November 25, 2011

Fully Pleasing Him – Colossians 1:9-12

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 

When I go down to the very bedrock of my soul, I find two desires that are for me the most compelling. 1) I want to see God's beauty and power and grace. It's why I love to be around either people who know Him well (because they look like Him!), or else people who WANT to know Him, for I have learned that when He eventually shows up in their lives, it is truly amazing. 2) I long to know that I please Him. Quite simply, I love Him, and that's how love expresses itself.

In Colossians 1, Paul provides a very helpful description of how these two deepest desires can be realized. First, he tell the Colossians he is praying. This process of finding and pleasing God is definitely supernatural, requiring His input at every step. But it is also natural. The only way we are ever "filled with knowledge" of any sort is to direct our eyes and minds toward that which we wish to know.

What kind of knowledge should we be seeking? Very specifically Paul tells us it's the knowledge of His will. "All wisdom and spiritual understanding" point not to some academic head knowledge, but rather a knowledge of HIS will that is to be received by OUR wills. The center point of our lives is this present moment in which we become aware of what God wants, and we make our choice either to comply with His desires or to resist them.

To the extent that we DO conform our wills to His, however, four wonderful things happen. First, we "walk worthy of the Lord." In other words, we represent Him well. We are pure. We are kind and compassionate. We are honest and uncompromising and fearless. We do those things Jesus would do if He had chosen to be incarnated in our bodies (which, in a very real sense, He HAS).

The second result is that we please Him! Fully! As incomprehensible as it sometimes seems, God is pleased by our faith-filled obedience. We don't have to initiate some creative display of our affection, some new offering that will surprise Him with its stunning beauty or its clever ingenuity. We simply have to obey--fully--and He is fully pleased.

Third, this deliberate conforming of our wills to His is exactly the picture Jesus describes in John 15. When we as branches are firmly attached to the vine of Christ, the very life-sap of God flows in our veins as well. What happens then? Fruit happens! Our good works bring transforming and eternal benefits to those people He has brought into our life.

And number four, as I am choosing to fully please God, my second desire is also fulfilled. I "increase in the knowledge of God." I get to see Him in the very fruits that are being produced. I learn more and more about His sacrificial love, His healing strength, His sovereign wisdom, and the wonderful purposes He has for His people.

Paul goes on to describe what is in fact his own experience of knowing God. He has discovered what it is like to be "strengthened with all power according to His glorious might." As amazing as this power is, however, it isn't applied in the way one would normally expect. We might think that God would send Paul out as a mighty warrior, conquering others with his sword--or at least with his brilliant thoughts and convicting words.

Instead, Paul tells us this power enables him to live with "all patience and longsuffering." In another letter he writes, "For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:11-13). God offers us ALL POWER--strength on the astonishing level of HIS glorious might--so we might be able to follow in patient obedience no matter where He leads.

For those of us who are willing to walk in the steps of Paul, and indeed of Christ Himself, that obedience will almost certainly lead us to many kinds of dying. But in those very dyings, we will find that which we most desire: a view of God Himself, and the knowledge that we please Him. And through this process, we like Paul will experience overflowing joy and gratitude, as we join him in becoming "partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light."

October 6, 2011

Walk in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Over and over, the New Testament writers describe the Christian life as a walk. To be sure, we also stand—in God’s grace, on God’s promises, against our enemy—but the course of our life is never static. Whether we think about it or not, we’re always walking.

We find an excellent picture of how God desires us to walk in Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. (Colossians 1:9-12)

This prayer has three components. There is the source of our walk, which is the Spirit who fills us with “the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” There is the walk itself. Then, most extensively, there is a description of what our walk produces—or more accurately, a description of us as we walk.

•    Worthy of the Lord
•    Fully pleasing Him
•    Being fruitful in every good work
•    Increasing in the knowledge of God
•    Strengthened with all might, producing patience and longsuffering with joy
•    Giving thanks to the Father

As is so often true in scripture, this is a list of superlatives. These are all-out. Fully pleasing. Fruitful in every good work. Strengthened with all might. And, unthinkably, worthy of the Lord. As we look over this list, we are sorely tempted to give up without even trying.

Today’s entry in My Utmost for His Highest sheds some important light on this dilemma.

“Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into any man the hereditary disposition that was in Himself, and all the standards He gives are based on that disposition: His teaching is for the life He puts in. The moral transaction on my part is agreement with God's verdict on sin in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

“The New Testament teaching about regeneration is that when a man is struck by a sense of need, God will put the Holy Spirit into his spirit, and his personal spirit will be energized by the Spirit of the Son of God, ‘until Christ be formed in you.’ The moral miracle of Redemption is that God can put into me a new disposition whereby I can live a totally new life. When I reach the frontier of need and know my limitations, Jesus says—‘Blessed are you.’ But I have to get there. God cannot put into me, a responsible moral being, the disposition that was in Jesus Christ unless I am conscious I need it.”

In essence what Oswald Chambers is saying is the weight of our walk is on Christ. The unthinkable description of who we are to be comes not out of our nature, but out of His nature in us. Our part in salvation itself is “agreement with God’s verdict on sin in the Cross of Jesus Christ,” a verdict which must be supernaturally revealed to us. Similarly, as we walk, we must come (again and again) to that place where we reach that “frontier of need,” where we know in our deepest soul that these are things we cannot do—but He can.

Yet while He provides what we cannot with regard to the fruitfulness of our walk, there is a clear sense in scripture that we are responsible for the direction our walk takes. There are only two choices. We can choose to walk according to the Spirit, or else we will walk according to the flesh (see Romans 8, Ephesians 4, I John 1 and many others).

So it’s in this context that we turn now to Galatians. Paul here provides us with a very detailed checklist, just in case we’re confused about what’s spirit and what’s flesh. Flesh looks like this: “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” (5:19-21). Spirit looks like this: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (5:22-23).

Paul goes on to say, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (5:24-25). Here we arrive at the heart of the matter. We are called to drastic action. We who are Christ’s must crucify our flesh, so we can be free to live and walk in the Spirit.

What’s the best way to crucify our flesh? I have come to believe we need to starve it to death. A few verses later, Paul makes this stark observation. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (6:7-8).

In other words we must ask ourselves: to which part of our natures are we sowing? Are we deliberately turning our attention to that which is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8)? Or do we allow our minds and hearts to become fascinated by books and movies and other entertainment choices that would sow into us uncleanness, lewdness, contention, heresies, envy, revelries and the like?

This is not a rhetorical question, but a matter of urgent practicality. We walk in the direction that our eyes are turned. We supply life to one of the two natures within us through the choices we make.

There is a fierce battle raging in each of us who belong to Christ, but it’s a battle between two very unlike forces. Our enemy (who owns our flesh) is either loud and pushy and demanding, or he can be seductively alluring. Christ (who owns our spirit) simply waits quietly. Yet when we choose—moment by moment—to look to Him instead of to those things that entice our flesh, we will find ourselves “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Colossians 1:11).

September 28, 2011

Manna – Exodus 16

And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.” Exodus 16:15

It defied everything they had ever understood. It came with the dew and melted with the sun, yet they could successfully bake and boil it. Six days a week it would spoil overnight. On the Sabbath it stayed fresh for two days. Somehow there was always enough for everyone. It was a bright white, and tasted like wafers with honey. They called it manna, the Hebrew word for “What?” Although they did not realize it at the time, it was to be their primary source of nourishment for forty years.

The children of Israel were two and a half months into their journey. Apparently whatever supplies they had carried with them were now depleted, and they had just entered into the Wilderness of Sin where there was nothing to gather for food. Hunger can make you lose your spirituality pretty quickly. So they began to complain to Moses and Aaron, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

From their perspective, it was about living vs. dying. God, however, saw it all very differently. His word to Moses was this: “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” Ah. A test. Funny, isn’t it, how we don’t realize these when they come? And why can’t God give us our tests when we’re not so hungry?

But the Lord wanted to teach these people (and us) an extremely important lesson. Moses figured it out right away. After explaining God’s plan to the congregation, he adds this point. “The Lord hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.” Our leaders (as Paul would later explain in Romans 13) are merely God’s ministers to us, His hand to do good or to punish. When we complain to them, God hears it—and takes it personally.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

You see, when all the details are stripped away, that’s the goal of every test. God wants us to know that He and He alone is the Lord our God. His will and His authority stand above everything else. He made the manna behave differently on the Sabbath because He wanted them to understand that His law (which had decreed the seventh day to be sacred) transcended the laws of their logic (which expected the manna to behave the same way every day of the week).

As I pondered this passage, I began to realize that I too am presently in a wilderness, taking a somewhat similar test. Mine is far less dramatic than a living vs. dying situation, but the principles are the same. For all my life since I was a child, I have been provided with the “meat” of something I have to do. After the constant requirements of school and college, there was a steady regimen of jobs, and then (for decades) the assignment of raising a family. I was content to be very, very busy. It gave me a sense of stability and order and significance.

Now, for reasons I can only partially grasp, God has me in “pause” mode. I have good things to do here and there, but there is no “grand plan” that I can yet see. My human logic would suggest that I should try to make something happen—perhaps seriously look for a job or volunteer for some worthwhile organization. My flesh hints that it’s my time to begin to reward myself with some recreational pleasures. But my spirit has quietly guided me to the understanding that neither of these are what God wishes for me.

So the story of manna has today become a comfort to me. My complaint (which, like all complaints, is against God) has been heard by Him. And what He would show me is that I will be given—and truthfully, I am being given—daily, supernatural provision of both things to do and a purpose for life. Rather than finding my identity and worth and even my security in some larger ongoing role or task, I now can awaken each morning to find and gather the “dew” of duties He has miraculously prepared only for this specific day.

September 24, 2011

Leave Your Gift - Matthew 5:23,24

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

As I read this familiar passage this morning, I noticed for the first time that the man who had approached the altar of God was specifically told to leave his gift there while tending to the business of reconciliation. How strange. What if someone came along and took it before he got back to make the offering? Why not just carry it with him on his errand?

As I pondered this in my spirit, however, it began to make sense. The giving of gifts to our Lord is not about the gift. It’s about ourselves. On one hand, this is an act that costs us something—it costs the gift itself, it costs our time and effort. But these are not the most important thing. “If you bring your gift to the altar...” The real offering is that we have chosen in those moments to focus our full attention on God.

Most of us go through life avoiding God. We fill our minds with so many other things. To be sure, most of these things may seem harmless. Some of the things are in fact good and helpful. At times we may turn our thoughts specifically to matters of God—to scripture or to prayer. Yet even there it is possible to avoid giving our actual attention to God. We can easily limit our Bible reading agenda to increasing our portfolio of insights we will use to teach others, and our prayers to a litany of worries and wishes.

When a person truly quiets his mind and heart before God, there is always a risk. The Spirit of God may very well use the opportunity to do some personal housecleaning, as the above verses indicate. However, this doesn’t always happen. “IF when you bring your gift, you remember. . .” Often our times with God are seasons of joy and refreshing, especially if we meet with God on a regular basis. But there are those times (and we learn to be grateful for them) when something has arisen that is a blemish on our souls, and thereby diminishes our communion with God.

The gifts we would bring to God are interesting things. They may be tangible treasures, or they may be the gift of our talents and abilities. They may be acts of service. They are necessarily costly, sometimes quite significantly so. But always they are simply “currency.” They are the carriers of something more precious than themselves—or they will ultimately be of no worth at all. Paul spells this out clearly in I Corinthians 13:1-3.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Everything we would bring to God shows up in this list. Our talents. Our words. Our supernatural giftings. Our wisdom. Our faith. Our possessions. Even our very lives. Paul says that the viability of any of these gifts is tied to one single thing: a heart inhabited by the very love of God.

In a real sense, none of our gifts come from ourselves. God has given us our life and our abilities and our resources to steward. We are accountable to Him for how we use them. Sometimes we can use them for our benefit. Often they are entrusted to us for the benefit of others. A certain portion, a “tithe,” we are required to return directly to God.

But underneath it all is the requirement that we be motivated and directed by God’s holy love. Just as oxygen is the invisible sustainer of all earthly life, so divine agape love must infuse every aspect of authentic kingdom life. And the only way this can happen is by our regular, consistent inhalation of the very presence of God.

So yes. Bring your gift—many gifts—to the altar of God. Bring them gladly, willingly, grateful that He has given you something to bring. But understand that the deeper gift and the deeper joy will be in your choice to bring yourself to His altar, into His presence, where He will impart to you the gift of Himself. And as that divine nature enters your heart, you will be inspired and empowered to do those things which most please our Lord.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you—but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

September 10, 2011

Ministers of God - II Corinthians 6:4-10

“But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God.”

Every now and then as I do my morning devotions, I find that my readings converge. Today was one of those days. This is what Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost for His Highest.
When thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. (John 1:48)

"We imagine we would be all right if a big crisis arose; but the big crisis will only reveal the stuff we are made of, it will not put anything into us. 'If God gives the call, of course I will rise to the occasion.' You will not unless you have risen to the occasion in the workshop, unless you have been the real thing before God there. If you are not doing the thing that lies nearest, because God has engineered it; when the crisis comes instead of being revealed as fit, you will be revealed as unfit. Crises always reveal character.

"The private relationship of worshipping God is the great essential of fitness. The time comes when there is no more 'fig-tree' life possible, when it is out into the open, out into the glare and into the work, and you will find yourself of no value there if you have not been worshipping as occasion serves you in your home. Worship aright in your private relationships, then when God sets you free you will be ready, because in the unseen life which no one saw but God you have become perfectly fit, and when the strain comes you can be relied upon by God.

"'I can't be expected to live the sanctified life in the circumstances I am in; I have no time for praying just now, no time for Bible reading, my opportunity hasn't come yet; when it does, of course I shall be all right.' No, you will not. If you have not been worshipping as occasion serves, when you get into work you will not only be useless yourself, but a tremendous hindrance to those who are associated with you.

"The workshop of missionary munitions is the hidden, personal, worshipping life of the saint."

I then read Paul’s compelling description of what it means to be a minister of God.

But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (II Corinthians 6:4-10)

Paul opens his “commendation of ministry” with the word patience, hupomone, which carries in its meaning the sense of steady, even hopeful, endurance. He then lists nine places that have been the context for hupomone in his life: tribulations, needs, distresses, stripes, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, fastings. Notice that each of these items in Paul’s list is preceded by the little word “in.” These are the specific situations where the Spirit of Christ has been given a powerful foothold in Paul’s spiritual personality, and has revealed Himself in Paul’s patient endurance.

In another letter Paul tells us,

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

This kind of learning is actually not so much discipline as discovery. We tend to view endurance as gritting our teeth, as bearing up under the unbearable. But when Paul speaks of contentment, it’s with an almost amazed awareness of what Christ has provided in these hard places. While there is a certain kind of joy and gratitude in the “abounding” portions of his life, Paul has found an altogether different kind of joy in being “abased,” for it is here that he most clearly experiences the strength of Christ. It was this joy that enabled him and Silas to sing praises during their suffering and imprisonment described in Acts 16.

The preparation for ministry that comes only through suffering is never optional for anyone who follows Christ, just as ministry itself is not optional. We are by definition “ministers of God,” for if His nature is truly in us, then it has to flow out. The travesty comes when we profess to belong to God, but (as Chambers describes) there is no hidden preparation in the everyday moments of our lives, and thus when the crises come we are exposed as “unfit” and “useless,” a hindrance to those who are ministering.

What does an authentic minister look like? That’s Paul’s next list, a series of things that begin with the little word “by.” Ministers are characterized “by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report.”

Notice that it makes no difference at all what these ministers DO. Whether a person is a world-renowned evangelist or one who is confined to his bed in great suffering, ministry in God’s kingdom is a matter of the “by.” When in the current circumstances of our life we are able to exhibit His nature by our purity, knowledge, longsuffering and kindness, if what we express is the Holy Spirit Himself in love and truth and power, if we are so guarded by righteousness that we are untouched by both honor and dishonor, by good report or bad—then we are ministering. God is using us because He trusts us to represent Him well.

Paul’s final list of the characteristics of a minister of God is interesting. Here we find a third little word, “as.” This is the legacy of our ministry. These are the identifiers of those who are truly used in service to God: “As deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

Jesus warned us in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you.” One of the most consistent distinguishing marks of a true minister of God is that he will be misunderstood, judged, rejected, chastened, sad, and impoverished. Nevertheless, in the very face of what may seem to be complete failure in the estimation of the world, he will be honest and alive and joy-filled and rich. In the final count, our ministry is visible primarily to God. To be sure, there will probably be some people around us who realize they have been “made rich” by our lives. We may even receive their gratitude.

But I believe what Paul and Oswald Chambers learned, and what they are trying communicate to us, is that our accountability is to God alone. As we deliberately give back to Him the moments of our lives—accepting whatever hardships or distresses or beauties and gladnesses those moments contain as being His perfect will for us—then over time we will become true and effective ministers of the grace of God, useful and powerful in the kingdom, and pleasing to the One to whom we have given our lives.

May 5, 2011

“Therefore . . . we have . . . ” - Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

How can we know we are saved? How can we be assured that God is pleased with us? Or in the technical terms of Romans 4, how can we be certain that the promise of God is imputed to us by faith, as it was to Abraham? Can we actually know these things beyond doubt?

Often a discussion of the opening verses in Romans 5 starts by simply assuming we are saved, and then moves quickly to the consequences of salvation—as though somehow we must endeavor to make these qualities real in our lives. But I think it might be argued that Paul is describing not what should be, but what already is. “THEREFORE,” he writes, “having been justified by faith, WE HAVE peace with God.”

“Well,” someone might respond, “I don’t really feel it yet. Maybe it just means I’ve ‘made my peace’ with God so He won’t send me to hell.” But the word for “peace” in this verse isn’t a legal term. It literally means quietness, equanimity, rest. It’s something we actually feel. A person who has this kind of peace is not easily disturbed. Rather, he senses a mysterious connection with God that draws the strength of the Spirit into every life situation.

For this reason, a supernatural inner tranquility is one of the first assurances we have that God has in fact brought us into His kingdom. At the point where we transition from death to life, His imputed righteousness miraculously changes us. We will feel peace—if not at first with regard to our circumstances, at least with regard to the terrifying holiness of God. In other words, we will feel forgiven.

As we continue through this passage, we see that peace is only one of five tangible evidences of our salvation that Paul describes. The second is grace. When God’s unfathomable mercy collided with His absolute justice on the cross of Christ, it brought the grace of heaven into our lost world in a measure that will never be equaled. But grace did not end there. After we have been justified through Christ, His grace continues to flow into our lives, powerfully equipping us to do all God calls us to do.

Paul speaks of this in II Corinthians 9:8. “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” Again, this is a supernatural phenomenon, something beyond ourselves, and it should be the consistent experience of everyone who has truly entered the kingdom of God.

The third evidence of our right standing with God is that we will “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Said another way, we will be eternity-oriented. Everything we think about and do will be colored by our strong anticipation of the day when Christ’s glory will be fully revealed. It will become the focus of all our choices and the source of our greatest satisfaction. Earthly trials and disappointments will become less and less discouraging. As the songwriter expressed it, “The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Evidence number four is that we will be able to glory in our tribulations. This certainly doesn’t come easily, so Paul gives us some insight into why suffering should be seen as cause for rejoicing. Essentially he tells us that our tribulations are God’s chosen tools to make us like Christ. Perseverance and character and hope are only manifested when circumstances press with great difficulty upon us. We are told that even Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). It is only in the crucible of our suffering that we are made into vessels worthy of bearing the glorious love of God into the world (II Timothy 2:21).

This in fact is the final assurance that we are part of God’s family, that the Holy Spirit pours into and through our hearts the very love that characterizes God Himself. Strong, selfless, “bearing all things and enduring all things” (I Corinthians 13:7), His love in us moves into the death of our world with life-bringing power. No human love can compare to it. Unlike the tolerance that so allures our modern culture, the fierce and uncompromising love of God transforms everything it touches.

And thus I believe we can know with great certainty that we have been radically saved by God’s transforming love. If we truly have been “justified by faith,” we will feel a deep and abiding peace in our spirits that sustains us through the mental and emotional and circumstantial tides which continually wash over us. We will rest in the assurance that His grace will be sufficient for every task He gives. We will live in the light of His glorious hope. We will embrace suffering as His precious gift. Most of all, we will find flowing out of our spirits a supernatural passion to see others brought into the kingdom and raised up into His likeness.

If these five evidences—all of which are profoundly supernatural—are present to at least some degree in your life, then you can know without doubt that you are a recipient of the promise and a bearer of His image. If you do not have this certainty, then I beg you to return to Hebrews 11:6—“He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”—until you experience for yourself the authentic presence and peace and power of God.

October 24, 2010

My Writings

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