And The Truth Shall Set You Free

L.D. Turner

Have you ever been to a modern zoo, the type where the animals are not caged? Instead, they usually are separated from zoo patrons by large ditches, small canals, or non-descript fencing. I lived in Miami for 15 years and often visited the zoo, at least in the winter when the weather was not too hot. Whenever I went to the zoo, I could easily spot the animals that had been kept in cages for most of their lives. Now, even with the freedom to roam over a much larger territory, most of them just walked back and forth in an area the size of their former prison. Nothing held them in that confined space except the force of habit.

As Christians, we, too, often behave in ways similar to these zoo animals. When we accepted the lordship of Christ in our lives, we were given a new, liberating freedom from the power of sin in general and our habituated negative patterns of thinking, feeling, behaving, and relating in particular. Like the zoo animals, we are now free to choose new ways of living – and a fresh approach to life. Tragically, many of us keep walking in our old familiar ways, even though a new, exciting world awaits us through our freedom in Christ. We know we are saved, but we don’t act like it. Instead of exploring fresh and free ways to be salt and light in this world, we just pace back and forth within the confines of the ruts our negative, sinful past has created for us.

And keep in mind, my friend, a rut is nothing but a grave with the ends kicked out.

We can read all the right books, listen to all the right tapes, hear all the right sermons, and go to all the right seminars – but the fact remains that we often feel completely overwhelmed when a big problem hits us. Life’s storms can be terrifying at times and it is at just these times we need to apply the principles we have learned through all of our diligent study to the process of riding out the storm. The problem is, it is at just these critical times that we find ourselves least able to apply the truths that we have learned. As a result, we often make little headway toward finding a positive solution to our dilemma.

I wish I could tell you that there was a magic answer to this problem, but I can’t. Fact is, we have to gird up our loins and get to work. We must begin with getting the focus off our problem and onto God. Until we do this, we can at best expect to tread water. Progress, however, will be minimal.

Getting our focus onto the God is critical for another reason: Satan.

Our modern culture tells us that the supernatural doesn’t exist. Even many modern biblical scholars attest that demons and Satan do not exist and are only symbolic in nature. I can admit to you that at one time, I felt the same way. By the grace of God I now see this much differently. I know for a fact that a spirit world exists right along side this one and that dark entities indeed reside there. These entities are under the control of their Commander in Chief, the Enemy, and will do anything in their power to keep you from realizing you potential and achieving your purpose.

As I mentioned, there was a time when, even though I was a Christian and very involved in the faith, I didn’t see Satan as a living entity. I saw him more as some sort of metaphor for our dark human nature and our tendency to be self-absorbed to the extreme. Like many of the contemporary biblical scholars of a liberal bent, I explained Satan away with a flurry of reasonable sounding explanations.

One day, however, a significant question came to my mind. Why I had never thought to ask this question of myself is beyond me, as it seems to be so obvious. I wondered: If Satan does not exist, why does Jesus talk about him so often? And why does he not refer to him as some sort of psychological projection, if in fact that is what he is? Although it seems so basic, these questions literally stopped me in my tracks. Several friends, like the well-meaning buddies that tried to explain it all to Job, offered answers to my questions. Most of these answers basically implied that the disciples were such simpletons and Jesus was so highly developed, he had to dial back his explanations and put them in terms his followers could understand. To some extent, this answer sounds plausible but if you really think about it, it just doesn’t wash. Jesus spoke so clearly and frequently about who and what Satan was and is that he leaves little room for doubt as to the existence of this dark force in the spiritual world.

Over the following two months, the Spirit gave me wisdom and insight regarding the ever so real existence of the Enemy and his minions. It is my prayer that, if you don’t think he is as real as you, you come to understand that you are indeed mistaken.

As you work toward appropriating your new identity in Christ, be advised that you will not only be confronting your own habitual patterns of negativity, you will also be confronting powers and principalities as well. This is why scripture encourages you to “guard the heart,” (Proverbs 4:23).

It is important as well to keep in mind that your thought life is taking place in the realm of non-physical reality – the spirit world. You can take comfort in the fact that, as a Christian, God is already at work in your behalf in the spirit realm and has already won the victory. So, when beset with a flurry of negative thoughts, immediately replace them with God-soaked biblical thoughts.

Satan is not satisfied with just initiating minor skirmishes with you. No, friend, he is much more ambitious than that. His goal is all out domination and his primary target is your mind. Satan knows that by controlling your thinking, he can be reasonably assured of success. Why is this? Why is our enemy so confident? The reason is simple. Most everything we do starts in the mind with our thoughts and attitudes. Satan knows that if he can control our thoughts and attitudes he can control us, and, if he can control us, the war is won.

At least, that is what Satan thinks.

For this reason and many others, it is obvious that guarding your mind is of utmost importance. This is what Paul meant when he talked about “taking every thought captive for Christ.” I can’t stress this point enough. The battle for the mind is critical.

In attempting to discern why we keep living in negative, unproductive, and yes, even sinful ways in spite of the fact that we are “new creations” in Christ, we can now see that we war on two battlefields: our habitual behaviors and the schemes of the enemy. In reality, these two fronts of engagement are not totally separate and distinct. Satan often attacks us right where we are most vulnerable – our habitually negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Certainly there is much we can do to deal with this issue. I have found that practicing the classical spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, sacred study, worship, and so on to be of great value. Further, Paul gives us a detailed delineation of what we need to do in the sixth chapter of the Book of Ephesians. I suggest that you go to this passage of scripture and spend several weeks prayerfully pondering Paul’s advice. As you do so, make every effort to put on the equipment he speaks of. In addition, there is one other thing you can do and it is most crucial:

Trust God!

One of the main reasons people keep living in the same old unproductive ruts is that they focus on the rut and not on the solution; they focus on the problem and not on God. The problem cannot and will not solve itself, but God can and will. Keep in mind also that if we trust God, turn our problem over to him, and let him control the outcome, we may not only find our problem solved – we may also be surprised. God’s ways are not our ways and he is not limited in what he can do. As a result, your problem may get resolved in a way that you never could have predicted. The key, of course, is to trust God and turn your problem over to him.

(c) 2016/L.D. Turner/All Rights Reserved

Encouraging and Prophecy: Divine Compatibility

English: Orthodox Church of Holy Spirit in Med...
English: Orthodox Church of Holy Spirit in Medzilaborce, Slovakia Polski: Cerkiew Świętego Ducha w Medzilaborce, Słowacja Slovenčina: Pravoslávny chrám Svätého Ducha v Medzilaborcach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

During a recent quiet time in which I was praying about and reflecting on the book of 1 Corinthians, the Holy Spirit brought the following verse to my attention, along with an insight that I believe was significant.

But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them and comforts them. (1 Corinthians 14:3)

Paul makes this statement in the context of a discussion about the spiritual gifts in general and about the problems associated with undue preference for the gift of tongues. What the Apostle is telling us here is that prophesy, as a spiritual gift, is intimately connected with the gift of encouragement and brings both encouragement and comfort to the individual and to the church. The Greek word Paul uses here for encouragement is paraklesis, of the same root as Paraclete, the word most often used for the Holy Spirit. So in this one short verse, we see a divine triad consisting of the Holy Spirit, the gift of prophecy, and the gift of encouragement.

All of this may seem obvious to some of you and wonder what the big deal is and why I am writing about it. My reasons are also simple. When I read 1 Corinthians 14:3 that morning, it was the first time I had the insight of how the pairing of the gifts of prophecy and encouragement could work together. Perhaps due to the dullness of my mind I had not made this vital connection before and this fact may also explain why this new insight was such an epiphany moment for me.

The gift of encouragement seems to be one of my primary gifts. Both personal experiences over the years as well as multiple versions of spiritual gifts tests bear this out. The novelty of that morning’s insight was the pairing of this gift with prophecy. I had previously understood how the gift of encouragement connected will with my other primary areas of gifting from the Holy Spirit, principally teaching and wisdom. Armed with this new revelation, I was able to look at the issue of gifting by the Holy Spirit in a new perspective.

If you think about it, a person gifted with prophecy either needs to be additionally gifted with encouragement or, if that is not the case, have a partner who is a master of encouragement. Why? The answer is simple. If the prophet has a powerful word for the church or an individual, and especially if that word is either confrontational or requires much work from the recipient, without encouragement the church or individual is going to hear the word and feel overwhelmed and defeated. Unless there is a healthy dose of encouragement to go along with the word, the recipient may wind up in a worse situation than before receiving the word. Worse still, if the person receiving the word of prophecy is left without direction or an uplifting message that change is possible, said person may end up feeling quite hopeless.

When I think of these issues, I am reminded of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I worked for many years in the field of Alcoholism and Chemical Dependency, right in the middle of Dade County, Florida, an area noted for drug and alcohol abuse. The 12 Step Program was the most effective paradigm in dealing with problems of addiction and I believe there are three primary reasons for its success. First, the program has a spiritual heart. In fact, spirituality is the very cornerstone of recovery. Second, the 12 Step Program, like the Christian walk of faith, cannot be walked in isolation. Instead, it is group based and group facilitated. Finally, and this is most pertinent to the topic of discussion here, the program begins by defining the problem and then goes on to offer a solution. If the addicted person admits the problem but has no access to the solution, there is no hope.

The same is true with prophecy. Without encouragement the recipient of prophecy is in a dark place, indeed. So, where does all this lead us?

From a personal perspective, I have come to believe that if you have the give of prophecy you need to do one of two things. You can pray for the gift of encouragement and earnestly ask the Holy Spirit to gift you in this vital area. Having the gift of encouragement is a perfect counterbalance to your gift of prophecy. By having both gifts, you are in a position to offer a healthy word of prophecy to an individual, a group, a church or whatever and, at the same time, offer encouragement that a solution is also possible.

Secondly, if you resist this gifting of encouragement or if you find that God does not want to gift you in this area, then I believe it is vital to partner with someone who operates primarily out of the gift of encouragement. I think you can see why this is important based on what has been said in the preceding paragraphs.

I have additionally looked at the other Gifts of the Spirit and have discovered that most spiritual gifts exist in a harmonic partnership with at least one gift. If you have an interest in studying the topic of spiritual gifting, I encourage you to read the relevant portions of scripture and pray for insight into how these symbiotic relationships of spiritual gifting might operate. I trust you will find such an endeavor quite enlightening and well worth the time spent.

© L.D. Turner 2008/2013 All Rights Reserved

Seeing Scripture with Fresh Eyes

A bible from 1859.
A bible from 1859. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

I have mentioned before that there are times when I experience the Bible as a living organism, a being in and of itself that seems to come alive and teach me exactly what I need at that moment. It may be a scripture that I have read hundreds of times, but never really understood or thought relevant to my life. All of a sudden, that very scripture would leap off the page and hit me right between the eyes. Animated and brought to life by the Holy Spirit, that particular scripture suddenly held deep meaning and relevance to my current situation.

I think this happens because we are constantly changing and growing and as a result, a passage of scripture that held little significance at one stage of our life might suddenly be filled with pertinence. Tyler Edwards, in his book Zombie Chruch, makes the following observation regarding the fluid nature of scripture and its impact on our lives:

In reading the Bible, something that has helped me is to approach the Bible every time as if it were the first time. Although you may have read the words before, you have never read those words at this precise point in your life before. Daily your life changes: your circumstances change, your needs change, your knowledge, understanding, and emotions change. Perhaps a passage of scripture that was nothing more than words on a page for twenty years did not connect to you because you were not ready, but at this moment in time, as you are reading this passage you have read countless times in the past, all of a sudden God will speak to you through it. If you come to the text with a humble heart, you might be amazed at how it speaks to you.

As mentioned earlier, my personal experience has verified what Tyler Edwards is saying many times over. And I suspect that if you are a regular student of Holy Scripture, then you most likely have had similar experiences.

My grandfather used to encourage me to approach the familiar things in life, the things we encounter on a repeated, routine basis, with what he called “fresh eyes.” By that, he meant that we should make every effort to see these things with the eyes of a child, as if we were seeing them for the first time. Tyler Edwards recommends that we approach our time with scripture with this little prayer:

God, I am opening Your Word. You said this Word is living and active. You wrote it for our benefit. You said, ask for wisdom and You’ll give it. I’m asking: help me to be aligned with You. Show me what You want me to get from this. I don’t trust my reason, opinions, feelings. I am submitting to Your superior mind. God, I want to know You. Please show Yourself to me as I read, so that I may continue to find favor in Your sight.

I will be the first to admit that my experience with the Bible has been less than what it should be. For many years I viewed scripture with a marked ambivalence. Although I saw much wisdom in its pages, at the same time, I encountered much material that I felt was outdated, irrelevant, and especially erroneous. Further, I held great resentment toward those believers who tried to prove their particular slant on things by quoting scripture incessantly, more often than not out of context. I also had little patience with Bible thumpers who beat people over the head with the “Good Book,” while applying few of its teachings to their own lives.

I still struggle with these sorts of issues, but by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I have been able to separate the Bible itself from those who misuse and abuse it.  As a result there are more than a few occasions where, as mentioned above, the Holy Spirit animates the words of scripture, bringing them alive with meaning and practical application for my life. It is at such times that scripture becomes what I think it was intended to be, an agent of spiritual transformation and a portal through which the Creator and I might encounter one another.

When I began to see the Bible in this light, scripture became something very sacred in my eyes. In the pages of the Bible I was able to experientially encounter the unfolding of God’s great story of redemption and restoration, as well as my own journey of exile and return. I also gained a greater appreciation and sense of gratitude for all those who came before, serving future generations by preserving the Bible and its life-changing message of a Creator that loves us in a manner beyond human comprehension. I will close with one more quotation from Tyler Edwards, who expresses far better than I can what the Bible can come to mean for those with “eyes to see”:

When you start looking at the Bible as a message that was preserved so you could read it – that God saved every verse that He did because He wants to tell you something – then it changes the way you view the Word. Each word is a gift bought with the blood of those who came before us. In each word we can find the life that God designed for us to have. As you seek God, He will open your eyes to what He is saying to you, and He can begin to mold and shape you. When you start to let the Word come to life, then you will not feel guilty when you don’t read it, you will feel an overwhelming passion to make sure you do.

When this transformation from reading as obligation to reading as positive desire occurs, you have received a great blessing from the Holy Spirit. A great blessing, indeed.

Think about it.

© L.D. Turner 2012/All Rights Reserved

Making Straight the Way: The Bittersweet Mission of John the Baptist

English: Bruneck - Spital church of the Holy S...
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Mick Turner

John the Baptist is one of those biblical figures that is easy to pass over in our rush to get to Jesus and the inauguration of his mission. This is unfortunate because John was a central figure in so many ways. We are all quite familiar with John’s role as the one who was to come before, making straight the way for the appearance of the Messiah. He was the trail blazer, setting the stage for the arrival of the Deliverer – the one whose sandals he said he was unworthy to unlatch. He baptized the Master and introduced him and his mission to the world.

Yet John fulfilled another role, a truly prophetic one, which many times gets little notice, even from astute theologians and Bible teachers. John was the last in the line of pre-New Testament prophets. He, in fact, was the voice that broke a long period of prophetic silence in Jewish history. After Malachi, the last prophet in the Old Testament, there was a period of 400 years when no prophetic voice was heard in Israel. Many scholars and Bible teachers overlook the fact that John the Baptist was a prophet of Israel – the one who broke the 400 year silence and the final prophet before the arrival of the Messiah. Dr. Myles Munroe explains this succinctly when he says:

 This prophetic silence came to an end when John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a message of repentance and proclaiming that the Messiah was coming soon. Although John appears in the four Gospels of the New Testament, he was in fact the last of the Old Testament prophets. His death at the command of Herod Antipas and the initiation of Jesus’ public ministry marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. More specifically, the baptism of Jesus by John was the point of transference. From this point forward, a new order, the Kingdom of God, would be established.

Like many Christians, I spent more than a few years of my faith walk failing to understand the true significance of what transpired that day when Christ met up with John on the banks of the Jordan. I think the church as a whole has been negligent in teaching the import and the impact of the baptism of the Master.

In short, with that event we see the seal of the Old Testament age and the old covenant and the beginning of the New Testament age, the age of Christ and the Holy Spirit. It was in essence the inauguration not only of Jesus’ ministry, but also of the Kingdom of God arriving on earth. Now please, don’t miss the significance of this: with Christ we move into the age where God is with us – the age of Immanuel. And with the descent of the dove, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in Christ. Later on, as the Master breathes on the assembled disciples, he imparts this same Spirit to them. And then, in the drama of the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit descends in full manifestation on the disciples and we move from the age where God is with us to the age where God is in us.

I believe that many sincere followers of Christ rarely pause and reflect upon what a monumental event the baptism of Jesus was and the pivotal role played by John in the unfolding of God’s plan of restoration on earth. I think it is vital that we deepen our comprehension of these themes because it is only when we understand who and what John the Baptist was can we truly grasp who and what we are. Jesus’ words, recorded in Matthew 11:11 tells us exactly what we need to know:

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he (New American Standard).

Before the arrival of Jesus, humankind had hints and intimations of what the kingdom was all about, but their insight was very limited. Although scholars and prophets talked about it and even prophesied about it, but at best they were looking through a glass darkly. Even John did not fully grasp what he was preaching as Dr. Munroe explains:

John the Baptist preached about the Kingdom, but even John never accurately perceived the full implications of his own message. He witnessed its coming in Jesus, but never fully entered into it himself. . . . . . . . . .John was an Old Testament prophet with a New Testament revelation. He introduced the King who was to reintroduce the Kingdom, but he never experienced it for himself. The Kingdom was of a new era, and John was passing away with the old. John never received the Holy Spirit. He witnessed the Spirit coming down on Jesus at His baptism, but the indwelling Spirit was also a part of the new era that John would not experience to its fullest capacity. This is why Jesus said that, as great as John was, even those who were the least in the Kingdom of heaven were greater than he was. . . . . . . . . .John was a man who stood in the middle, suspended between two dimensions of time. His voice was a voice of preparation, preparing people to enter into this new order. Once Jesus’ public work began, John’s ministry came to an end.

It should be clear by now th John the Baptist played a unique and indispensable role in the great plan of redemption and restoration that was unfolding on earth. When I first encountered these words of Dr. Myles Munroe I became critically aware that I had given very little time to reflecting on the significance of John the Baptist. For the most part, I saw him as the forerunner of the Master, a wild-eyed, bug-eating, finger-waving blowhard that managed to get on the bad side of Herod Antipas and his dark-hearted wife. This indiscretion ended up costing him his head.

 John the Baptist, in addition to preparing the way for the appearance of the Messiah, was also preparing humankind for the advent of a whole new way of being. It is important to understand that with the arrival of Jesus there was an entirely different set of divine laws and principles set in motion. I doubt our limited human understanding can ever fully grasp the intricate, intangible aspects of these divine changes, but we can at least get a faint  understanding by studying scripture in general and the life of Jesus and his disciples in particular.

In doing so, however, it is imperative that we not forget the sacrificial contributions of the John the Baptist. As he cleared the way for the arriving Messiah and the ushering in of the kingdom and this new way of being in the world, there is a bittersweet element in the life, mission, and death of John the Baptist. Even though he played such a major role in the progression of God’s divine plan on earth, John never had the opportunity to partake of this new way of being. He never had the experience of the full indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

As I reflect on this tragic aspect of the mission of the Baptist, I am reminded of Moses, who was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. As I recall, however, this was the result of some transgression of Moses. As far as we know, John never had such an issue. Instead, his life was cut short by the resentment of Herod’s wife.

One can take heart and have hope for John the Baptist, however. You see, Moses eventually did visit the Promised Land. Along with a pair of divine cohorts, he showed up on the Mount of Transfiguration to work some wonder of light and cosmic physics on Jesus in preparation for what was to come. We can only hope, and perhaps even assume, that based on God’s infinite mercy, the Baptist tasted the indwelling Holy Spirit in the afterlife. For all we know, in fact, he may have experienced something far greater. The Father has a way of turning tragedy into victory on a regular basis.

© L.D. Turner 2012/All Rights Reserved

 

Living as a New Creation (Part One)

Holy Spirit Stained Glass

Mick Turner

Over the past few weeks I have experienced several new revelations that, although they might seem minor, are far more profound in a somewhat subtle way.

Put simply, it deals with our continued sinning, even though we have become “new creations in Christ.” Scripture tells us that the old has gone and the new has come. Further, scripture confirms that our old self died with Christ. The problem then becomes:

“Why do we continue to struggle with sin? Does this mean that our old self is still alive? What’s going on here?”

During my prayer walk today, as well as during a time of reflection, the Spirit gradually revealed to me the following truths:

    I am, indeed, a new creation in Christ. My old self did die with Christ and I have been reborn, resurrected with him in newness of life.

    My continued struggle with sin is not a struggle with myself. It is not a struggle between my new being and my old being. Nor is it a struggle between my new being and my negative habits, thoughts, and strongholds, although these can be used against me. Christ tells us that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” It stands to reason that he would not give us newness of life and, at the same time, leave us saddled with our “old self” as a part of ourselves that we will have to war with from now on. No, there must be something else at play here, and there is.

    My ongoing struggle with sin has nothing to do with my person, my old self, or my identity. My ongoing struggle is with “a principle of sin” or more accurately, a “sin force” that exists within the world and thus within me. The enemy uses this force as his primary weapon and, in turn, this force uses our habits, strongholds, etc. That is why it seems we are at war with ourselves when in truth we are not. It is as scripture tells us: we struggle against powers and principalities – spiritual forces and this sin force is one of the primary powers.

    One might say, more accurately, that the battle is actually between the Holy Spirit and the sin force. I am just the battle ground.

    Some will claim this is “just semantics,” but that isn’t the case at all. This is a real and subtle spiritual principle that, once understood, helps us to better understand exactly what we are fighting with when we do battle with our continued sin.

What we have to do in order to make this understanding a practical reality in our lives is, first of all, to take this revelation in context of the fact that we have been liberated from the power of sin. We are at war with the sin force, yes, be we are no longer yoked to it, as we were before our spiritual regeneration “in Christ.” If you doubt you were freed from the power of sin, consider the following scripture from the pen of Paul:

We know that our old self was crucified with him [ Christ] so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:6-7 NRSV)

 As stated before, what we are dealing with here is far more than semantic subtleties. Instead, we are dealing with an existential transformation that frees us from bondage and removes the yoke of sin from around our necks. We are, indeed, new beings in Christ, no longer carrying around what some call our “sin nature.” This is a misunderstanding. Our sin nature died with our old self. We are truly freed from our former status as automatons and slaves to sin. We are now free agents from a spiritual standpoint.

Paul describes this transformational process as continues his letter to the Roman Christians:

But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:7-11 NRSV).

  Although this particular insight is still fresh with me, at the same time, my previous understanding of related themes at least provides some degree of “seasoning.” What I find most significant here is the fact that I am not dealing with some flawed, inadequate, and unrepentant part of myself when, like Paul, I continue to behave in ways contrary to my sincere will. Also, I am aware now that my ongoing tendencies to fall far short of the mark Christ has set for me has little to do with my “weak character”

The reality that I am dealing with a “sin force” is no great comfort by any means. Still, by now being able to accurately identify the nature of what causes me to behave in ways contrary to my conscious wishes helps in ways both subtle and obvious.

To be continued…

(c) L.D. Turner 2011/All Rights Reserved

Wise Words for Today

Cover of "Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the ...
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We wish every preacher, teacher, and leader would come to the realization that God’s people – not to mention the world – need above all else a glorious unveiling of Jesus. . . . . . . . . . . .There is much more in Christ than we have ever imagined. And there is infinitely more to Him than we have yet to know or touch. We can never exhaust Him. Christ is so large that no search party in the universe can explore an iota of His infinite depths. What is more, He will never grow old or stale. Jesus Christ is the only thing in God’s universe that doesn’t wear thin.

Yet so many Christians are blissfully unaware of His vastness. They have settled for so much less and have known Him so little.

But mark this down: When the people of God get a sighting of their incomparable Lord – and when the world encounters His unfathomable love, His irresistible beauty, and overwhelming glory – every idol will be forced to the ground. The clouds of doubt will part from our eyes, and Jesus Christ will displace everything. But first, the church and the world must see Christ.

Therein lies the task of every disciple – to proclaim this amazing Christ to both lost and found. The greatest work of Jesus’ friends (remember His words in John 15, “I no longer call you servants; I call you friends”?) is to cultivate an appetite, a hunger, in God’s people for the Lord Jesus. The world awaits those who can present such a rich gospel that it leaves people spellbound, filled with awe, and desperate to know their inimitable Lord.

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

(from Jesus Manifesto)

Seven Indispensable Principles for Spiritual Success

The Sermon of the Beatitudes (1886-96) by Jame...
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Mick Turner

I vividly remember the confusion I sometimes felt during my first few months living in China. Talk about stepping out of my comfort zone. I was halfway around the world and suddenly thrust into a culture that was totally alien to me. I quickly realized that if I wanted to have a peaceful, orderly, and successful life, I needed to understand how the various rules and laws of behavior worked in that fascinating culture.

The same principle holds true when it comes to walking out our Christian faith on a daily basis. If we want to be successful, if we want to be all that God intends for us to be, we need to come to a deep understanding of certain spiritual laws and more importantly, how to implement those laws for their maximum benefit.

Dr. I.V. Hilliard, in his landmark book Living the Maximized Life, describes a series of seven spiritual laws that are indispensable in the life of a Christ-follower. According to Dr. Hilliard, if we apply ourselves to the implementation of these laws our efforts will not be in vain. These laws are as follows:

 

The Law of Perspective

The Law of Passion

The Law of Priority

The Law of Petition

The Law of Pattern

The Law of Profession

The Law of Progression

 

Dr. Hilliard asserts that implementation of these laws will enable us to “maximize life situations,” both positive and troublesome. Here at LifeBrook we frequently verbalize our mission statement, which is to:

Provide encouragement that will assist people to become the optimal version of themselves for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

Speaking from personal experience, I can say without reservation that these laws, when diligently applied, will greatly assist any Christian desirous of a rewarding, fulfilling spiritual life. Let us now turn to a brief discussion of each of these principles.

The Law of Perspective

The Law of Perspective is primarily concerned with vision and focus. God has implanted a personal calling, a mission, in the heart of each and every child of the Light. A personal “vision” involves the specific ways in which the Christ-follower will realize that calling. The vision provides perspective, a blueprint, and a matrix which helps the person make effective plans and precise decisions. In the words of Dr. Hilliard:

The Bible has multitudes of scriptures admonishing believers to control their visual focus. Seeing your future from God’s perspective is critical to accurate management of your mind. The term “vision” has the most dynamic and multi-faceted meaning. It means both natural visual perception and spiritual internal vision (or imagination).

God instructed Abram (later called Abraham) in how to look at things from a divine perspective – to get the God-sized big picture. In doing so, this enabled Abram to see more clearly and, at the same time, exercise his faith in God. Dr. Hilliard explains:

Abram is instructed to look from where he is to where he wants to go. This simple principle of focus will transform your life as you immerse yourself in images of the new you in possession of your faith’s desires.

The Law of Passion

 Passion is a sacred fuel that gives us the necessary drive to keep pursuing our desired outcome, even when the going gets rough. When we have passion about something, we give 110 percent, even when we don’t feel like giving 25 percent; passion is that which transforms average into good and good into great.

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Dr. Hilliard comments:

You and I will be filled, satisfied at the level of our hunger and thirst for the things of God. Hunger and thirst are synonymous terms for passion. I really like this passage because of the guarantee that is incorporated in the text. If you and I hunger and thirst for righteousness, then we can rest assured that God will empower us to obtain the righteous objectives we are passionate about. Learning how to stir up a hunger and a thirst for something is the key.

When we hunger and thirst we are passionate and when we are passionate and proactive, our chances of spiritual success are multiplied many times over.

The Law of Priority

Let’s face it, life in contemporary America is both fast-paced and complicated. Multi-tasking has become a seeming necessity, just to get by and for most of us, life can easily devolve into a juggling act at a moment’s notice. The fact is, unless we learn to set priorities we can easily find our self in a situation where trivial matters take precedent over critical issues – in essence – we end up majoring in the minors.

Dr. Hilliard stresses the importance of prioritizing, which he defines as making a focused effort on something, by stating:

The law of priority reveals the power of focused effort and discipline, which lead to skill and mastery. Understanding how to see priorities in life is critical if one wants to develop and implement a strategy to maximize life’s opportunities. Things that are highly valued and yield the most desirable results must be given priority.

The Law of Petition

The Law of Petition is intimately connected with the discipline of prayer and its dynamics are straightforward and simple. Dr. Hilliard reminds us that:

The law of petition is founded on the power of prayer and the Godly promises made to believers who will pray. Understanding these simple rules for prayer will equip and empower believers for maximized living. There is no substitute for a commitment to a time of daily prayer and spiritual devotion.

Put simply, if we expect to have success in God’s plan for our lives we have to establish and maintain consistent lines of communication with him.

The Law of Pattern

Although individual creativity, thinking out of the box, and trying out new things are all vitally important in navigating life, there are also times when following an established methodology for achieving success is the best strategy. We don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Dr. Hilliard discusses the wisdom of following proven pathways when he says:

The law of pattern mandates that when we follow a proven plan of action or model the traits of other successful people out of a pure heart, we will eventually get similar results. “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). If you work according to a proven pattern, you will achieve the same results others have attained.

The Law of Profession

The Law of Profession has to do with the words we speak and, in secular circles, is often referred to as “affirmation.” The primary difference here is that in “profession” the words we declare in positive prayer are in agreement with the Bible and its promises. There are many scriptural passages that affirm this principle but perhaps the most well-known is Mark 11:23-24:

I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, “May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,” and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you the truth, you can pray for anything, and if you believe you have received it, it will be yours.

The Law of Progression

The Law of Progression can be summed up this way: Spiritual success is a process, not an event. Dr. Hilliard describes it this way:

The law of progression says the consistent effort of a proven plan of action will eventually produce the desired results on a gradual basis! The law of progression says things change little by little…………Our journey of success was not one giant leap, but a step-by-step process.

Jesus, as was often the case, turned to the natural world for examples that clearly describe the principle he is teaching. In Mark 4:26-28 the Master states:

So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast a seed into the ground, and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

An ear of corn is a process, not an event. The miracle of growth unfolds over a period of time and the same principle applies to matters of the spirit. We grow into Christ-character one small step at a time.

Taken as a whole, these seven principles operate together to help us achieve success in whatever our area of endeavor. The primary arena, however, where these principles may prove their effectiveness is in matters of spiritual formation. These spiritual laws have proven their beneficial nature time and time again and they will do so in our lives if we diligently apply them. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can honor God and glorify the Master by becoming the very best that we can be – the optimal version of who and what we are.

© L.D. Turner 2011/All Rights Reserved