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26:  The Unlimited Possibilities of Faith

26: The Unlimited Possibilities of Faith

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The Unlimited Possibilities of Faith

We have spent the last few sessions unpacking the three key truths that must be believed in order to receive the Higher Christian Life.  By now, these should be second nature to you.  But there are two aspects to these three truths. One, naturally, is the truths themselves.  And the other, of equal importance, is that these truths must be believed.  In a word, faith.  It is the fact you must believe by faith what these truths state.  This brings us to the topic for today, and that is faith.  Abundant faith, achieving faith, overcoming faith, non-wavering faith.  Faith.  So let’s begin with a simple question:  What are the unlimited possibilities of faith?

Let’s begin by looking at a few statements from Christ and see if we truly believe what they say.

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” – Matthew 19:26.

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” – Mark 9:23.

Note, the Greek word translated “all” is pás and means “each, every, any, in totality, the whole, without exception.”  So, for us, all means all.  Literally.  And the second word to consider is dunatós which is translated as “possible” and means “to be able, to have strength, to be strong or powerful.”  This is a form of dúnamis which is primarily translated in the New Testament as power, notably “miraculous” power.  In essence, Jesus is saying with faith or to one who believes, all things, without exception, are possible, or have the power, strength, and ability to be done, even miraculously, in Christ.

Do you believe these words of Jesus?  I hope so.  For “without faith, it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6).

But there is something more here that needs to be understood about these promises.  The first statement is a blanket truth about God.  There is nothing impossible with Him, or all things are possible.  But with the second statement, there is a condition.  Jesus begins with a condition “if” and states, “If you can believe, (then) all things are possible to him (condition again) who believes” (Mark 9:23).  So faith or belief is the condition that opens up the floodgates of blessings from the Lord and is the key, not only to our salvation (Eph. 2:8-9), but also the Higher Christian Life.

And if that wasn’t enough, we find in Hebrews intimacy and becoming well-pleasing to the Lord is intricately tied to faith.  So much so, the Scripture says “without faith, it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6), which is the point of seeking the Higher Christian Life.

So if the words of Jesus are true and faith is the substance that brings blessings and intimacy with the Lord, then what are the possibilities in Him, by faith, in this life we now lead?  Or, is there anything God cannot do to those who believe?


Are the Possibilities of Faith Really Unlimited?

Over the next few sessions, we are going to dig into the infinite possibilities of faith and try to expand our understanding of how powerful and majestic, and good is our Lord.  After all, there is nothing greater than Him.  Nothing.  And for some reason, He has chosen to prove Himself sovereign to the lost world of fallen men and angels (Eph. 3:10) by allowing us to personally and intimately experience Him in our daily lives, as sinful as we are.  And the pathway to the Higher Christian Life is by faith, and nothing more.  Just like it was with our salvation (Eph. 2:8-9).

So what are some of the possibilities of faith, according to the Scriptures and not necessarily our current experience:

•   Salvation is possible because of our faith.
•   Sanctification, or the Higher Christian Life, is possible because of faith.
•   All power for service and ministry is possible because of faith.
•   All victory in prayer is possible because of faith.
•   All peace and joy during trials in this world are grounded and possible because of faith.
•   Excitement in the Lord’s soon return is possible because of faith.
•   All things are possible to him to believe, to him who has faith.  All things.

This is our inheritance in Him.  It is a birthright to be believed.  And the choice is always ours to make.

One final thought, consider the faith possibilities in this doxology found in the third chapter of Ephesians.   And remember, the word “able” in this verse is a derivative of the same Greek word translated “possible” in the verses above.  After all, our God is able, and all things are possible with Him.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works (present tense) in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen – Ephesians 3:20-21.

In my favorite movie, Facing the Giants, Coach Grant Taylor, after winning the State Championship, asks his players this probing question: “What is impossible with God?”  And to a player, they all answered, “Nothing Coach.”

So how about you?  What is impossible with God?

The Higher Christian Life

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25:  “Why Did You Doubt?”  Well, uh…

25: “Why Did You Doubt?” Well, uh…

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Why Did You Doubt?

We will close our study of the three key truths that must be believed to experience the Higher Christian Life by looking at one final example of how to commit yourself, in total dependence, to the Lord for safekeeping.  This is truth number three.  In essence, it is His job to “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and not yours.  We must learn, by faith, to trust Him to complete what He has begun in our lives by His power and not struggle in our own.  And this is hard.  Why?  Because it requires faith and trust and dependence and all the things that war against the flesh and our pride and self-sufficiency.  Jesus summed up our struggle when He said to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31).  Exactly.  What do you and I doubt?

I always find it amusing when we, as believers in Christ, trust Him without reservation regarding the things “in the sweet by and by” but struggle in the realities of the “here and now.”  We trust Him for our salvation, without wavering.  We trust Him in His promise to receive us “to Himself” so that “where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3), no questions asked.  But we waffle in our faith when it comes to His promise to “keep you from stumbling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).  Why is that?  Why are we so strong in our faith in the things we cannot see, like heaven, the Second Coming, and eternal life, but are “tossed to and fro and carried about” (Eph. 4:14) in the things we can see, like fear, insecurity, the lack of money, failing health, fractured relationships, and all that keeps us up at night?

Remember, we can forge through this life doing the things we hope please God in our own strength and end up fatigued, weary, and frustrated in the end.  Or, we can soar through this life on the “wings of eagles” (Isa. 40:31), allowing Christ to do through us the things that please God and end up exhilarated, overwhelmed with gratitude, and bearing so much spiritual fruit our branches literally touch the ground.  The choice is always ours.  And the end is always the same.  It’s how we get to the end (doing the things that please God) that matters.


“O You of Little Faith, Why Did You Doubt?”

A perfect example of this principle is found in Matthew 14:22-33.  Here we find Jesus, after feeding close to ten thousand hungry souls with a boy’s sack lunch,* sending His disciples away as He withdraws to a mountain to spend some alone time with His Father (Matt. 14:22-23).  And what were the disciples commanded to do?  Same thing they had done most of their lives.  Jesus told them to “get into the boat and go before Him to the other side” (Matt. 14:22).

Traveling on the water in a boat was not something new to most of them.  Peter and Andrew, as well as James and John, were fishermen.  So were probably Thomas, Phillip, and Nathaniel.  So this task of traveling by boat was second nature to the majority of the disciples.  And they had all seen rough seas before.  But on this night, they struggled.

But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed (basanízō – to torture, afflict with pain, vex, harass) by the waves, for the wind was contrary (enantíos – over against, hostile, adverse) – Matthew 14:24.

And their struggle had gone on for a long time.

Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them.  Now about the fourth watch of the night (3:00 am to 6:00 am), He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by – Mark 6:48.

Can you see what is happening here?  The disciples are doing what they have always done, in the flesh, to follow the commands of Christ.  He told them to get in the boat and go to the other side, and they did, only things got tough.  So what did they do when things got difficult?  They tried harder, worked harder, “strained at rowing” harder, all night long and into the early morning hours.  They were exhausted, worn out, yet still had not made it to the other side.  And all the while Jesus, casually walking on the water, is watching them while they struggled.  Remember, this is the same water that was putting up such a fight against the disciples that Jesus effortlessly glided over.  Both Jesus and the disciples faced the same circumstances, yet chose a different path to victory.

The difference is this: Jesus, the key to victory, the Lord of Creation, was outside of the boat, and the disciples were struggling to fulfill His command in their own effort.  But once Jesus got into the boat with them, everything changed.  The winds ceased.  The seas became calm.  And wonder fell upon the disciples.

Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased.  And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled – Mark 6:51.

I bet.  And we haven’t even mentioned Peter walking on water to Jesus (Matt. 14:28-31), which is another amazing topic for another time.

But the lesson to be learned is this, like the disciples, we can try to live the Higher Christian Life in the flesh, by our own efforts, straining at rowing, full of doubt and fear and failure, and still never make it to the other side.  Or we can trust Jesus to fulfill His commands to us by His own efforts.  We can invite Him into the boat, refuse to doubt, watch the seas become calm and our problems fade in the light of His glory, and realize He is well able to “keep you from stumbling” (Jude 24).

As a closing note for today, did you notice what the next verse says?  It simply states, “When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret” (Matt. 14:34).  No mention of the troubling seas.  No word about how tired they were.  Nothing.  Just a note to let us know that, with Jesus in the boat with them, they were able to obey His commands.  And I believe the ride to the other side after Jesus entered the boat was far easier than their toil before He got into the boat.  Don’t you?

So what will it be?  Striving or resting?  Trusting or doubting?  The Higher Christian Life or the life you have always known?  The choice, as always, is yours.  So choose wisely.

One final thought, if you do the same things in the same way you have always done, don’t be surprised when you get the same results.  So in this Higher Christian Life, try something different.  Try trusting Him and not yourself.  And let’s see if He truly can “do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

* Matthew 14:21 states there were “about five thousand men, besides women and children.”  So, assuming an average of two children plus a wife for each man, we are looking at much more than ten thousand people.

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24:  It’s His Job to Make and Keep You Holy

24: It’s His Job to Make and Keep You Holy

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It’s His Job to Make and Keep You Holy

Today, we will begin looking at the last of the three truths that must be believed in order to experience the Higher Christian Life.  These truths speak of the character of God and our need to let Him both make us holy and, as hard as it sometimes seems, keep us holy in His sight.  Remember, Jude 24 states, “He is able to keep you from stumbling”— so His ability is not in question.  And 1 Corinthians 1:30 further reveals that Jesus “became for us… sanctification.”  So He is what He desires us to be.  Seems simple enough.  But how does knowing what He can do (keep us from stumbling) and knowing what we have done (our sin and failure) reconcile with each other?  And how do these two statements about Christ relate to the importance of our dependence on Him?

Before we address this question, let’s begin with a quick review of what we already know (hopefully) about the three key truths and the Higher Christian Life.

One, you must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness.  You must settle it in your mind, once and for all, that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).  And this is especially true of Him being able to “keep you from stumbling” (Jude 24).  Yes, even you.

Two, you must remove from your mind all doubt and fear that He is not willing to keep you from stumbling.  Of course He is willing.  That’s what a good God does.  He will not command you to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16) and then give you no means to obey His command.

And three, you must learn to commit yourself, in total dependence, to the Lord for safekeeping.  It is His job to “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and not yours.  His job.  And He is not only willing to bring you across the finish line, but He is also able to carry you across the line if necessary.  So we must learn to trust Him to finish what He began in us, for His glory, no matter how we feel at the moment.  Remember, whatever the need, He can.  And even better, He will.

Now once that is settled in our mind, if we don’t stay focused on Him alone, the drudgery of the everlasting treadmill begins.

Let me explain.


Yes, It Really Is His Job to Both Make and Keep You Holy

You and I both know that fellowship with God is something that can quickly fade away.  It is not something that maintains itself.  A simple sin, an impure thought, jealously, anger, lust, pride, you name it, and soon we have grieved the Holy Spirit and inadvertently landed on square 87 in the spiritual Chutes & Ladders game and now find ourselves sliding almost back to the beginning.  “How did that happen?  I was so close!  Now I’ve got to start all over.”

So what do we do?  We try harder.  But harder at what?  Unfortunately, since we assume our intimacy with the Lord, the Higher Christian Life, was somehow obtained by our own efforts to live holy and, now that we find ourselves back on square 24, we naturally commit to working and trying harder to recapture the fellowship we lost.  So we pray more.  We read our Bible more.  We commit ourselves to witness more, love more, worship more, give more.  We get on the treadmill of works hoping to somehow earn renewed fellowship with Him, or revived holiness in us until we find ourselves exhausted and frustrated and close to despair.  No matter how hard we try, no matter how many spiritually good things we add to our life, we cannot obtain by our works something that is only given to us by faith.  And here is where we often fail.

We only received salvation when we realized there was nothing we could do to atone for our own sins.  We tried and failed.  So we tried again, only harder, to fail once again, only harder.  Eventually, we quit trying and finally gave up.  Hence, we surrendered to Christ, accepted and received His sacrifice for our sins, and received, as a gift of grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and eternal life.  And this was appropriated to us, not by works, no matter how good they may seem, but by faith.

The Higher Christian Life is received the same way.

When we come to a fuller understanding of Him and experience the Higher Christian Life, we will find our prayer life will increase exponentially.  Scripture will become for us, “living and active” (Heb. 4:12), maybe for the first time.  And we will have a natural desire to tell others about the wonder of this life with Christ we are now experiencing.  But these are all manifestations of an inward change by the Spirit and not tasks or requirements we must do in the flesh to earn His acceptance.  His love and acceptance are given to us by faith, as a gift.

So just like salvation, when we come to the realization we cannot live a holy life on our own and surrender in total dependence to Him by allowing Him to live His holy life through us, then He becomes for us, by experience, “wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, (why) as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:30-31).  We glory in Him and not in our own accomplishments that we falsely believe somehow earn the acceptance of God.

Everything is given to us by grace and is received by faith.  Salvation, yes.  But also sanctification.

So today, when you pray or study Scripture, don’t do it out of duty or the desire to earn something from Him, but allow the Spirit to compel you to do it out of love.  Let the spiritual good things in your life not be for the purpose of earning God’s love, but as an outflow of His love.  As a response to His love.  Or, as Romans 12:1 says, as your “reasonable service” in response to the “mercies of God.”

Next time we will look at Matthew 14 and see this third truth played out for us in living color in the account of Jesus and the weary disciples doing what they had always done, in their own strength, on the sea.

The Higher Christian Life

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23:  Does God Love You as Much as You Love Him?

23: Does God Love You as Much as You Love Him?

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Does God Love You as Much as You Love Him?

Today we will begin to look at the second of our three key truths that lead to the blessings of the Higher Christian Life.  As we have learned, the first truth declares you must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness (Jude 24).  And once God’s ability is firmly settled in your mind, the second truth takes the first one and makes it personal.  The second truth states you must remove from your mind all doubt and fear that He is not willing to keep you from stumbling.  That’s right.  Now the first truth must be applied to your life in a personal way.  It is no longer about what God can do for others.  It is about what God can do for you.  And this is where many falter.  We believe God is able to bless anyone He wants at any time He wants, but just not for us.  We even believe He is willing to bless His children, but again, just not us.  And as strange as it may sound, this is like wondering if God loves you as much as you love Him?   Which is both absurd and incredibly sad.  Let me explain.

Sometimes there are children of God (Rom. 8:16) who feel so bad about themselves they cannot conceive of anyone, including God, loving them as much as they long for.  They walk with their heads down, depressed, unsure, insecure, often filled with self-loathing.  And, although there are many reasons for them to feel this way (an abusive home life, fractured relationships, a dysfunctional family, rejection, betrayal, etc.), for the Christian, it usually stems from their unwillingness to forgive themselves for their sins in the past and the paralyzing guilt they often suffer from.  For some reason, their sins or failures loom larger than the grace and forgiveness of God.  And this unhealthy mindset often is why they mentally shun any idea of God loving or forgiving them, and they reject any attempt He makes to do so.

Quite honestly, this spiritual disease is far more widespread than you would think.

Let’s think about forgiveness for a moment.

One of the Christian faith’s key tenets is the offer of God to forgive our sins (past, present, and future) due to the sacrifice of His Son and our simple faith in Him.  Jesus did all the work to secure our forgiveness and erase the guilt and consequences of our sins, and all we have to do is believe.  It’s like winning the lottery with a ticket someone gave you.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus – Ephesians 2:4-7.

There is no downside.


Is it True that God Loves You as Much as You Love Him?

When we sin against someone, there are usually three people we need to ask for their forgiveness.  The first is God.  And, according to His Word, His forgiveness is instant and complete with no hidden fine print (1 John 1:9).  In fact, He goes a step further and chooses to no longer remember our sins (Isa. 43:25), but also removes them as far as “the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12).  This is forever, with no North or South poles.

The next one we need to ask for their forgiveness is the person we have hurt.   And, as fallen humans, they will either forgive us or not.  This is their choice, and there is nothing we can do about it.  It is out of our hands.  We will either be blessed to have that relationship restored or live with the consequences of our sins.  Our job is to simply humble ourselves and ask and leave the results to God.

But the final one we need to ask for forgiveness is ourselves.  That’s right, the mug we look at every day in the mirror.  And here is where it gets sticky.  Often, we freely accept the forgiveness of God and are blessed when the person we have offended forgives us, but then we defiantly refuse to forgive ourselves.  How is that possible?  We often think:

“What I did was so bad I don’t deserve forgiveness.  So I’ll just mope around and feel bad forever for what I have done.   And that will somehow make me feel better about myself.”  Ya, think?

“Just asking for forgiveness is too easy and I don’t deserve to get off so lightly.  So I’ll just punish myself by being sad for the next twenty years to somehow make myself feel worthy of God’s forgiveness.”

“You know, if I were God, I would never forgive me.  So, I won’t.  He must be a big ‘ol softy to forgive someone like me for what I did.  He needs to be more strict like I am with myself.  So I’ll keep beating myself up for something God has already forgotten, and that will make me feel closer to Him.”

Does this make any sense to you?  Yet it plays out all the time in our life.  For example, when you believe God is able to allow His children to experience the blessings of the Higher Christian Life, but don’t believe He will do that for you, what does that say about Him?  Are you not imputing motives to Him as a Father that we would consider abuse today?  Often the reason is we feel so unworthy or suffer from such self-unforgiveness that we have to somehow justify why we don’t believe God will treat us as good as He does His other children.  Which is a terrible thing to say about an earthly father, let alone God.  In essence, we believe we love God more than He loves us.  And you and I both know that is not possible.

Remember who you are in Him.

The Spirit Himself (who lives in you) bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs— heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17).

Again, it’s like winning the lottery with a ticket we didn’t pay for.  Doesn’t get much better than that.

Today, commit to believing that what God says of all of His children, He also says for you.  He is more than willing to keep you from stumbling, like He does all His children, in your pursuit of the Higher Christian Life of holiness (Jude 24).   So rejoice in how He sees you as His beloved.

The Higher Christian Life

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22:  Is it Possible to Live a Holy Life?

22: Is it Possible to Live a Holy Life?

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Can I Experience Deliverance From Sin…  Daily?

As we dive deeper into Jude 24 and the first of our three truths we must believe in order to experience the blessings of the Higher Christian Life, we find ourselves today faced with one all-important question:  Is it possible for me to live a holy life?  In other words, can I experience victory over my sin and shortcomings on a permanent, daily basis?  Can I feel the pleasure of the Lord as I allow Him to live His life through me and therefore reflect the character of the Holy Spirit?  And if Jude 24 does teach that God will “keep me from stumbling” in my pursuit of a life of holiness, what part do I play in this odyssey?  Is God’s ability to “keep me from stumbling” passive in my life, or is it active?  And if God does provide me the ability to live a holy life, why do I not see more change in me?

These are the types of questions that, once settled by faith, can literally change your life.  They are liberating and freeing, and will impute confidence in both the Lord and you as His child, once they are settled in your mind.  But until they are firmly settled, doubts, fear, and failure will continue to plague your spiritual walk and hinder you from experiencing the Higher Christian Life.

Before we go any further, let’s deal with the elephant in the room, so to speak.  Just like our salvation, God’s sovereignty is paramount up until justification, when you become aware of your salvation and God declares you righteous (2 Cor. 5:21).  This is all His doing.  And after that, our free will in choosing to live, or not live, the sanctified life kicks in, and God is glorified by our choices to “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).  God provides for us a choice, but He doesn’t demand we choose His way.  Nor does He make us choose to walk according to the Spirit, like robots who are forced to do something they don’t desire to do.  God is not glorified by making His creation worship Him.  He is glorified when His creation chooses to worship Him.  We are always free to give in to the lusts of the flesh and experience the consequences of grieving the Holy Spirit.  And we are always free to walk in the Spirit, to surrender to the Spirit, and to obey the Spirit in a way that pleases Him.  The choice is always ours.

In the same way, God does not force us to live a sinless life after we come to faith in Him.  He desires it, provides for it, and has given us the Holy Spirit (emphasis on Holy) to live His holy life in us, yet the choice is always ours.  So is it within God’s power to “keep you from stumbling” in your life of sanctification?  Absolutely!  Anything less would limit the power of God.  And as a sovereign, omnipotent God, He can do anything He desires (Ps. 115:3), to anyone, at any time, without asking permission.  So can God force me to never sin again?  Yes, He can.  He has both the power and ability to do so.  But He never will.  God does not force His will on us to do something He expects us to do of our own free will.  And you will never go a day without sinning.  You, on your own, cannot live a sinless life, no matter how much you pray, fast, read your Bible, or go to church.  Why?  Because we still live in fallen, lustful, selfish, unredeemed bodies “eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23).

But the good news is that you can, absolutely, live a life of holiness and be pleasing to Him.  And you can do that today.


Can I Really Live a Holy Life, One Pleasing to Him?

The key to the sanctified life is not one of work, but of trust, rest, and surrender.  It is not trying to live a life contrary to our fallen nature, only to succeed one moment and fail miserably the next.  The victory comes when we stop striving and learn to allow the Spirit to live His holy life through us.  And the presence of the Holy Spirit will empower our choices to live holy and give us the ability to stand against temptation and the attacks of the enemy with a supernatural strength that only comes from Him.  Therefore we are not all on our own.  And we are not left as orphans to fend for ourselves.  Consider the following statement:

Therefore submit to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you – James 4:7.

Our part is to submit (surrender) to God and resist (to stand against) the devil.  God’s part is to make sure the devil flees from us.  We don’t have the power to force Satan to flee, but God does.  So in this God is able to “keep us from stumbling” or falling for Satan’s lies and temptations once we simply resist him.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it – 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Note, when we face temptation God, by His power, will not allow us to be hopelessly tempted to the point of our failure, but will always provide a way of escape.  This is something only God can do working, as He does, in the background and behind the scenes.  And again, this is another way God “keeps us from stumbling” by supernaturally providing a way of escape and limiting our exposure to various temptations.

This is what a good father would do to his loved children.  And it is exactly what our Father does for us.  So rejoice in that today.

The Higher Christian Life

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21:  What Does “Keep You From Stumbling” Mean?

21: What Does “Keep You From Stumbling” Mean?

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Now to Him Who is Able to… What?

We have been looking at the first of three truths that must be believed before you can progress into the Higher Christian Life.  Believing these three truths provides you with the confidence of knowing that God not only can, but will “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).  The first truth reveals how big your God is compared to how big your problems are.  And this cuts deep into the object of your faith.  Is your faith centered on God?  Or is it on your past experiences, both good and bad?  The first truth states that “You must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness.”  Period.  Non-negotiable.  For an overcoming life of lasting victory over sin, you must believe God is bigger than your sin and your flesh.

Last time we unpacked the beginning phrase of Jude 24, “Now unto Him who is able,” showing God is able (dúnamai – to be able, have power and strength by virtue of one’s own ability and resources) to do anything He desires.  Why?  Because He is sovereign, the Ever-Present One, the “I Am Who I Am” (Ex. 3:14), and there is none like our God (Is. 46:9).  He is God.  And as God, His holiness and omnipotence (God is All-Powerful) are some of His key character traits.  And the trait of sanctification (holiness) has now come unto us in Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30) and is imparted to us by the Spirit.  As we have said, it doesn’t get any better than that.

But nevertheless, some questions remain.

What is God able to do exactly?  I know He spoke the world into existence (Gen. 1, Ps. 33:9) and all of that.  I got that.  But what can He do regarding my inability to live a holy life?  How can His omnipotence reach down to me in my daily struggle with sin?  Is God only concerned about the big things in life, like creating the world in seven days or parting the Red Sea?  Or does His power and grace extend unto the little things in my life, the daily things?  What can God do for me and my constant struggle with my flesh?  Where can I find hope to live more like Him?

Let’s take a look, once again, at Jude 24, especially the description of what God is able to do.

Now to Him who is able (dúnamai – to be able, have power and strength by virtue of one’s own ability and resources) to keep you from stumbling (áptaistos – from falling, losing our sanctification, no longer being blameless), and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy – Jude 24.

This passage clearly states God is able to “keep me from stumbling” in order to “present me faultless.”  But what does “stumbling” mean?  Is this a salvation message showing “once saved, always saved”?  Or is this a sanctification message, because the end result is my holiness, my being presented “faultless” before His glory?  Or is it both?

These are very important questions.  Let’s look at them one at a time.


“Keep You From Stumbling”… From What?

As we have previously discovered, the Greek word translated “stumbling” is áptaistos and means “free from falling, blameless” and is only found in this one verse in Jude.  Therefore, we are unable to see how it is used elsewhere in the Scripture.  But in secular Greek writings, the word means “sure-footed as a horse that does not stumble.”  So it appears, “stumbling” could apply to both our eternal security in Him (future) and also in our ability to live a sanctified, holy life (present).   Also, in the context of Jude’s letter, it could also apply to God being able to keep His children from succumbing to the apostasy Jude warns them about.  Either way, God is able to finish what He began in each of us (Phil. 1:6), which is to make us “complete (lacking nothing) in Him” (Col. 2:10), and to “present us faultless” before the presence of His glory (Jude 24).

In regards to our salvation, Jesus spoke of being able to “keep us from stumbling” in John 10, when He revealed Himself as the Good Shepherd.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” – John 10:27-29.

In this sense, “keep you from stumbling” would refer to the security of our salvation in both the hands of Jesus and the Father.  So, just how secure are we?  Jesus said, “No one is able to snatch them (believers) out of My Father’s hand.”  And for most, that pretty much settles it.

But what about “stumbling” in our life of sanctification and holiness, which we all do?  What does God do to make sure we fulfill our purpose in salvation, that we are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son”? (Rom. 8:29).  What is God’s part in all of this?  And what is our part?  And how does He help us in our part?

We will dig deeper into this tomorrow.  But for now, know that your God is able to “keep what I (you) have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 1:12), which is your faith leading to salvation.  But He is also able to keep your sanctification, leading to holiness.  Rest in Him today, and we will see just how amazing and able our God is when we talk again tomorrow.

The Higher Christian Life

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20:  “Now to Him Who is Able to Keep You from Stumbling”

20: “Now to Him Who is Able to Keep You from Stumbling”

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Jude 24 and the Higher Christian Life

As we have shared in the past, the way to fully understand a particular passage is to first determine what it says.   And then, what it means.  Yesterday we looked at Jude 24 to determine exactly what the passage says by examining the meaning of the words when they were written.  And what we discovered was quite eye-opening and encouraging regarding what God is able to do to help us in our deeper life of sanctification or holiness.  Today, we’re going to begin to see exactly what Jude 24 means and how it is to be applied to our lives.  And this is where it gets exciting.  So let’s begin by unpacking the simple phrase, “Now to Him who is able.”

Now to Him who is able (dúnamai – to be able, have power and strength by virtue of one’s own ability and resources) to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever.  Amen – Jude 24-25.

We began this week by looking at the three truths that we must be believe in order to experience the continued blessings of the Higher Christian Life.  The first one of these vital truths is: You must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness.  We already know the meaning of the words in Jude 24, but what does the phrase “Now to Him who is able” mean for us today?

Throughout the Scriptures, one of the key truths repeatedly revealed in both the Old and New Testament is that God is God, and there is no other (Isa. 45:5).  He is the Ever-Present One, the “I Am Who I Am” (Ex. 3:14).  And, as God, He has certain attributes that belong only to Him that He has not shared with His creation.  He is, for example, Immutable (Mal. 3:6), Unchanging (Ps. 102:25-27), Omniscient (God knows all things – 1 John 3:20), Everlasting, and the Only Wise God (Rom. 16:26-27).  As wonderful as these attributes are, the most encouraging one for us today is this: God is Omnipotent, He is All-Powerful, which means He possesses in Himself all sovereign power and is, as the theologians describe, “able to do all His holy will” without exception.

Let that sink in for a moment.  Our God is able because He is omnipotent.  Our God is able because He does what He pleases (Ps. 115:3).  And our God is able because, as Jeremiah said, “There is nothing too hard for You” (Jer. 32:17).  This is our God.


“Now to Him (Our God) Who is Able to …”

In dealing with living a life of holiness, which always pleases the Lord (Heb. 12:14), often our biggest struggle is our inability to actually live, consistently, no matter how hard we try, the life we long to live in Him— a life of sanctification and holiness.  No matter how hard we try in the flesh, we quickly find the flesh cannot war against itself.  The power to live righteously must come from somewhere else.  And this is exactly what Jesus taught us about the overcoming power of the Holy Spirit, who now lives in us.  But God knew in this life we would face discouragement.  He knew we would struggle with our failures.  He knew, to use the words of Paul, we would cry out in desperation, “O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).

As a loving God, knowing this, He gave us some promises that are secured by His character and attributes, and not our efforts, to serve as a lighthouse in the swelling seas of doubt, failure, and guilt that inevitably come to each of us.  In each of these promises below, God is pictured as One “who is able” to deal with whatever we are struggling with by His unmatched, unrivaled, unequaled, inexhaustible power and ability as God.

As you read these, be encouraged by what God is able to do in your life, no matter how much you have mucked it up in the past (or even right now).  Remember, He is God, and He is able.

Now to Him who is able to establish you” or to “set you firm and steadfast” according to the Gospel and the “preaching of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 16:25).  He will not hang you out to dry, on your own, without a support system, like a forgotten orphan.  He came to you in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  He now lives in you in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  And you are now a “temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16).  So be encouraged.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power (Holy Spirit) that works in us” (Eph. 3:20).  God is able to do more than we can even conjure up in our minds.  More than our imaginations can conceive— more than our wildest dreams.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).  And God is able, more than able, to keep you in your life of holiness and to help you experience a deeper, abiding relationship with Him and with the Spirit.  It is His job and not yours.  So rest in Him.

When you pray, be sure to thank God for the promises He has made you and the assurance His power will see you through.  Remember, we don’t run the race alone.  We are to look unto Jesus, who has run the race before us, and follow His leading and example.  After all, He is the “author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).

The Higher Christian Life

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19:  My God is So Big, So Strong, and So Mighty

19: My God is So Big, So Strong, and So Mighty

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The Presence of the Holy Spirit

In our last time together we looked at the three key, no vital, truths that must be believed in order to win the war with our doubt and discover the permanent, abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit in our life as we embrace the Higher Christian Life.  Today we will dig a bit deeper into the firsts of these three truths, namely that our God is Able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep us from falling or faltering in our life of holiness.  Or, as the children’s song goes:  “My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do!”

The Scripture we are to wholeheartedly believe is found in Jude 24.  In this passage, Jude is closing his one-chapter book with a faith affirmation exalting the power and ability of God to keep us holy, sanctified, and well-pleasing to Him in this life and then present us as blemish-free as Christ in the next life.  And why should this surprise us?  After all, Jesus Himself became for us “sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:30), which is the one thing God promises to make sure we don’t lose by “stumbling” in our life of holiness.

Now to Him who is able (dúnamai) to keep (phulássō) you from stumbling (áptaistos), and to present (hístēmi) you faultless (ámōmos) before the presence (katenṓpion) of His glory (dóxa) with exceeding joy (agallíasis), to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever.  Amen – Jude 24-25.

Now, let’s look at a few of these keywords to understand what this verse is saying:

dúnamai – to be able, have power and strength by virtue of one’s own ability and resources.
phulássō – to watch, guard, keep.  It has the idea of a prison warden keeping constant watch over those under his care.
áptaistos – free from falling, blameless.  It means God’s grace is sufficient to keep us from sin.  This is a statement of God’s ability, and not necessarily our experience.
hístēmi – to cause to stand, to set in place.  The place is determined by the context.  And in this verse, Jude is saying we will be “caused to stand” in the “presence of His glory” or before God.
ámōmos – without spot or blemish.  Peter uses this same word to describe the blood of Christ, “as a lamb without spot (ámōmos) and without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19).
katenṓpion – or in the very presence of.  Ephesians 1:4 says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before (katenṓpion – in the very presence of) Him in love.”
dóxa – splendor, majesty, brightness, magnificence, excellence, dignity, and grace.
agallíasis – exuberant exultation and joy, gladness and rejoicing.

So what does this promise of God look like when we expand the translation?


My God is So Big,  So Strong, and So Mighty

As we have discussed, the first thing we must do to understand a Scripture is to determine what it says.  Only then can we discover what it means.  So what does Jude 24 actually say?

Now to Him who is able (dúnamai – to have strength and power by one’s own virtue and ability).  This one is simple.  The praise is to Him, to God, who has the ability to do whatever the rest of the verse promises because of the fact that He is God.  And as God, there is nothing He cannot do.  Period.

to keep
(phulássō – to watch, guard, like a warden over those under his charge). He not only has the power, but He is watching us, day and night, to make sure we do not stumble or prove ourselves not worthy of all He has promised us.

you
(put your name here) from stumbling (áptaistos – from falling, losing our sanctification, no longer being blameless).  God is watching us ever so closely to make sure we never drift so far away from Him in sin that He cannot bring us back to Himself, blameless (in this life).

and to present
(hístēmi – to cause to stand before).   Stand before Who?  And when?  Exactly.  God is able to cause us to stand before His presence and glory (in the life to come) no matter how much we have messed things up in this life.  How can He do that?  Because Jesus “became” for us “sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:30).  We are sanctified because we are in Christ.

you
(again, make it personal) faultless (ámōmos – without spot or blemish).  How can one who is at fault be deemed faultless?  This is the wonder and unexplainable joy that comes from being in Christ and having the Holy Spirit abide in us.  When God sees us, He sees His Son, because His Son’s righteousness has been imputed to us and our sin imputed to Him (and paid for on the cross).

before the presence
(katenṓpion – or in the very presence) of His glory (dóxa – splendor, majesty, brightness, magnificence, excellence, dignity, and grace).  This should take your breath away.  We no longer have to hide like orphans from the big man’s house, but we are brought before His presence as children, and “if children, then heirs— heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).  After all, Jesus said He would not leave us as orphans when He sent the Holy Spirit to live in us (John 14:18).

with exceeding joy (agallíasis – exuberant exultation and joy, gladness and rejoicing).  Please understand, this joy refers primarily to the joy of the Father and Son over our fellowship with other believers that we will share for all eternity.  Can you think of anything more wonderful?

This is what this single promise says.  Tomorrow we will see what it means as we grow in confidence that our God is able to keep His promise to His children regarding their ability to live a life of holiness, or one pleasing to Him.

The Higher Christian Life

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18:  I Know He is Able, But is He Willing?

18: I Know He is Able, But is He Willing?

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How to Maintain Faith in the Goodness of God

As we have shared previously, the ability to maintain the Higher Christian Life is found the same way it was originally obtained: by faith.  We have come to understand that, in the same way the confession of our sins leads to instant forgiveness, it also leads, according to 1 John 1:9, to our instant and immediate cleansing “from all unrighteousness.”  And for this promise to become a living reality in you, it must be believed by faith.  Unfortunately, many believe this truth only until they wake up the next morning feeling something less than they did the night before.  Then, they surrendered their life to the Lord, confessed their sins, received forgiveness and spiritual renewal, and in the early morning hours of the next day, all of that seems like a distant memory.  In effect, they are saying to God, “Hey, I know You’re powerful and able to do what You promised, but I’m not sure You’re willing.  I mean, I know You can, I just don’t think You will.  At least not for me.”

And this is where the war with doubt is lost.  We impune the character of God by viewing Him as someone who is miserly with what He has promised to give His children abundantly.  Or maybe He shows favoritism, like an abusive, narcissistic father, who loves some of His children more than others.  But why would we assume such hurtful things about our Lord?

When our emotional feelings begin to fade, and often they will, we are torn between believing what He promises in His Word or what we are feeling at the moment.  Which one is true?  What happens when my faith falters and I now believe what I see and feel and touch, and not what I know to be true?  When the peace, the serenity, the assurance God has accepted my offer of myself to Him (Rom. 12:1) begins to fade, what am I to do?  Was it supposed to be permanent?  Or was it designed to be fleeting, like the early morning dew?  Is there something I did or didn’t do to make it fade away?  Is this what the Higher Christian Life is really like, up and down, forward and backward, close to Him one day and distant cousins the next?  Is that all there is to the abundant life He promised?  Or is there something I’m missing?

Rest assured, the experience of the Higher Christian Life can be permanent.  It should be permanent.  It is expected and designed to be permanent.  But often we are clueless as to how to maintain our intimacy, passion, and fervency with Him.  So let’s look briefly (we will develop these in greater detail over the next few days), at three simple truths that are vital in helping you experience the permanent, residing joy of learning how to abide in Him (John 15:4) as we maintain the Higher Christian Life.


I Know He is Able, But is He Also Willing?

When we claim God is able to “keep you from stumbling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and then add the disclaimer, “Uh, but I just don’t think He will,” we are displaying the very opposite of abiding faith.  In fact, we are blaming God for our failures and disappointments and calling Him a liar.  That’s right, He promised and didn’t deliver.  That makes Him a liar.  Or, maybe He kept His promise to others, but just not to me.  Again, that makes Him a liar.  And that places us on shaky ground with the Lord.

So as a foreshadow of what is to come later this week, let me quickly share with you three truths you must believe to experience the continued blessings of the Higher Christian Life.  And these truths speak to the character and trustworthiness of God.  Again, our faith must be centered in His promises and ability to complete the good work He has started in each of us (Phil. 1:6), and that He won’t rest until we are “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10).

One, you must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness.  You must settle it in your mind, once and for all, that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).  And this is especially true of Him being able to “keep you from stumbling” (Jude 24).  Yes, even you.

Two, you must remove from your mind all doubt and fear that He is not willing to keep you from stumbling.  Of course, He is willing.  That’s what a good God does.  He will not command you to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16), and then give you no means to obey His command.

And three, you must learn to commit yourself, in total dependence, to the Lord for safekeeping.  It is His job to “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and not yours.  His job.  And He is not only willing to bring you across the finish line, but He is also able to carry you across the line if necessary.  So we must learn to trust Him to finish what He began in us, for His glory, no matter how we feel at the moment.  Remember, whatever the need, He can.  And even better than that, He will.

Today, think on these three statements about the character of God, and we will begin to unpack them in detail tomorrow.

The Higher Christian Life

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17:  Stop Working Against Yourself!

17: Stop Working Against Yourself!

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Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy

Yesterday we talked about the importance of self-control in your personal life in order to maintain intimacy with the Lord and experience the Higher Christian Life.  We also looked into the testimony of Paul (1 Cor. 9:24-27) regarding his commitment to a life of self-discipline in order to make sure, when all is said and done, he would not be “disqualified” or unapproved, unworthy, worthless, rejected, or deemed a castaway by the Lord.  After all, the most important thing in Paul’s life was not the temporal pleasures of sin, but the ecstatic joy of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ through the Person of the Holy Spirit.  And Paul, like most of us, recognized he was his worst enemy when it came to grieving the Holy Spirit by living, even for a moment, in the flesh.

It seems Paul had a keen understanding of the power of sin in his life.  And also was firmly convinced that the flesh cannot win a war against itself.  You cannot defeat sin by keeping the Law in the flesh, no matter how committed you are or how hard you try.  The cards are stacked against you.  The fix is in.  Greater is your flesh than your good intentions or self-determination.

In Romans, he puts his struggle with his flesh and the Law of God this way:

For we know that the law is spiritual (or according to the mind and will of the Spirit), but I am carnal (of the flesh, governed by human nature and not the Holy Spirit), sold under (in bondage to) sin.  For what I am doing (by choice), I do not understand.  For what I will (desire, intend, purpose) to do (to serve God, to experience intimacy with the Spirit, etc.), that I do not practice (repeatedly, continually, habitually); but what I hate (to grieve the Holy Spirit by sin, etc.), that I do.  If, then, I do what I will (desire, intend, purpose) not to do, I agree with the law that it is good (even in showing me a sinner).  But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells (live, abide, to pitch one’s tent) in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells (live, abide, to pitch one’s tent); for to will (desire) is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will (desire) to do, I do not do; but the evil I will (desire) not to do, that I practice (repeatedly, continually, habitually).  Now if I do what I will (desire) not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells (live, abide, make its home) in me.

I find then a law (principle), that evil is present with me, (described as) the one who wills (desires) to do good.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man (the bottom of his heart).  But I see another law (principle) in my members (flesh), warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (flesh).  O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver (to set free or rescue from danger) me from this body of death?  I thank God— through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin – Romans 7:14-25.

And hence, the struggle we all face.  But there is more.


How Can I Stop Working Against Myself?

According to what we just read it seems like, at least in the flesh, this turmoil is non-stop, with no clear victor.  That is why you cannot wage this war in the flesh, but must let the Spirit overcome the enemy and your flesh by living His life through you.  And once again, just in case you might have forgotten, this is the definition of the Higher Christian Life.

Paul, after his salvation, after receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, and after being used by the Lord in ways we can only imagine, gives us a glimpse into his personal spiritual struggle and it seems his battle with his flesh was a daily, ongoing protracted campaign, just like ours.  He did not pray once and, poof, all his problems were gone.  He continually had to surrender himself to the Spirit and discipline his mind and body to not act on their own but be subject to his mind and desires, which were to know nothing but “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

Did he succeed?  Sometimes.  And sometimes probably not.  But when he failed, he confessed his failure, repented, received forgiveness and the cleansing from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), and then did whatever he could to make sure he never failed again.  Paul determined to discipline his body to not act according to its sinful nature, but to be subject to his mind, will, and desire (1 Cor. 9:27).  And probably for Paul, and for you and me, this can be a daily struggle.

So what is our first step?  Simply this, without self-control and saying, “no” to what we may have previously said “yes” to, we are shooting ourselves in the foot and working against ourselves in the life of holiness.  Let’s learn from our mistakes. Let’s practice self-control and discipline.  And when it comes to our personal liberty (something we will discuss later), “When in doubt, don’t!”

The Higher Christian Life

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