Saturday, October 15, 2016

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In this blog, I provide encouragement and biblical teaching on seeking the Lord with all your heart, loving Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and living a life of holiness, righteousness, and truth.

As the Scripture says:

'You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jer 29:13)

And "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Mat 7:13-14)

Some of the topics covered include seeking the Lord, prayer, worship, tithing, inquiring of the Lord, hearing His voice, obedience, grace, godly attire and adornment, sanctification, consecration, backsliding, repentance, brokenness, suffering, humility, the fear of the Lord, the role of the commandments for the disciple of Christ, and the conditions of the New Covenant.  I hope this will be an edifying and encouraging experience for you that will help you to grow in your walk with the Lord.

Seeking the Lord Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God Holy Fire Baptism
Lifting Your Face in Prayer Lifting Hands in Prayer Crying Out to God Loudly
Pressing on Toward the Goal Taking Heaven by Force God Exalts the Humble and Brings Down the Proud
Whom Are You Seeking? Should you fear the Lord? Is a Woman's Hair Her Head Covering?
Aim for Perfection Obedience by the Spirit Is Obedience Optional?
Salvation with Fear and Trembling Holy Living in a Perverted World Drifting Away
The Cost of Discipleship Deleted Scriptures in the Bible? Is Tithing Required?
Where Should You Give Your Tithe? Walking in the Perfect Will of God Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian
The Obedience of Faith Did Jesus Nail the Law to the Cross? Law of Love in the New Testament
The New Covenant Law of Love in the New Testament The Law Fulfilled in Us
The Law Established Through Faith Costly Grace The Law of Christ
The Eyes of the Lord Garments of Godliness The Three Elijahs
The Burning Ones The End Has Come Now, But Not Yet
The Happy Hunters on Fire You're Better Off Following Jesus God Chooses the Weak Things 
The Beauty of Brokenness Seeing Jesus, Loving Him, Character and Glory Hearing the Lord's Voice
Hearing the Lord's Voice Inquiring of the Lord Praise the Lord!
The Loving God Who Bids Us to Come One thing Righteousness, Peace, and Joy
Is the the Self-Help and Actualization Movement a Sham? From Self-confidence to Confidence in the Lord The Self-Help Gospel
Checklist for Revival God Has Not Rejected His Jewish People, Has He? The Fiery Sufferings of the Believer
The Flaming Sword Clean Hands and a Pure Heart The Spirit of the Law
Keeping Your Body Pure and Holy An Open Mind that Loves the Truth Carrying Your Cross or Cross Dressing?
Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth? The Apostasy Parables

The Top Ten Things Jesus Taught
The Disciples’ Prayer Is Tolerance a Virtue? Righteousness by Faith not Law
Life is Short. Eternity is Not. Noah's Ark a Type of Christ Grace, Mercy, and Peace
Ultimate Accountability Separation from the World The Knowledge of the Holy
The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness Ask for the Ancient Paths Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven
The Straight and Narrow Path Unhealthy Competition A Peculiar People
Listen to Jesus, Who Upholds Moses and the Prophets Hope for You

Beware of Philosophy and Empty Deception
The Love of Jesus The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer Having a Servant's Heart
Avoiding Worldly Worship Purge the Evil from Among You Who is God?
Living a Life Worthy of the Lord Praying for the Lord Jesus Who is God? - Part II
The Way, Will, and Word of God Overcomers in This Life The Afflictions of the Righteous
Saints Alive in Jesus Bowing Low in Worship Repentance That Leads to Life
Keeping a Good Conscience Remember Lot’s Wife Called to be Blameless
If -- A Picture Paints a Thousand Words The Lord Will Rejoice Over You The Nature of Persecution
The Wardrobe of the Saints Filled Up to All the Fullness of God Loving Deeply
Seeking Glory from God


Our gift of these articles by Len Lacroix is made possible in part by your gracious support of the ministry. Partner with us online.  You may also access my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. "Seek My Face" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist. 

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

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___________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org. Partner with us online by giving to DMI.

Seeking Glory from God

Thou Art Worthy by Charity Lacroix
Dear God-seekers,

From whom are you seeking praise and honor? Is it from men or from God? The Lord taught about this in a discourse with the Jews recorded in the fifth chapter of John's gospel. He said:

"I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?" (Joh 5:41-44)

To begin with, let's focus on two phrases. He said, "I do not receive glory from men," and "you receive glory from one another."  In order to correctly understand these statements, we need to define a coupe of key words first. In this passage, the Greek word for "glory" is "doxa" meaning "glory, honor, praise, or worship." So some translations use the word "praise". Moreover, the word "receive" is a bad translation on the part of most English translations, and the use of the word "accept" in the NASB is just as inadequate. The Greek word is "lambano" meaning "strive to obtain, reach after, take, lay hold of, get, get back." It is not a passive word.

Therefore, when Jesus said, "I do not receive glory from men" (Joh 5:41), He meant did not strive to obtain or reach after honor from men. He also said, "But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges." (Joh 8:50). Even though He is worthy of glory, He still did not seek it for Himself, but the Father sought it. And Jesus sought to bring glory to the Father. He explained, "If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, 'He is our God'." (Joh 8:54)

One example of Jesus not seeking the honor of men was when they decided to make Him their king. "Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, 'This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.' So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone." (Joh 6:14-15). He withdrew to a solitary place, so that they could not accomplish what they wanted to do. He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28), not to be made king on earth by men and die a natural death. He was already a King, but His kingdom was and still is from another world (Joh 18:36-37). His Kingdom is a secret kingdom. He first had to suffer and be rejected by men before He was glorified (Lk 9:22; 17:25; Mk 8:31).

However, He did accept it when it was appropriate, such as the time when the little children were praising Him. "As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: 'Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!' Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, 'Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.' But Jesus answered, 'I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!'" (Luk 19:37-40). He also accepted honor from His disciples. For He said, "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am." (Joh 13:13, NIV). For example, there was the occasion when Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven." (Mat 16:16-17). So we see that Jesus did accept glory, honor, and praise from men, however, He did not strive to obtain it.

On the contrary, the Jews, especially the Pharisees, sought after and strove to obtain praise from one another. They enjoyed the praises of men. They loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God (Joh 12:43). He said, "They love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called 'Rabbi' by others." (Mt 23:7, NIV). They did not seek the glory that is from the only God (Joh 5:44). The word "seek" is "zeteo" meaning "seek, seek for, seek after, aim at, strive, after, desire, crave, demand something."

We must not seek to obtain, strive after, or try to get praise from men (1 Thes 2:6). "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full." (Mt 6:2, NIV). If you strive after honor from men, you have already received your reward in full, and there will be no reward in heaven for you. "We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts." (1 Thes 2:4b, NIV). "If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Gal 1:10b, NIV). Jesus told the Jews that did not receive Him (Joh 5:43) that their seeking of honor from men was a hindrance that was keeping them from believing in Him. He said, "How can you believe" when you do that? (Joh 5:44). You cannot be a servant of Christ and seek to gain honor from men or to be a man pleaser.

As with the Jewish religious leaders of Christ's day, titles are still one way that men today seek to obtain honor from men. In my article, Visitation of Jesus to Samuel Oghenetega, I reported that the Lord gave a warning to those answering to big titles. He said, "Preach the Truth or else you will be cast into the bottomless put. Tell those answering with big titles like Bishop, Archbishop, Most Reverend, Reverend, Right Reverend, I don’t know them by that. I know them by their name and their works." (see Matthew 23:8-10). Our "Senior Pastor" is the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pe 5:4), as I wrote in my article, Our Senior Pastor. Nobody else truly deserves to be called by that title.

When people seek honor from men, it keeps them from obeying God. That's why Peter and John did not pay attention to the Jewish Sanhedrin council, when they ordered the apostles to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men." (Ac 5:29).

On the other hand, King Herod is an example of a man pleaser. He "laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also." (Ac 12:1b-3a). Herod's desire for praise from men ultimately cost him his life. "On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, 'This is the voice of a god, not of a man.' Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died." (Ac 12:21-23, NIV). Governor Felix was another one like that. He left Paul imprisoned as a favor to the Jews (Ac 24:27). Governor Festus was the same way, wishing to do the Jews a favor (Ac 25:9). Governor Pilate was another example of a man pleaser, agreeing to have the Lord crucified to satisfy the crowd, even though he knew Jesus was innocent (Mk 15:15). There are plenty of examples of those who seek the praise of men, rather than the glory of God. But this must not be so in the Church.

We must make every effort to obtain glory from the only God. We must seek after and strive for honor from Him. "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." (Rom 2:7, NIV). We seek the glory not of ourselves, but of the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We seek to glorify God. We must do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). And in the end He will glorify us in His presence. We will share in the glory of Christ, if we share in His sufferings now (Rom 8:17).

If anyone honors us or praises us, we need to deflect it to God and not accept it for ourselves. What do we have that we did not receive? (1 Cor 4:7). We have no reason to be proud or take any credit, since all that we have comes from Him. Any gifts, talents, or abilities we have all come from His hand. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, flowing down from the Father of the heavenly lights (James 1:17). We can do nothing apart from Jesus (Joh 15:5). Anything good you see in me is Jesus, and all the mistakes are mine. We say, "Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness." (Ps 115:1). But, "Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord." (1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17). He alone deserves all the praise, all the glory, and all the honor. He alone is worthy. "Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (Php 4:20). "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." (Rom 11:36)

Attribution notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, except where otherwise noted. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted. The "Thou Art Worthy" illustration is by my daughter, Charity Lacroix. You may find more of her lovely artwork at A Brush with Life.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like For the Glory of God Alone, The Light and the Glory, Whatever You Do, Do All Like This, Pleasing the Lord, Success in God's Eyes, Having a Servant's Heart, Holy Living in a Perverted World, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, Seeing Jesus, Loving Him, Character and Glory, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, One Thing, Our Senior Pastor, Ask for the Ancient Paths, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, Living a Life Worthy of the Lord, Aim for Perfection, and The Wardrobe of the Saints. I highly recommend reading Visitation of Jesus to Samuel Oghenetega, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies and Holy Fire Baptism. You may find the Main Directory for this blog at Home, and also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Loving Deeply

Dear God-seekers,

There is a verse in Scripture that some may misunderstand to mean that we should pretend to love others. It says, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Col 3:14). When we think of putting something on, we might think of play acting, pretending, or faking it. But this is not what the Word teaches.

The apostle Peter wrote, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1Pe 4:8, NIV).  Another version says, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another...” (1Pe 4:8a, NASB). Notice the level of importance Peter gave to this. He said it was “above all” or top priority. And he called for us to love each other deeply. There is no way that such love can be faked.

When we love one another deeply, it comes from the heart, so it is not a shallow love that is only visible on the surface like a plastic mask we wear. The Lord can see all the way down to the heart and He knows if it is deep or not. If we love deeply, then it is coming from deep within us, and is not that which we only give the outward appearance of doing.

Paul said, “Love must be sincere.” (Rom 12:9a, NIV). Other versions say, “Let love be genuine” (Rom 12:9a, ESV), and “Let love be without hypocrisy” (Rom 12:9a, NASB). If we love deeply, it is sincere love, genuinely from the heart, unfeigned, and has no hypocrisy to it. It is not make-believe, made-up, simulated, artificial, or false. It is real, and people can tell the difference.

The Lord has not called us to only have this kind of love for those who love us. If we did that, we would be no different from the pagans, for even they love those who love them (Mt 5:46). The flesh can easily do that. He has called us to love our enemies and to bless those who curse us (Mt 5:44). The only way to love others like this is to die to self. When people love us, it is pleasant, and it is easy to love them in return. But when we love those who hate us and spitefully use us or mistreat us, then it is not something the flesh can do. It is only possible by the power of the Spirit, which is why it is a fruit of the Spirit.

Genuine love comes from God, not from the natural man. John said, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1Jn 4:7-8).

It is only possible to love others genuinely when you first know the love of God for you in Christ, which surpasses knowledge. "We love because He first loved us." (1 Joh 4:19).

When we find ourselves in a situation where it is very difficult to love someone, we must remember that it is not optional, it is a command. Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Joh 13:34)

John affirmed this in his epistles. He said, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” (1Jn 3:23). He also said, “And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (1Jn 4:21)

John taught that hatred is incompatible with the Light and has no place in the life of the disciple. “The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1Jn 2:9-11)

However, what we find so commonly in the church today is cold love. We may receive a smile and handshake and that is all. Or we may receive worse than that. Many are they who love with words but not with deeds. But the rare kind of love is the genuine kind.

Jesus always demonstrated genuine love for others. But the Pharisees, for example, did not. They simply flattered Jesus for their own advantage to deceive and trap Him.

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they *sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?’ But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, ‘Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?’” (Mat 22:15-18).

This kind of love is mere lip service that covers over what is truly in the heart. As the proverb says, "Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart." (Prov 26:23. NIV).

Judas also had this kind of love. “Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.’ Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, ‘Hail, Rabbi!’ and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you have come for.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.” (Mat 26:48-50). Luke’s gospel records Jesus asking him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" (Luk 22:48). Like the Pharisees, Judas could kiss Jesus with evil intent. It may have looked good on the outside, but Jesus could see right through it.

The church of Ephesus experienced a lapse of love. The Lord said to the angel of that church, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.” (Rev 2:4-5). They had left their first love and consequently no longer did the things they did when they first came to know Jesus. Therefore, the Lord rebuked them, told them to remember the great height or high-quality love they once had, which they had fallen from, and He called them to repent or else have their lampstand removed.

Jesus warned us that in the last days, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Mat 24:12, NIV). As wickedness increases around us, we must be careful not to let our love grow cold and dull. We must keep asking the Lord, “Don't let my love grow cold! Light the fire again.” We need the fire of God’s love, His holy fire, to burn inside our hearts, so that we would be real and not be ashamed.

As we go through life, our every thought, every motive, every word is being recorded, and we will one day have to give an account for it (2 Cor 5:10; Rom 14:10-12; Rev 2:23; 22:12). God is monitoring us to see if we do everything with love. After all, He is love and the meaning of life is love. That’s why the two greatest commandments are about love.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12:30-31, NIV).

Love is the mark of a true disciple. The Lord said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (Joh 13:35). That is the distinguishing characteristic by which we are supposed to be known worldwide. That's what I want, and I hope you do, too. Therefore, may the Lord help us to deny self, and live the crucified and Spirit-filled life of love.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted."His Love Endures Forever" calligraphy by my daughter, Charity Lacroix. You may find more of her artwork and calligraphy at A Brush with Life.

Author's note: You may also want to read my other posts called Filled Up to All the Fullness of God, Law of Love in the New Testament, The Wardrobe of the Saints, Is Obedience Optional?, Holy Fire Baptism, The Burning Ones, The Refiner's Fire, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, The Law of Christ, Fruit in Every Season, As the Still, Fair Court, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, and The Apostasy Parables. You may visit the Seeking the Lord Directory, and also find a collection of my most popular blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Filled Up to All the Fullness of God

Dear God-seekers,

Whenever we experience a lack of virtue in our lives, we can trace it back to it's root cause. Let's look at it together in the following prayer of the apostle Paul for the Ephesian church:

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." (Eph 3:14-19).

The desired goal that Paul was praying for the Ephesians was their fullness, which is the absence of any lack. Put simply, when you are filled up to all the fullness of God, you will not lack anything. So ultimately what we need is to be filled up to all the fullness of God. Then we will be complete in Christ and whole. Therefore, we must ask how it is that we can be filled up this way.

To find the answer to this, let's observe in Paul's prayer a cause-and-effect relationship, where he said, "That you may be filled up to all the fullness of God" (v. 19b). This is the effect for which he was praying for them, and the preceding clause contains the cause of this effect. That which causes this effect is knowing the love of Christ. As Paul said, "That you...may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" (v. 18-19a). This relationship may be expressed as follows:

CAUSE: Know the love of Christ --> EFFECT: Experience fullness

If our goal is to be whole, complete, and lacking nothing, then what we need is fullness. The way to attain and maintain fullness is by knowing the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. Since this kind of love surpasses knowledge, it is not something we can know from a merely intellectual standpoint. We can know all about this love from a factual perspective, but still not know it in our spirit. It is spiritual and must be grasped in our spirit. God is Spirit and He has given each of us a spirit with which to experience Him. You may know all the verses in Scripture about the love of Christ, and even have them memorized, but still not know the love of Christ. The reason is that it surpasses knowledge.

Jesus has revealed to us the love of God. "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." (1 Joh 3:16a). His act of love on the cross was the greatest act of love the world has ever known. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." (Joh 15:13). Love doesn't get any greater than that. God took upon Himself human form in the person of Jesus Christ. He continued to be love as He always had been since before time began. The Lord was the most loving person you could ever meet. He was sweet and full of goodness. He never thought a single wrong thought, not even once. Even when He suffered at the hands of sinful men. He had a good and loving attitude. He forgave them. He willingly suffered. The Scripture says of Christ, "I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting." (Isa 50:6). That's amazing love beyond anything we can comprehend!

He didn't wait until we were all cleaned up and acting right before He laid down His life either. He did it while we were still sinners. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8). His precious blood was sinless and perfect. Yet He freely poured it out for us on the cross. What a great sacrifice! We need God to give us a revelation of this love, because our minds are too weak to comprehend it.

The way to know it is to experience it. I have experienced the love of God in Christ at times in my life, and it was so wonderful. One time was in a worship meeting, where we were singing a song by Darlene Zschech, called "Power of Your Love" that says, "Hold me close, let your love surround me. Bring me near. Draw me to your side." As we sang that in church one Father's Day, I felt the Father's love surrounding me, and it was so wonderful that I wept in His presence. I am not given to weeping easily, so that was a memorable experience. Of course, I have also experienced the love of God at various other times, but it is usually during my private worship time with Him. I cherish those moments in His warm embrace, and when they happen I don't want them to end. I savor the moment.

Jasmine
There is no comparison between this love and any human love that man has ever known. And there is no comparison between experiencing His love first hand and simply knowing about it in your mind. You see, it's like if I were trying to explain to you something you have never experienced before. For example, if you had never smelled the fragrance of Jasmine, and I tried to tell you about it, then you would not know what I am talking about. For you the fragrance would be something you could only imagine. I could tell you that it is like this or like that, but until you smell it yourself, it is just intellectual knowledge. But once you smell it yourself, you will know how lovely it is. That is how the love of Christ is when you experience it firsthand. We need to have this experience more and more.

The song, "Power of Your Love" also says, "And Lord I have come to know the weaknesses I see in me will be stripped away by the power of Your love." You see, as I have said, when you come to really know the power of His love through firsthand experience, and not just at the intellectual level, then you will begin to experience the fullness of God. And once you are filled up to all the fullness of God, you will be lacking nothing.

When we see the shortcomings in ourselves, we need to understand they are symptoms. We often seek to address them in the wrong way. We deal with them as if they were the root cause, when in reality they are only symptoms. If we deal with these symptoms and not the root cause, we will never solve the problem.

If a person with chronic headaches sees a doctor, and he simply tells them to take two aspirin each day, he is treating symptoms and not the root cause. The cause of the headaches may be allergies, or excess caffeine, or eye strain, or a brain tumor. The proper treatment may be to remove the cause of the allergies, such as the cat or the dust. Or the proper treatment may be to remove the brain tumor, or reduce the caffeine intake, or use better lighting when reading, or wear eyeglasses when reading. But if all the doctor does is prescribe pain relievers, he is not acting responsibly, nor is he going to truly bring about healing in his patients. In order to see them recover and experience wholeness once again, he needs to deal with the root causes.

Likewise, if we deal with our personal issues, shortcomings, and lack of virtue as if they were the root problem, then we will apply band-aid solutions that fail to solve them. We still need to repent for every sin, confess it to God, and ask forgiveness, so that the blood of Jesus will break its power over our lives and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. However, once we realize what the root cause is and address it, then we will see the positive results in our lives.

Any lack in our lives is ultimately due to a failure to experience the fullness of God. And since the key to experiencing the fullness of God is knowing the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, then that is the solution. So how do we know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge? We pray for ourselves and one another that we would know it, just as Paul prayed for the Ephesians. We also need to spend time in His presence worshiping Him, loving Him and receiving love from Him. As we do these things, focusing on Jesus, we will be rooted and grounded in love, and be able to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. Once we know that love -- truly know it in our spirit -- then we will be filled up to all the fullness of God. This leads to our being complete, lacking nothing.

There is yet another key to being complete and lacking nothing that I would like to share in this context. When we seek to know the love of Christ this way, we will seek to know Him fully. That means we will not only seek to know the enjoyable aspects like the power of His resurrection, but also the unpleasant aspects like the fellowship of His sufferings. As Paul said, "I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death..." (Phil 3:10, NIV). If we don't share in His sufferings and passion, how will we know what He went through out of love for us? To know Him through participation in His sufferings enables us to know Him more completely and realize just how much He loves us.

James wrote, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (Jas 1:2-4). This is another set of cause-and-effect relationships.

CAUSE: Various trials --> EFFECT: Testing of your faith.
CAUSE: Testing of your faith --> EFFECT: Endurance is produced.
CAUSE: Endurance --> EFFECT: You may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

In the midst of our trials and tribulations, we need to realize that our faith is being tested and we need to have endurance, so that we may be perfect, complete, and lacking nothing. In the midst of trials, in order to endure, we need to be reminded of the love of Christ, which He had for us when He suffered and died, and which He still has for us now; we need to experience it firsthand in our lives, and we need to consider it all joy to experience our trials, knowing that they will ultimately produce fullness, completeness, and perfection in us.

Moreover, we should seek to know Christ by being made like Him in His death, without which we cannot experience His fullness. In fact, you cannot even be His disciple without denying yourself, taking up your cross daily and following Jesus (Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23). We need to take up our cross and carry it every day. By the Spirit we need to mortify the deeds of the flesh (Rom 8:13) and die daily (1Co 15:31). The cross must be applied continually to the sinful nature, holding it in a place of death. May we say with Paul, it is no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me (Gal 2:20). 

Finally, we cannot experience being filled up to all the fullness of God without being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the power of Christ's resurrection that we must seek to know. God raised Jesus from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, and Christ has now poured out His Spirit on His Church. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is available to every disciple of Christ. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit" (Eph 5:18, NIV). We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, which begins initially with the baptism with the Holy Spirit. He will fill you from head to toe and totally engulf you.

If you have never received this gift, then you need to do so. Yet some, who seek it, fail to receive, and I think that sometimes it is because they do not know the love of Christ for them. This may cause doubts to arise, which will prevent them from receiving anything from the Lord. If we know the love of Christ, we will realize that He wants us to have this gift. Jesus said, "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Lk 11:13, NIV). Our Father in heaven loves us so much He wants to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him, so ask Him and receive. But once you receive, you need to keep on asking for more and receiving refills. The original language in Ephesians 5:18 indicates that we must continually be being filled with the Spirit.  Therefore, let's do that and experience what it means to be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Putting it All Together
The underlying reason for lack in our lives is a failure to experience the fullness of God on a continual basis, which can only be experienced by knowing the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge. That means grasping how wide and long and high and deep His love is. That includes knowing the power of His resurrection, being filled with the Holy Spirit, knowing the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, and being made like Him in His death. May the Lord help each of us to focus on practicing these things as a way of life, so that we may experience His wonderful fullness the way He intended for our lives.

Attribution notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, except where otherwise noted. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted.  "I Love You" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist. 

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Baptized with the Spirit, The Love of Jesus, Fullness, The Afflictions of the Righteous, The Fiery Sufferings of the Believer, Aim for Perfection, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, One Thing, Called to be Blameless, The Wardrobe of the Saints, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, my daughter's poem You Fill Me Up, and my daughter's blog post Full of the Knowledge of the Lord. I highly recommend reading, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies and Holy Fire Baptism. You may find the Main Directory for this blog at Home, and also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Wardrobe of the Saints

As I have written previously in my articles, Garments of Godliness and Godly Attire and Adornment, there is virtually a Christian "dress code". The Scripture defines what is appropriate and not appropriate for a disciple of Christ to wear on his or her body. That cannot be denied, even though some people attempt to do so on the faulty premise that God is only interested in the things of the heart, not our bodies.

In this post, I would like to discuss the inward garments we are instructed in Scripture to wear at all times. We'll call this the wardrobe of the saints.

A Garment of Praise
We begin with a rather long but beautiful passage in Isaiah, which says:

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." (Is 61:1-3, NIV)

The Lord Jesus read from this very same passage when He announced the beginning of His public ministry (Lk 4:18). He said the Spirit of the Lord was on Him, because the Lord has anointed Him to do all these wonderful things mentioned in this passage. One of those things was to provide for those who grieve in Zion -- to bestow on them a garment of praise. Therefore, we know from Scripture that one garment we must be wearing is this garment of praise, which the Lord bestows upon us by His Holy Spirit.

Praise is an action that we should continually practice, as part of our practice of the presence of the Lord. We should not take a vacation from praise, or only praise the Lord on a certain day of the week, in a certain building, or at one particular time of day. The psalmist David said, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." (Ps 34:1). We should praise Him in the good times and praise Him in the bad times. May we never cease to praise Him. For He is worthy. Let's put on the garment of praise.

Clothe Yourselves with Compassion, Kindness, Humility, Gentleness, Patience, and Love
The next passage we will look at is from the apostle Paul's letter to the Colossians. He wrote:

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Col 3:12-14, NIV).

We are supposed to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love as an outer garment.

Clothe Yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ
Paul also wrote to the Romans saying, "Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh." (Rom 13:14, NIV).

In the context of this passage, in the previous verse, Paul was speaking about our behavior, when he wrote: "Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy." (Rom 13:13, NIV). So this tells us that to clothe yourself with Christ or to "put on Christ" will involve a behavioral change. He also wrote to the Galatians saying, "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Gal 3:27). Christ not only lives on the inside in our hearts, but we must also wear Him outwardly, so that He shows on the outside and others can see Him.

Put on the Armor of Light
In this same passage and context, Paul said, "The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." (Rom 13:12, NIV). He contrasted putting on the armor of light with the deeds of darkness, so again it is a behavioral matter. On the one hand, we must put aside the deeds of darkness, while on the other hand put on the armor of light.

Paul described each piece of armor in detail in his epistle to the Ephesians. He wrote:

"Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Eph 6:11-17, NASB)

In this passage he says to "put on the full armor of God" (v. 11) and then again to "take up the full armor of God" (v. 13). He emphasizes the need to put it on and to ensure we are not missing any piece of armor. These are necessary to protect us from the schemes of the devil in this spiritual warfare we are in daily.

Paul also mentioned the armor in his epistle to the Thessalonians, when he wrote: "But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation." (1Th 5:8). Here we see that the name of the piece of armor that each virtue corresponds with is somewhat different than what he wrote to the Ephesians. Here he says that faith and love are the breastplate, whereas in Ephesians, righteousness is the breastplate. However, when he says here that the hope of salvation is our helmet, that is essentially the same as saying to the Ephesians that it is a helmet of salvation.

So what are we to make of this minor discrepancy? It is not critical to know which piece of armor each virtue corresponds to. For the most part, Paul uses the same metaphor to make the same point, with only minor differences. The important thing is that we put them on, and that they are to the soldier of Christ as armor is to a soldier of any worldly army. No soldier in his right mind would go into battle without his armor on, and neither should we. It's a daily battle, so we need to put these on daily. The adversary of our souls is always prowling around looking for someone to devour. As Peter says, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." (1Pe 5:8). Let's be sober and alert.

Clothe Yourselves With Humility
Just as Paul did, the apostle Peter also admonished us to clothe ourselves with humility. He wrote: "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." (1Pe 5:5-7).

The reasons he gives for clothing ourselves with humility are fully sufficient for us. Since God opposes the proud, then if we fail to clothe ourselves with humility, we may behave proudly and find that God is opposing us. However, if we walk humbly before God, He will give us grace. If we humble ourselves beneath His mighty hand, He will lift us up in due time. Since pride is a weakness of young men especially, Peter addressed this admonition to them, but it applies likewise to all of us.

Clothe Yourself with Good Works
Paul wrote to Timothy, "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness." (1Ti 2:9-10). As I have written in my article, Garments of Godliness, this passage teaches how women should outwardly adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, so as to glorify God. It forbids certain types of adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, and expensive clothes, all of which apply to men as well. But it also teaches how women should adorn themselves spiritually by means of good deeds appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

Bind Kindness and Faithfulness Around Your Neck
The proverb says, "Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart." (Pro 3:3). We are supposed to bind kindness (mercy) and truth around our necks, which is in contrast to the way the wicked wear pride as their necklace (Ps 73:6).

Put on the New Self
The apostle Paul taught that the old self or former way of life must be put off, which means it must be completely discarded, since it is being corrupted like an old rag by its deceitful desires. He taught that we should throw it off and in place of it we should "put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Eph 4:24, NIV). This, too, is part of the saints' wardrobe.

White Garments So That You May Clothe Yourself
In the book of Revelation, in the apostle John's letter to the angel of the Church in Laodicea, he wrote in part the following message from the Lord: "I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see." (Rev 3:18). This indicates that there are actually spiritual, white garments that we are supposed to wear and that we must buy them from the Lord Jesus Christ. May we all seek to buy from Him those white garments, so that we may clothe ourselves. In the case of the Church in Laodicea, the Lord said they were naked without these garments (Rev 3:17), and they needed them to cover the shame of their nakedness.

Be Dressed in Wedding Garments
In His parable of the wedding feast, Jesus said:

"Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”  (Mat 22:10-13)

The man who came to the wedding feast without wedding clothes was thrown into the outer darkness, which is hell. This is a stark reminder that not all who call Jesus “Lord, Lord” or are within the church will be qualified to participate in the wedding feast in the kingdom of heaven. To be fit for heaven, we must be wearing our white garments. As Matthew Henry once wrote: “Those, and those only, who put on the Lord Jesus, that have a Christian temper of mind, and are adorned with Christian graces, who live by faith in Christ, and to whom he is all in all, have the wedding garment.”

Be Dressed in Readiness
The Lord also taught us to "Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit." (Luk 12:35). Other versions say, "Stay dressed for action" (ESV) and "Be dressed ready for service" (NIV). The original language literally says, "Let your waist be girded about," which is rendered in many translations with the expression, "Let your loins be girded about," (see KJV, MKJV, ASV, Darby, and YLT translations).

In Bible times, the men wore long garments, and when they were preparing for action, such as labor or a journey, they girded it up or tucked it up around their waist (loins). This would enable them to move freely without restriction (see Lk 12:37). Therefore, in using the expression, "let your loins be girded about," the Lord was teaching us to remain dressed for action. He was obviously speaking of a spiritual state of being dressed in readiness, rather than one that requires being in your literal day clothes, even though it may often times involve being physically dressed in certain instances.

Peter used essentially this same expression in the original language, when he wrote, "Therefore girding up the loins of your mind..." (1Pe 1:13a, MKJV; cf., KJV, ASV, Darby, and YLT). Other versions use a more dynamic equivalent translation, such as "Prepare your minds for action." (1Pe 1:13a, NASB). This helps clarify what the Lord meant in Lk 12:35. The point is to stay alert in your thoughts, so that you are always ready for action.

Putting it All Together
According to God's Word, there are some garments of righteousness that all disciples of Christ are supposed to wear at all times. It is our responsibility to do so. The expressions "clothe yourself," "adorn yourself," "put on," "take up," "gird up your loins," "buy from me," "be dressed," and "bind around your neck" are all actions that we must personally take. They are not automatically done for us and are not a one-time occurrence.

These garments include praise, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, faithfulness, patience, and love. We must put in the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. We must put on the armor of light, which is the armor of God that includes truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, the hope of salvation, love (once again), and the Word of God. We must stay dressed for action with our minds alert. We must buy from the Lord white garments, so that we may clothe ourselves. We must be dressed in wedding clothes. We must adorn ourselves with good deeds. Last but not least, we must clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. We are not properly dressed unless we are clothed with these.

Attribution notice: Some Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®. The "Robes of White" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the Home page. I recommend reading Garments of Godliness, Keeping Your Body Pure and Holy, Godly Attire and Adornment, Carrying Your Cross or Cross Dressing?, Righteous Deeds and White Robes, Tattoos and Body Piercing, The Beauty of Brokenness, Holy Fire Baptism, Fruit in Every Season, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, The Fiery Sufferings of the Believer, Is Tolerance a Virtue?, Gifts and Fruit of the Spirit: What's the Difference?, The Ways of Life, and The Way, Will, and Word of God. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.