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If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

How much attention do we give – and should we give – to this instruction? Is this optional, prescriptive, or a command? How prevalent is this theme in the Scriptures? Two things come to mind:

  1. Under the Old Covenant, the nation of Israel was commanded to remain separate from the surrounding nations, lest their worship and obedience to God be compromised.
  2. Under the New, Jesus’ prayed for His Father to sanctify (i.e., set apart) those that He had been given – a continuation of the Old Covenant theme. We are to be “in the world”, but not “of the world”. There seems to be a fine but hard line between these two conditions.

What are the “things on the earth” Paul refers to in his letter to the Colossian church? Are they limited to the previously mentioned world philosophies and religious legalism? What about the list of personal sins that follow?

Bringing this matter forward, what would the Holy Spirit lead Paul to say about our world? What new “things on the earth” has mankind created? Should we be concerned about the set of our minds in regard to sports, news, social media, online gaming, DIY YouTube videos, etc.?

Beware of the first answer that comes to you. It is likely your carnal mind trying to distract or otherwise deter you from considering the matter. It does that… regularly. Just tell it to shut up. 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 »

I fear that we have engineered our Christian lives to the point that we are impervious to God’s discipline. We have come to understand that chastening, rebuke and scourging are negative aspects of our relationship with God. Some (or, is it many?) are suggesting that our loving Father would never do such a thing.

Scripture has much the opposite to say.

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”

If  you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Hebrews 12:5-8

Most of us need a renewing of our minds in this matter; a repentance. The truth will make us free – to receive God’s discipline, knowing His love is behind it. Otherwise, we risk missing the lesson and wasting the pain. Some have even become bitter with God, simply because no one taught them about the discipline of His love.

It is important to recognize that, unlike our natural children, we do not grow out from under the heavenly Father’s discipline. As the children of God, we must expect – and even desire – His chastening and rebuke. Would not His scourging be, therefore, avoided?

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

Bible with Cross ShadowIf you have been following along with this series, you have by now realized that the Sermon on the Mount is about more than following a list of do’s and don’ts. Oh, it could be understood and taught that way, but Jesus is after more than checklist obedience. He came to save that which was lost, to build His church, and to commission disciples. He intends to lead us, make us and use us to make others.

Such a life requires more than passive or casual compliance. Disciples are disciplined; focused on the mission; and focused on one Master.

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:22-24

Every once in a while the translators get it wrong. Here in the NKJV, they have translated the Greek word haplous as “good”. Haplous is not translated as “good” anywhere else in the New Testament. It seems they chose “good” as the opposite of “bad”. This is understandable, but it does not do justice to the meaning of this saying.

The primary meaning of haplous is “simple, single”. The KJV uses “single”. On the surface, it does not make sense that the opposite of bad is single. However, in the context of the following verses it makes very good (no pun intended) sense.

Jesus chose His words carefully. An eye that is not singularly focused is bad. Therefore, we can understand this passage to be saying, “If your eye is not singularly focused, your whole body will be full of darkness.”

The Eye of Our Heart

It is important to recognize that this passage is not another disconnected thought. This eye that we must keep focused is the eye of our heart (see verse 21). Jesus is continuing to press the point about our treasures. Lay them up in heaven, and the eye of your heart be focused there. Makes sense, right?

Furthermore, if you lay up on earth, your focus will be bad… and “your whole body will be full of darkness”. This is a serious and sobering warning; particularly for those that are attempting to hedge their bets by storing up in heaven and on earth. The metaphor is perfect: You simply cannot focus your eye, at the same time, on objects ten and one hundred feet away. Your bad eye will eventually give you a headache. Read the rest of this entry »

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