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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