The Call to Love in a New and Wonderful Way


“Love” is a feel-good word in the English language. We even have a holiday dedicated to it.  But the world does not really know the true meaning of love. Our culture thinks love is to tolerate everything under the sun with open arms and heart, embracing all ideals no matter how destructive or rooted in sin they may be. Sin is thrown to the ground in the name of love.   In the world, love is a feeling and a very unstable emotion. When the feeling is gone, love is gone. Remember the Righteous Brothers’ You Lost that Loving Feeling lyric:  You've lost that lovin' feeling' Whoa that lovin' feeling' You've lost that lovin' feeling', Now its gone, gone, gone
Or the song by Roxette: It Must Have Been Love: It must have been love, but it's over now, It must have been good, but I lost it somehow, It must have been love, but it's over now, From the moment we touched till the time had run out.
The love of the world is here today and gone tomorrow. It fades, it runs out, it becomes barren. I have often wondered as a lawyer, how 2 people can once love each deeply at one time, and a few years later hate each other. There is no root to the love of this world. It does not run very deep and is blown about by the winds of change, and ultimately is incredibly disappointing.

Some definitions of love according to the Urban Dictionary: “An inexplainable yet incredibly strong feeling for someone. Either a horrible disease or a blessing. It is the constant source of pleasure and pain. But we can’t predict which it will be from one moment to the next. However, if it is not returned, you will become the most miserable person in the world. That awkward feeling in what feels like your stomach (affects how you feel and think) which causes you to do/say really stupid things. The reason people kill themselves. Honestly the most painful thing I have ever experienced so far in my life. Making yourself vulnerable to someone, while fully knowing that they may betray you. Avoid if at all possible.”

The world can never know true love without God and does not know what love is. The world today is wrapped up in a counterfeit love that is self-serving, shallow and without boundaries. Love is always spiritual first and is never rooted in the flesh. Love is birthed from the Spirit of God not the spirit of man.

So let’s turn to the Bible to answer the question “what is love?” I John 4:8,16: God is love. What an awe-inspiring truth! In the least common denominator, God is love. God is the only source, and the originator of all true love. He was the first lover. God is perfect, endless and supreme love. Love defines what God is and all His actions. Yahweh is love in perfection to the most minute degree. Every movement of God, every purpose of God, every word of God is the demonstration of perfect love. If you want to see love in action, look at God. God’s creation is stamped with His love. God’s faithfulness, dedication, patience, longsuffering, care, forgiveness, righteousness, justice and sacrifice are all characteristics of love. 

As Christians, we can love our families and love with great brotherly love. But we have the inherent ability to love with the love of God. This is to love in a new spiritual dimension. It is birthed within you when you are born again. The new birth allows us to love in a way and. to a degree that was never available before. I John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

The Greek word translated as “love” is agapao and means a love that is awakened by a sense of value in an object that causes one to prize and treasure it. This love springs from an appreciation of the value and worth of an object, its preciousness. It is to love with wonder and admiration, to cherish with reverence. It is a love that compels one to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of the one being loved. It is to love like God loves; it is to love like Jesus loves.

In John 13, Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment. Verses 34, 35:  34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love (agapao) one another: just as I have loved (agapao) you, you also are to love (agapao) one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love (agapao) for one another.”

“New” is the Greek word “kainos” which means new in kind and quality a completely new model unlike anything that existed before.

Jesus is teaching John 13 what this new love looks like in action. He sets forth three incredible acts of humility, service, and mercy as examples of agapao love. John 13:1ff: Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,[a] but is completely clean. And you[b] are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side,[e] 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus[f] of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 

Agapao love is not only directed toward Yahweh but is focused on community.  It is also about love for neighbor, stranger, countryman, and enemy.  The context of understanding what it means to love is found in my treatment of others, not in my feelings or emotions. Love is displayed in outward action. From a biblical point of view, love does not stand on a foundation of emotions, but rather on a foundation of ethical responsibility.  Love demands specific boundaries for behavior. It is about acting within the confines of what it means to be faithful, trustworthy, and reliable. Love is what delights God and blesses others.  Love is essentially exhibiting the character of God in community. 

Romans 5:5:  Such hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us, because God’s love (agape) has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

When we are born again, God’s agapao is abundantly poured into our hearts. “Poured out” (ekcheo from ek = out + chéo = pour) means literally to pour out, and pictures not a trickle, but a lavish outpouring to the point of overflowing. In other words, God’s love is not rationed out drop by drop but is like a mighty endless current! God’s love comes into us as a brimming and overflowing river, in “immeasurable torrents” , in “unstinting lavishness”. His love in our hearts is like a shower of rain soaking parched ground.  Ekcheo is in the perfect tense which conveys the picture that the “pouring out” began at some point of time in the past (at conversion) and the effects, results, and benefits of that outpouring continue – they have not been withdrawn. God’s love into our hearts is a creative act. It kindles love in us, and love “becomes the moral principle by which we live”

The greatest example of agapao love ever starts with Yahweh:

Romans 5:6-11:  While we were still helpless [powerless to provide for our salvation], at the right time Christ died [as a substitute] for ungodly. Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to willingly give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a good man [one who is noble and selfless and worthy] someone might even dare to die. But God clearly shows and proves His own love (agape) for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified [declared free of the guilt of sin] by His blood, [how much more certain is it that] we will be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more certain, having been reconciled, that we will be saved [from the consequences of sin] by His life [that is, we will be saved because Christ lives today]. 11 Not only that, but we also rejoice in God [rejoicing in His love and perfection] through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received and enjoy our reconciliation [with God].

Yahweh reached out to us when we were helpless, ungodly sinners and sent His Son to die in our place providing reconciliation, justification, and atonement that we can enjoy now and through all eternity.

Let’s cover some verses in the New Testament showing this agapao in action. Remember Biblical agape love is the love of choice, the love of serving with humility, the highest kind of love, the noblest kind of devotion, the love of the will (intentional, a conscious choice) and not motivated by superficial appearance, emotional attraction, or sentimental relationship. Agape is not based on pleasant emotions or good feelings that might result from a physical attraction or a familial bond. Agape chooses as an act of self-sacrifice to serve the recipient. From all of the descriptions of agape love, it is clear that true agape love is a sure mark of salvation. Agape love does not depend on the world’s criteria for love, such as attractiveness, emotions, or sentimentality. Agape is God-like love motivated and energized by God, a love that centers on the needs and welfare of the one loved and will pay whatever personal price is necessary to meet those needs and foster that welfare. We are challenged to live out this highest form of love. How could this be possible except that it be a supernatural endowment?                                                                                                                   

Romans 12:10: Love (agape) is to be sincere and active [the real thing—without guile and hypocrisy].

Without hypocrisy is literally without play-acting, without playing the part. Hypocrite (hupokrites) was “a stage–actor; it was a custom for Greek and Roman actors to speak in large masks hiding who they really were.” Anuopkritos means “without a mask” and thus unfeigned, sincere, genuine, free from deceit, authentic, undisguised, without pretense or sham, “without dissimulation” (KJV) (dissimulate = hide under a false appearance). As alluded to above, in classical Greek drama, the hypokrites was the play-actor who projected an image but hid his true identity behind a mask. Metaphorically and morally, a hypokrites (a hypocrite) is anyone who pretends to be something he is not.

See this in further action in this chapter.

Hate what is evil [detest all ungodliness, do not tolerate wickedness]; hold on tightly to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another with [authentic] brotherly affection [as members of one family], give preference to one another in honor; 11 never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord; 12 constantly rejoicing in hope [because of our confidence in Christ], steadfast and patient in distress, devoted to prayer [continually seeking wisdom, guidance, and strength], 13 contributing to the needs of God’s people, pursuing [the practice of] hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you [who cause you harm or hardship]; bless and do not curse [them]. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty [conceited, self-important, exclusive], but associate with humble people [those with a realistic self-view]. Do not overestimate yourself. 17 Never repay anyone evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and gracious and proper in the sight of everyone. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God’s wrath [and His judicial righteousness]; for it is written [in Scripture], “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for by doing this you will heap [e]burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 13:8-10: Owe nothing to anyone except to love (agapao- and seek the best for one another; for he who [unselfishly] loves his neighbor has fulfilled the [essence of the] law [relating to one’s fellowman]. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and any other commandment are summed up in this statement: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong (kakos-evil, godless, worthless) to a neighbor [it never hurts anyone]. Therefore [unselfish] love is the fulfillment of the Law.

I Corinthians 8:1: Love builds up. Build up-means literally to build, construct or erect a dwelling. Used here as a metaphor meaning to build up, establish, confirm, edify. 

I Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love (agape). “Pursue” (dioko from dío = pursue, prosecute, persecute) means to follow or press hard after, literally to pursue as one does a fleeing enemy. It means to chase, harass, vex and pressure and was used for chasing down criminals. Dioko speaks of an intensity of effort leading to a pursuit with earnestness and diligence in order to obtain. Sprint after. It is a stronger word than “follow.”

I Corinthians 16:14: Let everything you do be done in love (agape)

2 Corinthians 6:4:a,6b: but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way…by genuine love

Galatians 5:6:  For [if we are] in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but only faith activated and expressed and working through love.

Agapao energizes faith. Agapao is the battery for faith. Agapao activates faith. Without agapao, there is no sustaining faith.  

Galatians 5:13,14: For you, my brothers, were called to freedom; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the sinful nature (worldliness, selfishness), but through love (agape) serve and seek the best for one another. 14 For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is fulfilled in one precept, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, you shall have an unselfish concern for others and do things for their benefit].” 15 But if you bite and devour one another [in bickering and strife], watch out that you [along with your entire fellowship] are not consumed by one another.

No selfishness in agapao. Serves and seeks the best for one another. No biting and devouring of one another. We have freedom so we can love like He loves.

Ephesians 3:16-20: 16 May He grant you out of the riches of His glory, to be strengthened and spiritually energized with power through His Spirit in your inner self, [indwelling your innermost being and personality], 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through your faith. And may you, having been [deeply] rooted and [securely] grounded in love (agape), 18 be fully capable of comprehending with all the saints (God’s people) the width and length and height and depth of His love [fully experiencing that amazing, endless love]; 19 and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].

As Christians, we are to be rooted and grounded in agape, comprehending and getting a glimpse of this four-dimensional love of Christ that allows us to be filled and flooded with God Himself in our words and actions.   

Ephesians 4:1,2: So I, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called [that is, to live a life that exhibits godly character, moral courage, personal integrity, and mature behavior—a life that expresses gratitude to God for your salvation], with all humility [forsaking self-righteousness], and gentleness [maintaining self-control], with patience, bearing with one another in [unselfish] love. 

Walk worthy of our calling is to walk in agapao.

Ephesians 4:15,16: But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ. 16 From Him the whole body [the church, in all its various parts], joined and knitted firmly together by what every joint supplies, when each part is working properly, causes the body to grow and mature, building itself up in [unselfish] love.

Agapao allows for us not only to grow and reflect the image of Christ, but this is how the body of Christ works most effectively and grows and matures.

Ephesians 5:1.2: Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

Agapao is to be our lifestyle.

Philippians 1:9:  And it is my prayer that your love (agape) may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.

Abound:  (perisseuo from perissos = abundant, exceeding some number, measure, rank or need, over and above) means to cause to superabound, to be superfluous, to overflow, to be in affluence, to excel or to be in abundance with the implication of being considerably more than what would be expected.

Colossians 3:12-14: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 

Love is the power which holds together all the other virtues. There does not seem to be sufficient reason for regarding it now as a girdle, though the idea is possible. The phrase the bond of perfectness is best understood as meaning that love, in its binding power, gives perfectness, or completeness, to the other virtues in combination. For lacking love they certainly would not be perfect.

I Thessalonians 3:12: And may the Lord cause you to increase and excel and overflow in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;

2 Thessalonians 3:5: May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and into the steadfastness and patience of Christ.

Direct:  means to make straight, to straighten fully, to guide or lead directly straight towards or upon something, to guide one’s way or journey to a place. The idea is that of conducting one straight to a place, and not by a round-about course. Gives a picture of opening up the way by removal of obstacles so that the desired goal may be reached. God “clears the way” and removes the obstacles that Satan had previously placed in his path of return which made that path impassable.

2 Timothy 1:7:  For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].

Hebrews 10:24,25: and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love (agape) and to do good deeds, 25 not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.

Encourage: Stimulate.  Is a strong word that literally means to sharpen. It is literally a jab given to someone so they “must” respond. Figuratively speaks of a sharpening of one’s mind or incitement to some action.

I Peter 1:22: Since by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves for a sincere love of the believers, [see that you] fervently love (agapao) one another from the heart [always unselfishly seeking the best for one another], 

Fervently:  Literally pictures one “stretching out” to love others! It pictures “an intense strain” and unceasing activity which normally involves a degree of intensity and/or perseverance. Stretched out and extended to the limit is the idea. Jowett suggests the picture of the tension and energy of a stringed instrument, “as when the string of a violin has been stretched to a tighter pitch that it might yield a little higher note.”

I Peter 4:8-10: Above all, have fervent and unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins [it overlooks unkindness and unselfishly seeks the best for others]. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10 Just as each one of you has received a special gift [a spiritual talent, an ability graciously given by God], employ it in serving one another as [is appropriate for] good stewards of God’s multi-faceted grace [faithfully using the diverse, varied gifts and abilities granted to Christians by God’s unmerited favor].

Two great love chapters in the Bible. I John may even be called the love epistle.

I John 3:11, 13, 14, 16-18: For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Skip Moen: When God’s great love saturates our lives, we become unexplainable oddities in the world.  We just don’t fit anymore.  We act against expectations.  We think in different ways.  We stand outside the paradigm and are outlaws to the world’s economy.  It is God’s love that makes us strange – so strange that we often appear insanely fanatical and are written off because of this.  Yeshua said much the same thing when he warned his followers not to expect any sympathy from the world.  In fact, the world is our enemy.

I John 4:7ff: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Let’s end with the greatest explanation of agapao love in the Scriptures.

I Corinthians 13:1-13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 

Patient: It means one’s temper is long (as opposed to “short-tempered) and does not give way to a short or quick temper toward those who fail. It describes holding out of the mind for a long time before it gives room to action or passion. The picture of this word is that of a person in whom it takes a long time before fuming and breaking into flames! Trench adds that this word refers to one who has the power to avenge himself and yet refrains from exercising this power. Makrothumeo describes manifesting a state of emotional calm or quietness in the face of provocation, misfortune, or unfavorable circumstances. Love never says, “I’ve had enough.” It suffers indefinitely. It is longsuffering and continues in spite of conduct likely to quench it. This continuance often, but not always, shows itself in restraining anger. Makrothumeo describes especially patience towards people who act unjustly toward us.

Envy: to boil over with jealousy and unrestrained emotions.

Boast: means to talk with conceit or to behave as a braggart or windbag, exhibiting self-display and employing rhetorical embellishments in extolling one’s self excessively. Love doesn’t try to prove itself and say, “Watch how loving I can be” but instead works behind the scenes. Love does not parade its accomplishments. Christian love does not vaunt (is derived from Latin vanus = vain and means to make a vain display of one’s own worth or attainments) oneself so as to parade one’s imagined superiority over others.

Arrogant: (phusioo from phusáo = breathe, blow, inflate from phusa = bellows) means literally to puff up (like a pair of bellows) and is used figuratively to describe one who becomes “inflated”, proud, haughty, or puffed up with pride. It means to cause one to have an exaggerated self-conception. In the passive voice as in this verse phusioo means to become conceited or proud. Love protects us from having an inflated view of our own importance.

or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 

Resentful: Stop “keeping score” is the idea and those of us who are guilty of this sin know exactly what this entails! We may not write it on a notepad, but we keep a mental checklist that’s just as effective and perhaps even more destructive! Agapao has a bad memory. Forgiveness instead of a scorekeeper. How many times have we kept track of the personal affronts, the indiscretions, the unsympathetic acts? A record of wrongs. Yet God says that love does not count a wrong suffered. Love is first forgiving even before the wrong occurs. And if God forgives us, how can we allow our love to be tainted by pluses and minuses? Emotional bank accounts are not found in the institution of love. Resentment is an emotional accounting system. Resentment depends on the perception that I should have been treated differently. When I resent someone’s action toward me, I have already decided that that person did not do what I wanted. I have decided that my assessment of the circumstances is the only correct one and that this person doesn’t meet my standard. Even if I say that I forgive, if I continue to nurse the hurt I simply add interest to my resentment account. Forgiveness means nothing if I still keep score. 

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Love is the foundation and catalyst for both faith and hope. Agapao is a lifestyle, a calling, and embodies the entire gospel. There is nothing greater in this life than imitating our Heavenly Father and His Son and living our lives in the center of God’s unfathomable love. His love is at the center of every calling, every gift, and every purpose of God.

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Mordecai and Esther: The Saving of a Nation

In the book of Esther, we see the incredible example of how the holy desperation of one person can change the course of history. Let me set the stage for you. The people of God lost the presence, provision, and protection of their heavenly Father because they dealt lightly with the things of God. As a result, they were conquered, captured, and spent seventy years in Babylon.

Babylon itself was conquered by a nation called Medo-Persia, and King Cyrus eventually allowed the people of God to return home to rebuild the temple and testimony that they had lost on the earth.

When God has a plan for His people, the devil will come up with a counterplan, and it always involves oppression, threats, and even death. This theme is common all the way through history, and we see it in the book of Esther. Imagine, if those who plotted to kill all the Jewish people in that day had been successful, we can conclude that the temple would not have been rebuilt. Jewish history would be entirely different; in fact, it would have affected all of history!

So, what was God’s plan to thwart this scheme of darkness? Of course, we typically consider Esther to be the marquee player in this whole story because she was the queen. She prayed, fasted, went before the king, and petitioned him. However, I want to suggest to you that the real hero of this story is a man called Mordecai.

Passing the Baton

Now the Persian king had issued a decree that the people of God should be eliminated. When the story reached Mordecai, a family member of Queen Esther—the wife of the king—he began to intercede.

“[Mordecai] tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went as far as the front of the king’s gate, for no one might enter the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth” (Esther 4:1–2). Here was a man whose heart was gripped with holy desperation, but not for himself. That is where prayer finds its power—when we finally get away from our own struggles and trials. This was not just about “God, save me,” but rather “God, save Your people.” He was just a lone voice, dressed in sackcloth and ashes, repenting for the sins of his people as much as he knew how.

Notice that Mordecai went as far as he could physically go. In a sense, this was a picture of someone going as far as he could go in his prayer. He was like a runner in a multi-person relay race. He ran as far as he could and then stretched out the baton to someone in his family who was supposed to be the next runner. The problem is, the next runner did not even know that there was a race, let alone that she was supposed to be the closer of this race! Unfortunately, this is exactly what can happen to us.

“And in every province where the king’s command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. So Esther’s maids and eunuchs came and told her, and the queen was deeply distressed. Then she sent garments to clothe Mordecai and take his sackcloth away from him, but he would not accept them. Then Esther called Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs whom she had appointed to attend her, and she gave him a command concerning Mordecai, to learn what and why this was” (Esther 4:3–5). In other words, “What is going on with my cousin, Mordecai? Why is he doing this?”

Society was turning against the people of God, leaving them seemingly powerless to defend themselves, and Mordecai simply would not accept any comfort. He had holy desperation in his heart. Perhaps he suspected that something dreadful was about to happen if this situation was not somehow countered by the power of prayer.

“So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square that was in front of the king’s gate. And Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries to destroy the Jews. He also gave him a copy of the written decree for their destruction, which was given at Shushan, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her, and that he might command her to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people.

“So Hathach returned and told Esther the words of Mordecai. Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave a command for Mordecai: ‘All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days.’

“So they told Mordecai Esther’s words. And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: ‘Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?'”

(Esther 4:6–13).

There is a fear in the hearts of many people today that will cause them to draw back and try to preserve themselves. But Mordecai said to Esther, “Don’t be fooled into thinking you will escape because you carve out some nice little niche for yourself.” Likewise, this evil is not going to pass over your house either. You have a choice. You either perish, or you fight and invoke Holy God to do what only He can do.

“Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, ‘Go gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!’ So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him”

(Esther 4:15–17).

Thank God that Esther, through the intercession of Mordecai, seriously took up the burden of prayer, throwing her life into it. She opened the door to God’s plan, God’s provision, and God’s power. She did eventually take the baton, but she took it because somebody else began to pray.

It reminds me of the situation where perhaps one might say, “Nobody in my family is walking with God. I am the only one.” If this is something you identify with, I challenge you to go to the King’s gate. Go with holy desperation. Go with the knowledge that only God can make this happen. You may be surprised when you see who rises up to take the baton in your family.

Access to the King

You see, others will not pray if we do not pray. They will not have a burden if we do not have a burden. It is not enough just to try to push somebody else into the arena. No, we must go to the gate. Remember, all it takes is one person with holy desperation in his or her heart to change history. It is the person who declares, “I am not giving up until God moves. I don’t care who tells me to be quiet. I don’t care if people tell me that I am too extreme!”

Esther came out of that time of fasting and prayer with a wholehearted dependence on God, and God gave her incredible wisdom. I believe the Lord told her when to speak, how to speak, what to speak, and why to speak. When you begin to pray and fast, watch the influence God will start to give you over your family, even if you didn’t even know that you were supposed to be in the battle.

Perhaps you have spent most of your life in self- preservation. Your prayers are all about yourself, but today God is challenging you. There is a bigger battle out there, a whole host of people who have no power to defend themselves against evil, and you are in a place where you have access to the throne of the King. They don’t; you do. They do not even know that there is a King who would move His scepter forward toward them. They have no knowledge of the goodness of God because they are so distant from the throne of power.

However, you are in a place where you can go to the King, and the King’s favor will move toward you. The king said, “Queen Esther, what is it that you would have me do for you?” (see Esther 5:3). You and I both know that Esther was seeking to have this law of sin and death canceled over her people, and a new law written that would give them power to stand up and not only fight back but be victorious.

Remember, it was not just about the people in Medo- Persia at that time. It was about those people who would eventually leave Medo-Persia and return to Israel to rebuild the temple and testimony of God. It was a link in the chain that could not afford to be broken in the redemptive history of God on the earth. Thankfully, this incredible link held, and the people of God were delivered. Families were given the power to stand up and fight back against this onslaught of hell—all because of one man who would not quit—one man with holy desperation in his heart.

Ask for Holy Desperation

If you are going to pray for something today, let it be, “God, give me holy desperation. Give me holy desperation for my family. Give me holy desperation for this generation. Give me holy desperation to see Your power released and the weight of darkness that is trying to swallow a whole society pushed back!”

I encourage you—stay in prayer. Whether it is two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, an hour, it does not matter. Stay and pray until the power of God comes upon you. Stay and pray until you see clearly what the will of God is for your life. Stay and pray until you know in your heart that God is going to use you to reach your family. Pray for the family of God and your own family to become engaged in the spiritual battles for people today. Pray that your sons, your daughters, your brothers, your sisters, your mom, your dad would all pick up that sword of the Spirit and begin to fight the battles of God.

Pray that those who are cowering would be given courage. Pray for power to stay faithful until the answer comes, as Mordecai did. Pray, pray, pray, and let’s believe God together that there is going to be a moment of mercy in this world and an end-time spiritual awakening.

Carter Conlan

Times Square Church

http://sermons.tsc.nyc/holy-desperation/newsletter/english/

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Watch and Pray: The Admonition for 2022

Jesus, facing the greatest spiritual and physical battle of his life, taught us some great truths in the Garden of Gethsemane that should be our goal as we face the challenges of 2022. His words are a precious reminder that no matter how big or dark the challenges ahead of us might seem, we can take action to remain faithful to Him and His Word and refuse to be shaken or dismayed.

Matthew 26:36-46: Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 39 And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. 40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

“Watch and pray” is the daily call for the Christian believer in 2022. This is our sacred duty and is fundamental to our Christian walk. We cannot sleep our life away physical or spiritually. Jesus Christ is still asking us every day “Can’t you watch with me for one hour?” Jesus Christ’s most intimate disciples that lived with him and he taught daily, fell asleep and failed to watch and pray with him during this crucial time. This is not an easy task, but it is a vital task if we want to grow in our Christian walk and have an impact on the world around us. We cannot shine as lights in this wicked world unless we watch and pray. We cannot be the salt of the earth unless we watch and pray. We cannot carry out our calling as an ambassador for the Lord Jesus Christ if we don’t watch and pray. It is the foundation of all spiritual warfare: Stay awake, be alert, watch and pray in complete trust to God never doubting his faithfulness to do what He promised to do.   

Keep watching from egeiro = to arise, arouse) pictures a sleeping man rousing himself from slumber and so means to refrain from sleep and by default to be awake, alert, and watchful. A secular use of gregoreuo described a person carefully crossing a river while stepping on slippery stones. If they did not pay strict attention to their steps, they would end up in the water (compare “enter into temptation”). The disciples are to remain alert, watchful, ready to meet the danger and be quick to perceive and act. We are to be in a constant state of readiness and vigilant, alertly watchful, especially to avoid danger as this word suggests intense, unremitting, wary watchfulness; We are to be watchful and ready to respond to external influences, focused, alert for the winds of temptation or overt attacks of evil. We are to remained alert lest we be deceived by the devil the deceiver or sin which is deceitful.

 Gregoreuo is in the present imperative, which is a charge to continually stay awake! Jesus is saying that it is imperative that we not become indolent and lazy and let down our guard or we will become easy prey for our inveterate, intractable enemies – the world, the flesh and the devil. The internal and external forces that come against us demand us to be alert and vigilant. Jesus is calling His disciples to be on the alert, maintaining a constant state of vigilance (vigilance suggests intense, unremitting, wary watchfulness; keenly alert to or heedful of trouble or danger as others are sleeping or unsuspicious).

Puritan John Owen explains that keeping watch means…

as much as to be on our guard, to take heed, to consider all ways and means whereby an enemy may approach to us… (this watchfulness requires) a universal carefulness and diligence, exercising itself in and by all ways and means prescribed by God, over our hearts and ways, the baits and methods of Satan, the occasions and advantages of sin in the world, that we be not entangled, is that which in this word is pressed on us.

Vincent comments on the significance of Jesus’ using the illustration of an awake, alert doorkeeper in this parable writing that

“In the temple, during the night, the captain of the temple made his rounds, and the guards had to rise at his approach and salute him in a particular manner. Any guard (doorkeeper) found asleep on duty was beaten, or his garments were set on fire.” (Greek Word Studies)

Mark it down that the Christian who is not alert to the enemy’s attack is in for trouble. Don’t misunderstand… we are not to look for a demon behind every bush. We are simply called to a continual state of spiritual alertness. We are setting ourselves up to succumb to a spiritual attack if we do not watch.

What should we watch for? The enemy’s strategy and movement; the flesh vs. the spirit in our walk, the influence of the kosmos, the basics of spiritual warfare, and the return of Christ. Watch that we are on guard and do not succumb. We don’t want to be fooled or bamboozled. We don’t want to be susceptible to a sneak attack.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu says: If you know the enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle

Praying from pros = toward, facing, before [idea of definiteness and directness in prayer with the consciousness on the part of the one praying that he is talking face to face with God] + euchomai = originally to speak out, utter aloud, express a wish, then to pray or to vow. In the NT is always used of prayer addressed to God (to Him as the object of faith and the One who will answer one’s prayer) and means to speak consciously (with or without vocalization) to Him, with a definite aim. Proseuchomai encompasses all the aspects of prayer — submission, confession, petition, supplication (may concern one’s own need), intercession (concerned with the needs of others), praise, and thanksgiving.

The commands to watch and pray precede the warning about temptation. In other words, don’t wait until the temptation comes to begin to watch and pray. Watch and pray before the temptation comes! Then you are ready to deal with the temptation and much more likely to come through the testing time victoriously.

Wiersbe comments on watch and pray noting it is like saying “Pray with your eyes open”… The familiar phrase “watch and pray” goes back to when Nehemiah was leading the people in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and restoring the gates. The enemy did not want the holy city to be rebuilt, so they used fear, deceit, and every kind of ruse to hinder the work. What was Nehemiah’s defense? “Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them [the enemy] we set a watch against them day and night” (Neh. 4:9NKJV). Jesus (Mt 26:41Mk 13:33), Paul (Col 4:2), and Peter (1Pe 4:7) commanded God’s people to “watch and pray,” to be on guard and pray with intelligence and alertness. We are soldiers in a battle and we dare not go to sleep while on duty. (Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament)

Are we underestimating the importance and power of prayer in the Christian life? Is prayer more of a brief mental gymnastics exercise that we keep short and sweet or is it a vital link with our Heavenly Father, a conduit for his mighty power to be manifested to the world. Has our prayer life fizzled out, pushed to the back by other priorities in our busy life? Do we go through the motions when we pray, but have failed to understand its significance in the Christian walk?

Eric Ludy in Wrestling Prayer says:

God’s vision of prayer is more epic, more majestic,  and more grand…Prayer is aggressive, growling, attacking, commanding, persevering, passionate, and feverishly unrelenting-its battlefield firing as if every utterance is chirping away at enemy strongholds and every petition is moving God’s indomitable purposes forward in the natural…realm. Prayer is nuclear in its power and revolutionary in its effect.

Does our prayer life reflect this magnificent power of God and shake the foundations of the earth or do we just produce a few sparks that soon fade away? Jesus says, “when you pray, believe…” and Paul prays in Ephesians that we might know “the immeasurable greatness of his (God’s) power for us who believe.” Prayer brings the immeasurable greatness of God’s power into our circumstances, into our fellowships, into our communities and into the world. Prayer cannot be reduced to a simple ritual where we go through the motions. It has to be more than a few words of grace before a meal or a few seconds of words before we fly out the door. Prayer is not spiritual-sounding chit-chatter but is birthed in the heart of God and wrapped in His power. Prayer changes everything.

E.M. Bounds in “Prayer Has No Substitutes” says:

Prayer is the greatest of all forces because it honors God and brings him into active aid.  There can be no substitute, no rival for prayer,  it stands alone as the great spiritual force, and this force must be imminent and acting…Many believe in the efficacy of prayer, but not many pray. Prayer is the easiest and hardest of all things; the simplest and the sublimest; the weakest and the most powerful; its results lie outside the range of human possibilities-they are only limited by the omnipotence of God.  

Prayer has not diminished in power or importance. Prayer is still indispensable to Christian living, and we must elevate our vision of prayer and utilize this mighty key daily.

Eric Ludy in Wrestling Prayer says:

We have far more faith in the power of the enemy to defeat us than we do in the power of our God to deliver us, change us, empower us, and demonstrate His mighty nature in and through us…I refuse to have a form of godliness that denies the power thereof. I                  want the real thing, not some trumped-up show of emotion, not some Christian light show, not some sugarcoated sermon about God loving me still even though I am covered in filth and once again trounced under the feet of my enemies. I want the ancient power that coursed through the veins of Joshua, the ancient strength that stirred within the soul of Gideon, the ancient passion that overcame Josiah, and the ancient courage that gushed forth from the soul of Daniel. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to accept our modern rendition of Christian mediocrity as God’s best for His church. I read the Bible and my soul is stirred…Countless millions of so-called Christians are frittering their lives away in a powerless, defeated, miserable wilderness of half-doubts, sinful bondage, and paralyzing fears. They have God, but they only have the crumbs of His person. They have life, but it’s a life upon a hospital bed, intravenously being maintained by selfish consumption and fleshly addictions. I refuse this hollow form of life and godliness. I yearn for something more, something better, something real.”

Chrysostom: “The potency of prayer hath subdued the strength of fire; it hath bridled the rage of lions, hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, assuaged diseases, repelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt.”

The first great purpose of watching and praying is that we enter not into temptation.

Enter: entrance into any condition; to come into existence, to come and go freely. It denotes one mode of living and acting. It denotes to come to life and to take the road to enter.

James 1:13ff: Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

We enter into temptation when we are lured and enticed by the desires of the flesh. Once we enter in a conception takes place and sin is birthed. There is no 9-month waiting period. Sin is birthed immediately.

We will all be tempted we just do not to enter into it to bring it to life so it becomes the way we act and live.

Enter into temptation. It becomes our sphere of action.

Temptation isn’t just going to come at you; you’re going to sink into it. It’s going to conquer you if you don’t watch and pray.

Jesus set forth the universal principal of life while we await His second coming. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh (sarx) is weak.”

There are 2 basic definitions of sarx, the first being the physical body (“flesh and blood”). The other main meaning of sarx is flesh in its moral, ethical sense. Flesh in this sense denotes fallen human nature apart from divine influence and even opposed to God and godliness.  The expression of the “anti-God energized” flesh is through the instrument of the physical body (“flesh and blood”), which is itself morally neutral but is the instrument of either righteousness or unrighteousness (cf Romans 6:12). In sum, flesh refers to man’s unredeemed humanness, acting apart from God and the Spirit of Christ, and in total subjection to the power of sin.

You are about to face the most serious, difficult, threatening temptation and test of your life. And you’re going to sleep in preparation for that? They slept three times in spite of three warnings: “Stay awake, stay awake, stay awake.” And the result is in Matthew 26:56, “Then all the disciples left him and fled.” That’s what you get for sleeping. That’s how much power you have, if you just sleep through the war. Jesus fought the battle and he won. What were they doing while he was fighting the battle? They were sleeping.

Be a vigilant man. Don’t be a lazy man. Don’t be a slacker. Get up. Get a vision. Be intentional. Don’t sleep your life away. It is remarkable to me here that when he says, “The flesh is weak and the spirit is willing,” he’s not mainly talking about sex. He’s talking about weariness. You’re just too tired to read your Bible, too tired to lead the family in any kind of moral enterprise, too tired to go to church, too tired to talk to anybody. You just think to yourself, “I just want to go home and sit.” You will be a sitting duck for the Devil if you yield to that kind of lifestyle.

We often experience the weakness of our flesh in the strength of its sinful cravings and compulsions. But in Christ, God sets us free not only from the penalty of our sin (Colossians 2:14), but also from the power of our sin that remains very active in our flesh (Romans 8:2Romans 7:23):

Jesus gives us his Spirit to empower us to walk in “newness of life” (Romans 6:4) so that we no longer are enslaved to cravings and compulsions of our flesh (Galatians 5:16).Sin-penalty paid, Spirit-power imparted, and the kingdom inherited (Matthew 25:34), all because our King is so gracious and lavishly generous. What a gospel!

When it comes to resisting the powerful demands of our weak flesh, the Bible describes it as dying (1 Peter 2:24). That’s because our deceived, corrupt flesh believes our life will be happier if we gratify it. Denying it can feel like dying to something life-giving. We must remember every day that “nothing good dwells in [us], that is, in [our] flesh” (Romans 7:18). When we, in following the Spirit’s direction, die to our flesh, we are dying only to what would destroy us, things like “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness” (Colossians 3:5).

When our weak flesh seems to wield great power through its cravings and compulsions, we must watch and pray for the Spirit, for greater is he that is in the new (regenerate) us than he that is in the old us. Today, when your unruly flesh makes maddening demands on you, remember: It will not kill you to die to your flesh. You are choosing life.

Habakkuk 2:1-3: I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Watch and listen to the Master. Run with the vision. and purpose He has given you, wait for its full manifestation. Let Him complete its work in you.

He won the battle of Gethsemane. They lost it. But clearly this story is in the Bible so that we can watch all of that and be ready for the battle of Gethsemane. That is, be ready to move with Jesus into his saving work. To join him in making the greatest difference in the world. And the point of Gethsemane for our lives is: “Come with me into this battle. I have done, and will do, the decisive work of turning the human heart to myself. But I intend to win this battle with you at my side, speaking my word. I didn’t invite Peter, James, and John into my warfare for nothing. I didn’t warn them about the weakness of their flesh and call them to vigilance and prayer for nothing. I did it for you. I intend for you to fight and suffer and triumph with me. Do you want to make a difference in this world? He has taught you in Gethsemane how to fight. He says, “Rise, let us be going.”

Look at the secret of Charles Simeon, who endured great hardships in his powerful 54-year pastorate in Cambridge (1782–1836). His friend, T. Housman, stayed with him for a few months and tells us something of this man’s devotion: Never did I see such consistency, and reality of devotion, such warmth of piety, such zeal and love. . .Invariably he arose every morning, though it was the winter season, at four o’clock; and after lighting his fire, he devoted the first four hours of the day to private prayer and the devotional study of the Scriptures. . . Here was the secret of his great grace and spiritual strength. Deriving instruction from such a source, and seeking it with such diligence, he was comforted in all his trials, and prepared for every duty.

It is true for individuals. And it is true for churches. No prayer, no power. And we need spiritual power. Consider the first quote (above) from Mark 9. There are spiritual forces that Jesus says are very hard to overcome. His disciples asked, “Why could we not cast it out?” Jesus answered, “Insufficient prayer!” What did he mean? Probably not that they hadn’t prayed over the demonized boy, but that they had not lived in prayer. They had been caught in a prayer-less period of life. Notice: Jesus cast out the demon without praying: “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” But Jesus had prayed. He lived in prayer. He was ready when evil came. But the disciples had become weak and negligent in their praying. And they were powerless in the face of strong evil forces. “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” In other words, without persistent prayer we have no offense. As a church we are meant to invade and plunder the strongholds of Satan. But no prayer, no power. The same is true of defense: Continue steadfastly in prayer.  There is so much power to be had in persevering prayer. Don’t forget the “impudent friend” of Luke 11:8 and don’t forget the parable Jesus told to the effect that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1–8). Perseverance is the great test of genuineness in the Christian life. O, let us be a praying church, and let 2022 be saturated with prayers to the Lord of the harvest. Won’t it be great to say in the end, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)?  Be watchful in your prayers. This means, be alert! Be mentally awake! We must be on the watch as we pray — on the watch against a wandering mind, against vain repetitions, against trite and meaningless expressions, against limited, selfish desires.

I Corinthians 16:13: Be on the alert, Stand firm in the faith, Act like men, Be strong. Paul like a general keenly aware of the real spiritual war surrounding every saint, uses four Greek military terms to issue a staccato command (all in the imperative mood) to the church at Corinth (and the churches of every age) and all in the present tense (continuously) calling for each to be the habitual practice for the rest of our lives! (Note: “be on the alert” = gregoreuo) All saints are to be on guard at all times. They are not to give up an inch of vital territory. They are to behave with true courage.

I Peter 5:8: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 

MacArthur: We must have an attitude of vigilant defense.  The reason we to watch and pray, trust God and humble ourselves under His almighty hand, is because our adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.  Peter says be on the alert, be watchful.  It’s an aorist imperative, stay awake, be ready, be alert, watch out.  The outside forces that come against us demand us to be alert, vigilance.  The enemy, by the way, is very subtle.  According to 2 Corinthians chapter 11 he disguises himself as an angel of light and his ministers as angels of light.  He very rarely shows himself for who he is.  He almost always masks himself as a religious personality, almost always endeavoring somehow in some way to be able to approach you subtly so that you can’t recognize the reality of who he is. But let’s find out about him.  Let’s find out why it’s so very, very important to be alert.  Your adversary, the devil: That introduces us to the enemy in spiritual warfare; a very personal designation, by the way, your adversary the devil.  He’s not only the adversary of God, he’s not only the adversary of holy angels, but he is your adversary as well.  “Adversary,” by the way, is a legal Greek word that means the legal opponent in a lawsuit in a technical sense.   So you have an enemy and you better be alert.  Even though you can trust God and entrust yourself to God, you need to be alert to the enemy in general. This enemy here is called the devil, diabolos, slanderer.  The term diabolos or slanderer means a malicious enemy who slanders.  It can even go beyond that and mean a malicious enemy who attacks.  He is also called destroyer and he is called Abaddon and Apollyon and both of those terms mean destroyer.  He is the slanderer.  He is the accuser.  He is the destroyer.  And he is prowling about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. He’s always active and he’s always looking for an opportunity to overwhelm us.  His aim is to sow discord, to break fellowship, to accuse God to men, to accuse men to God, to accuse men to each other, to undermine confidence, to silence confession, to get us to stop serving God.  He’s always after us.  He is called in John’s gospel three times the prince of this world.  He commands the human system.  So as he is moving around seeking whom he may devour, it is not that you have to come into contact with him individually to fall prey because he orchestrates a whole realm of demon beings and he orchestrates and controls the whole world’s system.  And so from his seat as prince of the world he orchestrates an environment which in and of itself can devour us. He is also called the prince of the power of the air by Paul in Ephesians chapter 2.  The power of the air means the supernatural demonic power that exists in the universe.  He commands that so he commands the human system, the cosmos, the world and he commands the air, the supernatural sphere in which demons move.  And so he individually and he through his demons and through his system is prowling about like a roaring lion wanting to devour someone. That’s Satan’s ploy, to move through the world to find somebody he can consume.  The prowling, roaring lion is a symbol of viciousness in Scripture.  I would just commend to you Psalm 22 verse 13, that Messianic Psalm talking about how the “bulls of Bashan have encircled me,” referring to Christ being encircled by those who hated Him at His cross. “They opened wide their mouth at Me like a ravening and a roaring lion.”  That’s a picture of viciousness, of maliciousness.  That same expression is used elsewhere in the Psalms with the same intent of one who would be vicious.  Psalm 104 verse 21, “The young lions roar after their prey.” So, Satan is going after his prey. He’s going out to consume.  He’s going out to chew someone up. That’s his goal. Satan is moving around wanting to take someone and literally rip that person to shreds, looking for someone to devour.  Satan’s goal is to devastate.  And you must understand that the objective of his devastation, listen very carefully, is not unbelievers for obvious reasons, right?  He already possesses them.  He wanted somebody like Job who named the name of God. And I believe that he goes after people who name the name of God, wanting to destroy, tear up, devastate.  Even though obviously he cannot take away their salvation, he can destroy their life, he can destroy their testimony, he can devastate them.

You better be on the alert because you have a personal adversary, an enemy, the slanderer, diabolos, Abaddon, Apollyon, the destroyer who is moving all over the earth with one goal in mind, finding people who name the name of Christ and wanting to tear them to shreds and destroy them.  You better be alert. The strategy of Satan is to oppose and attack the name of Christ, destroy His name, destroy His character, destroy anything that names His name so that you discredit Him and cause people to turn their back on Him. 

Now what is the program of warfare?  How does it work?  Let me take you a little deeper into that.  First of all, how does Satan deal with non-Christians?  Simply stated in Revelation chapter 12 verse 9, he deceives them.  He comes down and deceives the whole world.  He blinds their minds, 2 Corinthians 4:3 and 4, so the light of the glorious gospel doesn’t shine unto them.  He deceives them through ignorance, unbelief, false religion, love of sin, fleshly gratification.  He deceives them by developing a cosmos and a system that looks alluring, inviting, pleasurable, fulfilling.  And he comes at them through the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.

What is the lust of the eyes?  I see it, I want it.  What is the lust of the flesh?  I feel it, I want it.  And the pride of life. And he moves in developing a deceptive system.  When unbelievers sin, it isn’t that Satan is there making them sin, it is that Satan has concocted the system that is infested with his demons who keep it moving down its hellish, deceptive path and it makes victims out of the human race.

1. Set aside a time and a place each day, and don’t leave it to chance.

The devil defeats most praying before it happens because we didn’t make a plan. If you don’t plan — believe me — you won’t pray. I have been at this a long time, and the devil hates me and my prayer life. You wouldn’t believe how many good things keep me from praying — not sin. Sin does not keep me from praying; righteousness keeps me from praying: answering holy emails or just checking out one more piece of relevant news to pray about at whatever news service you click on. It’s not evil that keeps us from praying; it’s good things. And the devil is shrewd to the bottom. So pick a place, and pick a time, and show up.                                                                                                                                     

2. Combine your praying with reading the Bible.

Take what you read in the Bible and turn it into prayer, because your brain, if it’s a typical human brain, will have a very hard time holding a train of thought while you pray with no help from the Bible. Try it for just ten minutes without your brain flipping out on the dust you see on the venetian blinds. Just try it. Satan is wicked in his goodness. He might whisper, “It needs to be dusted. It wouldn’t be sin to get up and dust it, would it?” Use the Bible and turn the Bible into prayer. Read, pray; read, pray; read, pray; read, pray as long as you want to or as long as you can.

3. Pray from the inside out or visa versa.

You can either pray from the outside in or the inside out. Start your prayers:

  • Have mercy upon me. Convict me. Kill my fleshly lusts. Change me. Guard me. Humble me. Destroy those aspects of me.  And then you move out from me to my family. Then I move out to you, the church. And then I move out from there to the wider movement of Christ around the world — our missionaries and the whole global cause of Christ. And then I move out from there to the political-historical arena of the world. Or you could go the other direction and move from the outside in. If you wonder why I don’t put God in the middle, it’s because he’s in every circle. And the main point of every circle is “hallowed be thy name.”

Structure Isn’t Legalism

The hard truth is we Christians don’t do very well. We don’t pray very much. We pray at meals maybe, unless we are still stuck at the adolescent stage that thinks good habits are legalism. We may whisper prayers before a tough meeting that we’re walking into. We may throw God a kiss as we crawl into bed. But we don’t set aside significant, regular, daily, disciplined time to pray in those ways much. And we don’t think it’s worth it to meet with others to pray, by and large. And we wonder, “Why is my faith weak? Why is my hope feeble? Why is my passion for Christ small?” And meanwhile, across these rooms, the devil is whispering in your ear, “The pastor is getting legalistic now. He’s moving into the legalistic phase of the sermon. He’s starting to use guilt now. He’s getting the law out now.” That’s what he’s saying. To which I say, to hell with the devil and all of his destructive lies.  Is intentional, regular, disciplined, earnest, Christ-dependent, God-glorifying, joyful prayer a duty — a discipline?  It’s a duty the way it’s a duty for a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater. It’s a duty the way pilots should listen to air traffic controllers. It’s a duty the way soldiers in combat should clean their rifles and load their guns. It’s a duty the way hungry people eat food. It’s a duty the way thirsty people drink water. It’s a duty the way a deaf man puts on his hearing aid. It’s a duty the way a diabetic takes his insulin. I hate the devil. I hate the way he is killing some of you by persuading you it’s legalistic to do regular, set-aside, disciplined praying. I hate the devil and the way he’s killing you, telling you that it is legalistic to be as regular in your prayers as you are in eating your food, in sleeping, in internet use. Is it legalistic to eat three times a day? You sleep every night for goodness’ sake. Mix it up. The devil is laughing up his sleeve at how easy he can take out Christians. You should just look at him and say, “I’m older than that. I’m not in fifth grade anymore. I’ve grown up a little bit. Get out of my life. I’ve got work to do, because I am a sinner in desperate need of talking to my King every day. If I don’t set a time and a place, I’m a goner.” If we don’t eat, we starve. If we don’t drink, we die of thirst. If we don’t exercise a muscle, it atrophies. If we don’t breathe, we suffocate. And just as there are physical means of life, there are spiritual means of grace. It’s so simple. So many of you are trying to live your life spiritually without breathing, eating, drinking, exercising, and you wonder, “What’s wrong? It’s your fault, God.” It’s not his fault.                                             

Watchfulness and prayer are inseparable. The one discerns dangers, the other arms against them. Watchfulness keeps us prayerful, and prayerfulness keeps us watchful. To watch without praying is presumption, to pray without watching is hypocrisy. The eye that sees clearly the facts of life will turn upwards from its scanning of the snares and traps and will not look in vain. These two are the indispensable conditions of victorious encountering of temptation.

Each of us must ask: What is my Achilles heel? We need to know our on the Lord for His help, we will be protected from “the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16). Leave no unguarded place, no weakness of the soul: Take every virtue, every grace and fortify the whole-Wesley.

Never forget to watch for his return:

Mark 13:31-37: Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. 32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. 33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.34 For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. 35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

We watch and pray with Him and are never taken by surprise with His return. We are ready, we are alert, we are engaged in wrestling prayer, we stand against the onslaughts of our enemy, knowing the final victory is coming. We are deceived by our enemy but stand in the evil day until the final trump sounds.

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Shepherds and Wise Men

God chose two groups of people who had the privilege of seeing the Messiah, the Savior, and the future King in person. It should be noted that it was not a king, a high priest, a religious Pharisee or Sadducee, or an emperor that received the invitation. It was not in the Temple or the court of a king or on the political or cultural stage. God chose cultural outcasts and Gentiles to partake in the greatest moment in history in a stable and a simple home. The world was too preoccupied to be listening and too prideful to be shown the glory of God. Christmas is truly a celebration of joy as God moved not in culture or religion or politics but in the hearts of common people who were humble to see and obey the heavenly vision from Yahweh.    

Luke 2:7,8:  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 

The irony is that shepherds with no name given were to hear the announcement of the coming of the Chief Shepherd whose Name would be above every name. Normally the birth of a prince would be announced to kings and other dignitaries, but this “princely” announcement was given to lowly shepherds, not to priests, rulers, kings, Pharisees nor Scribes, not to the great men of Israel but common shepherds, who as a class were actually considered as “outcasts” by the Jewish hierarchy!

John MacArthur on shepherds – The good news of the Savior’s birth came first to a most unlikely group of people. Shepherds were near the bottom of the social ladder. They were uneducated and unskilled, increasingly viewed in this era as dishonest, unreliable, unsavory characters, so much so that they were not allowed to testify in court. Because sheep required care seven days a week, shepherds were unable to fully comply with the man-made Sabbath regulations developed by the Pharisees. As a result, they were viewed as being in continual violation of the religious laws, and hence ceremonially unclean. That is not to say, however, that being a shepherd was an illegitimate or disreputable occupation. Two of the greatest figures in Israel’s history, Moses (Ex. 3:1) and David (1 Sam. 16:11–13), were shepherds at some point in their lives. Moreover, the Old Testament refers metaphorically to God as the “Shepherd of Israel” (Ps. 80:1; cf. 23:1Isa. 40:11), while Jesus described Himself as the “good shepherd” (John 10:1114; cf. Heb. 13:201 Peter 2:255:4). Shepherds were, however, lowly, humble people; they certainly were not the ones who would be expected to receive the most significant announcement in history. That they were singled out to receive this great honor suggests that these shepherds were devout men, who believed in the true and living God. Such people are later described as those who were “looking for the consolation of Israel” (Lk 2:25) and the “redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38).

Kent Hughes – According to the Mishnah, shepherds were under a ban. They were regarded as thieves. (Quoting from TDNT, Vol 6, pp 488-491) The only people lower than shepherds at that particular time in Jewish history were lepers. God comes only to those who sense their need. He does not come to the self-sufficient. The gospel is for those who know they need Jesus! There was the unbelievable appearance of a real angel to shepherds. In the eyes of many, an angel would never appear to a shepherd. Shepherds would seldom be found praising and worshiping God; as a result, they were looked upon as anything but worshippers. Their reputation was lowly at best, and religious people snubbed and ignored them. They were despised because they were unable to attend services and to keep the ceremonial laws of washing and cleansing. Their flocks just kept them too busy. What a beautiful foretaste of the salvation to come: God gave the first message of His Son to common shepherds, those looked upon as sinners.

Shepherding had changed from a family business as in David’s time (1 Sam. 16:11) to a despised occupation. Many shepherds were accused of robbery and using land they had no rights to. Shepherding was also a lonely occupation, particularly at night, as a shepherd stood his watch, making sure sleeping sheep did not wake up and wander and that prowling predators did not attack and devour the sheep. Only God would visit those in such a low occupation and raise them to witness to his salvation. Yet, shepherds had a tender side, counting the sheep constantly (Jer. 33:12-13), lifting the weak on their shoulders (see Isa. 40:11), and creating crude pens where the sheep could sleep (John 10:1). (Ibid)

Lenski adds “The question is still asked skeptically as to why these shepherds should have been selected for the angel’s announcement. The answer is as simple to the believer as it ever was: because God found them the kind of people to whom he could communicate such news.”

Have you ever considered why the text does not read (Luke 2:8), “Now there were in the same region scribes and Pharisees, keeping watch over their scrolls and religious rituals”? Nor does it say, “There were in the same region kings and princes keeping watch at the palace.” God chose to reveal the birth of the Savior to simple shepherds. Shepherds had not been schooled in the law and thus were considered ignorant. According to another Jewish treatise, help was not to be offered to shepherds and heathen (see Godet, Luke [I. K. Funk & Co., 1881], p. 81). God chose shepherds to show that…The gospel is for the simple, not for the sophisticated. God puts His cookies on the bottom shelf. Because of that, the sophisticated and scholarly sometimes miss the truth of it. They’re looking too high; it’s beneath them to stoop to the lowest shelf, and so they miss what God offers freely to all. If it were any other way, men could boast before God. If the gospel were some complicated philosophy that required a high I.Q. and years of study to grasp, then those who had attained it could congratulate themselves on how much more intelligent they were than the rest of the population. Those who were illiterate or not as intellectually gifted as others could never hope to qualify for salvation. But the beauty of the good news about Christ is that it was first announced to lowly shepherds. They probably couldn’t read and write. They weren’t leadership material. But God’s love in Christ extended to them. The danger is that we will miss the gospel because it is so simple.

2 Corinthians 11:3: But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Verse 9: And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.

Shift the spotlight once more from earth’s lowly shepherds enduring a dark night to heaven’s most glorious messenger. With the angel came God’s glory, his shining majesty, the side of God humans can see and to which they can respond in confession, worship, and praise (see Isa. 60:1-3).

And the glory of the Lord shone around them – Can you imagine this? In this passage, the glory points toward the visible and manifest divine presence. One is reminded of John’s description which all believers will one day be privileged to behold “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Rev 21:23ff).

Glory in simple terms means to give a proper opinion or estimate of something and thus the glory of God expresses all that He is in His Being and in His nature, character, power and acts. He is glorified when He is allowed to be seen as He really is which is exactly what this angel did! To be where God is will be glory. To be what God intended will be glory. To do what God purposed will be glory. Glory refers to the majesty and splendor accompanying God’s presence (Ex 16:724:17Psalm 63:2Isaiah 40:5). Glory of the Lord – this phrase occurs 38x in 37v most of the occurrences being in the Old Testament – the manifestation of God’s presence among His people. Utley observes that “This phrase is often used in the Septuagint to denote the glorious personal presence of YHWH 

And they were terribly frightened – Fallen finite men are frightened by the sight of the normally invisible spiritual realm! NET Note comments that the Greek phrase (phobeo phobos megas) literally reads “they feared a great fear”  which is a Semitic idiom that intensifies the main idea, in this case, their fear.” Those who experience the presence of the holy God are acutely aware of their sinfulness. Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5),                                                                                                                                                                                              This Christmas song captures the moment: “O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth; Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.” 

Back then no one thought God would be interested in shepherds, or that shepherds would be interested in God. Shepherds were notoriously irreligious, ranked by the rabbis with prostitutes and other “habitual sinners.” They were outcasts, barred from the synagogue and polite society. They assumed that God would never accept them, and they feared Him. But God spoke to them. I think He knew that these shepherds, like so many people who appear indifferent to spiritual things, were quietly longing for God. All of us have a longing for something more. And no matter how hard we try to appear self-sufficient, sooner or later we run out of something essential—love, money, time, or life. Isolation, loneliness, and fear of death lead us to acknowledge our need for a Savior.

Luke 2:10: And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 

They did not have to be afraid because the “Gospel is coming, good news. The Gospel elicits joy, not fear. Joy is the inward feeling of happiness and contentment that bursts forth in rejoicing and praise. Joy comes not just to lowly shepherds or isolated parents far from home. Joy comes to all people. In the most unlikely place amid the most unlikely spectators, God brushed aside the world’s fears and provided the world reason for joy (Isa. 9:3). Joy centers not on something you earn or possess. Joy comes from God’s gift, a tiny baby in a feed trough.

I bring you good news – We need not wonder at these words. The spiritual darkness which had covered the earth for four thousand years was about to be rolled away. The way to pardon and peace with God was about to be thrown open to all mankind. The head of Satan was about to be bruised (Gen 3:15). Liberty was about to be proclaimed to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind (Lk 4:18). The mighty truth was about to be proclaimed that God could be just, and yet, for Christ’s sake, justify the ungodly (Ro 3:26). Salvation was no longer to be seen through types and figures, but openly, and face to face (Col 2:16,17). The knowledge of God was no longer to be confined to the Jews but to be offered to the whole Gentile world.

I bring good news (I evangelize to you) (euaggelizo/euangelizo from eu = good, well + aggéllo = proclaim, tell; English = evangelize) Euaggelizo was often used in the Septuagint for preaching a glad or joyful message (1Sam. 31:92 Sa 1:204:10). Isaiah 52:7 How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news (Lxx = euaggelizo), Who announces peace And brings good news (Lxx = euaggelizo) of happiness, Who announces salvation), And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah  61:1+ The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news (Lxx = euaggelizo) to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; 

Euaggelizo/euangelizo in the NT refers especially to the glad tidings of the coming kingdom of God and of salvation obtained through Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Gospel is always good news of great joy.

Great joy: Joy comes from the word grace and is a feeling of inner gladness, delight or rejoicing. Joy in the NT is virtually always used to signify a feeling of “happiness” that is based on spiritual realities, and independent of what “happens”). Joy is not an experience that comes from favorable circumstances, but is God’s gift to believers. Joy is the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and his God. What is fascinating is that there is not only joy on earth but also joy in Heaven and both have to do with the Good News in some way, Luke recording “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance…..In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk. 15:710ff)

Peter writes “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”  (1 Pe 1:8ff)

Christmas should be a time of great joy and rejoicing. It should be a time of great celebration. All great joy is always rooted in Jesus Christ.

The good news is for all people, not just for the elite. As Paul told the Corinthians, “Consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God” (1 Cor. 1:26–29). The beauty of the good news is that even an uneducated, illiterate tribal man in the jungle can understand that he is a sinner and the Jesus Christ is God’s Savior, and by God’s grace, he can believe and be saved.

Remember the words to the Christmas song “Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing.” The joy of Christmas is Jesus Christ.

Verse 11: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

Do not miss the phrase for you – You is in the plural. Yes, Jesus came to the shepherds, to Israel, but also to redeem all humanity and for you. This personalizes this Good News of a Savior who in the crib had open arms just as He did on the Cross! God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to be born for you, for any and all who will call upon the Name Jesus, SaviorChristLord!

The city of David “is vastly more significant to the shepherds than “in Bethlehem” would have been, for the king’s name and his ancient home recall all the Messianic promises made to David. 

Savior (soter from sozo = rescue from peril > from saos = safe; delivered) refers to the agent of salvation or deliverance, the one who rescues, delivers, saves and preserves and in the case of Jesus, specifically rescue and deliverance from sin’s penalty, sin’s power and in glory from sin’s presence and sin’s pleasure. The name Jesus means “He will save His people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21)

Christ (Christos from chrio = to rub or anoint, consecrate to an office) means one who has been anointed, symbolizing appointment to a task. The Messiah had come to sit on the throne of David and deliver Israel from oppression, not from the Romans, but from sin and Satan. Sadly they wanted the former and were blind to the latter! Christos is the “Fulfiller of Israelite expectation of a deliverer, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ.” 

The New Jewish Encyclopedia defines the MESSIAH as “a modified form of the Hebrew word mashiach meaning ‘anointed,’ applied in the Bible to a person appointed for special function, such as High Priest or King. Later the term Messiah came to express the belief that a Redeemer, that is a divinely appointed individual, will, in the end, bring salvation to the Jewish people and to the entire human race”

Luke 2:12: And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

The sons of kings and princes in the East today are still “salted and swaddled.” A tiny bit of salt is rubbed on the baby to indicate that the parents intend to teach the child to be truthful. The baby is then wrapped in swaddling clothes. These are fine linen strips about two inches wide  which are wrapped round and round the baby’s body to straighten him out: arms and legs are all made straight as a ramrod. This is a sign to God that the parents will rear the child to be straightforward before the Lord, and free from crookedness. The child is left in this position from fifteen minutes to two hours, while the parents meditate and make their vows to God concerning their sacred trust which was given them when they received the child This was a common custom for babies born into royal families. Because Mary knew that her son was the Son of God, she treated him as the King he truly was.

Luke 2:13,14: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

The angels praised God at Creation (Job 38:7), and now they praised Him at the beginning of the new creation. The whole purpose of the plan of salvation is “glory to God” (see Eph. 1:61214). God’s glory had dwelt in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34) and in the temple (2 Chron. 7:1–3), but had departed because of the nation’s sin Now God’s glory was returning to earth in the person of His Son (John 1:14).

Luke 2:15-20: When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

So they came in a hurry – Don’t miss their reaction!  No hesitation. No procrastination, like “We need to pray about this!” or “Perhaps we should seek the counsel of the wise rabbis.” No, they heard the divine revelation, they accepted it as a divine sign and they hastened to view the Divine Redeemer!

That should be our response when we read the Word of Truth and sense the Spirit of Truth “speaking” to our heart regarding some action we are to take in accord with the Word we have just read. God does not stutter! Are you in humility hearing and heeding like these lowly shepherds? They hurried off and found.…” The obedience of faith brings blessed results.

Shepherds were not permitted to testify in court, but God used some humble shepherds to be the first human witnesses that prophecy had been fulfilled and the Messiah had been born. Telling others about the Saviour is a solemn obligation as well as a great privilege, and we who are believers must be faithful.

Don’t celebrate Christmas without inviting the Guest of honor.

The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God – What irony, for in the religious center Jerusalem the leaders did not truly worship God, but here in the fields outside Bethlehem were the common, non-religious shepherds worshipping God! There is another observation and it is a sad one — even though the shepherds had spread the message of Messiah, Luke records that the shepherds alone were praising God. No one else is seen seeking or praising the Savior! What’s wrong with this picture? Don’t we see the same thing today! They had been changed by their “moment of grace.” As they stepped back into their real world, they carried the good news about Jesus in their hearts and voices. May we too take God’s grace into the real world this Christmas and every day of the new year.

Wise Men

Matthew 2:1,2: Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.

Who were the wise men? They were Gentiles who saw his star-they had knowledge of God’s Word as written in the stars. How? Greek-Magi-a specific religious caste prominent in Near Eastern society especially in Persia.  The magi from the east (the word literally means “from the rising” of the sun, and refers to the orient) who came to see Jesus were of a completely different sort. Not only were they true magi, but they surely had been strongly influenced by Judaism, especially that of Daniel. They appear to be among the many God-fearing Gentiles who lived at the time of Christ, a number of whom—such as Cornelius and Lydia (Acts 10:1–2Acts 16:14)—are mentioned in the New Testament. 

Many Magi adopted Zoroastrianism and became priests of that religion. There were several parallels between Zoroastrianism teachings and the Old Testament. Thet believed in a supreme God who created the heavens and the earth, who authored all that is good. They also believed in a spiritual adversary who authored evil. They believed in a coming Redeemer, a prophet who be sent by God to save all mankind. They strictly forbade the worship of idols. They believed in angels and devil spirits and the eventual triumph of good over evil. They set forth a system of laws and ethics stressing a strict code of moral behavior.

They were reputed for their knowledge of religion, astronomy, and the spiritual significance of astronomical phenomenon. The book of Daniel records that the Judeans like Daniel wielded great influence in the royal courts where the Magi served. Daniel was made master of the Magi (Daniel 5:11). Daniel fully instructed them in the accurate knowledge of biblical prophecy written in the stars. This knowledge was preserved by the Magi. Even Suetonius, the Roman Historian, said that it was a firm belief that long prevailed through the East that it was destined that the Empire of the world at that time would be given to someone arising out of Judea. Judean teaching on the celestial message in the stars was attentively listened to as the Magi set much importance on the celestial motions.

Psalm 19:1-6: The heavens declare the glory of God,  and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun,  which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

God’s revelation of His Word is set in the heavens, the stars prophesy, they show knowledge, they tell of God’s glory, and set forth His purposes. The stars declare God’s plan of redemption and the coming seed of the woman which is Christ.

Genesis 1:14: And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years

Signs in Hebrew means “to mark” and is marking someone significant to come.   

First written promise of the Messiah: Genesis 3:15: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Biblical astronomy is the true understanding of the names of the stars as they depict the coming of Christ.

Psalm 147:4: He determines the number of the stars;  he gives to all of them their names.

God has named every single star in the universe and they all point to Christ.

Verse 2: “In the east” means “in the rising”-refers to the rising of a star shortly before sunrise called in astronomy the heliacal rising of a star. In ancient times all astronomical bodies were called stars even planets. So the Magi saw a celestial body in its helical rising above the eastern horizon.

Verse 3-12:  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 

Amazing all of Jerusalem was troubled also. Jesus Christ is always troubling to the unbeliever. Troubled means to shake back and forth, to be agitated, to stir up like boiling water. We never have to be troubled, for we have Jesus Christ and have His peace and His joy. John 14:27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 16:11: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. The world will never celebrate the birth of Christ. The world is only troubled by his birth. There is no joyous celebration.

John 3:16-21: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

So many people would rather sit in darkness than come to the light of the world, Jesus Christ. The world today loves darkness and hates the light. They do not want their evil works to be exposed.  

Matthew 2:4: And assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 

Isn’t it amazing that the top religious leaders of Judah had not been aware a king of Judah had been born, but religious Gentiles from Persia knew this. Herod was mad at the religious leaders for not telling him, but they had no clue. Herod had the religious leaders as sycophants. They fawned his person for special favors. Therefore it was no trick for him to gather the religious leaders together to learn where the Christ-child was born. There are always those ministers who are more interested in political clout than they are in spiritual clout. They prefer the recognition of the powers that be to the recognition of the Power that is, namely, God. “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

Matthew 2:5-7: They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,  are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 

Herod demanded accurate, precise information on his star.

D A Carson says Herod “was wealthy, politically gifted, intensely loyal, an excellent administrator, and clever enough to remain in the good graces of successive Roman emperors. His famine relief was superb and his building projects (including the temple, begun 20 B.C.) were admired even by his foes. But he loved power, inflicted incredibly heavy taxes on the people, and resented the fact that many Jews considered him a usurper. In his last years, suffering an illness that compounded his paranoia, he turned to cruelty and in fits of rage and jealousy killed close associates.”

Matthew 2: 8,9: And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 

To rest over the place means when the star reached its apex, the highest point in relation to the observer, which is called the meridian. This is the second time they saw the star. Between December 4, 2BC to January 9, 1BC the Magi saw the star as revealed in verse 9 that led them to the house where the infant Jesus was.

Matthew 2:10-12: When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. The revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ always brings exceeding great joy. You cannot separate joy and Jesus Christ.

The hope (absolute certainty, not “hope so” but “hope sure”) that we as believers will one day (SOON) see our Savior face to face (the Goal of our life’s journey) ought to stir in our hearts exceedingly great joy today! Are you downcast, despairing? Then preach to your soul to hope in God (Ps 43:5). Ponder your future appointment with Jesus the Lover of your soul. Let that thought invigorate your heart. We need to heed Peter’s exhortation  to “prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13) We need to obey Paul’s command to “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Col 3:2-4) And we need to heed the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews to fix “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2). 

Matthew could have simply said “they rejoiced” and we would have understood him. Instead, he piles up words that literally read “they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” It is almost as if they could not experience a greater degree of joy. So as stated above their “over the top” joy was because of their anticipation at their imminent meeting with the real “Star,” the King of the Jews

Herod was not rejoicing (HE WAS TROUBLED. HE WAS SCHEMING). Evil people are too busy doing evil to rejoice and to know joy. Their joy is hallow, unreal, superficial, but when God gives joy, it supersedes anything the world has to offer. The wise men knew tremendous joy because Christ was their focus. He is the key to true joy. There is no true joy apart from Jesus. We rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Phil. 4:4. Joy is our lifestyle in Jesus Christ.

11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The word “child” in Greek and Aramaic does not mean newborn babe which was the word used in Luke. Here they went into a house, the shepherds went to a stable. These two events are not simultaneous. but happened about 1 year and 3 months apart. This is why Herod ordered all children 2 years and younger to be slain.

King Herod was living at the time of Jesus’s birth. Josephus recorded that a lunar eclipse occurred shorting before Herod’s death. The lunar eclipse occurred on January 9, 1BC and it is estimated as he did some events after the eclipse that is death was around February 26th 1BC.

I do not have time in this article to get into all the details of the astronomical signs in the sky that the Magi observed, but from August 12, 3BC until August 27th 3BC, there were seven astronomical events in the constellation of Leo that represent His star. Leo was the Lion of Judah and represented the constellation associated with the tribe of Judah. All seven events involved Jupiter which was the King planet and the Hebrew name of Jupiter means righteousness and Christ was the righteous branch prophesied in Scripture. Venus is known as the morning star and Jesus Christ is referred to as “the bright and morning star”(Revelation 22:16). Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation Leo and is often referred to as the heart of the lion. It was also referred to in antiquity as the king star associated with rulership and dominion. The last event in the heavens occurred on August 27th, 2BC, and was a massing of planets of Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Venus.

The birth of Jesus Christ as well as I can document this with much previous research is between 6:18PM and 7:39PM on September 11, 3BC which was Tishri 1 on the Hebrew Calendar (Rosh Hashanah). It is said in ancient Jewish literature that this was the day Adam was born. It also was the Day of Trumpets. Edersheim says during New Years Day horns and trumpets were blown in Jerusalem from morning until evening. Whenever trumpets were blown in Jerusalem it was a public acknowledgment that Yahweh was king. These trumpets heralded Jesus Christ as the newborn king. Tishri 1 was used in counting the years of a King’s rule. It is said Abraham was born on this day and Joseph became ruler over all of Egypt on this day.

Three gifts are mentioned in Scripture, but no indication 3 Magi. Probably large caravan, the astronomical elite of the far east. The Magi showed utmost respect and humility by falling down and worshipping him. God never had them return to the scheming Herod as they were warned by God to flee.

The Shepherds and Wise men-two unlikely groups that God chose to reveal the greatness of the birth of Christ and bring them to be eyewitnesses of His Majesty. The religious and political elite were not listening and were more concerned to consolidate and revel in their power than the birth of Christ. Jesus was a threat to them as is seen by Herod’s actions.

Matthew 1:23: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 

We can condense all the truth of Christmas into three words “God With Us,” Immanuel is a transliteration of the original Hebrew word derived from Immanu (with us) and El (God),  Indeed, Jesus’ Name IMMANUEL emphasizes His nearness, for His birth brought the infinite, holy God within reach of finite, sinful man. God came to live WITH US through the work of His Son us so we could live WITH HIM! The Son of GOD became the Son of MAN that He might change the sons of MEN into sons of GOD (1Jn 3:1), who can forever “draw near with confidence (boldness) to the Throne of grace” through Immanuel (Heb 4:16).Spurgeon declares “If GOD be WITH US, we are in ennobling company, even though we are poor and despised. If GOD be WITH US, we have all-sufficient strength (2Cor 12:9), for nothing can be too difficult for the Lord (Ge 18:14). If GOD be WITH US, we are always safe, for none can harm those who walk under His shadow (Ps 57:1). Oh, what a joy we have here! 

In Christ, all depression ceases. In Christ, all fear and worry melt away. In Christ, all oppression is crushed. In Christ, all addictions are shattered. In Christ, all the chains of bondage are loosed. In Christ, all condemnation is obliterated. In Christ, we are made free from all the forces of darkness that plague mankind. No religion, idol, or god whether Islam. Buddhism or Hinduism can set a person free from the exercised kingdom of darkness and the clutches of sin and death. Only in Jesus Christ is our redemption, salvation, and liberation finished.

This wonderful Savior Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate is the Red Thread of the Bible! The thread that binds the Word of God together. You find him everywhere in the Bible, the Word of God! In Genesis, he is the promised seed of the woman. In Exodus, he is the Passover Lamb. In Leviticus, he is the high priest. In Numbers, he is the star to rise out of Jacob. In Deuteronomy, he is the two laws-love God and love your neighbor. In Joshua, he is the captain of the lord of hosts. In Judges, he is the covenant angel named Wonderful. In Ruth, he is the kinsman-redeemer. In Samuel, he is the root and offspring of David. In Kings, he is the greater than the Temple. In Chronicles, he is the king’s son. In Ezra and Nehemiah, he is the rebuilder. In Esther, he is the savior of God’s people. In Job, he is the daysman. In Psalms, he is the song. In Proverbs, he is the wisdom of God. In Ecclesiastes, he is the one among a thousand. In Song of Solomon, he is the bridegroom of the bride. In Isaiah, he is Jacob’s branch. In Jeremiah, he is our righteousness. In Lamentations, he is the unbelievers’ judgment. In Ezekiel, he is the true shepherd. In Daniel, he is the stone that became the head of the corner. In Hosea, he is the latter rain. In Joel, he is God’s dwelling in Zion. In Amos, he is the raiser of David’s tabernacle. In Obadiah, he is the deliverer on Mount Zion. In Jonah, he is our salvation. In Micah, he is the lord of kings. In Nahum, he is the stronghold in the time of trouble. In Habakkuk, he is our joy and confidence. In Zephaniah, he is our mighty lord. In Haggai, he is the desire of the nations. In Zechariah, he is our servant-the branch. In Malachi, he is the son of righteousness.

In Matthew, he is Jehovah’s Messiah. In Mark, he is Jehovah’s servant. In Luke, he is Jehovah’s man. In John, he is Jehovah’s Son. In Acts, he is the gift of holy spirit. In Romans, he is the believer’s justification. In Corinthians, he is the believer’s sanctification. In Galatians, he is the believer’s righteousness. In Ephesians, he is the believer’s heavenly standing. In Philippians, he is the believer’s self-adequacy. In Colossians, he is the believer’s completeness. In Thessalonians, he is the believer’s soon glorification. In Timothy, he is the faithful men. In Titus, he is the fellow-laborer. In Philemon, he is the love of a believer. In Hebrews, he is the high priest for sin. In James, he is the royal law. In Peter, he is the pastor. In John, he is as we are. In Jude, he is the beloved. In Revelations, he is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

He is the doom of the adversary as promised in Genesis 3:15 and accomplished in Revelation 20:10. He is the “no night” of Revelation 22:5, of which Genesis 1:1 is night. He is the light of Revelation 21:13, of which Genesis 1:16 and 17 is the sun and moon. He is the “no more death, neither sorrow nor crying” of Revelation 21:4, of which Genesis 3:16 and 17 is sorrow, suffering, and death. He is the “no more curse” of Revelation 22:3, of which Genesis 3:17 is the curse. He is the welcome home to paradise of Revelation 22:2, of which Genesis 3:22 to 24 is the banishment from paradise.

Who is this Jesus Christ?

He is Abel’s sacrifice, Abraham’s ram, Isaac’s well, Jacob’s ladder. He is Judah’s scepter, Moses’ rod, Joshua’s rams’ horn, Samuel’s horn of oil, David’s slingshot, Hezekiah’s sundial, Elijah’s mantle and Elisha’s staff. He is Job’s prayer, Isaiah’s fig tree, Ezekiel’s wheel, Daniel’s Jerusalem window, Jonah’s sea monster and Malachi’s storehouse. He is Peter’s shadow, Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons. He is the lily of the valley and the rose of Sharon in life’s desserts. He is the pearl of great price. He is the rock for pilgrims in a weary land. He is the believer’s justification. He is the believer’s righteousness. He is the believer’s sanctification. He is the believer’s redemption. He is the believer’s knowledge. He is the believer’s wisdom. He is the believer’s all-in-all in all. He is the believer’s completely complete completeness. He is the bright and morning star, and he’s my Lord and my Savior.

He is knocking at the door of your heart right now. He is inviting you this Christmas to open the door and let him into your heart. Confess him as Lord and believe that He is alive because God raised him from the dead. Repent and turn to him and receive the power of the gift of holy spirit and receive the new birth. This is the greatest Christmas gift of all. It is a new season, a new beginning, a new life. The past is gone. With Jesus you start with a clean slate and there is no limit to what he can do in your life. You belong to Him. He wants all of you. This is the message of hope and joy tonight. This is the true meaning of Christmas.

I appreciate the work of Precept Austin,  Jesus Christ our Promised Seed by Wierwille, Ernest Martin, EW Bullinger, and many other sources that contributed to this article

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Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Thankfulness

Let’s open our Bibles tonight to the next in our study regarding the anatomy of the church.  One of the essential attitudes, one of the essential motivations, essential spiritual realities in the life of the church, through which its life flows, is gratitude.  As we’ve been talking about the church – and we’ve been having such a wonderful time over the last number of months – as we have been talking about the church, we have been talking about its various internal systems; those attitudes, those concepts, those spiritual realities, those motivations that carry the life of the church, that carry its spiritual life, its real life.  We talked about faith, and obedience, and attitudes of love, and humility, and unity, and forgiveness.

And this morning we talked about joy.  It was a wonderful, wonderful study, I think, for all of us, and in some ways, these studies come and go too fast.  We can hardly imbibe one.  I really have never done this in the years of ministry here – that is, to do a series Sunday morning and Sunday night.  I always kind of give you a week to think about it and let it sort of settle in your heart, but we’re moving pretty fast – but you’re up to it, and you can carry two messages through the week, and let God use them both in your heart.  But we want to talk about this spiritual attitude of thankfulness, of gratitude. 

I can remember many, many years ago reading a very fascinating story in Luke’s gospel that has stayed with me as one of those passages that lingers in my mind, and the Spirit of God brings it back to me.  It comes in chapter 17 of Luke, and verse 11.  “And it came about, while He was on the way to Jerusalem, that He was passing between Samaria and Galilee” – up on the north part above Jerusalem – “and He entered a certain village.  And as He did, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him.”  Lepers always stood at a distance because it was believed, and probably true, that their particular disease had infectious capabilities, and so they were basically quarantined, and isolated into leper colonies, and they were kept to themselves, apart from any interaction with healthy people. 

And so these ten lepers stood at a distance from Jesus, “and they raised their voices.”  They had to yell at Him from a distance.  Verse 13, “saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’  And when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’”  It might seem like a strange command, but it wasn’t, because when a leper believed that he had indeed recovered from his disease and was well, he was to go the priest, and there was to be a purification ceremony to assure that that, in fact, was the case, as much as they could in ancient times.  And then he could recirculate among the people.  And so Jesus said to them, “‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’  And as they went,” it says, “they were cleansed.”

Now, they started out in an act of faith heading for the priests.  Nothing had happened before they started in that direction; it happened as they were going.  Ten of them – this is the remarkable part of the story.  “One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him.  And he was a Samaritan.”  It’s almost inconceivable that one could be cured of something as terrible as leprosy; something which rendered a person socially unclean, and ceremonially unclean, and put you in an isolation with others of that same frightening disease.  Cut yourself off from the family, and loved ones, and the synagogue, and all the social events, all the interaction that makes up life.

And then to be totally cleansed – you would think that ten of them would have come back, and fallen at the feet of Jesus, and given thanks.  The only one who did, interestingly enough, is a Samaritan.  And the interesting part about that is there was no love lost between Jews and Samaritans.  There was a mutual hate that had been engendered by the fact that Samaritans were a half-breed people.  That race of people came from the loins of Jews who intermarried with Gentiles, a despicable thing to most Jews in the ancient world.  And so this was remarkable indeed, for here came a Samaritan, falling on his face at the feet of a Jew, and thanking Him.

“And Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed?  But the nine, where are they?  Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God except this foreigner?’  And He said to him, ‘Rise, go your way; your faith’” – literally in the Greek – “‘your faith has saved you.’”  Ten got healed, one got saved.  It’s a wonderful story for the one; it’s a tragedy for the nine.  It illustrates that how ugly ingratitude is, being unthankful – how hard to understand that these people could so quickly forget the very one who was the source of their cleansing.  In Romans, chapter 1, as we think about this matter of gratitude, when the apostle Paul indicts society, sinful society, when he indicts the nations of the world, the indictment is very specific. 

He says in verse 21, of Romans 1, “Even though they knew God.”  Everybody coming into the world knows God, they don’t know Him personally, they don’t know Him savingly, but they know Him.  They know Him through reason; they can observe creation, and reason to a first cause, and know a lot about that first cause by the character and nature of creation, in all of its manifestations.  And they can know God as judge, by the understanding of moral law that is written into the fabric of their life; Romans 2 talks about that.  The Gentiles who have no law have a law written in their hearts, and a conscience to go with it, which activates the law in response to their behavior.  So they know God through reason, and they know God through the moral law in their hearts. 

But you notice in verse 21, “even though they knew God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks.”  It is right at the top of God’s list of damning sins – ingratitude – ingratitude.  It so characterizes fallen men, it certainly shouldn’t characterize God’s people.  We can understand that nine lepers who didn’t know God could be thankless.  We can understand a world of thankless people.  I cannot understand a thankless Christian when we understand what the Lord has done for us.  Nor can God understand a thankless Christian.  Turn to 1 Thessalonians, again chapter 5, where we were this morning, and let’s go back to another command there; verse 18, and again a very brief command. 

Verse 18 says, “In everything give thanks.”  And that’s all we need to look at.  Obviously, “this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”  In everything give thanks.  God desires this.  That little phrase at the end of verse 18 actually follows all three commands, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.”  All three of those sum up God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  In the Old Testament sacrificial system there were sin offerings, and sin offerings were to be constant reminders to the people of their sinfulness.  They would just go in and give them over, and over, and over, and over – it was not only the offering of the day of atonement, but all through the year there were necessary sin offerings being made, and the people of Israel were making them at all times. 

There were actually twenty-four courses of priests who came down to Jerusalem, and each course of priests served for two weeks, and that made up the full year.  And they spent those two weeks coming from their various towns and villages where they lived, coming to the temple, and they spent those two weeks with blood up to their elbows, butchering incessantly the animals that were coming in to be offered as sacrifice.  None of those animals could take away sin but they were constant reminders to the people of their sinfulness, and the requirement of sinfulness which is death, the desperate need of forgiveness, atonement, cleansing, and righteousness before God.  But there were another kind of offering that was given in the Old Testament; they were called thank offerings – you remember them – and also called in Leviticus peace offerings. 

And those were designed not to remind the people of sin, but to remind the people of their need to be thankful to God for all of His merciful, gracious provisions for their needs.  They would bring in a sheaf of grain as a thank offering.  They would bring oil and wine as a thank offering.  And those were symbols of all of God’s provision, and reminders that they needed to be thankful to God, who supplied everything.  Even today as a church, since our Lord Himself ordained it, we have a ceremony as Christians.  We call it communion, or the Lord’s Table, or the Lord’s supper, and it combines both the elements of the sin offering, in terms of its memorial character, and elements of the thank offering into one. 

We remember Christ, the sacrifice for our sins, and we offer up thanksgiving for all that that sacrifice has accomplished for us.  So when you come to the Lord’s Table, you come to what is a table of thanks.  Now, let’s go back to this text, even if it is so brief, and remind ourselves of this simple command: “In everything give thanks.”  It’s a lot like “rejoice always,” because it has that unlimited requirement – in everything, en panti in the Greek.  It has the idea of being in connection with everything that occurs in life, no matter what it is, and as I noted this morning, with the exception of personal sin – with the exception of personal sin.  In everything give thanks, no matter what the situation is, no matter what the difficulty, no matter what the trial, we are to find reason to thank the Lord. 

And as I noted for you, thanklessness is a sin that characterizes the unregenerate, those who know not God.  In fact, just to expand your understanding of that a little bit, remind yourself of 2 Timothy 3.  In that text it says, “Realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy.”  And what Paul is saying there is that in the last days, ingratitude will characterize people.  Down in that same chapter, in verse 13, he said that “evil men will get worse and worse.”  The closer we get to the coming of Christ, the more wicked men become; the more wicked they become, the more thankless they are. 

Thus we are not surprised to see unsaved people going through life complaining, bitter, angry, thankless, without any gratitude, expecting everything good that comes their way, and a lot more.  The unregenerate man in our culture, in our time, views life as moving along a path of manipulation and luck combined.  He manipulates as much as he can, and hopes for luck to come in and help him.  Or he may view life fatalistically, as some inevitable force which he must reluctantly accept, and he can’t do anything about it.  Or he may view life as the end product of his sheer genius, of his great effort, of his amazing skill.  And we even hear people today be so brash as to thank themselves for what they are.

So there are those people who just complain and hope for some lucky break.  There are those people who fatalistically think they can’t change anything, and so reluctantly accept what comes with a thankless heart, believing they are at the mercy of the fates that are purely random.  Or there are those people, those unsavory and egotistical people, who think that everything good that comes their way in life is purely the product of their own human genius.  But for believers, we know God is at work.  And we know that God is unfolding a divine agenda, and a divine plan, and a divine purpose.  Each component determined by Him for our benefit, and our good, and His glory. 

He’s leading us to a sovereignly designed goal.  We quoted that wonderful verse this morning: “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”  God is unfolding a purpose, and the end of that purpose is good for His own.  In fact, 1 Peter 4, in verse 12, Peter says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.”  It’s not strange to go through a fiery trial.  It’s not strange to go through testing when God knows the end result.  So as we said this morning, whatever may come into life should be treated with joy, and now we want to add with gratitude – with gratitude. 

As Christians, we sin often, I think, with our ingratitude.  It’s not just the lack of joy that is a sin; it’s the lack of gratitude.  We ought to be thanking God for every blessing, every small blessing, every small goodness, every large goodness, every little thing that God provides for us.  And I think that’s why, in 1 Timothy 4, the apostle Paul said that you can eat anything, as long as you receive it with thanksgiving.  Sometimes, when I bow my head in some circles to thank the Lord for my meals, which I always do at every meal, somebody will say to me, “You know, that’s a little bit legalistic.”  And my response to that is, “Nah, it’s not legalistic, it just reminds me of where every single thing comes from.” 

And I need that – I need that so I don’t take God’s goodness for granted.  The early church made thanksgiving an actual part of their fellowship, and that is not a bad idea, believe me.  In 1 Corinthians, chapter 14 – by the way, a very interesting chapter, with a lot of interesting issues – but one of the things that gets passed over in this wonderful chapter is down in verses 16 and 17.  He’s talking about blessing.  In verse 16, he says, “If you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the ‘amen’ at your giving of thanks?”  He’s talking here about speaking in tongues, or if you’re praying with the spirit, that is, in a way that is not a language that can be understood, if you’re singing with the spirit, people don’t know what you’re singing. 

If you’re blessing with the spirit, in verse 16, and they cannot understand what you’re saying, how can they say “amen” at your giving of thanks?  Now, the thing I want to point out here is it must have been a common part of worship when the people of the Corinthian assembly came together for public thanks.  They were singing, they were praying, and we do that, and they were saying thanks.  Verse 17, “You are giving thanks well enough, but when you do it in a way that people can’t understand, the other person is not edified.”  So the point to draw there is that part of the church’s celebration of worship involved a time of giving thanks. 

I try to do that in the prayer that I pray.  We try to do that in the hymns that we sing, but we want you to do that from the heart.  It would be impossible, as you can imagine, in a church this large, for everybody to stand up and say thanks, but that attitude of thanks should be rising up within you.  And how often this kind of attitude is missing in the discontent of this age, when we have so much, so much, but not enough to be thankful.  It would be so much easier if we were deprived of almost everything, and we would be filled with exhilarating thanks with just the smallest morsel of bread.  In 2 Corinthians, chapter 4 – again, this is such a wonderful verse, 2 Corinthians 4; we studied it some months ago, verse 15. 

Paul is here defining his ministry as to its purpose, and he says, “For all things are for your sakes.”  I mean he didn’t do what he did for himself; if he had his own way he’d go to heaven, he said that, “Far better to depart and be with Christ.”  He didn’t do what he did because he enjoyed persecution, and suffering, and pain.  It was all for their sakes.  He endured it all, took the pain, took the suffering, for their sakes, “in order that the grace which is spreading,” that’s saving grace, “which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to redound to the glory of God.”

Christians today, fussing and fuming and stressed out, and disappointed, depressed about every little thing in their life that doesn’t go right, and that’s a really disgusting sin.  Your heart ought to be so overflowing with thanks that it ought to redound, as it says at the end of the verse, or abound to the glory of God.  That’s what happens, you see, when saving grace comes and spreads among people; it just causes more giving of thanks.  Paul’s saying it’s like every time somebody is converted, we add them to the “Hallelujah Chorus.”  It should be the normal pattern for Christians to be grateful, and thankful, and overwhelmed with thanks. 

I’m very disappointed in people who are discontent, and unsatisfied, and unhappy, and don’t like their circumstances, and don’t like this, and don’t like that, and want to change their environment, and change this, instead of being overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s great grace.  In the ninth chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul reminds all of us about how great God is, and how rich He is, and how He pours out those riches on those who give.  Remember, this section in chapter 8 and 9 is about giving, but pick it up in verse 11, where he says, “You will be enriched in everything for all liberality.”  In other words, when you give, and you bring your money, and you give it to the Lord, and you give your resources, and you give all that you are and have to Him, it says you will be enriched. 

In other words, you can’t out-give God.  Remember, “Give and it shall be given unto you, pressed down, shaken together and running over,” it says in Luke?  “Sow sparingly, reap sparingly; sow bountifully, reap bountifully,” it said earlier.  “God” – in verse 8 – “is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”  The whole principle here is that when you give God pours it back.  You’re investing and He pours back a dividend.  You’re sowing and He brings in the crop.  You’re putting something in the cup and He fills it to overflowing.  You’re investing with God and He pours it back.  Why?  Verse 11, “You will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing” – what – “thanksgiving to God.” 

God wants to be thanked.  And when He indicts the whole of the fallen human race, He says, “They’re not thankful – they’re not thankful.  They don’t acknowledge Me as the source of everything.”  God is worthy to be thanked.  And that’s one of the reasons He saved you, to add you to the “Hallelujah Chorus,” and you’re going to spend forever thanking Him for it – you ought to start now.  And that’s the reason that when you give, He gives back, because He wants to hear your thanks.  In fact, verse 12 follows it up.  “For the ministry of this service” – in other words, when you give, when you give your money – “is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints” – it’s not just that you’re giving so that needs can be met and ministry can go on – “but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.” 

Now, look, this is a big picture.  You give generously, God gives back, and you say thanks.  The church takes your money, translates it into ministry to other people, and they say thanks, and thanks is multiplied, and God is glorified.  You see, in verse 13, he says – remember the scenario here.  The Corinthians were giving money.  The money would be taken to the poor saints in Jerusalem.  It would be given to them to meet their needs.  And, in verse 13, he says, “Because of the proof” – the proof of your love – “given by this ministry” – this money – “they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ.”  They’re going to praise God that your salvation is real.  They’re going to praise God for how He’s changed your life, as manifest in the liberality of your contribution.

And then, verse 14: “While they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.”  And then everybody is going to say, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”  God wants our thanks in everything.  He wants it in everything.  Turn to Ephesians, chapter 5.  Thanks should be a part of our normal speech.  I suppose if we get this new greeting “rejoice” going we talked about this morning, and somebody says, “Rejoice, good morning, good evening, rejoice,” you might say, “I am, because I have so much” – what – “to be thankful for.”  Look at Ephesians 5: “Do not let immorality” – porneia, sexual sin – “or any impurity” – that’s a word that would mean every other form of sexual sin – “or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” 

“And” – verse 4 – “there must be no filthiness” – dirty talk – “no coarse jesting” – that’s a word for obscenities; no filthy talk, no foolish talk, no obscenities – “which are not fitting, but rather” – what – “giving of thanks.”  Boy, those two are far apart, aren’t they?  When you open your mouth, give thanks – give thanks.  I was in the home of Pastor Constantine in Belarus, and he had been in prison for many years; and a godly, saintly man, pastor for many, many years.  I have preached in his church many times, many, many hours.  I taught the whole New Testament there.  They invited me for six days.  I said, “What do you want me to speak on?”  They said, “We want you to teach the whole New Testament.” 

In six days, to 125 young pastors in training, in Minsk, in Belarus.  I said, “That’s very difficult, to cover the whole thing in six days, especially through translators.”  And they had to use three translators, ’cause it’s tiring to do translation.  And so they kept changing, and I just kept going, for six days.  Look, I like potatoes better and they have those, so I don’t know who told them that.  And I felt terrible when this dear lady said she got rice, because she knew I liked rice.  I mean who likes rice?  Rice is rice, but that was – put something on it I like it, you know.  But, I mean that’s the kind of people they are.

And so we sat at the table, and we ate this lovely meal, and we talked about the things of Christ through the interpreter, and he’s a great, great man of God.  So I said to him, I said, “You know, Constantine,” I said, “you’ve suffered, and you’ve gone through all this, and you went through the Communist regime, and the whole business.  What was it like?  I mean what kind of things did you suffer, and what do we need to know about that time?  What do Christians need to know about that time?”  And he looked at me, and he said, “Oh no,” he said.  “No, no,” he said.  “I will only thank the Lord.  I will not speak of sudch things.”  He wouldn’t speak of them.  He would just thank the Lord.  That’s all he would speak about. 

That is a marvelous thing, when you open your mouth and that’s all that comes out is thanks.  The Christian life is not nearly as complicated as some people think.  It’s just these attitudes that we’ve been talking about, practiced.  In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, you have an extended command, that really says the same thing that 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says.  It says in verse 18, “Do not get drunk with wine, that is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.”  There was this ridiculous idea in the pagan religions that if you got drunk, your drunken stupor induced a higher state of consciousness, in which you communed with the deities.  It was that very same theory, by the way, that Timothy Leary borrowed from ancient religions, and translated it into the fifties drug culture.

If you really want to transcend and touch the infinite, get high.  Remember?  That was really out of the old pagan religions.  And instead of that, Paul says, “You’re not going to commune with God that way; just be filled with the Spirit.”  And the result of that is speaking to one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”  We could sum that up in one small word, the theme of this morning; what is it?  Joy.  And then, verse 20, “Always giving thanks for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father.”  Constantly, always giving thanks – that’s what a Spirit-filled person does; they’re characterized by joy, and they’re characterized by thanks. 

Now, thanksgiving is the normal pattern, and we should be in the “Hallelujah Chorus” thanking the Lord for His mercy in saving us.  We should be thanking Him for all the blessings He pours upon us; for the way in which we can give, and extend those gifts into the lives of others, and cause more thanks.  Thanks should come out of our mouths every time we open it.  We should be thankful in everything, constantly, unceasingly, because the Spirit is controlling our lives, and if He is, we will be.  And when you’re not thankful, the Spirit’s not in control.  You say, “Well, you mean to be thankful even for the difficulties?”  Of course, because as we saw this morning, those are the things working together for good; those are the things that are perfecting. 

“After you’ve suffered a while,” 1 Peter 5:10, “the Lord make you perfect.”  As we saw from James 1:2, this morning, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, because they have a perfecting work.”  Turn to Philippians, chapter 4, as we continue this little pilgrimage on this marvelous theme.  It says in verse 6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.”  Just be thankful, even when you’re bringing up your petitions, even when you’re praying, and your supplications are going before the Lord, it ought to be in an attitude of total thanks.  I can’t resist Colossians 2.  “As you” – verse 6 – “have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” – be like Christ. 

“Having been firmly rooted” – verse 7 – “now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed” – and listen to this – “and overflowing with gratitude.”  Boy, I’m telling you, people, this is such an essential thing.  You ought to be overflowing with gratitude.  You know, Thomas Hardy was right.  You know, he said, “There are some people who can find the manure pile in any meadow.”  I mean it doesn’t matter what is going on, they can be negative.  Why?  You have nothing to be thankful for?  You ought to be overflowing with gratitude all the time.  It ought to be, for all of us, an absolutely constant way of life.  Now, as if what we’ve read isn’t already enough, go one more chapter in Colossians, chapter 3, and verse 15.  And he says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” 

Don’t be stressed, don’t be anxious.  “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”  Be thankful.  Now, some of these Christians to whom Paul wrote were really stressed out.  But I’ll tell you, Paul himself was a prisoner when he wrote all of this.  “Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you,” he says, “with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to the Lord, to God.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”  I mean it’s getting pretty repetitious, isn’t it?  Just be thankful.

And as if that’s not enough, go to chapter 4.  “Masters, employers, grant to your employees, slaves, servants, justice and fairness” – be careful how you treat the people that work for you – “knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.  Devote yourselves to prayer, keep alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”  So marvelous – we are called to incessant thanksgiving, constant thanksgiving.  We noted this morning, in Acts 16, how Paul and Silas were in jail, singing praise and thanks to God; the apostle Paul – always thankful.  You say, “Well, there are a lot of things in life you can’t be thankful about.”  Well, look, if I were Paul, there would be one thing I wouldn’t be thankful about, and that would be a really messed up church that was a lot of trouble. 

And the one that comes immediately to mind is Corinth, right?  Listen to what he said: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God always concerning you” – and that was just before he laid them out.  See, I mean you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, but it shouldn’t mess with your thankfulness.  You say, “What was he thankful about?”  They were saved.  They were God’s own – much to be thankful for, even though they broke his heart.  So this is very important, we are called to an inward, incessant joy and a constant thanks.  The model for this – I can’t resist taking a minute to just show you this.  The outstanding model for this, who transcends all others, of course, is our Lord. 

In Matthew 11:25, just listen: “Jesus answered and said, ‘I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes.  Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight.  All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.  Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My load is light.’”

Jesus is approaching the cross, and this is what He says: “I praise You, O Father.”  Or actually, better translated: “I thank You, O Father.  I thank You for the privilege of serving You.”  He had a thankful heart.  It wasn’t easy, obviously; He was going to go through agonies we would never be able to comprehend, but He had a thankful heart.  You see it repeatedly, pouring out thanks to God.  We can’t look at all of those times, but just another one maybe, John 11.  In John 11, you know, He’s dealing with the death of Lazarus, and Mary and Martha, and Jesus says to Martha, who is worried because Lazarus has been dead four days, and as the King James says, “By now he stinketh.” 

So verse 40, “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you, if you believe you will see the glory of God?’  And so they removed the stone.”  And they were afraid this horrifying stench would come out.  “Jesus raised His eyes, and said, ‘Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me,’” and then He said, “Lazarus, come forth,” and he came forth.  You know, you wouldn’t really think that Jesus would need to thank the Father for anything, since He was God, and since the plan was really equally His.  But what a wonderful example it is.  He thanked the Father for the privilege of ministry.  He thanked the Father for hearing His prayer for power on behalf of Lazarus.  He could even thank the Father for the death that He would die to redeem sinners.  In fact, in all that was so terrible about His humiliation, He was thankful to the Father.

Paul tells us, then – back in our text – what we need to hear again and again.  In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you.  This is His will.  Now, as I said this morning, there are some things that come into our lives that tend to cause us to be hindered in these right attitudes.  Let me make some suggestions, and they’ll be much like what I said this morning.  If you have trouble being thankful, let me tell you perhaps why.  And I’m going to start where I started this morning.  Maybe you’re not a Christian.  Maybe you’re deceived.  Maybe you just think you’ve been regenerated.  Maybe you had some emotional experience, and nothing more.  If you can’t find in your heart endless cause for thanksgiving, then maybe you don’t have a new life.  And maybe you ought to do as 2 Corinthians 13:5 says: examine yourself to see if you’re in the faith. 

Moving beyond that let me give you a second thing that can hinder your gratitude: doubt about God’s sovereign power.  Or let’s say, doubt about God.  If you don’t think God is really in charge, if you’re ignorant about that or don’t believe it, if you’re not sure God is really all-wise, if you’re not sure He knows everything about everything, if you’re not sure He really loves you as His own, if you’re not sure He really has your best interest in mind, if you’re not sure He’s trying to perfect you into the image of His Son, if you don’t understand your God and His purposes, then you may not be thankful.  Or, I might add, if you do understand them, but you tend to forget them. 

Why not be thankful for anything, if You know God’s power is at work in it, God’s wisdom is at work in it, God’s purpose is at work in it, God’s love is expressed through it?  But if you doubt that, you’re going to have a problem being thankful.  There’s a well-known counsellor in our country who tells people that there are times when you need to get angry at God.  Shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that he comes from an Arminian background, where they’re not too sure just exactly how involved God is.  There are times when you need to get angry with God; it’s good to vent that.  It’s a sin to do that, and it may rise out of ignorance of a sovereign God, always with a good purpose for your good and His glory, and always in control.

A third thing that may be the cause hindering gratitude is selfishness.  And this links up so much with joy – that’s why I wanted to them both today.  It’s that attitude that says, “No matter what I’ve got, I don’t have what I really want; I don’t have enough.  I just – I want more – and my will is more important than God’s will.  I don’t know what God has for me, but I know what I want for me, and God ought to deliver.”  Boy, that will really destroy gratitude.  “I want my circumstances different.  I want my children different.  I want my life different.  I want my ministry different.  I want my spouse different.  I want my job different.  I want a lot of things different.  I want more of this, and less of that.” 

If that’s what drives you, and you’ve set your own agenda, then you’re going to have trouble.  On the other hand, if you say, “I only want what God wants, and I’ll believe that God will give me what He wants me to have,” then you can be thankful, right?  Fourthly: worldliness – awfully hard to sort yourself out from that in this culture.  If you’re into the pleasures, and the people, and the places, and the possessions, and the pursuits, and the popularity, and the prestige, and you just want all the stuff that the world says makes people satisfied and happy, you’re going to have trouble being thankful, ’cause you’re never going to have all of that, and when you get some of it, you won’t have enough of it.

A fifth thing that I might mention is a critical spirit.  If you’re bitter or negative, if you just kind of have a sour attitude on life – and you know how you get that?  You get that by having unrealistic expectations of what you deserve.  You get that because you think you ought to control everything, and there’s some things you can’t control, and that bothers you.  And you get that – and, you know, this is the sad part – and then you feed it like a monster, until it gets as big as a dinosaur.  And every time you speak – or most of the time – the dinosaur roars, because you’ve cultivated it.  Don’t let yourself be critical two days in a row, or two hours in a row, or two half-hours in a row.  Don’t build that kind of habit. 

If it’s unchecked, it will just smash a thankful heart into bits.  This attitude will corrode your love, it will corrode your joy, it will corrode your peace, it will corrode your spirituality – a critical spirit that always criticizes, sees what’s wrong with everybody else, what’s negative, what isn’t the way you want it, what isn’t under your control.  Always looking at things from the negative side is a terrible, terrible thing to do.  And when you cultivate that habit, you get so into it, it becomes a monster to slay.  A sixth hindrance to gratitude is impatience – impatience.  God isn’t moving fast enough.  It’s not so much that they want this or that; it’s that they want it now. 

They’ve got their own timetable.  And the perception is that God’s not on their schedule – they’ve got it in their appointment book, and He’s not keeping the appointments.  They want God to work for them when they want Him to work – impatience.  You need to learn to just be patient.  Let God unfold His purposes in His time, and be thankful that He knows better the timing than you do.  I’ll give you two more – coldness.  And by that what I mean is spiritual lukewarmness, lack of zeal for God, lack of diligence in the Scripture, lack of passion in prayer, lack of interest in worship, neglect of the Bible, wasting your time on trivia, spiritual lethargy, spiritual indifference – that produces a coldness and a lukewarmness that just kills gratitude. 

When you spend your time in the Word, and you spend your time in prayer, and you spend your time in worship, and you spend your time in service to the King and the kingdom, it excites gratitude.  And one last point – I guess this would be number eight if you’re listing them – rebellion – rebellion.  And this is the strongest attitude, I think, that mitigates against gratitude, and this is when you’re in a settled state of outright anger toward God because things didn’t go the way you wanted them, and it’s become a settled state of rebellion.  You are angry with God.  I got a letter on e-mail – oh, e-mail.  I’m telling you, it’s not enough to get regular mail.  Now it’s this new thing, stacks and stacks of this stuff, that you have to answer.

And I got this letter in e-mail, and it starts out – I just read through the stack today – this letter from a sweet lady from back in somewhere on the east.  And she says, “Thank you for your ministry in radio, and my husband and I listen, and we love Grace To You.  And my husband had a job, and he felt through listening to you, and the development of ministry began to well up in his heart, and he decided God wanted him to preach, and so he went off and got into a small church,” and, you know, I’m reading and I’m saying, “This is wonderful, and this is a great story.  And then, “Something didn’t go the way he wanted it to go,” she said, “in the small church, and it turned him bitter at God, and for fourteen years he has not entered a church.” 

Fourteen years – he is angry.  And she said, “As a loving wife, I have prayed for him fourteen years.”  She said, “I’m at the end of my rope.  Would you please pray for him, and if it’s in your heart, write him a letter?”  Well, I will – fourteen years of rebellion against God?  Would you like to live with a thankless person like that, in a constant state of rebellion?  That woman must be some woman.  She’s patient.  It took her fourteen years to write me.  I thought the second half of the – some of you would rattle off that letter three days after the rebellion started.  Now, all of that stuff, all of that doubt, selfishness, worldliness, critical spirit, impatience, coldness, rebellion – all of that is sin – sin. 

That man should have said, “What was God saying to me?  What was He trying to show me?  What could I have learned, and how can I praise Him and thank Him?”  And the reason he’s been in that condition for fourteen years is the reason he’ll stay there; it’s because he’s got such a bitter attitude toward God, until he deals with that sin, he can’t be used.  All this kind of stuff, ingratitude, just destroys the church.  You want to have a church full of joy, and blessing, and happiness, and peace where people love each other, and the church grows and flourishes, then have a church full of thankful people.  And if you want to really mess up a party, just bring in somebody who is negative and unthankful.  Watch out for those hindrances.  Don’t let them get cultivated in your life.

We have so much to be thankful for, beloved.  God’s holiness that makes Him perfect, and He never makes a mistake.  God’s goodness and mercy, which is always available; which is overflowing and abounding toward us the gift of Jesus Christ; that unspeakable gift, for which we are thankful.  All good gifts that flow down from the Father of lights: the victory over sin and death, divine guidance, complete provision for all our needs, the hope of heaven, the power of the Word, and on, and on, and on, and on we go.  Lots of reasons to give thanks, and if the church is to be the church of Jesus Christ, and His life is the flow through that church, it will be people who are filled with gratitude, even for the trials, even for the pain, even for the suffering. 

And my prayer is that God will fill your heart with joy no matter what, and that you’ll rejoice always and in everything give thanks; that’s crucial to the life of the church.  And you can do on the basis of this one little verse in Philippians 2:13: “It is God who is at work in you.”  Isn’t that great?  And what’s He doing?  “To will and to work for His good pleasure.”  And since He’s at work in you, using all this stuff to work for His own good pleasure, the next verse says, “You can do all things without grumbling.”  You can all things with joy and gratitude.  Father, we thank You so much for Your mercy and kindness toward us.  We thank You for the way in which You have consistently demonstrated Your goodness. 

And, Lord, fill us with thanksgiving.  We have so much to be thankful for, even the difficulties, for those we thank You – it’s easy in the good times.  Should be easy in the hard times, if we understand the purpose.  Lord, we pray that You’ll even use the strength of Your Spirit to break patterns of critical spirit, rebellion, worldliness, selfishness, impatience, all those things that hinder gratitude.  And may we begin every day, no matter how challenging it might be, by thanking You for being faithful in making your mercies new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness.  By thanking You for all that is ours in Christ, by thanking You for eternal life, the hope of heaven, guidance, direction, truth, trials which humble us, trials which shape us. 

Give us thankful hearts.  You are worthy to be praised.  You are worthy to be thanked.  It is a sin not to do so; forgive us for that sin, and put us in a path of righteousness where we are, in everything, thankful.  And may it be infectious to those around us, that the thanks may redound to Your glory, in Christ’s name.  Amen.

John MacArthur

Courtesy of https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-123/fundamental-christian-attitudes-thankfulness

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Our Generation Needs to Return to the Simple Truths of Psalm 34

As we enter into the season of Thanksgiving, Psalm 34 is a wonderful example of praise, adoration, and thankfulness to our magnificent and awesome God. It is an acrostic Psalm meaning each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  

Verse 1: I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Bless: To praise, to celebrate, to adore; act of adoration. The word comes from the primitive root “to kneel.” First used of how God blessed man and woman, blessed Noah and how God blessed Abraham. We need to praise him for all His blessings. David promised to praise God without ceasing. Praise God because of His words and works.

To bless God is an exclamation of gratitude and admiration.

Have you fallen in love with God? Are you swept up in emotional reverie when you consider Him? Do you find that you pursue God for His sake? 

We bless, celebrate, praise, and adore Yahweh. What does the name Yahweh mean?

Yahweh- The Name of Yahweh: An Eternal Indictment Against All Idolatry

Yahweh: He Is

At the heart of every idol is doubt about the character of God. God revealed in His name that we never have to doubt His love for us, and His desire to help us in all life’s difficulties. In this magnificent name Yahweh, God is telling us He is everything we will ever need. The voice of God declares in every generation “I am Yahweh, that is my name! I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to graven images!” (Isaiah 42:8). The name of God, Yahweh, is used over 6800 times in Scripture and perfectly illustrates the character and nature of God. Yahweh is a personal covenant name of promise to the children of God. Yahweh’s name is the pledge and unbreakable bond of faithfulness and commitment to His people. Yahweh means the Eternal, Immutable One. He who was, and is, and is to come. Yahweh is a form of the verb hayah and means to be or to become. Yahweh was, is and always will be alive, active and present.

First of all, the name Yahweh means “He is!” He is everything perfect, good, just and holy in an endless capacity. He has no beginning and no end. He is the everlasting God; the self-existent One, absolutely perfect and limitless in everything He is. A.W. Tozer in Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life says: “God is infinite. We mean by infinite that God knows no limits, no bounds and no end. What God is, He is without boundaries. All that God is, He is without bounds or limits … Only God has no degrees.”[i] God’s love, strength, goodness, mercy, holiness, wisdom and grace are so immense and infinite that they cannot be weighed, counted or measured. These attributes are limitless in quality and perfection. They never diminish, change, or weaken. Everything that God is, is for the benefit of His children. Yahweh is the name that represents a personal invitation to partake fully in everything He is, and to experience the fullness of God in all His manifold characteristics. Yahweh is the very essence and origin of all life. He is the Life-Giver. He is the Creator. He is the maker of every star, planet, and galaxy in the universe. There is no limit to what God can do in our lives. The ancient cultures had thousands of gods for every occasion. But the name Yahweh declares that God is the only one you ever need in every circumstance and season of life. You can be completely satisfied in Him.

Jeremiah 32:17 proclaims that Yahweh made the heaven and earth by His great power “and nothing is too hard for Him!” When Sarah laughed at the impossibility of giving birth at the age of 90, God declared, “Is there anything too hard for Yahweh?” The Hebrew word for “hard” means marvelous, extraordinary, wonderful, surpassing, and beyond one’s power or ability. There is no mountain in life that Yahweh cannot move, there is no obstacle in life that Yahweh cannot overcome, and there is no need in life that Yahweh cannot abundantly provide. Yahweh is the solution, the answer, and the key to everything in life. Nothing is beyond Yahweh’s power. Nothing is above Yahweh’s understanding. Nothing is greater than Yahweh’s ability to act and bring about miraculous results. Nothing is ordinary or mundane about Yahweh! When Yahweh is called into action, it causes one to marvel at the wondrous and astonishing things He brings to pass. Praise God that Yahweh is!

Yahweh: The Coming and Becoming One

Secondly, Yahweh means “He who will be, the ‘Coming One’ or ‘Becoming One.’ We have the assurance that God never changes. What He is today, He will be tomorrow. He is the same glorious, perfect and limitless God yesterday, today and forever. Yahweh is the “Coming One,” always ready to come to the rescue and deliver His children from any enemy, problem, and oppression. He is ready to intercede with all His might when we call upon His name. He will come like lightening to fight all the battles of His beloved sons and daughters if we will only turn to Him. Yahweh is also the “Becoming One.” God becomes whatever is lacking in our time of need. God is the “Coming One” ever ready to rescue and deliver His children from everything that holds them in bondage. He is always ready to abundantly provide for their needs and bring them into the land of His faithful promises.

Yahweh as the “Becoming One” is the great “I Am” who says I am whatever you need at any point in your life. Yahweh wants us to remember that this is His very nature to be for us and meet our needs. Yahweh invites us to fill in the blank for our need. Do we need strength? Then He is our strength. Do we need healing? Then He is our healing. Do we need deliverance? Then He is our Savior. Do we need peace? Then He is our peace. Do we need provision? Then He is our provider? Do we need courage? Then He is our courage? Do we need assurance? Then He is our confidence? Do we need comfort? Then He is our comforter? Are we tired? Then He is our rest. Are we fearful? Then He is our refuge? Do we need love? Then He is our love. Are we depressed? Then He is our joy. Are we hungry? Then He is our Bread of Life. Are we in darkness? Then He is our light. Are we in bondage? Then He is our freedom.

Do we feel worthless and downcast? Then He is the lifter of our heads. Do we have fears, worries and anxieties? Then He is our burden-bearer. Do we need solutions to life’s problems? Do we feel that the pressures of this life are crushing us under their weight? Then He takes the weight on His shoulders and becomes our Liberator. He is our solution and answer to ever single dilemma, circumstance and challenge we will ever face in this life. We do not need a thousand idols. We only need Him. He is the ever-flowing fountain of life and river of living waters that will sustain us all the days we draw breath on this earth. The Psalmist declares that Yahweh is the only God he will ever need. Now we see why our heart should be full of praise for Yahweh. What an awesome God.

My soul wait thou ONLY upon God, for my expectation is from Him. He ONLY is my rock and my salvation; he is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation, and my glory: the rock of my strength and my refuge is in God. (Psalm 62:1-2 KJB, Cambridge Edition)

At all times: continually, in all seasons, at every opportunity

Praise: song of praise, a hymn, a celebration, unhindered praise. “Praise” is really genuine adoration and thanksgiving due to the worth of the object. Praise magnifies the Lord. 

Psalm 40:3a:  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

Amazingly, praise is not an automatic human response to life. Perhaps it should be, but it seems that most of the time we are caught up in the necessary, but trivial and we simply forget the fact that our reality is necessarily dependent. We forget that being alive is the hallmark of His grace, that having our lives extended for one more day is mercy manifested. We become occupied with email, work schedules, commuting, meals, children, washing, ATMs, bills, coffee and all the thousands of insignificant activities that prevent us from recognizing life granted to us today. So we need to stand in front of the mirror and chide ourselves to bless the One who is really responsible for our very being.

Continually: always, constantly, perpetually-Daily

This much is clear. Life is not entitlement. Even life’s most basic needs are the gifts of God. It is not that we are to be content with only the most basic elements of life. Rather, we are to acknowledge that everything, even the necessities, come to us as gifts. When we think of this part of the verse, the word for “daily” begins to make some sense. We are part of the fellowship of the redeemed. More than anyone, we know that our basic needs must come to us one day at a time. We are healed for this day. We are helped for this day. We are whole for this day. The basic necessities of our lives cannot be stored up for tomorrow nor appropriated from yesterday. We can only live daily. One day at a time.

Be in my mouth: What is in our mouth daily? What do we speak forth? Blessing or cursing? Love or hate? Joy or dismay? Humility or pride. Our mouths should be an organ of praise and gateway to thanksgiving.

Verse 2: My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.

Boast: to shine, to flash forth as light, to make a show. Permanent affection of the mind-to exult in the possession and enjoyment of some admired and beloved object. What does your soul boast in? What gives your soul ultimate enjoyment?

This word describes sincere devotion and thankfulness to YHVH.

“Boast” is the Hebrew verb halal. You see the root in halleluyah, or perhaps in tehillah (rendered “psalm”). The same word we usually translate “praise” is also the word for “boast.” This helps us understand that the principal meaning is not found in personal self-acclaim but rather in sincere and heartfelt thankfulness. When YHVH tells us to “boast” in understanding and knowing Him, our boasting is praise of Him, not us. Intelligence, wealth and power mean nothing in the face of the King of the Universe. To Him we owe our lives and to Him we offer boasting praise.

Take a good look at the sky every time we feel as if God isn’t paying attention to us. We could remind ourselves that the presence of light is an ongoing praise operation. That would take us back to the opening creative act and hopefully reinstate our confidence that He is watching over things. Doesn’t the Bible suggest that God is light? I wonder if we ever though that John might have translated his Hebrew worldview as “God is praise, and in Him is no darkness at all.” When you open your eyes in the morning, when you first see the light of day, what comes to mind? Is that a moment of praise? 

Psalm 44:8: In God we have boasted continually,  and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah

Verse 3: Oh, magnify the Lord with me,  and let us exalt his name together!

Magnify: to make great; to enlarge, to increase, to be greatly valued, to make much of. How awesome it is to magnify Yahweh rather than the things of this world. What do we make great, enlarge and greatly value in our life?

Psalm 69:30: I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

Exalt: to be set on high; to be exalted; to lift up; to rise up to the highest degree. To exalt with praises and celebrate. What do we exalt and hold high in our lives? What do we look up to? What do we set on high?

Psalm 57:5: Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!  Let your glory be over all the earth!

Magnify and exalt together in the community of believers.

Verse 4: I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Sought: To seek with care, to tread a place with the feet, to diligently inquire, to frequent. We are to show a trampled path to the heart of Yahweh all times and in all circumstances. This word is never used of seeking someone whose location is unknown. We are seeking here deliverance, help, restoration. It is serious purposeful searching, not confused wondering or wandering.

Psalm 105:4: Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

We should seek to be in His presence continually. He will give us His strength to battle any circumstance. The problem is we seek so many other things first: people, drugs, booze, success and self-exaltation. God looks for those who seek him-Psalm 14:2; Romans 3:11, but the model of those in the world is that they do not seek Him. People turn aside and seek worthless things that cannot deliver.

Deliver: Primitive root means to snatch away, to rescue, to recover, to take away and strip off. We cannot deliver ourselves, ever. The cry of this world is there is none to deliver, there is none to rescue! No idol can ever deliver (Isaiah 57:13). God has the power to deliver, but so often we do not seek His deliverance, we turn to another person or thing that ultimately is helpless to deliver. You deliver me, O Lord!  I can’t do it myself. Deliverance is God in action. God desires to deliver. He wants do deliver because we express our desperation for liberation. If it is left up to us, there is no deliverance. He removes the oppressor, He removes the fear; He overcomes the oppressor that has held us captive. God brings the full victory against every false deity, every bondage, and every encasing fear.  

Jeremiah 1:8: Do not be afraid of them for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.

Verse 19: They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.

All my fears: all=whole, the totality, every single one; not one is missed.

Fears: Fear, terror, that which is dreaded, horror. This is a stronger word for fear, not the usual Hebrew word for fear and describes terror itself. Night terrors, the nightmares, Maybe you can handle the ordinary worries of life. Maybe you can rise to the occasion when something unexpected presents itself, but when it comes to terror, no one is really ready. A form of this word is used in Jeremiah describing “terror on every side.”

I suspect that the worst of all terrors come from deep inside of us. We are powerless over them because they reside in the darkest corners of our lives. They are megurot—and God is the only deliverer. Proverbs 10:24 says what the wicked dreads will come upon him, but God’s deliverance is so complete that only He can deliver from every single terror that often reside deep within us and keeps us in bondage. Yahweh can and will set us free if we only diligently seek Him above all else.

2 Timothy 1:7: For God did not give a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.

We cannot allow terrors and fears to seize our minds and hearts. The world promotes fear and terror. It is its message behind everything. God’s clear message and it is the message of the gospel is deliverance, full and complete, where not one fear is left behind; not one fear isn’t obliterated.

Verse 5: Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

Look: To look intently, to behold, to consider, to regard highly with respect.

What to our eyes gaze upon? Where are eyes directed? What are we looking at? Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom and all its ways and became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). The eyes are the gateway to the heart. God created the eye so that we can behold Him. We need eyes that see! Only God can open our eyes so that we may see. We need to fix our eye on His ways (Psalm 119:15). We need to lift up our eyes to the heavens (Isaiah 57:6).

Radiant: The primitive root means to sparkle, to give light, to beam. Jeremiah 31:12 says we are radiant because of the goodness of the Lord. What do people see when that see your face? Radiance or gloom? Joy or dismay? We should radiate joy in a tangible visible way. Radiance comes from the glory of the Lord, the spirit of God that lives within us. People see should see the glory of the Lord in our faces. No blush of shame.

2 Corinthians 3:16-18: But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

I tell you truly, and I exaggerate not, I tell you truly, that these who are with God, who live in the presence of Jesus, somehow shine in their souls, in their eyes, and in their lives.  Whatever kinds of people they are, and however strange and unusual and different, and whatever their backgrounds, if they have been with Jesus, they shine.  

Ashamed: Disappointed, shame, be brought to confusion, to be confounded; shame arising from disappointed hope. Only in God there is hope, in fact in Romans 15:13, He is called the God of Hope. God is not the author of confusion. When we trust in Him, we will never be confounded or disappointed. Only the idols of this world bring shame, confusion and chaos. Unbelief is the starting point of all disappointment.

Romans 10:11: For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.

Verses 6-8: This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Poor: Needy, humble, afflicted, weak, helpless

All his troubles: all=every single one. Troubles means anguish, adversity, affliction, distress, tribulation. When God is not among us, troubles will devour us (Deuteronomy 31:17)

Psalm 22:11: Be not far from me, for trouble is near,  and there is none to help. Trouble is always near and lurking. None can truly help you with trouble but God.

Psalm 9:9: The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Encamps: Pitches a tent, abides for a siege

The angel of the Lord surrounds God’s people with divine protection.

God fights our battles and surrounds us with His power, strength, and love. As Michael Smith says in his wonderful song: “It may look like I am surrounded but I am surrounded by you. This is how I fight my battles.”

Fear of the Lord:  The fear of the Lord is such an in-depth response to the magnificence of God it is difficult to give an exact definition. It is to have a deep, heartfelt, holy, reverential awe, respect, and reverence for God; it is to have a deep reverence and respect for His holy standards of life; a deep admiration and sense of awe and wonder of His attributes, His power, His love and mercy, and His greatness; it is to have an acute awareness of the presence of God in all His glory that produces in me a sense of awe and calls forth from me honor, respect, and reverence. It is to be in such a holy union with God that we love what He loves and hate what He hates and dare not even think to disobey Him. It is also holy respect for the judgment of God and a sense of trembling in awe at all of his glory and greatness. It is a deep understanding that God has entrusted much to us and we are accountable to God for our actions and the use of the divine abilities He has given us. It is to deeply understand and stand in awe of the majesty of our God. It is to be forever committed in heart to His standard of righteousness and His standard of justice and refuse to allow any impurity or contamination from the world into our hearts. It is to be humbled completely and awed by His holy presence that brings us to our knees before Him.

Taste and see that Yahweh is good. Our invitation to the world. Every day we must and see and realize and recognize God’s goodness. Nothing in this world compares to the goodness of God. Nothing. Nothing is truly good but Yahweh. God is good in so many ways. The gospel is the good news, it originates from God’s goodness to the human race rooted in his grace and mercy. Never forget God is good. There are no limits to His goodness. There is no boundary to His overflowing goodness. His entire creation rings out day and night that God is good. It is who He is and it is what he does. Everything God does is good starting in Genesis 1 and exploding through His word ending in the goodness revealed in the new heavens and earth. Don’t ever be deceived that God is not good.  

There is no greater revolutionary truth for our day and time than the truth that God is good. It is revolutionary because even though we have heard those words many times, they are rarely believed in the depth of our hearts. As a generation, we have lost our faith in the goodness of God.  As a generation, we have become disheartened in our understanding of the true character of God. This has often led to the conclusion that there is no God, or that God doesn’t care, because of the evil we see in the world. Or we may believe that God is good sometimes, or that God is good with exceptions, but the truth is that God is good always.

Nahum 1:7 (The Message):

God is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, no matter how desperate the trouble.

Verse 9,10: Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! 10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;  but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Lack: deficiency, impoverishment, to have want of anything, need, poverty

Yahweh supplies all our needs. He is Yahweh Jireh, the Lord who provides.

Philippians 4:19, 20:  And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Psalm 145:15: You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Let’s return to the simplicity of life where praise, adoration, exultation, magnifying, and thanksgiving of Yahweh is the solid core and foundation of everything we do.

Psalm 63:1(a) (The Message Bible):

God-you’re my God! I can’t get enough of you!


 

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The Deadly Mix that Stops Revival in the Church

An obscure monk and professor in a city of 3000 souls became the Devid of religious reformation. On this night 504 years ago, Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the door of the Wittenburg Church. He challenged the doctrines and authority of the Roman Catholic Church (granting indulgences for people to buy their salvation) declaring that you are justified by grace and faith alone and not good works. Luther attacked the Catholic Church’s corrupt practice of selling “indulgences” to absolve sin. His “95 Theses,” which propounded two central beliefs—that the Bible is the central religious authority and that humans may reach salvation only by their faith and not by their deeds—was to spark the Protestant Reformation. Although these ideas had been advanced before, Martin Luther codified them at a moment in history ripe for religious reformation. The Catholic Church was ever after divided, and the Protestantism that soon emerged was shaped by Luther’s ideas. His writings changed the course of history.

The 95 Theses, which would later become the foundation of the Protestant Reformation, were written in a remarkably humble and academic tone, questioning rather than accusing. The overall thrust of the document was nonetheless quite provocative. The first two of the theses contained Luther’s central idea, that God intended believers to seek repentance and that faith alone, and not deeds, would lead to salvation. The other 93 theses, a number of them directly criticizing the practice of indulgences, supported these first two. This led to the Pope Leo excommunicating Martin Luther from the Catholic Church. On April 17, 1521 Luther appeared before the Diet of Worms in Germany. Refusing again to recant, Luther concluded his testimony with the defiant statement: “Here I stand. God help me. I can do no other.” On May 25, the Holy Roman emperor Charles V signed an edict against Luther, ordering his writings to be burned. The Protestant Reformation had begun.

On the other end of the spectrum, October 31st is also the celebration of Halloween, the second biggest, most celebrated holiday in America other than Christmas. What does the Bible say about Halloween? Is the holiday just harmless fun or does it have a Satanic agenda behind it? Why do almost all Christians celebrate and partake in it with delight? According to the National Retail Federation, seven in ten Americans (who live in a country that still marginally believes in the Bible) now celebrate Halloween. Retailers also rejoice as they warm up their cash registers to receive an average of $79.82 per household in decorations, costumes, candy, and greeting cards. Halloween will bring in approximately $8 billion this year.

How important is Halloween in the Satanic realm? Let’s look at a witchcraft website: “Halloween is such a magical time for all Witches – regardless their spiritual path. It’s this time of the year when the Veil faints and we are able to cross the worlds and receive valuable wisdom and magical powers. Halloween is associated with the passing of the living and celebrating the dead.” Modern celebrations of Halloween may seem to be quite harmless, but the spiritual implications of dabbling with the spirit world are extremely serious.

History: The Celts worshiped the lord of the dead, on Samhain (pronounced “SOW-wen” by Wiccans), October 31. Human sacrifice was offered. The Celts taught that on their New Year’s Eve (our Halloween) ghosts, evil spirits, and witches roamed the earth. Samhain was also a festival of the dead, whose spirits at this season were thought of as scouring the countryside, causing dread to the folk at large. Divinations for the fate of the individual throughout the new year were engaged in. On this night, evil or frustrated ghosts were also believed to play tricks on humans and cause supernatural manifestations, just like poltergeists today. In addition, food was put out to make the ghosts or souls of the good dead Samhain had released, feel welcomed and at home. Because Samhain marked the beginning of a new year, an interest in divination (the magic art of interpreting the unknown by interpreting random patterns or symbols), fortune-telling, communication with the dead and other occult practices became an important part of this holiday. The Celts believed the curtain dividing the living and the dead lifted during Samhain to allow the spirits of the dead to walk among the living—ghosts haunting the earth. Celts believed spirts were earthbound until they received a proper sendoff with treats-possessions, food, wealth and drink. Spirits who were not suitably treated would “trick” those who neglected them. Some traditions developed, which believed wearing a costume to look like a spirit would fool the wandering spirits.

The Encyclopedia of Religion continues: “On this occasion, it was believed that a gathering of supernatural forces occurred as during no other period of the year. The eve and day of Samhain were characterized as a time when the barriers between the human and supernatural worlds were broken. Otherworldly entities, such as the souls of the dead, were able to visit earthly inhabitants, and humans could take the opportunity to penetrate the domains of the gods and supernatural creatures. “Fiery tributes and sacrifices of animals, crops, and possibly human beings were made to appease supernatural powers who controlled the fertility of the land … The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day, and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, black cats, fairies, and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favourable time for divinations concerning marriage, luck, health, and death. It was the only day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropaedia, Vol. 4, p. 862, “Halloween”).

As a loving Father, God commands us to avoid things that can harm us. Concerning the spirit world, notice what God says to His people: “Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:31). In addition to this command to avoid practices that pertain to evil spirits, God warned ancient Israel to avoid any kind of occult practices: “There shall not be found among you anyone who … practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord ” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). God has called His people to a different standard. Instead of superstitions and myths, God tells us to look to Him for our blessings, direction and future.

Modern celebrations of Halloween may appear on the surface to be quite harmless, but the spiritual implications of dabbling with the spirit world are extremely serious. Fortune-telling, Ouija boards, astrology, voodoo, clairvoyance, black magic and the like can all be related to occult, satanic forces or the worship of natural phenomena and are forbidden in Scripture. Jesus Christ tells us that “the first and greatest commandment” is to love our Creator “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37-38). God alone is the giver of life and all good things. To give recognition to false gods, and to imitate practices that honored them, is unacceptable and idolatrous. Setting aside a day to celebrate evil, darkness, witchcraft, fear, death and the demonic brings disdain to God. 

No doubt there has been a severe decline in the spiritual health of this nation and the spiritual health of the church around the world. So many churches have gone astray from the path of truth, they no longer stand for true justice and righteousness. Ravenhill: The tragedy of this late hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people.

Isaiah 59:14-16a: Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.15 Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede;

Voice: We took You for nothing, and did just the opposite of Your commands. We broke our promises to You, ignored and rejected You. We hatched up schemes to oppress others and rebel, to twist the truth for our gain while presenting it as honest-to-God fact. When justice calls, we turn it away. Righteousness knows to keep its distance, For truth stumbles in the public square, and honesty is not allowed to enter. There is no truth-telling anymore, and anyone who tries to do right finds he is the next target. It’s true. The Eternal One saw it all and was understandably perturbed at the absence of justice. God looked long and hard, but there wasn’t a single person who tried to put a stop to the injustice and lies. This is what the Eternal One declares. Eternal One: 21 This is My covenant promise to them: My Spirit, which rests on and moves in you, and My words, which I have placed within you, will continue to be spoken among you and move you to action. And not only you, but so it will be for your children and their children too. And so on through the generations for all time.

These verses describe the status of truth, justice and righteousness in America according to God’s eyes. We have entered into a marriage, a covenant with the world and it has severely hindered the growth of the church. The world system is fastened to our culture and we cannot let it push us in its direction.  Never let the world or culture define your terms. The world has no idea what social justice is yet we allow it to define the term. The world has no idea what love or tolerance is, but we let it define this term. The world has no idea what it is to be awake, but we allow it to define this term. The world has no idea what good is, yet we allow it to define this term. Who will intercede today; who will stand up for truth; who will stand in the gap?

Leonard Ravenhill: An unprecedented tidal wave of commandment-breaking, God-defying, soul-destroying iniquity sweeps the ocean of human affairs. Never before have men in the masses sold their souls to the devil at such bargain prices. “There is none…that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee.”

What will it take to bring revival and reformation to the church today?

We need to call the Church back to its roots as revealed in the Book of Acts. The Christian church is losing ground in the world, and we need to call people back to authentic faith in Jesus Christ. The church is becoming mixed, contaminated by the evil of this world as they embrace it to make their voice in the world more respected, followed and adhered to. The world defines our terms, introduces us to words, and sets the boundaries and frameworks of our beliefs. This is a dangerous exercise in unbelief and an ill-fated marriage with the world. George Orwell’s famous book 1984 illustrated the power of words is enough to control an entire nation. Language was the ultimate form of power. In 1984 the Party, the ruling force over all of Oceania, has dominion over its citizens mainly through the manipulation of language. If you control language, you can control thought. Language is what structures power. Party controls and manipulates language, history, books, literature all to get people to think the same thing and to severely penalize anyone who thinks differently. This is exactly what is happening today, especially in our schools and colleges. You either conform to our accepted baptized thought or pay the consequences. Do not ever let the world define your terms, but let God’s Word, from His heart, enlighten our eyes to the meaning He has placed on words.

The Bible does not stutter when it comes to this world.

John 14:30: I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me,

Ruler-chief, commander, first in rank, supreme leader

World-kosmos: The Greek word for “world” is kosmos and in this verse means: the satanic system of world order with its seductive evil system of values, priorities, and beliefs that excludes and actively opposes God. It is interesting that the word kosmos also has the meaning of an ornament, decoration, or dress, as at its root is the word meaning “to polish, to cut or to carve into a perfect arrangement.” The devil’s world system of evil is very ornate and polished and looks so perfect to the human eye. Its polished presentation can be mesmerizing. This is part of the subtle attraction that deceives people and pulls them into its snare.  But if you peel away the layers, this system is dark, empty, evil and totally devoid of the goodness of God. Wuest, in his Word Studies of the Greek New Testament, defines kosmos as follows:

The word kosmos is used to refer to the world

system, wicked and alienated from God, yet

cultured, educated, powerful, outwardly moral

at times, the system of which Satan is the head,

the fallen angels and the demons are his servants,

and all mankind other than the saved, are his

subjects. This includes those people, pursuits,

pleasures, purposes, and places where God is

not wanted

Kosmos is what binds together the unbelieving world. It is unified against God. This world system of evil continually attempts to squeeze people into its mold of godlessness so they will live and act in accordance with it. Preceptaustin’s Greek Word Studies states: “The unsaved either consciously or unconsciously are controlled by the values and attitudes of this world system and behave according.” The devil has the authority, dominion, command, and power of this world system over the entire earth. He has the control of the world for now.

Claim: Nothing, not even one; not even a sliver. In me: fixed, rests upon.

John 15:18: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you; Matthew 10:22: hated by all for my name’s sake 

That is true hate speech. The world system hates Jesus Christ and everyone one of his followers; They despise the gospel. They hate the words of the Living God. Then why does the church embrace it and welcome it into its holy sanctuary?

John 15:23-25: Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ The world also hates the Heavenly Father and all is this hate is without a cause, without justification. Can you imagine this? The hate for the Heavenly Father can only be understood as spiritual, birthed in heart of Lucifer himself. John 17:14: I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 

John 18:36: My kingdom is not of this world…

The Word of God, the Church, his Body, the Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the gift of holy spirit are not of this world. There can never be a mix. “Of” is the Greek “ek” and means “out of”; it is a preposition denoting origin. It is to be surrounded with a completely close connection.Hate: to pursue with hatred, to detest

I John 3:13: Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 

The number one hindrance to revival and reformation on the church of Jesus Christ is that we love the world and the tings in the world. The world has become a part of the church of so many. This will never lead to reformation but regression, weakness, deterioration and corruption. As long as the world and the church mix, and intertwine, there can be no revival or reformation.

I John 2:15-17: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

2 Corinthians 4:4,5a: In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord,

The devil is the god of this world, and he wants leadership in the church to proclaim themselves rather than the Lord Jesus Christ. He wants the church to follow the model and inspiration of the world.

I Corinthians 2:12: Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 

Ephesians 2:2:  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 

James 4:4: You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Enmity: Active hostility, opposition, hatred; Wishes: will, want, desire, choosing one thing over another, preference. Makes himself: Present (CONTINUOUS ACTION, HABITUAL ACTION, OFTEN REFLECTS A LIFESTYLE; Indicative (MOOD of CERTAINTY = simply states a thing as being a FACT. There is no doubt that the action occurred. If an action really occurs or has occurred or will occur, it will be rendered in the indicative mood.) Passive:  The passive voice conveys the idea that the SUBJECT is being ACTED UPON by an OUTSIDE force or power. If you make yourself a habitual friend of the world, Satan will bring his oppression and chaos into your life and you will be an enemy of God.

To be a friend of the world is to be idolatrous.  To be a friend of the world is to serve a god other than YHWH.  It doesn’t require debauchery, treachery or megalomania.  It only requires asserting that God’s instructions don’t matter.

1 John 5:19: “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” The world is in the helpless snare of the evil one.

Galatians 6:14: But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Do you want a revival, a reformation in the church? It can only start if we are crucified to the world.

Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.

Eric Ludy: To be willing to be contra mundum, to be against the world, is not the cool thing to do, but it is the very essence of historic, Biblical Christianity. To be willing to stand like William Wilberforce against slavery when all of Parliament barks with fury to drown out your singular voice is the stuff of the bravehearted. To be willing to stand like John Knox and proclaim in the midst of the fiercest persecution, “I fear not the tyranny of man, neither what the devil can invent against me” is the type of boldness that Satan doesn’t know how to handle. To be willing to stand like Luther when Pope Leo is screaming in your face that you will be consigned to hell if you don’t recant-now that’s the manly stuff…

Tragically our rendition of Christianity makes no demands, expects no sacrifice and yields no eternal rewards. The Lion of Judah has been anesthetized, declawed and tamed. We have reduced the Almighty to a harmless icon we passively honor in our busy lives…We have inoculated Christianity to such a degree that we treat God as though He were our aging family dog who we let into church once a week, pat on the head and send him back into the yard with a dog to chew on…We cling to a form of godliness but there is no power. We honor Him with our mouths, but our hearts are from Him.

We are being fed a steady, unwholesome diet of spiritual mush in America; kosmos junk food, and we have become so satisfied with its substitute gospel that people no longer hunger for the real thing. We live on spiritual junk food and don’t think we have need of anything.    

Ludy: The world will do whatever it can to refute the idea of Jesus Christ, the idea of faith and the idea of the gospel…Our God does not seek to be cool. He does not attempt to curry favor with the world like the politicians of our day. He does not pander after the good opinion of people like an attention-starved puppy. Our God deeply longs for the people of this work to know Him and entrust their lives to Him. But He will not compromise His truth, in even the slightest way, in order to win His bride. Our God is contra mundum. He isn’t in vogue with the world, rather He is detested by it. Our God may be beautiful to those of us who know Him, but we must realize He isn’t beautiful to those in rebellion against His rule and reign…God doesn’t cry out, “Please like me!” He doesn’t offer the kings and rulers gifts to try to win their vote. He doesn’t bribe them with beer and brats on the church’s front lawn. The Bible says He that sits in the heaven shall laugh and the Lord shall hold them in derision. The bravehearted path is not about comfort and ease, but a kingdom and a glory. It’s not about capitulation, but stalwart conviction. It’s about carrying our King’s good favor while fully recognizing the fact that the world will hate us as a result. The Bible reminds us to be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God. He would well remember to be friends with God is to be an enemy of the world. May we choose our friends wisely!

The world will suffocate and choke the word out of you. The word cannot produce fruit when we allow the world to suffocate us.

James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Unstained: without blemish, unspotted, free from contamination: Found in Him

Maintaining a love affair with the world is kindred to having a mistress. The modern-day church has fallen head over heels in love with the world. Christians derive far more excitement from their interaction with the world then their relationship with Christ. The spirit of this world is a powerful and cunning seductress that few seem able to discern and fewer seem able to disengage themselves. It is systematized rebellion, a national mindset unifying men and women in their rebellion against God and His Word. It has own set of guidelines determining what is right and what is acceptable. It is an alternative to the kingdom of God. The world is Satan’s unified system which lies outside the kingdom of God. The peril lies in the subtlety of the powers at work within the Church and within our individual lives. Like a cancer the spirit of the world quietly, steadily and methodically attacks one cell at a time, infiltrating our churches, our families and our lives largely supplanting God’s value system with a new hybrid. Deception: People are only vulnerable to being deceived when they want what is being offered to them. It has produced an impotent blend of Christianity and the world.

Revelation 3:14,15: “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” The world turns us lukewarm for God. 

2 Corinthians 6:14-17: Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God,  and they shall be my people.17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

“Go out”-means to depart of your own accord, come forth, GET OUT! Separate: to mark off from others with boundaries; to exclude as disreputable. “Touch”: to fasten to, to adhere to; set on fire

Revelation 18:2-5: And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons,a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people,    lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.

God is limited in His fathership of us when we embrace the darkness of this world. Our fellowship with God is tainted, distant, dead, when we allow the world to stain our soul.

Ephesians 5:11: “ Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Take no part-means to participate, to become a partaker with, to have fellowship with. No good, spiritual fruit produced with our fellowship with the world. Expose: refute, reproof, convict, admonish

I Thessalonians 4:3a: For this is the will of God your sanctification.                                                                                                  

First key: reformation is the work of God alone. He is the prime mover, the source, the origin of all reformation.

Isaiah 43:19: Behold, I am doing a new thing;  now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

I Chronicles 29:11: Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 

It was no secret to the Reformers. They knew that no man could produce such radical reform. It had to be the work of God himself. Luther understood this well. “The church has need of reform, but it cannot be the work of one man . . . nor of many . . . rather it must be the work of God alone.” Indeed, no one man, nor any army of men, could confront the Roman Catholic Church and the power and influence it wielded. It had to be the work of God himself. It required the will and action of the sovereign God of the universe. The gospel was at stake, and so God went to work in a radical way to reclaim his word and his authority. The same happened in the times of Joshua, Asa, Hezekiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the apostles. It is what God has been doing throughout history, and it is what happened during the Reformation. God intervened to reclaim what was his. The Reformation “was not a mere conflict between people and ideas, but between God and the Devil himself.” He is the true “Reformer.” Their greatness is not to be found in their intellectual brilliance nor their theological acumen. Their greatness is revealed in their humility in recognizing the greatness of God and his hand at work to change history. 

Real reformation is the work and intervention of God himself in history, in the church, and in the heart of man. Reformation dethrones man, and puts God back in his rightful place of supremacy over all things. It is a matter of affirming, and embracing, the supremacy of God. It is about pursuing a relationship with God himself made possible through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus Christ is the true reformer and the end of all true reformation. He shared the fate of all reformers — “He was despised and rejected of men,” Your true Reformer is no demagogue; he does not flatter the people: he tells them the truth. His aim was not that of most reformers. He did not seek in the first place to make men happy, but to make them holy. Our Lord took people as He met them, singly, and got hold of their wills, and changed and converted them. This is the reform which alone can make other reforms beneficial.

Revelation 21:5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Psalm 85:6: “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?”

Habakkuk 3:2, “O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.”

Isaiah 57:15, “Thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’”

To be much for God, we must be much with God. My life is His stage, not mine                                                                                                                                         

Secondly, revival delays because prayer decays. We need white-hot fervent prayer. Nothing Satan fears more than the praying person. Fire begets fire. One spark from an anvil may set a city on fire.  

“And man became a living being” Genesis 2:7: The Mishnah uses a synonym for nephesh with its root meaning prayer. The Talmud defines man as a creature who prayers. We are human only insofar as we are engaged with the Creator. What is prayer, but the essential me in contact with Him. Prayer is the necessary ingredient for being what God intended. The systems of this world are designed to remove your humanity because they are designed to remove you from a relationship with your Creator. Being human means being connected to the source of life. Being human means you are fully engaged in prayer.

Leonard Ravenhill: Poverty-stricken as the church is today in many things, she is most stricken here, in the place of prayer. We have many organizers, but few agonizers, many players and payers, but few pray-ers; many singers, but few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors, many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.

James 5:16-18: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

Luke 6:12: In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

When is the last time we prayed all night to God. We have to increase our 60 second a day prayer life.

Act 6:4:  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word

Colossians 4:2: Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 

Continue steadfastly is in the present imperative: Continually, habitually follow this command! The Present Imperative is often a call to a long-term commitment and calls for the attitude or action to be one’s continual way of life (lifestyle).

Matthew 26:37-41: Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The weakness of the flesh will challenge you to pray, but we must pray in the might of the Spirit. Sleep, busyness, time management, lack of desire all arise out of the flesh to keep us from prayer. We must become prayer warriors, watching and praying diligently. All revivals in history were preceded by fervent, hourly daily prayer. The church has been called to pray and must pray, pray and pray. It cannot be a minute of a few-faint hearted prayers. Pledge to our God-start with at least one hour in undisturbed wrestling prayer. We need to pray bold audacious prayers and see what God does.

David Brainerd: Give yourself to prayer, to reading and meditation on divine truths: strive to penetrate to the bottom of them and never be content with a superficial knowledge.” “As long as I see anything to be done for God, life is worth having; but O how vain and unworthy it is to live for any lower end!”

Give yourself to prayer. It must be our number-one priority.

When you read the prayers of Paul in his letters, they read just like prayers that would be made for churches that are drifting into lifelessness. There are few prayers in the Bible that have had a reviving, challenging, awakening, renewing effect on me like Ephesians 3, where Paul prays like this:

Ephesians 3:16-20: [I pray] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.

Verse 20 is our prayer verse-“God is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Challenge God to bring this verse into fruition in your radical, audacious prayer life. Without prayer there is no revival.

Thirdly, revival requires radical faith.

Ludy: Christianity is built on one basic thing: faith. Without faith there isn’t much left in the whole operation, because everything in Christianity that matters operates with it…Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” If faith is absent then the gospel is rendered powerless in a human life…It is a faith like the Jacob variety, the kind that says, :This is what God said He would do, so I am going to wrestle in prayer until it becomes a reality.” It is a faith that holds God to His Word and says “You promised!”…Such a faith thunders “God said it, and it will be done-I’ll stake my life on it!” Faith, in all its fullness, will persist, knock, beg, ask and wrestle through the night until the realities of the cross are fully evidenced in the natural world. Why have we become a bunch of weak-willed nerfs. And why are we rolling over and accepting such defeat. Let’s rise up with prayer and fasting and wrestle through the night until we lay hold of God and all that He has promised. According to the Bible, faith is absolute, unwavering, all-out confident, die-hard assurance, and die to prove certainty in the person of Jesus Christ and His Word. The long and short is that if God says He will do something, you can take it the bank and placed unreserved confidence that it will be done!

Faith is trusting with a radical confidence that your commander sees more clearly than you do and that he knows what is best in this and every situation…Our commander in heaven has spoken, and he did not stutter…Faith is the forsaking of my natural reasoning as the means I filter though and judge my life…It an abandonment to God’s thoughts, God’s ways, God’s agenda…This is why the first action taken by faith, as the ruing principal of the human soul, is to the hush the voice of doubt and to stick spiritual duct tape over its mouth. Doubt is the voice of the natural man-it is heavily biased towards self and its agenda, and is naturally antagonistic to the Spirit of God. Faith is wholly given to the opinion of God and trust s it implicitly. Faith has the gall to actually believe God is who He says He is and is perfectly faithful to take care of his children when we entrust ourselves to Him.  Faith is fiercely loyal to the Word of God and even at the risk of public ridicule it is will to put all its chips on God and live accordingly.   

Isaiah 7:9: If you are not firm in faith, you are not firm at all.

Romans 4:20: No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 

2 Corinthians 5:7 Walk by faith not by sight.2 Corinthians 8:7: we are to excel in faith

Ephesians 6:16: In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;

I Timothy 1:19: We cannot allow the world to shipwreck our faith. We must hold onto our faith with tenacity.

Prayer of Ephesians for the manifestation of radical faith: Ephesians 1:19-23: and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ezekiel 37:1-6: The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley;[a] it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath[b] to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

Yahweh can take the dry bones of Christianity in the world today and breathe into it new life. Only Yahweh can cause the church to live.

We cannot let the world define us; cannot let the world lead us; cannot let the world control us. If we mix with the world there will be no revival, there will be no reformation. We must come out from among the world and live sanctified in our thinking and in our actions.

Let us stand like Martin Luther against the church panting after the world. Let us come back to the authority of the Word and the truth of the Scriptures. Let us say with all boldness: “Here I stand. God help me. I can do no other.”

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Making Disciples: The Calling of the Church

Take notes. Statistics show we retain only 30% of the sermon by Sunday evening & 5% by Friday. Click to see a chart which compares the percentage of truth retained with the method by which the material is presented and received.

Robby Gallaty says ” As you study and grow, remember that you are not merely learning for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of others. Again, you must take notesHow else will you pass on the information you have learned? Guiding others in their walk with Christ is a joy many overlook. The first and foremost way to make disciples is to become a disciple, and the only way to teach others effectively is to continue as a lifelong learner. We are closest to Christ when we are doing what He has commanded us to do, and the best way to learn is to teach.” (Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples)

To reiterate the most efficient way to maximize retention of truth is to teach truth. Therefore, take time each week to teach the truths you have gleaned in our sessions. And who should you teach? I would encourage you to teach them to your wife, your children and/or someone with whom you are meeting (cp the divine pattern in Dt 6:1-26-7). If you carry out this exercise, your retention percentage will be significantly increased! Although notes will always (usually) be provided the following week, be sure you take your own notes, for we will often discuss something in our group that is not in the notes.

Let’s begin…

Making disciples is not easy but it is the last command of Jesus. To not make disciples (in the power of Spirit) is to disobey Jesus. Renaut van der Riet (pastor Mosaic Community Church, Oakland, Florida) writes about the difficulty of making disciples – “In this fast-food, instant-access generation, we have often substituted true discipleship for a superficial community experience and a program-driven approach to faith. These require far less work and a much lower level of commitment. Our churches may grow numerically, but we are left dabbling in the shallows of God instead of diving into the depths of God. We have come a long way since the days when someone would drop everything for the honor of following their rabbi…As a young pastor charting a course through the jungle of planting a church and now shepherding that church, I’ve discovered that it is increasingly difficult to find mentors who will guide me through the ins and outs of practical, biblical discipleship.”

Max Anders writes that “evidence suggests that on the whole, the church is dramatically falling short on discipleship. As I speak with people about this subject, there seems to be a pervasive sense among church observers that we are categorically failing at this central responsibility.” (Brave New Discipleship-Cultivating Scripture-driven Christians in a Culture-driven World)

Dr Howard Hendricks, beloved professor at DTS who went home to the Lord in 2013, said that every believer should foster three relationships in their life for as Solomon said “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17):

• A PAUL —an older and wiser believer from whom you can learn (I would add one who has had time to make more mistakes).

• A Barnabas—a friend who encourages, and holds you accountable

• A Timothy—a young believer in whom you are investing

This short list begs several questions. If you are a Paul, an older man (woman) in the faith, do you have a Timothy (or Timothea)? Why not? If you are like Paul or like Timothy, do you have a Barnabas to encourage you and keep you accountable? If you are a young believer, have you prayerfully sought out an older, more mature saint to be your Paul? Why not? The “Jesus way” is to make disciples and by implication to be a disciple who will go on to make disciples (2 Ti 2:2+). Obedience to Jesus’ last command will bring lasting joy, not only in this life but in the life to come (read Jn 15:16Mt 6:19-21+2 Cor 5:10+Rev 22:12+)! You are not under law but under grace (Ro 6:14+, cf Gal 5:18+), so take this to the Lord in prayer as to how He would have you respond.

Where are the older Paul’s discipling the younger Timothy’s? 30 years ago I tried to find a Paul at the largest Bible church in Austin and could not, even after to appealing to several of the lead pastors. I was forced to find my “Paul” by reading works by other godly men, especially C H Spurgeon, John Piper, John MacArthur, Chuck Swindoll, Wayne Barber, et al. That’s why I am excited about what we are beginning. I am almost 70 and have walked seriously with Jesus for 30+ years and feel a strong urge to pass on person to person many of the things the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7Php 1:19) has taught me over the years.

Steven Cole had a similar experience writing “When I was younger in the faith, I prayed about this and explored a few opportunities, but everything I tried fell flat. I couldn’t find anyone to be in the role of a Paul to me. Finally, I started reading the lives of the great men of God, such as George Muller, Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, John Bunyan, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and a host of others. They have served as my spiritual mentors. I look forward to meeting them and sitting down for long chats in heaven! But ask God first for a living model.” (Handing Off the Truth – 2 Timothy 2:2)

My goal is that after a period of time (12-24 months) you will pass the principles I teach you to a group of younger men. Spiritual Multiplication is my goal, obeying Christ’s command to make disciples who make disciples. My time on earth is short and God has impressed on me that the highest eternal “yield” (see Jesus’ charge “to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last” forever! Jn 15:168) is to invest in a group of younger, trustworthy, reliable men who are willing and able to pass the spiritual baton to other faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2– note ).

But it will not happen by my power or so-called “adequacy” for sure –

Jesus’ words keep resonating through my mind (these words are in a different context but applicable in principle. Context = When Jesus taught that He Himself was the Bread of life)…

(1) John 6:63 “It is the Spirit Who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (“are spirit-giving and life-producing”)

So what is our great need from Jn 6:63? – dependence on the Spirit, diving into His Word = these are “spirit-giving and life-producing.” So throughout our time together over the months to come the Holy Word illuminated/taught by the Holy Spirit will be our goal for only therein are we “adequate.”

(2) John 15:5 Jesus said “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides (active voicepresent tense = habitually, as his routine practice, as his general lifestyle, “is at home”) in Me, and I in him, (= oneness, covenant, intimacy – cp marriage covenant = man becoming one flesh with his wife – Ge 2:24 ) he bears much fruit; for (term of explanationapart from Me you can (you have power [dunamai] to) do nothing (absolutely nothing).”

(3) 2Cor 3:5-6note Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a New Covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. –

What’s the key word? Adequate.

What’s “letter”? the Law.

Comment – Note the clear, striking contrast between law and Spirit, like oil and water! And again notice that any spiritual fruit that comes from us that possesses spiritual life and eternal value is produced by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, which emphasizes the disciple’s desperate need to continually abide in and depend on His filling and His enabling if he or she is to be a fruitful follower of Christ.

Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, publicly apologized to his congregation for failing to produce disciples in his church. Hybels instructed his staff to evaluate Willow Creek’s effectiveness, and the results caused Hybels to experience the “wake-up call” of his ministerial life. After investing 30 years of ministry and tens of millions of dollars in facilities, programs, and promotions, Willow Creek was admittedly unsuccessful in producing disciples. Resources were prioritized on attracting visitors, but a step-by-step plan for personal growth was ignored. (Here is a direct quote – “When you’re three decades into leading a church as I am you think you ‘get it’ and the data proved there’s some things I don’t ‘get it’ yet!”)

David Platt author of books “Radical” and “Follow Me” writes that “In Jesus’ initial call to four men standing by the Sea of Galilee, we see that the inevitable overflow of being a disciple of Jesus is making disciples of Jesus. “Follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). This was a promise: Jesus would take His disciples and turn them into disciple-makers. And this was a command: he would call each of his disciples at the end of Matthew to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey him (Matthew 28:19-20). From the start, God’s simple design has been for every single disciple of Jesus to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples until the gospel spreads to all peoples on the planet. Yet we have subtly and tragically taken this costly command of Christ to go, baptize, and teach all nations and mutated it into a comfortable call for Christians to come, be baptized, and listen in one location. If you were to ask individual Christians today what it means either to be a disciple or to make disciples, you would likely get jumbled thoughts, ambiguous answers, and probably even some blank stares. In all our activity as Christians and with all our resources in the church, we are practically ignoring the commission of Christ. Evangelism is relegated to a dreaded topic, discipleship is reduced to a canned program, and the majority of the church is currently sitting sidelined in a spectator mentality that delegates disciple-making to pastors and professionals, ministers and missionaries.”

J.D. Greear author of the provocative book “Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart” writes “Scientists and theologians agree: everything that is alive grows and reproduces. How is it, then, that so many Christians are not growing and not reproducing spiritually?”

With that as a background, our primary resource for making disciples will be God’s Word.

WHO IS A DISCIPLE OF JESUS?

A key passage for us will be John 8:31b – Jesus said “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.”

What kind of sentence is this? If…then. A conditional sentence.

What is the condition? What is the promise? Whose disciples will we be?

So what does it mean to abide? Remain, live, be at home.

What is the “home” in Jesus’ declaration? THE WORD.

LET’S SUM IT UP – what is Jesus saying? What do you do at home? Do you just visit your home? I hope not! You don’t just visit the Word as an occasional guest. You move in and live with the WORD. You wake up WITH THE WORD and you GO TO SLEEP WITH THE WORD percolating through your heart and mind ( Ps 63:6Ps 119:55Ps 119:148; Cp importance of memorization and meditation). The Word shapes your worldview (cp Ro 12:2note ). It governs and guides your thinking, your attitudes, your speech, and your behavior. There isn’t any area of your life that is not subject to God’s Word or influenced by it (cf Col 3:16note). Continuing or abiding obviously implies time spent in the Word over the long haul.” You become Scripture Saturated. (not satiated but saturated!) But is the goal just for information? Of course not – it is for transformation. We must seek to master the Bible well, so that the Bible masters us….

our purpose together is not to make us smarter sinners,
but for us to become more like our Savior
.

2 Corinthians 3:18note – Let’s read 2Cor 3:18 – “But we all, with unveiled face beholding (present tense = continually, not just occasionally or once or twice a week!) as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (present tense = continually signifying it is a life-long process [i.e., it is the process of progressive sanctification], passive voicemetamorphoo = “the caterpillar to butterfly word”) into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

Here is the Amplified version – “And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.”

So how do we behold the glory of the Lord? In the creation you might say, and that’s true (cf Ps 19:1-2 ). But for the Holy Spirit to bring about true inner changes that shows forth on the outside we need to behold Jesus in the Word of God.

Dr. H. A. Ironside told the story about an old Scot who lay suffering and, actually, dying. The physician told him he didn’t have very long to live. A friend came to spend a little time with him and said to him, “They tell me you’ll not be with us long.” That’s a nice thing to say to a man who is dying. Then he continued, “I hope you get a wee glimpse of the Savior’s blessed face as you are going through the valley of the shadow.” The dying man looked up when he gathered a little strength and answered, “Away with the glimpse, mon; it’s a full view of His blessed face I’ve had these forty years, and I’ll not be satisfied with any of your wee glimpses now.” How wonderful to behold Him today.

The goal of our time together will be for us to abide in His Word and BEHOLD THE GLORY OF JESUS and be transformed by His Spirit into CHRIST’S image, disciples becoming more like their Master, being crafted into disciples who will be prepared and passionate to pass the baton, seeking to make more disciples.

LAST WORDS ARE ALWAYS WORTH LISTENING TO
Especially if they are from Jesus

Let’s look at Jesus’ last command to His disciples and by default to all of us today who would call ourselves true followers of Jesus…

Matthew 28:18-20note (Context = Mt 28:17 = When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.)

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples (verb = matheteuo from the noun mathetes = learners = those who direct their mind to another’s teaching and follow them as their leader) of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

WHAT IS THE ONLY COMMAND IN jesus’ GREAT COMMISSIONMake Disciples. It is a command in the aorist imperative meaning to “Do this Now!” “Don’t delay!” In Greek the aorist imperative conveys a sense of urgency!

As an aside, there are over 1600 commands in the NT and none of them can be carried out in our natural strength (e.g., In Eph 5:25note “Husbands love your wives [HOW?] as Christ loved the church” is a command in the present imperative which is a charge to do this this continually! Just try to accomplish that by relying on your fallen flesh! Cp Col 3:19note ). We must continually choose to renounce self-effort and rely on the Spirit’s enablement. Yes, the Spirit is called the “Helper” (Jn 14:16 ) but a better name would be “Enabler” because to say we need just a little help implies we can do some of the supernatural work in our own power, which we can’t! Remember that every divine commandment comes “pre-packaged” with divine enablement (the indwelling Spirit)! To try to accomplish divine commands (like “make disciples“) with self effort will end up placing us under the frustrating, futile yoke of legalism, because natural strength can never carry out supernatural tasks! In summary, we commanded to make disciples, but the truth is we can only make disciples as God’s Spirit enables us to make disciples. Making disciples is a supernatural work calling for continued dependence on a supernatural Source, the Spirit of Jesus, the Master Disciple Maker! His power, our privilege!

From this passage what kind of disciples does Jesus desire? Learners of the Word who are doers, men and women who observe and obey His Word (cp James 1:22note ). In Mt 28:19 Jesus says “teaching them to observe” or obey His Word. Recall Jesus’ description in John 8:31 “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” To abide in His Word in context implies that one obeys His Word. Does he or she obey perfectly? Of course not. But it is about the general direction of one’s conduct and behavior. One of my favorite sayings is that it is about direction, not perfection! Hallelujah!

WHAT ACTIVITY IS CENTRAL TO THE MAKING OF DISCIPLES? Teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded.

How can Jesus be with us always? This is possible because every believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ (Ro 8:9note ).

How does this truth relate to ACTS 1:8note? Jesus declared to His disciples “but you shall receive power (dunamis) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”?

If we seek to make disciples, what are the chances we will succeed according to what jesus declared? Mt 28:18 says He has all authority and Mt 28:20 promises He will be with us forever! In sum we are assured of success in making disciples if we continually rely on His power (Acts 1:8note ) and His presence. We must never forget that we are not “adequate in ourselves” to make disciples, but that the Spirit of Christ is always adequate (2Cor 3:5-6-note ).

Mt 28:18-20 is commonly called the GREAT COMMISSION but some have called it the Great Confusion. Why? Because as Bill Hull asks “Why does the church insist on trying to evangelize the world without making disciples?…Christ did not come to make Christians; He came to make disciples.” Discipleship is not one of the church’s various ministries. It is not something that the paid staff do. Discipleship is who we – as the church – are at our very core.”

does preaching THE WORD make disciples? Most everyone would agree that while preaching is commanded and is necessary for a vital, dynamic local body, preaching by itself is not the primary means for making disciples.

Avery Willis, creator of Masterlife, when asked if preaching makes disciples replied “I really don’t believe much discipling is done through preaching….Yes, you can impart information and emotion in preaching, but discipleship is more relationalmore one on one… preaching to make disciples is like going to the nursery and spraying the crying babies with milk and saying that you just fed the kids…..I am not against preaching; I do it all the time. But Jesus chose twelve and lived with them, explained to them, gave them assignments, debriefed them…to shape and mold them to be like Him. His sermons no doubt helped convey the truth, but He had to follow up most of it with what I call discipling.”

How important is discipleship to most pastors? In his recent book on making disciples Robby Gallaty writes “In study after study, pastors have repeatedly ranked discipleship at the bottom of their priority list. The average church today focuses on programs and the public worship experience. Few have any real emphasis on personal discipleship, much less any structure or instruction for performing it.” (Ibid )

TEACH SOMEONE WHAT YOU LEARNED THIS WEEK!
PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER THIS WEEK!

The fact that the Greek word for disciple is not found after the book of Acts (Acts 21:16 = last occurrence) might suggest that after Acts there is no need for the Church to fulfill Jesus’ last command to make disciples (Mt 28:19note). Nothing could be further from the truth. While the word disciple (mathetes) or make disciples (matheteuo) is not present after Acts, the concept of discipleship is taught repeatedly, especially in the Pauline epistles. We will begin with the foremost example found in Paul’s last written communication in his second letter to the young disciple name Timothy (Paul wrote “the time of my departure has come” 2Ti 4:6note). So even as Mt 28:18-20 was Jesus’ Great Commission to His disciples, Paul’s issues his last commission to Timothy in 2Timothy 2:1-2

1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

2 And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able (hikanos = having attained a certain standard, fit, qualified ) to teach others also. ( 2Ti 2:1-2note )

IMPORTANCE OF OBSERVING
“CONNECTING WORDS”

(Thereforeforso that, etc)

What is the “therefore” there forTerms of conclusion like therefore should always prompt a pause to prayerfully ponder what the author is saying and will usually force you to re-read the preceding context. Practice this simple discipline and it will radically transform your “Read Through the Bible in a Year” program! This will also keep you from “speed reading” the text and give your Teacher, the Spirit, an opportunity to teach you (to illuminate the text) and speak to you (e.g., to urge you to apply the truth). Another benefit of pausing to ponder is that you in effect practice the discipline of Biblical Meditation or “chewing the cud,” a vanishing discipline in our fast paced, hi tech, low touch society, but a discipline God promises to bless (Ps 1:2notePs 1:3noteJoshua 1:8note) Remember that reading the Bible without meditating on it is like eating without chewing.

So why is the therefore there? In the present context Paul has just described the fact that all in Asia have departed (2Ti 1:15 –note), so it would be tempting for Timothy to shrink back from passing on the Gospel (2Ti 1:7note suggests he may have been a timid personality)….therefore Paul tells Timothy to be strong, be strengthened on the inside for the spiritual warfare on the outside. The last thing the Adversary wants to see is disciples who are being strengthened in the Lord and supernaturally equipped to make more disciples. If he can sidetrack the church from obeying Jesus’ last, great command to make disciples (Mt 28:19note), he has achieved a major objective to blunting the power of the Church of Jesus Christ!

IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING
BASICS OF VERB TENSE, VOICE AND MOOD

Be strong is present tense, imperative mood and passive voice. Paul is not giving a suggestion but a command and present tense calls for Timothy to continually be strengthened by grace, the clear implication being that he is going to continually need it! The passive voice indicates that the action (inner strengthening) is the result of an outside Source, the grace that is in Christ Jesus and as discussed below is “dispensed” by His Spirit. (See simple synopsis of Greek Verb Tense, Voice, Mood).

The Greek verb is endunamoo and is derived from dunamisDunamis (source of English words like DynamoDynamicDynamite) describes the inherent (supernatural) power residing within someone to enable them to accomplish a task. For example, in Romans 1:16note Paul says the Gospel has supernatural dunamis (inherent power) to save, which should take some of the pressure off of us to think we have to make a perfect presentation. In Acts 1:8note Jesus says the Spirit will give the disciples (including us) dunamis to be His witnesses (fulfilling His promise of clothing them with supernatural power in Lk 24:49). In is interesting that the same verb endunamoo is also used by Paul in Ephesians 6:10note (also in the form of a command = present passive imperative) and is clearly used in the context of spiritual warfare, which would support the premise that there will be major spiritual resistance when Timothy (and we) seek to obey Jesus and Paul and go and make disciples. Our enemy will do all that God allows him to do to prevent us from completing this vital task! Paul also uses endunamoo in this same letter in 2Ti 4:17note to speak of the Lord strengthening him in the face of spiritual attack (2Ti 4:14-16note). Paul’s example of reliance on the Lord Jesus’ power to stand firm would encourage his disciple to do the same when the opposition came as it surely would (see one of “God’s promises” we’d rather not have! = 2Ti 3:12note)!

Remember that there are over 1600 commands (imperatives) in the New Testament and we cannot keep even ONE of them in our natural strength. So even for Timothy to experience inner strengthening which Paul commands, he had to first surrender or yield his rights and to rely on the Holy Spirit in him to give him the dunamis he needed to accomplish the task Paul would call him to in verse 2, the task of making disciples. The ESV Study Bible says this section describes Paul’s “resumes the call to Spirit-empowered boldness” which began in 2Ti 1:6ffnoteAnd the same spiritual dynamic (our need, the Spirit’s sufficient supply) applies to us as we seek to obey Paul’s command to be strong. We cannot just “grit our teeth” and be strong (the world’s way), but we must continually renounce reliance on our natural ability and rely wholly on the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29b). He is the Lord’s “C.E.O.” if you will, the Lord’s administrator or executive, Who makes the grace that is in Christ Jesus available to His disciples.

The great Puritan writer John Owen explains how grace is in Jesus and yet the effecting Agent of that grace is the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7Phil 1:19noteRo 8:9note). Owen writes

“Everything God does He does as the triune God. Each Person of the Trinity is involved in every action of God. Yet at the same time each Person has a special role to fulfill in that work….There is no good that we receive from God but it is brought to us and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit. Nor is there in us any good towards God, any faith, love, obedience to His will, but what we are enabled (Ed: Note not “helped” which implies we have some ability and just need a little “push“!) to do so by the Holy Spirit. (Pneumatologia, Or, A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit)

J Vernon McGee comments on Paul’s command to be strong –

“I love this—be strong in grace. My friend, if you think that you can grit your teeth and go out and live the Christian life on your own, you’re in for a great disappointment. If you feel that you can follow a few little rules or some clever gimmicks to make you a mature Christian, then you have fallen into a subtle trap of legalism. Paul gives no rules, and the Word of God has no rules to tell the child of God how to live the Christian life. We are saved by grace, and now we are to live by the grace of God and be strong in that grace….When I hear Christians say, “I don’t do this, and I don’t do that, and I am following a set of rules,” I immediately recognize that they know very little about the grace of God. They are trying to live the Christian life in their own strength. Paul says, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” This begs the question dear disciples of Christ, in whose strength are you living the supernatural life, yours or His?

What is the source of the power the Spirit dispenses? In context, it is the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The most common answer to the question what is the meaning of grace is “God’s unmerited favor.” Or some mention the great acrostic G.R.A.C.EGod’s Riches AChrist’s Expense. While these answers are not wrong, they fall short of the important truth that grace means so much more that unmerited favor. In the present context we see that grace connotes power, especially supernatural enablement to accomplish what God commands. You can mark it down — God’s commandment ALWAYS includes His enablement! We see this same pattern in Second Corinthians where Paul gives us insight into an event which I personally think is the “secret” of his incredible ministry for the Lord. So let’s take a quick look at that passage.

THE “SECRET” OF
PAUL’S POWERFUL MINISTRY

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul describes an event that occurred 14 years earlier, an event in which he was “raptured” (same verb [harpazo – Latin Vulgate translates it “rapturo“] used in 1Thes 4:17note) into the Third Heaven (2Cor 12:2), to Paradise (2Cor 12:4), and because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, he was given “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet” him (no one knows exactly how this was manifest) to keep Paul from exalting himself. (2Cor 12:7). And after praying three times for the Lord to take away the thorn (2Cor 12:8), Jesus responded by teaching us a truly life changing truth…

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for (My) power (dunamis) is perfected (made to reach its intended goal) in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2Cor 12:9-10note)

And so we see that the Lord Jesus clearly equates the grace that is in Him (Jn 1:14noteJn 1:16-17note) with the power to live a supernatural life (cp Jn 10:10). And what is the key that unlocks the door to that abundant life? Our weaknesses (plural)! This is one of the great truths of Scripture and as with most of the profound teachings of the Bible, it is totally antithetical to the way the world thinks. The world says “up” is the way to power, but Jesus says “No, down is the way to My power!” Grace flows down, as we humbly bow at the foot of the Cross (cp James 4:6). And so why did I make the presumptive statement that this passage unlocks the secret for Paul’s dynamic ministry (and for us who are called to imitate Paul – 1Cor 11:1)? The answer requires some comparison with the chronology of the major events in Paul’s life. Recall that Second Corinthians was written about 56AD, but Paul’s being caught up to the third heaven and Paradise occurred 14 years earlier (2Cor 12:2-3), roughly 42AD, which would have been after his conversion (Acts 9:1-9) but before his 3 great missionary journeys. I will submit that Paul never shed that thorn in his side and that in a continual state of weakness he was continually in a state of supernatural strength (power) wrought by the grace with is in Christ Jesus (2Ti 2:1). Paul knew about grace and power and he knew Timothy and all disciples that would follow would need to depend on the same power source! The highly respected commentator Warren Wiersbe makes a similar statement declaring that 1Cor 15:10 was “the secret of Paul’s great ministry,” and while I totally agree (read that verse and note the repeated word!), the event which led to Paul’s utter dependence on God’s grace for ministry occurred in Second Corinthians 12. As always I encourage you to be a Berean (Acts 17:11note). I could be wrong, but I can’t wait to ask Paul in the future if this was the pivotal event (after his conversion of course) that fueled his dynamic distribution of the Gospel of Jesus throughout most of the Roman Empire. Below is an overview of the approximate chronology (Bible does not give specific dates) of Paul’s life…

32AD – Stephen’s stoning Acts 7:588:1

33AD – Persecution of church (Acts 8:1-3Phil 3:6)

34AD – Paul born again on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9) Goes to Damascus (Acts 9:10-19Acts 9:22 says “Saul kept increasing (endunamoo in the imperfect tense) in strength.”

35AD – Travels to Arabia where he spends 3 years (Gal 1:17 – most authorities say this event occurred between Acts 9:22 and Acts 9:23 – note phrase “when many days had elapsed”)

46AD – Barrnabas travels to Tarsus in order to seek Saul (Acts 11:25)

56AD – Second Corinthians Written

Respected teacher Jerry Bridges has some excellent summary comments on the relationship of power and grace in 2Timothy 2:1 writing that…

The grace in 2 Timothy 2:1 is the blessing of power. It’s the same category of grace we see in 2 Corinthians 12:9 as the Lord tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” and Paul responds, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Here God equates his grace with his power; power that can be experienced only through human weakness. So when Paul wanted Timothy to be strengthened by the same divine power he had experienced, he urged Timothy to be strengthened by grace. How is Timothy to respond to this command? By faith he’s to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit instead of his own resolutions, self-effort, or willpower. He’s to acknowledge that without Christ he can do nothing (John 15:5). Just as he must look outside himself to Christ’s righteousness for his standing before God, he must also look outside himself to the power of the Holy Spirit for his strength to live the Christian life. And the same is true for us. (Amen!) (The Bookends of the Christian Life- Jerry Bridges, Bob Bevington)

GRACE IN
THREE TENSES

Since grace is so amazing, let’s dwell just a few more minutes on God’s great grace. It is fascinating to observe that God’s grace is used in at least 3 ways in the New Testament – I like to think of grace in “three tenses“…

PAST TENSE GRACE = God’s unmerited favor in our salvation – Eph 2:8-9note. This tense corresponds to the grace that brought about our justification.

PRESENT TENSE GRACE = God’s power to produce inner transformation and which is available to us now enabling us to grow in our supernatural life in Christ. Read 1Cor 15:10note, noting the key word and also noting Paul’s responsibility and God’s provision! (Cp 2Cor 1:12). This tense corresponds to the grace necessary for our progressive sanctification.

It follows that grace does not merely accept us (justification), but it transforms us (sanctification – cp Titus 2:11note and Titus 2:12note), and we need to be careful that we do “not receive the grace of God in vain.” (2Cor 6:1) To dismiss grace in the sanctification process will lead to frustration in our spiritual lives and even to spiritual disaster!

 

Ray Ortlund adds that “if all we want out of God is acceptance without transformation, we are receiving His grace in vain and our Christianity is worthless. The power of grace is not automatic. Each of us lives out of an inner world with its own moral and conceptual and emotional topography. The obstacles to God there are formidable. Our intuitive ways of thinking, the tilt of our very desires—these powerful internal structures can hinder the advance of God.” (Preaching the Word – Isaiah)

FUTURE TENSE GRACE = God’s grace that will change us “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1Cor 15:52) into eternal bearers of Christ-like glory at our Lord’s return (1Jn 3:2note). Read 1Pe 1:13note. This tense corresponds to the grace that will bring about our future glorification.

ETERNAL GRACE = There is one other “chronological” aspect of grace, which we might term “eternal grace,” for Paul writes that “in the ages to come He might show (present tense = continually, forever and ever and ever) the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:7note). God’s amazing grace transcends time!

In summary we begin our Christian race by grace (are justified), run daily by grace (are sanctified) and finish by grace (are glorified), all provided by the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29)

See Related Discussion = Three Tenses of Salvation

What is Paul’s command in 2Ti 2:2? Timothy was commanded to entrust what he had learned from Paul in the presence of many witnesses (cp synonymous terms in 2Ti 1:13note = “sound words” ; 2Ti 1:14 = “the treasure” of the Gospel). Entrust is the verb paratithemi, which literally means to set before and described setting food before someone (Mk 6:41). I love this picture, for when we entrust the Word of the Gospel to others, we in effect set the “Bread of life” before them! In secular Greek paratithemi was a common banking term meaning to deposit something valuable (what is more valuable than the Gospel?) as a trust, for protection and safe keeping.

Who are the men Timothy was and we was to seek in order to entrust the treasure of the Gospel? Not just any men but men who are faithful, who are trustworthy, who will keep their promise to pass the treasure to the next runner. The point is clear — we are to seek men to disciple who are serious about the Gospel and unwilling to commit to passing it on to other men when they have finished their time of disciple training.

As someone has said we should seek “F.A.T. men” = Faithful, Available (will make time to be discipled a priority – men willing to set the alarm at 5AM and gather at 6AM!), Teachable (Men “who tremble at” God’s Word, Isa 66:2, who put out the “welcome mat” [verb = dechomai] welcoming the Word – 1Th 2:13note; cp James 1:21note )

Disciple-Makers International – In these days of heightened sensitivity, never refer to someone as “fat”. The “politically correct” term is “horizontally gifted”. But when it comes to deciding who to invest your time in as a disciple maker, forget protocol and look for FAT people; that is, Faithful, Available and Teachable. (Discipling “FAT” People)

As an aside how many “runners” do you observe in 2Timothy 2:2? Four, just like the 400 meter relay race! What happens in a relay race when the baton is dropped or runner disqualified? Did you see what happened to the US team in he men’s 400 meter relay at the 2015 world championships? (Go to 8 minutes to watch 2015 Men’s 4x100m Relay Final – IAAF World Championships in Beijing)

How important is the passing of the spiritual baton of the Gospel to faithful runners? It goes without saying that it is critical to pass the baton. Where would we be if Timothy had failed to obey the command to make disciples? How valuable is the process of spiritual multiplication? See the following illustrations…

Illustration of the Value of Spiritual Multiplication – Suppose that two boys had a very rich father. He made them an offer: they could choose to receive either $100,000 per day for 31 days, or one penny the first day, doubled each day for 31 days. If one boy chose the $100,000 per day, at the end of 31 days he would have $3,100,000. But the boy who chose the penny doubled each day would come out with $2,147,483,648!

See the power of discipleship groups for multiplying disciples – Compares the spiritual fruit of the Evangelist versus a Disciple maker versus a group of four. (If one man discipled 3 other men for one year and they in turn discipled 3 men for a year, etc, etc, by year 16 the number of disciples would be over 43 million (US population = 320 million)!

THE FIVE MOST IMPORTANT
VERSES IN THE BIBLE

Recall that one of the marks of a true disciple of Jesus is that he abides in His Word and then he adds that the truth of His Word will set the disciple free (Jn 8:31-32). The verb Jesus used for “shall make you free” (eleutheroo) was used literally to describe the emancipation of slaves from bondage. Jesus came to set us free from the power of sin, the fallen world and Satan. But the prerequisite is that we allow His Word to continually penetrate and permeate our heart and mind. With that in mind over the next sessions we will focus on some passages that are vital for every true disciple of Jesus to fully comprehend so that they might live out the abundant life in the freedom that His grace and His Spirit provides. Of course all Scripture is important because it is a word from God Himself (2Ti 3:16), but for our purposes we will focus on five passages which I feel are especially important in regard to growing disciples in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2Pe 3:18).

BE FILLED

1) Ephesians 5:18BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

Testimonials Regarding the Importance of Ephesians 5:18

Chuck Swindoll – I don’t know of a more important verse in the New Testament for the Christian than Ephesians 5:18—honest, no exaggeration. This verse tells the believer how to live an authentic, empowered life…. I cannot be filled with the Spirit while I have unconfessed sin within me. I cannot be filled with the Spirit while at the same time conducting my life in the energy of the flesh. I cannot be filled with the Spirit while I am resisting God’s will and relying only on myself. I need to be sure that I have taken care of the sins that have emerged in my life, that I have not ignored the wrong that I have done before God and to others. I need to walk in conscious dependence on the Lord on a daily basis. Many a morning I begin my day by sitting on the side of the bed, saying:

This is your day, Lord. I want to be at Your disposal. I have no idea what these next twenty-four hours will contain. But before I sip my first cup of coffee, and even before I get dressed, I want You to know that from this moment on throughout this day, I’m Yours, Lord. Help me to lean on You, to draw strength from You, and to have You fill my mind and my thoughts. Take control of my senses so that I am literally filled with Your presence and empowered with Your energy. I want to be Your tool, Your vessel today. I can’t make it happen. And so I’m saying, Lord, fill me with Your Spirit today. (Embraced by the Spirit)

Ray Pritchard wrote that “the filling of the Spirit is the most important doctrine of the spiritual life….three common misconceptions. (1) It is an emotional experience…(2) It is reserved for special Christians….(3) It is controversial and therefore better off ignored…. (Pritchard ends his sermon declaring that) “the filling of the Spirit is the most important doctrine of the spiritual life. It is foundational to everything else. There is nothing we need more. Here is my definition of the filling of the Spirit: It is that state in which the Holy Spirit is free to do all that He came into my life to do. In a sense being filled with the Spirit is an impossibility-at least as far as it depends on us. Only God’s Spirit can fill us. We need two things-emptiness and openness. You can’t fill a jar that’s already full, and you can’t fill a jar that is not open. There must be a sense of need-“Lord, I’m empty and I need to be filled by Your Spirit.” There must be a willingness-“Lord, I’m open to You…” The filling of the Spirit is really as simple as that. As long as we are conscious of our need and as long as we are willing to yield to the Lord, we can be filled with the Lord all day long. This power is available to us all day long. (What Does it Mean to be Filled With the Spirit?)

Dr. J. Vernon McGee preached a commencement address at Dallas Theological Seminary and was then in his early 80s, near the end of a long and fruitful ministry. Ray Pritchard writes “I’ve forgotten almost everything else he said that night, but one comment has stayed with me. He said that if he were starting his ministry over again, he would give much more attention to the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. He would preach on the Spirit more frequently and attempt to lead people to depend on his power every day. The greatest preacher of the 19th century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said, “The grand thing the church wants in this time is God’s Holy Spirit.” More than anything else, we need to rediscover the Holy Spirit and learn anew to depend on him. ” (Ibid)

John MacArthur – If we do not obey this command (be filled with the Spirit), we cannot obey any other—simply because we cannot do any of God’s will apart from God’s Spirit. Outside of the command for unbelievers to trust in Christ for salvation, there is no more practical and necessary command in Scripture than the one for believers to be filled with the Spirit. (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. Chicago: Moody Press)

Ray Stedman writes being filled with the Spirit is “the great secret of real Christianity.” (Watch How You Walk – Ephesians 5:15-20)

Ephesians 5:18 – And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.

The original (not the revised version of the NLT of Eph 5:18 read “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you.”

Remember that every believer receives all of the Holy Spirit he will ever receive at the moment of regeneration. If one does not have the Spirit, Paul says they are not a believer. Ro 8:9 = “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”

OBSERVATIONS AND QUESTIONS
ON EPHESIANS 5:18:

What is the contrast? Wine versus the Spirit. Drunk with wine or “drunk” with the Spirit.

What does the contrast emphasize? It points out that what fills a person will influence or control the person, especially what comes out of their mouth

What happens to the behavior of one under the influence of wine? Clearly their behavior or conduct is altered, causing one to say or do things they would not normally do.

What about filling with the Spirit? The first word in Eph 5:19 is “speaking” indicating that filling will have a direct impact on what comes out of our mouth as with Peter in Acts 4:8.

How does Peter’s action in Acts 4:8 contrast with his behavior in Mt 26:70-75?

Look also at the believers in Acts 4:31 = “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness (parrhesia).”

Now let’s look at the verb “be filled”…

The present tense, imperative mood is not a suggestion but is a command (it is absolute necessity) to be continuously filled a day–by–day, moment–by–moment submitting or yielding our “rights” to the Spirit. Filling is not optional.

The passive voice indicates that the filling is not something we do but that we allow to be done to us. Our responsibility is to allow God’s Spirit to fill us, to yield, to surrender to Him (See Pastor Swindoll’s prayer above). To recognize and acknowledge our emptiness.

The verb is plural signifying every believer, not a elite group. No one is excepted!

The filling is entirely the work of the Spirit Himself, but He works only through our willing submission. The present aspect of the command indicates that we cannot rely on a past filling nor live in expectation of future filling. We can rejoice in past fillings and hope for future fillings, but we can live only in present filling.

Pleroo (word study ) connotes more than filling something up, as when someone pours water in a glass up the rim.

(1) Pleroo was used of the wind filling a sail and carrying the ship along. (Compare 2Peter 1:21 = “men moved (being borne along) by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”) We need to “put up our sails” so to speak and allow Him to move us along throughout the day!

(2) Pleroo carries the idea of permeation, and was used of salt permeating meat to flavor and preserve. God wants His Holy Spirit to so permeate the lives of His children that everything they think, say, and do will reflect His divine presence.

(3) Pleroo conveys idea of total control. The person who is filled with anger is controlled by that emotion = Luke 6:11 (context = Lk 6:6-11 = Jesus restored a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath. Religious leaders “themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.” What (Who) fills you will control you!

NOTE: Being filled with the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean we have more of the Spirit, but that the Spirit has more of us.

As discussed above, the first word in the next Greek sentence (Eph 5:19) is SPEAKING. One of the ways I know when I am not submitted to the Spirit’s control and power is by noting what comes out of my mouth! (cp Jesus’ in Mt 12:34 = “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”)

Notice that in the following context (from Ephesians 5:19-33 and Ephesians 6:1-20) how Ephesians 5:18 depicts the Holy Spirit as the Source or the Headwaters of a mighty spiritual river coming out of our innermost being (cp Jn 7:37-39– notePr 4:23note ) flowing (with supernatural enabling power) into every area of our life….

Eph 5:19note = Worship = “with your heart to the Lord” (God is not interested in our voice or the emotion with which we sing, but the condition of our hearts – cp Ps 24:4-5)

Eph 5:20 –note = Thanksgiving = Always giving thanks for all things – no exceptions! This is another good marker in my life of whether I am filled with the Spirit or filled with self!

Eph 5:21-33 –note = Marriage = “be subject (imperative sense) to one another” = (Eph 5:21), wives to your own husbands = (Eph 5:2224 –note ), “Husbands, love (present imperative) your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” = (Eph 5:25 –note ), “husbands ought (verb describes a sense of indebtedness = to owe something to someone – present tense) also to love their own wives as their own bodies” = (Eph 5:28 –note ), “love (present imperative) his own wife even as himself” = (Eph 5:33 –note )

Eph 6:1-3 –note = Children = obey (present imperative) your parents…honor (present imperative) your father and mother

Eph 6:4 –note = Fathers = Fathers, do not provoke (present imperative) your children to anger, but bring them up (present imperative) in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Eph 6:5-8 –note = Employees = “Slaves, be obedient (present imperative)…doing (present tense) the will of God from the heart, With good will render service (present tense);

Eph 6:9 –note = Employers = do (present imperative) the same things to them, and give up (present tense) threatening,

Eph 6:10-17 –note = Spiritual warfare = be strong (present imperative) in the Lord = (Eph 6:10 –note ); Put on (present imperative) the full armor of God, so that you will be able (dunamai in present tense = continually have the inner power) to stand firm against the schemes (methodeia) of the devil = Eph 6:11 –note , take up (present imperative) the full armor of God (Eph 6:13 –note ); stand firm (aorist imperative);

Eph 6:18 –note = Prayer = “With all prayer and petition pray (present tense) at all times in the Spirit”

Eph 6:19-20 –note = Evangelism/boldness = “to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

How do you recognize a true disciple of Jesus?

Jn 8:31 = He abides or is at home with His Word. He remains. He does not leave the Word. “Jesus is saying that the mark of the true disciple is lasting, enduring, persevering, keeping on in the force field of the word. Temporary tastes of the truth and beauty and value and power and grace and bread and water and brightness of the word do not make you a Christian. The mark of Christians is that we taste and we stay.” (Piper) In John 15:6 Jesus speaks of abiding in Him. So abiding in His Word is tantamount to abiding in the Word! Obviously, there is a caveat — many people read the Word. Some even memorize it, including the entire OT in some cases. But they do not believe the Word and you can tell they do not believe the Word because they do not obey the Word. And of course the only way a genuine disciple can obey the Word is by the enabling desire and power of the indwelling Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7). John Piper says “For me, 1 Samuel 3:21 has been tremendously helpful. It says, “The Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” Himself by the word. And the same is true for Jesus—He reveals Himself to us today “by the word of the Lord.”” (If You Abide in My Word, You Are Truly My Disciples)

I have often heard the teaching that in John 8:31 Jesus is not speaking of believers in general but of a subset that are known as disciplesJohn Piper however clarifies this erroneous idea asking

“What then is a true disciple? Or what does Jesus mean by saying in John 8:31, “you are truly my disciples”? Let’s be really clear here: For Jesus “true disciple” is the same as “true Christian” or “true believer.” Jesus is not saying that “true disciple” is a second stage in the Christian life. an important distinction… He did not say to these professing believers, “If you abide in my word, you will become truly my disciples.” In other words, he did not teach that being a true disciple was a later stage after simple belief. No. He said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Now that you have believed, here is how you can know what you now are. You can know if your belief is real: You are now my true disciples if you go on abiding in my word. So there is no thought here about “true discipleship” being a second stage of Christian maturity.” (Ibid)

I agree wholeheartedly with Dr Piper that every true believer is a true disciple and every true disciple is a true believer.

D A Carson explains that what Jesus is saying in essence that “perseverance is the mark of true faith, of real disciples. A genuine believer remains in Jesus’ ‘word’ (logos)… such a person obeys it, seeks to understand it better, and finds it more precious, more controlling, precisely when other forces flatly oppose it. (Pillar Commentary on John)

What two promises does Jesus make to His disciples in John 8:32?

(1) We will know (ginosko = by experience) the truth. This truth is significant because our spiritual warfare is not so much a power struggle but a truth struggle and the “battle field” in our mind. Since this knowing is experiential it speaks of fellowship and communion with Jesus, Who Himself is the Truth! So it follows that abiding in the Word is abiding in Jesus, experiencing time with Him which is never a waste of time!

(2) The Truth will set us free (eleutheroo) – The Greek verb was used to describe the emancipation of slaves. We were once slaves to Self and Sin (cp “slave of sin” – Jn 8:34) but now are free in Christ (cf “having been freed from sin” Who is our new Master? = Ro 6:18noteRo 6:22note). Remember that freedom in Christ is not the right to do as we please but the power to do as we should and thus to please God! Not freedom to sin, but freedom from sin! As Piper says “You are fully free—completely free, free indeed—when you have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to do what will make you happy in a thousand years.”

How sure can we be of our freedom from sin and Satan from John 8:36?

When the Son makes us free we are free indeed

Ryrie writes – “Freedom given by Christ is the only true freedom. Delivered from the shackles and the bondage of sin, a Christian can do what he ought, and is no longer bound to his evil desires (cf. Ro 6:11-14note). The unsaved man indulges in sin and has no power over it. Sin is in control. Sin binds him. Christ’s offer is freedom from such bondage, and a life that wills to please God and (is enabled by the Spirit of Christ to do so).”

John Piper – Sin enslaves by making anything look more desirable than Jesus. That’s what sin is: desiring something above Jesus and then acting on it.

Why is His Word so critical in the life of a disciple?

John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” If the Spirit gives life and the Words of Christ are life, it follows that the Spirit uses the Word to give us life, not just the first time (justification) but daily (progressive sanctification).

2Cor 3:18note “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” In this passage we see that beholding the Word of Christ, especially the Gospel, will be used by the Spirit to bring about spiritual transformation (growth in likeness to Jesus) from one degree of glory to another.

What is the most important verse in all of Scripture for a disciple and why?

The Eph 5:18note effects and enables every aspect of a disciple’s life (marriage, children, parenting, employees, employers, spiritual warfare and prayer – read Eph 5:18note through Eph 6:18 – notice that the Spirit is like “bookends” of the entire section!).

To quote Dr MacArthur – “If we do not obey this command (be filled with the Spirit), we cannot obey any other—simply because we cannot do any of God’s will apart from God’s Spirit. Outside of the command for unbelievers to trust in Christ for salvation, there is no more practical and necessary command in Scripture than the one for believers to be filled with the Spirit.”

ILLUSTRATION OUR DESPERATE NEED FOR FILLING BY COMPARING TO A WORK GLOVE – The glove has purpose (just as do we – Eph 2:10note) but cannot fulfill its intended purpose unless it has an “indwelling” hand to enable it, to give it the direction (desire) and the power (cp the Spirit in Phil 2:13note). Plainly put, the glove by itself can do nothing (cp Jesus’ words in John 15:5 where “nothing” in Greek is the strongest way to say “absolutely nothing”… O yes, we can even do “religious works” that look very good to others and garner their adulation, but such fleshly empowered works yield no fruit for eternity – cp Jn 15:16). The picture of a glove’s need to continually depend on the indwelling hand directly applies to our Christian life, which is not to be a natural (explicable) life, but a supernatural (marvelously inexplicable) life! We like the glove need to be continually filled with the Spirit, controlled by and empowered by the indwelling Spirit, if we are to accomplish anything supernatural. As we have repeatedly said, we CANNOT KEEP ONE COMMAND of the NT by relying on our natural, fleshly strength. We must continually, even moment by moment, deny our old self and seek the newness of the Spirit’s work. We must continually renounce self effort, self reliance, self sufficiency (do you see the “key word”?) and instead make the conscious, volitional choice (the choice of our will, even that choice mysteriously being energized by the indwelling Spirit!!) to rely wholly on the Holy Spirit. This practice is of renouncing and relying will go on all day long, all the days of our life! It’s what theologically is known as progressive sanctification. While Jesus was the basis of justification, the Spirit was His “Chief Operating Officer” applying the finished work of the Cross of Christ to our heart when we believed in Jesus. Similarly, in progressive sanctification, the Spirit is the “CEO” and gives us the desire and the power (Php 2:13NLTnote) to continually walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16 – to be more fully discussed in our next lesson). In sum, apart from the Spirit of Christ filling us (bearing us along, permeating us so that Christ flavors all we say, do and think [cp 2Cor 2:14-16] and controlling us – like rage or anger controls us – read Luke 4:28-29Lk 6:11) we can do nothing of eternal value! Absolutely nothing! The pride of our fallen flesh chafes at that truth and will until the day we die!

How does one assure that they are continually filled with the Spirit?

Ray Pritchard sums up how we are filled – There must be a sense of need—“Lord, I’m empty and I need to be filled by your Spirit.” There must be a willingness—“Lord, I’m open to you. Let your Spirit fill me now.”

By keeping short accounts with God (1Jn 1:9note) – Remember that “confess” in this passage is present tense which speaks of ongoing confession and implies that we have need for this to be our habitual practice! As David said “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.” (Ps 19:12) So the truth is even if we have not committed any “big” sins the day before, we need to start our day with at least a prayer like David’s.

What is the OT version of 1John 1:9?

Pr 28:13note He who conceals (Hebrew = covers over) his transgressions will not prosper, but (a great, strategic term of contrast) he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

Ps 32:1 is a good parallel commentary on Pr 28:13note where David acknowledges “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!”

How else can we assure that we are continually filled with the Spirit?

By letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col 3:16note. See the chart below where we compare Colossians 3:16-4:1 and Ephesians 5:18-6:9. Notice that the results of being filled with the Spirit and letting the Word richly dwell within are virtually identical.

So what‘s the take home message? Spend time in the Word so that the Word finds a home in you.

FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
RICHLY INDWELT BY THE WORD

Colossians and Ephesians are parallel epistles in a number of respects and Ephesians 5:18-6:9 presents a very interesting parallel with Colossians 3:16-4:1 as summarized below. First, take a few minutes to pray (Ps 119:18noteEph 1:171819note) and read through both sections of Scripture, especially observing the similarities (Ps 119:130note). Then go through the following chart to see if you agree with the parallel comparisons.

Ask yourself, what parallel truths is God teaching us in these two great sections of Scripture? Which of my interpersonal relationships do these passages address most directly? How can we apply these truths to our personal life, our marriage, our family, our workplace, etc? What might transpire in each of those points of application? Then read the explanatory notes that follow.

Ephesians 5:18-6:9 Colossians 3:16-4:1
Be
filled

(present imperative)
Let… dwell within
you richly

(present imperative)
THE
SPIRIT
THE
WORD OF CHRIST
Speaking to
ONE ANOTHER

Eph 5:19note
Teaching & Admonishing
ONE ANOTHER
Col 3:16
note
In PSALMS
and HYMNS
and SPIRITUAL SONGS
Eph 5:19
note
With PSALMS
and HYMNS
and SPIRITUAL SONGS
Col 3:16
note
SINGING and making melody
with YOUR HEART
to the Lord
Eph 5:19
note
SINGING with thankfulness
in YOUR HEARTS
to God
Col 3:16
note
Always GIVING THANKS for ALL things
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
to God, even the Father
Eph 5:20
note
Do ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus,
GIVING THANKS through Him
to God the Father
Col 3:17
note
WIVES
BE SUBJECT
to your own husbands
Eph 5:22-24
note
WIVES
BE SUBJECT

to your husbands
Col 3:18note
HUSBANDS
LOVE your wives
Eph 5:25-33
note
HUSBANDS
LOVE your wives
Col 3:19
note
CHILDREN
OBEY your parents
in the Lord
Eph 6:1-3
note
CHILDREN
BE OBEDIENT
to your parents
Col 3:20
note
FATHERS
DO NOT PROVOKE
your children to anger
BRING THEM UP
in discipline & instruction of the Lord
Eph 6:4
note
FATHERS
DO NOT EXASPERATE
your children
Col 3:21
note
SLAVES
BE OBEDIENT to those
who are your masters
according to the flesh
Eph 6:5-8
note
SLAVES
in all things OBEY those
who are your masters
on earth
Col 3:22-25
note
MASTERS
DO the same thing to them (slaves)
Give up threatening
knowing that both their Master & yours
is in heaven
& there is no partiality with Him
Eph 6:9
note
MASTERS
GRANT to your slaves
justice and fairness
knowing that you too
have a Master
in heaven!
Col 4:1
note
SPIRITUAL WARFARE
Note it is also “linked”
with being filled with the Spirit!”
Eph 6:10-17note
SPIRITUAL WARFARE
Not found
in this section
PRAYER
With all prayer and petition pray
 (present tense participle used in an imperative sense) at all times in the Spirit (initiated and energized by the Holy Spirit), and with this in view, be on the alert (present tense participle used in an imperative sense) with all perseverance and petition for all the saints
Eph 6:18
note
PRAYER
DEVOTE yourselves to prayer,
keeping alert
 (present tense participle used in an imperative sense) in it
with an attitude of thanksgiving;
Col 4:2
note
WITNESSING
Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly
 (Spirit gives boldness), as I ought (obligation, owe a debt) to speak.
Eph 6:19-20
note
WITNESSING
Praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ
 (Gospel), for which I have also been imprisoned; in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought (obligation, owe a debt) to speak.
Col 4:3-4
note

Note that every verb in bold red font signifies imperative mood (commands, not good suggestions) and all are in the present tense (continuous action, habitual practice, as one’s “lifestyle”, speaks of our general “direction,” not perfection!). In addition, the verbs giving thanks (Eph 5:20Col 3:17) are in the present tense – how is it possible to give thanks in everything? (cp 1Thes 5:18note)

Now stop for a moment and ask yourself – can I keep even ONE of these commands in my own strength? If you think you can, just try it the next time your spouse “verbally insults/assaults” your intelligence! None of us can keep these commands in our strength and to try to do so is to fall into the trap of self reliance and legalism. Here is the key that unlocks the door to supernatural living, supernatural warfare, supernatural praying and supernatural witnessing…

THE HUMAN SPIRIT FAILS UNLESS
THE HOLY SPIRIT FILLS

Too often we read Paul’s long list of commands and forget to examine the context, which is critical for accurate interpretation and in this case crucial for real-life practical application! The context in this case clearly gives us the answer regarding how we can carry out the commands. These “holy” actions can only be energized or enabled by the Holy Spirit Who dwells in each saint. If we are filled with or controlled by Him, yielded to Him, depending on Him, casting off any semblance of self-reliance, then, and only then, can we successfully keep these commands. And as we do so, we are in effect also fulfilling Paul’s (present imperative) command to walk by the Spirit which effectively prevents us from carrying out the desires of the flesh (cp Gal 5:16note).

Notice that Spirit of Christ filling (Word of Christ indwelling) SHOULD RADICALLY AFFECT ALL of our relationships – wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves (“employee”), masters (“employer”)! Every vital social interaction is to be impacted by the Holy Spirit! So let me ask you a rhetorical (for effect primarily) question —

“How important is obedience to Paul’s commands that we be continually filled with/controlled by the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18) and continually let the Word of Christ dwell within us (Col 3:16)? Can you even obey these command ( be filled, let dwell ) without the enablement of the Helper? Clearly the answer is “No!” Every moment of every day we are in desperate need for the Spirit to enable us. To say we need His help implies we just need a little “push” which is not the case to live this supernatural life. Meditate on that truth today! And then, as Ray Pritchard puts it, do what you do when you go to full service gas station (yes you younger folks, there once was such a service!) — Cry out ” Fill me up! ” expressing your deep desire for and desperate dependence on the Spirit’s enabling power to carry out God’s commands which are not burdensome (1Jn 5:3)!

As an aside, it is interesting that we see so many Christian marriages and families in various states of disturbance, dissonance (lack of agreement) and/or even imminent dissolution. Paul was written us a “prescription”, so to speak, for the “balm” (a soothing restorative agent) that can bring healing to families and marriages in dire (dismal, dreadful) straits! But like any medicine, the doctor can prescribe the best remedy, but the pill still has to be swallowed in order to effect a cure. What would happen to couples who made an intentional effort (initiated by and energized by the Spirit of Grace-Heb 10:29b) to study and meditate on Paul’s prescription in these passages and related cross references? In Psalm 107 the Spirit says that when the disobedient and distressed children of Israel “cried out to the LORD in their trouble, He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His Word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (Psalm 107:1920). Beloved, His Name is Jehovah Rapha (Jehovah Rophe) The LORD our Healer and He is the same yesterday, today and forever and His Word is able to bring hope and healing to hopeless and broken hearted marriages!

   Courtesy of preceptaustin.org

Posted in Bible Teachings, Inspirational Messages | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nothing in This World Compares to the Word of God: A Study of Hebrew 4:12

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (NASB: Lockman)

Amplified: For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart. (Amplified Bible – Lockman)

Barclay: For the word of God is instinct with life; it is effective; it is sharper than a two-edged sword; it pierces right through to the very division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it scrutinizes the desires and intentions of the heart. (Westminster Press)

NLT: For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are. (NLT – Tyndale House)

Phillips: For the Word that God speaks is alive and active; it cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword: it strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man’s being: it exposes the very thoughts and motives of a man’s heart. (Phillips: Touchstone)

Wuest: for actively alive is the word of God, and energetic, and sharper than any two-edged sword, going through even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a sifter and analyzer of the reflections and conceptions of the heart. (Eerdmans)

Young’s Literal: for the reckoning of God is living, and working, and sharp above every two-edged sword, and piercing unto the dividing asunder both of soul and spirit, of joints also and marrow, and a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart

FOR THE WORD OF GOD: ho logos tou theou:

For (gar) – Always pause to prayerfully ponder and peruse this poignant term of explanation and you will often be rewarded by your Teacher the Spirit with rich spiritual insights on the text! In this case the writer is explaining why we must be diligent to enter God’s rest. Henry Alford says it this way “Such an endeavour (Heb 4:11) is well worth all our diligence—for we have One to do with, Who can discern and will punish every and even the most secret disobedience.” Marcus Dods says “In Heb 4:12-13 another reason is added for dealing sincerely and strenuously with God’s promises and especially with this offer of rest.” Peter O’Brien explains that “The long paraenetic (Pertaining to instruction, exhortation or command) section from Heb 3:1 to Heb 4:11 is concluded by a masterly literary piece that affirms the power of God’s word and the impossibility of hiding from His judgment. This affirmation about the word of God in Heb 4:12–13 is joined to the preceding paragraph by For (gar), and provides an additional reason for the exhortation to make every effort to enter God’s rest that is enjoined in Heb 4:11.”

The point is that Hebrews 4:12 is one of those passages we frequently memorize but often do so out of context. Yes, it is true the Word of God is living and active, and most of us who have walked with Jesus for a few years have experienced it’s supernatural power in various ways. But if we read Hebrews 4:12 in context (context is king for accurate interpretation! = Keep Context King), we learn that the writer was explaining something he had previously stated. I remember memorizing Hebrews 4:12 some 30 years ago, but it was not until about 20 years later when I was learning inductive Bible study, that I truly understood the meaning of this great verse. Now, don’t misunderstand — this verse is still applicable to the Word of God in general, but that was not the specific intent of the writer. He was primarily referring to the Word of God that he had just warned them with (e.g., God’s Word from Ps 95:7 quoted in Hebrews 3:71315Heb 4:7) in the long section beginning in Hebrews 3:1 through summary exhortation in Hebrews 4:11. Now in Hebrews 4:12, the writer explains why the Word of warning is effective and why they should take heed to the warning.

In the Greek sentence the emphasis is on living (it is placed first in the sentence = Zon gar o logos tou theou).

Adolph Saphir comments “RESTING by faith in Jesus, and laboring to enter into that perfect rest which remains to the people of God, the Christian, during his pilgrimage through the wilderness, is guided by the word of God, which is in his hand, and upheld and encouraged by the intercession and sympathy of the great High Priest above (Heb 7:25).

The Word of God – It is not the Word of man! When the Bible speaks, God speaks! It came down from heaven and is not from earth. The writers were merely human agents moved by the Spirit who used their own personalities (2 Pe 1:21+). When you receive the Word of God, you are in a sense receiving God. To reject the Word of God you are rejecting God! Some commentators state that this is another name for Jesus. Indeed, Jesus is called “the Word” (Jn 1:1Rev 19:13) but in context, the writer is referring to the written revelation from God and not the person of Jesus Christ (Although to be sure the living Word and the living Lord are somehow mysteriously [to me] intimately linked together in time and eternity.)

Puritan Writer Thomas Brooks said “The Word of the Lord is a light to guide you, a counselor to counsel you, a comforter to comfort you, a staff to support you, a sword to defend you, and a physician to cure you. The Word is a mine to enrich you, a robe to clothe you, and a crown to crown you.

John Flavel echoes Brooks writing that “The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering and the most comfortable way of dying.

Frank Cooke rightly wrote that “The foundation of every reformation of the Holy Spirit is the Word of God made plain to the people.

Brian Edwards – Philosophy and religion may reform, but only the Bible can transform.

Vance Havner once quipped “There is no devil in the first two chapters of the Bible and no devil in the last two chapters. Thank God for a book that disposes of the devil!”

MacArthur explains that “The need for God’s rest is urgent. A person should diligently, with intense purpose and concern, secure it. It is not that he can work his way to salvation, but that he should diligently seek to enter God’s rest by faith—lest he, like the Israelites in the wilderness, lose the opportunity. (MacArthur, John: Hebrews. Moody Press)

Remember that the Word of God is also the Word of His grace “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, (observe the beneficial effects) which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)

Word of God (3056) (logos from lego = to speak with words; English = logic, logical) means something said and describes a communication whereby the mind finds expression in words. Although Lógos is most often translated word which Webster defines as “something that is said, a statement, an utterance”, the Greek understanding of lógos is somewhat more complex. To secular and philosophical Greek writers, logos did not mean merely the name of an object but was an expression of the thought behind that object’s name.

Lógos then is a general term for speaking, but always used for speaking with rational content. Lógos is a word uttered by the human voice which embodies an underlying concept or idea. When one has spoken the sum total of their thoughts concerning something, they have given to their hearer a total concept of that thing. Thus the word lógos conveys the idea of “a total concept” of anything. Lógos means the word or outward form by which the inward thought is expressed and made known. It can also refer to the inward thought or reason itself. Note then that lógos does not refer merely to a part of speech but to a concept or idea. In other words, in classical Greek, lógos never meant just a word in the grammatical sense as the mere name of a thing, but rather the thing referred to, the material, not the formal part. In fact, the Greek language has 3 other words (rhema, onoma, epos) which designate a word in its grammatical sense. Lógos refers to the total expression whereas rhema (see word study) for example is used of a part of speech in a sentence. In other words rhema, emphasizes the parts rather than the whole.

Cremer explains that logos is used of the living, spoken word,

the word not in its outward form, but with reference to the thought connected with the form,… in short, not the word of language, but of conversation, of discourse; not the word as a part of speech, but the word as part of what is uttered.

So what is the writer referring to by the word of God? This verse is frequently taken as a description of the “word of God” in general which of course is not an inappropriate application. Indeed one can make a list of at least 5 wonderful characteristics of the “word of God” from this description. But the careful reader must remember that accurate interpretation is dependent on interpreting the text in context and failure to interpret “word of God” in the context of the writers argument is to miss his main reason for inserting this description at this point in the book of Hebrews.

In the present context, Hebrews 3-4, the author has been emphasizing that it is urgent that his readers enter God’s “rest” (“today“). He emphasizes that the way in which one enters His rest is by faith, faith that obeys and perseveres and holds fast until the end (holding fast doesn’t save anyone – but it does show that such a person is saved for otherwise they would not be able to hold fast solely by their efforts).

The immediate context indicates that some of the readers were in danger of seeming to fall short of entering God’s rest and even falling back into Judaism. It is in this background that he warns the readers that the “word of God” they have just heard is alive and can pierce right down into the innermost part of the heart to see if their belief is real or not.

The word of God, the Bible, describes itself and its work in many ways

  • Isaiah 55:11 God’s word will not return to him empty, but will do what God desires and achieve the purpose for which he sent it.
  • Jeremiah 23:29 God’s word is like fire and like a hammer that can break a rock into pieces.
  • John 6:63 God’s word is spirit and life.
  • Acts 7:38 God’s word is living.
  • Ephesians 6:17 (see note) God’s word is part of the believer’s armor—the sword of the Spirit.
  • Hebrews 4:12 God’s word is living, powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, judging people’s thoughts and intentions.
  • 1 Peter 1:23 (see note) God’s word is living and enduring, through which people are born again.

The Word is A Sword by C H Spurgeon (This is a summary in the Biblical Illustrator from his sermon on Hebrews 4:12 entitled The Word a Sword)

It may be most accurate to interpret this passage as relating both to the Word of God incarnate, and the Word of God inspired. Christ and His Word must go together. What is true of the Christ is here predicated both of Him and of His Word.

I. First let me speak CONCERNING THE QUALITIES OF THE WORD OF GOD.

It is “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”

1. The Word of God is said to be “quick.” It is a living Book. Take up any other book except the Bible, and there may be a measure of power in it, but there is not that indescribable vitality in it which breathes, and speaks, and pleads, and conquers in the case of this sacred volume. It is a living and incorruptible seed. It moves, it stirs itself, it lives, it communes with living men as a living Word. That human system which was once vigorous may grow old, and lose all vitality; but the Word of God is always fresh, and new, and full of force. Here, in the Old and New Testaments, we have at once the oldest and the newest of books.

2. The Word is said to be “powerful,” or “active.” The Word of God is powerful for all sacred ends. How powerful it is to convince men of in!

How powerful it is for conversion!

3. Next, the apostle tells us that this Word is cutting, A sword with wo edges has no blunt side: it cuts both this way and that. The revelation of God given us in Holy Scripture is edge all over. It is alive in every part, and in every part keen to cut the conscience, and wound the heart. Depend upon it, there is not a superfluous verse in the Bible, nor a chapter which is useless. Doctors say of certain drugs that they are inert — they have no effect upon the system one way or the other. Now, there is not an inert passage in the Scriptures; every line has its virtues.

4. It is piercing. While, it has an edge like a sword, it has also a point like a rapier. The difficulty with some men’s hearts is to get at them. In fact, there is no spiritually penetrating the heart of any natural man except by this piercing instrument, the Word of God. Into the very marrow of the man the sacred truth will pass, and find him out in a way in which he

cannot even find himself out.

5. The Word of God is discriminating. It divides asunder soul and spirit. Nothing else could do that, for the division is difficult.

6. Once more, the Word of God is marvelously revealing to the inner self. It pierces between the joints and marrow, and marrow is a thing not to be got at very readily. The Word of God gets at the very marrow of our manhood; it lays bare the secret thoughts of the soul.

II. SOME LESSONS.

1. Let us greatly reverence the Word of God.

2. Let us, whenever we feel ourselves dead, and especially in prayer, get close to the Word, for the Word of God is alive.

3. Whenever we feel weak in our duties, let us go to the Word of God, and the Christ in the Word, for power; and this will be the best of power.

4. If you need as a minister, or a worker, anything that will cut your hearers to the heart, go to this Book for it.

5. If we want to discriminate at any time between the soul and the spirit, and the joints and marrow, let us go to the Word of God for discrimination.

6. And lastly, since this Book is meant to be a discerner or critic of the thoughts and intents of the heart, let the Book criticise us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Barnes observes that…

The design of this and the following verse is obvious. It is to show that we cannot escape the notice of God; that all insincerity, unbelief, hypocrisy, will be detected by Him; and that since our hearts are perfectly open before Him, we should be sincere, and should not attempt to deceive Him.

The sense is, that the truth of God is all-penetrating and searching, and that the real thoughts and intents of the heart will be brought to light; and that if there is insincerity and self-deception, there can be no hope of escape.

There has been a great variety of opinion here about the meaning of the phrase the word of God. … The word of God is that which God speaks–whether it be a promise or a threatening; whether it be law or gospel; whether it be a simple declaration or a statement of a doctrine. The idea here is, that what God had said is fitted to detect hypocrisy, and to lay open the true nature of the feelings of the soul, so that there can be no escape for the guilty. His truth is adapted to bring out the real feelings, and to show man exactly what he is. Truth always has this power –whether preached, or read, or communicated by conversation, or impressed upon the memory and conscience by the Holy Spirit. There can be no escape from the penetrating, searching application of the word of God. That truth has power to show what man is, and is like a penetrating sword that lays open the whole man. Comp. Isaiah 49:2. The phrase the word of God here may be applied, therefore, to the truth of God, however made known to the mind. In some way it will bring out the real feelings, and show what man is. (Albert Barnes. Barnes NT Commentary)

Leon Morris – The Word of God is unique. No sword can penetrate as it can. (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor’s Bible Commentary )

A W Pink has a pithy challenge for the modern church…

There is grave reason to believe that much Bible reading and Bible study of the last few years has been of no spiritual profit to those who engaged in it. Yea, we go further; we greatly fear that in many instances it has proved a curse rather than a blessing. This is strong language, we are well aware, yet no stronger than the case calls for. Divine gifts may be misused, and Divine mercies abused. That this has been so in the present instance is evident by the fruits produced. Even the natural man may (and often does) take up the study of the Scriptures with the same enthusiasm and pleasure as he might of the sciences. Where this is the case, his store of knowledge is increased, and so also is his pride. Like a chemist engaged in making interesting experiments, the intellectual searcher of the Word is quite elated when he makes some discovery in it; but the joy of the latter is no more spiritual than would be that of the former. Again, just as the successes of the chemist generally increase his sense of self-importance and cause him to look with disdain upon others more ignorant than himself, so alas, is it often the case with those who have investigated Bible numerics, typology, prophecy and other such subjects.

The Word of God may be taken up from various motives. Some read it to satisfy their literary pride. In certain circles it has become both the respectable and popular thing to obtain a general acquaintance with the contents of the Bible simply because it is regarded as an educational defect to be ignorant of them. Some read it to satisfy their sense of curiosity, as they might any other book of note. Others read it to satisfy their sectarian pride. They consider it a duty to be well versed in the particular tenets of their own denomination and so search eagerly for proof-texts in support of “our doctrines.” Yet others read it for the purpose of being able to argue successfully with those who differ from them. But in all this there is no thought of God, no yearning for spiritual edification, and therefore no real benefit to the soul.

Of what, then, does a true profiting from the Word consist? Does not 2Timothy 3:16,17note furnish a clear answer to our question? There we read,

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Observe what is here omitted: the Holy Scriptures are given us not for intellectual gratification and carnal speculation, but to furnish unto “all good works,” and that by teaching, reproving, correcting us. Let us endeavor to amplify this by the help of other passages. (Profiting from the Word-Chapter 1 The Scriptures and Sin)

A W Pink wrote elsewhere that…

God’s design in all that He has revealed to us is to the purifying of our affections and the transforming of our characters….Everything in Scripture has in view the promotion of holiness.

Vance Havner echoes Pink writing “The storehouse of God’s Word was never meant for mere scrutiny, even primarily for study but for sustenance.

Will H. Houghton agrees writing that “The Bible calls itself food. The value of food is not in the discussion it arouses but in the nourishment it imparts.

D L Moody – The Scriptures were not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.

IS LIVING AND ACTIVE: Zon (PAPMSN) gar ho logos tou theou kai energes:

THE WORD OF GOD IS
LIVING IN ITS ESSENCE

This is an amazing statement which we too often read past. The Bible is living. It has a “pulse.” It has the mind of God in it. It speaks to us. It runs after us. It lays hold of us. And notice in the Greek sentence above that zon (living) is the first word in the sentence which literally would read “living for the Word of God is! This draw our attention and emphasizes this quality of the Word of God. God wants to make sure we grasp that this is not like any other book ever written. All the other books written are “dead books!” And because it is alive, it speaks to every person in every culture, in every country, addressing them where they are and telling them exactly what they need to hear. There is no book relevant for your life than the Bible! It is never empty, never lifeless, never flat, never tired, never sluggish. We may be sluggish, dull, etc, but the Bible is never dull, never boring. It is always like an electrical current is surging through it! It is dynamic. 

Martin Luther rightly declared “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.”

C H Spurgeon said “Why, the Book has wrestled with me; the Book has smitten me; the Book has comforted me; the Book has smiled on me; the Book has frowned on me; the Book has clasped my hand; the Book has warmed my heart. The Book weeps with me, and sings with me; it whispers to me, and it preaches to me; it maps my way, and holds up my goings; it is the Young Man’s Best Companion, and is still my morning and evening Chaplain.”

The living and active aspect of the Word of God is similar to the Lord’s picture of the Word as a seed, for both have life and power and both can produce spiritual fruit (Ga 5:22,23). But the seed can do nothing until it is planted (Jn 12:24). When a person hears and understands the Word, then the seed is planted in the heart. What happens after that depends on the nature of the soil (cp Lk 8:15).

Living (2198) (zao) refers to natural physical life as opposed to death. The words just spoken possess vital power in themselves to exert and impart vitality to the reader’s soul. The Word is not dead, inert, or powerless but has a living power, and is adapted to produce this effect.

Living is in the present tense describing this trait as continually true of the word of God.

Jesus alludes to the living aspect of the Word of God declaring “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (Jn 6:63)

In his message just before being stoned to death, Stephen, a man filled with the Spirit (Acts 6:587:55) declared “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers and he received living (zao) oracles to pass on to you. (Acts 7:38)

Charles Simeon rightly says that “The word is not a mere dead letter, that will soon vanish away: it lives in the mind of God: it lives in the decrees of heaven: it lives and will live for ever: nor will millions of ages cause it to be forgotten, or in the least enervate its force. All besides this shall wax old, and decay: but this shall endure, without the alteration of one jot or tittle of it, to all generations

Peter writes that “you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, But the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1Pe 1:232425note)

Spurgeon – The Word of God is alive. This is a living Book. This is a mystery that only living men, quickened by the Spirit of God, will fully comprehend. Take up any other book except the Bible, and there may be a measure of power in it, but there is not that indescribable vitality in it that breathes, and speaks, and pleads, and conquers in the case of this sacred volume. It is only because Jesus is not dead that the Word becomes living and effectual, “and sharper than any double-edged sword”; for, if you leave Christ out of it, you have left out its vitality and power. As I have told you that we will not have Christ without the Word, so neither will we have the Word without Christ. If you leave Christ out of Scripture, you have left out the essential truth that it is written to declare.

Spurgeon on the Word as a living seed – Plants unknown in certain regions have suddenly sprung from the soil: the seeds have been wafted on the winds, carried by birds, or washed ashore by the waves of the sea. So vital are seeds that they live and grow wherever they are borne; and even after lying deep in the soil for centuries, when the upturning spade has brought them to the surface, they have germinated at once.Thus is it with the Word of God: it lives and abides forever, and in every soil and under all circumstances it is prepared to prove its own life by the energy with which it grows and produces fruit to the glory of God.

THE WORD OF GOD
IS ENERGETIC!

The Bible is active, effective, powerful, productive, capable of causing things to happen! The Bible is “energetic” and never just sits still, never takes a day off, is always at work, is tireless. 

Steven Lawson says “When we are hooked up to this book in humility and repentance and faith, their is a surge of energy that enters into our soul.” 

Active (1756) (energes from en = in + érgon = work) describes that which is working, efficient, effective, operative or powerful. Energes describes activity which produces results or which is effective in causing something to happen or to come about. The somber warnings that have reverberated through Hebrews 3-4 are working and effective words which are able to accomplish their purpose.

Energes is only used three times in the NT. Paul uses to describe “a wide (megas = great, large) door for effective (energes – God opened this door) [service] (not in the original Greek) has opened to me, and there are many adversaries (literally = those lined up against me). (1Corinthians 16:9)

Gilbrant on energes – In classical Greek thought, energēs had a social or ethical sense. Thus it denoted work as a burden laid on a man. The word group in Hellenism was used of cosmic or physical forces at work in man or the world around. Man was judged by his works, which were the basis and meaning of life. His works would include his deeds and his manner of conduct as a life-style. In the papyri energēs describes objects which have been made usable. Examples of this would be tilled land or a working mill. So one can see the object as receiving the effects from another source. While energēs is not found in the Septuagint, the works (erga) of God are. The activities of God result in His glory and honor. In contrast, the works of man come out of and result in the curse, sin, and vanity. In the New Testament the verb form energeō is used almost exclusively for the work of divine or demonic powers. In 1 Corinthians 16:9 Paul implied that it is God who ultimately makes the work effectual; He was opening a “great and effectual” door of ministry. In Philemon 6 Paul prayed that Philemon would be active or zealous in sharing the faith in which God had empowered him. Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is quick, and powerful (energēs).” (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

Writing to Philemon Paul prays “that the fellowship of your faith may become effective (energes) through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.

Using the related verb energeo Paul writes to the saints at Thessalonica thanking God “that when you received (took hold of) from us the word of God’s message, you accepted (put out the welcome mat so to speak) it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work (energeo – present tense = continually) in you who believe. (1Thessalonians 2:13note)

Leon Morris – “Living and active” shows that there is a dynamic quality about God’s revelation. It does things. Specifically it penetrates and, in this capacity, is likened to a “double-edged sword” (for the sword, cf. Is 49:2Ep 6:17noteRe 19:15note; and for the double-edged idea, cf. Re 1:16noteRe 2:12note). (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor’s Bible Commentary)

Regarding the Word being active, Barnes writes that “Its power is seen in awakening the conscience; alarming the fears; laying bare the secret feelings of the heart; and causing the sinner to tremble with the apprehension of the coming judgment. All the great changes in the moral world for the better, have been caused by the power of truth. They are such as the truth in its own nature is fitted to effect; and, if we may judge of its power by the greatness of the revolutions produced, no words can over-estimate the might of the truth which God has revealed. (Albert Barnes. Barnes NT Commentary)

Spurgeon on active – Perhaps “energetic” is the best rendering, or almost as well, “effectual.” Holy Scripture is full of power and energy. The Word of God is that by which sin is slain, and grace is born in the heart. It is the that which brings life with it. How active and energetic it is, when the soul is convinced of sin, in bringing it forth into gospel liberty!

AND SHARPER THAN ANY TWO EDGED SWORD: kai tomoteros huper pasan machairan distomon:

THE BIBLE IS 
“RAZOR SHARP”

Note the little word “and” (kai in Greek) which couples all of these attributes together. The Word does not just have one attribute, but all of them together. As Lawson says “It’s not living for some and active for others. It’s a package deal. It’s all or nothing. 

As D. Martin Lloyd-Jones said “The first thing the Bible does is to make man take a serious view of life.”

Sharper (5114) (tomoteros from temnô = to cut) is the comparative of tomos which means sharp or cutting. It is used only here in the NT It means finer edged. “

Tomos occurs first among classical writers in the Fifth Century B.C. in the works of Sophocles. Tomōteros is found first in extant papyri dating from the Third Century B.C. In its earliest extant appearances the word is used literally of objects such as swords. 

The word can be used metaphorically also. For instance, pseudo-Phocylides (First Century A.D.) says, “Surely, a word is sharper to a man than an iron weapon” (124). The word does not appear in the Septuagint.” (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

Vincent – The Word of God has an incisive and penetrating quality. It lays bare self-delusions and moral sophisms. For the comparison of the word of God or of men to a sword, see Ps. 57:459:764:3Eph. 6:17. Philo calls his Logos the cutter, as cutting chaos into distinct things, and so creating a kosmos.

George Whitefield, the great 18th-century evangelist, was hounded by a group of detractors who called themselves the “Hell-fire Club.” They derided his work and mocked him. On one occasion one of them, a man named Thorpe, was mimicking Whitefield to his cronies, delivering his sermon with brilliant accuracy, perfectly imitating his tone and facial expressions, when he himself was so pierced that he sat down and was converted on the spot.

Steve Lawson says the Bible is “the sharpest weapon of any arsenal in the world! It is sharper than any surgeon’s scalpel! It is two edged…there is no blunt side. every book in the Bible is razor sharp. Every chapter is razor sharp. Every verse is razor sharp. Every word can cut deeply. There is not a dull verse in the entire Bible! There’s not a blunt chapter in the entire Book…And because it’s two edged it cuts both ways – it both comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. It both tears down and it builds up. It both convicts and converts. It has both bad news and good news. It both saves and it damns. It both heals and it hardens. It both makes alive and it puts to death.” 

Two-edged (1366) (distomos from dia = through + stoma = mouth), double-mouthed like a river (Polybius), branching ways (Sophocles), applied to sword (xiphos) by Homer and Euripides. Distomos occurs three times in the New Testament (Hebrews 4:12Revelation 1:162:12).

Barnes commenting on “two mouthed” sword writes that “The word mouth was given to the sword because it seemed to devour all before it. It consumed or destroyed, as a wild beast does. The comparison of the word of God to a sword, or to an arrow, is designed to show its power of penetrating the heart, Ecclesiastes 12:11. “The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies.” Comp. Isa 49:2; “And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword.” Re 1:16 (note): “And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword;” Re 2:12 (note)Re 19:15 (note). The comparison is common in the classics, and in Arabic poetry….The idea is that of piercing, or penetrating; and the meaning here is, that the word of God reaches the heart–the very centre of action and lays open the motives and feelings of the man. It was common among the ancients to have a sword with two-edges. The Roman sword was commonly made in this manner. The fact that it had two edges made it more easy to penetrate, as well as to cut with every way. (Ibid)

Distomos occurs three times in the Septuagint

  • Jdg 3:16 = “Ehud made himself a sword which had two edges”
  • Ps 149:6 = “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand”
  • Pr 5:4 = “But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. “)

The Word of God is a minister of death to those who reject it, and of life to those who receive it (cp 2Cor 2:16)

Spurgeon on sharper that any two-edged sword – The revelation of God given us in Holy Scripture is edge all over. It is alive in every part, and in every part keen to cut the conscience, and wound the heart. Depend upon it, there is not a superfluous verse in the Bible, nor a chapter that is useless. The Word of God is so sharp a thing, so full of cutting power, that you may be bleeding under its wounds before you have seriously suspected the possibility of such a thing. You cannot come near the gospel without its having a measure of influence over you; and, God blessing you, it may cut down and kill your sins when you have no idea that such a work is being done. Yes, when Christ comes, He comes not to send peace on the earth, but a sword; and that sword begins at home, in our own souls, killing, cutting, hacking, breaking in pieces. Blessed is that man who knows the Word of the Lord by its exceeding sharpness, for it kills nothing but that which ought to be killed. It quickens and gives new life to all that is of God; but the old depraved life, which ought to die, it hews in pieces, as Samuel destroyed Agag before the Lord (1Sa 15:33).

A W Pink has the following chapter entitled The Power of God’s Word to Convict Men of Sin

In Hebrews 4:12 we have a Scripture which draws attention to this peculiar characteristic of the Bible—

“For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

The writings of men may sometimes stir the emotions, search the conscience, and influence the human will, but in a manner and degree possessed by no other book the Bible convicts men of their guilt and lost estate. The Word of God is the Divine mirror, for in it man reads the secrets of his own guilty soul and sees the vileness of his own evil nature. In a way absolutely peculiar to themselves, the Scriptures discern the thoughts and intents of the heart and reveal to men the fact that they are lost sinners and in the presence of a Holy God.

Some thirty years ago there resided in one of the Temples of Tibet a Buddhist priest who had conversed with no Christian missionary, had heard nothing about the cross of Christ, and had never seen a copy of the Word of God. One day while searching for something in the temple, he came across a transcription of Matthew’s Gospel, which years before had been left there by a native who had received it from some traveling missionary. His curiosity aroused, the Buddhist priest commenced to read it, but when he reached the eighth verse in the fifth chapter he paused and pondered over it:

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

Although he knew nothing about the righteousness of his Maker, although he was quite ignorant concerning the demands of God’s holiness, yet he was there and then convicted of his sins, and a work of Divine grace commenced in his soul. Month after month went by and each day he said to himself,

“I shall never see God, for I am impure in heart.”

Slowly but surely the work of the Holy Spirit deepened within him until he saw himself as a lost sinner; vile, guilty, and undone.

After continuing for more than a year in this miserable condition the priest one day heard that a “foreign devil” was visiting a town nearby and selling books which spoke about God. The same night the Buddhist priest fled from the temple and journeyed to the town where the missionary was residing. On reaching his destination he sought out the missionary and at once said to him,

“Is it true that only those who are pure in heart will see God?”

“Yes,” replied the missionary, “but the same Book which tells you that, also tells you how you may obtain a pure heart,” and then he talked to him about our Lord’s atoning work and how that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

Quickly the light of God flooded the soul of the Buddhist priest and he found the peace which “passeth all understanding.”

Now what other book in the world outside of the Bible, contains a sentence or even a chapter which, without the aid of any human commentator, is capable of convincing and convicting a heathen that he is a lost sinner?

Does not the fact of the miraculous power of the Bible, which has been illustrated by thousands of fully authenticated cases similar to the above, declare that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, vested with the same might as their Omnipotent Author? (Divine Inspiration of the Bible) (Related resource: Inductive Study on the Power of God’s Word)

Sword (3162) (machaira) refers to a relatively short sword (even dagger) for cutting and stabbing. It is obviously used in the figurative sense in this verse, but is still penetrating nevertheless!

Spurgeon – The Word of God is like the sword of Goliath, which had been laid up in the sanctuary, of which David said, “There is none like it, give it me” (1Sa 21:9). Why did he like it so well? I think he liked it all the better because it had been laid up in the holy place by the priests. But I think he liked it best of all because it had stains of blood on it—the blood of Goliath. I like my own sword because it is covered with blood right up to the hilt—the blood of slaughtered sins and errors and prejudices has made it like the sword of Don Rodrigo, “of a dark and purple tint.” The slain of the Lord have been many by the old gospel.

Wiersbe – In comparing the Word of God to a sword, the writer is not suggesting that God uses His Word to slaughter the saints! It is true that the Word cuts the heart of sinners with conviction (Acts 5:337:54), and that the Word defeats Satan (Ep 6:17). The Greek word translated “sword” means “a short sword or dagger.” The emphasis is on the power of the Word to penetrate and expose the inner heart of man. The Word is a “discerner” or “critic.” (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)

Spurgeon on the Word of the Lord as the sword of the Lord…

I. THE QUALITIES OF THE WORD.

1. Divine.

2. Living.

3. Effectual.

4. Cutting.

5. Piercing.

6. Discriminating.

7. Revealing.

II. THE LESSONS WHICH WE SHOULD LEARN THEREFROM.

1. That we do greatly reverence the Word, as truly spoken of God.

2. That we come to it for quickening for our own souls.

3. That we come to it for power when fighting the battles of truth.

4. That we come to it for cutting force to kill our own sins and to help us in destroying the evils of the day.

5. That we come to it, for piercing force when men’s consciences and hearts are hard to reach.

6. That we use it to the most obstinate, to arouse their consciences and convict them of sin.

7. That we discriminate by its means between truth and falsehood.

8. That we let it criticize us, and our opinions, and projects, and acts, and all about us.

PIERCING AS FAR AS THE DIVISION OF SOUL AND SPIRIT: kai diiknoumenos (PMPMSN) achri merismou psuchês kai pneumatos:

Piercing (1338) (diikneomai from diá = through + hiknéomai = to come) means to go through, to reach through, and so to penetrate, pierce, pass through (One other Scriptural use in the LXX of Ex 26:28). It was used in ancient Greek of missiles (as moving through a three dimensional space). The figurative idea is to thoroughly penetrate.

Vincent – The form of the expression is poetical, and signifies that the word penetrates to the inmost recesses of our spiritual being as a sword cuts through the joints and marrow of the body. The separation is not of one part from another, but operates in each department of the spiritual nature.

Vine adds that “the writer’s meaning is not merely that the Word of God produces conviction and distinguishes between the emotions of the soul and those of the spirit; it has power to exclude not only from Canaan but from heaven. Let him therefore who is guilty of unbelief take heed. Let him beware of seeking rest in the wilderness. (Collected writings of W. E. Vine)

Spurgeon on piercing – While it has an edge like a sword, it has also a point like a rapier, “Piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit.” The difficulty with some men’s hearts is to get at them. In fact, there is no spiritually penetrating the heart of any natural man except by this piercing instrument, the Word of God. But the rapier of revelation will go through anything.

Division (3311) (merismos from merizo = to partition, divide into parts <> meros = part) denotes primarily a division or partition. It refers to the act of distribution or apportionment as of spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit. The word of God has an incisive and penetrating quality. It lays bare self-delusions and moral sophistries.

Gilbrant – 

F.F. Bruce says that what is meant in that verse is “the word of God probes the inmost recesses of our spiritual being and brings the subconscious motives to light” (New International Commentary on the New Testament, Hebrews, p.82). The passage is not necessarily trying to make a distinction between body components, but is perhaps saying that God’s Word can discriminate between man’s thoughts and intents. (Ibid)

Merismos is used 2 times in the NT and 2 times in the Septuagint (LXX)

Joshua 11:23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war.

Ezra 6:18 Then they appointed the priests to their divisions and the Levites in their orders for the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses.

Hebrews 2:4 (note) God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts (distribution, apportionment) of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Spurgeon- As you have seen hanging up in the butcher’s shop the carcasses of animals cut right down in the center, so the Word of God is “piercing to the dividing of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow.” It opens a man to himself and makes him see himself. It divides asunder soul and spirit. Nothing else could do that, for the division is difficult. In a great many ways writers have tried to describe the difference between soul and spirit; but I question whether they have succeeded. No doubt it is a very admirable definition to say, “The soul is the life of the natural man, and the spirit the life of the regenerate or spiritual man.” But it is one thing to define and quite another thing to divide.

Soul and spirit – Guthrie explains that “The New Testament use of pneuma for the human spirit focuses on the spiritual aspect of man, i.e. his life in relation to God, whereas psyche refers to man’s life irrespective of his spiritual experience, i.e. his life in relation to himself, his emotions and thought. There is a strong antithesis between the two in the theology of Paul.

How precious is the Book divine,
By inspiration given!
Bright as a lamp its doctrines shine,
To guide our souls to heaven.

-John Fawcett

Soul (5590) (psuche [word study] or psyche from psucho = to breathe, blow, English = psychology, “study of the soul”) (Click word study on psuche) is the breath, then that which breathes, the individual, animated creature. However the discerning reader must understand that psuche is one of those Greek words that can have several meanings, the exact nuance being determined by the context. It follows that one cannot simply select of the three main meanings of psuche and insert it in a given passage for it may not be appropriate to the given context. The meaning of psuche is also contingent upon whether one is a dichotomist or trichotomist. Consult Greek lexicons for more lengthy definitions of psuche as this definition is only a brief overview. (Click an excellent article on Soul in the Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology; see also ISBE article on Soul) (See also Man A Trinity = Spirit, Soul, Body)

BAGD’s lexicon makes the point that “It is often impossible to draw hard and fast lines in the use of this multivalent word. Generally it is used in reference to dematerialized existence or being… Without psuche a being, whether human or animal, consists merely of flesh and bones and without functioning capability. Speculations and views respecting the fortunes of psuche and its relation to the body find varied expression in our literature. (Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature)

Lawrence Richards adds that as “As with many biblical terms, the basic meaning of psyche is established by its OT counterpart, rather than by its meaning in Greek culture. “Soul” refers to personal life, the inner person. Of its over one hundred NT uses, psyche is rendered by the NIV as “soul(s)” only twenty-five times…While there is much overlap in the NT uses of psyche and pneuma (spirit), there seems to be some areas of distinction as well. Often the focus of contexts in which these terms appear overlaps. Thus, both are used in speaking of personal existence, of life after death, emotions, purpose, and the self. But psyche is also used of one’s physical life and of spiritual growth, while pneuma is associated distinctively with breath, worship, understanding, one’s attitude or disposition, and spiritual power (Richards, L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)

(1) One meaning is reference to the principle of life generally, the vital force which animates the body which shows itself in breathing, the “life principle” (the breath of life) as found even with animals (cf Luke 12:20 “…this very night your soul is required of you…”, Acts 3:23 “every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed“) . To the Greeks the psuche was the principle of physical life. Everything which had physical life had psuche. Everything which is alive has psuche; a dog, a cat, any animal has psuche, but it has not got pneuma or spirit. Psuche is that physical life which a man shares with every living thing; but pneuma or spirit is that which makes a man different from the rest of creation and kin to God.

(2) A second meaning refers to the earthly, natural life in contrast to supernatural existence (Mt 6:25 “do not be anxious for your life“, Ro 11:3 “…they are seeking my life“). This refers to So that the word denotes “life in the distinctness of individual existence” (Cremer).

(3) A third meaning of psuche is in reference to the inner nonmaterial life of man for which the physical body serves as the dwelling place often with focus on various aspects of feeling, thinking, etc and thus can refer primarily to the mind, to the heart, to desire (LK 10:27 “love the Lord…with all your soul“, Mk 14:34 “My soul is deeply grieved...”, Eph 6:6 “doing the will of God from the heart [psuche]”, Heb 12:3 “so that you may not grow weary and lose heart“). One might say this meaning refers to the inner self, the essence of life in terms of thinking, willing, and feeling. Here psuche describes the seat and center of the inner human life in its many and varied aspects.

It should be noted that there is an additional meaning of a derivative of psuche (psuchikos) which is used to described a “soulish” person, one who is still unregenerate and in Adam, and thus a person whose life is dominated by the unredeemed nature (1Cor 2:1415:4446James 3:15Jude 1:19)

Vincent offers the follows thoughts on psuche – The soul (psuche) is the principle of individuality, the seat of personal impressions. It has a side in contact with both the material and the spiritual element of humanity, and is thus the mediating organ between body and spirit. Its meaning, therefore, constantly rises above life or the living individual, and takes color from its relation to either the emotional or the spiritual side of life, from the fact of its being the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions, and the bearer and manifester of the divine life-principle (pneuma). Consequently psuche is often used in our sense of heart (Lk 1:46Lk 2:35Jn 10:24Acts 14:2); and the meanings of psuche, soul, and pneuma, spirit, occasionally approach each other very closely. Compare Jn 12:27 and Jn 9:33Mt 11:29 and 1Co 16:18. Also both words in Lk 1:47. In this passage psuche, soul, expresses the soul regarded as a moral being designed for everlasting life. See Heb 6:19Heb 10:39Heb 13:171Pe 2:111Pe 4:19. John commonly uses the word to denote the principle of the natural life. See Jn 10:1115Jn 13:37Jn 15:131Jn 3:16” (Vincent, M. R. Word studies in the New Testament. Vol. 2, Page 1-400).

John MacArthur offer the following discussion on dichotomist versus trichotomist view…

There has been a significant debate over the years about the definition and usage of the terms spirit and soul. Some (historically called trichotomists) believe Paul was identifying two different, distinct categories of the nonmaterial essence of man. Those parts, along with the body, make man a three-part being. Others (historically called dichotomists) believe spirit and soul are interchangeable words denoting man’s indivisible inner nature. Those interpreters therefore view man as a two-part being, composed simply of a nonmaterial nature (spirit and soul) and a material nature (body).

No Scripture text ascribes different, distinct substance and functions to the spirit and soul. Trichotomists nevertheless usually propose that spirit is man’s Godward consciousness and soul is his earthward consciousness; however, neither the Greek usage of spirit (pneuma) nor of soul (psuche) sustains that proposition. The nonmaterial part of man does have myriad capacities to respond to God, Satan, and the world’s many stimuli, but it is untenable to arbitrarily separate the spirit from the soul. The two terms are used interchangeably in Scripture (He 6:19noteHe 10:39note1Pe 2:11note2Pe 2:8note). Spirit and soul are familiar and common synonyms that Paul used to emphasize the depth and scope of sanctification. Some suggest that an acceptable translation of this portion of Paul’s prayer could be, “May your spirit, even soul and body,” in which case “spirit” would refer to the whole person, and “soul and body” to the person’s nonmaterial and material parts. References from Paul’s other epistles provide clear evidence that he was a dichotomist (Romans 8:10note1Co 2:115:357:342Co 7:1Gal 6:18Col 2:5note2Ti 4:22note).

Some claim Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” supports a trichotomist view of man’s essence because it suggests splitting soul and spirit. But a careful look at the verse’s language refutes that contention. The writer did not say the sword of the Word penetrates a person’s inner being and separates his soul from his spirit. He said only that the sword cuts open the soul and the spirit of the person. He used a second metaphorical expression “piercing … both joints and marrow” to further depict the deep penetration God’s Word makes into the inner person. This verse poses no special difficulty for the dichotomist position. (MacArthur, J. 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Chicago: Moody Press.)

Spirit (4151) (pneuma from pnéo = to breathe) refers to the immaterial part of the human personality in contrast to the outward and visible aspects of flesh and body.

Leon Morris – We should not take the reference to “soul” and “spirit” as indicating a “dichotomist” over against a “trichotomist” view of man, nor the reference to “dividing” to indicate that the writer envisaged a sword as slipping between them. Nor should we think of the sword as splitting off “joints” and “marrow.” What the author is saying is that God’s Word can reach to the innermost recesses of our being. We must not think that we can bluff our way out of anything, for there are no secrets hidden from God. We cannot keep our thoughts to ourselves. There may also be the thought that the whole of man’s nature, however we divide it, physical as well as nonmaterial, is open to God. With “judges” we move to legal terminology. The Word of God passes judgment on men’s feelings (enthymeseon) and on their thoughts (ennoion). Nothing evades the scope of this Word. What man holds as most secret he finds subject to its scrutiny and judgment (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor’s Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament)

Ryrie – The meaning is that the Word pierces to the depths of soul and spirit, not between the two. They stand for the innermost facets of our immaterial nature, just as joints and marrow the material aspect. Both soul and spirit can be involved in what pleases or displeases God. (For soul, see Mark 12:30 and 1 Peter 2:11; for spirit, see 1 Cor. 2:11 and 2 Cor. 7:1). Also see note on 1 Thess. 5:23-24. (The Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Translation: 1995. Moody Publishers)

Believer’s Study Bible – The capabilities of the word of God are clearly featured here. The nature of God’s word is that of life-giving communication. The word here translated “powerful” (energes) is the source of the English word ”energy.” Furthermore, God’s word is sharp and penetrating, acting as a critic of the thought-life and the motivations or purposes of the human heart. Note that the word of God has the unique ability not merely to discover the merit of men’s actions but also to reveal hidden motivations. Thus, “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (v. 13). (Criswell, W A. Believer’s Study Bible: New King James Version. 1991. Thomas Nelson)

Richard Phillips laments that “we are living in a time when many Christians, even evangelicals who once were singularly known and even derided for their devotion to the Word, are losing confidence in the Bible’s effectiveness. Yes, it is inspired; yes, it is useful; but it must be augmented by human means or wisdom or methods. Our evangelism now relies on manipulative psychological ploys, our spiritual growth depends on techniques and programs and store-bought gimmicks, our worship reflects the glitter of Hollywood entertainment. Far different is the message of the writer of Hebrews, who says that nothing is able to escape the revealing, energetic Word of God. Therefore, it alone is sufficient for our every need. (Reformed Expository Commentary – Hebrews)

Spurgeon says this sword “divides asunder soul and spirit. Nothing else could do that, for the division is difficult. In a great many ways writers have tried to describe the difference between soul and spirit; but I question whether they have succeeded. No doubt it is a very admirable definition to say, “The soul is the life of the natural man, and the spirit the life of the regenerate or spiritual man.” But it is one thing to define and quite another thing to divide.”

OF BOTH JOINTS AND MARROW: harmôn te kai muelôn:

This is obviously a figure of speech emphasizing that all parts of the person are subject to the effects of the Word of God.

Joints (719) (harmos from arô = adjust, join properly together. Found only here in NT) refers to articulation of body = joint

Marrow (3452) (muelos from muô = shut. Found only here in NT)

This surgeon goes into and through the joints and marrow, not cleaving between them. The expressions of “joints and marrow” serve to convey effectively the notion of the extreme power of penetration of the Word of God, to the very core of man’s being.

AND ABLE TO JUDGE THE THOUGHTS AND INTENTIONS OF THE HEART: kai kritikos enthumêseôn kai ennoiôn kardias:

William S Plumer wrote that “Scripture is not only pure but purifying!”

As famous Bible teacher Henrietta Mears wrote “Hebrews 4:12 shows the power of God’s Word. Let the Word search and try you! Let God’s Word have its proper place in your life. It searches out every motive and desire and purpose of your life, and helps you in evaluating them. Christ is the living Word of God. He is alive (quick) and powerful and all wise and all knowing. (What the Bible is All – highly recommended)

God’s Word is powerful and effective which is the very reason that is Satan launches his greatest attacks against the Word of God, doing anything and everything he can to undermine the Word and derail or discourage those who preach and teach it faithfully. As a teacher I can personally testify to this truth. In the parable of the sower, our Lord describes Satan’s attack “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. (Mt 13:19)

He snatches the seed of the living and active Word from the hearer’s heart before it has a chance to take root.

John MacArthur – Many people gladly listen to the gospel, but before their decision is made, some intrusion distracts them and the effectiveness of the witness is lost, along with the soul of that hearer. In another person’s heart the word is accepted at first with joy, but when Satan sends “affliction or persecution… because of the word, immediately he falls away” (Mt 13:2021). Many people seem to be genuine and faithful believers—until hardship, criticism, or persecution come. When the price for faithfulness becomes too high, they reveal that they never had true faith in the first place. Still another hearer also accepts the word in a superficial and temporary way, but as he trusts in his wealth the word is choked and “it becomes unfruitful” (Mt 13:22). Because he wants the world, he forsakes the word. (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. Chicago: Moody Press)

In an OT declaration of God’s ability to judge hearts Jehovah declared…

I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10)

The psalmist affirms God omniscience regarding man’s inner being…

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. (Ps139:2)

The Word of God is like a light (Ps 119:105) and as Paul says…

all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. (Ep 5:13note)

Able to judge (2924) (kritikos = verbal adjective –ikos, from krino = to divide, separate, to judge, to sift out and analyze evidence) means related to judges, fit for judging, skilled in judging. The Word is able to discern or decide as the surgeon has to be and able to decide on the instant what to do. God’s word like His eye sees the secret lurking doubt and unbelief “of the thoughts and intents of the heart”.

Vine writes that kritikos “signifies possessed of a power to judge. The Word of God, which is God’s own voice, scans, and sits in judgment, for instance, upon, the unbelief which leads to departure from the Living God.

God’s Word is the perfect discerner, the perfect kritikos (English = critic, critical). It not only analyzes all the facts perfectly, but all motives, and intentions, and beliefs as well, which even the wisest of human judges or critics cannot do. The sword of His Word will make no mistakes in judgment or execution

We never see Israel or Moses arguing with God’s verdict of “guilty” of always going astray in your hearts leading to the sentence that they “shall not enter My rest.” All deceptions are disclosed and brought to the light by God’s Truth. God had given Israel a wonderful motivation (the promise of a Land flowing with milk and honey) and His guiding Truth (the Law) and a leader (Moses) and despite all these advantages, Israel for the most part willfully, obstinately choose grumbling, unfaithfulness and rebellion over gratitude, faithfulness and obedience. Aren’t we all a lot like Israel from time to time? We stubbornly choose our path rather than the Lord’s path which promises blessing! Such is the nature of our old sin nature, constantly seeking to drag us off the highway of holiness and into the pit of destruction.

A surgeon exposes the operating field with a bright, powerful light to illuminate every dark crevice and then with a sharp knife is able to lance the abscess to remove the infected pocket or to excise the portion of the organ that is being ravaged by cancer. Such is the power and potential of the “scalpel” of the Word of God to expose and excise the sin in our innermost being.

Spurgeon – Many and many a time have persons written to me or spoken with me and said, “Did you intend in the sermon to make a personal allusion to me?” I have said, “Yes, I most certainly did. But I never saw you in my life and never knew anything about your case; only he that sent me commanded me to say this and that, and he knew who would be there to hear it, and he took care to guide my thoughts and words, so as to suit your case exactly, so that there could be no mistake about it.”

The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery has an interesting analysis on judgment “Judgment as the Great Exposé. The popularity and success of exposé in all forms of the media may be due in part to the ability of the reader/listener to anonymously sit in judgment against the exposed. Few things can rival the protracted examination of another’s sins to quiet one’s own conscience and sense of depravity. In the final exposé, the shroud of anonymity will be stripped as each individual stands naked before the Judge of the Universe (Mt 12:36371Cor 4:5Heb 4:12-13)

Thoughts (1761) (enthumesis from en = in + thumos = strong feeling, passion, mind, thought) means an inward reasoning or deliberation and conveys the idea of pondering or thinking out. Our English word “reflection” is an accurate translation. Westcott notes that the word refers to the action of the affections and is related to the will.

Spurgeon – The Word not only lets you see what your thoughts are, but it criticizes your thoughts. The Word of God says of this thought, “it is vain,” and of that thought, “it is acceptable”; of this thought, “it is selfish,” and of that thought, “it is Christlike.” It is a judge of the thoughts of men. And the Word of God is such a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart that when men twist about, and wind, and wander, yet it tracks them. There is nothing so difficult to get at as a man. You may hunt a badger, and run down a fox, but you cannot get at a man—he has so many doublings and hiding places. Yet the Word of God will dig him out, and seize on him. When the Spirit of God works with the gospel, the man may dodge, and twist, but the preaching goes to his heart and conscience, and he is made to feel it, and to yield to its force. The Word of God gets at the very marrow of our manhood; it lays bare the secret thoughts of the soul. It is “able to judge the reflections and thoughts of the heart.” Have you not often, in hearing the Word, wondered how the preacher could so unveil that which you had concealed? He says the very things in the pulpit that you had uttered in your bedchamber. Yes, that is one of the marks of the Word of God, that it lays bare a man’s inmost secrets; indeed, it discovers to him that which he had not even himself perceived. The Christ that is in the Word sees everything.

Matthew Henry – Thoughts are words to Christ; we should therefore take heed not only what we say and do, but what we think.

There are 4 uses of enthumesis in the NT (no uses in the LXX)…

Matthew 9:4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?

Matthew 12:25 And knowing their thoughts He said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself shall not stand.

Acts 17:29 “Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Intentions (1771) (ennoia from en = in + noús = mind) means literally that which takes place in the mind. Ennoia describes a mental conception that follows consideration or deliberation. It is closely allied to enthumesis for both refer to the act of consideration or reflection. Like phroneo, ennoia relates to thought, especially to the development of a perspective that will provide insight and so shape our attitude and guide our actions.

Intention (The road to hell is paved with good intentions) is a determination to act in a certain way and describes what one intends to accomplish or attain. Intention represents the deliberate exercise of the will with reference to the consequences of an act attempted or performed. In Logic intentions describe conceptions formed by directing the mind towards an object.

There are 12 uses of ennoia in the Septuagint (LXX), all in Proverbs (Prov. 1:42:113:214:15:28:1216:2218:1519:723:41924:7)

Regarding the uses of ennoia in Proverbs NIDNTT writes that…

All the Hebrew equivalents mean understanding, wisdom, knowledge, and so ennoia retains its sense of reflection, insight, perception, wisdom, though not the theoretical meaning of concept. (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan)

The only other NT use of ennoia is in 1Pe 4:1 (note)

Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose (ennoia – way of thinking, purpose describes a more settled determination), because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.

Vincent writes that ennoia “is the definite conception which follows enthumesis.”

Barclay compares enthumesis and ennoia writing that the former “is the emotional part of man, (while) intention (ennoia) is the intellectual part of man. It is as if he said: “Your emotional and intellectual life must alike be submitted to the scrutiny of God.” (Daily Study Bible)

God’s inspired Word reveals all a person is and can become. It judges every person in relationship to God’s will and way. The judgment centers on potential, plans, and attitudes, not simply on individual acts.

Heart (2588) (kardia [word study]) does not refer to the physical organ but is always used figuratively in Scripture to refer to the seat and center of human life. The heart is the center of the personality, and it controls the intellect, emotions, and will. The heart is a person’s “control center”. Just as “air traffic control” directs all inbound and out bound flights, so too the heart exercises a similar control over the “safe” flight of one’s being.

MacArthur commenting on kardia writes that “While we often relate heart to the emotions (e.g., “He has a broken heart”), the Bible relates it primarily to the intellect (e.g., “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders,” Matt 15:19). That’s why you must “watch over your heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23note). In a secondary way, however, heart relates to the will and emotions because they are influenced by the intellect. If you are committed to something, it will affect your will, which in turn will affect your emotions.” (Drawing Near. Crossway Books) MacArthur adds that “In most modern cultures, the heart is thought of as the seat of emotions and feelings. But most ancients—Hebrews, Greeks, and many others—considered the heart to be the center of knowledge, understanding, thinking, and wisdom. The New Testament also uses it in that way. The heart was considered to be the seat of the mind and will, and it could be taught what the brain could never know. Emotions and feelings were associated with the intestines, or bowels.” (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. 1986. Chicago: Moody Press)

Hughes explains that what Paul is saying here is that The heart is the wellspring of man’s spiritual life, and that is where the Roman Christians’ obedience was rooted. It was not just a formal obedience—it came from the center of their being. This is the example of slavery Paul holds up for us all: a heartfelt obedience to Christ and his Word. It is an obedience which brings liberation. (Hughes, R. K. Romans: Righteousness from heaven. Preaching the Word)

Vine writes that kardia “came to denote man’s entire mental and moral activities, and to stand figuratively for the hidden springs of the personal life, and so here signifies the seat of thought and feeling. (Collected writings of W. E. Vine)

It is notable that 6 of 12 uses of kardia or “heart” are in Hebrews 3 and 4, which are also pivotal chapters regarding the nature of true belief which allows one to enter His rest (see all uses below)

In Hebrew thinking, the heart represents the entire person and their inner motivation. Study the uses of heart in Hebrews…

Hebrews 3:8 (note) – DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS,

Hebrews 3:10 (note) – “THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION, AND SAID, ‘THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS ‘;

Hebrews 3:12 (note) – Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.

Hebrews 3:15 (note) – while it is said, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.”

Hebrews 4:7 (note) – He again fixes a certain day, “Today ,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS .”

Hebrews 4:12 (note) – For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 8:10 (note) – “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.

Hebrews 10:16 (note) – “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,” He then says,

Hebrews 10:22 (note) – let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 13:9 (note) – Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.

Newell – We have known people suddenly arrested in their deepest being by reading a verse of Scripture. The thoughts, and necessarily, the intents of the heart, they found discerned, and themselves the object of an infinite Intelligence, but yet an Intelligence not like that at Siani, when the glory and power and majesty of God were openly displayed; but in the written Word of God, which, being “living and active,” had pierced them. This piercing may have resulted in their conviction of sin, and accepting Christ and salvation; or it may have been resisted. Nevertheless, the power of the Word of God is here seen, and we greatly need to meditate upon it in these days.


Ray Stedman writes that…

David asks, in Psalm 19:12, “Who can discern his errors?” The answer he gives in the psalm and that of the writer of Hebrews is the same. Only the Word of God, which is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, is capable of exposing the thoughts and attitudes of a single human heart! We do not know ourselves. We do not even know how to distinguish, by feelings or rationale, between that which comes from our souls (psyches) and from our spirits (pneumas). Even our bodily functions (symbolized here by joints and marrow) are beyond our full knowledge. Only the all-seeing eye of God knows us thoroughly and totally (Ps 139:1–18), and before him we will stand and ultimately give account.

The images the author employs in this marvelous passage are effective ones. Like a sharp sword which can lay open the human body with one slashing blow, so the sword of the Scripture can open our inner life and expose it to ourselves and others. Once the ugly thoughts and hidden rebellions are out in the open, we stand like criminals before a judge, ineffectually trying to explain what we have done. Yet such honest revelation is what we need to humble our stubborn pride and render us willing to look to God for forgiveness and his gracious supply.

Plainly, Scripture is the only reliable guide we have to function properly as a human in a broken world. Philosophy and psychology give partial insights, based on human experience, but they fall far short of what the Word of God can do. It is not intended to replace human knowledge or effort, but is designed to supplement and correct them. Surely the most hurtful thing pastors and leaders of churches can do to their people is to deprive them of firsthand knowledge of the Bible. The exposition of both Old and New Testaments from the pulpit, in class rooms and small group meetings is the first responsibility of church leaders. They are “stewards of the mysteries of God” and must be found faithful to the task of distribution. This uniqueness of Scripture is the reason that all true human discovery in any dimension must fit within the limits of divine disclosure. Human knowledge can never outstrip divine revelation.

The remaining verses of chapter 4 (vv. 14–16) properly belong with the subject of chapter 5 and will be considered there. Thus far we have seen that Jesus is far greater than any angel, eclipses Moses as the spokesman of God, and leads believers into a far superior rest than Joshua led Israel into. In chapter 5, we are introduced to the major theme of Hebrews: the high priesthood of Jesus. He is superior in every respect to the priesthood of Aaron, and encompasses a ministry which the Old Testament only faintly shadowed in the mysterious ministry of Melchizedek to Abraham. (Stedman, Ray: Hebrews IVP New Testament Commentary Series)

Pierced by the Word of God
A Meditation on Hebrews 4:12
John Piper

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The term “word of God” may mean a word spoken by God without a human mouthpiece. But in the New Testament it regularly means a word or a message that a human speaks on God’s behalf. So, for example, in Heb 13:7 it says, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”

So the “word of God” in Heb 4:12 probably refers to the truth of God revealed in Scripture that humans speak to each other with reliance on God’s help to understand it and apply it.

“Living and active.”

The word of God is not a dead word or an ineffective word. It has life in it. And because it has life in it, it produces effects. There is something about the Truth, as God has revealed it, that connects it to God as a source of all life and power. God loves his word. He is partial to his word. He honors his word with his presence and power. If you want your teaching or witness to have power and produce effects, stay close to the revealed word of God.

Sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow.

What does this living and effective word do? It pierces. For what purpose? To divide. To divide what? Soul and spirit. What does that mean?

The writer gives an analogy: it’s like dividing joints and marrow. Joints are the thick, hard, outer part of the bone. Marrow is the soft, tender, living, inner part of the bone. That is an analogy of “soul and spirit.” The word of God is like a sword that is sharp enough to cut right through the outer, hard, tough part of a bone to the inner, soft, living part of the bone. Some swords, less sharp, may strike a bone and glance off and not penetrate. Some swords may penetrate part way through the tough, thick joint of a bone. But a very sharp, powerful double-edged sword (sharp on each side

of the point) will penetrate the joint all the way to the marrow.

“Soul and spirit” are like “bone joint and bone marrow.” “Soul” is that invisible dimension of our life that we are by nature. “Spirit” is what we are by supernatural rebirth. Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn 3:6). Without the awakening, creative, regenerating work of the Spirit of God in us we are merely “natural” rather than “spiritual” (1Co 2:14-15). So the “spirit” is that invisible dimension of our life that we are by the regenerating work of the Spirit.

What then is the point saying that the “word of God” pierces to the “division of soul and spirit”? The point is that it’s the word of God that reveals to us our true selves. Are we spiritual or are we natural? Are we born of God and spiritually alive, or are we deceiving ourselves and spiritually dead? Are the “thoughts and intentions of our heart” spiritual thoughts and intentions or only natural thoughts and intentions. Only the “word of God” can “judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” as Heb4:12 says.

Practically speaking, when we read or hear “the word of God,” we sense ourselves pierced. The effect of this piercing is to reveal whether there is spirit or not. Is there marrow and life in our bones? Or are we only a “skeleton” with no living marrow? Is there “spirit,” or only “soul”? The word of God pierces deep enough to show us the truth of our thoughts and our motives and our selves.

Give yourselves to this word of God in the Bible. Use it to know yourself and confirm your own spiritual life. If there is life, there will be love and joy and a heart to obey the word. Give yourself to this word so that your words become the word of God for others and reveal to them their own spiritual condition. Then in the wound of the word, pour the balm of the word. (Pierced By the Word of God :Desiring God)


Sigmund Freud and the Word of God – Few thinkers in recent times have exerted so pervasive an influence as Sigmund Freud. Although he claimed to be an atheist, he continually speculated about religious issues as if subconsciously haunted by the God whom he denied.

When Freud turned 35, his father sent him a copy of the Hebrew Scriptures he had given to him when he was a boy. Sigmund had read and studied that book, at least for a while. Enclosed in that worn copy of the Scriptures was a note from the elder Freud reminding his son that “the Spirit of the Lord began to move you and spoke within you:

‘Go read in My Book that I’ve written and there will burst open for you the wellsprings of understanding, knowledge, and wisdom.’”

His father expressed the hope that Sigmund might, as a mature man, once again read and obey God’s law. We have no evidence, however, that Freud took to heart his father’s exhortation. How different his life and influence might have been if he had!


The Robber – When evangelist John Wesley (1703-1791) was returning home from a service one night, he was robbed. The thief, however, found his victim to have only a little money and some Christian literature.

As the bandit was leaving, Wesley called out,

“Stop! I have something more to give you.”

The surprised robber paused.

“My friend,” said Wesley, “you may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here’s something to remember: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!’”

The thief hurried away, and Wesley prayed that his words might bear fruit.

Years later, Wesley was greeting people after a Sunday service when he was approached by a stranger. What a surprise to learn that this visitor, now a believer in Christ as a successful businessman, was the one who had robbed him years before!

“I owe it all to you,” said the transformed man.

“Oh no, my friend,” Wesley exclaimed, “not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!”

God’s Word is an arrow that never misses its mark. (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


First In Our Lives – Actor Sylvester Stallone is applauded for his strongman movie roles as Rocky and Rambo. But what is he really like in his personal life? During an interview he honestly admitted, “If I were watching a home movie of my life, I would shake my head in despair and wonderment. It’s a comedy of errors.”

Suppose a movie were made of your life or mine. Would it reveal not only errors and poor choices but also a sinful person who doesn’t even act like a follower of Christ? Would we be ashamed of some scenes? Would we be motivated, as Stallone says he was, to shift our values and start paying attention to “relationships . . . and putting someone else first”?

Jesus wants to be the “someone else” in our lives whom we put first (Matthew 6:24noteMt 6:33note). But how do we do that? It starts with confession of any sin that is between us and Him, and then experiencing the Lord’s cleansing and forgiveness (Psalm 32:5note). Then we are gradually changed by Him through the work of the Holy Spirit and by the Word of God (Galatians 5:22noteGal 5:23noteHebrews 4:12). If we make our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ our first priority, He will make us into the kind of people He wants us to be (Philippians 2:34notePhp 2:567notePhp 2:8note). —Vernon C Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray.
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin and set me free. —Orr

The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to change the people of God.


A “Dangerous” Weapon – One Sunday evening at church a short-term missionary reported on her overseas experiences and told about crossing into a communist country. At the border, the guards asked, “Do you have any guns, drugs, or Bibles?”

Although they probably hadn’t read it, those communist border guards apparently believed Hebrews 4:12. To them, the Bible was as dangerous as guns and drugs. Guns injure and kill the body. Drugs alter and distort the mind. The Bible exposes and destroys falsehood. But the Bible threatens more than their religion of atheism. It threatens their place of power and control over the people because it gives to the people what no government can. The Bible enriches lives, instills hope, and frees the human spirit, which makes it as threaten­ing to an atheistic government as guns and drugs.

In Psalm 119, the psalmist refers to some of the powerful effects of the Word of God on his life. It revives his soul (Ps 119:25note); it imparts inner strength (Ps 119:28note); it guides him into truth (Ps 119:30note); and it enlarges his heart (Ps 119:32note).

We who are blessed with both the Old and New Testaments have God’s full and final written revelation of Himself. When we meditate on the truths of this powerful book, we experience its impact on our lives by the indwelling Holy Spirit, who makes it real to us. Guns, drugs, and the Bible all wield power, but only the Bible destroys what is false and builds what is true. —D. J. De Haan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

No weapon in Satan’s arsenal can destroy the sword of the Spirit,
which is the Word of God.


Changed By The Book -He was trouble. He lived in a home for orphans, but he didn’t like it. He was disobedient and miserable, so he ran away. When he did, he took with him the Bible his housemother had given him. Several years later, the young man returned to the home he had abandoned. He told the people that while he was gone, he had begun reading the Bible. “Now I want to accept Christ,” he told his astonished listeners.

What a remarkable book the Bible is! Read by a hurting and troubled young man, this Book was used by God’s Spirit to show him his need for salvation. We live in a world that needs what the Bible offers. People need to read its words of comfort, hope, cleansing, and joy. They need to discover in its pages the good news of salvation in Christ.

Not everyone who reads God’s Word turns to Christ. Jesus made this clear in the parable of the sower (Lk. 8:456789101112131415). We are to be sowers of God’s Word, but we don’t decide who will receive it. Our job is to scatter the seed.

Maybe you’ve been looking for a good witnessing tool and never thought that God’s Word is the answer. Why not give a Bible to those you want to reach. Then watch what happens. They can be changed by His Book. —Dave Branon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

The world’s greatest Book is the Bible,
Its words are inspired and true;
Some may have scorned as they read it
But found their lives changed and made new. –Byer

God’s Word is an arrow that never misses its mark


Nothing Hidden

Read: Hebrews 4:12–16 

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Hebrews 4:13

In 2015 an international research company stated that there were 245 million surveillance cameras installed worldwide, and the number was growing by 15 percent every year. In addition, multiplied millions of people with smartphones capture daily images ranging from birthday parties to bank robberies. Whether we applaud the increased security or denounce the diminished privacy, we live in a global, cameras-everywhere society.

The New Testament book of Hebrews says that in our relationship with God, we experience a far greater level of exposure and accountability than anything surveillance cameras may see. His Word, like a sharp, two-edged sword, penetrates to the deepest level of our being where it “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:12–13). 

Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. Nothing is greater than God’s love.

Because Jesus our Savior experienced our weaknesses and temptations but did not sin, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (vv. 15–16). We don’t need to fear Him but can be assured we’ll find grace when we come to Him.

Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. Nothing is greater than God’s love. Nothing is stronger than God’s mercy and grace. Nothing is too hard for God’s power.

Discover how you can develop and maintain a meaningful prayer life. Read Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer at discoveryseries.org/hj891.

No part of our lives is hidden from God’s grace and power.

By David C. McCasland  (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


The Big Questions – Author Ronald B. Schwartz asked scores of well-known contemporary writers to name the books that influenced them most deeply. Their responses ranged from the novels of Dostoevsky to the popular stories of Mark Twain. The works of Dickens, Shakespeare, and Faulkner were mentioned many times. But topping the list was the Bible. Why?

Perhaps because most writers want to deal with the “big questions” of life, and the Bible is the ultimate book for life’s big questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Is there a God? Does life have any meaning or purpose?

The pages of Scripture bring us face to face with ourselves, with God, and with His grand design for our lives. The Bible, according to the late journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, is “the book that reads me.” The writer of Hebrews said, “The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

When we read the Bible, God speaks personally and powerfully to us about the big questions that matter most in life. — David C. McCasland (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

What is the meaning of life here on earth?
What is its purpose, and what is its worth?
God has the answers in His holy book;
That is the first and the best place to look. —Hess

The Bible is God’s answer book.


Change The Word? – The Bible, God’s written Word, changes lives. Its message of salvation makes the most profound change, of course, but Scripture can also change the way we treat others. It can provide a firm foundation for society with its clear teachings on institutions such as marriage, family, and the church.

But what happens when what the Bible clearly says—as understood for centuries by learned believers and scholars alike—is rejected? Those who reject its teachings try to change the Word.

Two Greek words can help explain this: eisegesis and exegesisEisegesis is the process of reading into a passage something that is not there—inserting a meaning that flows from a personal agenda. By contrast, exegesis means drawing from the passage the clearly intended meaning, using context, other Scripture passages on the same topic, and legitimate tools of understanding such as Bible commentaries.

Instead of trying to change God’s Word to fit our own ideas, let’s allow the Word to change us. As we read His Word and obey it, the Holy Spirit will transform us into the kind of people God wants us to be.

Don’t change the Word—let it change you.—Dave Branon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

The Lord has given man His Word,
His will He has made known;
Let man not try to change that Word
With words that are his own. —D. De Haan

The Bible—eternal truth and never-fading beauty.


Excuses – Unbelief, indifference, busyness, and laziness are some of the excuses people give for not reading the Bible. Gamaliel Bradford, a renowned American biographer who explored the lives and motives of famous individuals, candidly admitted, “I do not read the New Testament for fear of its awakening a storm of anxiety and self-reproach and doubt and dread of having taken the wrong path, of having been traitor to the plain and simple God.”

Fear of facing up to failure, guilt and sin is not a very reasonable reason to avoid reading the Bible! It’s about as irrational as refusing to see a doctor because there’s a suspicion that cancer has started to develop in one’s body.

Yes, the Bible does indeed compel us to face ourselves. It is like an x-ray machine that penetrates below the facade of goodness and shows up any spiritual malignancy. It enables us to see how God views all the worst diseases of the soul. But the Bible does more than expose a fatal condition. It introduces us to the Great Physician, who can cure our sin and bring spiritual healing.

If you read the Bible with a willingness to obey the truth, you will find life’s greatest cure. Vernon C. Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Instill within our hearts, dear Lord,
A deep desire to know Your voice;
We need to learn to hear
Your Word That we may make
Your will our choice. – Dennis J. De Haan

Many people criticize the bible because the bible criticizes them


Hebrews 4:12 Undiscovered Country

The Word of God is living and powerful. —Hebrews 4:12

I studied the map as my husband and I drove up the east coast of Virginia. We were looking for any road that would take us to the seashore. Finally, I found one and we turned toward the sun.

In only a few minutes, we were laughing in delight when—just before the seashore—we happened upon a national wildlife refuge. All around us were dunes and marsh and beach grasses and an abundance of gulls, egrets, and blue herons. It was active and loud and wonderful! We had arrived at Chincoteague and Assateague Islands—famous for the annual pony swim from one island to the other. Others had realized its value and beauty long before, but to us it was undiscovered country.

The Scriptures are like “undiscovered country” to many. They have never discovered the valuable treasures found in the eternal words of the Bible. The Bible is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, exposing our innermost thoughts and desires (Heb. 4:12). It is like a lamp to illuminate our path (Ps. 119:105), and it has been given to equip us for God’s purposes (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Open the Bible and read it so you can find these treasures. It’s time . . . to discover!

Exhaustless store of treasured gems
Within this Book I hold;
And as I read, it comes alive,
New treasures to unfold.
—Mortenson

Rich treasures of God’s truth are waiting to be discovered by you.


Hebrews 4:12 One Verse

The Word of God is living and powerful. —Hebrews 4:12

Which of the 31,173 verses in the Bible is your favorite? And do you think that verse can make a difference in someone’s life?

God has used certain verses to make a remarkable impact on the world. For example, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan, touched the lives of thousands by preaching from John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”

Noted reformer Martin Luther greatly influenced the course of church history because of his understanding of Romans 1:17, “The just shall live by faith.” And missionary pioneer William Carey introduced the gospel to India after being touched by the words of Isaiah 54:2, “Enlarge the place of your tent.”

As a young person about to embark on my first overseas missionary venture, I was moved, challenged, and comforted by Jeremiah 33:3. God used this verse to remind me to call on Him because He had “great and mighty” things in store for me.

Maybe a specific verse from Scripture has touched your heart in a special way. Share that truth with others—because God’s Word will always have an impact.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.
—Wilkinson

One truth from the Bible is worth more than all the wisdom of man.


Hebrews 4:12 A Question Of Motive

The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. —Hebrews 4:12

Read: Hebrews 4:11-16 | Bible in a Year: 1 Chronicles 7-9; John 6:22-44

My wife and I were stopped at a railroad crossing to allow a train to pass. As we waited in the line of cars, the driver next to us suddenly darted through a nearby parking lot and headed in the direction of the next available railroad crossing.

I turned to Marlene and said, with some righteous indignation, “Look at that guy. He’s trying to get around the train instead of waiting like the rest of us.” As soon as I said those words, the man, camera in hand, hopped from his car to take pictures of the oncoming train. I had judged his motives, and I was dead wrong.

Although we can observe behavior and outward appearance, only God can see what’s in the heart. That is one reason we all need the Word of God so desperately. Hebrews 4:12 says, “The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

When we find ourselves ready to judge another person’s motives, let’s pause and remember—only God can see the heart, and only His Word can expose its motives. Our responsibility is to let the Lord and His Word convict us about our own hearts.

The Bible is a lamp from God,
A sword of truth and light;
It searches heart and soul and mind,
And helps us know what’s right.
—Bosch

People will be judged by the way God sees them not by the way we see them.


Hebrews 4:12 A Powerful Word

The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. —Hebrews 4:12

Read: Hebrews 4:12-13 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 9-11; Matthew 15:21-39

When a teenager named Poh Fang learned about Jesus’ love for her and received Him as her Savior, her parents weren’t sure about the merits of Christianity. So they sent her older sister with her to church to keep an eye on her. But something happened that they didn’t expect. The powerful Word of God penetrated the heart of the older sister, and she accepted Jesus as her Savior as well.

The psalmist said of the Word of God, “Your precepts . . . have given me life” (Ps. 119:93). That’s the testimony of Poh Fang and her sister and of all who know Christ as Savior. His Word is “powerful . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

God’s Word shows us our sin and its consequences: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23); “the wages of sin is death” (6:23). It tells us of God’s love and salvation: “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, . . . made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5). And it gives wisdom for daily living: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105).

Thank You, Lord, for Your powerful Word, which gives us life and direction for daily living.

Many books inform, but only one transforms— the Bible.


Hebrews 4:12 Exploratory Procedure

The Word of God is living and powerful, . . . a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. —Hebrews 4:12

Read: Hebrews 4:11-16 | Bible in a Year: Jeremiah 34-36; Hebrews 2

I have a friend who recently underwent a laryngoscopy. I winced as he explained how his doctor took a camera with a light on the end and stuck it down his throat to try to find the cause of his pain.

It reminded me that God’s Word is like a laryngoscopy. It invades the unseen areas of our lives, exposing the diseased and damaged spiritual tissue that troubles us. If you’re wincing at the thought of how uncomfortable this divine procedure might be, consider Jesus’ words: “Everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20). Internal intrusions may be uncomfortable, but do you really want the disease?

Welcoming God’s Word to penetrate the deep, dark places of our hearts is the only way to find true healing and the spiritual health we long for. Believe me, the procedure will be thorough. As the writer of Hebrews assures, God’s Word is “sharper than any two-edged sword” (4:12)—piercing all the way through the external stuff of our lives, all the way down to our thoughts, intentions, and motives.

So what are you waiting for? With God’s Word you don’t need an appointment. The divine Surgeon is ready when you are!

Ever present, truest Friend,
Ever near Thine aid to lend,
Guide us as we search the Word,
Make it both our shield and sword.
—Anon.

Let God’s Word explore your inner being.


J C PhilpotFebruary 10 – “For the word of God is quick and powerful.” He 4:12 – What is meant by the word of God being “quick?” That it moves with swiftness and velocity? It is certainly said of God’s word (Ps 147:15) that “it runs very swiftly;” but that is not the meaning of the word “quick” in the text. It there means “living,” and corresponds with the expression (Acts 7:38) “living oracles.” It is an old English word signifying “living;” as in the expression, “who shall judge the quick and the dead” (2Ti 4:1), that is, the living and the dead. So we read of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram “going down quick (that is, alive) into the pit” (Nu 16:30). So the Lord is said to have “quickened (that is, made spiritually alive) those who were previously dead in trespasses and sins” (Ep 2:1). The word “quick,” then, does not mean moving with velocity, but “living”, or rather “communicating life”, and thus distinguished from the dead letter.

Truth, as it stands in the naked word of God, is lifeless and dead; and as such, has no power to communicate what it has not in itself, that is, life and power to the hearts of God’s people. It stands there in so many letters and syllables, as lifeless as the types by which they were printed. But when the incarnate Word takes of the written word, and speaks it home into the heart and conscience of a vessel of mercy, whether in letter or substance, then he endues it with divine life, and it enters into the soul, communicating to it a life that can never die. As James speaks, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” And also Peter, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever” (1Pe 1:23). Eternal realities are brought into the soul, fixed and fastened by an Almighty hand. The conscience is made alive in the fear of God; and the soul is raised up from a death in sin, or a death in profession, to a life heavenly, new, and supernatural. (J. C. Philpot. Daily Words for Zion’s Wayfarers)

 The Way into the Holiest has the following chapter on Hebrews 4:12 entitled

The Word of God
and Its Edge
F B Meyer

WE all have to do with God. “Him with whom we have to do.” You cannot break the connection. You must do with him as a rebel, if not as a friend; on the ground of works, if not on the ground of grace; at the great white throne, if not in the fleeting days of time. You cannot do without God. You cannot do as you would if there were no God. You cannot avoid having to do with him; for even though you were to say there was no God, doing violence to the clearest instincts of your being, yet still you would breathe his air, eat his provender, occupy his world, and stand at last before his bar. And, if you will pardon the materialism of the reference, I will follow the suggestion of my text, and say that the God with whom we have to do has eyes. “The eyes of him with whom we have to do.” “Thou art a God that seest” was the startled exclamation of an Egyptian slave girl whose childhood had been spent amid the vast statues of gods who had eyes with far-away stony stare, but saw not. And she was right.

“The Lord looks from heaven; his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.” (Ps 33:13

Those eyes miss no one. “There is not any creature not manifest in his sight.” The truest goodness is least obtrusive of itself. It steals unnoticed through the world, filling up its days with deeds and words of gentle kindness, which are known only to heaven; and herein it finds its sufficient reward. It prays behind closed doors; it exercises a vigorous self-denial in secret; it does its work of mercy by stealth. Thus the great blatant world of men, with its trumpets and heralds and newspaper notices, knows little of it, and cannot find the nooks where God’s wild flowers bloom in inaccessible heights, for his eye alone. But the Father seeth in secret. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous. His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward him. Do you want guidance? Look up! those eyes wait to guide by a glance. Are you in sorrow? they will film with tears. Are you going astray? they shall beckon you back, and break your heart, as Peter’s. You will come to find your heaven in the light radiated by the eye of God, when once you have learned to meet it, clad in the righteousness of Jesus.

Unconverted reader, remember there is no screen from the eye of God. His eyes are as a flame of fire; and our strongest screens crackle up as thinnest gauze before the touch of that holy flame. Even rocks and hills are inadequate to hide from the face of him that sits upon the throne. “Whither shall I go from thy presence?” That question is unanswered, and unanswerable. It has stood upon the page of Scripture for three thousand years, and no one yet of all the myriads that have read it has been able to devise a reply. Heaven says, Not here. Hell says, Not here. It is not among angels, or the lost, or in the vast silent spaces of eternity. There is no creature anywhere not manifest to his sight. He who made vultures, able from immense heights to discern the least morsel on the desert waste, has eyes as good as they. And think how terrible are the eyes of God! When Egypt’s chivalry had pursued Israel into the depths of the sea, they suddenly turned to flee. Why? Not because of thunder or lightning or voice; but because of a look. “The Lord looked out of the cloud, and troubled the Egyptians.” Ah, sinner, how terrible will it be for thee to abide under the frown of God! “With the froward he will show himself froward.”

Those eyes miss nothing. “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” It is said of the Lord Jesus, on one occasion, that he entered into Jerusalem, and into the Temple; and when he had looked round about on all things, he went out. It was his last, long, farewell look. But note its comprehensiveness. Nothing escaped it. We look only on parts of things, and often look without seeing. But the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. “Naked and opened.” This is a sacrificial phrase, indicating the priestly act of throwing the victim on its back before him, so that it lay, exposed to his gaze, helpless to recover itself, ready for the knife. Ah, how eagerly we try to hide and cloak our sin! We dare not pen a truthful diary; we dread the illness which would unlock our tongues in wholesale chatterings; we shrink from the loving gaze of our dearest. We deceive man, and sometimes ourselves; but not our great High-Priest. He sees all, that secret sin; that lurking enmity; that closed chamber; that hidden burglar; that masked assassin; that stowaway; that declension of heart; that little rift within the lute; that speck of decay in the luscious fruit. And thus it is that men are kept out of the Canaan of God’s rest, because he sees the evil heart of unbelief which departs from himself; and on account of which he swears now, as of old, “they shall not enter into my rest.”

Is it not a marvel that he who knows so much about us should love us still? It were indeed an inexplicable mystery, save for the truth of the words which so sweetly follow: “Seeing, then, that we have a great High-Priest.” He has a priest’s heart. His scrutiny is not one of morbid or idle curiosity, but of a surgeon, who intently examines the source of disease with pity and tenderness, and resolves to extirpate it as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Is it not frequently the case that fuller knowledge will beget love, which once seemed impossible? There are some people whose faces are so hard, and their eyes so cold, that we are instantly repelled; but if we knew all, how they have been pierced and wounded, and disappointed, we should begin to pity them, and pity is close kinsman to love. The Saviour has known us from all eternity, our downsittings and uprisings, our secret possibilities of evil, our unfathomed depths of waywardness and depravity; and yet he loves us, and will love us. “He knows all, But loves us better than he knows.” And out of this love, which wells up perennially in the heart of Jesus, unfrozen by the winter of our neglect, Unstanched by the demands of our fickleness, there comes the stern discipline of which this passage proceeds to speak. In majestic phrase, the Apocalyptic seer tells how he beheld the Word of God ride forth on his snow-white steed, arrayed in crimson robes, whilst the many crowns of empire flashed upon his brow. Two features are specially noted in his appearance. His eyes were as a flame of fire; this characteristic looks back over the words we have considered. Out of his mouth comes a sharp two-edged sword; this looks forward to the words which now invite us. We must never divorce these two. The eyes and the sword. Not the eyes only; for of what use would it be to see and not strike? Not the sword only; for to strike without seeing would give needless pain, this would be surgery blindfolded. But the searching tender vision, followed by the swift and decisive flash of the sword of amputation and deliverance. Oh, who will now submit to that stroke, wielded by the gentle hand that often carried healing and blessing, and was nailed to the cross; guided by unerring wisdom, and nerved by Almighty strength? Not death, but life and fruitfulness, freedom and benediction, are all awaiting that one blow of emancipation. That sword is the Word of God.

I. THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING

The words he speaks are spirit and life (John 6:63). Wherever they fall, though into dull and lifeless soil, they begin to breed life, and produce results like themselves. They come into the heart of an abandoned woman; and straightway there follow compunction for the past, vows of amendment, and the hasty rush to become an evangelist to others. They come into the heart of a dying robber; and immediately he refrains from blasphemy, and rebukes his fellow, and announces the Messiahship, the blamelessness, the approaching glory, of the dying Saviour. They come into hearts worn out with the wild excesses of the great pagan ages, and ill-content, though enriched with the spoils of art and refinement and philosophy in the very zenith of their development; and lo! the moral waste begins to sprout with harvests of holiness, and to blossom with the roses of heaven. If only those words, spoken from the lips of Christ, be allowed to work in the conscience, there will be forthwith the stir of life.

II. THE WORD OF GOD IS ACTIVE

I.e., energetic. Beneath its spell the blind see, the deaf hear, the paralyzed are nerved with new energy, the dead stir in their graves and come forth. There are few things more energetic than life. Put a seed into the fissure of a rock, and it will split it in twain from top to bottom. Though walls and rocks and ruins impede the course of the seedling, yet it will force its way to the light and air and rain. And when the Word of God enters the heart, it is not as a piece of furniture or lumber. It asserts itself and strives for mastery, and compels men to give up sin; to make up long standing feuds; to restore ill-gotten gains; to strive to enter into the strait gate. “Now ye are pruned,” said our Lord, “through the word that I have spoken to you.” The words of Christ are his winnowing-fan, with which he is wont to purge his flour, whether in the heart or the world. We are not, therefore, surprised that a leading tradesman in a thriving commercial center said that the visit of two evangelists, who did little else than reiterate the Word of God, was as good as a revival of trade, because it led so many people to pay up debts which were reckoned as lost.

III. THE WORD OF GOD IS SHARP

Its sharpness is threefold.

(1) It is sharp to pierce.

On the day of Pentecost, as Peter wielded the sword of the Spirit, it pierced three thousand to the heart; and they fell wounded to the death before him, crying, “What shall we do?” Often since have strong men been smitten to the dust under the effect of that same sword, skillfully used. And this is the kind of preaching we need. Men are urged to accept of the gift of God, and many seem to comply with the invitation; but in the process of time they fall away. Is not the cause in this, that they have never been wounded to the death of their self-esteem, their heart has never been pierced to the letting of the blood of their own life, they have never been brought into the dust of death? Oh for Boanerges! able to pierce the armor of excuses of vain hopes, behind which men shield themselves, that many may cry with Ahab, pierced between the joints of the harness “Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded!”

(2) It is sharp to divide.

With his sharp knife the priest was accustomed to dissect the joints of the animal, and to open to view even the marrow of the bones. Every hair was searched, every limb examined; and thus the sacred gift was passed, and permitted to be offered in worship. And God’s scrutiny is not satisfied with the external appearance and profession. It goes far deeper. It enters into those mysterious regions of the nature where soul and spirit, purpose, intention, motive, and impulse, hold their secret court, and carry on the hidden machinery of human life. Who can tread the mysterious confines where soul and spirit touch? What is the line of demarkation? Where does the one end, and the other begin? We cannot tell; but that mystic Word of God could cut the one from the other, as easily as the selvage is divided from the cloth. It is at home in distinctions which are too fine drawn and minute for human apprehension. It assumes an office like that which Jesus refused when he said, “Who made me a judge and divider over you?”

(3) It is sharp to criticize and judge.

“Quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Christ is eager about these. Because what a man thinks and intends in his heart, that he will be sooner or later in life. We must expect to have our most secret thoughts, relations, and purposes questioned, criticized, and measured by the Word of God. No court of inquiry was ever presided over by a more exact inquisitor than this. The corpses of the dead past are exhumed; the old lumber-rooms with their padlocked boxes are explored; the accounts of bygone years are audited and taxed. God is critic of all the secrets of the heart. As each thought or intention passes to and fro, he searches it. He is constantly weighing in the balance our thoughts and aims, though they be light as air. On one occasion, when Saul had spared the spoils of a doomed city, together with its monarch, the latter came to Samuel, not as a criminal, but delicately, as a pampered friend. And Samuel said, “As thy sword has made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord.” Thus it is that we have spared too many of our sins, at the risk of our irreparable rejection from the throne of true manhood and righteousness. How much better to let Christ do his work of amputation and excision! If we do not know ourselves, let us ask him to search us. If we cannot cut off the offending member, let us look to him to rid us of it. Do not fear him; close after these terrible words, as the peal of bells after the crash of the storm on the organ at Freiburg, we are told that “he was tempted in all points like as we are,” and that ” we have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” “Does she sing well?” asked the trainer of a new operatic singer. “Splendidly,” was the reply; “but if I had to bring her out, I would first break her heart.” He meant that one who had not been broken by sorrow could not touch the deepest chords of human life. Ah! there is no need for this with our Lord Jesus; reproach broke his heart. He understands broken hearts, and is able to soothe and save all who come unto God by him. (From F. B. Meyer. The Way Into the Holiest)

HEART SEARCHING
WORD OF GOD
Hebrews 4:1213
Andrew Murray

THEY have been earnest words with which the writer has been warning the Hebrews against unbelief and disobedience, hardening the heart and departing from God, and coming short of the promised rest. The solemn words of God’s oath in Ps. 95. I have sworn in My wrath, they skull not enter into My rest, have been repeated more than once to urge all to give diligence lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. He is about to close his warning. He does so by reminding them of the power of the word of God as the word of the omniscient One, of Him with whom we have to do, before whose eyes all things, our hearts and lives too, are naked and open. Let each student of the Epistle make a very personal application of the words. Let us take the oath of God concerning His rest, and the command to labour that we may enter in, home to our heart, and say whether we have indeed entered in. And if not, let us all the more yield ourselves to the word to search and try us: it will without fail do its blessed work in us, and prepare us for following with profit the further teaching concerning our Lord Jesus.

For the word of God is living and active. At times it may appear as if the word effects so little. The word is like seed: everything depends on the treatment it receives. Some receive the word with the understanding: there it cannot be quickened. The word is meant for the heart, the will, the affections. The word must be submitted to, must be lived, must be acted out. When this is done it will manifest its living, quickening power. It is not we who have to make the word alive. When, in faith in the life and power there is in the word, the heart yields itself in humble submission and honest desire to its action, it will prove itself to be life and power.

And sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow. The first action of God’s word is to wound, to cut, to divide. In the soul the natural life has its seat; in the spirit the spiritual and divine. Sin has brought confusion and disorder; the spirit is under the mastery of the soul, the natural life. God’s word divides and separates; wakens the spirit to a sense of its destiny as the faculty for the unseen and eternal; brings the soul to a knowledge of itself as a captive to the power of sin. It cuts deep and sure, discovering the deep corruption of sin. As the knife of the surgeon, who seeks to heal, pierces even to the dividing of the joints and marrow, where it is needed, so the word penetrates all; there is no part of the inner being to which it does not pass.

And quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. It is specially with the heart that God’s word deals. In Hebrews 3. we read of the hardened heart, the evil heart of unbelief, the erring heart. When the word heart occurs later in the Epistle we shall find everything changed; we shall read of a heart in which God’s law is written, of a true heart, a heart sprinkled with the blood, a heart established by grace (Hebrews 8:1010:2213:9). We have here the transition from the one to the other. God’s appeal was, To-day, if ye hear His voice, harden not your heart. The heart that will but yield itself to be searched by God’s word, to have its secret thoughts and intents discerned and judged by it, will be freed from its erring and unbelief, and quickened and cleansed, and made a living table on which the word is written by God Himself. Oh, to know how needful it is, but also how blessed, to yield our hearts to the judgment of the word.

And there is no creature that is not manifest in His sight. God’s word bears the character of God Himself. He is the all-knowing and all-pervading: nothing can hide itself from the judgment of His word. If we will not have it judge us now, it will condemn us hereafter. For all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Yes, the God with whom we have to do is He of whom we later read: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” And again: “Our God is a consuming fire.” It is this God who now pleads with us to enter into His rest.

Let each of us gladly yield ourselves to have to do with Him. If perhaps there be a secret consciousness that all is not right, that we are not giving diligence to enter into the rest, oh, let us beware of setting such thoughts aside. It is the first swelling of the living seed of the word within us. Do not regard that thought as coming from thyself, or from man who brings thee God’s word; it is God waking thee out of sleep. Have to do with Him. Be willing that the word should show thee what is wrong. Be not afraid of its discovering to thee thy sin and wretchedness. The knife of the physician wounds to heal. The light that shows thee thy sin and wrong will surely lead thee out. The word is living and will give thee life.

1. God has spoken to us in His Son. This is the keynote of the Epistle. To-day, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart: this is the keynote of this long and solemn warning. Let us hearken, let us yield to the word. As we deal with the word, so we deal with God And so will God deal with us.

2. Judge of thy life not by what thy heart says, or the Church, or the so-called Christian world–but by what the word says. Let it have its way with thee: It will greatly bless thee.

3. All things are naked before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Why, them, through indifference or discouragement, shut thine eyes to them? Oh, lay everything open before God, the God with whom we have to do, whether we will or not.

4. The word is living and active. Have great faith in its power. Be sure that the Holy Spirit, that the living Word, that God Himself works in it. The word ever points to the living God, who is present in it and makes it a living word in the heart that is seeking for life and for God. (Andrew Murray. The Holiest of All)

Courtesy of preceptaustin.org

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The Power of Music for Good or Evil

Music is an amazingly powerful medium to capture and transform the heart, and to push it toward good or evil. It can move the heart more quickly than any other form of art or communication on earth. Music can instantly create an emotion, a memory, a mood, or a passion. It can change the heart’s direction, focus, and purpose. It can alter behavior. It can heal or destroy the human heart. Music has the power to change an entire culture or even a nation.

In its purest form, music is a precious blessing from God, designed to uplift the thoughts to noble and godly themes, inspiring and elevating the heart. Music is also one of the major tools the Devil uses in spiritual warfare. It can turn us away from God, move us to sin, and emotionally sabotage us.

Cary Schmidt, in Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music, writes:

Music is not only an idol in today’s culture, it is an addiction, and is the primary tool that Satan uses to indoctrinate, control and manipulate the hearts and minds of the masses … No tool in his arsenal is so powerful, so seductive and so subtle as music … I submit to you that music is the most prominent, powerful and pervasive form of communication that satanic spirits are using to control and shape our mass culture. Everywhere you turn, the world is hearing. Everywhere you listen, the voices are speaking. And everywhere you look, music is shaping the emotions, the spirit, and the hearts of people.[i]

Music is Never Morally Neutral

As Christians, we cannot be ignorant of the effects of music on the heart. We must be aware of the music we are allowing to saturate our hearts. Music is never morally neutral. It always carries a message to the heart that is either good or evil.

What is the soundtrack of your life? What music is being played on the chords of your heart? What music is at the top of the charts when it comes to your heart? There is a direct connection between the music we listen to and the spiritual health of our hearts. Music always produces and influences a lifestyle. Life, thought, mood, emotion and desire flow out of the music we listen to.

Listen to what philosophers, scientists, doctors, professors, and musicians have said about the moral and spiritual power of music.

Plato: “In order to take the spiritual temperature of an individual or a society, one must mark the music … Musical innovation is full of danger to the State for when modes of music change, the laws of the State change with them. Music is a moral law … Let me control the music for one generation and I will control Rome … Show me who writes a nation’s songs and I care not who writes its laws … Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.”

Aristotle: “Music has a power of forming the character, and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young … From what has been said it is evident what an influence music has over the disposition of the mind and how variously it can fascinate it.”

Albert Einstein: “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music … I get most joy in life out of music.”

Pietro Mascagni, Italian composer:Modern music is as dangerous as narcotics.”

An inscription at the Alte Opera Haus in Frankfurt, Germany:Bach gave us God’s Word. Mozart gave us God’s laughter. Beethoven gave us God’s fire. God gave us music that we might pray without words.”

Dr. Howard Hanson: “Music is a curiously subtle art with innumerable, varying emotional connotations. It is made up of many ingredients and according to the proportions of those components, it be soothing or invigorating, ennobling or vulgarizing, philosophical or orgiastic. It has the powers for evil as well as good.”[ii]

Alan P. Merriam: “There is probably no other human cultural activity which is so all-pervasive and reaches into, and shapes—and often controls—so much of human behavior.”[iii]

Dr. Adam Knieste:Music is a two-edged sword. It’s really a powerful drug. Music can poison you, lift your spirits, or make you sick without knowing why.”[iv]

Jay Grout: “Music directly affects the passions or states of the soul—gentleness, anger, courage, temperance, and their opposites … When one listens to music that imitates a certain passion, he becomes imbued with the same passion. If over a long time he habitually listens to the kind of music that arouses ignoble passions, his whole character will be shaped to that ignoble form. In short, if one listens to the wrong kind of music—he will become the wrong kind of person.”[v]

Songwriter E. Y. Harburg: “Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.”

Frank Zappa: “The loud sounds and bright lights are tremendous indoctrination tools; it is possible to modify the human chemical structure with the right combination of frequencies. If the right kind of beat makes you tap your foot, what kind of beat makes you curl your fist and strike?”

The Beatles: “Our music is capable of causing emotional instability, disorganized behavior, rebellion and even revolution.”

Drs. Daniel and Bernadette Skubik: “A driving drum rhythm in excess of three to four beats per second will put the brain into a state of stress, regardless if the listener likes or dislikes the music. And when the brain is in this stressful state, it will release opioids—a group of natural hormones that function like morphine—to help return itself to normal equilibrium and sense of well-being. These natural opioids, if experienced often enough, can be addicting, creating in the listener the continual desire for that ‘high’ somewhat like the high runners experience.”[vi]

The Power of Music to Alter Physical and Emotional States

Music is powerful enough to produce mental and physical effects in our bodies and our brains. Music can modify brain waves, slowing them down and creating a more relaxed, content, and peaceful feeling, or speeding them up, causing more agitation, anxiety, and nervousness. Norman M. Weinberger, professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California, Irvine: “Music can rapidly and powerfully set moods and do so in a way not as easily attained by other means.”[vii] Music not only creates positive or negative emotions, moods, or behaviors, but also can change them in an instant. Music can even affect the rhythm of respiration causing calmness and control of emotions or superficial and scattered thinking, emotional disturbance, and impulsive behavior.

Richard Wagner’s music was thought to be instrumental in the establishment of the Third Reich in Germany. Nietzsche once said, “My objections to Wagner’s music are physiological. I breathe with difficulty as soon as Wagner’s music begins to act upon me.[viii]” Wagner’s music had a strong psychological effect not only on Nietzsche, but also on Adolf Hitler. The power of music had a part in molding one of the most brutal, ruthless, and destructive dictators of all time. Never underestimate the power of music to influence, indoctrinate, and control the human heart.

Don Campbell, in The Mozart Effect, says:

The heart rate responds to musical variables such as frequency, tempo and volume and tends to speed up or slow down to match the rhythm of a sound. The faster the music, the faster the heart will beat; the slower the music, the slower the heart beats … As with breathing rates, a lower heartbeat creates less physical stress, calms the mind and helps the body to heal itself. Music is a natural pacemaker … Music can also change blood pressure … Excessive noise may raise blood pressure … Such noise may trigger the body’s fight or flight mechanism which causes adrenaline and norepinephrine, two strong hormones, to be released, speeding up the heart and straining the blood vessels.[ix]

Music also can change the body temperature, influence blood circulation, increase endorphin levels, and affect the body’s release of hormones. Music has a pulse, a life, and a flow of energy through its beat, tempo, tone, and rhythm that dramatically affects our spiritual hearts. Music is a spiritual medium where philosophies, emotions, ideas, and agendas are conveyed directly to the heart. All music has a message in both its words and its pitch, tone, and beat, and we must be wise as to who the messenger is in the music we are listening to.

The Involuntary Response to Music: Emotion by Design

One of the most amazing things about music is its ability to affect us subliminally. Rather than intruding on our conscious thought, it enters directly into our hearts. The human response to music is involuntary. One of the greatest examples involves the company Muzak, which began in the 1940s, and provides background music for all types of businesses. Cary Schmidt, in Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music, writes:

No group on the planet has studied the power of music more than the researchers at Muzak. An article from The New Yorker magazine in April 2006 quotes, “Today, [Muzak] estimates that its daily audience is roughly a hundred million people, in more than a dozen countries, and that it supplies 60% of the commercial background music in the United States.” Muzak offers a service known as “audio architecture” to more than 350 corporations around the globe. Audio architecture is essentially the power of public influence and control—through music … Chances are, if you have been anywhere in public in recent days, you’ve been subject to Muzak’s influence without even knowing it. This is a company that owes its success to the manipulative power of music in mass culture. Muzak simply could not exist if music did not affect the attitudes and behavior of people. The New Yorkerarticle says in this story, “In the forties, Muzak introduced a trademarked concept, called Stimulus Progression, which held that most workers would be more productive if they were exposed to music gradually increasing intensity, in fifteen minute cycles. The process was said to be subliminal: Music affected you the way hypnosis did, whether you wanted it to or not. Only sanitized instrumental arrangements were used, because the absence of lyrics made the music less likely to intrude upon conscious thought … Audio architecture is a compelling concept because the human response to musical accompaniment is powerful and involuntary. “Our biggest competitor,” a member of Muzak’s marketing department told me, “is silence.” Did you catch that? “The human response to musical accompaniment is powerful and involuntary.” Are you getting the message? Are you understanding how powerful and dominant music is in our culture? Look at Muzak’s own promotional words, “Audio Architecture is emotionby design … It is the integration of music, voice and sound to create experiences that link customers with companies.” Its power lies in its subtlety. It bypasses the resistance of the mind and targets the receptiveness of the heart … These soundtracks bypass our intellectual resistance and create involuntary, heart-level emotions and responses.[x]

That is powerful! Consider this. If Muzak can do this with music, what can Satan do with music? More important, what is Satan doing with music, and what is the music of the culture doing to our hearts? If music is important for mass marketing, how much more powerful is it in the spiritual realm and in our relationship with Christ?

Can you imagine something so powerful that it can generate an emotional and behavioral response in your heart that you have no control over? Depression, anger, lust, and hatred can ride into your heart by the music you listen to as well as joy, peace, love, and inspiration. For the Devil to establish a stronghold in your mind and heart, it takes time to build ways of thinking and acting according to his subtle influences. But music can give him a free ride into your mind and your heart within a matter of seconds. Music is that powerful, and it can quickly change the composition, direction, and boundaries of the heart.

Music is emotion, music is passion, music is behavior by design, and it can subtly change our hearts without us even knowing it. It can be like a toxic vaccine that is injected into the bloodstream. We don’t see its dangerous effect on the heart until it begins to circulate throughout the entire body. Music can be a dangerous weapon to our hearts, and wisdom mandates that we are wise as to its powerful effects to influence our emotions, behavior, and lifestyle.

Music in the Spiritual Battle for the Heart

Music is intimately related to the spiritual battle that rages for the heart, because the music you listen to, the soundtrack of your life, can change you and dictate your emotions, your behavior, and your heart’s responses to circumstances in life. Music can create an emotion. Music can create an attitude. Music can create a desire. The music you listen to will affect your heart and your basic personal and spiritual mind-set, either drawing you closer to God or driving you further away. Every song is a sermon for either good or evil.

Cary Schmidt, in Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music, writes:

The choices you make when you turn on a CD or an iPod are intricately related to your inner life. You will either be led by the flesh or by the Spirit of God. Your music is changing you. It is dictating emotions and heart responses that are either godly or ungodly … Ultimately your spiritual and emotional condition, as influenced by your music, will come out in your lifestyle. Your words, your deeds, your decisions, and your actions—the issues of your life—will be a product of your heart and what you’ve placed into it. Your music directly affects your heart. Both God and Muzak agree on this … The soundtrack of your life is closely related to the spiritual condition of your heart. You cannot separate the two. God’s Word is clear. Basic reasoning is clear. Medical and social statistics are clear. Our music always affects us personally and spiritually. God desires to grow you through music and Satan desires to destroy you through it.[xi]

Music in the Bible

In 1 Samuel 16, we see a vivid example of the effect of music on the heart. King Saul was having significant issues with envy, pride, anger, and bitterness. The Spirit of God departed from him and an evil spirit started tormenting him. When David played his harp, the music refreshed Saul’s heart and the evil spirit departed from him. The music of David facilitated the departure of evil from the heart of Saul. The right music is powerful enough to drive away demons and negative spiritual influences from the heart.

In 2 Kings 3, the prophet Elisha commanded the kings of Israel and Judah to bring him a harpist. While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha and he received a word from the Lord. Music can calm the heart and make it more receptive to hearing the voice of the Lord. Music can bring our thoughts, emotions, and desires into the presence of the Lord, where the life and words of God can flow into our hearts.

In Exodus 32, music caused an increase in evil in the hearts of the children of Israel, plunging them into idolatry. Moses and Joshua went to Mount Sinai to commune with God and receive His instructions and laws. Aaron remained at the camp with the children of Israel. When they grew tired of waiting for Moses, they pressured Aaron into making an idol in the form of a golden calf. They had a wild revelry of pagan worship as they sacrificed and bowed down to this idol. They sang and danced in this celebration, and the music sounded like the “noise of war” (Exodus 32:17).

In this instance, music caused them to forget the awesome things God had just done for them in their deliverance from Egypt. It opened the door of their hearts to the Enemy, driving their emotions, passions, and behavior. The words of the children’s song ring true to the health of the heart: “O be careful, little ears, what you hear.”

Angelic Music

Music is a vital part of heaven and the throne of God. It has been part of the worship and praise of God since the beginning. Lucifer was created as a beautiful and wise archangel, an anointed cherub, and music was an integral part of his being.

Thou [Lucifer] hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: Thou wast on the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. (Ezekiel 28:13–14, KJV)

Cherubim are the highest-ranking angels in God’s kingdom and are the most powerful, beautiful, and wise spirit beings God has ever created. Cherubim only do what God beckons, and they are to never turn away from it (Ezekiel 1:9,12; Ezekiel 10:11). The voice of the Almighty is always right above their heads, and they move swiftly, like lightening, to obey His commands (Ezekiel 1:14, 24-26). The fire of God burns brightly in the center of their beings, like coals of fire, and the glory of God rests upon them (Ezekiel 1:4, 13, 27-28; Ezekiel 11:22-23).

These spirit beings were the guardians and ministers of God’s throne, as Psalm 99:1 declares that God is “enthroned above the cherubim.” Revelation 4:6 also says these cherubim have special access to God’s heavenly throne. Revelation 7:11 says the cherubim fall down in humility on their faces before the throne of God and worship Him daily, saying, “Blessing and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power be unto our God for ever and ever.” Cherubim praised and worshipped God constantly, giving great honor to the holiness and majesty of God Almighty.

The cherubim are fiercely devoted to God, and their entire purpose is to serve God with undivided loyalty. C. H. Spurgeon called them “the flaming ones who gaze upon His glory.[xii]” The dazzling light of the Lord’s presence rose from within the cherubim as they lived and ministered in the very glory and presence of God. These living spirit beings never ceased to cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8). Words fail miserably in describing the magnificence of these cherubim that ministered daily before the throne of God.

The tabernacle and the temple were full of images of cherubim, the most significant being on the mercy seat that was the covering for the Ark of the Covenant, where the presence and glory of God was revealed. The cherubim images had their wings spread over the Ark, symbolically guarding its holy contents and the glory of God that surrounded it.

Lucifer: The Divine Musician

Lucifer, the highest ranking of the cherubim, was the guardian of the throne of God and His glory and holiness. In Ezekiel 28:14, God called him the “anointed cherub that covers,” illustrating the supreme responsibility Lucifer held in the kingdom of God. This is the only time the word translated anointed is used in the entire Bible, and in the Hebrew it carries the meaning of expansion. It could be translated as “the expanded anointing or the anointing of expansion.” This super-anointing on Lucifer enabled him to carry out his holy duties and assignments before God.

Patrick Fairbairn, in his exposition on Ezekiel, translates the name Lucifer as “the cherub consecrated to the Lord by the anointing oil.[xiii]” How special he must have been to the heart of God to give him such an extraordinary anointing. Lucifer was the mightiest supernatural being that He had ever created, and music was an essential part of this super-anointing of God.

The Hebrew word translated covers in Ezekiel 28:14 means to cover so as to secure and protect, to defend, to weave together, and to build a hedge. Lucifer was the great protector, and guardian of the throne of God. His music, praise, and worship were to surround the heavenly throne like a hedge. He was so close to the throne and to God’s presence as to be considered intertwined as one in purpose with God’s authority, power, and glory.

God created Lucifer with supernatural abilities and talents in music, to be used daily for the glory of God. Ezekiel 28:14 says that God set him in this position, which means he consecrated, ordained, and entrusted Lucifer as the super-anointed minister of music, praise, and worship.

We must examine some of the Hebrew words in this verse from Ezekiel to get a real sense of the Devil’s relationship with music. The Hebrew word translated workmanship means occupation, business, service, and ministry. It means the service or ministry that one is employed or sent to do in life. It describes the work of the artisan, the architect, the public servant, and the ordinary laborer. It is even used in Genesis to describe God’s work of divine creation (Genesis 2:2–3).

The Hebrew word translated prepared means to be firmly established, to be ordained, and to be fitted. The primary action of this verb is to cause to stand in an upright position. The word is used in Proverbs 3:19 of God “establishing” the heavens.

God created Lucifer with an occupation, a ministry, and a service in the kingdom of God, and it involved the skillful use of tabrets and pipes to make music that glorified God in the worship of Him at His throne. God firmly established Lucifer as a chief musician and ordained Him in this ministry of music. Music was the focal part of his occupation.

Tabrets and pipes are musical instruments that were created in the very being of Lucifer. Ezekiel says the tabrets and pipes were prepared, established, and ordained in him from the very day Lucifer was created. These percussion and wind instruments were a part of him just as our arms, legs, or fingers are a part of us. He was a living musical instrument. Lucifer was fitted and framed by God to have music as an essential part of who he was and what he was appointed by God to do. Music was his domain, and this was to be his ministry forever before the throne of the Almighty.

Ezekiel says Lucifer was perfect in all his ways before he sinned. The word translated as “perfect” means whole, complete, healthful, wholesome, sound, perfect, free from blemish and undefiled. It means to be perfectly in harmony and accord with the truth, and it could be summed up in the words “to speak and sound out the truth.” Lucifer’s music was absolutely perfect and complete, without any spot or blemish of imperfection. It was a literal sounding out of the truth of God’s awesome characteristics and glory, and it promoted wholeness and peace and righteousness. His music was like a healing balm throughout the halls of heaven. His music was the living Word put to sound that was glorious perfection in every note, arrangement, pitch, and beat. He was the heavenly composer, whose music elevated the heart toward God and filled it with praise, joy, and thankfulness in a great crescendo of exuberance and awe before the throne of God. All the perfection of musical composition and performance was created in Lucifer. He was the maestro of music in the entire heavenly realm.

Tabrets

In the biblical culture, a tabret was a thin wooden rim in the shape of a circle, covered with a membrane, usually with brass bells or rattles attached. It was basically a tambourine, and it was used in dance. The Hebrew word for “tabret” emphasizes beating or striking to produce a sound. The seventeen usages of this word in the Bible show that it was meant to be an instrument of joy and celebration.

The tabret was used in the praise and worship of God. It was also used to celebrate the joy of victory in battle against Israel’s enemies. The prophets and prophetesses also played the tabret, such as Miriam did after the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea (Exodus 15:21-22).

The following verses in Psalms show the tabret being used in the praise of God.

Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their king. Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel [same Hebrew word for tabret] and harp. (Psalm 149:1–3, KJV)

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord. (Psalm 150:1–6, KJV)

The tabret accompanied songs of rejoicing, praising God for His mighty acts and breathtaking greatness. God’s intention for a musical instrument like a tabret is that it would be an extension of the heart, and its music was to reflect a heart that totally belonged to God and was overflowing with praise, adoration, and love for Him. The music and song that flowed from the musical instrument was an outward expression of the inward reality of a heart completely devoted to God. Music was to be an expression of the spiritual temperature of the heart that is on fire for God. Music was to convey the beautiful joy of knowing Him and the gratitude of being the object of His affection. Our hearts were made to sing His song.

Pipes/Flutes

The Hebrew word translated pipes refers to the grooves or holes of the instruments. It comes from a root word meaning to bore through. This Hebrew word for pipes in Ezekiel 28:13 only appears once in the Bible, which emphasizes the uniqueness of this wind instrument that was created in the very being of Lucifer. His musical abilities were in such perfection that they were far above human comprehension.

Like the tabrets, pipes were used to express great joy and celebration. In the Bible, pipes were played in celebration of the crowning of a new king. They were also played by the prophets before they prophesied and celebrated a word from the Lord. They accompanied a celebration by dance. They were played at marriage feasts and in mourning at funerals, as we see in Matthew 9. Pipes were used in the worship and praise of God as people rejoiced with songs of gladness about the Lord and His salvation.

Flutes were played in the temple on twelve special festivities, including Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The pipe, as with all other musical instruments, was intended to be used as an expression of a heart full of love and gratitude for its Creator.

Psalm 5 has the title “For the director of music: For flutes. A Psalm of David.” This psalm was meant to be a song of praise with a flute accompaniment. According to E. W. Bullinger in The Chief Musician, or Studies in the Psalms and their Titles, this subscription belongs at the end of Psalm 4 rather than at the beginning of Psalm 5.[xiv] Psalm 4 speaks strongly against turning God’s glory into shame and following false gods. It instructs us to not sin out of anger, but to search our hearts and be silent and offer right sacrifices to God, trusting only in Him.

Lucifer turned God’s glory into shame when he rebelled against God in heaven. In intense anger and hatred toward God, he sinned and failed to offer right sacrifices to Him. Lucifer did not search his heart to find the pride that turned his trust toward himself rather than God.

God used a wind instrument—which, like the tabret, was created in Lucifer—to accompany a psalm about the futility of worshipping any god other than the Lord. He used the flute to touch this psalm with music that encourages His children not to make the same mistake Lucifer made, which led to his tragic downfall.

Read this beautiful psalm and imagine a flute accompaniment that brings these words to life.

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah[xv]

In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah

Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to him. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.

Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.

You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:1–8, NIV)

This psalm is an ode of joy from David to the Lord for being his righteous, merciful, and loving God. It beautifully declares that true joy, peace, and goodness come only from the Lord. The flute helps to drive these words home to the heart.

Stringed Instruments

Isaiah links one other musical instrument to Lucifer:

Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the sound of your stringed instruments; the maggot is spread under you, and worms cover you. How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! (Isaiah 14:11–12, NKJV)

Isaiah says “the sound of your string instruments” when referring to Lucifer. This phrase illustrates an extraordinary mastery of stringed instruments by Lucifer and the use of them to accomplish his wicked purposes. They must have been quite valuable to Lucifer for him to declare them as his own.

The Word of God does not say whether these stringed instruments were created in Lucifer, but it does say that he used them with “pomp.” The Hebrew word translated pomp means pride, arrogance, splendor, majesty and ornament. Music is the Devil’s original domain, and he uses music as an ornament for all to admire in order to bring glory to himself.

The Hebrew words for “stringed instruments” are translated as psaltery, lyre, and harp in various places in the Bible. The phrase refers to musical instruments in the harp family.

A portable harp was a popular instrument in the Hebrew culture. It had wonderful capacities in pitch and tone, and was believed to have ten to twelve strings. The strings were drawn over a sounding board, so this harp was like a primitive guitar. The strings were stretched over a skin soundboard, giving the lyre or harp an exotic timbre and considerable volume.

As this musical instrument advanced, its strings were stretched in high tension over woods like fir and algum. It was capable of producing loud music, as indicated in 1 Chronicles 15:26, where it was heard even among the rams’ horns, trumpets, and cymbals. It was also capable of producing musical solos.

Psalm 119:54 says, “Thy statutes have been my zemirot [songs accompanied by plucked stringed instruments],” illustrating that all Hebrew Scripture could be accompanied by this wonderful instrument. It was designed to beautifully set the Word of God to sound.

In Revelation 5:8, we read that every cherubim and every one of the twenty-four elders had a harp that they used in singing a song about the great redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ.

Corruption of Music

The Devil did not lose any of his musical abilities and talents when he rebelled against God. They just became corrupted. And now he uses his musical abilities for his own wicked purposes.

Satan fully understands musical composition, as he was originally a living musical instrument, and he still carries music as an integral part of his spiritual being. He knows how to compose and inspire music that will seduce the human heart away from God. He inspires the writing of music and lyrics that disturb, agitate, or drive the heart with passions, emotions, and thoughts that lead it into his captive snare. The Devil uses a variety of instruments to construct a sound that can fundamentally change the direction and content of the heart. The Enemy understands music better than any human who ever lived on the earth, and he hates God. That is a dangerous combination.

In Isaiah 14, the Word of God declares that Lucifer weakened the nations, caused the earth to tremble, made the world a wilderness, shook kingdoms, and turned the world into a prison house. Although the Devil has many wicked schemes and methods in accomplishing these things, music is one of the ways he has weakened nations and made the world a prison house of captivity. Music is a supernatural weapon of mass destruction in the hands of Satan.

The Hebrew word translated weaken in Isaiah 14:12 means to waste away, to overthrow, to decay, or to disable. The Devil has used music to bring nations to their knees, causing their moral and spiritual foundations to decay and waste away. Music can change the moral and cultural climate of a nation, overthrowing its stability in the hearts and minds of its people, and weakening its strength as a nation. Music can crumble the pillars of a civilization and arouse in its citizens the worst passions of its fleshly sin nature.

The Hebrew word translated tremble in Isaiah 14:16 means to quiver with violent emotion, especially anger or fear. The Devil uses music to disquiet, agitate, and enrage the heart, causing it to quiver with violent emotions, like anger and fear. Music moves the heart like no other sound on earth, and Lucifer knows exactly how to use it to move the heart away from God. It is amazing how one song can move the heart to depression, discord, and agitation. Music can truly make the inhabitants of the earth tremble in great disturbance of heart.

The Hebrew word translated shake in Isaiah 14:16 describes a confused noise, a rattling, an uproar, or a crashing. One form of this word means “noisemaker.” The Devil uses the vibration of music, turning it into a confused noise that shakes the very core of the heart. Music can cause an uproar, shaking the hearts of a nation’s people with confusion and disorientation, causing them to disconnect from God and wander away from Him. The Devil distorts the beauty of music, which God intended to fill the heart with joy, into something that rattles it with disorder.

The Devil would “not let his captives go home,” according to Isaiah 14:17. Satan does everything he can to stop a person from going home to God, where He awaits with open arms.

Christians can experience wonderful deliverance at the cross of Christ, and then allow a careless choice of music to draw them back into their old ways and lifestyles, becoming enslaved again. Music can cause the heart to become a prisoner of war in Satan’s kingdom.

Lyrics: Conveying the Message

Lyrics are a powerful medium to convey a message. Yet many people don’t pay much attention to them. The message in a song is rarely checked at the entrance to the heart. Instead, we allow the words and sounds to flow in freely. Many song lyrics promote the works of the flesh and encourage self-mutilation, suicide, lust, greed, sexual perversion, and rebellion.

Some musicians are blatant about the source of their inspiration and the purpose of their songs. They consider music to be a form of advertising, a clarion call to entice the heart and mind into ways of thinking, speaking, and acting that are not from God Almighty.

Take a moment to reflect on the lyrics in the music you listen to. Does it promote the fruit of the Spirit of God or the fruit of the flesh? A spirit of holiness or of corruption? Does it encourage obedience to God and His Word or rebellion? When you listen to it, do you feel peace or anxiety, agitation, and fear? Does your favorite music build the love of God in your heart, or the love of the world?

Music as Idolatry

Music can establish a law, creed, or lifestyle in your heart that you follow with passion, not even realizing that the prince of the power of the air is the composer of the song that is molding your heart. Music can build a nest in your mind that allows Satan to take up residence there as he gradually deadens your conscience to righteousness and holiness.

Music can be a powerful idol builder. It can drive the heart to worship love, sex, money, self, and power while leaving God out of the picture. The Devil was the first idolater, and he uses music to get people to worship anything but the one true God.

The book of Revelation states that music is an important part of the world system of evil referred to as “Babylon the great.” In the coming judgments, God will stop this music.

Then I saw another angel descending from heaven, possessing great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his radiance and splendor. And he shouted with a mighty voice, She is fallen! Mighty Babylon is fallen! She has become a resort and dwelling place for demons, a dungeon haunted by every loathsome spirit, an abode for every filthy and detestable bird.

For all nations have drunk the wine of her passionate unchastity, and the rulers and leaders of the earth have joined with her in committing fornication [idolatry], and the businessmen of the earth have become rich with the wealth of her excessive luxury and wantonness.

I then heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out from her, my people, so that you may not share in her sins, neither participate in her plagues.

Then a single powerful angel took up a boulder like a great millstone and flung it into the sea, crying, With such violence shall Babylon the great city be hurled down to destruction and shall never again be found. And the sound of harpists and minstrels and flute players and trumpeters shall never again be heard in you, and no skilled artisan of any craft shall ever again be found in you, for your businessmen were the great and prominent men of the earth, and by your magic spells and poisonous charm all nations were led astray [seduced and deluded]. (Revelation 18:1–4, 21–23, AMP)

This great world system is infested with every type of demon spirit and loathsome angel of darkness that fed on all strata of society, including music. People from all nations had drunk of its wine, driving them into idolatry and rebellion against God. Many businesspeople, companies, and musicians have become rich off this music system fueled by the spirit of Babylon. These powerful icons have led the hearts of countless people astray with the poisonous and addictive charms of their music, which is pumped into every radio station and music store around the world.

One day God will say, “I have had enough,” and silence the music borne in the heart of the great rebel. This music will never be heard or played again for all eternity. The judgment of God will come to pass, as described in the book of Revelation 18:21-23, even on the music that has been an essential part of the world system of evil that God calls Babylon.

David Wilkerson, a wonderful preacher and man of God, pulled no punches on the dangers of becoming addicted to the music of this world. In a fiery sermon from the pulpit of the Times Square Church in New York City, he said:

I have been among young people so addicted to their rock and roll, so addicted to their heavy metal, and their punk music. I tell you as I stand here that an angel from God’s heaven could come down, in fact, Jesus Christ himself could come in the flesh and they would know he was Jesus and he could preach to them and they still would not let go of their music. I have had them stand up against me and say “I don’t care what you say, God told me it was alright.”[xvi]

David Wilkerson also described a disturbing vision that God gave him at a Christian rock concert:

At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on stage. I said out loud, “This can’t be happening at a Christian festival-they can’t do this to my Jesus! These people can’t be this blind-the leaders of this youth ministry can be so undiscerning! Oh God-what has happened to your church that its leaders, its people, can’t see the evil …? I sat up and took another look at the stage. I was horrified by what I saw in the Spirit. I saw demonic images rising from the stage! I heard Satan laughing! Laughing at all the blind parents-the blind shepherds-the blind youth-the backslidden church! It was an overt manifestation of Satan-worse than anything I’ve ever seen on the streets of New York.[xvii]

Don’t be ignorant of this tool of the Devil in spiritual warfare, as music, inspired from the heart of Satan, can start a revolution in your heart against God.

What is the Soundtrack of Your Life?

If Jesus Christ came down from heaven and told you that your music was harming your heart and turning it away from Him, would you change your choices? Would the soundtrack of your life be any different under Jesus’ guidance?

Music is hugely addicting and through the wonders of technology, music is more readily available now than at any time in human history. In seconds, many musical choices can be downloaded and instantly start pulsating into the heart. The church must awaken to what is pouring into their hearts through habitual listening to the music of the god of this age.

Don’t be deceived into thinking this is just a harmless song on the radio or your iPod. Music is powerful, and it can influence the spiritual temperature of your heart for God. It can either promote or destroy the awesome plans that God has envisioned for your life.

Many Christians idolize the music of this world, and their hearts have become so addicted to it that they need to have it pulsating in their ears, like a heroin junkie who needs his fix. The Bible takes a backseat to their iPod tunes, and the Devil gets to proclaim his message into their hearts through the music ringing in their ears.

Music will change the composition of your heart if you are not careful. Once we become Christians, our listening habits should not be the same as they were before we were born again. Walk by the Spirit of God when it comes to the music you listen to and practice some spiritual discernment.

Ask God if the music you are listening to is bringing your heart closer to Him or driving it further away from Him. When you bring up a tune on your iPod, ask yourself, Will this song brings the joy, love, and celebration of God into my heart, or the fleshly desires of this world? We must guard our hearts when it comes to music, just as we would guard it from anything that contaminates and pollutes.

The Beautiful Design of Music for the Heart

Music originated from God, and it has a beautiful purpose: to minister healing, peace, and inspiration to His children. The human heart needs music to function in its optimal healthy condition. We are designed to crave music that inspires us to praise and worship God with an attitude of thankfulness. We were created to have a song in our hearts for God. Psalm 144:9 says, “I will sing a new song unto thee, O God.” Spurgeon said, “When the heart is in its right state, it must praise God, it cannot be restrained; its utterances leap forth as waters forcing their way from a living spring.”[xviii]

This is where music was born: in a heart that is overflowing with praise, joy, and awe of our magnificent God. Music is meant to stir the heart into action for God. Music is the refreshing drink of water that rejuvenates our passion for God to fight the good fight of faith and finish the course that God has set for our lives. Music plays a vital role in preparing the heart to worship God in spirit and in truth. Music fills the courts of heaven with praises of the Lord God Almighty. Music was created to be an expression of celebration and reverence of the wondrous works and nature of our God.

David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets. (1 Chronicles 13:8, NIV)

Hear this you kings! Listen you rulers! I will sing to the Lord, I will sing; I will make music to the Lord, God of Israel. (Judges 5:3, NIV)

Praise the Lord with the harp. Make music to him on the lyre that has ten strings. Sing a new song to him. Play with skill, and shout with joy.

What the Lord says is right and true. He is faithful in everything he does.

The Lord loves what is right and fair. The earth is full of his faithful love. The heavens were made when the Lord commanded it to happen. All of the stars were created by the breath of his mouth.

He gathers the waters of the sea together. He puts the oceans in their places. Let the whole earth have respect for the Lord. Let all of the people in the world honor him. (Psalm 33:2-8, NIRV)

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. (Psalm 95:1–3, NIV)

God is so awesome and magnificent that the heart yearns for a way to express and proclaim His glory. Music is meant to be an outward expression of the awe-inspiring magnificence of our God. Music that blesses, inspires, and heals comes from hearts bubbling over with joy, love, and passion for their Creator. Music was intended to draw people closer to God and to place their hearts on the same pitch as God. True music is the song of a heart in love with God. Music is meant to ignite the heart with the presence of God and infuse it with the joys of His kingdom.

Revelation 4:11 says that God created all things for His pleasure, and this includes music. The beauty and splendor of music were birthed from the heart of God. God also made the human voice to praise Him. He created the musical scale, with its potential for amazing harmonies and melodies, to express the wonders of His artistic heart.

Dennis McCorkle, in The David Cipher: Unlocking the Hidden Music of the Psalms, says:

From the early chapters of Genesis through the pages of the entire Bible, music has played an integral role in the history of the Hebrew people. Not only defining and solidifying their own culture, religious beliefs, and practices; the music of the Hebrew people and the Bible have shaped the music of our day in the works that have been passed on from generation to generation since the time they were written.[xix]

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary says:

Expression of the full range of human emotions vocally or instrumentally through music was as much a part of the lives of biblical people as it is in modern times … Indeed all of life could be touched by song. The celebrations of a community, ritual practices of worship, even the act of warfare gave rise to song.[xx]

Some of the great men of the Bible were musicians and composers.

Moses the Songwriter

Moses was a wonderful songwriter in the Bible and we see his first song in Exodus 15 after the miraculous deliverance of the children of Israel from the Egyptian army. In Deuteronomy 32 we see another song of Moses written shortly before his death. In Revelation 15, the song of Moses is sung in heaven.

Dennis McCorkle, in The David Cipher: Unlocking the Hidden Music of the Psalms, writes:

Moses and the people eventually arrive at the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) in advance of the pursuing army and are miraculously provided an escape route through the waters. Safely reaching the far side, they witness the destruction of Pharaoh and his troops in the water. It is now we get our first glimpse of Moses, the songwriter. Now most people do not generally associate Moses with the field of music, but he was evidently well-versed in this art. We know from the biblical texts that Moses, raised apart from the general population of Israel in the house of Pharaoh during his youth, had learned to not only read and write, but as demonstrated in his later years, to read and write music.[xxi]

Yahweh is My Melody

McCorkle says that this first song of Moses has a fundamental statement of truth in its first lines that becomes the foundation of the music compositions of Israel and is echoed in the musical system of the Levites, the psalms, and the prophet Isaiah. This beautiful lyric is, “Yah [abbreviation for Yahweh-God] is my melody!” What an awesome truth that God is our melody, and that God is our song! This is the true heart of music. When music has “God is my melody” at its center, it will have a profound spiritual impact upon the heart.

God fills our hearts with melody and makes them overflow with joy. This is the love song of all love songs, as Psalms 89:1 declares, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever.” When our love for God is the motive for the song of our hearts, music will be an incredible healing balm to our souls because it is birthed in love and praise.

Colossians 3:16 says that our hearts should be “singing with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in our hearts for God.” Our hearts should not be singing the latest “top 40” songs on the charts, but rather a love song of thankfulness to our God. When the word of Christ dwells richly in our hearts, we cannot help but sing this song of love, for God is our melody.

Make Music in Your Heart for the Ears of God

Ephesians, one of the greatest revelations to the church, states that music and song is an important part of fellowship with God, with one another, and in the church of Jesus Christ.

Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:19, NASB)

Express your joy in singing among yourselves psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making music in your hearts for the ears of God. (Ephesians 5:19, PHILLIPS)

Christians who walk by the Spirit of God will express their joy in song and melody to the Lord. We are to make music in our hearts for the ears of God. This music comes from a Spirit-filled heart that overflows in love, adoration, and devotion to God.

We are also to sing along with others in the church, in concert with our joy and love for God. A symphony of praise with our brothers and sisters in Christ should be present wherever Christians fellowship together.

The Greek word translated psalm means a sacred song sung to the accompaniment of instrumental music. The Greek word translated hymn means a sacred poetical composition whose main purpose was to praise. A spiritual song is the natural outburst of a joyous heart prompted by the indwelling Spirit of God.

God loves it when a heart is full of music for Him and sings His praises. This type of music brings us back to the light of God’s presence and focuses our attention on the wonders of God. Exuberant joy and thankfulness overflow from music dedicated to God.

All Music Originates in the Heart

All music originates in the heart, and the content of the heart determines the content of the music. The musician’s music is a reflection of his or her heart. What is in the heart will come out in the music. When the heart is devoted to God and full of love and praise for Him, the music composed will be a melody pleasing to God and a song that glorifies Him. When the heart is not devoted to God, but full of selfishness, lust, greed, and other forms of darkness, the music composed will be a song that pulls the heart away from God to idolatry.

In Exodus 15 we see the heart of Moses, the musician, in his song for God. As you read this passage, imagine Moses and all of Israel lifting up their voices and singing this magnificent song of victory. It has been estimated that as many as three million Israelites came out of Egypt in this Exodus. How awe-inspiring it must have sounded to hear the melody of God sung by millions of people!

David the Musician and Songwriter

David was a wonderfully skilled musician and songwriter. He was also an inventor of musical instruments (1 Chronicles 23:5, 2 Chronicles 7:6, Amos 6:5). He helped to reestablish the functions of the Levites in regards to music in the tabernacle and also selected singers and musicians from the non-priest Levites to participate in worship services of song and music to God. At the heart of their music was the wonderful book of Psalms.

Psalms is the hymn book of the Bible. These compositions were played and sung by the Levites in conjunction with the formal rituals of the tabernacle and later the temple. The Psalms are a compilation of 150 songs written by composers who were moved by the Holy Spirit over a period of about five hundred years. The Hebrew word translated psalm means “praises,” and it comes from the root word meaning “to make a jubilant sound.” This word included all that is worthy of praise and celebration, especially the works and ways of Yahweh. Most of the psalms were composed for public worship in Israel and praised the ways and works of God. These were songs of God, breathed into the heart of a musician to give the listener inspiration, comfort, and guidance. The book of Psalms contains some of the most beautiful passages in the Bible. The lyrics express joy, grief, wonder, faith, love, and suffering in poetic song to our amazing God.

David is believed to have written as many as forty-seven of the psalms, and they set forth the heart of this man who loved God passionately. They describe the trials and joys of walking in intimacy with his Creator. The Bible calls David a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), so his music must have been especially important to God.

Here is one of the magnificent psalms written by David:

My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. (Psalm 108:1–6, NIV)

David’s heart was established and steadfast in God, and from this firm foundation he sang, composed music, and played instruments with every ounce of his soul. He played musical instruments, praising God for His love and faithfulness. His music exalted God.

David’s music taught people to trust God for help and deliverance. It elevated the listener’s heart to worship God. His sacred songs filled hearts with the glory and majesty of God Almighty. David had a heart full of music that filled the earth and the heavens with awesome lyrics. As with Moses, God was David’s melody and his song.

Music Igniting the Flame of God in the Heart

This is the beauty of music at its highest level and for its most noble purpose. The Spirit of God moved mightily in David’s music to lift, inspire, and ignite the flame of God in the hearts of His people. This is truly music as it was supposed to be—a divine healing balm, a divine joyous celebration, a divine song of thankfulness that rockets the heart into the presence of God and establishes it in His love. The energy, power, and glory of God flows like a rushing river into the hearts of those whose ears are tuned to the music of the musician who walks with God and is moved by the Spirit of God.

Playing the Name of God with Music

In the psalms, musicians not only sang about the name of God, some actually played the name of God.

I will be glad and rejoice in you: I will play your Name, Most High. (Psalm 9:2, KJV)

I will give thanks to Yahweh according to his righteousness, And will sing praise to the name of Yahweh Most High. (Psalm 7:17, WEB)

I will play your Name forever, that I may fulfill my vows day after day. (Psalm 61:8, KJV)

Sing to God, play His Name. Raise Him up who rides upon the desert plains by YAH, his name, and be joyful before Him. (Psalm 68:4, KJV)

Dennis McCorkle, in The Davidic Cipher: Unlocking the Hidden Music of The Psalms, explains what it means to play the name of God:

To a non-musician, the above interpretation of these verses might seem strange and you are probably asking yourself, “How can you play someone’s name?” If you are trained classically in music, you may however be familiar with the Italian phrase soggettocavato … In a musical sense, the phrase soggettocavato refers to a type of compositional device in which the letters of a word or name are mapped to specific tones of a musical alphabet or scale … For example, during the Renaissance it was common for composers to honor their patrons and rules with compositions using names as the source for the themes and melodies … King David, who was directly associated with four of the five instances in which this technique is alluded to in the Scriptures, was apparently familiar with this type of compositional device … This compositional device literally enabled the Levite musicians and singers to not only sing the Name of God, but also to play the Name of God as the Scriptures state … The Names YAH and YHWH were directly integrated in the music that was written and the instruments that were played.[xxii]

David loved God so much, and was so in wonder of His magnificent works and covenant with His people, that he designed his music to contain the name of God in both musical lyrics and notes. This music was like a sweet song in the ears of God, as every note and every word glorified Him. It was a musical masterpiece, an exquisite symphony of song that brought the listener’s heart to the throne of God Almighty, where it would ascend to joyous celebration.

The Levites as Musicians

David taught the Levites the essence of this music of worship. 1 Chronicles 23:4 declares that four thousand Levites were designated to praise the Lord with instruments that David gave them for giving praise. In 1 Chronicles 15, when the ark of the covenant was brought to Jerusalem to be placed in the tabernacle, David assembled a ceremonial marching band of Levites playing harps, cymbals, lyres, trumpets, and horns. Skilled singers raised sounds of joy and praise to God. King David was leaping, dancing, and celebrating as he led this band of musicians into Jerusalem. What a breathtaking musical demonstration of love, joy, and celebration this must have been.

Once the ark had been set in Jerusalem, David appointed some of the Levites to minister in music and praise before the ark of the Lord.

He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel: Asaph was the chief, and next to him in rank were Zechariah, then Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel. They were to play the lyres and harps, Asaph was to sound the cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God.

That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner:

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.

He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations.

Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the nations are idols; but the Lord made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are his dwelling place.

Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations the Lord reigns.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.” (1 Chronicles 16:4–15, 23–29, 31, 34, 36, NIV)

What beautiful lyrics! We can worship God in the splendor of His holiness and ascribe to Him the glory, majesty, and greatness due His name. This inspiring music gave thanks to God in song for His goodness and unfailing love. Does the music you listen to glorify God with this type of awesome heart?

King David used his musical abilities to proclaim God’s name, to make Him known, and to tell all who would listen of the might, strength, and glory of the God of Israel. His music led people to seek the face of the Lord. What does the music you listen to lead people to do?

Music always leads the heart to seek something, and we must be vigilant to not allow the songs we listen to lead our hearts down a path that God has not ordained. Our music should encourage us to seek the Lord.

Biblical Kings and Music

The Bible is full of other examples of men of God who understood the importance of music in the worship of God and even in bringing great victory against the enemies of God. When King Solomon had the Ark of the Covenant brought to the temple at its dedication, he had the Levites play cymbals, harps, lyres and trumpets. Singers raised their voices to praise God with this magnificent musical accompaniment. The glory of the Lord filled the temple with a cloud after this musical display. (See 2 Chronicles 5:12–14.)

When a vast army of Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites came against Jerusalem, King Jehoshaphat and all of Judah stood before the Lord and prayed. They received a word from the Lord to go out and face their enemies in battle, for the Lord was with them. Early in the morning, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and praise Him for the splendor of His holiness as they went out ahead of the army. As these men sang and praised the Lord, God set ambushes that caused this mighty army of the enemies of Judah to be utterly destroyed. When the Israelites returned to Jerusalem in victory, they went to the temple of the Lord with harps, lutes, and trumpets, praising God in music and song. (See 2 Chronicles 20:21–22, 28.)

In 2 Chronicles 29:25–28, we read that when King Hezekiah opened the doors of the temple and cleansed it from idolatry, one of the first things he did was reestablish music and song there. He furnished the Levites with cymbals, harps, lyres, trumpets, and all the instruments of David. As they began to sacrifice a burnt offering on the altar, they sang to the Lord, accompanied by music from all these wonderful instruments. The entire assembly bowed in worship while the singers sang and the trumpeters played.

King Hezekiah ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph, another psalmist. They sang these praises with gladness and bowed their heads and worshipped. After this worship service of song and music, King Hezekiah declared that the people had dedicated themselves to the Lord and that they should bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the Lord. Music can often be the catalyst to a rededication of the heart to the Lord and a commitment to follow Him with thanksgiving and love.

After rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah immediately established the singers in the temple. At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites joyfully celebrated with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres. At the dedication, Nehemiah formed two large choirs to give thanks to God. They positioned themselves on top of the wall on opposite sides and were joined with the music of trumpets and all the instruments David had prescribed for the worship of God. Their joyous music and song could be heard from far away, as all Jerusalem rejoiced on this wonderful occasion in the history of Israel. (See Nehemiah 12:27–43)

The book of Nehemiah indicates in the time of David there were directors of music for the singers and songs of praise and thanks. All Israel contributed to the daily portions for the singers. (See Nehemiah 12:44–48) Nehemiah realized how important music was in the service of God in the temple and for the worship of God among the people.

Jesus Singing with His Disciples

After Jesus instituted communion as a memorial of His death, Matthew 26:30 says, “When they had sung a hymn, they went to the Mount of Olives.” Mark 14:26 states that Jesus sang this hymn along with His disciples right before He prayed in Gethsemane shortly before He was crucified. This was probably not the first time they had sung together, but this is the only time recorded in Scripture that our Lord sang. Jesus sang right before He gave His life on the cross and endured the most horrible torture and beating ever known to mankind.

This hymn is believed to be from the psalms called the “Great Hallel” or the “praise Psalms,” which were Psalms 113–118 and 136. I can only imagine how Jesus’ heart poured out to His heavenly Father in song before the most trying time of His life, realizing that He would bear the sins, sicknesses, sorrows, and punishment of the whole world. Knowing this road of rejection, persecution, and death was hours away, Jesus sang. How important this song was to the heart of our Savior! How the lyrics must have comforted and strengthened Him.

If music was so important to Jesus that He sang with His disciples on the evening He was taken to be crucified, how important should music be to us! A song can lift us into the presence of God and comfort our hearts even in life’s darkest hours. It can encourage us to follow God’s will and stand for Him even in the midst of the fiery darts that Satan is throwing at us. Our hearts should always be singing to God, because nothing in heaven or earth compares to Him.

Paul and Silas Singing in Prison

Paul and Silas were severely beaten for preaching the gospel and thrown into prison with their feet in stocks, but they sang praises to God in the midst of this seemingly hopeless situation. God moved with a great earthquake that shook the entire foundation of the prison and they were set free. The world longs for a song in the night when all seems lost, and only God can deliver this song to the depths of the heart.

Music in Church History

Throughout time, great men in church history have understood the profound effect of music on the heart and the importance of godly music in the life of a Christian.

Martin Luther: The Composer

Martin Luther, who is credited with igniting the flame of the Protestant Reformation, was a wonderful composer. He must have understood the importance of music to the Lord in the midst of relentless persecution.

Luther began singing at a young age as a soprano in the choir. He later studied music theory and composition, and learned to play flute and lute quite skillfully. He wrote thirty-seven songs. One of his greatest contributions was the return of music to the church.

For about a thousand years, congregations had not sung as music and melody to the Lord had died in the church. Some hymns were written during this period, but they were use only on special occasions outside of the church. Luther brought music back to the church and made the congregation an active participant in song.

One of his greatest hymns, which was one of my favorites growing up, is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The words and music are majestic and heavenly, and they never failed to motivate my heart to stand for God, no matter what the world might throw at me.

Don Cusic, in A Sound of Light: The History of Gospel Music, expounds on Luther’s heart for music:

Martin Luther had a legendary love for music. He was an accomplished lutenist and could improvise accompaniments for singing. He often played after dinner with his family and guests and composed songs for his children. Through his life, he carried his lute with him on his travels and entertained friends and guests after dinner with singing and playing. Music was not just a recreational tool for Luther—it was an integral part of his life and he found a source of strength and comfort in music.

He stated that we “should praise God with both word and music, namely by proclaiming (the Word of God) through music” and another time said “He who believes (the gospel) earnestly cannot be quiet about it. But he must gladly and willingly sing and speak about it so that others may come and hear it … Luther’s prophetic statement “I intend to make … spiritual songs so that the Word of God, even by means of song, may live among the people” became a guiding principal in his life …

Luther was well aware of the power of music and insisted that its proper use was “to the glorification of God and the edification of man.” He said, “We want the beautiful art of music to be properly used to serve her dear Creator and his Christians. He is thereby praised and honored and we are made better and stronger in faith when His holy Word is impressed on our hearts by sweet music.” Luther said of music, “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise.”[xxiii]

The power of Luther’s music, which came from a heart fully devoted to God, helped to fuel the Protestant Reformation and renew the beautiful worship of God and the lyrics of His mighty Word in the body of Christ.

Charles Wesley: The Inspired Man of Thousands of Hymns

Another revival in history was inspired by a man who was also a composer of music and song. During the Wesleyan Revival in the 18th Century, Charles Wesley wrote more than six thousand hymns, including some that became classics of the Christian church, like “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

A. W. Tozer: The Love of the Hymnal

Christian writer and preacher A. W. Tozer loved hymns and acquired an extensive collection of old hymnals. The Fellowship of the Burning Hearts states this about Tozer:

He longed for a “God-conscious soul”—a heart that is aflame for God. … He often used these hymnals as means for meditation and devotional reading. Often, he would counsel people to get a hymnbook—“but don’t get one less than a hundred years old.” In one the articles for the Alliance Weekly he wrote, “After the Bible, the next most valuable book for the Christian is a good hymnal.”[xxiv]

Music: Times of Refreshing from the Lord

Listening to music is not meant to replace a Christian’s time in studying and meditating on the Bible, or prayer and intimate fellowship with the heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus. This is always our first priority. However, to keep the heart spiritually tuned to the heartbeat of God, and continually renewed and refreshed, music can be of critical significance.

The soundtrack of the heart is a measuring stick to its overall health. We must never be careless about this vital truth, that music can be either a healing balm or a toxic poison to the life of the heart. Music can help us stay on the path that God has ordained for our lives, or quickly turn the heart to a path that leads to destruction. Music either pulls you into the heart of God or pulls you into the heart of the world. God is crying out to the church and to every Christian believer, “Do not be ignorant or fooled by music and think your listening choices are harmless to your walk and relationship with Me!”

Since the fall of Lucifer, music has been a major weapon in the battle for the heart. When we examine the condition of our hearts, we must ask ourselves this vital question: “Who is the great musician of my heart? Who is feeding my heart its song and melody?”

These great men in church history also illustrate that we must have a vibrant and joyful song in our heart for God. Whenever we remember God’s faithfulness, mercy, and love, a great song will come forth, praising Him for His goodness.

Music in Times of Trouble

Often our greatest songs of praise are borne in trials and temptations. Martin Luther was relentlessly persecuted and hunted for his faith in God and his belief in the Scriptures. David was hunted and hounded by King Saul and his army, who were trying to kill him at every turn. Hezekiah was attacked by hostile kingdoms at the outskirts of Jerusalem. Charles Wesley faced unbelievable persecution as he was threatened, mocked, hit, and violently opposed. Moses had to deal with a rebellious and idolatrous nation of murmurers and complainers who challenged his every move. Jesus faced the callous hearts of the religious elite, the betrayal of a disciple and a friend, the vicious beating of His body to the point where He could not even be recognized as a man, and the horrible death by crucifixion. Yet each of these men had songs in their hearts.

Many Christians today have lost the song in their hearts for God. They cry like the psalmist, “Oh, how could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland?” (Psalm 137:4). When the heart is bitter and unforgiving, when the heart forgets God, when the heart becomes entangled with the things of this world, it loses its song. An unforeseen problem, a tragic circumstance, or a bewildering turn of events can cause Christians to question God and lose the song in their hearts for God.

In Exodus 15, the children of Israel sang the right song when they were delivered from the army of Egypt, but they sang it on the wrong side. They should have been singing this song even when they were in bondage in Egypt, not simply after a great miracle and deliverance from God. The song they sang was not really in their hearts, because just a few days later they were complaining against God and cursing Him for bringing them out of Egypt. The challenges of the wilderness took the song for God out of their hearts.

Our God will never fail us. He will deliver us from any foe. He is always faithful to His Word, and we are His children. Our God will never leave us or forsake us, and His strength is perfect in our weaknesses.

A Song in Our Hearts for God

What a song our hearts should have for God! We should always be singing and making melody to the Lord. Our hearts cannot remain silent. The song of our salvation and our love story with God should be filling our hearts with music every moment of every day.

Yes, indeed—God is my salvation. I trust, I won’t be afraid. God—yes God!—is my strength and song, best of all, my salvation! Sing praise-songs to God. He’s done it all! Let the whole earth know what he’s done! Raise the roof! Sing your hearts out … The Greatest lives among you. (Isaiah 12:2, 5–6, MSG)

Our song is never a song of anxiety, fear, or worry. The song of our hearts boldly declares that “God is.” He is everything we will ever need in this life, and He will come into any circumstance for us when we call on His name. God is our salvation. He is our strength, our defender, our provider, and our deliverer. The almighty God is our song. He is the greatest in heaven and earth, and He lives within us! We should be raising the roof with our praise-song to God.

When we begin to get a glimpse of how magnificent and glorious God is and that He cares about every detail of our lives, the song of God will rise in our hearts. We cannot keep silent about the wonder of our God and His amazing works. God is grieved when we rob Him of this song of love and praise. We lose our song when we do not completely surrender to Him, when we allow something else to be our first love, when we do not trust Him with our very lives. God cries when the song of our hearts goes silent.

Carter Conlan, in The 180 Degree Christian; Serving Jesus in a Culture of Excess, says:

What I believe grieves God most is we have robbed Him of our hearts. It is as if He would say to us, “You have robbed Me of the full heart of surrender that I was looking for that would have allowed Me to fill you from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. If only you would have turned to Me! I would have caused you to live such a profound life that you would have stood out as a light shining in a darkened world.”[xxv]

Don’t lose your love song for God by turning away from Him when things get tough. If you sing praises to God in all circumstances, your heart will rest firmly in His presence and you will experience the faithfulness of our God.

God Sings Over You: You are His Love Song

Did you know God sings? Did you know that the song of His heart is about you? The Creator of the heavens and the earth has blazed in His heart a joyful song that He loves to sing just for you. The song that is constantly in His heart is a love ballad dedicated to you. He is singing this song to you right now, even as you are reading this book. He will sing this song to you in all your tomorrows, and He will sing it to you throughout eternity.

The Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. (Zephaniah 3:17, NLT)

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (ESV)

Yahweh your God is there with you, the warrior-Savior. He will rejoice over you with happy song, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shout of joy for you. (NJB)

Can you imagine how beautiful it must be when God sings? It has to be simply breathtaking to hear God’s voice in song. The even more astounding truth is that is He is singing to you. The song bursting forth from His heart is about you. The Creator of every living thing, and the maker of every mountain on earth and every star in the universe, has a song that is constantly on His mind and it concerns you. You are His song! You are His melody! You are His music! God is rejoicing over you with a song that deeply expresses the joy and love He has for you. God calms our hearts with a lullaby of His love, like a mother singing sweetly to her child as she gently rocks him to sleep. God even dances over us with shouts of joy!

This song of God is a hymn of deliverance, victory, and salvation. Psalm 32:7 says that God “surrounds us with songs of deliverance.” He wants His songs of victory to fill our hearts with rejoicing and thankfulness for His mighty salvation. God sings because He knows that He has made you in Christ and that He has given you a name and a divine destiny.

The world will rarely sing over you in triumphant song. But God says, “No matter what anyone says, you are My beloved, My treasure, My pearl of great price, My heart’s desire. I have made you beautiful, precious, and more valuable than all the treasures of the earth. Let our hearts rejoice in song together, for you are My song and I passionately desire to be your song. Let our hearts make music together, for My song never fails, fades, or disappoints. My heart is always singing for you. Never forget My love song and My songs of deliverance for you.”

The music that is born of above, with its sweet melody, sounds out from every corner of our hearts. God sings to us. We sing to God. We are God’s melody and He is our melody. This is the music that can fill our hearts and transform us into the image of our glorious God and Redeemer.


[i] Cary Schmidt, Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music (Lancaster: Striving Together Publications, 2007), Kindle Edition, 24.

[ii] Dr. Howard Hanson, “A Musician’s Point of View Toward Emotional Expression,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 99, (1942), 317.

[iii] Alan P. Merriam, The Anthropology of Music, (1964): 218..

[iv] Dr. Adam Knieste, quoted by David Chagall, in Family Weekly, January 30, 1983, 14.

[v] Jay Grout, A History of Western Music (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2009).

[vi] Daniel and Bernadette Skubik, The Neurophysiology of Rock, published separately as an appendix in John Blanchard, Pop Goes the Gospel: Rock in the Church (Durham, England 1991), 191.

[vii] Norman M. Weinberger, The Nonmusical Outcomes of Music Education (University of California Board of Regents, 1995). 

[viii] Freidrich Nietzsche, The Joyful Wisdom (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1924), 343.

[ix] Don Campbell, The Mozart Effect (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001), 67.

[x] Cary Schmidt, Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music (Lancaster: Striving Together Publications, 2007), Kindle Edition, 24, 25.

[xi] Cary Schmidt, Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music (Lancaster: Striving Together Publications, 2007), Kindle Edition, 41, 42.

[xii] Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David: Volume 4, Study of the Psalms, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976), Psalm 99, Kindle Edition, 51882.

[xiii] Patrick Fairbairn, Exposition of Ezekiel (Mount Joliet: Sovereign Grace Publishers, Inc., 2001), 312.

[xiv] E. W. Bullinger, The Chief Musician, or Studies in the Psalms and their Titles (New York: Cosimo, Inc., 2007), 7.

[xv] Selah means to pause and carefully consider these words, and lift our hearts to God as we reflect on His magnificent truth.

[xvi] David Wilkerson, Sermon: “Counterfeit Christianity,” May 22, 2010.

[xvii] David Wilkerson, World Challenge Pulpit Series, “Driven to Darkness,” August 3, 1987.

[xviii] Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David: Volume 4, Study of the Psalms, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976), Psalm 144, Kindle Edition, 87898.

[xix] Dennis McCorkle, The David Cipher: Unlocking the Hidden Music of the Psalms (Denver: Outskirts Press, 2010), Kindle Edition, 294. 

[xx] Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1159.

[xxi] Dennis McCorkle, The David Cipher: Unlocking the Hidden Music of the Psalms (Denver: Outskirts Press, 2010), Kindle Edition, 329, 330.

[xxii]Ibid., Kindle Edition 662.

[xxiii] Don Cusic, A Sound of Light: The History of Gospel Music (Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2002), 15, 16, 18, 19.

[xxiv] A.W. Tozer, Fellowship of the Burning Heart: A Collection of Sermons by A.W. Tozer (Alachua: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2006), 10.

[xxv] Carter Conlan, The 180 Degree Christian; Serving Jesus in a Culture of Excess (Ventura: Regal Books, 2012), 68.

Excerpt from “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life”  

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