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Most leaders have very little difficulty filling their calendars; many have people (invited and not) that help them squeeze the most out of every day. Sometimes we get so active in so much productive work, we lose consciousness of our purpose.

Rushing down the difficult path – even in a daze – is better than wandering off after the world. God has prepared good works for us to walk in. None of us want to miss an opportunity to please the Lord and be an instrument of the Father’s glorify.

However, there are times in most leaders’ lives when it all gets rather distracting, binding, and exhausting. We feel like we are losing focus, our calendar is managing us, and the good work has become a burden. Our attitude and productivity begin to suffer… almost as much as the people around us.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the work we forget to ask the most basic question:

Why am I here?

This is the question we should ask ourselves:

  • Every morning;
  • Before every meeting, activity, or encounter with another person; and,
  • Several times during the day.

This is critically important: The key to “why am I here?” is knowing who or what we have gone to for the answer. Many of us have been trained to solve such problems with our reasoning – reasoning born out of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; reasoning that is often under the control of our carnal mind. Ask your carnal mind and you will get a carnal answer.

Remember, take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2Corinthians 10:5).

Now, if the carnal mind manages to sneak in some response (it is sneakier than we imagine), we can use that response to tell us something about our attitude. For example, if our carnal mind says we are here because we have to be, that’s a problem. First of all, this response is simply not true; it is a very base deception. We all have free choice. Read the rest of this entry »

When two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, He has promised to be with them (Matthew 18:20). My general attitude towards this verse has been that He is there for us – to give us revelation, or bless us in some other way. This realization has left me ashamed (and probably not as much as I should be).

Jesus Christ is Lord!

He is the Lord!

Jesus joins our meeting for Himself and His Father in Heaven. I have dishonored Him in this regard, in practice and in my writing. I confess my sin and pray He will forgive me and deliver me from this horrid unrighteousness. I repent and pray for grace to never think, speak, or write this way again.

It is baffling and disconcerting that I have missed such an obvious truth. For those that have wondered why I am so suspicious of the way I think, you now have some idea. I hate my carnal mind now more than ever.

I appreciate God turning this evil to His good purposes. I praise God for His patience and persistence with me.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

BTW: The Lord used an article by A. W. Tozer to help me see through this deception. You can find it here.

Is anything in life accomplished in an instant? From learning to speak, to winning a girl’s heart, to career advancement, all development is a progression of incremental steps – each one building on the previous.

One might ask, “What if the last step was wrong or injurious?” In that case the next step is toward restoration; and stepping all the more needful.

The point here is that life is not a collection of events, but of processes. Even our birth begins with two cells becoming one, then two, then four, and so on. All physically animate things move in a direction – birth, growing and dying.

Recognizing this, the wise man does his best to organize his steps in the most profitable manner (meaning, he puts more than a little thought into his choices). The laisse faire approach to life rarely ends well.

Knowing that the natural life operates in process, why then would Christians live as though the spiritual life is any different? Why wouldn’t we readily recognize our spiritual life as more than a disconnected collection of events?

I will tell you why; because our carnal mind is at enmity with the Spirit, and opposed to our spiritual development. It is active in distracting and deceiving us.

We are being moved in a spiritual direction – toward evil or good, death or life. We must fight against our carnal mind for the spiritual processes that have been given to us by God for our maturation. These include sanctification, transformation, and salvation.

Furthermore, obedience to every command of the Father and Son is a process (hear, obey, act). Walking in the Spirit is a process. Faith is the process of God whereby His word to us becomes His work – over and over again, faith to faith.

This brings to mind another spiritual truth: These processes are iterative; they repeat in God-prescribed patterns. This is one of the reasons why spiritual disciplines work. Again, this is not unlike our life in the physical realm – the workday being a good example. Repetition and patterns are common to both physical and spiritual development. Read the rest of this entry »

The time has come to say some hard things. That is not my determination to make. Indeed, I am a conflict avoider. The pen must write what it is used to write. I am confident that the source is a Father who out of love, chastens, rebukes, and scourges His children.

Pastors and churches in our hectic times are harassed by the temptation to seek size at any cost and to secure by inflation what they cannot gain by legitimate growth. The Next Chapter After the Last; A. W. Tozer

A. W. Tozer recognized the beginnings of our compromise in the middle of the 20th Century (he died in 1963). Since then, many pastors and churches have succumbed to the temptation about which he spoke and wrote. The results have been catastrophic.

A recent Barna survey reported that 51% of church attenders (in America) did not recognize the phrase “the Great Commission”. Only 17% claimed to know the meaning of it!

Think about that for a minute. What does this say about the church in America? How does someone not know about the command that supposedly got them there? What has replaced the Great Commission?

For those of you that love and lead millennials, it is important to know that new church trends are not helping. Only 11% of church attending millennials understand the Great Commission of our Lord! What does this say about our approach to youth and young adult ministry? Are we going to keep doing what continues to fail our King’s commission?

If this single statistic does not knock off and stomp our rose-colored glasses to bits, I don’t imagine anything will. There are dozens – perhaps hundreds – more indicators like it. Tragically, the church in America has been overrun with deception. Read the rest of this entry »

We will close out this series with a renewed consideration of God’s purpose for it; namely, our sanctification. As we know, sanctification is the process whereby we are set apart and cleansed from the world – separated unto the Lord and for His use (2Timothy 2:21). Few realize how vehemently our carnal minds fight against our sanctification. To be used by God to His greatest advantage, our carnal minds must be overcome.

The church began with Peter’s charge to repent and be saved from this perverse generation (Acts 2:38-41). At the end of this age, we will be called out a final time by God Himself (Revelation 18:4). In between, we struggle mightily with our allegiances.

God has given us disciplines as an invitation and the means to come out of the world – into a deeper relationship with Him. Jesus uses the disciplines to make us (Mark 1:17) and to build His church (Ephesians 4:11-16). The Holy Spirit uses them to transform us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

Repentance is first a change of mind. From parents to preachers, we have focused on changing behavior to the detriment of this first and vital step. Coming out of this evil generation – out of Babylon, the great harlot – begins with a rejection of secular, humanistic and carnal thinking about everything… including church.

Our carnal thinking about church has become so ingrained, we hardly know it exists. We are so surrounded by it, we cannot see how it has infected us. It is like an enemy that has entrenched itself behind our strongest line of defense. Going out to Jesus Christ, outside the camp (Hebrews 13:12-14), may be the only way we can rightfully assess what has become our prison.

Lest anyone misunderstand, we are not suggesting an exodus from existing church fellowships. This encouragement is about the way we think and about the way we relate to God. A. W. Tozer prophetically wrote of our condition over sixty years ago:

To me, it has always been difficult to understand those evangelical Christians who insist upon living in the crisis as if no crisis existed. They say they serve the Lord, but they divide their days so as to leave plenty of time to play and loaf and enjoy the pleasures of the world as well. They are at ease while the world burns… I wonder whether such Christians actually believe in the fall of man! Renewed Day by Day, A. W. Tozer

This series began with the argument for, and proof of, our carnal mind’s status as enemy number one. Satan may be more powerful (and easier to blame); and the world may be more aggressive in its attempts to conform us. But, it is the carnal mind that has become – not just the enemy in our camp – but a trusted friend and advisor. As such, it has become a dangerous distractor and deceiver.

Our hope is that you will respond to God’s invitation for greater intimacy through the disciplines He has so graciously provided. With this hope in mind, we offer a line of questioning for your conversations with Him and those in your spheres of influence. Read the rest of this entry »

The Work of the Faith

Discussing faith and works together has become a difficult, anxiety-inducing exercise for most of the Body of Christ. This is not so much due to an identifiable point of disagreement as to the subconscious suspicion that what the other believes may be different and/or challenging to something we have been told. This again is a ploy of our carnal minds – to protect closely held convictions and opinions; to maintain control and comfort.

Rigid mindsets are generally dangerous things, built on arrogance and fear. There is nothing wrong with strong convictions – as long as those convictions are constructed on the diligent and humble study of God’s word.

Sadly, most of us lack the time required for diligent study, having given said time over to worldly pursuits. Consequently, we are left with someone else’s word as the final word for the doctrine of Jesus Christ (2John 1:9). This is particularly troublesome in regards to the foundational subjects of grace, faith and works.

At a minimum, every disciple of Jesus Christ should recognize and accept that there is more truth than they have yet learned. At the same time, they should be prepared to humbly offer what they have come to understand. And so, with a desire to learn more, I offer here my humble understanding of the work of faith – taken mostly from Ephesians 2:8-10, James 2:14-26, and other noted NKJV passages).

Grace, faith and works cannot be understood apart from each other. Our faith – which is a gift of God – appropriates the grace of God. The grace of God manifests itself in His good works. His good works perfect (i.e., complete) our faith, as we walk in them. Faith without these works is dead (i.e., without effect). Because these works are His, we have no claim of credit for them. Read the rest of this entry »

Obedience to the Faith

Through Him [Jesus] we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ… Romans 1:5-6

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith – to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen. Romans 16:25-27

As you can see, the New King James Version (my favorite translation) identifies the second phase of the faith process as “obedience to the faith”. Other translations have “obedience of faith”. In either case, Paul is describing a phase of the faith process distinctly different from our  third and final phase, the work of faith.

Obedience to the faith and the work of faith are closing related – even dependent. However, the relationship and dependency of two things does not make them the same thing; and, while it is easier to consider them the same, we must resist the temptation. Our minds are capable of understanding the important differences and will be better off for the effort.

Faith does not empower obedience; faith demands and requires our obedience. It can also be said that obedience must be given to faith for faith to flourish. This begs three significant questions:

  1. If faith does not empower obedience, then what does?
  2. How does obedience meet the requirements and demands of faith?
  3. How does one give their obedience to the faith?

Romans 1:5 (above) gives us the answer to our first question. Obedience to the faith is empowered by God’s grace and His calling (e.g., to be an apostle). As we’ve discussed previously, God’s grace is appropriated by faith (Ephesians 2:8). Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

God’s calling naturally comes by His word, as well. And so, we discover that God’s grace and calling originate in the hearing of faith – the first phase of the faith process.

In regards to our second question: Obedience ultimately meets faith’s requirements and demands through the work of faith (the subject of our next article).

Here, we seek to discover the answer to our third question: How does one give their obedience to the faith? Or, said another way, how does someone transition from the hearing of faith to that hearing’s perfection in the work of faith? As you might have guessed by now, we do so through a disciplined life. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hearing of Faith

In this, the seventh installment of our series, we offer four spiritual disciplines for the hearing of faith.

Let’s begin by acknowledging that God is working in us to will and do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). His work is that of a loving Father (Hebrews 12:5-11), bringing us up in His nurture and admonition (Ephesians 6:4). Incredibly, His good pleasure is to give us His kingdom (Luke 12:32).

Furthermore, it helps us to recognize that our Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit operate in process. They are process-oriented problem solvers. As we are discovering, the problem of overcoming our carnal mind is dependent on the process God has created for the maturing of our faith. The process of faith consists of at least seven discrete steps beginning with the word of God and being perfected in His good work (James 2:22) – the good work we are created to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).

For the purposes of our study, the disciplines are presented in four categories: Foundations, the hearing of faith, obedience to the faith, and the work of faith. The four foundational disciplines are covered in Part 1. Before we move on to the disciplines God has provided for the hearing of faith, let’s take a quick look at the definition and use of “discipline” in the New Testament. It should be enlightening. Read the rest of this entry »

This is the sixth article in our series on overcoming the carnal mind. I appreciate and applaud those of you that have come this far. I pray that you have been encouraged, edified and equipped – not only for yourself, but for those in your spheres of influence.

If these articles are blessing you, then they will be a blessing to others. Please pass them along – with encouragement – to the leaders you know. The church is in dire need of leaders that will search out deeper kingdom matters (Proverbs 25:2).

For those that are just joining us, we have, in previous articles:

  1. Made the case for attaching enemy status to our carnal minds;
  2. Provided five ways for exposing the carnal mind’s deceptive practices;
  3. Recognized our responsibility in taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ;
  4. Introduced the process of faith as God’s design for overcoming our carnal mind’s influence; and,
  5. Provided a layman’s explanation of the codependent relationship between faith and the mind.

While each of these stands alone fairly well, there is much to be gained by reading through them in order AND taking the time necessary for God to bless you along the way.

You will likely find that the second article is particularly challenging. Let me suggest that, rather than identify every deception before proceeding, you focus on one of two through an initial pass of the series – applying a few of the disciplines in overcoming those deceptions. You will then be better equipped for another iteration.

Speaking of disciplines, I appreciate your patience. If you are like me, nothing is more frustrating than to discover a gap and not know how to fill it. I have been looking forward to this myself, wondering how God would lay this out for us. Here we go. Read the rest of this entry »

In previous articles, we have:

  1. Made the case for attaching enemy status to our carnal minds;
  2. Provided five ways for exposing the carnal mind’s deceptive practices;
  3. Recognized our responsibility in taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ;
  4. Introduced the process of faith as God’s design for overcoming our carnal mind’s influence; and,
  5. Promised to introduce the disciplines God has provided to initiate and maximize His grace in the process of faith.

Begging your forgiveness, we have decided on a brief segue to share a relatively simple explanation of the relationship between our mind (or minds, should it come to that) and our faith. We will introduce the disciplines next time.

For those of you that require a summary statement:

Faith appropriates the grace of God that overcomes the influences of our carnal mind. This is accomplished throughout our lives as an iterative process – the process of faith – which is also an integral part of our ongoing salvation, transformation, sanctification, etc.

Now, for those interested in a layman’s humble explanation:

The Process of Faith and the Renewal of Our Minds

To begin, let me recognize that others may find exception to the following explanation. I think I would be surprised if someone did not. Much smarter theologians have explained it differently – and they don’t agree with each other. We are, it would seem, one of God’s most mysterious creations.

If you find yourself disagreeing, by all means, let me know what you think. In the meantime, don’t let disagreement get in the way of whatever blessing God may have for you here.

Before we are born again (as Jesus explains to Nicodemus in John 3), the physical organ we call “the brain” functions on behalf of our carnal mind and, to the extent that they influence that mind, on behalf of Satan and the world.

The mind and brain are not the same. The brain is the most incredible physical organ designed and created by God. Much has been written about the brain’s capabilities; we will not discuss those here.

In the most basic case, the brain processes sensory input, interacts with the mind concerning a response, and then directs the body in that response. Additionally, the brain is being programmed – beginning before birth – to respond automatically to external stimuli (e.g., smiling at a mother’s voice, shutting eyelids when something gets too close). These auto-responses can be self-protective, destructive, or neutral.

The mind functions at a higher level, in response to input from the brain and information that it retrieves from its storage cells. The mind gives direction to the brain both – and this is important – consciously and subconsciously. Our mind is where we think and reason; where we imagine and create. This too occurs consciously and subconsciously. Read the rest of this entry »

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