Following Christ is a lifestyle of constant warfare. Though it doesn’t sound sweet, it’s the truth. Sometimes, we’re at war with “men on foot” and at other times, with “horses” Jeremiah 12: 5, Ephesians 6:10-18. We can be victorious in both cases. But How?
In Isaiah 40, it was prophesied that those who “wait on the Lord” shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. The Spirit gives the Church the strength to win the battle of “running” and “walking” as she waits on the Lord or live in patience.
Having a robust understanding of the phrase, “wait on the Lord” to mean patience or long-suffering given as the fruit of the Spirit is crucial. It’s more than setting aside time to pray and fast. It’s not a seasonal character but a lifestyle produced in those whom Christ lives in.
Is putting a time frame to our “waiting on the Lord” to do this and do that for us a mechanism that builds our faith (relationship with God) or destroys it? For starters, it’s unwise to confine Almighty God to a time of our choosing. That is not faith. Faith rather trusts God to do for us the best at the best time.
The scriptures declares clearly that our timing and God’s is not the same and His is far better. The intent behind all of God’s timing in relation to His purpose and mission for our lives goes beyond giving us temporal goods to helping us reach the end of our faith — the salvation of our souls.
As disciples, none of us sees the end from the beginning. Therefore, in some ways, we’re all short-sighted. But, as we learn to live our lives in the patient fruit of the Spirit, we’re carried into the end of God’s intentions for us both spiritual and temporal.
While every temporal thing is as grass that wither away, we know, that God’s word and every fruit the Holy Spirit bears in us represents the nature of Christ which abides or remains forever. As Paul the Apostle puts it in 1 Corinthians 13, ‘Love is PATIENT and kind and endures all things.
As disciples of Christ, we need to know that we have His virtue of patience.
It is possible you’re reading this exhortation today because God wants you to stir your heart up to exercise “waiting on Him” as a lifestyle that builds and stabilizes your faith. Selah!
As disciples of Christ, we’re exhorted to be hard-working however, possessing our inheritance is by faith and Patience (Waiting on the Lord) Hebrews 6:12.
As Philip, the evangelist preached the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ in Samaria, a magician named Simon believed the gospel and was baptised along with others who also believed. Then, Simon continued with Philip in the gospel work.
When the Apostles in Jerusalem heard of the new believers’ community (church) in Samaria, they sent Peter and John out to serve the church. They arrived and God used them to bless the brothers and sisters to receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of their hands. Though Simon was present, he didn’t receive this blessing — he was more interested in buying the power that he too might lay his hands on others to receive the Holy Spirit Acts 8:4-19. Was Simon a believer and part of the assembly? Yes!
But, Peter’s reply to his request was revelatory and instructive. Here is the apostle’s reply: Acts 8:20-23
May your silver perish with you! Why the threatening reply?
Because Simon, thought he could obtain the gift of God with money!
You have neither part nor lot in this matter! Why?
Because this disciple’s heart was not right before God.
Repent! Of what?
The wicked intent of his heart. How?
By praying to the Lord, if possible, for the wicked intent of his heart to be forgiven him.
For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity!
While the first three comments of Peter centred on Simon’s action of wanting to buy God’s gift, the fourth focused on his heart. Also, in a different scene, Peter prophetically commented on Ananias’s heart, “why has Satan filled your heart…?” and why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? Acts 5:3 & 4. Was Peter’s utterance to Simon and Ananias, right? Is revelatory prophecy not meant only for exhortation? Well, what do you know!
As we read the scriptures, the Holy Spirit can use it to expose our hearts to us as well as use us prophetically to expose one another’s heart with the intent for us to repent. But, if we fail to humble ourselves and repent, eventually, our hearts actions (imaginations) which are tangible to God plays out physically Psalm 14:1. This is the reason Christ’s life starts in our hearts. A “heart set on God” may sin and recover — but it’s not so with a “heart set on sin” Romans 4:8. Why? “… In whose spirit (heart) there is no deceit” Psalm 32:2b. Selah!
Careful study of the scriptures reveals something strange about believers who did not “set their hearts on God” (failed to guard their hearts) and Satan used it as his factory. They hardly ever recovered. They either died or never got mentioned again in the bible. Examples: Ananias and Sapphira, Sual, Judas, Simon, the strayed widows, Demas et al. Given this ugly possibility, scriptures exhort and admonish us to embrace the faith (Christ) wholeheartedly and keep good conscience 1 Timothy 1:19.
Simon’s response authenticated Peter’s insight about the condition of his heart. “And Simon answered, pray for me to the Lord that nothing of what you have said may come upon me Acts 8:24.” Again, he was more interested in avoiding “perishing” than the state of his heart for which Peter advised him to seek God. Simon’s heart was unlike David’s. David’s reply and reaction after Nathan confronted him mirrored the kind of “heart that is set on God” and commended 2 Samuel 12:1-4, 5-7, 9, and 13, Acts 13:22b.
As disciples, we need to set “our hearts on God” and not let poison in because, it can affect our relationship with God — separating us from having part in the business of the Holy Spirit while being active with “Churchianity”. Twisting Hebrews chapters 7, 9 & 10 in order to console ourselves, ‘All sins — past, present, and future — have been dealt with once and for all” will not heal a “heart set on sin” and take away its deep seated guilt.
It’s doubtful any human can live a guilt free life without Jesus Christ.
As Christians, only Christ’s sacrifice, a sincere and humble walk with Him deals death blow to guilt. It makes us fall at His feet as He exposes our hearts and actions of sin(s) to us by the Holy Spirit and we actually experience increasingly the double cure of His blood. Firstly, He cleanses us from the sin(s) we’ve fallen into and it becomes history. Albeit, people may still hold it against us but not God — the sign is, we enjoy His peace within and not guilt. Secondly, the sin(s) lose its or their grip over us and we neither cherish it in our hearts nor carry on practising it or them Joel 2:13 NLT, Micah 6:8.
But, if we continue cherishing the sin(s) we fell into in our hearts or — and, practice the sin(s), then, guilt will not go away. No theological analysis, psychologist or psychiatrist has the power to take away guilt’s power over a person.
Scriptures indicates that nursing iniquity (letting out the room of our hearts to Satan) is a different kettle of fish from falling into sin through overzealousness and carelessness. I am not saying circumstance justifies sin, just highlighting the truth that God, knows each of our hearts. ‘God looks on the heart’ 1 Samuel 16:7. This is why God’s understanding and judgement differs from ours and we’re not qualified to judge (condemn) anyone. We can state our understanding of God’s position but, is God’s to condemn or justify anyone.
Hence, Jesus’s words to His body (the Church) is always pointed to the inside of the cup (heart) because it’s where God looks on. While, it’s not optional to keep outside the cup clean, for God, as aptly narrated by Jesus, outside cleanliness of our cups must come from the inside cleanliness His blood has achieved and is achieving for us Matthew 5:20, 1 Peter 3:4. This is the kind of righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees Matthew 23:25, 5:8.
So, to think or teach that the evils we may harbour in our hearts is less evil compared to when it’s actualised for others to see is deceptive. Whilst physical murder has more consequences for a victim’s family and friends unlike a victim of hatred, God, who is Spirit, understands how hatred of anyone (even those who make us their enemies) equates to murder 1 John 3:15, Matthew 5:43-48, 1 Peter 1:22 . We have the option to agree or disagree with God but not the luxury of moderating His judgement, period!
We can best serve our communities and bring healing to those battling with guilt by encouraging them to walk heartily with Christ.
God takes the things we permit, contrive, cherish and hold in our hearts towards other people and our spouses very seriously 1 Chronicles 15:29, Malachi 2:15 NKJV, Proverbs 4:23. A teaching that diminishes this truth is deadly Proverbs 25:28 NKJV, Proverbs 16:32 NKJV.
Paul stated it clearly: Think aright — and act rightly Philippians 4:8-9. It’s opportunity that restrains whatever we have in our hearts (hatred or love) from translating to physical murder or act of kindness.
It’s a faithless generation that fails to guard her heart. Guard YOUR heart!
This excerpt is taken from “The voices of the prophets” By T. Austin-Sparks
They knew Him not, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath. (Acts 13:27 ASV)
We would remind our readers that these messages are constituted by a principle which governs so much of the Bible. It is that, deeper than the words of Scripture, there is a voice; that it was – and is – possible to hear the words and miss the voice. The words are the statements; the voice is the meaning. We have proved this to be the case by such a statement as that in Isaiah 6:9: “Hear ye indeed, but understand not, and see ye indeed (margin: ‘continually’) but perceive not.” This is the condition lying behind our basic quotation in Acts 13:27.
It is sometimes positively amazing and staggering what even Christians – and Christian leaders – can do and say because of this deaf ear to the Spirit. They can take up and pass on most pernicious reports which are sheer lies and do untold harm to others and the Lord’s interests because they do not so walk in the Spirit as to have Him say within: “That is not true.” It is one thing to include belief in the Holy Spirit as a tenet of Christian doctrine, and it may be quite another thing to know when “the Spirit of truth” witnesses within the heart to the truth or the falsehood. It is significant that both the Remnant and the Overcomer are marked by this “hearing the voice.” Jesus placed the ultimate issue of Life or death upon this “hearing the voice (not just the words) of the Son of Man.”
“Every Sabbath” they heard the words, but not the voice.… Let us pray for the ear of Samuel –
“Oh, give me Samuel’s ear –
An open ear, O Lord!
Alive and quick to hear
Each whisper of Thy word!”
What a good feeling it brings when our fellow humans praise and tell us how good a people we are. Yet, all that is nothing and should remain as nothing till we also hear God’s voice telling us we are His as we walk with Him. His testimony towards us doesn’t just bring good feelings, no, it brings unspeakable joy that has grace to keep us walking with Him to the end Romans 8:16, Hebrews 10:38-39.
The bride of Christ is made up of many individuals (sheep). He walks and speaks with each one of us, confirming we are His. God the Father gave us to him John 10:29. He engages each sheep in discussions about the kingdom of His Father who also is our Father.
Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, His disciples had little or no comprehension of the Kingdom because they only received and understood Him in the flesh Acts 1:6. Earlier, when Jesus transfigured into the dimension of the Kingdom to which He was King, James, John and zealous Peter immediately wanted to start building three booths (what many consider as church today) Mark 9:2-7.
Also, when it was time for Him to go to the cross, die and resurrect so the disciples could start understanding and enjoying the Kingdom, they were rather prepared for fleshly war Luke 22:49-50. Meanwhile, as far as Peter was concerned, this Christian business is fight to finish! So, he decided to take down someone’s ear for starters. It will send the message to the enemies he might have thought. Though Peter may have known Zechariah 4:6 in the Torah, he hadn’t yet experienced it like many of us today who misunderstand Jude 1:3.
Since Christ’s resurrection, no one receives Him after the manner of the flesh again but only after the spirit. After He rose from the grave, He spoke of nothing to His sheep except as it pertained to the Kingdom. No more was He speaking about it in parables but clearly. With Pentecost, His sheep received the indwelling Teacher whose ceaseless work is to teach them “all truth” about the Kingdom, comfort and lead them John 14:17, 16:13.
His post resurrection and Pentecost disciples therefore, are spiritual people blessed to discern the Kingdom 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.
The teaching, comfort, leading and everything else the Holy Spirit does in and through each sheep’s HEART, SOUL and BODY exhibits the Kingdom visibly on the earth Matthew 6:10.
However, God’s instruction in our spirit or heart cannot be obeyed without our mind being renewed. Why? Well, what we have in our soul or mind gets acted out through our body or temple Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 6:19. This is why the greatest commandment captured true worship of God in spirit and truth—thereby encompassing man’s spirit, soul and body 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
Minus anyone of these three realms and immediately you get falsehood and religion instead of relationship.
The Lord of a man’s spirit or heart must be the lord of the man’s soul and body Deuteronomy 6:5, 1 Corinthians 6:20. Therefore, everyone who receives Christ Jesus into his or her heart gives Him their soul and body to reign in. It is for this reason that although we as believers have already given our hearts to Christ, His voice of scriptures still exhort and admonish us to, “Submit to God…” and, to put on Christ James 4:7, Romans 12:1, 13:14.
Those who have not received Christ cannot submit to God. Submitting to God goes beyond keeping laws to obeying Christ’s bidding through the Holy Spirit Revelation 2:29, Philippians 3:9. It is different from being humanitarian, doing loads of good works, going to “church” and being pious etc. Though self-goodness can come out of man, man’s nature is totally corrupt.
Our own righteousness unavoidably stained with serpentine craftiness is like a filthy rag in God’s sight. This truth will keep bewildering the religious world. Self has nothing to offer God because it is deceitful and desperately wicked. It deceives its own self and dishonors its Creator once sufficient allurement is given to its eyes, appetite and ego. For this reason, God’s voice is ever with believers through His word to renew our soul and help us subdue our bodies under Christ through the working of His grace in our hearts.
The Spirit of Christ must reign over the soul else, one will be like a person betrothed but who gives his or her mind and body to another 2 Corinthians 11:2-3.
Peter’s foretaste of the Power of His voice
Peter as a weak mortal man participated in Christ’s divine walk on water and did not sink. How? Because he looked to Jesus and hearkened to His voice. Peter’s spirit, soul and body submitted to God. But, after a while, like Adam and Eve’s experience in God’s garden, this level of loyalty and concentration on Christ was severely challenged, tempted and harassed.
Unfortunately, Peter looked away and immediately started sinking (submitting to Satan). As we hear the Holy Spirit’s voice, God’s grace is sufficient to keep us looking unto Christ and walking with Him Matthew 14:28-31. The grace in Christ’s voice that Peter initially hearkened to helped him look quickly again and he cried out to Christ. Glory to God! And he instantly started to have dominion over the water’s waves. Amen!
The light that proceeds from Christ’s voice gives dominion to anyone looking unto Him. Consequently, His light moves the weak and broken from one dimension of glory to many realms of glory in Him.
Dominion by looking and hearing Christ
No matter how perplexed and struck down a believer in Christ gets, the privilege to hear and listen to Christ has power to change the situation Psalm 29:3-9. It delivers from every manner of evil and attacks: materialism, spiritual and physical laziness, gluttony, pornography, paedophilia, homosexuality, hatred, slander, fornication, adultery, spirit of pre-eminence, persecution, witchcraft, fear of death etc. How can it not be so, when grace upon grace has been given to the new creation helping her look to Christ Jesus who had victory over all iniquity!
Dear reader, this world we live in is sinking and decaying. However, there is Christ’s voice of instruction that can save us though there is also Satan’s voice fast wanting to align us with the decay.
Which of the voices are we listening to, Christ or Satan? The latter will lead to fear, sinking and death. Hence, we must encourage ourselves to look and listen only to Christ by the Holy Spirit’s voice because it leads to right-conduct (righteousness), repentance, peace, boldness, joy and life eternal.
He that truly believes (looks and Hearkens) to Christ Jesus’s voice will never perish.
Jesus said to the people, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘a shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens Luke 12:54. While it looked like He was commending their power to forecast rightly, He hit them hard unreservedly—without respect for political correctness in verse 55 “You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
For Jesus, the important thing that generation should have discerned was the “present time”, season or situation they were in. We in this present generation also need to learn a lesson in this matter of discerning the “present time” and not be deceived into inventing liturgies to suit man’s ever evolving and unstable culture. What exactly did Jesus mean by the phrase “present time” in verse 54 of Luke 12?
The parable of the “fig tree planted in a man’s vineyard” as told by Jesus in Luke 13:6 can help us understand His usage of the phrase “present time”. In this parable, it is said, that the “man came or visited” (which is an indication of present time) later described clearly in the passage as a “three years” visiting time verse 7 and, a “one year” that will culminate to a pleasant or wrathful visitation verse 8 Luke 13:7-8.
The purpose of the vineyard owner’s visitations for three years (present time) was clearly defined. It was to reap fruit from the fig tree verse 7. Hence, what was and still is paramount is the fig tree knowing or discerning its state and cooperating with the Gardener (Holy Spirit). Rightly forecasting “climate change” is of least importance.
In the Gardener’s reply to Christ, a “one year” period was solicited and scheduled verse 8. This one year “present time” is a time of mercy and grace for the fig tree to engage in repenting and cooperating with the Gardener to please the “owner of the vineyard” by bearing fruit. The privilege of admission into the vineyard must be justified.
Now, the question is this: What will our 21st century generation do with this “present time”? What will you and I do with it? What are the youths being taught to do with this “present time”.
The Gardener’s responsibility is to dig and manure the vineyard and not to force the fig tree in the vineyard to yield fruit. Therefore, He reaffirms to the “vineyard owner” to keep up His responsibility relentlessly verse 8. Nevertheless, the Gardener concludes His speech by saying, “… if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down” verse 9. The lack of presumptuousness on the side of the Gardener is striking! Gentle and unassuming is characteristic of the Gardener. The fig tree of the vineyard can’t be passive as modern “Christian revelatory teachers are selling”.
Paul, like the rest of the apostles, recognized the all important work of the Gardener and the response needed. It inspired His admonition to the saints thus, ‘Do not grieve the Spirit but rather cooperate with Him’ Ephesians 4:30. The redemption of saints is nearer than ever before and it is tied to the work of the Gardener. Therefore, any predicting of the future, and analysis of present world events that does not culminate to this one thing—that is, cooperating with the Holy Spirit “in this one year season” is merely being religious, a waste of time and energy or life.
Hence, in Ephesians 5: 15-16, saints are both exhorted and admonished thus; “… be careful to live your life wisely, not foolishly. Take advantage of every opportunity because these are evil times”.
On the one hand, it is evil times because the “vineyard owner” is ready to cut down the fig tree if it does not bear fruit and on the other hand, Satan is at his best with deception to discourage the fig tree from cooperating with the vineyard Dresser or Gardener. As a fig tree, check out what comes out from you when you fail to submit to God (cooperate with the Gardener) and restrain or resist the evil one. The Church restrains evil and the evil one victoriously only through the Gardener’s work in and through her Zechariah 4:6. This re-emphasizes the indispensable place of the Gardener in the vineyard.
Therefore, the heavens, world events, earth and the sky that man is so good in predicting are joined together in pleading with those without Christ in this age and to the saints: Yield to the Gardener—that is, choose life and if you have already done so, then, live the abundant life in this age at this “present time” John 10:10. But to disobey Him persistently is choosing death and the wrath of God. What is God’s advice to us in all of this?
His advice is this: Now, (signifying chance for a fresh start) “… choose life—so that you and your descendants will live—by loving the Lord your God, by obeying his voice, and by clinging to him. That’s how you will survive and live long on the fertile land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors: to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Verse 19-20 of Deuteronomy Chapter 30 (CEB).
This fertile land has a character of flowing with milk and honey! And it has a mystery too—which is this: Its maker and builder is the Architect of the universe, Christ Jesus Himself. The one to who all spirits in heaven, on earth and beneath the earth are subject to. And to whom all glories belong, the Head of the Church of the Living God, Father of all creation. He is speaking about this “present time”. Let all who have ears listen—listen to what the Spirit is saying. Within the period of the “one year” of Christ’s visitation, it can happen that we leave this world into His pleasant or wrathful presence. Therefore, man ought not to boast of tomorrow. Today is the best to bear fruit unto God.
This “present time” is a “one year” (not literal one year) of friendship with the Gardener who leads us into all the mind of Christ and participation in Christ’s suffering—in the face of multi-dimensional battles. It is a great call to perseverance and humbleness. It is a time of friendship with the One who leads us to fruitfulness and resounding victory.