: “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly …” So why did Paul say this? It is because there is a tendency that creeps into all of us who are in the body of Christ to magnify our part of the body and our position in the body in a disproportional manner.
Let me give you an example: Let’s say for teaching purposes that the left arm of the body of Christ emphasizes the importance of teaching in the body of Christ and the right arm emphasizes the importance of evangelism. What happens a lot of times is that those are a member of the left arm in the body of Christ will be so inclined towards their gifting that they believe that teaching and instruction of the Word is all that is important, and they disesteem the power of evangelism. On the other hand (no pun intended😊), those who are a part of the right arm, tend to think that evangelism (which is witnessing and getting people saved) is all that is important and that we shouldn’t spend a lot of time studying the Word but rather should be “hitting the streets” to bring people into the kingdom. How many of you know that both of these mindsets are both correct and incorrect? What do I mean by that?
It is a correct way of thinking because evangelism and discipleship are both vital, integral, and important. It’s also incorrect because one should never say one is any less important than the other.
Let me give you another example: There are also different parts of the body that emphasize different teachings themselves. For instance, there have been and are different ministries that are called to emphasize certain subjects. One example is Brother Kenneth Hagin, Sr. God told him to go and teach the subject of faith to the body. So, he emphasized and threaded that subject throughout his entire ministry. Then I think of Andrew Wommack. God has obviously called him to teach the body about His grace and unconditional love. And there are many other examples, but my point is that the problem comes when ministries that are called to emphasize certain things in the body of Christ start to disesteem and devalue those who teach or emphasize anything else because I have news for you: as great as the subjects of faith, grace, etc. are, there are more subjects in the body of Christ than those. Therefore, we need to recognize that, and while we certainly should continue to focus on the things that God has put in our hearts and inclined us towards, we should also recognize that there are other parts of the body that are needful as well.
Now don’t get me wrong: It’s not wrong to esteem and value our part in the body. In fact, I believe that is a point Paul is actually making here—that we need to “think highly” of our place in the body of Christ; just not more highly than we ought to think. No, it is not wrong to magnify our ministry and to think highly of our place in the body of Christ. The apostle Paul himself said that he magnified his office (Romans 11:13). So, if the apostle Paul magnified his office, we should also magnify our office!
This is why the apostle of faith said that we are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. He was not condemning us thinking highly of our place and grace in the body; he was correcting the attitude of thinking more highly of our place and grace in the body than we ought. Yes, we should think highly of our gifting and office because if he said that we should not think more highly than we ought to think, then evidently there are high thoughts that we ought to be thinking! And that is what Paul himself practiced as he continuously magnified his office and gifting as an apostle.
This is thinking “soberly” as Paul went on to say in Romans chapter 12 because to not think soberly is to think with an exaggerated and unrealistic perception as people who get intoxicated tend to do. One can do that both ways—either by thinking they are more important than they truly are or not thinking they are as important as they truly are.
THE MANIFOLD GRACE OF GOD
But the fact is, everyone has a special gifting! Every man and woman in the body of Christ has been given a specific function and a specific ability that is to be used for the building up of the body. Yes, everyone of us has a good, acceptable, and perfect will of God for our lives.
Let’s now go over to a passage of Scripture in First Peter chapter 4 that reiterates this point …
First Peter 4:10-11 says, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom belongs the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Notice that verse 10 clearly shows us that each one has received a gift from the manifold grace of God. So, again, contrary to common belief, it is not just some believers that are gifted. “Each one” of us has received a gift! That means that every born-again believer has a gift that they have received from the various kinds of God’s grace.
And notice that Peter says that each one “has received a gift.” These gifts that we all have are not gifts that come after we have been saved for multiple years etc. We have received them! In other words, they were evidently given at the moment we were born again and became Christians.
Then we notice that Peter goes on to call them “gifts”—that is, something that we did not earn or that has to be worked for. Our gifts are free gifts of grace! This is why Paul, in describing our gifts and callings, said that these gifts and callings are “without repentance” (Romans 11:29). This means that they are irrevocable and will not be taken away. Why? It is because they are gifts of grace! They are not something that we have to work to keep. We can make the decision to go into the world and that gifting that God has put into us, of say singing, stays with us.
But what is God’s intention for us to do with that gift? Peter said that we are to “minister it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
Notice, first of all, that Peter said “minister” it. This tells us that not only are we all gifted but that we in all actuality are all “ministers.” We like to refer to those who stand behind a pulpit as the ministers, but the truth is we are all ministers because this word denotes being a servant. And no one would argue that every believer is called to be a servant, right? Yes, we are called to serve one another; therefore, we are called to be ministers.
And “ministers” (i.e., servers) of what? Ministers of the manifold grace of God that we have been made stewards of! You see, as we saw in Romans chapter 12, to each one of us grace has been given. And each one of us have been given different graces based on our calling. This is what Peter is referring to when he refers to the “manifold” grace of God. The word “manifold” literally means “many kinds or a variety.” So, the manifold grace of God is a reference to the many kinds or variety of giftings that come from the grace of God.
GIFTS, NOT WAGES
But here is the point I want to leave you with today: Yes, we all have been blessed with a specific calling & function in the body of Christ, but these things are called “gifts” that come from the variety of God’s “grace.” So, the first thing we need to understand about our gifts is that they are indeed that—they are gifts of God’s grace.
The reason I want to make this point is because far too many believers do not see the things God has given us this way, but rather see them as a “wage.” What do I mean by that? I mean that most Christians think that you and I have to “work” to either gain or maintain the graces given to us by God; that we have to do something to see them manifest in our lives. But that is simply not true. The gifts that God gives us are free gifts! They do not have to be earned, worked or paid for! They are gifts, not wages! Amen?
For instance, when we see the word “gift” used in the New Testament, oftentimes it comes from the Greek word charisma. Now when you look this word up, you find that it is defined— “a favour with which one receives without any merit of his own; the gift of divine grace; a free gift.” This sounds an awful lot like the grace we receive at salvation, doesn’t it? Now we know that this grace is not obtained by any good works of our own. Rather, it is a gift given to us by God. Well, if these other things we are called with are also called “gifts”, then they should be understood to be the same way—gifts of His divine grace, freely given without any merit of our own. Amen.
Now when we use the word “charisma” in our modern-day language, we use it to describe someone who has flare and a gift to influence and attract people’s admiration. It is often tied to people in positions of leadership—specifically because their magnetism is what launched them into that position.
And, you know, when it comes to “charisma,” this is not something that people usually claim to have themselves. Rather, others are usually the ones to ascribe it to them. In other words, the person who possesses “charisma” does not usually go around saying, “I’ve got charisma!” No, it is recognized more by others around them.
Likewise, with the “charismas” given to us by God, most people don’t believe that they already got ‘em! They see other big-wigs and super-dupers in full-time ministry as possessing “charisma,” but they do not see themselves as having the goods too.
Which holds a great point as to how we can figure out what our “charisma” is: Ask others! Inquire of those you respect around you and those who know you best. Let them tell you what you are best at and where your gifting lies.
But the truth is, if you have been born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit, then you have “charisma!” Amen? So, guess what that means? It means that you are gifted! It means that you’ve got flare! Yes, you’ve got charisma! Amen!
Do you have Scripture for that, pastor? You bet your bottom dollar, I do. Hallelujah!
I looked up the various times that this Greek word charisma is used in the New Testament and guess what the common usage is? That we’ve already got it! Let me give you some examples:
First of all, First Corinthians 1:4-7 says, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, Paul starts off this letter thanking God for the grace of God that was given to them by Christ Jesus. And notice He is addressing a church body, not just it’s leaders. So, it is to be understood that these verses are applicable to everyone in the church.
And notice that he doesn’t say, “I pray to God always concerning you that God would someday give you grace by Christ Jesus.” No, he is saying they’ve already got said grace! Amen?
Paul continues that they were enriched in everything by Him—not hoped to be enriched in everything someday, but they already had been given everything and were enriched in this! In what? In all utterance and all knowledge! What does this mean? Well, “utterance” describes “speech,” which is an obvious reference to the various vocal gifts in the body of Christ such as the preachers, teachers, tongues, prophecy, etc. The term “knowledge” is a likely reference to the other gifts such as the wisdom and understanding given to others in the body. But my point is that this church was already enriched in all of these gifts.
Now was this just true for the Church of Corinth or is this a reality for all of God’s Church today? It is for all of us today just like it was for them 2,000 years ago because God does not include these things just for the benefit of one select group! No, He is no respecter of persons! Amen?
Let’s look at some other New Testament verses:
Later on, in First Corinthians 7:7, Paul begins to explain the principles of marriage, saying that a man has his wife and the wife has her husband. In verse 7, he says, “But each one has his own gift from God …” The word that is used here for “gift” is again the word charisma. So, Paul also calls our spouses our gifts from God, which beautifully illustrates the point I am making.
You see, if you are a man and you are married, you’ve already got a wife! It would be considered immoral for you to go around trying to find another wife when you already have your “gift” from God, right? Likewise, since we are married to the Lord, have His Spirit living in us, and have been given our own gifts from God, we need not go around trying to get something else! Amen?
But how many people do this very thing? They feel insignificant and useless to the body of Christ, so they try and operate in someone else’s gift because they want to feel like they are making a significant contribution to Christ’s church. That’s not right, church! Like we should with our spouse, we should recognize what we have and be thankful for it—understanding the good things that are already being brought to the table.
So, it is not a matter of you and I having or doing something else. It is simply a matter of believing that the Lord has already put good things on the inside of us and letting those graces be manifested in and through our lives the way God designed them to—by grace!
So, if we don’t earn them—not receiving them by our actions—then can we lose them through our works? Nope! For Romans 11:29 says, “For the gifts (Greek, charisma) and the calling of God are irrevocable.” This means that any “charisma” of God (including the gifts of the Spirit) is unable to be changed or reversed. Another way of saying this is to say—God’s not an Indian giver! Once He gives it, He doesn’t take it away.
Finally, let’s look at one more instance where this Greek word charisma is used, and in so doing, learn how to release the gifts within us:
In Second Timothy 1:6, the apostle Paul exhorts Timothy with— “Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” Again, the gift of God is already in there; put in us by the anointing of the Holy Ghost. However, as good stewards of these gifts, we are called to “stir up” the gift! One might describe this as “unwrapping” the gift that we’ve been given!
Therefore, I believe we can see a principle here: When it comes to any of God’s gifts that are in us, you and I “stir up” those gifts through our faith that’s in us!
The final point I believe that the Lord is making today is that we do not need to have the mentality that we are trying to get these gifts from God. No, we’ve already got them—for if we already have Jesus and the Holy Spirit, then we have the gifts that He gives. Amen?
Well, someone will say, “Yeah, but how can we say we have something if we don’t see it?” Good question, but wrong perspective. We are called to walk by faith, not by sight—simply believing what God says is ours no matter if we are walking in the reality of it or not. So, I submit to you that we need see the gifts of the Spirit as God’s gifts to us—not things He might give us in the future, but gifts that He’s already given. Then, understanding that the Holy Spirit is just looking for an opening to let these gifts flow in our lives, we invite Him to do so in us.
Church, this is when I believe the gifts will begin to flow like rivers of living waters—when we tear down the dam of unbelief, complacency, and indifference. Let us believe God when He says that we have charisma and walk in that favor today! Amen!
WHAT IS TRUTH?
PART FIVE – THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH
What is truth? This is the question we have been asking for several weeks now, and it is absolutely a critical question for the hour we are living in. The reason why is because we are living in the last of the last days and this is a time period where the truth will be harder to come by, as deception will be more prevalent. So, what we are learning is what the truth is and how to know it even in the midst of this dark and perverse generation.
A few weeks ago, we began answering the question—What is truth?—and I gave a specific definition that the Holy Spirit gave me when I asked Him this same question that Pilate asked Jesus. He told me that the “Truth is—that which is not hidden, which makes God known.”
So, as we considered this definition, we saw that the Holy Spirit began by telling me what the truth was not. In other words, truth is the exact opposite of a lie as God and the devil are the exact opposite and contrary to one another.
Then two weeks ago, we got into the second half of this definition of truth where the Holy Spirit said that the truth is that “which makes God known”: I explained how when the Holy Spirit shared this with me that I began seeing how all the examples of truth that I had come to know in the Scriptures all illustrated this.
And the first one of these biblical examples we covered was JESUS. Yes, I suppose that most of us would immediately gravitate towards Him first because in John 14:6 we have one of the most powerful proclamations of Himself that He ever uttered— “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” That’s right, Jesus didn’t just have truth or speak truth; He was the truth. So as Hebrews 13:8 states that He was the same, yesterday, and forever, then that means that the truth does not change. So, as Jesus came full of truth—He showed us that God is good and merciful and loves the sinner, but it is also to tell the sinner to repent and to declare the true way to God. Amen.
Last week, we looked at another example of the truth from the Scriptures—the Word. We looked at John 17:17 where Jesus told us that God’s Word is truth. We also saw in Psalm 119:160 that the entirety of His Word is truth.
Church, this is something we can absolutely hang our hats on—that God’s Word is the absolute truth. If we want to find truth, we go to the Scriptures. If we want to be better equipped to avoid the lie, we give heed to the Scriptures. His Word—the entirety of it—is truth. Of this, we can be certain.
We also learned last week that His Word is what breaks up the fallow ground of one’s heart and what thoroughly equips us for any storm of life. Yes, His truth—the Word of God—has the power to set us free from both the power and the deception of sin.
THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE
And that’s where I would like us to pick up today—in John chapter 8 where Jesus gives us some powerful words about the power of His Word.
You see, it’s important for us to realize that we are not just talking about having heard His Word in the past. The way that we stay equipped and prepared is continuing in His Word. Jesus spoke along these lines in the Gospel of John:
In John chapter 8, we have a powerful statement by the Lord: In verse 30, we are told— “As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.” So, notice that as He testified to the truth of who He was, many of the Jews that heard His words believed in Him. This is when we are told what we are in verses 31-32— “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”
So, these Jews heard the words He spoke to them and believed as a result. But then, Jesus said to those who believed His words, “If you abide (i.e., remain or stay) in My word …”—meaning, if then they would continue in His Words and not allow themselves to be moved away from them. Then what would happen? Jesus said, “you are My disciples indeed.”
You see, there is a difference between believers and disciples. Believers might believe when they hear something, but disciples follow after that word they’ve heard. They stay in it! They abide in it! And it is those disciples who are given the following promise— “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
So, who is it that’s going to know the truth? No, it’s not just any believer; it’s those who are really His disciples. You see, in order for one to really know the truth, they must really follow after the truth. These are those who are promised to know the truth, and these are the ones who are also promised to have that truth make them free.
THERE IS FREEDOM
Now when we hear about the truth making us “free,” that might bring to mind something else—How about Second Corinthians 3:17 where we are told that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (i.e., liberty).”
And this certainly is right in line with everything else we have seen the truth to be because Jesus has absolutely been the One responsible for having us free, the Word also makes us free, and where we find the Spirit of truth, we also find freedom.
So, this week, I want us to move into looking at this other One who brings freedom in our lives. Let’s look over at John chapter 16:
In John 16:12, Jesus told His disciples— “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” And the word “bear” here literally describes taking something up with the hands. Therefore, you could translate this phrase as— “I still have many other things I want to tell you, but you cannot handle them at this time.” And the reason they could not handle these other truths Jesus had to share with them was because they were still carnal and could not handle these spiritual truths. In other words, this describes their inability to receive certain spiritual meat because they had not received the help of the Holy Spirit.
Now many of us could attest to this as well: There was a time where we might have been Christians, but the spirit, life, and truth of God’s Word alluded us. We could read our Bible and not understand what we were reading. But when we received the Spirit of God, it was like the Bible opened up to us like a flower in the springtime. That’s the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives!
That is why Jesus went on to say in John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…” So, when Jesus starts off by saying “however” in verse 13, He was again pointing them ahead to the ministry of the Holy Spirit coming in His place and picking up where He left off. So, while they could not handle the spiritual truth that Jesus desired to show them because they were still unregenerate and unspiritual, the Spirit of truth’s soon arrival would unlock all of these truths for them.
What this shows us is that the Holy Spirit is our key in being ushered into spiritual things. Without Him, we will be severely limited in understanding spiritual things—which is what I believe the Lord wants to teach us about today.
Now notice that Jesus calls the Holy Spirit here “the Spirit of truth” and said that He would guide us into all truth: You see, the Holy Spirit came to bring the revelation of God the Father and God the Son. As Jesus said, He speaks not of Himself but came to glorify Him (Jesus). So, His intentions are certainly not hidden. He is here on the earth today to make the truth Himself known to us. Amen!
So, the Holy Spirit’s commission to “guide us into all truth” means what? It means to guide us into all of Jesus, as He is the Truth. We have seen that it also means to guide us into all of the Word, as His Word is truth as well. But one could also say that the “truth” that the Holy Spirit guides us into is the opposite of the “lie”—meaning, if we are walking in the truth, we are not walking in a lie.
HOW TO BE GUIDED
Now unfortunately most Christians are like many of us men—we don’t like to ask for directions. We would rather waste an hour trying to find it ourselves rather than simply stop and ask someone who has been there for directions. Humility will acknowledge when it needs guidance.
So, it all goes back to asking for directions and inviting the Holy Spirit to lead & guide us into all truth. But another important truth that Jesus gives about the Holy Spirit’s ministry to direct us is found in the word “guide.”
Notice John 16:13 does not say—the Holy Spirit will “drive” us into all truth, or He will “drag” us into all truth. No, Jesus said He will “guide” us into all truth. To guide someone carries more of the idea of leading them. On top of that, you cannot guide something or someone that is not already moving.
Take for instance, a boat: You can turn the rudder one way or another, but if the boat is not already moving it will not make a difference in the direction that the boat goes. Yes, you can turn a rudder as far as it will turn, but if the boat never leaves the dock, it will remain pointed in the same direction. Likewise, we have to be “moving” in order for His guidance to become effective.
What do I mean by “moving?” I mean that there must be cooperation on our part because some of the responsibility has been given to us. Say, for instance, if we desire to know the truth of God’s Word. Well, we can’t just sit back and do nothing and expect the Holy Spirit to guide us into the truth of His Word. No, we must seek the truth through reading, studying, and meditating God’s Word. When we get our “boat” started in that direction is when the “Rudder”—the Holy Spirit—can guide us through teaching us and bringing things to our remembrance. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate study guide!
But this is what we must understand: The Holy Spirit’s job is to guide us, not to drag us. In other words, His ministry is to help us stay on God’s path, not to tell us every little step to take.
You see, He is not interested in “making” us do anything. He is not “the good cowboy”—driving and corralling His flock and making them go in the direction He desires. No, the Holy Spirit—similarly to Jesus’ proclamation of Himself because they are one and the same—is the Good Shepherd. Yes, like Jesus, the Holy Spirit is commissioned to lead us beside the still waters and into greener pastures. And, just as a shepherd does, He leads us, but we are responsible for following Him as He guides us.
This describes the Holy Spirit’s ministry toward us! His nature is to gently guide us in the direction that we need to go—whether that be leading us into a fruitful, abiding relationship with Jesus or leading us into increasing in our wisdom and understanding of the Word. He guides us into all the truth!
GUIDED FROM SAMARIA TO ETHIOPIA
This word for “guide” is also used in Acts chapter 8 in the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. You remember the story: Philip was in Samaria preaching Christ in many villages and an angel spoke to him to go south, to the road which goes from Jerusalem to Gaza. And when he went, he saw this eunuch travelling in his chariot, reading the Book of Isaiah (vs. 28). So, as he saw him, the Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake the chariot.”
So, we pick up now in verse 30: “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.’ So, the eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:30-35)
Philip’s question to the eunuch is very practical to what we are talking about today—for I have come across many Christians who do not feel like they understand what they are reading. Well, just as the eunuch answered Philip, I believe this is true for all of us as well— “How can we, unless someone guides us?”
You see, the reason many believers do not understand the Word like they can is because they have never taken advantage of this particular role of the Holy Spirit—to guide us into all the Word. In other words, the Holy Spirit is the key to understanding the Bible.
So, as we’ve said, being guided into all truth would be (and is) being guided in all the Word of God, based on John 17:17. Which we know is at least part of what Jesus was saying here, because of how these verses parallel what we saw in part two of this series when we learned that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things.
So, when we read our Bible, we don’t have to do it alone. We ought to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us throughout our reading and studies—inviting Him to unfold the truth that is behind every passage of Scripture. Amen.
For example, we wake up in the morning, get our cup of coffee, and sit to read, but before we do, we might say, “Good morning, Holy Spirit! Thank You for being my teacher, and I thank you that one of your assignments in my life is to guide me into all truth. Well, Your Word is truth. So, as I read Your Word—Your Truth—this morning, I thank you for guiding me. YOU are my study guide! Amen!”
Again, would it make any sense for me to expect the Holy Spirit to lead me through the truths contained in the Bible if I never occasionally read my Bible? No, if I want to capture a spirit of wisdom and revelation of God through His Word, then I must first seek to grow in knowledge which comes through reading and studying (Ephesians 1:17). While certainly He could reveal the truth to us through some sort of miraculous revelation if we were in a situation where the Word of truth was not readily available to us, this is not the common way He will reveal His Word to us. I would be foolish to expect God to instruct me this way if I have the Word of God sitting on my nightstand collecting dust because I never take the time to read it. No, in order for me to take advantage of this ministry of the Holy Spirit, I must give Him something to work with. I must begin reading, studying, and meditating the Holy Scriptures. Then, and only then, will I be in position for the Holy Spirit to guide me through the Bible’s books, chapters, and verses and into all the truth contained in them.
But there is also another lesson regarding being guided by the Holy Spirit in the account we are looking at: How was Philip guided by the Spirit to have this encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. It began as Philip was busy about his Father’s business. Now not only was Philip preaching the gospel and doing his part in fulfilling the Great Commission, but when the angel spoke to him and told him to go even further south to the “deserted place,” he went. It was then that the Holy Spirit gave him the reason for this particular assignment and spoke to him about overtaking the eunuch’s chariot.
So, here’s my point: What if Philip would have still been in Jerusalem hiding out in a house, and not doing what Jesus had already commissioned us to do? Further, what if, even though he had gone to Samaria, he hadn’t heeded the instructions of the angel of the Lord and not gone down to the desert? Well, I can all but guarantee you that he would have not heard “the Spirit said” in verse 29.
So, I believe this shows us how the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth—because if Philip would not have already been moving, the Holy Spirit would have not been able to guide him to minister to this eunuch. Amen?
But the Holy Spirit is not only with us to guide us into all truth but also to guide us out of all error.
So, let’s go back to First John, where we began this series from, because this is one of the main points that we see the apostle John making in his first epistle.
Beginning in First John 2:18, we see how John let his readers know that there were many antichrists already present with them in that it was the last hour. So, how many do you suppose we have in these last minutes of the last hour?
As he states in the following verse, the spirit of antichrist would not just be in the world but would come from the church itself—showing us that this spirit of error is found both in the world and in the church.
Then John makes a powerful point in verse 20—that we all have an anointing from the Holy One and know all things, meaning that because we have the Holy Spirit, we have the capability of knowing what we need to know. And in the context here, that would be knowing the spirit of truth from the spirit of error.
So, some of the key points John makes that show us how to know error is that we already know the truth (verse 21), so we don’t need to go looking for it. Number two, the truth is found in Jesus. That means that it will always point us towards His deity and Lordship. Number three, as we learned earlier, it is abiding in the Word we had in the beginning. In other words, not deviating from the Word we received in the beginning. Error will always try to introduce something new and exciting, but just because it appeals to our senses, doesn’t mean it is true.
In verse 26, John again reiterates that these things He was writing to them about are concerning those trying to deceive them (and us). But in verse 27, He shows us how the Anointing Himself has become our teacher and we don’t need someone else to interpret truth to us—for He is the Spirit of truth and will always lead us into abiding in Him.
THE TRUTH WE HAD IN THE BEGINNING
Then if we move on to First John chapter 4, where we began this series:
Again, John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore, they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (First John 4:1-6)
So, we can clearly see how we know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error. It is by knowing the Holy Spirit—for when we know Him—the Spirit of truth—we will know the truth and that truth will make us free. Amen.
WHAT IS TRUTH?
PART FOUR – THY WORD IS TRUTH
What is truth? That is the question of the hour—because in this world where the truth seems hard to come by, we need to know what the truth is. And the truth is that we as Christians don’t have to be at a loss like the lost are. We have the answer for this world and the things contained in it because there are things the Lord has given us that clearly reveal to us what the truth is.
We learned in the first part of this series that there is the spirit of antichrist—the spirit of error—in this world and it is dictating much of what we see that is mainstream. And as I’ve stated several times, if it’s mainstream, it is likely going downstream—yes, downstream like a river, taking everything towards destruction. But we learned that when we heard the word of truth—the gospel—a paddle was put in our hands to turn our boat around and head upstream against the current of this world.
A couple of weeks ago, we began answering the question of this series—What is truth?—and I began by giving you a specific definition that the Holy Spirit gave me when I asked Him this same question that Pilate asked Jesus. He told me that the “Truth is—that which is not hidden, which makes God known.”
So, as we considered this definition, we saw that the Lord first described truth by what it is not by saying that it is something “which is not hidden.” In fact, when He gave me this definition, I didn’t know it at the time, but when you look up the root word for “truth” in the New Testament—the word aletha—you’ll find that it describes something not hidden and unconcealed. So, the definition he gave me certainly lined up with the literal definition of the words used in the Bible for truth.
But since the Holy Spirit began by telling me what the truth was not, what this means is that at its core, truth is the exact opposite of hiding and concealing things. In other words, truth is the exact opposite of a lie as God and the devil are contrary to one another. So, we spent a week talking about the fundamental difference between the truth and a lie.
Then last week, we got into the second half of this definition of truth where the Holy Spirit said that the truth is that “which makes God known”: I explained how when the Holy Spirit shared this with me that I began seeing how all the examples of truth that I had come to know in the Scriptures all illustrated this.
And the first one I would venture to say we all think of when we think of the truth is JESUS, right? Yes, I suppose that most of us would immediately gravitate towards that statement by Jesus in John 14:6 where we have one of the most powerful proclamations of Himself that He ever uttered— “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” That’s right, Jesus didn’t just have truth or speak truth; He was the truth. But as we saw, He was not just the truth; He is the truth yesterday, today, and forevermore.
We looked at Hebrews 13:8 that declares that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever—which means that the truth is the same today, yesterday, and forever.
You see, this is one of the fruits that indicate what the truth is— Truth is found in the consistency of it. Yes, when it comes to where our faith needs to be and what we build our lives on, it needs to be on the One who never changes, the One who is the same today as He was yesterday and the one who will still be the same tomorrow as He is today. This is Jesus!
But oh, how the truth seems to always be changing, doesn’t it? It’s evolving with the times and today we are seeing the world around us adopting certain mindsets and belief systems that were unheard of just decades ago. This should not be so with the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Like the truth Himself, we ought to be the same yesterday, today, and forever—understanding that the truth that we heard from Him 2,000 years ago is still true today and we do not move off of it.
We looked at John 1:14-18 that states that Jesus came full of grace and truth—which is a good illustration of this point that in the church today there is a little too much absence of truth in the emphasis of His grace.
Now you know that I am certainly big on His grace—understanding that it is only by His grace that we can be saved, and it is only by His grace that we can grow and increase. But the mistake I see a lot of the church making in this generation is that in making such a strong emphasis on His unconditional love and grace, the truth—absolutes in His kingdom—are not being held in high esteem and proclaimed to the people. But the “truth” is that Jesus was full of both of these things: Yes, He came to reveal to us God’s goodness & grace, and we see that on full display throughout His life and ministry. But at the same time, He never compromised the truth of God. Rather, He boldly proclaimed it in the face of the hypocrisy that had permeated Israel.
So, we asked the question: If Jesus were to be the guest speaker of a church today, what would He preach? What truth would He have come to deliver? I made the point that you can be sure that it would not be just sweet & kind. No, it might ruffle a lot of feathers because it would be vastly different than so many traditional Sunday morning sermons today, because it would contain some rebuke, reproof, correction, and warning. I know this because just look at what He ministered 2,000 years ago. So, if He has not changed, then the truth He came to deliver would not change either.
So, Jesus came to tell us the truth—it is that God is good and merciful. It is that He loves the sinner and seeks to save the lost. But it is also to tell the sinner to repent and to declare the true way to God. Amen.
HIS WORD IS TRUTH
Now in that definition the Lord gave me of truth, I saw how Jesus perfectly fit that description of the truth because Jesus was not hidden. He came from heaven to earth to show us the way to eternal life. So, He was not hidden, but came for all to see—and He came to make God known so that we could see the true nature and will of our Father. As Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). Therefore, Jesus was not hidden, and He most definitely made God known.
But another thing that popped up into my head when the Holy Spirit spoke this to me was that the Word of God, which is also described as truth, fits this description as well. And this shouldn’t surprise us because Jesus and the Word are one and the same.
You see, the apostle John revealed to us that Jesus, who was in the beginning, was the Word (John 1:1). So, there is really no difference between Jesus and the Word. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen the other.
And like Jesus, the Word of God has also not been hidden. The Lord has made sure that His Word has “run swiftly” throughout the whole world. It is not hard to get ahold of a Bible in most countries and He also made sure to preserve it during dark times where people have tried to snuff it out. Not only has His Word not been hidden from us, but it also makes God known to us in that it reveals His character, will, and purpose to us. Yes, next to the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures, the Bible gives us the knowledge and truth of God more than anything else.
And we have plenty of references in the Scriptures to God’s Word being the truth. So, this week, let’s look at some of the examples we have of God’s Word being truth …
The first and most obvious example is found in John chapter 17: In this chapter, we have Jesus’ prayer before His arrest later that evening. He prays for His disciples in verses 6-19 and in this prayer, He says this— “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” (Verses 14-19)
So, what Jesus is describing here is how His disciples had received God’s Word from Him and, as a result, they were no longer of the world and the world hated them just as the world hated Him. So, they were in essence “sanctified”—that is, set apart & different—by the truth. And Jesus then said in verse 17— “Your Word is truth.”
So here, we have one of our most concrete statements that God’s Word is the truth in the entire Bible. But Psalm 119—which is widely known to be a chapter of the Bible that is completely devoted to the subject of the Word of God—has a verse that summarizes this point as well. Verse 160 says, “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
Notice that it is the entirety of God’s Word that is truth, not just portions of it. That doesn’t mean that every word in it is true. There were things in it that people were quoted as saying and other things people did that were not in accord with the truth, but the overall “Word” that we receive from the Scriptures is certainly true. Not only that, but Psalm 119:160 goes on to say that it “endures forever”—meaning that it does not change with the times but is just as true today as it was when it was written. Amen?
Church, this is something we can absolutely hang our hats on—that God’s Word is the absolute truth. If we want to find truth, we go to the Scriptures. If we want to be better equipped to avoid the lie, we give heed to the Scriptures. His Word—the entirety of it—is truth. Of this, we can be certain.
And this is what Jesus taught us in John chapter 17—that His Word is what keeps us and separates us from the evil and deception found in this world. Jesus said that the Word—His truth—is what set His disciples apart from the rest of the world. It is what makes us think and act differently. It is what gives us the mind of Christ and causes us to be more Christ-like. And it is what protects us from he who is in the world. Sounds a lot like what we have been learning in the series, doesn’t it?
But I’m here to tell you today that the Word of God is not just information that is true which helps keep us from being deceived; it is life that will both cultivate the ground of our heart so that we think more like Him and less like the world and it will also equip us to survive any storm that this world will throw at us in the future.
BREAKING UP THE FALLOWED GROUND
Do you remember in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower how He described four different conditions of hearts, and the first one was the ground “by the wayside”?
This ground was alongside of the path well-traveled. That’s why it was so hard and compacted to where the seed could not even penetrate it. That is descriptive of those who are too close to the world, and the more worldly they are, the less likely the truth can get in their hearts.
Well, if one’s heart is currently in this condition, a good question would be—How do they “till” this ground and make it good ground that can receive the seed—which is His Word, the gospel of truth?
The Lord once showed me the answer to this question: Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
So, what we see here is how we can eliminate the wayside ground from our heart:
First of all, it takes diligence! It’ll take work, and you need to understand that! That ground did not get that way overnight. It has taken years to get compacted like it has. So, it isn’t going to get softened overnight. It will require diligently working that ground. How?
By, first of all, being a laborer of that field who is unspotted from the world—that is, not conformed to the world. This worker is not half-hearted and double-minded. They have removed themselves from the world and have set their hand to the plow, not looking back. Amen? This echoes what we’ve seen in Romans 12:1&2—that the first and foremost key to not being conformed to the world is by the renewal of our mind.
Finally, Paul tells us this by telling Timothy how we do this: By rightly dividing the Word of Truth! So, the way we break up that wayside ground and make it good ground again is by “cutting straight lines” (Lit. “rightly dividing”) in it—which comes through rightly dividing the Word. This could be described as cutting furrows in the ground before planting seed.
Saints, the key to seeing that wayside ground changed is diligence in the Word of God—letting His Word renew your mind through diligent study, reading and meditation. As the Apostle Paul says in Second Timothy 2:15—this is what digs and lays straight furrows in that ground which has been packed down through the world’s counsel and philosophies.
So, as Hosea 10:12 says, “break up your fallow ground.” This means to break up that untilled ground so that the seed you sow gets where it can perform what it is meant to perform! Amen.
EQUIPPED FOR THE STORM
So, that is how we change a prior & current condition. What about preparing us for future obstacles?
In Second Timothy 3:16-17, this is what the apostle Paul said concerning God’s Word and how it can prepare us for these storms: In this passage of Scripture he says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
In verse 17 when Paul says that with the Word of God we will be “thoroughly equipped” for every good work, I want us to look at what this meant in Paul’s days. The Greek word that was used to translate “thoroughly equipped” described a boat that was completely outfitted and decked out with all the little trinkets that they would need to survive any storm and get to the other side. So what Paul was saying was— “God’s Word will well-equip you, not only to survive the storms of life, but also to get you to the other side!” Yes, it will set you apart to where you are not like every other boat in the harbor. Yours will have all that it will need to weather the storms that are most certainly coming upon this earth.
Well, I am reminded of the story of when Jesus constrained His disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side? Now they did this knowing that there was a storm awaiting them or else He wouldn’t have had to make them (i.e., constrain) do it. Well, in one account, Jesus being the truth gave them the Word beforehand saying, “Let us go to the other side.” He did not say, “Let us go halfway and then drown because of the winds and waves of the storm.” No, He showed them that He intended for them to get to their destination and not perish in the storm.
Likewise, Jesus has already given us His Word—the truth. He said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” We too have this promise that, although the winds and waves will try and destroy us, we can rejoice because we have God’s Word that we will make it to the other side. You see, this is the power of God’s Word! If He said it, we are going to make it if we will just put faith in His Word!
So, here is the conclusion to the matter—you and I and entire world for that matter have been given the opportunity to know the truth and let that truth make us free—free from deception, the devil, and everything else that does not take us toward Christ likeness.
But it’s going to take us being more than just a believer; we have to become disciples—those who diligently continue in His Word and study to show ourselves approved.
As we cultivate the ground of our heart by letting His Word break up the fallowed ground, we are better equipped to receive the word of truth and produce its fruit. And then, when storms come in this world around us, we won’t be moved because His Word is what we are grounded on, and we know we will get to the other side.
His Word is truth and if we want to be kept from the deception, we must hide His Word in our hearts. Amen?
So, we began a new series a few weeks ago which I am entitling “What is truth?” because in a world where it is so hard to tell what the truth is, we need to know that we as Christians don’t have to be at a loss like the lost are. No, church, there are things God has given us that clearly reveal truth to us and will show us exactly what to do, what to believe, etc. when it comes to any of these things that we are dealing with in the world. So, we ought not to be looking for truth in the things of this world; we ought to be looking for truth in Him and in the tools He has given us to know the truth. Amen?
We learned in part one of this series that one of the main reasons that being led by the spirit of truth is so important for this hour we are living in is because the spirit of error—that spirit of antichrist that has been in the world since time began—is working hard to sweep people off into deception. Yes, there seems to be an even stronger current—more troubled waters—that is carrying the world on to its demise.
And that’s what we described living in this world to be like—a river that’s current is moving everything in it downstream towards destruction. But we learned that it should not be so for the Christian because when we heard the word of truth—the gospel of our salvation— we were “converted” (i.e., turned) and the truth was put in our hands to turn our boat around and head upstream.
Last time, we began answering the question of this series—What is truth?—and I began by giving you a specific definition that the Holy Spirit gave me when I asked Him this same question that Pilate asked Jesus.
I explained that several years ago, after asking the Lord many times to define truth for me, I finally got my answer. On my back porch in Colorado Springs, CO., during a time of prayer, the Lord spoke to my heart the following statement: He said, “Truth is—that which is not hidden, which makes God known.”
So, as we considered this definition, we saw that the Lord described truth as something which is not hidden. In fact, when He gave me this definition, I didn’t know it, but when you look up the root word for “truth” in the New Testament—the word aletha—you’ll find that it describes something not hidden and unconcealed. So, the definition he gave me certainly lined up with the literal definition of the words used in the Bible for truth.
But what this means is that at its core, truth is the exact opposite of hiding and concealing things. In other words, truth is the exact opposite of a lie—which is a concealing of truth.
So, we looked at what a lie actually is and how the truth and a lie are as opposite to one another as God and the devil are. We saw how all deception and intent to deceive comes from the father of lies, satan, and how all truth comes from the one true and living God. We learned that as children of the truth, we are to always speak the truth in love with one another. And that doesn’t mean that we are brutally honest, but that we get to the heart of the matter and always point people towards the truth.
You see, as that definition of truth that the Holy Spirit gave me went on to say, the truth is not just that which is not hidden; it is also what makes God known.
Well, that is when the Holy Spirit began sharing with me how all the examples of truth that I had come to know in the Scriptures all illustrated this “rhema” word that He gave me.
THE TRUTH HIMSELF
So, this week, I want us to move on to some of these things the Lord then began showing me about the truth that certainly are not hidden and absolutely make God known.
Now what is one of the first things you think of when you hear the question—What is truth? Well, I would suppose that most of us would immediately gravitate towards that statement by Jesus in John 14:6 where we have one of the most powerful proclamations of Himself that He ever uttered …
In John chapter 14, we have Jesus beginning to teach His disciples some final lessons before He would be taken from them. He begins by telling them not to let their hearts be troubled and to know that He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. Then in verse 4, Jesus made the following statement— “And where I go you know, and the way you know …” To which Thomas pipes up and says, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Somebody say, NOT SMART!
How many of you know that when the Lord tells you that you know something and you know how to get there, that you don’t essentially respond with, “No, we don’t know, and we don’t know the way either.” That’s like calling Jesus a liar. And we know that Jesus is not a liar but is the totality of truth. Amen?
And that’s exactly what Jesus went on to say to Thomas next, which is what I wanted to get to: He responded to Him in verse 6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
So, essentially what Jesus was saying was that the way and where they were going, they knew because He is that way! So, if they knew Him, they knew the way. Amen?
I’m reminded now of how God’s ways were made known to Moses while His acts were all that was revealed to the children of Israel. So, what He does was made known to them, while why He does the things He does was made known to Moses.
And why was this? It wasn’t because God just chose to reveal His ways to Moses and not to the rest of the Jews. No, it was because Moses positioned Himself to know God’s ways through spending time in His presence and being the most humble person on the face of the earth at that time. Amen!
And guess what else Moses came to know—the truth and the life? Yes, through His humble approach to seeking God, He came to know the way, truth, and life of God. And church, that is the same way we come to know the truth—it is through coming to know Him. Yes, the more we spend time with Him and in His Word, the more it comes alive to us, and we are able to know the liberating truth of God and His Word. This is a foundational truth to knowing what the truth is—it is found in knowing God Himself. Amen?
Which is what Jesus went on to say in John 14:6—that He is not only the way; He is also the truth and the life. No, not a truth or a life; He is the way, the truth, and the life—meaning He is not just a way to God or one of the many truths that are out there. All truth is all enveloped in Him! He is the only life! And there is no other way to the Father except through Him.
So, Jesus is the truth. He didn’t just have truth or speak truth; He was the truth. But not just “was” the truth; He is the truth yesterday, today, and forevermore.
THE TRUTH IS THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER
In Hebrews 13:7-9, the author of this epistle said this— “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.”
Notice that verse 7 first shows us the importance of both respecting and honoring those who our spiritual leaders and have shared God’s Word with us. But why? “Considering the outcome of their conduct.” That means that what we need to be mindful of is that those who not only preach God’s Word to us but practice what they preach have certain fruit in their life that needs to be “remembered.” I mean, the fruit that one has in their life is indicative of what they believe. So, if one’s life consistently does not line up with the life God said we can have, then there’s a chance that what they believe might be wrong. So, it would be wise to follow the faith of someone who has the fruit that we desire to see in our lives instead of being unrelenting regarding our own theology or philosophy.
Being a teacher of God’s Word, I’ve run in to enough of this—most people have their minds already made up and they love you when you echo what they already believe, but they don’t like it when you challenge their belief systems even when you have a laundry list of Scriptures to back it up.
This is what the apostle Paul taught us–that the time will come when people “will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (Second Timothy 4:3-4).
Now when he said here that they will not “endure sound doctrine,” do you know what that means? It means they will not tolerate “healthy” teaching. Yes, the word used for “sound” here is the same word that is used in Third John 2 in describing the Lord’s desire that we prosper in every area of our life and be in “health” just as our souls prosper. So, this word “sound” describes something that is healthy.
Now we know the word of God is likened in many places to food (See Matthew 4:4, First Peter 2:2, Job 23:12, and Jeremiah 15:16). So, what we see being described here is that like children tend to do, the world will come to a place where it does not want to hear what is truly healthy and good for them, but will do what? Because they have “itching ears” (or ears that need to be tickled or scratched), they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to “stories.”
You know, it has always just amazed me how so many Christians do this. Their ears and hearts are readily inclined to listen to someone who speaks well, has charisma, and mixes in interesting and funny stories. But if someone comes simply speaking the truth of God’s Word with none of these other things, they turn them off.
This should not be so, church! We ought to be all about what the content is that the speaker is saying and not just be inclined to their speaking ability. In order to grow, we must be nourished with the words of faith and of good doctrine. That’s what produces the fruit we desire to see in our lives.
So, what Hebrews 13:7 is showing us is that what ultimately reveals truth is fruit. Just consider the outcome of what people are ministering. Is there the fruit of the Spirit evident? Is the Holy Spirit Himself present?
Then Hebrews 13:8 goes on to say, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” So, what does this have to do with what was just said in the previous verse? I believe it’s that one of the fruits that indicate what the truth is, is found in the consistency of it. Verse 9 bears this out because it goes on to say, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.”
You see, when it comes to where our faith needs to be and what we build our lives on, it needs to be on the One who never changes, the One who is the same today as He was yesterday and the one who will still be the same tomorrow as He is today. This is Jesus!
In fact, based on John 14:6, we can translate Hebrews 13:8 like so— “The truth is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” It does not change because the Lord changes not (Malachi 3:6).
But oh, how the truth seems to always be changing, doesn’t it? It’s evolving with the times and today we are seeing the world around us adopting certain mindsets and belief systems that were unheard of just decades ago.
This should not be so with the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Like the truth Himself, we ought to be the same yesterday, today, and forever—understanding that the truth that we heard from Him 2,000 years ago is still true today and we do not move off of it.
And, again, the writer of Hebrews declared in verse 9 that we will have ample opportunity to be moved by various and strange teachings even in the church. This is similar to the apostle Paul’s description of being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (See Ephesians 4:14). And what was His solution there? It was speaking the truth in love (verse 15) and growing up in Christ Jesus, who is the truth.
But the fact is, the truth is unchanging. It has been here before the world began and it will be here long after this world ends. So, one critical part to abiding in the truth is looking at Jesus, who is that unchanging truth of God, and embracing what He came to deliver to us—God’s truth.
FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH
I love the way the Gospel of John shows this to us: John 1:14-18 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
In describing how Jesus came to us in the flesh and lived among us, the apostle John described Him as being “full of grace and truth.” Now notice how Jesus was not just described as being full of grace, but also full of truth. The apostle Paul also said in Ephesians 4:21 that the truth is in Jesus.
You see, in the church today, I believe there is a little too much absence of truth in the emphasis of His grace.
Now you know that I am certainly big on His grace—understanding that it is only by His grace that we can be saved, and it is only by His grace that we can grow and increase. But the mistake I see a lot of the church making in this generation is that in making such a strong emphasis on His unconditional love and grace, the truth—absolutes in His kingdom—are not being held in high esteem and proclaimed to the people. A lot of the reason for this is because of what we said earlier—people don’t want to hear what is right versus what is wrong. They don’t want to hear absolutes, especially when these truths go against what our flesh wants and what we think.
But the “truth” is that Jesus was full of both of these things: Yes, He came to reveal to us God’s goodness & grace, and we see that on full display throughout His life and ministry. But at the same time, He never compromised the truth of God. Rather, He boldly proclaimed it in the face of the hypocrisy that had permeated Israel.
So, Jesus was, is, and forever will be our example of truth. That means that the things Jesus declared to us are things that we ought to hang our hats on. His words are ultra-significant and super relevant—not just for the Jews 2,000 years ago, but for all today.
You would think that all Christians would know this, but there is even a large group of “believers” today who do not believe that Jesus’ words are relevant to the church because He was called to minister to God’s chosen people, Israel. And while it was true that He was called to lost sheep of Israel, that doesn’t mean that His teachings aren’t to be applied to our lives as well or we might as well throw out just about all of the Old Testament and even the epistles of the New Testament like Romans since we are not Romans.
And so, what I see here is that since Jesus is the truth, then the things that He taught are absolutes. Yes, they are things that we must adhere to and will always be relevant—no matter how much things change around us. Amen?
WHAT WOULD JESUS PREACH?
So, let me end today’s message by asking this question: If Jesus were to be the guest speaker of a church today, what would He preach? What truth would He have come to deliver?
Well, I can assure you that there would be no guarantee it would be sweet, rosy, and peachy. No, it might ruffle a lot of feathers because it would be vastly different than so many traditional Sunday morning sermons today. Yes, it would contain much love and grace, but it would also include rebuke, reproof, correction, and warning.
I remember one time early in my Christian walk where I was attempting to see a fellow co-worker (in a Christian bookstore no less) be truly converted. You see, just because someone goes to church or is involved in some Christian thing, that doesn’t mean they are a child of God. No, everyone must be born again and be personally converted, and this is more than just following traditions and certain rites & rituals.
So, one time when I was expressing their need to truly make Jesus their personal Lord and Savior, they asked me what I meant because they had gone to the altar before and said the sinner’s prayer. This took me aback because I didn’t know what to tell someone who had gone through the motions of becoming a Christian but had never been truly converted. That’s when the Holy Spirit gave me the “truth” I needed to help her understand that it must be a heart change. I said to her, “Don’t you think if you truly believed that He was Lord, it would change the way you were living your life?” She looked at me and said, “You know, you’re right.”
You see, there was certainly a risk of offending her by declaring to her the truth, but because I loved her, I was willing to take that risk.
That reminds of my attempt to see a friend get saved who I had before I was born again: I told this friend the truth about Jesus more than once after my conversion and they finally said, “Why do you keep trying to get me to become a Christian?” because they were certainly offended with my attempts to see their life changed as mine was. Well, I told this person—“Let me ask you this—If I knew you were about to get on an airplane that was going to crash, wouldn’t you want me to tell you?” They responded with yes. So, I then told them— “That’s exactly what I am doing. I know that you are on your way to death and destruction, and I am trying to get you off that plane.”
Church, this is a big part of the truth that Jesus came to proclaim. Yes, He ate with tax collectors and sinners, but that was because He loved them enough to come by their side and tell them the truth. This is how we should be living as well—loving our neighbor to the degree that we tell them what they need to hear in the way they can hear it.
THE TRUTH’S TRUTH
This is exactly how the Truth Himself lived His life on the earth. As both the Truth and being full of truth, we know that all that He said was the truth.
So, let’s look at some of the things that Jesus emphasized throughout His ministry that are certainly relevant truths to us even today.
Let’s go back to the beginning of His ministry and see what He began by proclaiming: What was Jesus’ first word to the people when He began His ministry? It was “Repent”—not a word that is accepted too easily in the church today (See Matthew 4:17).
As we’ve seen, this is a word that literally means to think a different way and turn in that new direction. But like I said, this is not what most people like to hear. They like to think that the direction they are going in is okay and certainly don’t like anyone telling them that they need to change. But that’s exactly what Jesus came on the scene proclaiming to His chosen people who desperately needed a course change.
And He also greatly emphasized why we all needed that course correction. It’s because as He stated in His Sermon on the Mount— “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
You see, the truth is that there is a direction that we all can choose, and while the majority of this world will choose the wide gate and the broad way that leads to destruction, the way of life is the narrow gate and the difficult way.
This is what Jesus came to direct people’s minds towards—that there is a better way, and that way is one of love, mercy, compassion, and a selfless, sacrificial life. He came to remind us that people are what are important and to live one’s life for others is the highest call of all the human race. It is to populate and enrich heaven with souls and to be ready for His Second Coming. This is what it means to be “woke” according to Jesus.
So, Jesus came to tell us the truth—it is that God is good and merciful. It is that He loves the sinner and seeks to save the lost. But it is also to tell the sinner to repent and to declare the true way to God. Jesus is the truth and was full of the truth, and so should we be. Amen.
So, we began a new series last week which I am entitling— What is truth?
And, church, I believe that this question is one that so many need the answer to particularly in this hour we are living in where it seems as though the truth is hard to decipher. So, when it comes to these things, we need to receive truth from God so that we know how He sees things.
You see, through the course of everything we have gone through over the past 18 months—everything from covid, social distancing, polar-opposite political views, vaccinations—there has been a statement I’ve heard over and over again, and that is this: “I just don’t know what the truth is.” And the reason people are saying this is because there are so many voices out there with so many different points of view from the news, the internet, our friends, family, etc. It’s like the world has been handed a megaphone and its voice has been amped up in these last days. Which is mainly due to the fact that we have all these platforms that people can share info that they’ve received. So, with all of these extreme viewpoints, it’s hard to decipher who is actually telling the truth.
Well, the “truth” is, God is the only one we can truly trust to reveal the truth to us. And the good news is, He already has given us everything we need to know the truth. Yes, church, there are things God has given us that clearly reveal truth to us and will show us exactly what to do when it comes to any of these things that we are dealing with in the world. So, we ought not to look for truth in the things of this world; we ought to be looking for truth in Him and in the tools He has given us to know the truth. Amen?
So, like I said, that is what I want us to do for the next few weeks—I want us to answer that question—What is truth? —by looking at what the Holy Spirit has said the truth is. This will help you and I avoid erring and believing the lies that the world is feeding us.
And we learned last week that one of the main reasons that being led by the spirit of truth is so important for this hour we are living in is because the spirit of error—that spirit of antichrist that has been in the world since time began—is working harder than ever to sweep people off into deception because the devil knows his time is short.
So, that is what we saw living in this world is like—it’s like a river that’s current is just moving everything in it downstream towards destruction. Everything and everyone in it, will just naturally be taken in the same direction. But when we heard the word of truth—the gospel of our salvation— we were “converted” (i.e., turned) when a paddle was put in our hands, and we turned this boat around and headed upstream.
So, I gave you a parable—the Parable of the Paddle—and showed how this upstream journey holds many obstacles such as complacency, trials & tribulations, and persecution. These are things that we will all have to overcome to continue in the truth and overcome the world. And we do this as we take hold of that paddle that has been put in our hands and begin paddling upstream. Amen?
WHAT THE TRUTH IS NOT
So, this week, I would like to begin answering the question at hand—What is truth?
Now when answering this question, I think it’s good for us to begin by explaining what truth is not. So, what is the opposite of truth? It’s obviously a lie, isn’t it? To me, the difference between the truth and a lie is clearly illustrated in the difference between God and satan:
You see, the Scriptures are very clear that God is both the truth and true. He is called in several places the one “true” God (See Romans 3:4, Jeremiah 10:10, etc.). He is also said to be incapable of lying (Hebrew 6:18, Titus 1:2, etc.). So, God Himself is the truth, and all He does and says is true. Amen?
On the contrary, the devil has no truth in him: Jesus, in speaking to those worldly religious leaders, said in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”
So, what we can learn from the fact that our Heavenly Father is true and the devil is the father of lies is this: Those who come from them will and should be the same. For example, the world is proficient in covering things up, hiding things, and not openly revealing what is truly going on. Essentially, we can say that the world is good at lying. And this is all because their father, the devil, is a liar.
So, my point is that it should not surprise us when the world lies. It’s because they of their father the devil and there is no truth in Him. In other words, it’s their nature to do so.
This should not be so with a child of God. If we are born of our Heavenly Father, then we ought to be of the truth as He is and certainly not tolerate lying in our own lives.
Now notice I said we ought not to tolerate it in “our own” lives. That means we ourselves have a standard that we only tell the truth and by no means will ever lie to others. But that doesn’t mean we can control what others do.
As Paul reveals to us in Ephesians 4:25, don’t be surprised if you see it in the church like you see it in the world because he said, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.”
To me, it is just amazing that the apostle Paul had to tell the Ephesian church, which was probably one of the greatest churches in history, to quit lying. The reason this is so astounding is because we tend to over-glamorize the early church and assume that they were extremely spiritual. The truth is – these believers struggled with the same carnal things that we do. They struggled with things like lying, anger, stealing, words, and bitterness (vs.25-31).
WHAT IS LYING?
But what really is lying? I’ve learned that not everyone actually understands what it truly is.
You see, a lie is actually “an untrue statement with the intent to deceive” (Webster’s Dictionary). Thayer’s said the Greek word used here describes “conscious or intentional falsehood”.
So, if we, in any way, try to deceive someone, then we are lying. For example, I can tell someone that a church service in the evening starts at 7 PM, being convinced myself that it starts then, and then they show up an hour late because it actually started at 6 PM. That would not be a lie because, even though I made an untrue statement, it was not with the intention of deceiving them. On the other hand, if I told them it started at 7, knowing full well that it started at 6, then I would have intended to deceive them and, therefore, lied to them. My point is that you can make an untrue statement without lying.
But as Paul went on to say in Ephesians 4:25, the goal is not to just avoid lying; it is to consciously and intentionally speak truth with our neighbor. Yes, our command, in place of lying, is to speak truth with whoever you are next to at the time.
For example, this means that if we are selling a car and we know that there is a scratch on the bumper, we don’t try and avoid that part of the car when we show it to somebody. This means that if we go to Taco Bell and they give us one more taco than we ordered then we tell them. This means that if someone bakes you some cookies and they directly ask you if you liked them that you don’t tell them you did if you really didn’t. Consistently being truthful with your neighbor is an honorable virtue because then people will know they can put their trust in your word.
Another added quality of speaking the truth is following through on what you say you will do. This is an area that many believers do not excel at but should, because it shows integrity and it’s a defining characteristic of our Heavenly Father: David said in Psalm 15:4 that a mark of godly character is to “swear to your own hurt and not change.” That means that you do what you said you would do even if it hurts you similarly to God, who cannot lie because whatever He says becomes true.
And then Paul tells us one important reason why we are to be of the truth and not lie to one another: It’s because “we are members of one another.”
You see, in the human body there is harmony. The eye never tries to deceive the hand, nor does the hand try and deceive the foot. The whole body moves harmoniously as if each member can put the utmost confidence in the other members. Likewise, falsehood in the body of Christ is just as damaging to the goal of Christ’s body as if one member of our physical body continually tried to deceive the other members.
SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE
Now let me add this one very important point: While we need to be all about the truth, we need to understand that love is always to be our motivation.
As the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:15, “but speaking the truth in love …”
You see, there are two extremes that people go to regarding this. They speak the truth, but not in love or they speak in love and suppress the truth. We must have balance, not getting in one ditch or the other.
It has been well said that truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy. Christians who just go around telling people the truth, either by berating them with the Word or just by always feeling compelled to inform them of things (ex. “that outfit is tacky”), is oftentimes hurtful and inappropriate when not spoken in love. On the other hand, people who suppress the truth because they don’t want to offend or hurt someone are sometimes inappropriate as well. If I really love you, I will tell you something that you might not necessarily want to hear when I know it is for your ultimate good.
On the other hand, we must judge ourselves by evaluating our motives for telling them what we do to see if we are speaking the truth in love or out of love. As Paul has said in the previous verses and will go on to say in this verse, this is for the mature believer. There is a very fine line between speaking the truth and speaking the truth in love and it is very difficult to discern between them as well, but the answer on how to handle every situation is found in the answer to 101 questions—and that is to just be led by the Holy Spirit.
Let me give you an example that many of us can relate to: If a woman comes to her husband and asks, “Do these jeans make me look fat?”, how does he speak the truth in love (this is of course, assuming she might have some excess pounds on her)?
Well, the way we tend to think is in order to tell the truth we have to be brutally honest and simply answer, yes. How many of you know that is not wisdom that descends from above? On top of that, it’s also not wisdom to answer the question of do these jeans make me look fat with, “No, it’s not the jeans that make you look fat; it’s your …” This might lead to more ungodly behavior than just lying, namely murder!
Let me ask you it this way, if say Mary Magdalene came to Jesus and asked a similar question, how do you think Jesus would have answered her? I think we all know based on how Jesus answered other tough questions that were presented to Him how he might have answered, and that is with an answer that was outside of the parameters of what the one asking would have expected. Like in those instances, He might have seen why she was asking the question and asked her one in return like – “Mary, do you think Yahweh sees you this way? Isn’t who He sees you to be on the inside of far greater value than who the world sees you to be on the outside?”
My point is, speaking the truth in love is not just black and white. It is tackling the true issue in a loving way because it sees why the person is asking the question and where the real need is.
THAT WHICH IS NOT HIDDEN
So, we can clearly see what truth is not and how important it is, but let me end today’s message by sharing a personal testimony with you …
I’d like share with you how God answered me when I asked Him this question—What is truth?
Several years ago, after asking the Lord many times to define truth for me, I finally got my answer. On my back porch in Colorado Springs, CO., during a time of prayer, the Lord spoke to my heart the following statement: He said, “Truth is—that which is not hidden, which makes God known.”
So, let’s consider this definition for a moment: First of all, He told me that truth is that which is not hidden.
In fact, when He gave me this definition, I didn’t know it but when you look up the root word for “truth” in the New Testament—the word aletha—you’ll find that it describes something not hidden and unconcealed. So, the definition he gave me certainly lined up with the literal definition of the words used in the Bible for truth.
So, what this means is that at its core, truth is the exact opposite of hiding and concealing things.
You see, God is not concealing the truth. It is on full display! Someone might object to this, saying something like— “Well, the ultimate truth of His reality and existence are not necessarily on full display, are they?” These would make the argument that God is indeed hiding Himself. But what these must understand is that God doesn’t usually reveal Himself to people and prove His existence. Now this has happened, but it usually doesn’t happen for the one’s who seek after a sign and are looking for proof.
So, how do we answer these critics? The truth is that while everyone cannot see Him, His glory is revealed in the glory of His creation. If people will simply open their eyes to His reality and not shut up their hearts from Him, they will know Him.
One of my favorite verses to use for this is found in Romans chapter one.
Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”
You see, this is how God has chosen to reveal Himself to the world— It is through His creation! The apostle Paul says here that “His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…”
You see, all of God’s creation, clearly show mankind the invisible attributes of God. In other words, although we cannot physically see His attributes, He has shown them to us through nature. Yes, the working order and beauty of God’s creation can help one to understand His very attributes.
I cannot tell you how many people I hear say how much closer they feel to God when they are in places like the woods, the mountains, or the beach. It is funny, but I never hear people say that they feel closer to God in the big city. Why? It is because the city is full of man’s creation; nature is full of God’s creation. Here we see that nature revealing more of God to us is Scriptural. It is not that God is more present in nature, but that our knowledge of Him is more present in these places. And the awareness of God is what produces more of an awareness of His presence.
Paul goes on to say that His creation also reveals to us “even His eternal power and Godhead.” In other words, the specifics of God’s person are even revealed in creation. For example, tradition tells us how Saint Patrick used this very principle to preach the Trinity to the people of Ireland. He would teach that God is three in one through the three-leaf clover. So, yes, creation around us reveals everything from God’s eternal power to His Godhead. If we will just look around us and above us, we will see all of God’s glorious and eternal attributes revealed through His creation—for even the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1).
So, guess what all of this means. Paul reveals to us “so that they are without excuse.” Wow! This squelches that idea some have that there will be groups of people around the world who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ who will have an excuse in the Day of Judgment. No, saints, in that Day, no one will have an excuse based on this Scripture!
But someone will say, “But they never heard the truth! How could they be found guilty?” Well, as we will see in verses 21-25, what happens is that mankind has this tendency to form their own gods even when they have this general knowledge of God. In other words, even though they had the knowledge of God’s existence, they chose not to seek for a deeper knowledge of Him and glorify Him as the One True and Living God.
Let me give you a real-life example of what these people should have done: Once upon a time, there was this woman who was attending a Bible College and, while seeking the Lord as to His plan for her, she had Him give her a name, a name of a place that she was unaware of. Well, as she did some research, she found out that this place was a remote island where no one had been before. Therefore, she concluded that the Lord was sending her there. So as her plane arrived on this island, she was met by a local tribe and their chief greeted her. He began praising God that this prayer was heard! You see, this tribe was praying to an unknown God to tell them His name. In other words, they knew that there had to be a god through that inward intuition these verses speak of, therefore, they just humbly prayed to the God they didn’t know yet and asked Him to reveal himself to them. So, God spoke to this woman and sent her across the world to preach “Jesus” to them! Glory to God!
But most people have not been this wise throughout history, have they? The majority of people have made up their own gods like the children of Israel did in the wilderness when they created a golden calf as an image to worship. This is what the world tends to do according to the following verses in Romans.
But my point is that God has not hidden Himself. In fact, He has clearly and openly revealed Himself to any and all who have the hearts to seek after the truth. He is not in the business of proving Himself to His creation. He doesn’t have to. If anyone needs to prove themselves, it is us.
So, the proof that we are children of God is this—that we live in the truth. That we ourselves are open and transparent and operate in the confines of all that is true. This is what the Lord is looking for—that we truly imitate Him in all things. Amen.
I want to begin a new series today entitled— What is truth?
When you hear this question, you might be reminded that this is same question that Pilate asked Jesus just prior to His crucifixion (See John 18:38). But like it was with Pilate when he asked this question and then immediately went out to again address the Jews, most people do not want to know the truth. The world might think they do, but very few people do.
But truth is not only something that we ought to be open to, it is something we should pursue and strive to know. And the good news is, the Lord has given us every opportunity to know it and walk in it, which will be a big part of what we will learn in this series of teachings.
Let me give you a little background as to why this subject has been on my heart:
Through the course of everything we have gone through over the past 18 months or so—everything from covid, social distancing, polar-opposite political views, vaccinations—there has been a statement I’ve heard over and over again, and that is this: “I just don’t know what the truth is.” And the reason people are saying this is because there are so many voices out there with so many different points of view from the news, the internet, our friends, family, etc. So, with all of these extreme viewpoints it’s hard to decipher who is actually telling the truth.
For example, there are those out there whose truth is that this virus named covid is extremely deadly and something we should respect and do whatever we have to in order to protect ourselves and others from. These have pushed for extreme measures to be taken for masks and other forms of social distancing and are now pushing for mandatory vaccinations and other radical means of eradicating this virus.
But on the flipside, there are those whose truth is that this virus was engineered by man to push a political agenda. So, they believe it was intentionally and strategically spread to “thin the herd” so to speak. And while these people might acknowledge that covid can be dangerous, they certainly don’t go to the extremes the other side does. On top of that, many of these on this side of it also believe that the vaccines are more deadly than the virus itself and, therefore, they are adamant about not being vaccinated.
So, what is the truth? I know there are people hearing this that have very strong views about it all, but let me tell you what I believe the truth is— The truth is that covid has been ultimately engineered by satan because it carries with it that same tendency to steal, kill, and destroy. Whether it was intentionally or unintentionally spread, I don’t know. But what I do know is true is that the devil was behind it, and that’s all that matters. Therefore, we ought to resist it as the Spirit instructs us to do.
But here is some more truth about covid that I think less of us have realized: Not only has the devil sent this damnable virus to destroy; he also sent it to divide and conquer—for we have seen so many of these different opinions and strong stances regarding it that has divided our nation and even those within the church. Therefore, those who are hearing the spirit of truth will not contribute to this division. They will strive for the unity of the faith more than they will their opinion, knowing that things like love and unity always trump anything else.
If you notice, the focus in this example was not on natural things, but on the spiritual side of it all. And what we need to understand is that this is where the truth resides. It is found in that realm that created this physical world we live in, so the world won’t tend to see what is true. It’s because their eyes are closed off to the spiritual, eternal world that we exist within. That’s where the truth lies.
And, church, there are things God has given us that clearly reveal truth to us and will show us exactly what to do when it comes to any of these things that we are dealing with in the world. So, we ought not to look for truth in the things of this world; we ought to be looking for truth in Him and in the tools He has given us to know the truth. Amen?
So, that is what I want to do for the next few weeks—I want us to answer that question—What is truth? —by looking at what the Holy Spirit has said the truth is. This will help you and I avoid erring and believing the lies that the world is propagating to us. We do not want to follow the voice of a stranger, but rather the voice of truth. Amen?
Church, this is why being led by the spirit of truth is so important for this hour we are living in. It is because the spirit of error is working overtime to get us to listen to it. Therefore, we must be homed into the spirit of truth to avoid being led away by the spirit of error.
Let’s look at a passage of Scripture that teaches us about these two spirits in the world--First John 4:1-6.
In these verses, the apostle John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
The apostle John is here dealing with a similar thing to what we are in this hour. While he is dealing more with the spirits that were driving their religion, I believe this spirit of antichrist attempts to lead not only things in the church but also everything else that affects our world. Yes, like it will be when the man who embodies this spirit of antichrist comes, this spirit’s goal is total world domination with a one world religion that is certainly “anti-Christ.”
But, first of all, notice in verse 1 how there are apparently many different spirits that are influencing the world around us. Now these are apparently religious spirits coming through many so-called prophets, but I think we can learn a couple of other things from this:
For one, just because someone comes claiming to be speaking for God and even attaches a “Thus saith the Lord” to what they are saying, doesn’t mean that they are speaking truth. They might believe they are and have good intentions, but we need to understand that not every spirit is of God. Even in the days of the Bible, king’s courts were filled with those who prophesied in the name of the Lord, but what they were saying was not true. Probably our most popular instance of this was in the days of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was prophesying truth, but Hezekiah was surrounded with other so-called prophets who were telling the king what he wanted to hear.
And isn’t this something that we hear out of so many mouths? The predominant voice is what everyone wants to hear. Now I am not saying that truth is only going to be correction, rebuke, and warning, but I would venture to say that truth will be a mixture of both the things that are encouraging, comforting, and uplifting with the things that are correcting, warning, and rebuking.
So, as the apostle John said here, it is important that we not just blindly believe every spirit that comes telling us things we want to hear but that we test them that we might know which ones are of God and which ones are not.
Now there are some obvious ways to test them, and John tells us here the ultimate way—they must confess that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords (i.e., Christ) and that He has come in the flesh to save us from our sins. If one comes denying any of the truth of who Jesus was, is, and evermore shall be, they are what John goes on to call here, a spirit of antichrist and are not of the truth since Jesus is the truth.
And make no mistake about it—this same spirit of antichrist is in the world today in the 20th Century church just as it was in the First Century Church then.
You see, so many are looking for the incarnate antichrist who is to come but miss that the spirit that will drive him is already at work driving others. Yes, these spirits of antichrist have been working in the church as well as in the world for the past 2,000 plus years.
They are what the drive the majority view. They are what inspire most of what we watch, hear, etc. Yes, this spirit of error is all around us with a megaphone broadcasting lies, lies, and more lies.
So, this spirit of antichrist certainly influences the world, but it also influences the worldly that are in the church. This will be one of the reasons why there will be a great falling away in the church in the end times.
So, the solution is this—we overcome because greater is He who lives in us than He who lives in the world. In other words, we who have been born of God, have the mighty Holy Spirit inside of us, and learn to walk in the truth will not be overcome by the spirit of this world.
The apostle John goes on to say that they—these people who are being led around by the spirit of antichrist—are “of” the world. That means they are “out of” the world—not that they are aren’t still in it, but that this is where they have originated from. So, because they have come from the world, they speak as coming from the world. In other words, they speak in the spiritual language that the world tends to understand. That doesn’t necessarily mean that their verbiage is worldly but that they are talking their language regarding the way they think and their overall mentality. This is why those of the world will hear them.
But the good news is—if we’ve been born again, we are “of God.” And if we are of God, those who also are of God will hear us. But those who are not born again, children of God, will not hear us. And the apostle John says this is how we know the spirit of error and the spirit of truth—by who hears them. And the them that we are talking about is the apostles. So, while we do not have the apostle John, Peter, Paul, etc. with us today, we do have their writings. Amen?
So, we can surmise that to be of the truth is to hear the voice of the Lord through the Scriptures and not to follow the voice of this world because it will not tell you what the truth is. But a word to the wise—if it’s mainstream, then it’s probably going downstream. This is what the apostle Peter called the “flood of dissipation”—that is, that flow that the world is on and why they do the things they do (See First Peter 4:3-4).
It’s like a river, stream, or creek that is flowing in a certain direction. Everything and everyone in it, will just naturally be taken in the same direction. But the truth is—even though we are in the world, we are not of the world. Yes, we are surrounded by the world by living in it, but we are of a different species. We are like salmon, swimming upstream, going against the flow because we are of God and of the truth.
THE PARABLE OF THE PADDLE
Here’s a good illustration of what it’s like to walk in the truth versus being swept away by the spirit of error that’s in this world—it’s like going upstream in a boat with a paddle.
We all started off going downstream with the rest of this world before we were born again, right? I mean, we didn’t know any better. We had never truly heard the truth, so we just floated along like the rest of this world, going down the creek without a paddle.
But what happened was when we heard the truth, a paddle was put in our hand. Yes, we got born again and “repented” (which literally means to change our way of thinking) and were “converted” which means what? To turn! So, the whole idea of what happens when one hears the truth and believes the gospel in their heart is they turn—both in their way of thinking and in their behavior.
So, in our illustration, we received the truth, which is the paddle, and use it to start turning the boat we were in around and start going upstream.
Now this usually starts off a little easy because like a father might give his son a little push to get that bike going when he’s teaching him to ride, our Heavenly Father gives our boat a little push as well. But then the time comes where we have to start using that paddle that’s in our hands.
Well, you start out good. It’s not too difficult to paddle against the current because the truth has made you free, hallelujah! You see things a little different. Your discerner is much more in tune and you know what the truth is. It’s all fresh and exciting. But that’s when the first obstacle comes—which is complacency.
You see, when we’ve been swimming upstream for some time, the tendency is to become a little indifferent. Perhaps you get a little tired of doing the same old paddling, and it becomes a little wearisome to keep doing the same thing. So, you stop putting forth the effort. You don’t study your Bible like you used to. You don’t pray like you used to. You don’t go to church meetings like you used to. And guess what you are doing when you stop doing these things? You pull that paddle out of the water.
Well, what do you suppose happens to your little boat when you stop paddling? The current of the water will just automatically turn that boat back around and take you back downstream. You didn’t necessarily want it to turn around, but it’s just the natural flow of this world.
Like I’ve said time and time again, the only thing you need to do to be carnal, selfish, and self-serving is NOTHING. You will just automatically become the worst version of your flesh if you don’t have your paddle in hand and use it to turn yourself upstream.
I’ve watched this happen many times—like with the youth. I’ll watch youth groups go to summer youth camps and come back on fire! And that fire will burn bright, for a little while. But because they don’t get in the Word themselves and press into the things of God on their own, there is no wood getting put on the fire. And what will happen to a fire that doesn’t have any wood periodically added to it? It will always go out.
But, by God’s grace, we pick up that paddle again and start turning that boat back around and heading back upstream. Again, it’s called repentance and something every believer has had to do time and time again. But then the next obstacle comes downstream at us, and that’s the trials and tribulations of this world.
Those problems and adversities come right at us just as we are promised by the Lord that in the world, we will have tribulation. I’d say it this way—in the ocean, we will have waves.
So, those waves start causing our little boat to start moving from side to side and water starts getting into it, and then what starts happening? We start worrying about our boat sinking and we stop paddling. Then, just like it was with Peter when he started looking at the waves while walking to Jesus on the water, we start sinking and all because we stopped paddling, putting our attention on the tribulations.
You see, Jesus had told His disciples “Let us go to the other side.” He didn’t say, “Let us go halfway and drown.” So, when the lie was telling them that they were done for, they should have recalled the truth Jesus had spoken to them and kept paddling towards the other side. Amen?
But like we see in these accounts of Jesus’ disciples, the Lord is there to bail us out again. So, we get our attention back on Him and start that paddling again to “the other side”, back upstream.
That’s when the third and final obstacle comes against us, which is arguably the worst—when both those in the boat with us and those on the banks of the river start yelling at us, discouraging us from going upstream. And oh, there is not much worse than this persecution, especially when it comes from those in the boat with us.
And oftentimes those words have an impact on us. They might discourage us from going the opposite direction as those around us. They might make us question what we are doing in the first place. And guess what we do? If it’s those on the banks of the river, we might start paddling over to them and start trying to explain ourselves to them. Well, even if we convince them that we are following the truth, guess what we are not doing? Continuing in the truth and going upstream.
What about that person who’s in the boat with us, telling us we are doing it all wrong? Well, we might be able to take it to a degree, but guess what happens more times than not? We pull our paddle up out of the water and turn around and give them a piece of our mind. Well, what’s happening to our boat while we are letting them have it? It’s turning around and heading back downstream.
My point is—don’t let the voices around you get your attention and keep you from doing what you have to do to paddle upstream.
Church, these obstacles will come, and this going upstream of continuing in the truth is not easy, but it is right, and it is worth it. Amen?
So, what I wanted to encourage you with today is this—Do whatever you need to do to pick that paddle up and head upstream. It might not be what the majority is doing. There might be adversity from going against the current. You might even receive a lot of persecution from following the truth. But the “truth” is, you are doing it right, and continuing in the truth has a great recompense of reward. Amen.
PARTS 2-5 – THE SON OF THE KINGDOM
This is what I believe will be our final series on the kingdom of God this year, and this one is arguably the most important in terms of practicality. The reason I say this is because, in it, we are dealing with how we can become more kingdom-minded in our everyday lives.
So, what we are learning is how can we have this same attitude that the Jewish people possessed—a kingdom way of thinking.
You see, there was a strong kingdom mentality that was engrained in the Jewish people. They constantly were thinking things like “When is the kingdom coming?” and “How can we position ourselves to be greater in it?” Yes, many of the Jewish people had the kingdom on their radar.
But I believe we here in the United States today have been brought up with certain disadvantages:
For one, even though most of us have been born in the United States of America—a country that was established on Christian morals and the freedom of religion—our great nation does not operate like a monarchy (i.e., a kingdom). So, we don’t have it built into us to think in terms of a kingdom.
On top of that, the Jewish people not only operated under that type of government, but their religion was mixed into it as well. So, they not only knew how a kingdom operated, but they knew it was not man’s kingdom, but God’s kingdom. Therefore, their religion was woven into their government—thus, this mentality was threaded all throughout their culture.
And I made the point that this is why, when John the Baptist, and then Jesus after him, came on the scene preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, the people were not responding with— “What is all this kingdom stuff you’re talking about?” No, it didn’t need a lot of explanation because it was already engrained in them.
But my point is that most of our churches today are much more ignorant of these kingdom-minded things. This is why it is not something that the church has helped us with either.
You see, these things we’ve been learning about God’s kingdom are not things that are commonly taught in most churches. In fact, the kingdom of God is a foreign concept to most believers today. Therefore, we are at even more of a disadvantage to possessing this kingdom mentality because not only were we not raised this way in the flesh, but we have not been raised this way in the spirit either.
So, I say all of this to explain why this kingdom-mindedness is not our natural way of thinking like it was to a lot of the Jewish people. But this doesn’t mean that you and I are to just throw our hands in the air and claim ignorance and continue to think incorrectly.
And that’s why we are studying these things. So that we all can become more kingdom-minded in our everyday lives. So, that’s what we began doing in part one of this series.
So, let’s look again in Colossians chapter 3 where we have a powerful passage of Scripture that teaches us about this mentality / way of thinking that we are all to possess as the body of Christ:
Colossians 3:1-4 says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
I made the point in part one of this series that after spending the first two chapters of his letter essentially describing what Christianity is not, the apostle Paul now “turns the page” and begins to show us what Christianity truly looks like. And I believe these truths perfectly summarize what a kingdom-minded person is to think like.
So, we saw in these verses that Christianity is all about a new identity and, therefore, a new mentality. We are now new creations in Christ—having received a new spiritual social security number, a new name, a totally new identity. All things have truly been made new in our lives as we were crucified with Him and raised up together with Him!
And we saw that this is what water baptism was meant to symbolize to us—that the moment we were immersed in that water, we were crucified with Christ being buried with Him, and then we were raised to together with Him to a new life. But it was not just symbolism. It is actually what happened, spiritually speaking. We identified with His crucifixion. We died with Him, and then were raised up together with Him to sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Church, this is a big part of being kingdom-minded—because we must understand that we have changed addresses when we entered into Christ. We are now citizens of the kingdom of God. And that was a big point we made last week—that we are now citizens of heaven and have been left here on the earth to be Christ’s ambassadors, His ministers of reconciliation.
You see, the Word of God teaches us that our citizenship does not begin in heaven when we die and move there. It happens the moment we are born into God’s family that we become His nationality. In fact, the phrase “born again” that Jesus used could be translated “born from above”. That is why our citizenship is in heaven because we were born from heaven.
So, all of this means that we must learn to work down here while we’re living up there. And that’s the reason we have been left here; to see His kingdom come and grow. Yes, our purpose in still being here, even though our citizenship is in heaven, is to change other people’s address too.
Church, we have been raised with Christ to a new position and address—raised up to a new way of thinking and mentality. This is being kingdom-minded, church.
TO LIVE IS CHRIST
So, this is who we are! We have identified with Christ not only in His death & burial, but also in His resurrection & ascension. Thus comes to pass the saying—as He is, so are we in this world. Amen!
Now it is time for you and I to also identify with Him in what preceded these events. In other words, while it is necessary to know who we are and discover our new identity and citizenship, now we ought to live like He did during His earthly ministry before He went to the Cross.
This is why the apostle Paul said in Colossians 3:3— “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
You see, when we identified with Christ’s crucifixion and were raised up together with Him, now our life is not our own anymore. Our life is now hidden, and the life that is now to be revealed in and through us is Christ’s life. As the apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:21—now to live is Christ. In other words, since our life is hidden with Christ in God, our life on this earth should not be all about us and building our own proverbial “kingdom.” No, our life ought not to be the thing people see when they look at us. Now they ought to see Christ’s life revealed through us! This is kingdom-living and being kingdom-minded! Amen?
I believe far too many Christians do not truly understand the purpose of Christianity. To most, becoming a follower of Christ is no more than just us asking for Jesus to come into their heart, forgiving them of their sin, and then maybe they quit doing certain sins and they start doing some good things like going to church etc.
But Christianity is not like purchasing an insurance policy (in this case, fire insurance) to where we sign up for it, but then continue to live the way we did before. No, becoming a believer is meant to also become a disciple—to where we leave all and follow Him, to where we totally lay our life down and live for His kingdom’s glory.
You see, Christianity is not even just a changed life; it’s an exchanged life—our life for His. Now, it is no longer we who live, but Christ living in and through us. So, when you believed on the Lord and were saved, you were not just made a “better you”; no, you were made a “new you!” And that new you is now Christ in you. Amen!
Again, now, as the apostle Paul confessed in Philippian 1:21, for me, to live is Christ. And as we’ve made the point of numerous times, the title “Christ” literally describes “One anointed to be King.” In other words, what Paul was saying was that as far as he was concerned, life was all about the King. Amen to that!
But not only is it all about the King, it is all the King as well. In other words, it is Him actually living His life through us.
You see, Jesus does not just give life; He is the life (See John 1:4 & 14:6). This is why Paul goes on to say in Colossians 3:4 that when Christ “who is our life” appears. So, we ought to look at Jesus Christ this way—not just as the One who gives us eternal, abundant, and resurrection life—but as the One who actually is our eternal, abundant, and resurrection Life. Therefore, our thinking needs to change that we are not just given a better quality of life by receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior; our old life has been crucified and now we are letting Christ’s life be lived through us.
Now then, what does His life being lived through us look like? Well, I believe it looks like Jesus’ life while He was with us here on the earth! Yes, if Jesus is our life and to live is Christ, then that looks like His life for those 33 years He tabernacled with us.
THE FATHER’S BUSINESS
So, let’s look at some examples in the Gospels from the life of Jesus that show us what life for us ought to look like. And let’s begin by looking at His early years to the beginning of His ministry …
The first example I want us to look at is from Jesus’ childhood: You see, from a very early age, Jesus was already thinking kingdom thoughts.
After Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem and His parents did not know where He was, they found Him in the temple learning—for He was both listening to the teachers and asking them questions (See Luke 2:46). So, when Mary asked Him why He had done this, His response was— “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49)?
Well, this statement perplexed Joseph and Mary because we are told that they did not understand His statement (Verse 5). And just put yourself in their shoes here. I’m sure they were probably thinking just as carnally as Jesus’ followers were when He would refer to eating His flesh & drinking His blood and they thought He was literally talking about cannibalism. So, in all likelihood, they were probably thinking he was referring to Joseph’s carpentry business.
But allow me to draw a parallel: What was His earthly Father (Joseph’s) business? Being carpentry, it was building, creating, and fixing things. Well, wasn’t this what Jesus was doing here? He was in the shop building Himself up (i.e., edifying).
You see, He wasn’t in the temple ministering to others. These verses show us that He was there learning by both listening and asking questions. So, the Father’s business for Him at this point in His life was being built up for the ministry God had called Him to.
Church, we need to understand that preparation time is never wasted time. Jesus actually spent 30 years preparing for a 3-year ministry. So, sometimes being kingdom-minded is not all about doing something. Sometimes it’s slowing down enough to get ready for what you will be doing. It’s sitting. It’s learning. It’s letting the Spirit inside of you prepare you for the future. Amen?
IT IS WRITTEN
So, guess what happens next? The next thing we see is Jesus entering the scene all grown up and is then baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit. And when He was being baptized, the audible voice of Father God was heard saying, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).
Now if you were to ask most Christians what God the Father said in that audible voice when Jesus was both baptized in water and baptized in the Holy Spirit, they would say, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And they would not be entirely incorrect—for one Gospel writer (Matthew) records this event as God saying that. However, both Luke & Mark record it differently—they say that the Father said to Jesus, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
Now if I were to say about one of you today, “So and so is my beloved church member, in whom I am well pleased,” who am I talking to? I am talking to “all y’all.” But if I were to say to one of you today, “You are my beloved church member, and in you I am well pleased,” who am I talking to then? I’m saying this to them, and therefore, for their benefit.
You see, I believe this what God was doing here with His Son: He was letting Jesus know that He was His beloved Son, and He was well pleased with Him. Which, interestingly enough, was before Jesus ever began His ministry—showing us that our identity is not to be found in what we do for God, but in who are in Him. Amen!
Church, you and I must directly hear from God who He says we are just like Jesus did here! Yes, just like it is important that we all come to the place of being able to answer the same question Peter did when Jesus asked— “Who do you say that I am?”, I believe that we must also answer the question— “Who do we say that we are?” And do you know why? It is because of what happens next in Jesus’ life:
Next, we see the Holy Spirit immediately leading Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And in two of the three temptations that are recorded, the devil prefaces the temptation with— “If you are the Son of God …” So, the root of those temptations was for Jesus to doubt who His Father said He was by proving it.
But what we see is Jesus using the Word of God to resist the devil’s temptations. And how did He do it? With an “It is Written” three different times!
My question then is—Would Jesus have been ready to wield the Sword of the Spirit like He was in the wilderness if He hadn’t hidden it in His heart for those first 30 years? Many might assume that he would have because, after all, He is the Word. But what we need to understand is that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are. So, He didn’t already know everything, but rather had to grow and learn things just like we do. And He did all of this as an example to us how we ought to walk.
But my point is that a kingdom-minded person realizes that the Word of God is the only way in which a son of the kingdom ought to think.
In fact, in First Corinthians 4:6, after talking about how we ought not to judge anyone (including ourselves), the apostle Paul said, “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written …”
And with this Word-mindedness comes the verbal confession of it. So, once we’ve crammed it in there, we let it come out of our mouth from the abundance of our heart. Therefore, a son of the kingdom thinks on the Word and speaks the Word. They are Word nerds because we know that it is the Word of the kingdom (Matthew 13:19). Amen.
I AM WHO HE SAYS I AM
And this being in the Word, getting it in us, and then declaring it is a big part in seeing it revolutionize our lives. We see this after Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness through when He goes to His hometown of Nazareth and enters the synagogue (See Luke 4:16-22).
As His custom was (that’s important), He went to the Synagogue to stand up and read. And He was handed the Book of Isaiah and He found the place in it where it was written concerning Himself.
Did you know that this is what you and I must do too? We need to make it our custom, on a daily basis, to search the Scriptures and find in it the places talking about our spiritual identity and who we are in Christ. Glory!
And, glory to God, Jesus didn’t just hide the Word in His heart, but we see that He stood up and boldly declared it before the rest of the assembly in the Synagogue. Likewise, a key to me renewing my mind to my true spiritual identity is my boldly declaring who the I Am says that I am. No, not necessarily before an audience, but before an audience of one. In other words, looking into the mirror and boldly declaring who the Lord says you are until you begin to believe it about yourself. Amen.
Then I love what Jesus did after declaring what He did. We are told that He closed the Book, gave it back to the attendant, and then sat down. And this is what we need to do as well: We must see it as a done deal, “sit down,” and rest in who and what God reveals to us that we are. Amen!
So, this is how you and I cultivate this kingdom mentality, church! We study to show ourselves approved. We rightly divide the Word until it divides that carnal way of thinking that the world has engrained in us. Then we begin wielding our Sword by confessing who we are. Like a machete, this cuts through the overgrowth of thorns, weeds, etc. and we have a clear path to walking in this kingdom-mindedness.
WHO ARE OUR FAMILY & FRIENDS?
So now, let’s move on to Jesus’ ministry—those 3 years that He spent displaying the truth and grace of God—and look at some examples of this kingdom mentality that Jesus possessed.
Let’s begin in Matthew chapter 12 where Jesus gives us some insight into how He even viewed His own flesh and blood (well, not actually “blood” as Jesus’ blood flowed from Emmanuel’s veins).
Matthew 12:46-50 gives us an interesting account where Jesus’ Mother, Mary, and His brothers send for Him. It says, “While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, ‘Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.’ But He answered and said to the one who told Him, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
What an interesting way to look at the relationships of one’s life. I would imagine that most people in the Body of Christ today do not see things this way—because in most minds, there is a difference between our own flesh & blood and the church. But according to Jesus, His true family was those who did the will of His Father.
Now Jesus was not advocating that we devalue and disesteem our own natural family members—because that would contradict other verses like honoring our parents, loving our wives, respecting our husbands, and caring for our children. No, Jesus was not promoting us caring for our family members less; He was simply encouraging a different perspective of esteeming our spiritual family more.
You see, in another instance, Jesus brought up a controversial topic that many have argued over when He talked to His followers about the cost of being His disciples.
He said in Luke 14:26— “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”
Well, how many of you know that Jesus was not endorsing us actually “hating” our own family members? For that would completely contradict His commandment to love one another even as He loved us. No, I actually like another Gospel writer’s take on it when He quotes Jesus as saying, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (See Matthew 10:37)
So what Jesus was speaking to was that in order to be His disciple, one must love the King, His kingdom, and His purpose and cause “more than” He loves His own physical family. And, in comparison to how devoted we are to the kingdom of God and how much we love the King, one might classify our devotion and love for our family as “hating” them.
But my point is, it’s clear how Jesus viewed these things: To Him, only being wrapped up in our own family affairs and seeking our own flesh & blood’s welfare is not being kingdom minded. Now, again, He was not saying that these things are unimportant, but rather that these natural things have the tendency to be too important to people.
So, to be kingdom-minded is to love, pursue, esteem, etc. our spiritual family like we would our own natural family.
And how many of you have noticed that when you were born again, filled with the Holy Spirit, and were truly converted, that you found yourself feeling even more connected with your spiritual family than you did your natural family? Now it might not have been this way for everyone because maybe you were then evenly yoked with your own flesh & blood. But what I am speaking to is those of us whose own family might not have been believers, or they simply had not had their light turned to the truth yet. In those cases, we might have felt that bond with our brothers and sisters in Christ more than our own physical family members.
Well, that is not a bad thing—for our spiritual family is truly our new family. And this is having a kingdom mentality—knowing that those who do the will of God along with us are truly our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children.
Which leads me to another obvious mentality that Jesus had—He lived His life as a mission field to where not only did He love those who had dedicated their lives to the will of God like Him, but He loved the sinners. In fact, He said in one place that this was His purpose—to seek and save that which was lost. In other words, His goal in life was to pursue those who had gone wayward and had the need of salvation.
Jesus lived this way to such an extent that He was accused by the religious people of being a friend of sinners (See Matthew 11:16-19). This was due to the fact that Jesus spent time eating with the heathen, tax collectors, and such. The religious folks deemed this as unacceptable and Him sharing together with their deeds. But of course, we know Jesus did not dine with the sinners in order to partake of their sinful practices but rather to save them from those things.
And again, this is what a kingdom minded person will do—they will live their lives doing whatever it takes to seek & save the lost. This will be their goal. It will be their aim. Because they know that the only thing that matters in this life is being that minister of reconciliation that we’ve all have been commissioned to be. Amen.
Church, this is what disciples will do—they live their lives totally devoted to the kingdom’s cause and no one and nothing else is more important than that call.
FOLLOWING THE KING
Now regarding this, we have a very interesting dialogue between the Master and a few men who were either invited to follow Him or expressed their desire to do so. This account is recorded in Luke 9:57-62. Let’s read it: “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’ And another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
So, this passage begins with “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road …” Now we know that this traveling was not being done for personal pleasure but because they were constantly on a kingdom assignment. Yes, all their journeying back and forth on the road was because they were doing the will of the Father and seeking first His kingdom.
So, this first guy who came to Jesus, I can imagine either saw them walking down the road or was already walking with them and took it upon himself to come to Jesus and tell Him— “Lord, I will follow You wherever you go.” And Jesus, knowing people’s hearts, saw a hole in this young man’s statement. It was as if Jesus saw that this person was willing to follow Him, yes, but that he thought he was f0llowing Him to a destination. This prompted Jesus to say what He did— “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Now some have taken this statement to say that Jesus did not have a home or other possessions and, therefore, we ought not seek after prosperity since Jesus was obviously poor. Church, this did not mean that Jesus was broke and lived an impoverished lifestyle. Have you ever seen people raffling off a poor person’s clothes? Well, that’s what they did with Jesus’ clothes. Not to mention, Jesus was said to have a treasurer (i.e., Judas). How many broke people do you know who need someone to carry around money they don’t have? No, church, this did not mean that Jesus had a taken a vow of poverty, but rather that His goal and mission was not to live a normal life here on the earth but to live His short time here doing the work of the kingdom. And this does not mean that you and I are required to do the same.
But what Jesus was correcting here was the false notion that this man had that His current journeying was not leading to a comfortable, prosperous destination. Rather, it was a life that was not comfortable and was extremely dedicated to the cause of the kingdom of God. Amen?
So, the kingdom way of thinking is this—we are not here to simply live a normal, comfortable lifestyle. We are here on kingdom business and that’s the purpose of all of our lifestyle and conduct. Again, it doesn’t mean God minds you having nice things; He just doesn’t want those things having you and making you and I worldly.
Then we see Jesus saying to another immediately after the first person, “Follow Me.” But we are told that he responded— “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” So, Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
Wow! That seems like such a heartless statement, doesn’t it? But here me out—It only seems insensitive and inappropriate to those are not as kingdom-minded as they ought to be.
Let me ask you a question: If the Lord called you to go out of state to share the gospel with someone, but your mother or father passed away just before you were about to leave, what would you do? Well, most of us would say, “Just a minute, Lord. Let me take care of my parent’s arrangements and then I’ll go do what you told me to do.” But this is what Jesus was saying is the wrong mentality to have. Always the most important thing to do is what the Lord tells you to do. Not what your relatives think you should do. What your spouse thinks you should do. What your kids think you should do. No, following Him is what we all are called to do, and this is being kingdom minded.
You see, essentially what Jesus was telling this man is— “Hey, let those who are spiritually dead and are consumed with worldly things take care of these worldly things. You take care of mine—which is, proclaiming the kingdom of God.”
Friends, there is perhaps nothing greater that proves how kingdom minded someone is than how they view death: We all have seen how some are absolutely devastated when a fellow Christian passes away, and while it is certainly appropriate to grieve, we ought not sorrow like the world does. Why? Because we understand that there is more to life than just this life in the flesh, and they are now present with the Lord, being absent from the body.
I heard an account once of a grave that was uncovered in the catacombs underneath Rome which had inscribed on it— “Here lies the grave of my wife and six-year-old daughter who died today for the glory of God in the Circus Maximus.” Friends, this was a Christian execution where believers were thrown into the arena of the Coliseum to be mauled by wild animals and slaughtered by gladiators! And this is how this husband & father viewed such a horrific death. Do you know why? It was because he was kingdom minded. Yes, I’m sure he mourned and grieved, but as the apostle Paul encouraged us to do, I’m sure he did not sorrow as others who have no hope (See First Thessalonians 4:13). Rather, by his words etched into that gravesite, we can see that this man was abounding in hope. May it be said of all of us. Amen.
But, church, do you see how what might be considered a radical way of thinking is really the kingdom way of thinking? The natural concerns and cares of this life are not always beneficial. Now I know that we have natural responsibilities and things that are to be taken care of in this world, but my point is—When the Lord says to follow Him, everything else is to be laid down and take a backseat to what He says to do. Amen?
Finally, we see that another also said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus answered him and said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
So, what we have here is another guy who desired to follow the Lord but had something else he felt he needed to do first. In this case, it was simply going and saying goodbye to his family first.
Now, again, that doesn’t seem very unreasonable, does it? I mean, going back to say goodbye doesn’t seem to be too much to ask, right? One might think— “Well, I have to go to tell them I’m leaving or they might call the police, thinking I’m missing!” Well, I don’t think it was the fact that he was going to say goodbye; I believe it was what can happen when we say goodbye that might have been the real issue. The reason I believe this is because of what Jesus said in response to this guy’s request when He indicated that this man was looking back.
You see, sometimes when things like our family is involved, it can pull on our heart strings. We can be all excited about what the Lord has spoken to us, but when we turn to our family & friends, our heart can turn. This is why the writers of Hebrews say that the patriarchs of old who walked by faith did so by not calling to mind that country from which they had come out (Hebrews 11:15). This verse also said that if they would have done this, they would have had opportunity to return, which is the real issue. It’s how we must keep our eyes on Him, His purpose, and His kingdom so that we don’t allow even the opportunity for anything or anyone to keep us from pursuing His call. Amen?
So, Jesus gave these three individuals (and all of us) what might be considered very radical statements, but what we need to understand is that they only seem radical to those to those who haven’t completely renewed their minds to a kingdom way of thinking. Once we come to look at things like the Lord does and from this eternal, kingdom perspective, we will be like— “Oh yeah, of course it’s this way.”
Friends, the Lord is calling us to higher plane—to an elevated way of thinking. And this kingdom mentality might come against some of our traditional views, but it’s true, nonetheless. Let’s come up hither to thinking kingdom-minded thoughts like Jesus did. Amen?
THE MIND OF CHRIST
But the next example from the life of Jesus that I want us to look at is along these lines: I want us to look at His mentality about coming down lower rather than coming up hither.
Let’s begin in Philippians chapter 2 where the apostle Paul gave us a good overview of this kingdom mentality that Jesus possessed: In it, he told us to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Essentially, what Paul was saying was that we need to have the same mentality and mindset that Jesus possessed, and then he goes on to describe what His attitude was.
Now Paul had just told us in verses 2-4 to walk in one accord with our brothers and sisters and to esteem others interests above our own. Now he gives us the perfect example of someone who fulfilled this to the utter most—Christ Jesus! Yes, Jesus strived to live in unity with God’s people—not at the cost of the truth but with the effort to reveal the truth to them. Jesus had no selfish ambition nor was He conceited. He truly esteemed others better than Himself. Jesus looked out for the interests of others above His own. He was the best example of humility that there ever was and ever will be!
So, Paul is telling us here to have the same attitude as Jesus. He wants us to think like He thought—to have His perspective on things. Saints, this mindset that Jesus had has to be “in” us. It has to be an attitude that has become a part of us—that is, placed in our heart. It is only when this kind of thinking becomes a part of us that it will truly change the way we live.
So, what was Jesus’ mindset, attitude and way of thinking? We need to find this out because this is how we are exhorted to think as well!
Beginning in verse 6, the apostle Paul goes on to tell us the mentality of Christ. He says, “who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God …”
Now the word “form” describes the “nature or essence” of something or someone. This means that before Jesus came to the earth He had the complete nature of God—for He was, in essence, God Himself as a member of the Trinity.
Now regarding the phrase “robbery to be equal with God,” the word “robbery” is a poor translation because it gives off the wrong impression of what Paul was trying to say. With this incorrect translation it would seem to mean Paul was saying that Jesus did not consider it “stealing” to say He was equal with God. But the whole context of what Paul was teaching was humility and laying down our own rights for others. Paul was teaching us that we are to lay down our privileges as children of God for the benefit of others.
The word “robbery” comes from the Greek word harpagmos, which describes “a prize held onto tightly, a treasure to be retained at all costs, or something valuable that is too good to let go.”
So, Jesus “did not consider it robbery…” This is the “mind of Christ” mentioned in the previous verse, friends!
Jesus did not consider or regard what He had in heaven, when He walked in the full nature of God, something that He could not let go of. Jesus considered us more precious and worth being apprehended than His own status and nature as God Almighty! That is awesome, saints!
In short, He loved and valued us more than He loved and valued His position in heaven! And this is how we are to regard other people: more valuable than our own position, fame, and glory. Sure, we are the righteousness of God in Christ. Sure, we are the King’s kids. But if we usurp those positions above serving others then we are not having the mind of Christ!
You see, Christ’s attitude here was the exact opposite of that of Lucifer’s (see Isaiah 14:12-15). Lucifer had one of the most important positions in heaven. He was close to the throne of God, but he was not satisfied. He desired to be on the throne of God. He was not satisfied with being a creature. He desired to be the Creator.
One of the main differences between Jesus and Lucifer was that Lucifer said, “I will” and Jesus said, “Thy will.” Lucifer thought only of his own promotion to benefit himself and Jesus thought only of His demotion to benefit us. Christ’s humility in love is a direct contrast to Satan’s pride in his selfish ambition!
Then Paul goes on further to describe Christ Jesus’ mentality in verse 7: He said, “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.”
By using the word “but,” Paul was saying that not only did Jesus not “consider” His position in heaven something that He had to retain at all costs, but He also acted on it by making Himself of no reputation.
We are told in First John 3:18 that we are to make sure we do not love in word or in tongue but in deed and in truth. James chapter 2 teaches us that faith without works is dead. We need to always judge our love walk to see if it is active. Jesus considered us of more value than His own position and then actively lowered Himself for us. Likewise, we need to not only see others as more valuable than ourselves, but we also need to willingly lower ourselves through selfless acts of love.
The words “made...of no reputation” come from the Greek word keno which means “to empty something.” This Greek word carries the idea in context that Jesus willingly emptied Himself of His divine privileges and glory that He had as being in the form of God. Saints, He willingly laid down all of His Godhead privileges!
I do like how the word “reputation” is used here. A reputation is the general opinion of other people towards something or someone. Jesus had the greatest reputation while He was in heaven as God. All the hosts of heaven highly esteemed Him. But He chose to willingly forget about His reputation in heaven and come to the earth, where He became despised and rejected by His own creation. Jesus literally made Himself to have no reputation with man rather than having the best reputation in heaven. So many people worry about their reputation with men that they compromise what is right. In Christ Jesus we no longer have our own reputation. We died to ourselves on the day we received Him so we should no longer be concerned with what the world thinks of us.
Then Paul said that He “taking the form”…
The word used for “form” here is the same Greek word translated “form” in verse 6. It means “nature or essence.” So, after Jesus laid down His nature and privileges as God, He took up the nature and lack of privileges of a servant.
But what makes what Jesus did so powerful was that, when He left behind all the glory and honor of heaven, He came to the earth and took the least glorious and least honorable position attainable—a bondservant—for the word “bondservant” comes from the Greek word doulos and describes the lowest form of slave.
Jesus said Himself, “the son of man did not come to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). He went from being the Highest to being the lowest!
Then in verse 8, the Apostle Paul went on to say, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Notice that it says that Jesus “humbled Himself”: The word “humbled” means “to make low.” This is what Jesus did in all of this, but particularly by becoming a bondservant (vs.7). Yes, He made Himself low.
So, this is the way Jesus thought, and it is the way Paul said that we too ought to think as well.
So, let’s now go over to John chapter 13 and look at an event from the life of Jesus that perfectly describes this “mind of Christ” …
THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS
Of course, this is the account of Jesus washing His disciple’s feet that most of us are familiar with, but I want us to notice a couple of important points from this story…
John 13:1-17 reads: Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end…
So, we see here that the topic of Jesus’ love for His own is the subject at hand in this chapter.
And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God (we will get back to this verse in a moment), rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”
Now you have to hand it to Peter here… He sure was quick to repent! He loved the Lord so much that when Jesus said that he’d have no part with Him if he didn’t let Jesus wash his feet, he was like— “Well, don’t just wash my feet then! Wash my hands, head, etc.!” In other words, he didn’t just want a part of Christ, He wanted all he could get!
Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.” So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Now does this mean that we need to have a ceremonial foot washing service from time to time? Well, not necessarily. You see, foot washing was something that was done in those days because it was absolutely necessary. They wore sandals which exposed most of their feet and they didn’t travel on asphalt. Their feet were exposed everywhere they walked and were absolutely in need of these occasional foot washings.
Now I’m sure as nasty as some of our feet are, they cannot compare to these guys! Therefore, foot washing was not an ordinance that Jesus was seeking to establish; serving one another was the true lesson that He was illustrating to us.
THREE KINGDOM WAYS OF THINKING
But let’s go back to John 13:3, where there is a powerful verse located that unlocks the key to Jesus’ ability to lower Himself and serve like He did here. In short, this was His mentality and how He thought about things—which is the kingdom way of thinking.
This verse says, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God …”
What makes this verse so powerful is that these were the revelations that Jesus had that enabled Him to perform this selfless act of servitude. But before we get into these three things, I don’t want us to presume that these were just true for Jesus. We know the truth that as He is, so are we in this world. So, these things that Jesus possessed, we also possess because we are in Him and He’s in us. Not to mention, He lived the way He did as an example to us, not having any unfair advantage over us. So, I say all of that to say that the things we are about to look at that Jesus knew are realities for us as well.
The first thing Jesus knew was that the Father had given all things into His hands. This means that Jesus knew (lit. saw and recognized) that God the Father had already given Him everything He could ever ask for. He did not have to try and exalt Himself or get people to do things for Him, because He knew the Father was His source. He was secure in the fact that God had blessed Him with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) and with all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). Therefore, since He knew that everything He would ever need was already in His hands, He knew He did not have to fear opening up those hands and giving of Himself to others. Amen!
Likewise, when we truly recognize that God is our source and that all of these things are our reality as well, this will create such a security in our hearts that no person or circumstance can take from us! In other words, once we embrace in our heart that He has and will continue to give us freely all things (Romans 8:32), we will be less likely to try and promote ourselves and shy away from pouring out into others.
Number two, John 13:3 also says that Jesus knew that He had come from God: This means Jesus knew He had originated from God—He had been born of His Heavenly Father. He knew He had all of His Father’s divine nature and was born of His Spirit. Therefore, He knew what manner of love had been bestowed on Him to be begotten of God.
Likewise, when we realize that we have been born again and all that we are now as Christians is a result of God’s grace, then we will be more apt to show His grace to others through serving them.
And last but not least, Jesus knew He was going to God: This means that He knew where His true home was and that He would be spending eternity there in just a short period of time.
Likewise, when we get a revelation of heaven and how short this life on the earth is we will tend to live our lives laying up treasures in heaven through selfless acts of love— knowing that this is not our permanent habitation, but our eternal home will be in the glory of God forever and ever. Amen!
Through growing in the revelation of these three things, we will be in a better position to have the mind to serve others as our Lord and Savior did in this instance. We will, as the apostle Paul declared in Second Corinthians 12:15, very gladly spend and be spent for the welfare of others, even when the more abundantly we love them, the less we are loved in return. Why? Because we understand that we are filthy rich in Christ, and we are loved extravagantly by Him. Therefore, we will very gladly spend and be spent, knowing we can never out-give nor out-serve The Lord! Amen!
Friends, having the mind to serve one another is something that will absolutely cause us to live more fulfilling and blessed lives! As Jesus said time and time again— The last will be first, and we will find our lives when we learn to lose it!
So, the kingdom mentality is one of serving both God and others. We are not here to be served, but to serve one another. So, to have the same mindset that Jesus had is to lay down our lives so that we can live it serving others.
Being kingdom-minded is to think like Jesus thought. And if He could serve His own creation to such a base level, then we can too. But it will take us adopting the same truths that He did and knowing that we too have come from God, are going to God, and have had the Father put all things into our hands. This is where self-esteem is found—it is in possessing Christ esteem.
Those who are a part of God’s kingdom have all “come from God”—that is, we have entered it by being born again. Now our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, being registered in the kingdom of heaven. This means everything.
So, because we know where we’ve come from, we know where we are going! The kingdom of heaven is our home, not this world we currently live in. That is where our citizenship resides. It is where we’ve come from and where we will soon go. So, it’s fitting that we begin living for that kingdom now.
And, lastly, like Jesus, the Father has given all things into our hands. That means that we are already rich, possessing all things that pertain to life and godliness as His kingdom’s residents. Therefore, nothing and no one can subtract from us. So, we don’t have to feel like we have to hold on to everything in our lives. There’s more where that came from.
Again, this is being kingdom-minded—knowing whose we are and what we have and then living from that reality. It will certainly change the way we conduct ourselves here on the earth. Amen.
MINDFUL OF THE THINGS OF GOD
Now, finally, there are some more examples we can pull from the circumstances that revolved around the end of Jesus’ life & ministry here on the earth that show us just how kingdom minded He truly was as well. So, let’s wind up this teaching by looking at a few more things from His life here on the earth that show us how we too can become more kingdom minded like He was …
Let’s begin with Jesus revealing to His disciples the things that he would soon experience—that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the religious leaders. As you could imagine, this was not what His disciples would have wanted to hear because they did not understand that this was part of God’s plan of salvation.
So, as he was so accustomed to doing, Peter decided to take matters into his own hands by literally taking Jesus to the side and rebuking Him for entertaining even the notion that He would suffer and die.
So, how did dear, sweet Jesus respond to Peter? It wasn’t the way many would envision Him responding, that’s for sure. Jesus turns and looks at His disciples and rebukes Peter by saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33).
Now while most of us are familiar with Jesus’ words here, I think we should ask some questions about them:
First of all, notice how Jesus says to Peter that he was not being “mindful” of the things of God, but of the things of men. What did He mean by this?
Well, the word “mindful” describes everything from to think, have an opinion, or to direct one’s mind to a thing. So, that’s what Peter was doing—His way of thinking was only geared towards things that people think about. In other words, His desire for Jesus not to suffer and die was only being concerned with things that concern things of this earth. But, and we know, God had a bigger purpose. So, if we are being “mindful” of the things of God, we are aware of that purpose and the things that He is mindful of. We see things more from an eternal, spiritual perspective. And the fact is that sometimes things that might seem to be important through our temporal, fleshly lens, just aren’t as important as they might seem.
Look at it this way—Are there things that you and I as parents/grandparents see and understand that our young children do not? Of course, there are! They don’t yet have the knowledge, understanding, and experience that we do. So, there will obviously be things that we know are best.
For example, I think we’ve all witnessed how when young children have some money given to them how they want to immediately go spend it all. Even if they go in a store that doesn’t have what they want, they will still want to spend those dollars on something. It’s called having money burn a hole in their pocket. But we have learned that not immediately spending those dollars on fleshly impulses is wise.
Well, in this case, Jesus was saying that in the mind of God, it was time to spend. As the apostle Paul once said, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.” (Second Corinthians 12:15). In other words, Paul possessed this same kingdom way of thinking—that this life is all about giving to others, and that includes the giving of our own lives.
This is exactly what Jesus was thinking: these words uttered by the apostle Paul are Jesus’ sentiments exactly—He very gladly and for the joy set before Him was willing to spend and be spent for our souls on the Cross, even though the more abundantly He loved us, He will not be loved in return to the same degree. Glory to the Lamb!
But this is the kingdom way of thinking, church! It’s interested in life preservation alright, just not its own. The kingdom of God is more interested in laying down our lives and giving to others than it is being spent on ourselves.
Here is another question we ought to ask about Jesus’ statement: Why did Jesus seemingly call Peter “Satan” here? We know Peter was Peter and not the devil, right? But what Jesus understood right here was who it really was who was inspiring these words that came out of Peter’s mouth.
Now do you think any of us here today have ever been Peter? Do you think there’s a good chance that even the most godly, good-intentioned Christian in this place might have had the devil inspire us to do or say something that on the surface might have seemed right at the time, but was a temptation to the person we did or said it in front of? I’m sure we all have.
But the point is, if we are being kingdom-minded, we can detect when something that might have been said or done to us is rooted in a spiritual attack or temptation. In fact, the words “Get behind Me, Satan” was the same phrase Jesus used when He was being tempted of the devil in the wilderness (See Luke 4:8). Therefore, we can see that this was a popular phrase that Jesus used when resisting temptation.
And make no mistake about it—this was a temptation to Jesus because He had feelings like you and I do. He didn’t want to suffer. He didn’t want to be temporarily separated from His Father. We know this because of what He pleaded with His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane— “Father, if there be any other way, let this cup pass from Me.” But being kingdom-minded, Jesus attached to His petition— “Nevertheless, not my will but Your will be done.”
So, Jesus’ mentality was that no matter what He might have personally preferred, it was all about God’s will being accomplished. If you think about it, there is no other way to live. It’s all about what our Lord & King wills. We as His humble servants, only do what He says. There is no room in living for ourselves—only for the honor of the King.
So again, what was the temptation here? It was to be mindful of the things of men rather than the things of God. You see, the things of men would be what serves our best interest. What do we want to see and not want to see? And that is certainly a temptation because no one wants to suffer. No one wants to lose a loved one. No one.
For example, how many times has the Lord called someone to go overseas and preach the gospel in another country for a long period of time, but a family member, not wanting to let them go, goes to them, and says, “Please don’t go! I just cannot bear the thought of you being away for so long.” Well, where do you think that’s inspired from? It’s not coming from the things of God. God told them to go. This person is wanting them to stay. That, my friends, is being mindful of the things of men, not God.
But the main area where we see this being mindful of carnal, earthly things is not in someone else trying to convince others to do something; it is usually in our own flesh not wanting us to do something. And that is just natural. That’s just when we need to allow that kingdom way of thinking to call the shots and say, “Not my will, but thy will.” Amen?
LIKE A SHEEP BEFORE ITS SHEARERS
So, let’s move on now to what transpired later: After Jesus followed through with the will of the Father and was arrested in the Garden, we see Him brought before His accusers. Then, being brought before everyone from the Sanhedrin, King Herod, and Pontius Pilate where he was beaten, mocked, scourged, etc. But remarkably, even though He went through such terrible persecution, He never retaliated. As the apostle Peter puts it in First Peter 2:23— “who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
Isn’t that amazing!?! When Jesus was slandered, mocked, and had all kinds of terrible things said about Him and to Him, He never said anything back to them. When He suffered all kinds of physical, mental, and emotional abuse, He did not threaten them. Rather, He “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
What does this mean? Well, the word “committed” doesn’t necessarily mean here what it means to us today. When we hear of a person being committed today, we think of them being put into a mental ward or an insane asylum. But this is kind of what Peter was saying Jesus did here: He gave Himself over into the hands of His Father and entrusted Himself to His power and keeping ability. In other words, He did the opposite of what most people do. Most take matters into their own hands and do everything in their own power to defend themselves.
Yes, it’s all about self-preservation to most. But not to Jesus! He put His preservation into His Father’s hands—the One who judges righteously. This is essentially saying that He committed Himself to Him who can defend us better than we can ourselves. Church, the only way one can do this is by knowing God. We must come to be intimately acquainted with Him so that we can entrust our lives to Him. But that is where Jesus lived, and it’s where we must live as well.
Isaiah prophesied this about Jesus as well in saying, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7).
Church, this one example from Jesus’ life shows just how kingdom minded He truly was because we see that He did not defend Himself even when Pilate was obviously looking for a way to set Him free. You see, when you know that you are innocent and what is being said about you is unjust, the tendency is to open your mouth wide and let the world know it. But not Jesus! He stood before Pilate and nary answered him a word.
But it wasn’t that Jesus said nothing to Pilate. There was one question that got His attention: When Pilate asked him if He was the King of the Jews, Jesus answered and said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36).
You see, this is the main mentality that Jesus possessed that enabled Him to not defend Himself: It was knowing that His kingdom was not of this world; it was out of this world. Saints, when you know what kingdom you are of, you don’t feel the need to defend yourself on this earth. Like Jesus said here, “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight”—showing us where wars and fights come from among us. As James said, it is from our “members”—talking about our fleshly members. In other words, all of the strife and fighting that occurs between men is because we are being mindful of the things of men, and not of His kingdom. Amen?
But from Jesus’ example here, we see what being kingdom-minded looks like. And we also see how we ought to respond to suffering and persecution. Amen.
FATHER, FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO
Finally, we come to Jesus’ crucifixion. And even then, in the midst of complete pain and suffering on the Cross, we see Jesus’ kingdom way of thinking holding true, because when He hung on the Cross, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).
Church, another wonderful kingdom mentality is in how we view the offenses of others. The truth is, anyone and everyone who sins against us does so because of this very reason— “they know not what they were doing.”
We might hear that statement and say, “Oh, they knew what they were doing when they hurt me.” But I am not talking about that; I’m talking about that they truly did not know the repercussions and reality of their sin. In other words, while they might have known what they were doing to us, they didn’t truly know the full effects of their sin against us.
You see, if we realized what sin truly does to us and to the one’s we are doing it to, we wouldn’t do it. People do the hurtful things they do because they are only consumed with “self” and only see what it does for them at the time. But if we knew the truth and were more kingdom-minded, even we could do what Jesus did here and ask God to forgive our offenders because the truth is, they really do not know what they are doing.
You see, having a kingdom mentality enables us to see why people say and do the things they do. They might not see it, but the kingdom-minded person does.
The best example I can think of is like how a wild animal that might have gotten caught in something behaves when a person is trying to help them. Well, what do these animals do? Because they don’t know the person’s intentions and think they are in danger, they show their teeth, growl, or even try to physically hurt the person who is really just trying to help them. But if we are that person trying to help, do we get all offended with the animal and let the things it is doing deter us from wanting to help it? No, of course not! Why? It’s because we know it doesn’t know any better. Might we say, “It knows not what it is doing.”
You see, that’s the way we need to see someone who is entangled in sin, even sin that is aimed against us. They simply don’t know and are just deceived. That’s how Jesus saw these Jewish religious leaders who had Him crucified. He knew they didn’t know what they were doing in having their Messiah crucified.
So, this is yet another way that Jesus was kingdom-minded. From His birth to His death on the Cross, Jesus thought on the things of God more than He did the things of men.
Yes, church, the Lord did say, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9), but the Lord was not saying that to His people because He didn’t want them to know His ways and thoughts. He had just said to let the wicked man forsake His ways and the unrighteous man his thoughts (See verse 7), so the ones whose God’s thoughts are higher than are those who choose sin and unrighteousness. But for us who choose His ways and thoughts above our own, there is access to them.
The Lord Jesus chose His Father’s thoughts and so should we. Let’s decide to do so today. Amen.
So, we have been on the subject of the kingdom of God since the beginning of this calendar year and, thus far, we have answered several questions concerning it:
We began by answering the question— “Why is it?” We did this through a series entitled “The Gospel of the Kingdom” where we looked throughout the Scriptures seeing how the message of God’s kingdom is emphasized time and time again. We looked at how the kingdom was the very gospel Jesus preached throughout His ministry. But we saw how the kingdom was not just Jesus’ message, it was the message of the New Testament. Yes, all the way from John the Baptist to the apostle Paul, the kingdom of God was the gospel they proclaimed. But we also saw that this was the message proclaimed to Israel under the Old Covenant. Yes, from Genesis to Revelation—from the Alpha to the Omega of the Holy Scriptures, the kingdom of God is the theme. Therefore, we learned that if the gospel of the kingdom is the message of the Bible, then it is our message too!
But then we moved into realizing that before we can carry this message of God’s kingdom, we need to know what it is we are carrying. So, we then answered the question— “What is it?” We did this by defining the kingdom of God—not only learning what is it, but where it is and when it is. And we learned that the kingdom of God is the king’s domain or the people or place where he has dominion. In other words, it is wherever His will is being done. I defined it as God’s government and that it is God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule. We learned that this can be now as demons are cast out, sicknesses are healed, and the good news is being proclaimed and setting the captives free. But it is also in the future as Jesus is returning to establish His kingdom here on the earth. This means that the kingdom is here now in part and will be here in fullness soon and very soon.
And most recently we have been answering perhaps the most important question of all— “How is it?” We’ve been answering this question by looking at the parables Jesus taught us about the kingdom of God which He called the Mysteries of the Kingdom. And I believe the best lesson we can learn concerning God’s kingdom is to learn what God’s kingdom looks like and how it operates—which is what these parables show us.
The truth is, just like we have natural laws that we must live by in this world in order to not only thrive but also survive, there are laws in God’s kingdom that we must learn to live by if we are to see God’s best produced in our lives. I am convinced that many of God’s people do not experience His perfect will for their lives because they have failed to operate under the laws that govern His kingdom. Some are simply ignorant concerning these principles while others are simply not doers of the Word. But the fact remains that God has set His kingdom up under certain principles and it is our job to walk in them just as He does Himself. When we do, we will get God’s results. When we do not, we will get the world’s results. Plain and simple. Church, this is how His kingdom comes and His will is done in our lives.
So now, this week, I want us to move into one final series on the kingdom of God: I want us to wrap up our study of God’s kingdom by learning how you and I can become more kingdom-minded. In other words, how can we have this same mentality that those like Jesus, John the Baptist, the apostle Paul, and many other Jewish believers possessed. In short, how can we think like they did?
You see, there was a strong kingdom-mentality that was engrained in the Jewish people:
For example, in Acts 1:3, the one question that we see being asked by His disciples after His resurrection is “When is this kingdom coming?” Notice how this was what they were expecting from their Christ & Messiah—to establish His kingdom. This was obviously on their radar.
How about in Matthew 20:20-28 when the mother of a couple of Jesus’ disciples came to Him on the side and asked if her two boys could sit at His side when He comes into His kingdom. That’s because this was the hope of Israel. In Luke 23:51, we see how Joseph of Arimathea was also waiting (i.e., hoping) for the kingdom of God.
In Luke 19:11, before giving them the Parable of the Minas, we see the reason why Jesus told them this parable: It was because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. So, again, they were thinking about the kingdom.
Even the thief that hung on the cross beside Jesus was kingdom-minded because we see him saying to Jesus— “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
So, the Jewish people obviously had the kingdom on their radar. But I believe we today have been brought up with certain disadvantages: For one, even though most of us have been born in the United States of America—a country that was established on Christian morals and the freedom of religion—our great nation does not operate like a monarchy (i.e., a kingdom). So, we don’t have it built into us to think in terms of kingdom thoughts.
On top of that, the Jewish people not only operated under that type of government, but their religion was mixed into it as well. So, they not only knew how a kingdom operated, but they knew it was not man’s kingdom, but God’s kingdom. Therefore, their religion was woven into their government—thus, this mentality was threaded all throughout their culture.
This is why when John the Baptist, and then Jesus after him, came on the scene preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, the people were not responding with— “What is all this kingdom stuff you’re talking about?” No, it didn’t need a lot of explanation because it was already engrained in them. The misconception they had about the kingdom of God was not what it was but how it was not to just be viewed physically and naturally. It was more of a spiritual kingdom that will manifest here on the earth by freeing them, not from the bondage of the Romans, but from the dominion of Satan.
But my point is that most of our churches today are much more ignorant of these kingdom-minded things. And, as a result, this is not something that the church today has helped us with.
You see, these things we’ve been learning about God’s kingdom are not things that are commonly taught in most churches. In fact, the kingdom of God is a foreign concept to most believers today. Therefore, we are at even more of a disadvantage to possessing this kingdom mentality because not only were we not raised this way in the flesh, but we have not been raised this way in the church either.
So, I say all of this to explain why this kingdom-mindedness is not our natural way of thinking like it was to the Jews. But this doesn’t mean that you and I are to just throw our hands in the air and claim ignorance and continue to think incorrectly. No, where much is given, much is required. So, for us here at HPC that are taught well and taste of the good Word of God, we are expected to be doers of the Word and adopt this kingdom-mindedness. Amen?
WHAT CHRISTIANITY IS
And that is what I want us to begin doing this week—learning how to how to become more kingdom-minded and to allow these truths about the kingdom of God to renew our minds, and thereby, transform our lives.
So, let’s begin in Colossians chapter 3 where we have a powerful passage of Scripture that teaches us about this mentality / way of thinking that we are all to possess as the body of Christ:
Colossians 3:1-4 says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
Now, after spending the first two chapters of his letter essentially describing what Christianity is not—namely, all of the things taught in both Gentile Gnosticism and Jewish legalism—Paul now “turns the page” and begins to show us what Christianity truly looks like.
It is all about a new identity, church! We need to understand that a born-again believer is not just a reformed individual; they are a transformed individual. We are now new creations in Christ—having received a new spiritual social security number, a new name, a totally new identity. All things have truly been made new!
And I want you to notice that this totally different way of thinking that we are talking about today is contained in these verses! Yes, I believe these truths perfectly summarize what a kingdom-minded person is to think like.
Notice that the apostle Paul starts off by saying, “If then you were raised with Christ …”
In the Greek language this word translated “if” is not meant to convey doubt but rather to make a point of emphasis. It would better be translated “since” or “in view of the fact.” Now there certainly is an “if” that can be implied if one has never received Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Yes, one must be born again into to receive this resurrection, but if that has occurred in one’s life, then this “if” is a “since.”
So, the obvious reason why the apostle Paul was essentially saying, “Then since you were raised up with Christ …” is because this was a major point of his in the prior chapter (see 2:12-13,20). So, for the follower of Christ, this being raised up together with Christ is not something in question; every born-again believer has experienced this spiritual resurrection whether they realize it or not.
In fact, in the Greek language, the tense of the word “raised” denotes “once and for all have been raised.” In other words, this is a past tense accomplished fact for the Christian and is not something that we are waiting to be done.
But according to Colossians 3:3, not only have we been raised up with Him, but we also died with Him.
You see, this is what water baptism was meant to symbolize to us—that we were crucified with Christ, buried with Him and raised to together with Him. But it was not just symbolism. It is actually what happened, spiritually speaking. We identified with His crucifixion. We died with Him, and then were raised up together with Him to sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Now we all know that this didn’t happen physically. Of course, none of us physically died when we were born again. But according to these verses in Colossians chapter 3, we did die.
Colossians 3:3 says, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
You see, not only did Jesus die for us, we died with Him. In other words, we identified with Him, not only in His resurrection, but also in His death and burial (Compare Romans 6:3-12). Therefore, just as we are now made alive in Christ, we have also died in Him.
Now I am a big proponent of studying “in Christ” realities—that is, I believe we need to establish our hearts in who we are in Him and discover our true spiritual identity. But this is one that we usually don’t add to our list of “in Him” truths. However, the fact is, just as we are righteous, redeemed, delivered, etc., in Him, we are also dead in Him. In other words, while it is true that in Him we have life, we also need to recognize that we have died in Him—both dead to our old man and alive in the new man.
I once heard a story of two sisters who were big partiers in their “BC” days (i.e. life “before Christ”). Then, after they were born-again and had a drastic change in their life, they were invited to another one of those parties—to which they RSVP’d, “We regret that we cannot attend because we recently died.” Would to God that we would see our conversion like this!
But the truth is, not only have we been crucified and buried in Him. We have also found life in Him. That’s why Paul goes on to say that our life is hidden with Christ in God.
Now this is also not to be confused with our earthly life—because that life is actually not “our life” anymore. Why? Because we were bought with a price and are now Christ’s. So, technically, your life is no longer “your life”; now it’s His life. And now we have His life living in and through us—that is, the very quality of His resurrection life is now being lived through the remainder of our lives lived in the flesh. Glory, indeed!
You see, the apostle Paul said that, for him, to live is Christ (See Philippians 1:21). He also said in Galatians 2:20 that it was no longer him who was living. He said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
So, is this true for us too? Absolutely! The moment we were born again, a death occurred. We too were crucified with Christ—which obviously speaks of the death of the old man, not a physical death.
You see, in every place in the New Testament where the Scripture speaks of the death of the old man, it is spoken of as already having taken place (See Colossians 3:9, Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22 & 5:24). So, our old has already been crucified and is dead.
Then the apostle Paul goes on to say, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” That sounds a lot like our verse in Colossians chapter 3—It’s no longer me living because I’m dead. Now it’s Christ living in me and through me.” Amen!
Church, this is part of being kingdom-minded—because we must adopt this new way of thinking that our lives are not our own anymore. We are now Christ’s possession, so the life we live now is in complete surrender and devotion to the King who ransomed our soul.
So, we were crucified with Christ, died with Him, were buried with Him, made alive together with Him, and now, according to Colossians 3:1, have been raised up together with Him. Raised to where? Let’s look over at Ephesians chapter 2 to find out …
Ephesians 2:4-6 says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
These powerful verses eloquently describe what our Lord God did for us in Christ Jesus: Through the mercy that He is so incredibly rich in and because of the great love that He has for us, when we were dead in our sin, He made us alive together with Christ (having brought us to life like Jesus was on that Third Day). And then He took it a step further in raising us up to the heavenlies in Him, seating us together at the very right hand of God. Glory!
So, if all of this is true (and it is!), what Paul says in Colossians 3:1-2 is so very true— “If we have been raised up with Christ, we ought to be seeking those things associated with where we’ve been raised unto.” In other words, “since you have changed citizenships, seek that which will benefit our permanent home and not our temporary one.” And this change of citizenships is what actually transpired the day we were born again.
CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM
You see, the apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Notice that Paul is saying our citizenship is in heaven right now. He’s not saying that one day of in the future when we die that our citizenship will be in heaven. No, he’s saying that our citizenship is in heaven right now! So, when our old man died and our new man was risen with Christ to sit at the right hand of God, our citizenship changed!
So, the Word of God teaches us that our citizenship does not begin in heaven when we die and move there. It happens the moment we are born into God’s family that we become His nationality. In fact, the phrase “born again” that Jesus used could be translated “born from above”. That is why our citizenship is in heaven because we were born from heaven.
You see, the Philippians whom Paul was writing, were Roman citizens and as it usually was with those who were Romans citizens, were quite proud of it. Paul was explaining to them that when they entered the kingdom of God they changed citizenships and, as great as the rights they had as Romans were, there is no comparison to the rights and privileges they have as citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
Perhaps that is a Word for us today: As we are certainly to be proud of being American citizens and live in the greatest country on the planet, the truth is anyone on this planet who have been born from above are citizens of a kingdom that is far greater than any nation on this planet. Amen?
So, all of this means that our citizenship is in heaven while we are currently living here. We must learn to work down here while we’re living up there. And that’s the reason we have been left here; to see His kingdom come and grow. This is being kingdom-minded, church.
You see, in Second Corinthians 5:17-21, Paul gives a beautiful explanation of what our post-resurrection life’s purpose is:
Verse 17 starts off by saying that we are new creations and that all the old things (the past sins, the past lifestyle, etc.) have passed away and that everything has become new. Verse 18 starts off by saying that “all things are of God” or “all the things that have become new are of God.” Our new life, our new birth, our new perspective, our new ambitions, are “of” God. Then he says, “who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” In other words, “He has brought us back to God and now has given us the ministry of bringing people back to God.” Then in verse 19, Paul gives a brief explanation of what the ministry of reconciliation is. But I love verse 20: It’s as if Paul was getting this revelation as he was writing it. He says, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” The reason that we were not immediately raptured when we were born again was because our ministry is to stay here and reconcile people with God.
Now what is an ambassador? An ambassador is someone that travels to another country to seek conditions of peace. Ambassadors are representatives of their own nation that go to another nation, that has tension with the other nation, to reconcile their differences.
So that’s a perfect illustration of us: Our citizenship is in heaven, just as an ambassador doesn’t have his or her citizenship in the nation that they travel to, but our temporary residence is in the world while we perform our ministry of reconciliation.
Therefore, our purpose in still being here, even though our citizenship is in heaven, is to change other people’s address too. That should be our main objective, but how do we maintain this attitude of “being in the world but not of the world”? Again, this is being kingdom-minded.
So, our takeaway today is evident— When we were saved and became children of God, there was a complete change in our identity. We are no longer the same—for old things have passed away and all things have become new. We died—being crucified with Christ—and now our life is Christ’s as we live by faith in Him and let Him live His life through us.
This will obviously result in some different ways of thinking, right? We will not continue to live self-serving, worldly lifestyles. No, we will live for this kingdom that we now are called citizens of. We will seek its welfare. We will seek to bring others into the same citizenship that we possess. In short, it will change our motivation and purpose.
Church, we have been raised with Christ—raised up to a new way of thinking and mentality. Now we are kingdom-kids, so that is to be our only aspiration and prerogative. Amen.
For a while now, we have been covering Jesus’ kingdom parables that He taught throughout His ministry, and what we have been learning as a result is how the kingdom of God works.
So, even though these parables were called “mysteries” by the Lord Jesus, what they are intended to do is take the mystery out of how things operate in God’s kingdom. But as I made the point of last week, it is possible for a born again, Spirit-filled Christian to go their entire life without understanding how God does things and, thereby, not experience all of the benefits of living in the kingdom. Therefore, the key to us not being in that company is for us to read, study, and meditate upon these mysteries of the kingdom of God, let these words of Jesus impact our hearts, and then be doers of the Word.
As it was with the children of Israel in the wilderness, if we would just receive the Words of our Deliverer and follow the path He has clearly laid out for us, we will enter into the Promised Land of the kingdom and partake of all of its fruit!
Church, it is time we move into all that God has for us in Canaan Land where His kingdom principle of sowing & reaping brings us into the fullness of His blessing. And this comes as we receive His Words and be doers of them.
So, we’ve covered some powerful truths from the importance of love & forgiveness in the kingdom to the role God’s grace plays in it all. And last week, we looked at a parable Jesus taught us about our marriage relationship to the Lord—the Parable of the Wise & Foolish Virgins found in Matthew chapter 25. And our big takeaways from this parable is that the Lord sees all of us as His virgins who possess the capability for light. So, we saw that even though five were wise and five were foolish, they had all received the same grace from the Lord that made them pure light. Therefore, who we have been made in Christ Jesus is different than our actions. So, while we certainly need to have our behavior line up with who He has made us, what we do does not change the fact that we are spotless in His sight. Amen!
But we learned that the fact is, some were wise while the others were foolish. And what made the five wise was the fact that they thought ahead and brought “extra oil” with them. Therefore, we learned that a prime characteristic of wisdom is that it looks into the future and prepares for it. Likewise, we need to be like these five wise virgins by looking into eternity and living our lives now for our eternal home.
But perhaps the point that was emphasized the most last week was what this oil was that they used to light their lamps: We learned that oil is almost exclusively used to typify the anointing of the Holy Spirit. So, we learned that without the indwelling Holy Spirit in our vessels, there would be no light in our lives. Yes, He is the oil who keeps our light shining bright for the kingdom of God.
But the fact is, all ten of these virgins had enough oil for their lamps to burn, but there was extra oil to be had—and that is what the wise ones received. Therefore, it’s evidently wisdom to receive what is called the baptism of the Holy Spirit and not just receive what we did at salvation. Yes, the Lord doesn’t just want us to be sprinkled with a little oil of the Holy Spirit to light our lamps; He wants to pour out an abundance of oil in these here vessels! He wants us baptized in the oil of the Holy Ghost!
No, we don’t have to be filled with the Holy Spirit to get to heaven. We can receive an anointing from the Holy One by being born again and have our ticket reserved for those pearly gates. But without the help of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we might just get there a little quicker, that’s all.
So, let’s not be a part of the foolish brides trying to live this life without being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Be filled with Him and stay full of Him so that you can always be ready to meet the Lord Jesus. Amen.
GETTING OUR HEADS OUT OF THE CLOUDS
Now let’s move on to the final kingdom parable that Jesus gave us, His disciples—the Parable of the Talents (See Matthew 25:14-30). I believe that this particular parable rather fittingly summarizes all of Jesus’ kingdom parables because in it, He teaches us how to be watchful and ready for His Soon Return.
You see, immediately after giving His disciples the Parable of the Wise & Foolish Virgins, Jesus moves into this parable by saying, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them” (Verse 14).
Now when I see the word “For” I like to read it as the writer is saying, “Because …” So, why is Jesus telling His disciples this Parable of the Talents? It is because of what He just told them at the end of the Parable of the Wise & Foolish Virgins.
You see, after telling them this parable which emphasized wisely being prepared for the return of the Bridegroom, Jesus said in verse 13, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” So, beginning in verse 14, what I see the Lord Jesus doing is explaining to them how they are to watch and be prepared for His Second Coming.
You know, one could be confused into thinking that this “watching” that He encouraged them to do in verse 13 is merely us gazing into the heavens, looking for His soon return. And some have certainly taken these words of Jesus this literally by ceasing to be productive members of society and literally sitting somewhere waiting for Him to come back. This is where others in the church have come up with statements like— “We can be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good.” But I don’t believe that statement is entirely true.
Now if one has indeed become entirely unproductive here on the earth because they are only thinking of the next life, then yes, this statement can be true. But if one understands that what we do here on the earth for the advancement of the kingdom of God is laying up treasures in heaven and, therefore, how we are to effectively “watch” for His coming, then we will most certainly be of “earthly good” when it comes to the advancement of the kingdom here on the earth. In other words, it is only those who have a misunderstanding of what it means to be ready to the meet the Lord and enter those pearly gates that this statement is true for. But when we know the truth—that by being productive for the kingdom of God here on the earth is the way to truly “watch” for His return because, when He returns, we want Him to find us so doing—then we can be ultra-productive for His glory. Amen?
So, that is what I believe Jesus’ Parable of the Talents is teaching us—how He wants us to watch and be ready for His coming. Therefore, with that in mind, let’s see what Jesus was teaching us in this parable …
WHAT ARE HIS GOODS?
Again, Jesus said in verse 14 that the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country. Now this man is obviously referring to the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, right? And Him traveling to a far country symbolizes Jesus’ ascension to heaven where He is currently seated at the right hand of God in that “far country.”
So, in this parable, what we see is Jesus calling His own servants to Him just before His departure and giving them something. And this verse says that He delivered His “goods” to them. Now the word “goods” describes this man’s possessions, his wealth and/or property. And we don’t have to speculate as to what His goods were because the proceeding verses describe them as “talents.” So, specifically what the man left with each of them was his money.
So, what does this represent? I believe it is clearly describing what the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:7-8 when he said, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”
So, at the time of His ascension, Jesus delved out His gifts of grace upon the body of Christ. These are His “goods” that He has entrusted to His church—gifts and callings given to us such as the callings of an apostle, prophet, teacher, and other gifts such as the gifts of healings, administrations, ministry of helps, word of knowledge, etc.
But the amazing part is, we have these “goods” delivered to us! They are not of us, and are certainly not put in us because we are “good.” No, these gifts and callings are given “without repentance”—meaning, they are irrevocable. Therefore, they were not given because we’ve been good, but because He is good and He desires to minister to others through us.
So, in the next verse, we see how this man delivered his goods to his servants. They didn’t all get the same amount but were each given different amounts based on their own abilities. Let’s look at it: Verse 15 says, “And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.”
TALENTS VERSUS MINAS
Now this has led to some confusion as to why the Lord gives some more than others, but the first thing we need to understand is that this is not talking salvation, but to those gifts and callings that each is given. And the fact is, when it comes to the specific part of the Body that we are assigned to and the giftings that are associated with that calling, not everyone is going to be given the same measure of grace. That doesn’t mean that the Lord loves one more than another. It just simply means that we all have different callings and because of this, there are certain gifts that we need to perform what we are called to do.
You see, just as it is with our physical bodies, just because certain parts of our body seem to fill multiple roles and have more functions than others, doesn’t mean they are more important than the other parts of the body. The fact is, every part of our body is important whether it has multiple functions or not. Likewise, in the body of Christ, we all are important, just with different parts to play. But this is talking about our calling and gifts in the Body, not our position as a child of God. In that respect, we are equally blessed, anointed, and loved by the Lord. So, in regard to our salvation, we all have been given an equal amount.
There is a similar parable that Jesus gave us in Luke 19:11-27 called The Parable Of The Minas which deals more with salvation.
You see, while both of these parables are very similar to where it might be supposed that they are the same, there are a couple of differences: One main difference in them is that in the Parable of the Talents the man delivered his goods to his servants in different increments—to one five talents, to another two talents, and to another one talent. However, in the Parable of the Minas, the nobleman gave one mina to ten different servants thus giving the same amount to each one. So, just as the type of currency is different in both parables, the type of spiritual gifting is different.
Now both of these parables are similar in that they are meant to teach us to be faithful in our stewardship as servants of God, but I believe that they are referring to the stewardship of two different things:
It is funny that the Lord uses the word “talents” to describe one of the things we are to be good stewards of because this refers to the different measures of gifts and talents given to us by the Lord. Now some “talents” that we possess were given to us at birth and others were given to us at “new birth.” There are certain individuals that we see in the world today who do not know the Lord and never have, yet they are certainly gifted in certain ways such as singing or athletics. Therefore, the giftings they were given at birth, they may never use for His kingdom’s glory but only for their own glory. But there are other “talents” that are given to us when we receive Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior and others that are given to us when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit.
So, my point is, the Parable of the Talents is meant to teach us to be good and faithful stewards of the variety of gifts & callings that we have each been given where one may have been given five, another two, and another one. The Parable of the Minas, on the other hand, is meant to teach us the importance of being good and faithful stewards of the gift of grace that we have all been equally given when we received Jesus as our Lord and Savior. More specifically, this describes the “like, precious faith” that we all have received as believers and the same salvation that we’ve all received. Therefore, we have an awesome responsibility to not only be good and faithful stewards of that incorruptible seed that we have all equally received from being born again, but we also are called to be good and faithful stewards of the specific gifts and callings that we have received individually.
But the point is, how we steward our salvation will determine how we will rule & reign with Him. But how we multiply the varying amount of talents that we’ve been entrusted with also play a role in how much of the joy of our Lord that we enter into. Therefore, being good stewards of both the measure of faith we’ve all received and the varying gifts & callings we’ve each received will determine the quality of reward.
GIFTS, NOT WAGES
But what I want you to see today is that the gifts & talents given to you by the Lord are just that—they are gifts. They are His goods which He, in His great grace, has delivered unto us.
Take the gifts of the Spirit for instance: How many people believe you have to work for those gifts in their lives? You see, far too many believers do not see the gifts this way, but rather see them as a “wage.” What do I mean by that? I mean that most Spirit-filled believers think that you and I have to “work” for the gifts of the Spirit; that we have to do something to see them manifest in our lives. But that is simply not true. The gifts of the Spirit are free gifts! They do not have to be earned, worked or paid for! They are gifts, not wages! Amen?
But all of God’s gifts are to be viewed like this: In fact, the word most commonly translated “gift” is the word charisma and is defined as “a favour which one receives without any merit of his own; the gift of divine grace; a free gift.” This sounds an awful lot like the grace we receive at salvation, doesn’t it? Now we know that this grace is not obtained by any good works of our own. Rather, it is a gift given to us by God. Well, if these are “gifts” of the Holy Spirit, then they should be understood to be the same way—gifts of His divine grace, freely given without any merit of our own. Amen.
I looked up the various times that this Greek word charisma is used in the New Testament and guess what the common usage is? That we’ve already got it! Let me give you some examples:
First of all, if you back up to the beginning of this very letter, you’ll see the heart of God concerning the matter: First Corinthians 1:4-7 says, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, Paul starts off this letter thanking God for the grace of God that was given to them by Christ Jesus. Now the grace he is referring to here is obviously the gracious gifts of the Holy Spirit. And notice that he doesn’t say, “I pray to God always concerning you that God would someday give you grace by Christ Jesus.” No, he is saying they’ve already got said grace! Amen?
Paul continues that they were enriched in everything by Him—not hoped to be enriched in everything someday, but they already had been given everything and were enriched in this! In what? In all utterance and all knowledge! What does this mean? Well, “utterance” describes “speech,” which is an obvious reference to the vocal gifts of tongues, prophecy, etc. (gifts that he would have to correct them on regarding their usage later in this letter). The term “knowledge” is a likely reference to the revelation gifts of the word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and discerning of spirits. But my point is that this church was already enriched in all of these spiritual gifts.
Now was this just true for the Church of Corinth or is this a reality for all of God’s Church today? It is for all of us today just like it was for them 2,000 years ago because God does not include these things just for the benefit of one select group! No, He is no respecter of persons! Amen?
Let’s look at a couple of other New Testament verses:
First Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Notice that each one of us have received a gift—not just some of us, not just the select elect! Everyone has received “charisma” from God. Therefore, our responsibility is to minister those gifts to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. And notice the parallel yet again of the gifts God gives us to the grace of God.
We understand well that we cannot earn the grace of God, right? So, why would we think we can earn the gifts of the Spirit, which are considered manifestations of His grace? We can’t! They are God’s grace to us, and we are simply stewarding that grace! They are in our possession, and we are responsible for handling them in the correct fashion.
So, if we don’t earn them—not receiving them by our actions—then can we lose them through our works? Nope! For Romans 11:29 says, “For the gifts (Greek charisma) and the calling of God are irrevocable.” This means that any “charisma” of God (including the gifts of the Spirit) is unable to be changed or reversed. Another way of saying this is to say—God’s not an Indian giver! Once He gives it, He doesn’t take it away.
This is something the Lord has certainly established me in. Like many of our tendencies, I believed in the past that God used me based on my performance. So, while I knew I had a gift, I still understood that the gift was not completely free.
I remember a time early in my walk with the Lord, when I was busy teaching Bible studies at my local church, and I had made some mistakes at this particular stage. In the midst of having to teach these people, I felt as condemned as a man could be. If I had been given the opportunity, I would have handed that Bible study over to someone else! But I didn’t. I had to go teach it.
How could God use me that evening? I felt so unworthy! But here is a good point to interject here. Was I ever worthy (when it comes to things of the flesh)? Was I ever qualified in the natural? Heavens, no! I might have been holier at other times than at this time, but again, God does not grade on a curve. So, what if I was even the best sinner at other times. The fact is, I was still a sinner. I was still making other mistakes, whether or not they were the more glaring and obvious ones. And, saints, this is all of us. None of us, even in our best state, are qualified. As my father-in-the-faith likes to say, “God has never had anyone working for Him yet that was qualified!”
So, the whole time I was preparing and heading to this Bible study, I was crying out to God to please use me! I said, “Oh God, don’t let these people suffer for my failures! Please use me! Please use me!”
Well, that evening I can tell you, was the most I had ever experienced the anointing of God up to that point in my life! Glory to God! He certainly used me—in a grand and glorious way! Thank you, Jesus!
The next morning, I was praying and thanking God profusely! I was telling God, “Lord, thank you for using me! Thank you for using me!” And really what I was saying was, “Thank you Lord for using me for me!” In other words, “Thank you Lord for not letting me have egg on my face and for showing up in spite of myself.” I heard the Lord speak in my heart very distinctly as I kept repeating, “Thank you Lord for using me.” The Lord spoke the following words to my heart: “Trey, I don’t use you for you; I use you for My people.”
Then after I heard that, He began downloading certain Scriptures into my heart showing me how He uses His people in spite of their own weaknesses, failures and carnality. One of those primary examples He showed me is what we have been looking at: the Church of Corinth, the church that was enriched in the gifts of the Holy Spirit! Amen!
Saints, this is the church who had so many of the gifts of the Spirit going on at the same time so that Paul had to actually tell them to do things decently and in order (First Corinthians 14:40)!
Was this because they were so holy and had no sin? Heavens, no! In one place, Paul called them babies! And why? Because there were factions among them—strife, envy and divisions (First Corinthians 3:1-3). This church was even abusing the Lord’s Supper—using it as an opportunity for the flesh to just pig out and disdain the poor around them. In fact, there was even a man in the church who was having an affair with his mother-in-law, and this church was tolerating it! Wow!
So, no, this church was far from perfect and had all kinds of problems. Yet God was still using them in a mighty way! And why? Because they received the manifestation of God’s Spirit by grace through faith.
So, yes, there is hope for you and I! God has given each of us gifts, and there’s nothing we can do about it!
Finally, let’s look at one more instance where this Greek word charisma is used, and in so doing, learn how to release the gifts within us:
In Second Timothy 1:6, the apostle Paul exhorts Timothy with— “Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
Again, the gift of God is already in there; put in us by the anointing of the Holy Ghost. However, as good stewards of these gifts, we are called to “stir up” the gift! One might describe this as “unwrapping” the gift that we’ve been given!
Therefore, I believe we can see a principle here: When it comes to any of God’s gifts that are in us, specifically in this case, the gifts of the Spirit, you and I “stir up” those gifts through the faith that is in us! We can do this by praying in the Spirit and simply pressing into what we have within us!
THE KEY TO MULTIPLYING YOUR GIFTS
Now in this Parable of the Talents, we see how the Lord described these servants “stirring up” these talents that were given to them: We see that the one who had been entrusted with five talents “went and traded with them and made another five” (See verse 16). Likewise, the one who had received two talents “gained” two more (Verse 17). But the one who had been given one, dug in the ground and hid it (Verse 18). So here, Jesus is using the illustration of trading and investing to describe how one grows in and develops their spiritual giftings.
Now any of you who have ever dabbled in these ways of growing wealth know that in order to make money, you have to be willing to invest it. In other words, money will not usually multiply too well while it is still in your possession. So, we have to be willing to put our money into something else to gain interest on it. And this is how our gifts and callings are multiplied as well—by investing them in others. Yes, the more you and I exercise our gifts in the lives of others, the more those gifts can grow and multiply. But if we hide those gifts like the one who was entrusted with one, Jesus’ principle of “even what we have can be taken away from us” can become a reality.
Have you ever noticed that the two in this Parable of the Talents that were entrusted with multiple talents were the ones who ended up multiplying their talents? Yes, it was the one who was entrusted with one talent that never multiplied his, but rather buried it in fear of his master.
Now do you suppose that the Master might have had a little intuition as to who would be the good stewards of what they were entrusted with and who would not? I guarantee you that He did. He saw their hearts. He knew who was wise and who was foolish. He knew who was most likely to produce more with what they had. So, he gave to each according to their own ability (see Matthew 25:15). What does this mean— “according to their own ability”? It means that the master saw and understood what they were all three capable of. So, he distributed to each one very intentionally and specifically. This means that when God sees our faithfulness and He counts us worthy to be a carrier of the keys of the kingdom, He will entrust you and I with more.
You see, God is not stupid. He is the wisest investor in history! And when He finds someone whom He knows will be good stewards with His gospel and His power, He will show Himself strong through them. He counted Paul worthy! He took this man who was giving 110% for the work of satan and said, “I can use this man! All He needs is a little change in perspective and philosophy and that 110% he is giving to satan, He will give it to Me.”
Now, again, don’t misunderstand this: The fact that the Lord delved out different amounts of “talents” is not indicating that our salvation and His love for us is given out in different measures. Those things are the same towards us all and has zero to do with our works. What this parable is referring to is our hearts and how we are used by Him. We must be faithful with our gifts and then we will begin to see an increase in those gifts. Holy Spirit gives us the tools, but we have to open up the toolbox and use them. The more we lean on Him, recognizing that it's only by His grace that something good will come of this, the more we receive.
But as I have personally experienced myself and witnessed in others, the main reason that we do not feel confident to step out in faith and let God flow through us with those “talents” is because we fear missing God—which goes back to the condemnation thing. In other words, the primary reason we do not go out on a limb is because we are scared that it might not be God’s will, plan, or timing. In other words, we want to be sure its God. But this is not how it works! You have to step out in faith first and then you will come to that place of seeing and understanding. But what so many Christians want is they want to know, see, and understand everything before they step out. Just as it is in the natural, in the kingdom of God you are going to have to go out on a limb in order to get the best fruit!
But why do we fear missing God like this? It is partly because we fear failure. We are scared of falling flat on our face. But, thank God, Peter did not think like this. He stepped out of the boat, not fearing that He would sink. And that is the mentality that we need to adopt—not being afraid of falling flat on our face! Sure, we might fail. Sure, we might miss it sometimes if we live our lives like this. But what do you suppose God would rather you miss it in? Do you think He would rather you miss it in not praying for people or do you think He would rather you miss it in praying for people? I guarantee you He would rather you try to walk and fall down than never attempting to walk at all. This is simply a fact of life for any young child: They fall down several times before they truly learn to walk. Do we frown upon them when they fall? No, we understand that in order for them to learn to walk, they might have to fall a few times. Likewise, in order for us to learn to walk with God and walk in the miraculous, we might have to fall on our face a few times! And that is ok because this is how we learn to soar!
You know, it has been said that the way a mother eagle teaches her young to fly is by pushing her chicks out of the nest. It is during their fall that they learn to fly. Now this is a frightening thing, but what does it require? Faith! It requires faith on behalf of their mother to push them out of their comfort zone and risk them never learning to fly during their quick plummet to the earth. But we need to understand that God is a God of faith too, and He believes in us! He believes that we can mount up with wings as the eagle and learn to soar with Him!
Now the awesome thing about our God is that He does not want to push us out of our nests. He lets us choose to make that leap ourselves, just as He did not push Peter out of the boat, but let him make that leap of faith of his own initiative. God, likewise, will wait for us to jump out of that comfort zone—our proverbial “nest”—and learn to operate in the gifts and talents that He has given us stewardship over.
But there is another reason why so many of God’s children fear stepping out in faith to maybe pray for someone, speak into their life, or do something else for Him: It is because not only do they fear failure, but because they fear God! And no, I am not talking about that healthy, reverential fear of God, but the being afraid of displeasing Him.
Do you remember in the Parable of the Talents why the one who had only been entrusted with one talent buried his talent? It was because he “feared” his master (see verse 25). In other words, he had an incorrect view of him. In verse 24, he said that he “knew he was a hard man, reaping where he had not sown, and gathering where he had not scattered seed.” Friends, this is exactly why so many fail to grow in the operation of the gifts of the Spirit and in the gifts pertaining to their calling. It is because they have an incorrect view of God. They think He will be “hard” on them if they fail or do something wrong. This incorrect view of God keeps His children from growing.
For example, many people fear speaking out by faith the utterance given to them by the Holy Spirit. And this is why they don’t speak in tongues when baptized in the Holy Spirit. One thing I have told those who maybe only received one syllable from the Holy Spirit is— “Be faithful with that one word! Speak it out and let the Holy Spirit see your willingness to be faithful in little and He will make you rule over more syllables.” One might say, “Yeah, but what if it’s not the Holy Spirit and it’s just me?” God is not going to be angry with you if you are trying and fail. It is like a parent whose child has not learned to speak yet. When the child is trying to tell daddy & mommy that he loves them, but can’t say it perfectly, doesn’t that still bless the parents? Sure, it does! I believe our Heavenly Father is no different! He is blessed when His children are trying to obey Him! Amen?
But, no, God is not hard on us, and looking to come down on us if we make a poor investment with the talents He has entrusted us with. No, God is not sitting up in heaven with a scowl on his face waiting for us to mess up so that He can pour out his wrath and fury on us! No! Just like with any of us who know how to give good gifts to our children, our Heavenly Father is blessed with our good intentions! He is pleased when we, as His children, make the effort to multiply the gifts He has given to us! What actually displeases Him is when we do not try—making the effort to walk in the gifts He has given to us. That is what God does not want to see.
So, I encourage you, begin to put into practice this truth by taking your “talents” and investing them into others. For as you are faithful in your stewardship of the gifts He has put on the inside of you, you will be made ruler over much! It is simply a principle of the kingdom that as you are faithful to put yourself in position for God to flow through you that He will multiply those talents! Amen!
So, the way that you and I stay ready and watch for the Lord’s coming is not by sitting by idly; it is by actively investing the spiritual giftings God has put in us. Blessed are those servants that when the Master returns finds His servants so doing (Luke 12:43). Found doing what? Being about the Father’s kingdom business, of course. So, what Jesus is hoping to find when He returns is a bride who is prepared, doing the work of His kingdom. Everyone doing their share and their part. He certainly expects to make a profit when He returns, saints.
So, let’s be all about our Father’s business, seeking first the kingdom of God! He is not an unreasonable, hard Lord who expects more out of us than we feel capable of. No, He has given us the giftings, the calling, and the abilities to do all that He has called us to do. Let’s do it, as His huper “nikes” (i.e., more than conquerors). Amen.