What did he say?

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Do you want a revival?

I have often run into people who say they feel dry, and that they are praying for a revival in their city.  These comments came to mind today as I read John 7:38:  “He who believes in Me as the scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water'”.  In my way of thinking, a person who has rivers of living water flowing from his innermost being is not in need of a revival!

So why do these people feel dry?  Maybe Jesus gave the answer: “he who believes in Me…”.  If we just read the text plainly and simply, people who say they are dry don’t actually believe in Jesus.  Yes, I know we all go through trials, and things are tough for a while.  Quite normal.  But this is not what these people are saying – they are perpetually dry, perpetually going to conferences, reading books, watching TV preachers, looking for a revival.

And the very next verse continues the answer – “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive.”  So, having the Spirit in us is the answer.  I can testify that this is indeed the case.  Yes, we will still have trials, but not perpetual dryness.  In Luke 11, Jesus said that if we ask, the Father will give us the Holy Spirit.  Was Jesus lying? No, I don’t think so.  But as the previous verses show (v5 – 11) we do need to ask persistently.  Ask and keep asking.  And as James states, we need to ask with correct motive.

So what is correct motive?  That is shown in John 14 and John 16.  In those chapters Jesus states that the Holy Spirit is our Helper.  He will show us our sin, help us overcome sin, and guide us into all truth.  Those who are fully engaged in overcoming sin and have the continual guidance of the Spirit will not feel dry.  So please – believe what Jesus has said!  He commanded us to “be perfect, even as our Heavenly Father is perfect”.  Does He ask us to do the impossible?  Is He just taunting us?  No, I don’t think so.  Before He left, He said it was better for Him to go, because then the Holy Spirit could come and be IN us.  Make that your prayer.

 

 


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Traditions of men

On one occasion when the Pharisees were criticizing Jesus and His disciples, Jesus noted, “neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” Mark 7:8. As I was reading some Facebook posts today, it occurred to me that we are doing a similar thing today. Not the same, but similar.

What I’m seeing is that many well-intentioned Christians put up Facebook posts that sound spiritual and encouraging, but in fact have no basis in the New Testament. And because many people spend much more time in Facebook than they do reading the scriptures, their values will be led away from New Covenant truth.

Hopefully Christians will start to really think through what they are posting, and verify that their ideas are in line with Jesus, and not merely a nice-sounding bit of fluff.

The Keynote Address

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The Keynote Address

Many of you who have attended weekend conferences or seminars know that often on Friday night the primary speaker will deliver the “keynote address”, which establishes the main purpose, content, framework, etc. for the meetings that follow. I like the use of the phrase “keynote”, which reminds one of how a choir director will sound the key note of the music with his pitch pipe.

In the same way, Jesus delivered a keynote address, which we now call the Sermon on the Mount. (Matther 5, 6, 7) The Bible organizers wisely put it at the front of the first book, thereby setting the tone for the entire rest of the gospels. But in spite of this high-profile position, I have heard VERY few messages that deal with the Sermon on the Mount. A few sermons here and there on the beattitudes, but that’s about it.

It may be that many pastors are in the same boat that I was in – when they read all these verses, their reaction is “I don’t know how I could actually ever live this out. The standard is simply too high.” Many pastors/churches then retreat to the ten commandments as their standard – as long as they’re not killing anyone or stealing things, they’re ok. Not too hard. The problem is, the ten commandments are not the keynote Jesus gave. It’s the Sermon on the Mount.

So what’s the solution? It’s found in John 14: Jesus tells his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep My commandments”. And Jesus, knowing what a difficult standard those commandments represent, then spoke the next verse, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper.” Jesus doesn’t do things by accident, and it’s no accident that the promise of a Helper comes immediately after the command of obedience.

And what does the Helper do? He is the Holy Spirit, and as His names indicate, He helps us to become holy. Jesus said the Holy Spirit will actually be IN us (John 14:17). He will teach us all things (John 14:26), He will show us our sins (John 16:8) and guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Why these truths are not taught more I don’t understand, but it is, as they say, a cryin’ shame.

As I have believed and acted on these things, what I’ve found is that the Spirit, in a way I don’t understand, gives me to power to overcome sin in my life. I can’t claim to overcome by my own strength. Tried that for 40 years, and got nowhere! But I’ve also found that I need to be brutally honest with myself and God, when the Spirit shows me an area of sin. When I confess to Him the real nature of my bad thoughts, intents, motives, etc. He then lifts me to a higher level, and the old bad habits one by one get killed off (Romans 8:13).

Living in this way, in obedience to what the Spirit is leading me into, the Sermon on the Mount now looks totally different. It looks very reasonable and attainable. When Jesus said “Follow Me”, He wasn’t taunting us. We can really follow Him, if we live in the power of the Spirit. Please carefully consider these things; I believe if they’ve worked in my life, they will in yours as well.


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That Apple on the Tree –

When Adam and Eve reached out to take fruit from the tree of knowledge of  good and evil, they showed their intention to decide for themselves how to live.  In so doing, they turned their back on the tree of life, from which they could have freely received God’s wisdom and direction.  And in that day they died, having believed Satan rather than God.

When Jesus came, He offered Life to dead mankind, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  And what does repent mean?  It’s not to feel bad and give up a few sins here and there.  It means men need to correct the original sin; they need to turn away from deciding for themselves what’s right and wrong, and turn back to the Life which comes from God.  Jesus demonstrated this Life for all to see, and then granted it to all interested on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came and filled the disciples.

During His last evening on earth, Jesus clearly taught how important the Spirit is, to the extent that it was better for Jesus to go away, so that the Spirit could come.  Jesus said the Spirit would live IN us, that He would convict us of sin and righteousness, give us help to overcome sin, and lead us into all truth.  These are things that no one in the Old Covenant could have, because the Spirit had not yet been given, but they are freely available to us now!

Living by the power of the Spirit is a wonderful life.  The example Jesus gave is of a branch in a tree – it receives its life from the tree, and produces fruit effortlessly.  When we follow what the Spirit is telling us, and allow Him to work in us, we can be free from anxiety, lust, anger, judgmental attitudes, envy, etc.  We also can grow in love, patience, kindness, peace, joy, and many other good attrubutes.  People who live this life of dependence on God are the ones Jesus called ‘overcomers’.

In reviewing sermons of various popular preachers, I see that teaching regarding repentance, and overcoming sin by the power of the Spirit is very rare.  Maybe it’s too abrasive for the sensitive seekers?  Anyhow, I’m writing this because I hear and see so much of depression, anger, complaining, lust, anxiety, and other things that can so easily be overcome when we allow the Spirit to work within us.  Don’t fail to take advantage of God’s wonderful gifts!


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The Things Above

In the early 1900s in India, there lived a man who became a great witness for Jesus; whose life and works are nothing short of astounding.  His name was Sundar Singh.  One of the many extraordinary events in this man’s life is that God granted him a vision of the spiritual world.  I know this will immediately arouse scepticism in many; that’s ok – if you’re interested, you can read about his ministry, and your scepticism will fade.   But before I talk about this vision, let me set the stage: 

 Over the past few months, I’ve become aware as I read the Bible that the concept of repentance from sin seems to be THE dominant message.  For example, when the angel informed Joseph that Mary’s child was of God, he said, “and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins”. 

 When John the baptist came preaching, his first statement was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  And Jesus first recorded message was the same: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. 

 I won’t belabor this point, but an end-to-end reading of the New Testament will show that the command to repent of sins is often mentioned and heavily emphasized.  Even in Revelation, the closing statement of the Bible, Jesus repeats many times that His promises will be given to “him who overcomes”.   I hope this message is being taught in many churches, but I fear that it is not.  There is a great deal of emphasis on God’s love, but not much on holiness. 

 As I said in a previous blog, I had somehow for 40 years taken this message lightly, and therefore had continued in sin.  Also mentioned in that blog were the three pieces of knowledge that catapaulted me out of that miserable state:  1, I have to take sin very seriously, 2, the New Testament standard for our life is found in Matthew 5-7, and 3, the Holy Spirit is ready, willing, and able to point our sins out to us, AND help us overcome them.    

 So, after this big change, I had a strong desire to follow the leading of the Spirit, and to be totally purified from sin.  To have my mind transformed, and step-by- step become more like Jesus.  Two verses that came to mind in this regard were “Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth,”  Col 3:2, and “there is nothing secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light,”  Luke 8:17.  The first verse frustrated me, because I had very little grasp of “things above”, so it was tough to set my mind on them, especially when the things of the earth were so persistently evident.  The second verse intrigued me, because I felt I wasn’t understand the full meaning of it.  And here’s where Sundar Singh’s vision comes in –

 In his vision, Sundar Singh had an extensive view of the spirit world, the place where the spirits of men go after death.  I’ve read this vision many times now, and each time it gives me a huge amount of encouragement and hope.  Related to “the things above”, what he saw was that the spirit world is unimaginably beautiful, and that those who are there are supremely happy.  I won’t go into the description here, but will include a link to the file for those interested.  Anyhow, this description gave me, at long last, something to really grab onto when I want to set my mind on the things above.  It has been a daily source of strength to me to understand in a small measure what I’m heading toward, and how greatly the ones already there treasure their close relationship with the Savior.  It’s true that the pleasures of sin here are true pleasures, but the joy that waits for us in the spirit world is far superior. 

 Another thing Sundar Singh saw in his vision (related to the second verse I noted above) was that when the spirits of men enter the spirit world, their true character and nature are plainly visible to all.  Even their thoughts are open to all around them.  For those who have followed the guidance of the spirit and have consistently purified themselves by repenting of sin, this revelation of character is not a problem at all.  They revel in the presence of the glory of  Jesus, and join with other spirits whose nature is similar to theirs. 

 But, for those who have lived in sin, the light of glory there is terrifying, and they immediately attempt to hide themselves from the revealing light of God.  To this end, they go to dark places provided for them, where they join others of similar nature, and where they are shielded to a degree from the presence of God.   The message I recieved from this whole vision is this: There may be many things in life that are truly important, but when we stand before God, they will all pale in importance compared to our purity – freedom from sin. 

 There are many details in this vision that may be of interest to you.  I mention these things here because they have been so helpful to me, and I feel there may be acquaintances of mine who may also be benefitted.   If you’d like to read the whole thing, it’s available free here:

 http://archive.org/details/VisionsOfTheSpiritualWorldBySadhuSundarSingh-1926-UploadedBy

 

 

 

 

 


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Overcoming

A few years ago, when I was still living in my “home on the range” in Iowa, I had been working to grow spiritually – doing things like reading the Bible, praying, going to church regularly, serving as a deacon, etc.  And to some extent these efforts were working; by 2006 I felt that I was a somewhat spiritual person.  Hopefully I wasn’t bragging about anything then…I can’t remember those details.

But then the changes started.  My wife Zuali was not able to find work, then got cancer, and after her recovery from surgery and chemotherapy, we both felt it was best for her to return to India.  The US was just not working for her.  So she moved back, and I started a half-year process of quitting work and packing up.  Everything was sold, given away, or put in a storage unit.  In 2007 two suitcases and I went to India.

I’ll spare you the details of this next phase, but I could call it the descent into tribulation, or the unmasking of Brother Chris.  Many, many details of life in India were really irritating and frustrating for me.  Some of the things were cultural, some were just the effect of living in a developing nation.  I was accustomed to perfection (long practiced in aircraft system design) and the loose approach to things in India grated on me.

Over a period of time, I gave in to anger and criticism, and these in turn led to more sins.  My presumed spirituality unraveled and fell apart.  In spite of this, people in the small church we were attending seemed to think well of me, asking me to pray and speak in the meetings.  On the exterior I maintained the facade, but inwardly I was thinking of myself as a “bottom-feeder” – coasting along just above the muck, picking up leftover tidbits falling from those far above me.  I know my attitudes and actions were wrong, but I just couldn’t climb away from them.  My prayers just weren’t getting answered.

This state continued for a long few years, and I had many periods of depression, just not seeing any purpose to life.  But, deep inside, there remained some hope that there was, after all, meaning and purpose, and that evenually I’d find it.  Zuali and I had maintained our custom of studying the Bible together in the morning, talking about what we read.  Even though it seemed fruitless, it also seemed that if the answer came from anywhere, it would be during those times.

Then one day, Zuali mentioned a preacher that had once come to Aizawl, and that he had given some very encouraging messages.  So we looked to see if he had any sermons on the net, and yes, there were.  Free, too!  So we started listening, and the changes started happening.

Over a period of a few weeks, I listened to maybe 40 of Zac Poonen’s messages, and I was drawing a great deal of strength from them.  The power of sin and depression was being broken.  There were many things I learned, but there were three things which, taken together were what I really needed:

One, was that I had not been taking sin seriously.  In truth, I was telling God that I didn’t believe what Jesus said in Matthew 5 – 7.  And I wasn’t honest with Him, either, making excuses for sin rather than calling it what it really was.  It would take a long time to get into the details of this, but the result was that sin kept hanging on.  Genesis gives us a lesson here, in that it only took one small sin to get Adam kicked out of paradise.   I believe now that we have to take sin as seriously as we take cancer or a car wreck.  Really.

Two, was that I was using the Old Testament law as my guide for righteousness.  As a result, I had only external righteousness.  Jesus’ commandments found in Matthew chapters 5 through 7, (which I had read many times and considered impossible) have to do with our internal life, and that’s where I needed changing.  A lustful look of the eyes is as condemning as adultery.  Anger is just as condemning as murder.  Keeping up a good external appearance is what the old Pharisees did, and it’s what I was doing.  And Jesus spent a good portion of His ministry telling those Pharisees that their pretending was worthless.

Three, is that I did not know the power of the Holy Spirit of convict me of sin, and then help me to overcome it.   In John 14: 15,  Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. ”  Eg, the ones in Matthew 5-7 that I had thought were impossible to keep!  But, He gives the solution in the very next verse (16):  “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.”  This is what I needed – some real help!  A day came when I realized that without the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin, I was sunk.  Realizing this, I started sincerely asking for help, and it came.

So, in the time since then I’ve been taking sin very seriously, and attempting to listen (feel) carefully what the Holy Spirit is telling me to change.  And the communication has been coming.   Day after day He will point out areas where I’m out of line.  I take it seriously, repenting, asking forgiveness, and asking His help to overcome.  And He lives up to His title of Helper.  Day after day, I’m less affected by the things that formerly produced anger, lust, and criticism in me.   There’s no way I can claim self-effort for these changes, because I tried for several years and failed.  It was only until I recognized the above-listed ideas that change started happening.

So why am I writing these things?  It’s not to advertise this as an accomplishment, I can assure you.  No, the reason is that these changes have been almost like a release from hell for me, and I’m guessing there may be many more people in the same situation. I attended church faithfully for four decades, never became aware of these things, and struggled with sin the whole time.  How could this be? I believe it’s because these ideas simply were not taught because they’re not popular.  I’ve been studying this topic over the past few months, and it seems that the topic of repenting and overcoming sin is rarely if ever taught in many churches, especially those that have a “seeker-friendly” approach.

If these things are of interest to you, feel free to message me on Facebook.  Or, you can listen to the same messages that turned me around – just search for Zac Poonen on Youtube, or go to cfcindia.com.