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60:  The Second Step – Confession and Repentance

60: The Second Step – Confession and Repentance

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Surrender Your Life? The Choice is Yours

Surrendering your life to God is a profound journey that transforms your relationship with Him into something many only dreamed about but few ever expected to happen.  In fact, full surrender to Him is what He requires (that is why He is called Lord and Master), but is often conveniently glossed over in our churches today.  We feel more comfortable with terms like servant or disciple or follower— rather than anything that resembles submission or smacks of surrender to anyone, including the Lord.  We want Jesus as a friend with a Get-Out-of-Hell-Free-Card who politely laughs and turns His head at our sin.  But the last thing we want is the King of kings and Lord of lords who will stand in judgment of our lives.  Well, guess what?  That’s not our choice.  We get Jesus as who He is and not who we want to make Him into.

Understanding this, let’s be honest about the steps to surrendering to Him (assuming that’s something you want to do).  Your journey into Christ-likeness cannot progress unless you continually deal with anything and everything in your life that separates you from Him.  And you know what that is.  It’s no secret, never has been.  It’s always been the same thing since Adam and Eve fell prey to it in the garden and made the same mistake we make on a daily basis.  And it’s what works against your complete submission to Him and the joy of the abundant life He promises (John 10:10).  The Achilles heel in our spiritual life is pride and the sin it inevitably brings.


The Second Step: Confession and Repentance

Confession and repentance of sin are essential for maintaining fellowship with God and walking in obedience to His will.  Remember, they were the essential ingredient in your salvation.  And as such, they are vital for maintaining a close relationship with the Lord.  As 1 John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  God always stands ready to forgive.  But our sin must be acknowledged and confessed, and repentance means more than simply feeling sorry you got busted for doing something you knew was wrong.

What does confession and repentance look like day to day?  First, it requires taking as much time as needed to ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and reveal any areas of disobedience, unconfessed sin, wrong attitudes, or anything that might hinder your relationship with God (Ps. 139:23-24).  Don’t rush through this thinking there is something in your day more important.  There isn’t.  Be willing to listen openly and honestly, as His conviction is a sign of His love and desire for you to become like His Son.  So don’t rush this process, and allow ample time for the Spirit to speak to you.

Next, prayerfully examine your thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, lifestyle choices, relationships, and pretty much everything else in your life.  Consider whether you harbor bitterness toward someone, look at pornography when no one is watching, engage in dishonest business practices, lie, gossip, steal, elevate yourself by tearing down others, or neglect time in God’s Word.  Call sin exactly what it is without rationalizing or downplaying it.  God doesn’t care that others are doing what you are doing.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.  As 1 John 1:8 warns, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  Don’t let that happen to you.  Make a habit of self-examination to keep your heart right before God and then respond immediately when His conviction comes.

And when the Holy Spirit reveals sin, make a thorough and specific confession directly to God.  Pour out your heart like the tax collector who cried out, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”  Remember, Jesus said he went home justified because of his humble confession and repentance (Luke 18:13-14).  Be brutally honest about your struggles with bitterness, immorality, greed, pride, neglect of God’s Word, apathy, laziness, or anything that is displeasing to Him and separates you from His intimacy.  Hold nothing back but confess every detail openly.  And go through this process as soon as you sense your relationship with God waning.

Repentance means not merely being sorry for what you have done (sin of commission) or haven’t done (sin of omission), but deliberately changing directions and turning away from your sin.  You must renounce sin, reject sin, abandon sin, and hate sin as much as God does.  These are the first signs of true repentance.  Your repentance will then demonstrate itself through specific life changes, such as eliminating influences or relationships that tempt you toward wrong behavior, no matter how painful that process may be.  The Spirit may urge you to make restitution when your sinful actions have harmed others.  You will find yourself compelled to wholeheartedly turn away from old sinful patterns and habits and walk in obedience to God’s ways.  In essence, you will fulfill the admonition of John the Baptist to those who came to him for baptism, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8).  This is what true repentance looks like.


After Confession and Repentance, Then What?

Going forward, keep short accounts with God.  Real short.  Don’t allow unconfessed sins to accumulate for even a moment.  When the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin and a rift in your relationship with the Lord and your surrender to Him, deal with them immediately, no matter how small or insignificant you may feel they are.  Sin is sin.  So don’t try to downplay or rationalize it.  God treasures honesty and values even small acts of repentance that keep your heart soft and surrendered.  Remember, the best way to keep short accounts with God is through daily prayer, the study of His Word, and fellowship with other believers who can keep you accountable.  And even though you may have heard about prayer and Bible study for years, don’t let your familiarity with these disciplines breed contempt for them in your heart.  They are still true and have proven to be the best way to grow closer to Him and experience His goodness, whether you are tired of hearing about them or not.

The Christian life is a lifelong journey of confronting sin, confessing it openly, repenting completely, and experiencing God’s cleansing forgiveness.  And walking in the light requires being brutally honest about the darkness still within us coupled with a willingness to expose it to God’s convicting light (1 John 1:7).  As the Puritan pastor John Owen observed, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”¹  So maintaining a clean heart and right spirit is crucial for surrendering fully to Christ and experiencing the blessings of an intimate walk with Him.  And it is only by complete surrender that we can hope to experience the abundant life He promised (John 10:10).


The Road Ahead

In conclusion, confession and repentance are not a one-time event but rather a lifestyle of honesty, transparency, and dependency on God’s grace.  And it takes courage and humility to acknowledge our sins and shortcomings continually.  But as we are quick to confess and turn from sin, we clear the way for a deeper intimacy with Him and greater spiritual power to fulfill His purpose for our lives— which is the whole point, wouldn’t you say?

A surrendered life requires laying down pride, sin, and self at the foot of the cross.  And to remain surrendered requires the same, only more often.  But the joy of walking in unhindered fellowship with Christ is worth the cost, no doubt about it.

So what are you waiting for?  Let’s get started today.


Notes:

1.   John Owen, The Mortification of Sin (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2004), p. 9.


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59:  The First Step in Surrendering Your Life to Him

59: The First Step in Surrendering Your Life to Him

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Surrender is a Lifestyle, Not a One-Time Event

When you surrender your life to the Lord, you will notice it is not a one-time event.  You don’t just say a prayer or make a vow and it’s done.  It is a process, usually full of ups and downs, that may take some time to master.  But even as a process, it must have a starting point.  And that point recognizes who God is and your responsibility to yield to His lordship.  Everything follows this first step.

The seven steps of surrender are as follows (in Cliffs Notes form):

1.  Recognize and embrace a truth greater than yourself (which is God and His lordship)
2.  Confess and repent of any known sin in your life
3.  Learn to die to yourself daily (or more often)
4.  Present yourself daily as a sacrifice to God
5.  Trust completely in God’s sovereignty
6.  Rely on the Holy Spirit for daily guidance
7.  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus

Today, we will look at the first step— the step where every springs from.  And we will cover the subsequent steps in future broadcasts.


The First Step in Surrendering Your Life to the Lord

The journey of surrendering your life to God begins with one essential first step: recognizing God’s complete lordship over everything— especially you.

What does it mean to recognize God’s lordship?  It means understanding that He rightfully deserves your full allegiance, devotion, and obedience.  As Revelation 4:11 declares, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”

Since God created you and gave you life and breath itself, He deserves first place in every area of your existence.  Recognizing Him as Lord means enthroning Him as the supreme ruler and focus of your life.  It requires willingly choosing to dethrone anything else that has occupied that rightful place— relationships, career, wealth, success, self-interests, you name it.  And the operative word is willingly.  You must be willing.  God will not force His lordship on you.

Recognizing His lordship calls for an honest evaluation of who or what is currently on the throne of your heart and decisions.  What do your priorities, schedule, entertainment choices, and bank statement reveal you worship?  What consumes your thoughts and passions?  Ask the Holy Spirit to bring conviction about any idolatry that may be hidden in your life.  As J.C. Ryle wrote, “Where Christ rules in the heart, the whole course of a man’s life will bear witness to the fact.”¹  If God rules your heart, your lifestyle will clearly reflect it.   So, how is your lifestyle measuring up to your confession of Christ right now?

Remember, this first step of surrender will lead you to reorder every area of your life— your plans, job, time, possessions, habits— and center them around God’s priorities rather than self-centered pursuits.  It will mean letting go of anything He calls you to release or change.  And it will mean embracing a purpose defined by His eternal impact rather than your temporary comfort.  But I think you already know that, don’t you?

Ultimately, recognizing God’s lordship requires pursuing intimacy with Him like you may have never done before through heart-felt prayer, consistent reading of His Word, and obedience to Him as your highest aim, and not just an add-on for a temporary, spiritual high.  He must become your supreme treasure and consuming passion.

Surrendering requires submitting your life completely to His authority, which is something you give up to Him.  But you receive so much more.  As J.I. Packer reminds us, “He does not exploit our submission, but gives us glory, joy, peace, and fullness of life” only found in Him.²  Our sacrifice brings the blessing of His intimate presence, which nothing on earth compares.  Nothing.

Surrendering our lives to God begins with the crucial first step of recognizing His complete lordship and willingly choosing to make Him preeminent in every area.  Though sacrifice is involved, the blessing far outweighs the cost.  For when we enthrone Christ as Supreme Ruler in our hearts, we gain incomparable treasure, namely, the intimate presence of the King of kings.  And as A.W. Tozer said, “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free…to give them victory o’er the grave and grant them life eternally.”³  This is the glorious exchange of surrender.

And it is something we can experience this side of heaven, right now, when we surrender our lives to Him.  So take the first step today.

Next, we will look at step two, the confession and repentance of sins that bring true freedom.


Notes:

1. J.C. Ryle, Holiness (London: James Clarke & Co., 1902), 79.
2. J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 207.
3. A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1993), 15.


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58:  Embracing a Full Understanding of Salvation

58: Embracing a Full Understanding of Salvation

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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The Living Hope We Have in Christ

Dark times can profoundly shake our faith and assurance in God.  Ongoing trials, deep hurts, and spiritual warfare can make us lose sight of the incredible hope we have in Jesus Christ.  But despite the darkness, Christ’s resurrection guarantees our justification, sanctification, and future glorification.  This living hope is ours both now and for all eternity.


Justification – God’s Complete Forgiveness

What does justification mean?  Simply put, it is God’s complete forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  When we put our faith in Christ, trusting in His sacrifice for us, God sees us as righteous in His eyes – as if we had never sinned at all.  Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Through Christ’s redeeming blood, all our sins are forgiven – past, present, and future.

This justification before God happens instantly when we are born again into God’s family.  We go from being condemned sinners to forgiven saints in an instant, even before we have time to change our outward behavior.  Our right standing before our holy God depends entirely on Jesus’ atoning death for us, not on our own effort.  Our only role is to have genuine repentant faith, trusting that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross secured our redemption once and for all.


Sanctification – God’s Power to Live Right

But God does not just justify us and then leave us alone to struggle against sin.  No, when He forgives us, He also sends the Holy Spirit to begin the process of sanctifying us – or transforming us into Christ’s image and freeing us from sin’s power in our lives.  Scripture says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  Justification (forgive us our sins) and sanctification (cleanse us from all unrighteousness) work hand-in-hand.

Though temptations still come, we as believers are no longer helpless slaves to sin.  After all, “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).  Christ’s death and resurrection have broken sin’s power and its penalty.  We now have the Holy Spirit living within us, empowering us to say no to sin and walk in ever greater freedom from its grip.


God’s Power to Keep Us

We all know this sanctification process has its ups and downs.  We make progress but also stumble.  Yet even when we do, God still keeps us securely in His hands.  Jude says, “He is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24).

What comfort we have in knowing that our eternal salvation does not depend on our strength to hold on to God, but His ability to hold on to us.  And just as Christ’s tomb could not contain Him, nothing can snatch us out of the Father’s mighty hand (John 10:28-29).  The same almighty power that raised Jesus from the dead now works in us to transform our lives to look like His (Eph. 1:19-20).  It doesn’t get much better than this.


Future Glorification – Perfected with Christ

But this living hope in Christ also includes an amazing future promise – that one day we will be completely free from sin’s presence and will be perfected with Him in glory.  We are promised to “see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2).  Although we often stumble in this life, the day is coming when we will be fully glorified with Christ, being made completely righteous in Him.


Stand Firm in the Hope of Christ

Dark times will come that shake our faith.  That is a guarantee.  But Christ stands unmovable and unchanging as our “living hope” through all the storms in life.  His resurrection powerfully guarantees the full salvation He purchased for us.  So when discouragement sets in, let us remember that He who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23), and He will never stop His sanctifying work within us until we see Him face to face.

By His atoning blood, we stand fully pardoned and justified before God.  In the strength of His Spirit, we can walk in ever greater sanctification, rejecting sin’s power.  And through His flawless redeeming work, we will one day be presented glorified and spotless before God with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24).


The Higher Christian Life

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57:  Experience Freedom and Power in Your Christian Life

57: Experience Freedom and Power in Your Christian Life

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The Higher Christian Life

Let’s talk about something that has captivated believers for generations— the Higher Christian Life.  This term refers to a life of intimate fellowship with God that goes beyond the ordinary Christian experience.  Popularized by 19th-century revival and devotional preachers such as Andrew Murray, Oswald Chambers, and R.A. Torrey, and brought into the Christian mainstream by the Keswick movement, this life is characterized by holiness, surrender, and a depth of relationship with God that taps into His supernatural power in ways seen in Scripture, but seldom experienced in contemporary church.¹

In this post, I want to provide a biblical overview of the Higher Christian Life— what it looks like, how we enter into it, and then answer some common questions that often keep seeking believers from experiencing the “abundant life” Jesus promised (John 10:10), or what has been called the Higher Christian Life.  My prayer is this will inspire and equip you to experience the abundant life in Christ that He intends for each of us as believers.


Defining the Higher Christian Life

Simply put, the Higher Christian Life is:

A life of holiness, consecration, and victory over sin that is available to every Christian who fully surrenders themselves to Christ’s lordship in faith. It is considered ‘higher” because it transcends the defeat and constant struggle that plagues much of Christian living and reveals a new dimension of faith-filled living in the power of the Spirit.

Some key aspects of the Higher Christian Life include:

•   Complete surrender and consecration to Christ:  Relinquishing our self-will and ambitions by surrendering every area of your life— your time, relationships, work, and resources — to Christ’s complete control and lordship.

•   Death to self and sin through co-crucifixion with Christ:  By reckoning or understanding that our old sinful nature was crucified with Christ, we are able to break sin’s mastery in our lives (Rom. 6:6).  By faith, we count ourselves dead to sin’s power and alive to God since our old self is crucified and dead and we have new, resurrected life in Christ (Romans 6:11).

•   Filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit:  By praying for the Holy Spirit to fill us and take full control, and by depending on the Spirit’s power to overcome sin, we then produce Christlike character and are supernaturally equipped for ministry.  The results: We are guided, moment-by-moment, and empowered by the Spirit as we yield to Him.

•   Victory over sin’s power:  Sin’s mastery is broken because by faith, our old self is crucified with Christ, and sin has no dominion in our lives (Rom. 6:14).  Though temptations remain, we have Spirit-given power to overcome anything our flesh or the enemy can throw our way.

•   Deeper intimacy and fellowship with God:  We find our time in God’s Word and prayer becomes sweeter as we relate to God more deeply.  We desire to know Christ more as the Spirit reveals His presence and character in ways not known to us before.  And, as a result, our walk with Him is characterized by joyful obedience and not legalism.

•   Fruitfulness and power for ministry and service:  Our energies go toward serving Christ wholeheartedly and caring for others, rather than living selfish, self-consumed lives.  We learn to depend on Christ working through us as we trust and abide in Him.

This abundant life liberates us from defeat and brings new joy, passion, and power through our relationship with, and dependency on, Christ.  It is the normal Christian life as God designed it.²


Benefits of this Surrendered Life

This intimate walk with God impacts every area of life.  As 19th-century missionary Hudson Taylor said, “I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”  What seems impossible in our strength becomes real to us by surrendering our life to Christ and embracing His power within.  It is often called full salvation, or complete surrender.  Theologians call it practical sanctification.

Living the Higher Christian Life brings freedom from sinful habits and attitudes that previously felt unbreakable.  Things that once caused irritation and resentment quickly lose their power.  We become more loving, patient, kind, and self-controlled as a result.  As Charles Finney said, it is “dying to self and coming alive to Christ.”  Our marriages, families, and relationships are strengthened as we experience victory in ways previously unimaginable.

Pioneer missionary C.T. Studd said it well: “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.”  Serving God in our daily lives becomes natural and joyful, rather than burdensome.  We overflow with worship and praise as we fall deeply in love with Jesus. And walking faithfully with Christ fills our hearts with “inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Pet. 1:8).

When you compare this to our own experience with Christ, it is not hard to see why it is called the Higher Christian Life.


Steps for Entering In

So how can we enter practically into this life of intimate surrender to Christ?  Here are some key steps:

1.  Admit your inability in your own strength through prayer – “Lord, I confess I cannot conquer sin or live the Christian life by self-effort.  I surrender my weaknesses and failures to You.”  Express dependency in your prayer.

2.  Make a definite, complete surrender/consecration to Christ – Give Him express lordship over every area in your life— your time, relationships, work, resources, and future.  Plead with Christ, “I surrender my entire life to You to do with as You please.  I no longer want to live for myself but only for You.”

3.  Claim the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit – Pray to be filled and empowered fully for God’s service and yield to His control.  Pray, “Holy Spirit, I ask You to fill and empower me fully for Your service.  Take control of my life.”   Then depend fully on the Spirit’s power.

4.  Reckon ourselves dead to sin, alive to God in Christ based on our co-crucifixion and resurrection with Him (Rom. 6:11). Thank God your old self has died, and your new life is hidden with Christ.  Then, by faith, affirm sin’s mastery over you is now broken.

5.  Maintain daily surrender through ongoing prayer. Begin each day yielding and surrendering yourself completely to God for that day.  Pray, “Lord Jesus, I surrender myself and this day to You. Have Your way in my life today.”  Choose to walk in continual dependence on the Spirit.


Walking in Newness of Life

When we enter the Higher Christian Life by faith, what changes practically in our daily experience?  Here are some key implications:

Sin’s mastery is broken as you count yourself dead to it daily (Rom. 6:14).  Though temptations still come, sin no longer has dominion over you.  By continually identifying with Christ’s death, sin’s grip is broken, and you gain new power through the Spirit to walk in obedience.

You experience inward transformation as Christ’s resurrection power works in you.  Old habits and thought patterns begin to lose their hold as you are inwardly renewed.  Relationships start to align more with God’s kingdom values of love and holiness rather than selfishness.  Your ethics and integrity reflect more of Christ’s righteousness.  Priorities shift from self-centeredness to glorifying God.

Obedience becomes joyful as you relate to God in a deeper way.  Serving Christ is no longer drudgery, but delight.  Legalistic striving fades, being replaced by freely flowing intimacy with Christ.  Prayer becomes a lifeline rather than a duty.  Digging into God’s Word fuels your spirit like never before.

You bear Spirit-empowered fruit for God as you abide in Christ (John 15:5).  Instead of anxiety and fruitless striving, you experience new effectiveness and fruitfulness in life and ministry.  Gifts flourish.  You depend on Christ’s life in you to reach people, disciple others, and advance God’s Kingdom.  Fear gives way to boldness.

This does not mean perfection.  Temptations, failures, frustrations, and trials will come.  But you now have resurrection power and victory available to weather the storms of life differently than before.  The Spirit empowers you moment-by-moment.

In essence, the Higher Christian Life transforms daily experience by breaking sin’s power, renewing the mind, producing intimacy with Christ, and bearing new fruit through depending on the indwelling Spirit.  This brings radical new freedom.


Questions and Answers

What does it mean that we are “co-crucified with Christ”?

More than just agreeing doctrinally that Christ died for us, it means our old sinful self was crucified with Him.  As we identify with Christ’s death by faith, we experience inwardly a death to our old sinful habits and desires.  Sin’s mastery is broken in our lives, and we are now, probably for the first time, able to live a consistent life of holiness to Him (Rom. 6:6-7).

What are the implications of being united to Christ?

The implications are profound!  For starters, sin no longer defines us.  We are freed from sin’s tyranny as resurrection power operates within us.  We count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God daily by faith in what Christ has accomplished on our behalf (Rom. 6:11).  And now, sin loses its grip on us as we live out of our new identity in Christ.

What does “walking in newness of life” mean practically?

Practically, it means Christ’s resurrection power, which resides in us, transforms everything in our lives— our relationships, ethics, habits, and character.  As we now are free to live to honor God, our ungodly patterns lose sway, the fruit of the Spirit develops, and our energies advance God’s Kingdom rather than our own self-interest.  It is truly a supernatural life!

Can this life ever be lost?

In a word, absolutely.  The abundant life (John 10:10), or the Higher Christian Life, is maintained by ongoing surrender, faith, and obedience.  We can lose it by taking our focus off Christ and failing to walk in step with the Spirit.  Therefore, continually yielding to the Spirit is essential.

Is this way of living only for “super saints”?

No, it is for every believer (including you) who totally surrenders to Christ’s lordship.  It is not a higher class of Christianity, but this abundant life Jesus promised is intended as normal Christian living for any who yield fully to the Spirit.  Therefore, it all depends on you.  So yield to Him today.

Doesn’t this lead to pride and perfectionism?

It shouldn’t, if properly understood.  This life depends completely on Christ and the Spirit, leaving no room for pride.  The focus is consecration, not perfection.  Therefore, just like everything else in the Christian life, humility and faith are key.

In summary, the Higher Christian Life is a life of intimacy, fruitfulness, and victory available to every believer through full dependence on Christ and surrender to the Holy Spirit.  It liberates us from sin’s power and unlocks the supernatural promises of Scripture.  May God give us grace as we surrender to the abundant life He intends for us in Christ.


The Next Steps

If you are ready to leave spiritual defeat behind, take time to prayerfully process the truths shared here.  Ask the Lord to show you any areas you are not fully surrendered to Him.  And as you take steps of faith to yield to Christ’s complete control, trust the Holy Spirit’s empowering presence to make this new life real.  Remember, you were created for so much more than constant struggle.  God longs for you to experience the Higher Christian Life of intimacy with Him and victory over sin.

So begin that journey of surrender today.


Notes:

1.  Some of the preachers and speakers associated with the teaching of the Higher Christian Life and the Keswick movement were:

•   D.L. Moody (1837-1899) – Famous American evangelist who did much to popularize the Higher Life teaching. His meetings at Keswick helped spread the message.

•   Andrew Murray (1828-1917) – South African preacher and devotional writer who wrote books like “Absolute Surrender” emphasizing the Higher Life.  He was a regular Keswick speaker.

•   F.B. Meyer (1847-1929) – Baptist pastor and author of “The Secret of Guidance” who promoted the deeper life message as a Keswick speaker.

•   Evan Hopkins (1937-1918) – Anglican clergyman considered the father of the Keswick movement.  His emphasis on overcoming sin and entire surrender to God influenced early Keswick teaching.

•   Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) – Famous British Baptist preacher who stressed consecration and the Spirit-filled life in his sermons, laying the groundwork for the Higher Life emphasis.

•   Hudson Taylor (1932-1905) – British missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission who emphasized full surrender and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

•   Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) – Irish missionary to India who exemplified the Higher Life in her devotion to God and service.  She wrote books like “If” promoting total surrender.

•   R.A. Torrey (1856-1928) – American evangelist and pastor who succeeded Moody as superintendent of the Moody Bible Institute.  He was a prominent advocate of the Higher Christian Life.

•   G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945) – British evangelical preacher and Bible teacher who promoted the Victorious Life message of holiness and surrender.

•   Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) – Scottish Baptist and missionary who taught on the higher life in his popular devotional “My Utmost for His Highest”.

•   Watchman Nee (1903-1972) – Chinese church leader who wrote “The Normal Christian Life” among other books on living the deeper spiritual life.

•   Alan Redpath (1907-1992) – British pastor and Keswick speaker who authored many books on surrender and triumphant living like “Victorious Christian Living.”

•   Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932) – British Methodist preacher and writer involved with the Keswick movement who stressed the crisis experience of sanctification.

2.  The Normal Christian Life is a book by Watchman Nee (1903-1972).  Written in 1957, Nee’s classic work makes the case that the “normal” Christian life should be one of resurrection power, victory, and the abundant life promised in Scripture, yet is often lived at a “subnormal” level of defeat and struggle— thus he makes an impassioned call for believers to awaken to their full position and inheritance in Christ through surrender and the indwelling Spirit.


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56: Letting Go and Letting God – Steps for Total Surrender

56: Letting Go and Letting God – Steps for Total Surrender

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There is So Much More to This Life in Christ

As followers of Jesus, you and I long to live the spiritually charged, victorious life He promises in Scripture— an abundant, overcoming life marked by joy, peace, purpose, and the wonder of having the mind of Christ.  But let’s face it, our everyday experience often falls painfully short of the dynamic faith and unimaginable blessings described in God’s Word (Eph. 3:20).  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

So what’s the key to unlocking this life to the fullest in the power of the Spirit?  Complete and total surrender to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


But What Does Total Surrender Look Like?

Surrender means letting go of our wants, rights, and expectations and fully embracing God’s perfect plan for our lives, even if the future seems unclear and we don’t know what that plan is.  Surrender requires trust, obedience, and complete reliance on His supernatural power at work within us, even when we struggle to feel His presence at times.  And surrender is trusting Him even when the future is uncertain, and we can’t see what tomorrow holds.  But that’s to be expected.  After all, we “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).  But when we surrender completely, release control of our lives, and submit to His will, we open ourselves up to the blessing of becoming all God created us to be in Him.  And the results are breathtaking.

True surrender brings freedom— true freedom to thrive in our identity as children of the Most High God and not be constrained by the world’s definition of who we are.  Surrender leads us deeper in our relationship with Him, far beyond surface-level faith, into an intimate walk with the Almighty, the Creator of All.  This surrendered life overflows with heavenly abundance, just as Jesus promised.  But it only comes through daily submission and complete dependence on Jesus.

If you want to live out the fullness of God’s calling, then it’s time to surrender your all to Him— your plans, dreams, possessions, relationships, everything— even your life itself (Matt. 16:24-25).  Lay it all down at the feet of the One who gave it all for you.

If you’re ready to experience the spiritual abundance Christ offers, here are some practical steps to help you surrender yourself completely to the Lord:


Recognize Your Need for God

The first step towards the surrendered life is admitting, “I can’t do this on my own!”  As humans, we’re all flawed sinners falling short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23).  Pride and self-sufficiency erect thick barriers separating us from the Lord and each other.  So get honest with yourself about the areas where you fall short and confess those sins to Him.  Ask God to show you where you need to grow spiritually and recognize that no amount of effort will ever make you holy or righteous in His sight, outside of Christ.  Approach God with humility, knowing you desperately need Him.

For example, when you catch yourself complaining about long lines or bad traffic, pause and acknowledge the pride behind your disgruntled heart.  Or when you experience a major failure at work, use it as a reminder that you need God’s strength and grace every moment of every day.  For without Him, you can do nothing (John 15:15)


Repent and Ask for Forgiveness

Once you’re aware of your shortcomings, take those sins to God in repentance— don’t justify or downplay them.  It’s your sin that separates you from God (Isa. 59:2).  True repentance restores your fellowship with God when you acknowledge your sins and ask for forgiveness.  Plus, God promises that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  And once we repent and confess our sin, the crushing weight of shame and guilt gets lifted when we experience the healing power of God’s forgiveness.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

So examine your conscience before bed and confess specific sins like losing your temper with your kids or lying to a colleague or cheating on your taxes.  Ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal to you any unconfessed sin you need to confess.  And if you ask Him to reveal the sin that is separating Him from you, He will tell you, in no uncertain terms.  The rest is up to you.


Submit Your Will Fully to God’s Will

This requires surrendering your desires, plans, and expectations to the Lord.  You must release the tight grip of trying to maintain control of your circumstances to Him.  Remember, God sees the full picture, while we only see a small part of it.  Therefore, submitting your will means trusting that God’s way is higher than your way (Isa. 55:9) and that His plans for your life are much better than anything you could come up with yourself.  And it’s only by surrendering to God’s plan that you will experience freedom, joy, and a supernatural peace that is beyond all human understanding (Phil. 4:7).  It is something you will have to experience yourself to fully understand.

Try it for yourself.  For example, when you pray about a career change or move to a new city, instead of telling God what you want, try asking God to show you His will in this decision.  So when you have a major decision to make, pray as Jesus did in the garden, “Father, not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42) to align your heart with His, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel.  And once you do, your faith will soar.  Try it, you’ll see.


Trust Completely in God’s Wisdom and Timing

Since God is all-knowing, He knows exactly what you need and when you need it, even better than you do.  Timing is everything; surrendering means waiting patiently for God’s perfect plan to unfold in His timing, not yours.  So don’t try to rush and manipulate outcomes or make things happen in your timing.  Let go of preconceived timelines, trusting that God has a purpose in any difficulty or delay you may experience.  Fully believe that God is working all things out for your good according to His wisdom, and not your wants and wishes (Rom. 8:28).  After all, He alone sees the full picture, the end from the beginning, while we only catch fleeting glimpses of what is going on (Isa. 46:10).

So, when you are impatiently waiting for months to finally land your dream job, choose to believe God’s timing is purposeful and perfect even when it feels painfully slow.  Release all your anxiety over the situation into His sovereign hands and have faith, not only in His plan, but also in His timing.


Rely Completely on God’s Strength to Obey

Once God gives you clear direction in His Word or through the Spirit’s still small voice, rely fully on His supernatural strength to help you follow through in obedience.  This is the essence of sanctification.  Stay grounded in Scripture, praying continuously for empowerment from the Holy Spirit.  Obedience demonstrates the sincerity and completeness of your surrender.  But trying to obey God in your own inadequate strength, leads straight to compromise or failure.  The key to victorious Christian living is understanding you can do nothing of eternal value apart from Christ’s power living and active in you (John 15:5).  So yield to that power daily.

For example, ask God to help you respond with grace and forgiveness when a friend hurts you instead of lashing out in anger.  Freely admit to yourself and God that you cannot begin to exhibit Christlike character without the Spirit empowering you from within.  And then rest in His Spirit and let God work His forgiveness through you.  Just be a channel of His Spirit in you to others.  This is one of the greatest blessings of surrender.


Learn to Practice Daily Dependence

Make prayer, God’s Word, and practicing Biblical meditation non-negotiable priorities in your day.  Set aside quiet time to hear God’s voice as you slowly read Scripture.  His living Word will gradually transform you as His truth renews your mind and sanctifies your heart to become more like His (Rom. 12:2), just as He promised it would.  Stay intimately connected to Christ through continual, two-way conversations with God about everything going on in your life.  Learn to depend on His strength, wisdom, and guidance to get you victoriously through each day in Him.  And remember, the blessings of living in constant, complete reliance on the Lord Jesus is the core lifestyle of the surrendered life.  And it is yours for the asking.


The Rewards of a Surrendered Life

While surrendering fully to God is challenging, the rewards are life-changing.  Here are just a few of the blessings your total surrender to Him can bring:

•   Feel a deeper sense of belonging through an intimate relationship with God.
•   Experience increased spiritual strength by relying on God’s power at work within you.
•   Gain a greater sense of purpose and meaning when you know your life matters to God.
•   Feel more peace and less stress when you trust God with all your worries.
•   Receive clarity about decisions when your will aligns with God’s will.
•   Discover joy and contentment when you focus less on yourself and more on serving God.

The choice is yours.  Will you take that first step of humility today and admit your desperate need for Jesus?  Will you choose to let go of control and surrender everything— your will, plans, dreams, possessions, relationships, and even your very life— to God?  This total surrender will forever change your life and launch you into the greatest adventure imaginable.

The words of Jesus remind us of this precious promise:

“If anyone (including you) desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” – Luke 9:23.

The choice is yours.  What will it be?


The Higher Christian Life

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55:  The Difference Between Living or Just Being Alive

55: The Difference Between Living or Just Being Alive

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“I am the Resurrection and the Life”

We have been talking about the Higher Christian Life for quite some time.  And today, we will discover Jesus pointing to this manner of life, the “abundant life” as He called it in John 10:10, while He was trying to encourage Martha at the tomb of her brother, Lazarus.  Do you remember the story?  If so, we will see Jesus offering us a life truly worth living and not one of mere existence, of just being alive.  It’s the difference between experiencing an exhilarating life of wonder and joy or an artificially sustained life, like a comatose patient on life support.  One is truly living, the other is just being alive— barely.

Let me elaborate.

When Jesus received word of Lazarus’ illness, He waited two more days before heading to Bethany (John 11:6).  But by that time, it was too late, four days too late (John 11:17).  Lazarus had died and was already buried.  For Lazarus’ sisters, all hope of a healing was gone, buried just like their brother.  For them, Jesus arrived late, the curtain had closed, and their hope was as lifeless as their brother.

Both Mary and Martha were in mourning.  When Martha heard Jesus had finally arrived, she ran to meet Him and uttered the pain she held in her heart.  She said, almost like an accusation, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).  Jesus, trying to encourage her, said, “Your brother will rise again.”  But unable to see the big picture, Martha responded, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last days” (John 11:23-24).  It was almost like she was saying, “But what help is that to me now?  I know I will see him in heaven, but I need to see him now.  And if You would have been here, this would not have happened.”

It was at this point Jesus spoke these life-changing words.

“I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believe in Me, thought he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26.

Great question for each of us as well.  Do we believe His words?  And if so, what does He mean by live?  Does it mean a longevity of years, like “eternal life” (John 3:15) or “everlasting life” (John 3:16)?  Or could it also mean something else?

Let’s look at the three times in His statement that Jesus uses the words life, live, and lives, and see if we can discover something wonderful about the resurrected life He offers.


But What Kind of Life Does Jesus Offer?

In Jesus’ words to Martha, He purposely used two different Greek words for life and live.  They are zōḗ and záō and they each reveal a different dimension of the life He offers each of us.  Let’s look at the definition of these two words:

First, zōḗ The word zōḗ refers to “physical life and existence as opposed to death and nonexistence.”  It is the most common word for life and conveys what we assume today when we think of eternal life— life that does not end.  Yet, it says little about the quality of that life, only that life exists.

Next, the word záō means “to live, to pass one’s life, to live in a certain way or manner.”  This word reveals more about the type of life one leads than the fact they will live forever or have life.  But it also means “to live unto God and be devoted to Him, to live a life characteristic of a resurrected life.”  And, by implication, to “live and prosper, to be blessed, and to live satisfied in Him.”  Or, as we would call it, to live the Higher Christian Life or the “abundant life” Jesus promised (John 10:10).

With this background, let’s look at the words of Jesus one more time.

“I am the resurrection and the life (zōē). He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live (záō).  And whoever lives (záō) and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26.

Do you see the specific choice of words Jesus used to convey this truth to Martha, and to us?  Consider the statement one more time.

“I am (present tense, currently and forever) the resurrection and the life (zōē – physical life, as opposed to death). He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live (záō – the manner of life, the resurrected life, the abundant life, the Higher Christian Life).  And whoever lives (záō – the manner of life, the resurrected life, the abundant life, the Higher Christian Life) and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26.

Even here, at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus is pointing to a life that knows no bounds and is available to all who are in Him.  Currently, forever, He is our resurrection.  Jesus, by His simple breath and nature, can bring to life— not just any life, but an abundant life, an overcoming life— that which sin and neglect have destroyed.  He said, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5), which includes you and me.

There is so much more we have to say about these small Greek words and the profound meaning they have for us in our quest for the Higher Christian Life.  So join us as we learn more about Jesus, the “Resurrection and the Life” who is beyond what we can ask or even conceive in our mind (Eph. 3:20).  And let’s experience the “abundant life” found only in Him, together.

The Higher Christian Life

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54:  How to Know the Will of God When We Pray

54: How to Know the Will of God When We Pray

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How Can I Know the Will of God…

For many believers, prayer is often confusing and frustrating.  We pray earnestly, with as much faith as we can muster up, and many times the answer to our heartfelt prayer is no, or worse, silence.  And if we have this experience with prayer and faith repeatedly, eventually, for most believers, we rely less on prayer and more on our own efforts to make things happen our way.  Now, instead of praying, “Your will be done,” we pray, “Lord, please bless the works of my hands,” whether or not it is God’s will.

See the dilemma?

Then, when seeking confidence in our prayers, we stumble across 1 John 5:14-15 which seems, at least on the surface, to be the silver bullet we were looking for.  Uh, until we look at the passage closer.  Then we see the condition that unlocks the promise of confidence.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him – 1 John 5:14-15.

And quickly, we see the linear promise and corresponding conditions in this passage.

Confidence in Him (our goal) – We AskHis Will (condition) – He HearsWe Receive

We can have the confidence to know that if we ask, and here is the stickler, anything “according to His will,” that He hears us and will grant what we ask.  But what we pray for must be “according to His will.”  If we ask what He wants, He will naturally grant our request.  But if we ask something selfish, something “amiss” (James 4:3), God is under no obligation to answer our prayer the way we want.

So the emphasis in our prayer life should not be on changing God’s mind to match our wants.  It is to first find out the will of God and then pray accordingly.  We are to have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), and not the other way around.

So how is that done?  How can we discover the will of God in our prayer life?  And once I discover it, how can I know for certain I am praying “according to His will”?  How can I make sure I am not self-deluded into thinking what I want is what God wants?  And finally, when I pray, how can I tell the difference between His will and mine?


Especially in My Prayer Life?

As we shared last time, there are two ways to be successful in almost every area of life, both physical and spiritual.  One, find someone who is successful and do exactly what they did to become successful.  Or two, find a dismal failure, someone you would never want to be like, and do the exact opposite of what they did to get where they are.  This principle works in both the natural life and the spiritual life.

We looked at the life of George Muller last time to discover some of his secrets of faith in his relationship with the Lord.  If you have yet to listen to that episode, I would suggest you do that before reading any further.

George Muller is our example of both faith and prayer, but especially of praying “according to His will.”  And he has not left us in the dark regarding this matter.  George Muller published a small paper which outlined the six steps he went through with each prayer request to make sure he was praying God’s will, and not his own.  And these six principles can help us today learn how to discover the will of God in our prayer life, before we come to Him in prayer.

So in the words of George Muller, let me share them with you.

One, I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter.  Nine tenths of the trouble with people is just here.  Nine tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be.  When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.

Two, having done this, I do not leave the result to feelings or simple impression.  If I do so, I make myself liable to great delusions.

Three, I seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God.  The Spirit and the Word must be combined.  If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also.  If the Holy Spirit guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.

Four, I take into account providential circumstances.  These often plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit.

Five, I ask God in prayer to specifically reveal His will to me.  (According to Muller, the key to getting specific answers to prayer is to ask God to specifically reveal His will to you.)

Six, thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment, according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly.

Join us as we learn about faith and the confidence we need in our prayer life from George Muller as we move forward in embracing the Higher Christian Life.

The Higher Christian Life

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53:  Faith, Revival, and the Example of George Muller

53: Faith, Revival, and the Example of George Muller

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Will You Not Revive Us Again?

When we look at the condition of our world and of the spiritual temperature of the church, the clear assessment is that we need revival.  Not a revival meeting or a revival as a once-a-year event, but a revival akin to an awakening, like our nation has experienced in the past.  It is a re-capturing of lost spiritual ground, exemplified by what Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4).  Understanding our present condition, revival would be to rekindle that love by remembering “from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works” (Rev. 2:5).

Which naturally leads to a few questions.

What is a Christian revival?
Why is revival so important in the life of a Believer?
What are some examples of past revivals?
What happens during a revival?
How does spiritual revival take place?
What are the effects of a revival?
And how can we begin the process of revival today?

We should also note, the process of revival is the quickest way to experience the Higher Christian Life we have been talking about.  Why?  Because the definition of revival is a “spiritual awakening from a state of dormancy or stagnation in the life of a believer.”  And this spiritual awakening comes from a resurgence of faith in the believer. Not faith for salvation, but faith in the Word and character of God.  It is taking God at His Word and living one’s life in accordance with His truth, and not what we think or feel or want.

And the key to revival and the Higher Christian Life, as with most things in our walk with Christ, is faith.


Two Ways to be Successful

There are two ways to be successful in almost every area of life, both physical and spiritual.  One, find someone who is successful and do exactly what they did to become successful.  Or two, find a dismal failure, someone you would never want to be like, and do the exact opposite of what they did to get where they are.  This principle works in both the natural life and the spiritual life.

The problem for us, especially regarding living by faith, is that we don’t know many believers who have achieved what we desire.  Most of our faith heroes are long since gone and many today struggle like we do with faith.  There are very few, if any, Christian leaders who, like Paul, would confidently say, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).  If there were, we could follow and imitate them and learn from their life.  But faith heroes like these are few, especially in the West.

So what are we to do?  Simple.  We will learn and be discipled by the faith heroes of the past.  And in my estimation, the greatest example of pure faith in the last 300 years is a man named George Muller.

George Muller

Let me tell you just a little about his life.

•   He was born in 1805 in Prussia (Germany) and died in 1898, at the age of 92.
•   He was an evangelist and the founder and director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England, and cared for over 10,024 orphans during his lifetime.
•   He established 117 schools which offered Christian education to over 120,000 children.
•   He established the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad and distributed over 285,407 Bibles, 1,459,506 New Testaments, and 244,351 other religious tracks that were translated into twenty languages.

And he did all of this by prayer alone.  Muller never solicited gifts nor went into dept nor told anyone their financial needs.  When asked, he would say, “the Lord provides for all our needs.”  It is estimated he prayed into the ministry over $113,000,000.

I believe this is someone we can learn from regarding faith, don’t you?

But to show you the magnitude of the five orphan houses he was able to build through prayer and faith alone, consider the following:

Ashley Down Orphan House 1

Ashley Down Orphan House 2

Ashley Down Orphan House 3

Ashley Down Orphanage Map

Join us as we learn about faith and revival and the Higher Christian Life from a simple man of faith, George Muller.

The Higher Christian Life

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52:  Immanuel and the Higher Christian Life

52: Immanuel and the Higher Christian Life

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And You Shall Call His Name Immanuel…

One of the unmistakable truths that leads to a fuller understanding of the Higher Christian Life is our embracing the fact of the Holy Spirit living in us.  Now, I know you know that… at least cognitively, as a fact, and probably have this truth hidden for safekeeping somewhere deep in the recesses of your brain.  But that’s not where the reality of this wonder takes place.  And it is not the knowledge of this truth that leads to the Higher Christian Life, but the experiencing of this truth.

We experience “God with us” when we wholeheartedly release our fear and doubt and shame to the One who literally lives in us.  One who abides in you (John 15:4-5).  The Spirit, fully God in every sense, who has chosen to “rest, dwell, live, to make His home” in you as well as to “remain united with one heart, one mind, and one will” with you.  After all, this is the definition of the Greek word which translates, abides.

This was all promised to us eons ago.  We see it in the Old Testament, in the words of Isaiah.

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” – Isaiah 7:14.

And an angel later confirmed it to a troubled, betrothed man named Joseph.

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us” – Matthew 1:20-23.

We often focus on the miracle of Christ’s birth, and rightly so.  But we find one vital key to the Higher Christian Life revealed in the name given Jesus.  They shall call His name Immanuel, which means, “God with us.”  Not just with us physically, but with us eternally in the Person of the Holy Spirit.


Which Means, “God With Us”

Oh, the wondrous joy of knowing we are never alone.  For God is with us and in us and has promised to never leave us as orphans (John 14:18).  His name, given before time for our understanding of the miracle of redemption, is Immanuel.  And Immanuel means “God with us.”  He is always with us.  And we will be forever with Him.

But that raises a few questions on a practical level.

•   What does it mean to have God with us?
•   And how is He with us?
•   What is that experience like?

Now, let’s make it personal.

•   Is God with you?
•   Is He with you theologically or experientially?
•   And if He is, what is that experience like?
•   How does your life reflect God with you?

It is in the Person of the Holy Spirit that God lives in us and is with us.  And it is by surrendering our lives to Him who lives in us and is with us that we begin to experience the Higher Christian Life.

So let me encourage you, as you join us today, to consider deeply the meaning of the name of our Lord and realize His very name speaks of the wonder of our redemption.  We have our sins forgiven so that we can have fellowship with God Himself.  But not by trekking to Mount Sinai to go where God is.  No, He is now where we are and He is the One who made the journey for our benefit.

Rest easy in this confusing world.  After all, God is with us, with you, forever.

The Higher Christian Life

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51:  How to Understand the Fear of the Lord

51: How to Understand the Fear of the Lord

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The Fear of the Lord is …

We have shared in the past how we often find a fuller understanding of the Higher Christian Life in the small words of Scripture.  Simple, often overlooked as unimportant words like “know” or the various Greek definitions of our single-use English word translated “love” give us insight into the heart of God that can bring great intimacy with Him.  And this principle is also true of harsh words, unkind words that seem inconsistent with the love we experience from God.  In particular, the command to “fear” God or the “fear of the Lord” can also open the door to the Higher Christian Life like no other word can.

Let me explain.

The Scriptures record over 300 times the importance of having a fear of God.  And it reveals incredible promises to those who do fear Him and stern warnings to those who don’t (we will look at those promises in our next episode).  But the word translated fear, in both the Hebrew and the Greek, leads us in two opposite directions.  For in Scripture, the word fear has two meanings, one negative, and the other positive.  Let’s look at a familiar example from Proverbs to illustrate this point.

“The fear (yirʾāh) of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” – Proverbs 9:10.

In this verse, the Hebrew word for fear (yirʾāh) means just that, fear, as in dread, terror, or fright.  But in context, being the fear of the Lord, the word also conveys a positive quality that acknowledges God’s good intentions and love for His people (Ex. 20:20).  Therefore, fear (yirʾāh) can also translate as “respect, reverence, awe, and profound honor.”  And it’s the intended audience of this verse that determines the meaning of the word.

There are always two audiences for Scripture, and especially for the phrase, the “fear of the Lord.”  One, unbelievers who fear the judgment of God and await eternal separation from Him (Heb. 10:31).  For them, fear means terror, dread, and fright (Deut. 2:25).  And two, believers who have profound reverence for God and hold Him in absolute awe.  For them, fear is a word describing the feeling one gets when in the presence of supreme greatness.  It is a fear that comes with many promises that spring from having a deep and abiding respect for the Lord.  And it is these promises that make experiencing the fear of the Lord so important for us today.


The Beginning of Wisdom

So fear translates as both dread and fright, as well as reverence and awe.  And the context and audience of the passage determines the definition.  But what does the fear of the Lord mean for the believer?  What is the total scope of this phrase?  What is it saying about God and the Higher Christian Life?  And how can we learn to cultivate the fear of the Lord in our own lives?

To develop the fear of the Lord, we must come to recognize who He is and not limit Him to our own understanding.  God is sovereign.  He is our omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (all-everywhere) God.  As our sovereign God, there is nothing we can do, nor speak, think, or feel, that He is not fully aware of at all times.  And as a just God, we will give an account to Him for everything we have done or thought or for every idle word spoken that does not bring Him glory (Matt. 12:36).  This is an incredibly sobering thought.

When we get a glimpse of the reverence of God, it helps us take His Word and commands seriously.  We see Him for who He is, and tremble at His power and glory in His mercy and grace.  This realization that He is God and we are mere dust produces a humility and desire to surrender our lives to Him and helps move us along in our journey to the Higher Christian Life.

And since we know each of us will give an account of our lives to the Lord, and since we know He is fully aware of everything we speak, do, think, and desire— then the fear of the Lord is a continual awareness of these truths, 24/7, every moment of every day of our lives.  We can therefore define the “fear of the Lord” as a continual, ever-present, awareness that we are in the presence of a holy, just, and righteous God, and that every motive, desire, word, thought, and action is open before Him to be judged by Him.

And there is nowhere to hide.

This is what it means to fear the Lord.  To be always aware of His presence and to scrutinize the motives and actions of our lives to be pleasing to Him.  We can summarize our response to the fear of the Lord as follows:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God – Romans 12:1-2.

But what of the promised blessings for living in the fear of the Lord?  They are innumerable and beyond description.  And next time, we will look at the blessings and promises that follow those who fear the Lord.

I think you’ll find them amazing.  I certainly did.

The Higher Christian Life

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