Believe, and It’s Yours!

Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

The fact is that prayer is so powerful that it has been exploited and misused by those who have no intentions of serving God. Those who seek after their own selfish desires on this earth have used the very gift God gave us to connect with Him and perverted it, made it into some genie-in-a-bottle formula for getting things. God did not intend prayer to be a vending machine.

Yes, Jesus clearly said that whatever we ask for in His name shall be ours, but we must remember that He said this to His disciples. Jesus made this statement with the understanding that those who heard it had left everything behind to follow Him. They had given up more comfortable lives to serve the Son of God. That doesn’t mean the promise isn’t ours to claim as well, it simply means that there are stipulations attached.

Those who follow Christ and call themselves disciples seek to bring Him honor and glory and in doing so pray for His will. If we are seeking Christ, the desires of our heart will not be selfish and our prayers will reflect the character of God. If we’re walking with the Lord, our desires will be in line with His desires.

Letters from Jesus

2 Corinthians 3:3  And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

We may not always realize the impact our lives have on those of others, but it’s a significant matter.  Our experiences with other people can change the way they think or feel about any number of subjects, including God.  How we represent Christ can make a difference in the way others see Him.

Jesus was sent to this earth as a self-revelation from God.  In Him we see all of the attributes of God in human flesh.  He walked the earth and those who lived during that time saw God for what He is.  Now, Jesus ascended back to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven, so who is left to represent God?

The Holy Spirit was sent to do God’s work in and through us as Christ followers.  Now, we are God’s letters written to human hearts.  We are what people look on and see God’s character (although not perfectly as in the person of Christ).  The Holy Spirit connects our hearts with those of others, helping us bear witness to the work of Jesus and His saving grace.  At times it may not even be something we say or do that draws another to Christ.  It may seem unexplainable how they came to know the Lord through us, but that’s all the more proof that it’s Him doing the work.

The Power of Prayer

Psalm 66:20  Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!

We’ve often heard testimonies given of miracles that have taken place in the lives of those who tell them.  On many of those occasions, the recipient of the miracle gives credit to “the power of prayer”.  The question is: Is this putting us in the place of God? Are we, if only in a veiled way, taking the credit for the miracle because we prayed for it?

Just to be clear, prayer is in fact quite powerful for those who believe (James 5:16).  There are many instances throughout the Bible in which we are called to pray, with faith.  The issue is not the effectiveness of praying, rather it’s about who gets the credit after the prayer has been answered.

We must recognize that when a prayer is answered it is because God chose to respond with favor.  The sovereign Lord is the one who decides what is right for us.  It’s not the act of prayer itself that has granted us what we desire.  It’s not we who have manifested this miracle.  The real power is God’s.

An aroma

2 Corinthians 2:15-16  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,  to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

As followers of Christ, we represent the Lord whether for good or for bad.  What we say and do can have an impact on the faith of other people because we’re agents of God, and for some, the only thing they’ll know of the gospel.  But truth be told, sometimes when we’re at our best, that is, most rightly representing Jesus, people will hate us.  Some people will hate us, not because of something we did wrong, but because of something right in us.  Some people are repelled by the aroma of Christ.

Some will experience the gospel message through us and turn to God, others will sense the gospel message in us and turn away.  The thing is, it’s not our job to make sure that every person gets just the right scent, it’s our job to represent Christ in all we say and do.  Some people will be turned off from this, and there’s nothing we can do about it.  We do none of this on our own.  The responsibility of being a representation of Christ is huge and we just aren’t sufficient in our own strength to carry that out.  The Holy Spirit works in us to make sure that those who will turn to Him see what they need to see.

 

Stop, in the Name of the Law!

Colossians 2:20-23 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”  (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

What is Christianity all about?  Have we vowed to follow Christ only to replace the Old Testament law with new law?  Is this new life just about more rule-following?  Observing some of today’s churches, you would think so!  Sermons so often focus on behavior modification or bettering the life of the Christian through specific actions. Congregants lack the joy of Christ because they fail to keep up with all of the things they are “supposed” to do.

The truth is that no formula for behavior modification will ever work because the root of sin is in our hearts.  No amount of keeping up with strict law or disciplines or rituals will keep us from being what we are: fallen and sinful.  Religion seeks to justify the believer through their actions. True justification comes from Christ (Romans 4:25). Only He can liberate us from sin.

It can make us feel good for a while to try to earn our own merit, but in the end we will always fall short (Romans 3:23). We’ll never be good enough, do enough, deprive ourselves enough to be free from sin. If we fully rely on Jesus it means we trust that His sacrifice was good enough, that we don’t need to be under the law in order to receive forgiveness from God for our transgressions, that He died once, and for all. (Hebrews 7:27-28).

More on this next week…

The Spirit as a guarantee

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us,  and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Paul wrote once about his ability to be content in all situations.  How it is that he was capable of such a steady demeanor, regardless of whether he was in prison or in comfort?  A statement in his second letter to the Corinthians gives some good insight.  He writes to them after his plans changed and he was not able to visit as he would have liked to. His attitude though is one that shows full trust in God.  He speaks of active ongoing action on God’s part (establishes us), completed action (anointed us), and the guarantee that God has given.

Paul could be content because he knew that no matter where he ended up God had sent him. When he was sent, God equipped him. And when he went, God protected him.  He knew the Lord was with him at all times because he had been given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee.  So have we.  God is with us at all times because, as Christians, we are inhabited by the Holy Spirit.  He lives in us and works through us.  We are sealed as God’s own by His Holy Spirit in us.

The Holy Spirit can do great things through us, and that includes granting us boldness to speak the truth and courage because we know we are guaranteed His presence no matter where we are.  We’re never without God because establishes us, equips us, and seals us.

 

The fruit of the Spirit – Self-control

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the spirit is…self-control

“I can’t believe I did it again.” How many times have we all found ourselves in the situation that leads to such a thought? We tried to control ourselves, but that one thing that just always seems to creep back into our lives overtook our willpower once again. Yes, we gave in to temptation.

It’s a likely scenario, both for the nonbeliever and the Christ follower. It can be very difficult to keep our fleshly urges under control, whether those urges are overeating, lusting, drinking heavily, cheating, stealing, lying, or any other number of sins. The difference between us and those who are not redeemed by the blood of Christ through accepting His gift of salvation, is that we have been granted power above what we are humanly capable of possessing. We are not impotent to change our situation. We have the Holy Spirit working in us.

In the matter of self-control, the name given to this trait referenced in the Fruit of the Spirit scripture may be a bit of a misnomer. For it is not really “self” control that we possess, so much as it is “Spirit-control”. We have been given the ability to restrain ourselves through the help of the Holy Spirit living within us, as believers. We are told in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” That one passage is reason enough to believe that we are quite capable of bearing the fruit of self-control in our lives.

Self-control is not about trying our hardest not to sin. Rather, self-control, like the other Fruit of the Spirit, is attained through submission of our lives to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The promise

Pentecost

Luke 24:49  And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.

Before Jesus departed from His disciples to be with His Father, He relayed to them a promise.  This promise caused their entire lives to change.  These ordinary fishermen, tax collectors, and otherwise nobodies took part in the birth of a movement that would turn the world upside down.  That is, after the promise, and after they waited for it.

When Jesus gave His followers the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, He didn’t send them out alone to accomplish His will.  He told them that with his departure would come another.  The Holy Spirit would be poured out on them, just as promised, and they would receive power from God to do everything they needed to do to bring about His purposes.  The power of the Holy Spirit changed them from cowards who ran at the time of Jesus’ arrest and trials to bold evangelists who proclaimed the Gospel to thousands upon thousands.

They waited for this power because they knew Jesus was true to His word.  The man who predicted that He would rise from the dead had more than earned their trust.  They knew the power would come and they knew when He showed up.  There was no reason left to question, only reason to act.  And the Holy Spirit helped them to do that too.

 

The fruit of the Spirit – Gentleness

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the spirit is…gentleness

How are we to react to the aggravating situations that we sometimes face in life? Now answer the question how do we react in those situations. The answers often do not line up with each other.

Using Jesus as an example (see Matthew 11:29), we should always treat others with gentleness. We’ve spoken of kindness, and this differs just slightly. While kindness is more of a way of acting, gentleness brings up more of an idea of a state of spiritual being. While one acts in kindness, one is of gentle spirit.

We are told that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” in Proverbs 15:1, to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” in Ephesians 4:2, and also to”Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” in Philippians 4:5. Our instructions are clear. Be gentle, not harsh. Speak words of love, not hate.

We can bear this fruit through the Holy Spirit living inside of us. And we should let it show to all the world to bring glory to God and to fulfill His will.

The Spirit declares

Pentecost

John 16:13-14  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

In moments where something spiritual that once seemed unclear becomes clear, the Holy Spirit is at work.  Whether it’s a verse of Scripture or something you’re learning through prayer, God is working in you for the purpose of His own glory.  When we need an answer from God, it’s not often that we’d hear an audible voice speak to us.  It’s more likely that we’d “hear” from Him through the person of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit guides us in truth.  He helps us discern right from wrong, allows us to see what sound biblical doctrine looks like, He declares to us what God is revealing. When we’re in need of direction, it’s the Holy Spirit that shows us the way.  When we’re looking for God’s will, it becomes clear (though usually not all at once) by way of the Holy Spirit’s work. He convicts us of sin, leads us in truth, and speaks to us the things of God.

It’s because of the Holy Spirit that we’re able to bring glory to God.  He molds us and shapes us to be of godly character, bearing witness to Christ through our example to others.  He loves others through us, accomplishes the Father’s will through us, and empowers us.  He’s God in us and He’s what other people see of God through us.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known