Now we are beginning a journey today into a subject that is unchartered territory for so many believers. Today, we will begin talking about the Third Person of the Godhead—the mighty Holy Spirit.
Sadly, the Holy Spirit is not talked about in many churches today. You can talk to a lot of believers out there and when you ask them had they received the Holy Spirit since they believed, they would respond like the Ephesians did when Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed, saying, “We have not heard whether there is a Holy Spirit” (See Acts chapter 19). Sure, He is mentioned casually here and there in some churches, but an emphasis is usually not placed on His everyday ministry in our lives. Now in some groups, He is talked about a lot, but their emphasis is usually more on what He does and He is usually referred to as some force or power. But what we are going to do in this series of teachings is emphasize His Person—learning who He is, while also learning what He is here to do in our lives.
We are going to teach on Him up one way and down another, learning how to fellowship and partner together with Him. We will also learn of the advantages He provides to us in our everyday lives. We will look at all of the ways in which He is typified in God’s Word. We will also wind up looking at the gifts that He provides to us, the fruit that He produces in us, and how we are to be led by Him on a daily basis. It is going to be a fun journey this year @ HPC!
However, my purpose and intent through this series of teachings is not to primarily make you know more about the Holy Spirit; it is to provoke in us a desire to know Him—that is, to know the Holy Spirit personally and in a more intimate way. If what I accomplish through these messages is to help you acknowledge Him more in your everyday lives, I have done my job. But if all we do is just file this information away in our memory bank and let it collect dust, then we are missing the point of why we are studying these truths.
So, my point is—we must want to learn these things not to just accumulate more knowledge about a subject, but to apply the truths we are hearing into our everyday lives. So, can we all commit to doing that? Can we agree together today to be doers of the Word we are hearing, and not just hearers only? Amen and so be it.
So, let’s begin over in Second Corinthians chapter 13 by looking at the last words that the apostle Paul likely ever uttered to the Church of Corinth, because this prayer Paul prayed contains three powerful truths that will usher us into the importance of the entire Godhead’s ministry in our lives. Amen?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Second Corinthians 13:14
THE MINISTRY OF THE GODHEAD
So, in this verse, the Apostle Paul was concluding his second and last letter to the church of Corinth with this prayer for them. Now I want you to understand that this was the last verse of 29 chapters that Paul wrote to the Corinthians (when you combine both his first and second epistles to them), and again were most likely the last words that he ever spoke to their church. Why is that so significant, you ask? It is because it shows us how important the things contained in this prayer must have been to Paul!
For example, we have just recently looked at some of Jesus’ last words to His disciples in John 15:1-8, and I made a similar point that His words to them in John, chapters 14-16 were His last pieces of instruction before His Crucifixion. Therefore, those three chapters had to have contained some of Jesus’ most important sayings to His disciples.
Well likewise, in Paul’s mind, the things that he listed in this prayer must have been three of the most important things that you could pray for someone else or even yourself. On top of that, since all Scripture is inspired by God, we know that this prayer is the express will of God for all men. (This is further verified in that Paul ended his prayer with—“be with you all.”) So, since this prayer in Second Corinthians 13:14 reveals the perfect will of God for every believer for all time and was important enough to the apostle Paul for him to conclude his ministry to the Corinthians with this prayer, shouldn’t we pay close attention to these three things?
Now the first thing I want you to see about this prayer is notice that it refers to all three members of the Trinity. Now I know that there are some out there who do not believe in the Trinity—namely because this term is not used in the Bible. But what we need to understand is that even though the Bible might not use the term “Trinity”, the idea that God is made up of three distinct Persons is actually a very common principle throughout the Word of God. Let me give you a few examples where the idea of the Trinity is used together in one passage of Scripture:
So, we can see by all of these passages that the entire Godhead—the Three distinct Persons in the Trinity—are actively at work within us, providing different benefits to our Christian life. And Second Corinthians 13:14 is no different. And that is what the apostle Paul is looking to do here—praying that the Church of Corinth would walk in the benefits of the Trinity’s ministry in our lives.
The fact is, that most people do not see the Holy Spirit in the light of Him being the Third Person of the Godhead. But He is! But again, most believers do not see Him this way; rather, they see Him as a servant of God or something that God uses like a force or power. But the truth is that if He is the Third Person of the Godhead, He is both a Person and He is God.
And this false perception of Him has caused most in the church to not experience the full benefits of the Christian life that He is here to provide for us. For example, do you remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts Chapter 5—how they lied about the land that they sold and the money they kept back? Well, Peter said in verse 3 that they had lied to the Holy Spirit. Then in verse 4, Peter explained who the Holy Spirit is, and I quote, “You have not lied to men but to God”. Therefore, we can clearly see that the Holy Spirit is God and is, therefore, to be reverenced as God. And get this truth right here: Just as Ananias and Sapphira died because they did not reverence the Holy Spirit, many believers’ lives are dead today because they do not have reverence for the Holy Spirit. In other words, many believers do not experience the life of God today because they have not yet learned to honor the ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Somebody say, “Not us!” Not this church! We are going to learn to both respect and esteem the Holy Spirit in our lives and walk in the benefits of His ministry.” Amen?
GRACE, LOVE, AND COMMUNION
Now, if you were going to pray for only three things for someone very near and dear to your heart, what would those three things be? I would venture to say that our “Top 3” might not mirror Paul’s list. We might ask for “the healing of the Lord Jesus Christ, the prosperity of God, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit be with me and my family. Amen.” But Paul, like in many of His prayers for the church, had different things in mind to pray for his churches. For example, in none of his prayers did he pray for these churches to increase in natural things. They contained requests only for spiritual perception (wisdom, understanding, discernment, and revelation) and for spiritual growth (power, strength, and fruit). And this prayer at the end of Second Corinthians was no different. Now even though our prayer requests might differ some from Paul’s, it is more likely that the first two items would be things we see as important.
For example, the first thing he listed was “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and I believe we could all agree that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is super important for all of us to understand, possess, and walk in, am I right? Yes, the reason most in the church would agree on this is because most churches and denominations agree on the fact that everything we have received from God—from the forgiveness of our sins to the power to live free from sin—is by the grace that was made available through Jesus. As the apostle John said, “the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus” (see John 1:17).
Saints, this grace is a must for our everyday Christian life because everything we have and everything we are as believers is through the grace of God. It is by His grace that we are saved and it is by His grace that we live, and it is by His grace that we do everything in between! Yes, Grace is a must in the Christian life because you can’t be forgiven without grace, you can’t be holy without grace, neither can you do anything good and beneficial without His grace to do it. As Paul exhorted Pastor Timothy in Second Timothy 2:1, “…be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”—showing each of us that if a pastor of what was likely the largest church in the First Century needed to be encourage to be strong in the grace that Jesus provides, then all of us likewise need to be strong in this grace. Amen?
You see, we all sing songs such as “Amazing Grace” because we know how awesome His unmerited favor is. However, it is my experience and observation that there is a very high percentage of Christians who have never moved beyond the “kiddy pool” of the depth of His amazing grace—meaning, they have come to the realization of just enough of His grace to get saved, but they have not moved on to seeing just how life-transforming His grace can be to our everyday walks.
So, yes, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ certainly is a necessity for us all, and the second thing Paul prayed is just as important— “the love of God…”
Now like the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, most in the church today could also agree that the love of God would be another item to include in our prayer because there are few things more important than understanding and experiencing God’s love in our lives. We know this because without the love of the Father we would not even have been able to be saved. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…” Ephesians 3:19 also teaches us (in a prayer, mind you) that it is also important to have the love of God with us in our everyday lives because it’s by experiencing the love of God that we are filled with the all the fullness of God.
Now I personally consider the love of the Father as being the single greatest revelation that we could ever receive in our hearts. It is because having a revelation of the love of God is a vital key that unlocks a life of freedom and faith. Even Jesus included this same request in His final prayer for His followers in John chapter 17 when He prayed that we would know that the Father loves us just as He loves Him (see John 17:23).
Church, I cannot express any more emphatically just how important “the love of God” is to our lives. It is life-transforming—changing our prayer life in how we approach the Father, changing how we love one another as we are commanded to, and changing how much we love God in our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. We love because He first loved us (First John 4:19). Amen.
However, like with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, very few know in their hearts the height, length, depth and width of the love of God the Father. Again, most have experienced it in a measure, but not the dimensionless love that He is, not just has (see First John 4:16).
So, these first two things mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his prayer are fairly obvious to most of us. Most churches would not object to these as being two out of the three final things that we were going to pray for someone, but the last thing probably wouldn’t even cross the minds of most of the church— the communion of the Holy Spirit.
So if the apostle Paul included the communion of the Holy Spirit in his “Top 3 things to pray for those we love” then it must be just as vital to our success in the Christian life as the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God is. Yes, they all three work together and are of equal importance. And can you understand why? It is because all three of these things represent the three predominant and present-day ministries of the Godhead in our lives! God the Father manifested and continues to manifest His love toward us! Jesus Christ provided all the grace we will ever need through His death, burial, and resurrection! And the Holy Spirit’s ministry on the earth is to have “communion” with us. Praise God!
WHAT IS THE HOLY SPIRIT?
Now before we do anything else, let’s first look at this title given to Him in the Holy Scriptures—the Holy Spirit. While He is certainly called other things in the Bible such as the “Spirit of God”, “Spirit of truth”, “Spirit of grace”, and is even given a slew of names in Isaiah 11:2 (seven to be exact), the predominant name given to Him in the Scriptures is “Holy Spirit.”
Now I know that there are some out there who believe that we should not call Him “the Holy Spirit”—which is technically accurate because in all of the references that I have looked up regarding the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, there is no definite article placed before the words hagio (Holy) and pnuema (Spirit). What that means is that there is no cause for putting the word “the” in front of them. So, yes, technically the word “the” is not necessary.
However, I will tell you that I personally do not believe that “Holy Spirit” is His literal name. No, I do not believe He is “Mr. Spirit” or “Sir Holy.” He is the Spirit of God, which makes Him hagios--holy, pure, clean, sanctified, and separate. In other words, He, being God’s Spirit, is unlike any other spirit out there. He is divine. He is sacred. There is none like Him. Therefore, in my opinion, referring to Him as “the Holy Spirit” is not inherently wrong—as long as we understand that He is a Person and that He is God. (We will get more into that throughout this series)
But let me make an important point along these lines, you can refer to Him however you want to. What is important, however, is that you have a working knowledge of His ministry in your life. A religious spirit will get fired up about trivial things like this, but when it comes down to what is really important—like, how well do you know Him, are you experiencing His fruit in your life, etc.— that’s not high on their priority list. Church, what is truly important in Christianity is not necessarily knowing the truth; it is walking in the truth we know. Never forget that.
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
And the truth that we are called to walk in regarding the Holy Spirit is this principle of “communion”—may the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all. So, I reckon we need to understand what this word “communion” means, right?
Let’s first look at the Greek word used to translate this word “communion.” It comes from the Greek word koinonia. Now in the New Testament, this word is translated as “fellowship” more times than as any other word, and that is probably the best translation of this word, as evidenced by the majority of translations translating this phrase “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.”
In fact, we can see it being translated this way as it pertains to the Holy Spirit in Philippians 2:1 when Paul says, “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy.”
Now the word “if” that is being repeated here does not convey doubt but rather makes a point of emphasis. It would better be translated “since” or “in view of the fact.” So, the four things mentioned in this verse are facts: We already have consolation in Christ! We are comforted and loved! We already have obtained affection and mercy! And we now have fellowship with the Spirit! So, again, we see the word koinonia being used in association with the Holy Spirit, and in this verse, we see how this fellowship with the Holy Spirit is available to all of God’s church “since” we are His children.
So, when we look at the writings of the apostle Paul, we see that the Lord desires all of us to walk in the fellowship of His Spirit and has readily made this fellowship with Him available to us all.
Now I want us to look at another passage of Scripture where Paul used the word koinonia and it is translated again as “fellowship.” However, in this passage, it is not used in reference to the Holy Spirit, but rather to a fellowship that was made available to Paul himself. Let’s look over at Galatians chapter two.
In this chapter, Paul was describing a private meeting that he had with some of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. And the result of this meeting was that the pillars of the church—Peter, James and John—gave Paul and Barnabas the “right hand of fellowship.” (see Galatians 2:9)
No, not the “right foot of fellowship,” but the “right hand of fellowship.” I say that in jest, but it is actually quite sad because some of you are in this church today because when you received the One we are talking about, you got the boot from your particular denomination.
But what were the apostles in Jerusalem doing here? They were inviting Paul and Barnabas into their inner-circle. Yes, they were associating themselves with Paul and Barnabas and considering them their friends and co-laborers in the gospel. Therefore, this word “fellowship” refers to “closeness and intimacy.”
Now, as evidenced by these terms I just used, there is a big difference between “relationship” and “fellowship.” For example, Peter, James, and John already had a relationship with Paul & Barnabas by virtue of the fact that they were brothers in the Lord, being a part of the body of Christ together. But this giving them the “right hand of fellowship” was another level in that relationship. It was now them saying, “Yeah, we agape you as the brethren, but now we phileo you as friends.”
Now just think about this! How awesome would this have been if you were living in the First Century Church to have Peter, James, and John invite you into their inner-circle? Let’s bring it down home for a moment—say, a group of your favorite big-name ministers said to you, “Hey, you want to hang out?” You would probably be glowing for weeks if you were invited to be at the right-hand of the one you look up to and admire! Yes, you would be so blessed to be able to have fellowship with them!
Well, guess what? You have something even better! You have been called into the “fellowship of the HOLY SPIRIT!” God is inviting you to be at His side and to enjoy “the right hand of fellowship” with His Spirit! Now that should send us around glowing all the days of our life because GOD has invited us into fellowship with Himself through the Person of the Holy Spirit.
THE HOLY GUEST
So, how do we enter into this “fellowship” with the Holy Spirit? We do so by first understanding in our hearts what we just saw—that being “tight” with Him is far more valuable than being close to any man or woman. And then once we esteem our opportunity to commune with Him like so, then we simply begin a “monologue”—that is, we begin talking to Him, saying things like, “Good morning, Holy Spirit … Thank You for being a part of my life today … I’m so grateful that you are going to work with me today to lead, guide and teach me … I love You … I value all of the help you give me … etc. etc. etc.” And then as you begin talking to Him like this, you open the door to begin a “dialogue” with Him. In other words, the more He hears your voice, the better you will hear His voice.
Just think about it—probably the closest “fellowship” we enjoy on this earth is that of a husband and wife. Well, how good do you think your relationship with your spouse would be if, while you both obviously lived under the same roof, you never communicated with each other? That wouldn’t fly with most of you, would it? Well, all of us have the Holy Spirit living in the same house with us—that is, the temple of our bodies—and most of us do not ever acknowledge Him. This should not be so, church.
You see, He is a perfect gentleman and does not force Himself into our lives. In fact, this idea is where the old King James translation of “Holy Ghost” came from. In their day, a ghost was not something spooky or scary; a ghost was just another way of describing a “guest.” So, we could call Him in the “Holy Guest”—meaning, He is abiding with us as Jesus promised, but He will only do what we invite Him to do. And this is why the Holy Spirit is not to be feared. He is not going to force Himself on us. He will only perform in us what we invite Him to perform.
So, this is one of the things we see in the apostle Paul’s prayer for the church at Corinth—that they would enter into fellowship with the Holy Spirit. This means us inviting Him into our inner circle, us becoming close with Him, and us accepting the invitation to enter into His right hand of fellowship. Amen!
So, we began a series a couple of months ago entitled The True Vine, which is based on Jesus’ teaching in John 15:1-8. Essentially, these teachings have been aimed at showing us how to be fruitful in our lives for the glory of the Father.
Now we saw how these instructions by Jesus were a part of His last words to His disciples contained in John 14, 15 & 16. Therefore, we learned that this particular teaching had to have been one of the most important lessons that He could have left them with—for wouldn’t you, if you were about to leave your Father’s business to those whom you have trained, give them some of the most important things for them to remember right before you left them? And that’s what these verses are—one of the most important lessons one could learn in the wake of Jesus leaving the earth and sitting at the right hand of our Father.
Well, in this parable, Jesus is teaching about the power and importance of “abiding” by using the analogy of how branches abide in their vine. So, since Jesus said that apart from Him we can do nothing (see verses 4-5), this principle of abiding is evidently a very important lesson. Yes, we must learn this principle of “abiding” if we are going to bear fruit for God or be able to do anything for Him.
Now we saw last time how the word “abide” comes from the Greek word meno which means “to stay, remain, live or dwell.” So, when Jesus said to His disciples to abide in Him, what He was literally saying was— “remain and stay in me.” Amen!
But we saw that a common misunderstanding of these Scriptures in John chapter 15 is that abiding in Him is the same as what the Apostle Paul commonly referred to as being “in Him.” Those of us who are learned in the New Testament and the Pauline Epistles know that he commonly referred to who we are in Christ—how we are righteous and blessed in Him, and how we are holy, beloved, called, chosen, etc. in Christ Jesus. But these truths are post-resurrection realities, not truths that occurred before the Cross. So, it would not have made any sense for Jesus to tell his unregenerate disciples to “remain in Him” when they were never “in Him” to start with.
No, the common understanding of the phrase “in Him” at the point Jesus was sharing this was of His disciples abiding “in the midst of Him” or “in His presence.” That would have certainly made more sense to Jesus’ disciples. Well, sort of…
A good next question then is: Why would Jesus tell His disciples to “stay in the midst of Him” or “remain in His presence” if He was about to leave them? How would that have even been possible for them to do that? And we found the answer to these questions to be that we can be just as close to the Lord (in regards to an experiential knowledge of Him) by faith as we can by sight. In other words, we can walk with the Lord and practice His presence just like Enoch did, even though He was not physically present with Him. Amen!
So, yes, the Lord can be just as real to you by faith as He would be if He were still physically walking this earth. Amen! This is what Jesus was teaching His disciples—that just because He was leaving them, they didn’t need to leave Him. Just because He would soon no longer be present, they could still stay in His presence. In other words, just because He was physically departing the earth, their hearts did not need to depart from the truth of knowing that He would always be with them, even to the end of the world.
Now another point that needed to be understood is that the Lord had always promised them these things: As I just quoted from the last verse in the book of Matthew (Matthew 28:20), Jesus said, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Also, in the context of John chapter 15, Jesus said that He would not leave us orphans but He would come to us (John 14:18). He said in John 14:23 that He and His Father would come to those who love Him and make His home with them. So, in one breath, Jesus was telling them He was leaving them and, in another breath, He would never leave them or forsake them. So, which is it?
Well, we came to understand two things:
So, we need to understand that God is always present, but that does not mean that we are abiding in His presence. There is a big difference between these two positions—Him abiding in us and us abiding in Him. Sure, God is omnipresent—meaning He is everywhere, all the time. But that does not mean that He is tangibly felt and experienced everywhere, all the time.
You see, there is a difference between the Lord being present in the spirit realm and being present in the physical realm. And, oh, how there are so many benefits to Him being in the natural all around us!
And this is what we focused on last time: How to abide in His natural, manifest presence. And, in essence, we learned that the main way to practice His presence is by letting His praises continuously be in our mouth (see Psalm 34:1). Yes, by rejoicing in the Lord always—constantly praising, thanking and worshipping Him—we can “stay” in that place where we are plugged in to the power source and are walking in His tangible presence! Amen!
Saints, we must learn how to abide in His manifest presence! The promises are boundless! This is where the power is experienced! If we are going to truly be fruitful believers and eat of this fruit ourselves, we need this one thing—abiding in the Lord Jesus!
But this is just the first part of the two qualifications for asking what we desire and it being done for us. So, this week, let’s look at the second component:
ABIDING IN HIS WORD
Jesus also said in John 15:7, “and (if) My words abide in you.”
So, again, the word “abide” means “to stay, remain, live or dwell.” Therefore, Jesus was talking about His Words—that is, His sayings, His teachings, and the instructions that He gave to His disciples, or you could also say the Holy Scriptures themselves, etc. “staying, remaining, living and dwelling” in us.
Now, again, the terminology Jesus used of us abiding “in Him” and His words abiding “in us” does not only mean “on the inside” of something. His Words could certainly remain inside of His disciples, but a more accurate rendering of the Greek word en that was used here would be “in the midst of.” Therefore, Jesus’ Words abiding in them was referring more to His Words staying or remaining with them—that is, them keeping Jesus’ sayings with them to where they would not forget nor forsake them. In other words, what Jesus was wanting His disciples to do was “keep” the Word that was sown into them.
In John 8:31-36, Jesus said something very significant along these same lines of having His Words abide in and with us: In these verses we are told: “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.’ They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Now we see in verse 31 that Jesus began speaking to those Jews who believed Him. Now although they believed in Him, this did not automatically make them His disciples. Therefore, Jesus said to them that truly believed— “If you abide (i.e. stay, remain, live, and dwell) in My word, you are My disciples indeed…” In other words, Jesus was saying that when those that believe on Him stay in His Word, then they truly become His disciples. Allow me to paraphrase Jesus’ saying here: “The way that you will prove that you are really My disciples is by remaining in My word—the word that you have just begun to believe.”
You see, many people like to quote just this part of Jesus’ statement in John 8:32. But what is that at the beginning of this verse? A conjunction, right? So, what does that mean? It means that whatever Jesus said right before this is tied into the reality of this verse.
And notice the fruit of becoming His disciple: Jesus goes on to say, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” So, His disciples will both know the truth and that truth will make them free! The word “know” that Jesus used here comes from the Greek word ginosko which, in this case, is the “recognition of truth by personal experience.” So, first of all, if we remain in His Word and not let it depart from the midst of your heart, then we shall come to know the truth—that is, personally experience it. How does this work? By the truth of His Word being revealed to you!
And notice what happens next: Jesus went on to say that this truth that we have experienced shall make us free! The word He used for “free” here comes from the Greek word eleuthero which means “to liberate, acquit, set free, or emancipate.”
So, the real question here is—free from what? What will His truth liberate us from? Well, considering the context, we see that Jesus was referring to the dominion of sin. So, in the New Testament, this word was used to describe Jesus setting believers free from the dominion of sin.
But the point I want you to see here is that the one who is truly made free—from everything from sin’s dominion to those subtle little devils that steal the Word from our hearts—is by “continuing” (i.e. abiding) in His Word. This is when we truly come to know the truth—the truth which makes us free.
A CHARACTERISTIC OF THE GOOD GROUND
Now if you recall, we have looked a little at Jesus’ Parable of the Sower throughout this series, and the key characteristic of one of the types of grounds (i.e. the wayside ground) is that it did not retain the seed that was sown into it. So, you could say that the Word—the seed—did not “stay or remain” within this particular type of ground. And if you look in Luke’s account at the one type of ground that actually produced fruit that remained (i.e. the good ground), you will see that this is one of the key characteristics of this type of ground—that the word “abided” within it:
Luke 8:15 says, “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”
So, notice that the good ground kept the seed that was sown into it. The words “keep it” come from the Greek word katecho which literally means “to hold down.” So, to “keep” the Word that is sown into one’s heart is to “hold fast, possess or hold it”—not letting it get stolen out of our hearts.
Just think about this from the natural illustration that Jesus was using: What do you think happens if a good seed is sown into good ground but the seed does not remain or stay in the ground for a sufficient period of time? What if it either keeps getting dug up by the one who planted it or by a varmint? You are not going to see any fruit, are you? Well, this is the illustration Jesus is wanting to see “planted” (pun intended) in your heart.
You see, the seed of God’s Word needs to have the time to “abide” in our hearts so that it has the sufficient time to germinate within us—putting its roots down before it begins to manifest in our lives.
So, having this noble, good and patient heart—called good ground—is how one keeps the Word that was sown into it, and it is also what keeps those birds from stealing the Word out of our hearts.
You see, going back to the wayside ground, do you remember how Jesus described how the birds would eat up the seed that was sown on to this type of ground? In fact, notice in Mark’s account that these birds of the air that devour the seed—the prince of the power of the air—come “immediately” to steal the Word that is sown in our hearts (see Mark 4:15). In other words, they don’t wait for a few days after the root might start setting in our hearts; they devour those seeds quickly—when they are still lying on the ground and have not begun to take root.
I’m telling you, church, this happens all of the time in the lives of those who come listen to God’s Word: How many of you have ever come to a meeting, heard a good message, and then left, not being able to remember what the minister had said? I’m sure we have all had that happen to us before. Well, according to Jesus, that does not occur just because of mental or psychological reasons; there are spiritual entities involved in these things, and if our hearts are hardened, conformed to the world, etc., then the kingdom of darkness comes and steals those truths from our hearts. Thus, we immediately forget what we’ve heard.
CONTINUING IN THE MIRROR
Now a good parallel Scripture to this one in Mark 4:15 is found in James 1:22-25 where we are taught the importance of being a doer of the Word. And I see this passage of Scripture as being the solution to keeping His Words with us after they are sown into us. Yes, in this passage, James gave us a couple of good lessons regarding retaining the Word of God in our hearts.
Notice, first of all, how he likens us hearing the Word to looking at our physical face in a mirror and in verse 24, he describes the person who is not a “doer” as being like a person who observes himself in the mirror and, when he goes away, “immediately” forgets what kind of man he was observing. So, do you see how the forgetting what we heard really occurs “immediately” just like the wayside ground “immediately” has the seed stolen that was sown on it? So, this teaches us that one of the keys to retain what you heard is in having a heart to DO what you’ve heard (or, immediately apply the truth you heard). So, let’s look at this passage in detail and see how one can keep from immediately forgetting the Word they have heard and having it abide within them:
In verses 22-24, James uses the analogy of a man looking into a mirror when describing how we hear the Word. He says that a “hearer only” is like a person who looks into the mirror and sees what they really look like and then they leave and immediately forget what they saw (vs.24). But then James gives us the remedy in verse 25. He says, “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work. This one will be blessed in what he does.”
The word “looks” comes from the Greek word parakupto (from para which means “right alongside of” and kupto which means to “to stoop down or bend over”). So, this word literally means “to stoop down next to and to look intently.” The word “into” comes from the Greek word eis and adds the meaning of “diligently stooping down next to and putting forth the effort to look intently into something.” In fact, this Greek word parakupto was used in John 20:5&11 to describe the manner in which Jesus’ disciples looked into the tomb. You reckon you would have had undivided attention on what was in the tomb when you had been told that He wasn’t there any longer? They were intently gazing into the tomb to find the Living Word as we should intently gaze into the Bible to find His Living Words—those precious nuggets that will change us forever.
Now, notice the phrase James used— “and continues in it.” James is still teaching from the analogy of a man looking into a mirror. So just as it is not enough to look into a mirror for a period of time in order to remember what we look like; it’s not enough to just have times where we intently study the Word or intently listen to a sermon and then disconnect from it. No, we must take those words with us beyond the times that we initially heard them.
This phrase “continues in it” comes from the Greek word parameno. (This word is a compound word that comes from para which means “alongside of” and meno—the same word used for “abide” that we have been looking at—which means to “remain, stay, or abide.”) This word literally means “to abide with”, “to stay alongside of”, or “to remain with.” This is referring to the mirror we look into. So, what James is saying here is to not ever leave the mirror that we looked into in the first place! No, we must take the mirror with us and not leave it on our nightstand! How do we do this because we can’t always be reading our Bible, nor can we take our preachers around with us everywhere we go? The answer is that we can carry the Word that we’ve heard with us through our thinking faculties. In other words, we can meditate on it day and night!
How can we keep our mind set on the Word? We do it the same way we meditate on our problems all day. This is one of the reasons why it is important to have time with the Lord in the morning, before you start your day, because you can carry it with you throughout the day.
So, according to this passage of Scripture, the main difference between the “doers” of the Word and the “hearers only” is that the “doers” never go away from the Word. They take it with them! They meditate on the Word day and night! And when we learn to stay spiritually minded like this our thoughts begin to become established like concrete.
And James goes on to say in verse 25 that we will not be a forgetful hearer if our heart has predetermined to do what it has heard. In other words, the person who immediately applies the Word to their life is the one who will not be a forgetful hearer. This, of course, sounds like Luke’s description of the good ground because this person is showing respect for what they have heard. Thus, the Word of truth will abide with them and in them, and they will certainly bear fruit.
So how do you “keep” the mirror of God’s Word that you have looked into ever before you? I love Hebrews 2:1—because I believe it shows us a very practical way to do this. It says, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”
What this verse is saying is that once we have heard something already (and in this case, having already seen the light of it and received it into our heart), that is not the time to quit hearing it. This is when, as the author of Hebrews writes, (now notice this terminology) “we must (the Greek word dei meaning that it is necessary or imperative) give the more earnest heed to (them)…”
So after we have heard and received something initially, we do not need to hear it less; we actually need to hear it more! Amen! We need to make mental notes, take actual notes, and make plans on how to apply the Word we have heard. And this is how you keep it in the midst of your heart, where the devil cannot snatch it away. This is how to keep the mirror with you at all times.
ARE YOU AN APOLLOS?
Now, finally, if you recall from last time, I mentioned that there are two other components that a seed / plant needs to bear fruit in the natural. They need hydration and they need sunlight. So, by understanding these things, I compared the “abiding in Him” that we learned about last time to abiding in the light—to where His manifest presence causes us to grow towards Him. Well, I see this other phrase that we are looking at today— “My words abide in you” —as how the plants that produce the fruit we desire in our lives gets “watered.” So, let me show you a couple of verses that use this same analogy to describe the process that God’s Word has in our lives.
Let me first draw your attention to a verse in First Corinthians 3:6 where the apostle Paul was countering the partisan spirit that had infiltrated the Church of Corinth. Paul had heard about the division that had developed—some saying that they were “of Paul” and others that they were “of Apollos.” So, he made the following statement in this verse: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” So, we see here the very principle we have been camping on in this verse—the process of planting seed and how the harvest comes.
Now an important point to understand from this verse is that we—mankind—are not responsible for giving the increase. That is God’s job. We cannot bear fruit in and of ourselves, which is why Jesus said in our golden text that apart from Him, we can do nothing. However, as we have learned in this series, even though we are not responsible for the harvest, we are responsible for the planting and the watering.
And notice how Paul describes himself as the one who planted and Apollos as the one who came behind him and watered. Well, how did they do this? Obviously, Paul planted the seed by being the apostle who went to this region and ministered the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. In fact, we have this described in Acts chapter 18. In Acts 18:11, we are told that Paul remained in Corinth for 18 months “teaching the Word of God among them.” This occurred after they had heard the gospel, believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8). In other words, Paul was the one who first preached the Word to them, discipled them in the Word, and planted this church.
But then there was a man named Apollos—one who Acts chapter 18 actually gives us some information about—who came behind Paul and watered the seed that the apostle Paul had planted. So, how did Apollos water the seed that had already been sown. Well, let’s look back in this chapter in Acts and learn a little more about this man named Apollos.
Acts 18:24-28 says, “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”
Notice how this Jew named Apollos was said to be an “eloquent man” and “mighty in the Scriptures.” The reference to him being “eloquent” is likely a reference to his speaking ability. Some translations describe him as being a “learned man.” But notice that not only was he an eloquent speaker, he was also “mighty in the Scriptures.” Wow! Wouldn’t you like that to be said of you—that you are “mighty in the Scriptures”? Amen! It goes on to say that he himself had been “instructed in the way of the Lord” and that “he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord.” So, he instructed well which caused him to speak and teach the things of the Lord accurately. However, there was a problem. We are told that he knew only the baptism of John. In other words, he had not yet been exposed to the teachings of Christ and the new and better covenant. This is when Priscilla and Aquilla took him aside and “explained the way of God to him more accurately.” But notice that he didn’t puff up and reject this new information that was explained to him like most people do. No, he obviously received this more accurate view of the Scriptures because then, when he desired to go to cross over to Achaia (the region where the city of Corinth was located), that the brethren sent him a “letter of recommendation.” And so, while Apollos was at Corinth—the city that Paul had already planted in—we are told he “greatly helped those who had believed (by Paul) through grace.” Well, we know from First Corinthians 3:6 how he greatly helped them? It was by watering them!
Well, how do you reckon Apollos watered the Church of Corinth based on what his M.O. was (i.e. method of operating)? I can guarantee you that this Jew, who was mighty in the Scriptures to start with and now had his doctrine perfected by understanding the Gospel of Christ, was washing this church in the water of HIS WORD. Amen?
So, we can see that in order to water with God’s Word, we are going to need to be an Apollos. What do I mean by that? I mean that we need to become grounded in the truth that we know and walk in the light that we do have like Apollos did. You see, even though this dude didn’t know everything that he needed to know early in his ministry, he was still mighty in the Word and accurate in his teachings. Then, when he was taught more accurately, he added his new revelation to what he already understood and became a powerhouse in the body of Christ as a teacher.
Now this certainly does not mean that the only way you are going to be able to water is by knowing a ton of Scriptures. You can still water with the little you may know. My point is that you just need to become “mighty and accurate” with what you do know and use that Word to water the seed in your life.
HOW TO WATER WITH THE WORD
Now the Bible gives us another reference to the Word being like water in Ephesians 5:26, when the apostle Paul was speaking to married couples and described how Jesus sanctified and cleansed His church with “the washing of water by the Word.”
What does this mean? Well, it sounds similar to the verses we are covering in this series when Jesus said that the pruning / cleansing process that takes place in His disciples occurs through the Word. In other words, that is how Jesus cleansed them was through his teachings. Therefore, this “bath” that cleanses and sanctifies His church comes through the water of His Word!
However, I believe that Paul was showing the Church of Ephesus this, not just to show them how Jesus washes His church like this, but to show these husbands what they needed to be doing to and for their wives. So, herein lies a great example as to how we do this washing with the Word: Husbands, you can wash your wife with Scriptures. And wives, this is not just for your husband: You can wash your husband with Scriptures. (I have included an example at the end of this article that I gave to a woman who was seeking specific seed for her marriage. But you can use this model and apply it to any area of your life that you desire fruit in. Simply look up the Scriptures that apply to your situation and follow this pattern.)
So, how do we do this? Well, it is important to understand that the word used for “word” here is rhema--which describes the spoken, communicated and revealed Word. Therefore, speaking the Word is how we wash with the Word.
WATERING OUR NEW YEAR
Now let me give you a brief example of how you can do this in an area that we can all relate to right now—the new calendar year that we began this week. You see, many people just hope and pray that God will bless them over the next 12 months, but why don’t we start planting the right seed and then water it and determine what our next 12 months are going to look like. So, let me give you an example of how one might “water” their new year:
If you recall, the Lord gave our church a Word at the beginning of 2018 that He would crown our year with His goodness. This was based on Psalm 65:11-13, which says, “You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance. They drop on the pastures of the wilderness, and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered with grain; they shout for joy, they also sing.”
Now in the preceding verses (vs. 9-10): David said, “You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; The river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, for so You have prepared it. You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth.” So, there was a watering that took place here before the wonderful fruit contained in verses 11-13. Likewise, there is a watering that must take place to see these promises come to pass in our lives!
Interesting enough with us celebrating First-Fruits this week, this psalm is believed to be sung at the Harvest Festival at the end of their agricultural year! In other words, it was the Jews’ psalm of praise for the First-Fruits!
So, let me now give you an example of how to “water” your new year with these verses along with several others:
Father, I thank You that You are a God of new beginnings! You make old things to pass away and make all things new (Second Corinthians 5:17 & Revelation 21:5). And I thank You that you have promised in Isaiah 43:19 – “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” So, I receive that and declare that you will do a new thing in my life in this new year. It shall spring forth, and I shall know it! You are making a road in the wilderness and making rivers in the desert. Amen. These are the plans you have for me this year—plans of peace and not of evil, to give me a bright future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). I thank you that every morning of this year will be filled with new mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23) and that you are crowning my year with Your goodness (Psalm 65:11). Yes, my path this year is dripping with abundance (Psalm 65:11) because You said that the path of the righteous is like the shining sun: it shines brighter and brighter unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18). So, I thank you that my path for 2019 is a path that gets brighter and brighter, better and better, and gooder and gooder. Amen!
So what we have been covering today is what I believe to be the Lord “watering” our fields. Yes, we have been getting “washed in the water of the Word” and I am believing for a harvest of goodness in each of our lives for 2019. Amen and amen!
HOW TO WATER YOUR MARRIAGE (FOR WIVES)
To encourage Yourself in the tough times:
Isaiah 54:5 – “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.” Lord, I rejoice in that truth that ultimately You are my husband! That is where my joy is found—that You are the best spouse I could ever hope for!
Psalm 27:10 (NLT): “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.” Thank You, Lord, that even if those I love (including my spouse) abandons me, You will always be there to hold me close!
Ecclesiastes 4:9 – “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?" Lord, I believe You have a good purpose for my marriage! It is good that we be together—for two are better than one! And I thank You that this is a benefit of my marriage, so we are getting a good return together, we are there to help each other, and we are keeping each other warm, on-fire for God! Amen!
To deal with yourself and to do your part:
Ephesians 4:2-3 – “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." God, I thank you that you have put in me the ability to help maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace in my home! Thank You, Holy Spirit, that you help me to operate in humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance with my spouse.
Colossians 3:14 – “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." 1 Thessalonians 4:9 – “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” (Also compare Titus 2:4) Lord, on top of that, you are teaching me how to put on love and love my spouse, and I do this in obedience to You, knowing that love never fails!
Romans 12:10 – “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” Father, I thank You that you have showed me my part. So, I will prefer my spouse even when they might not seem to be preferring me. But I thank You that as I sow honor, I will reap honor!
To sow good seed:
1 Corinthians 15:33 – “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’” Thank you, Lord, that if bad company corrupts good behavior, then good company can also create good behavior. So, I thank You that Christ in me is working in them!
1 Peter 3:1 – “In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over.” Lord, thank you that this is true, and my godly life is winning over my husband—not my words, but my holy behavior. As I walk in the light that I have, the light is working on them! (Men, this can apply to you as well if the roles are reversed)
1 Corinthians 7:14 (CEV) – “Your husband or wife who isn't a follower is made holy by having you as a partner. This also makes your children holy and keeps them from being unclean in God's sight.” Praise God, Your Word says that my spouse is made holy and sanctified by me. Thank You, Lord for constantly sanctifying them!