285. The World Needs God’s Healing Love And Power Now! Let’s together pray it into being! Praying through Ephesians.

I am finding a deep yearning in the hearts of believers in many parts of the world for God to move in a powerful way. The yearning is not just so that believers have a more peaceful life, though we certainly long for that. We look at the indifference of all the nations of the world to the ongoing Muslim slaughter of Christians in Nigeria and in many other parts of the world and we cry out in desperation, “Lord, May Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!” We want God to intervene directly when it appears humans have no great desire to do so.

We look at the way the world at large is ignoring its Creator and rubbishing Christian values. It involves mocking God’s people, the very people for whom Christ died on a cross. Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, didn’t mock them. He died for them!

We look at nations which were formerly based on Christian values and the emphasis on the rights of the individual and we see a tearing down of those concepts. We see too the pursuit of insanity as “would-be world changers” try to obliterate the historical distinctions between male and female and insert meaningless “categories” of human beings.   Mocking what God has created and inserting other categories in their place is not only insane but highly dangerous as human creatures rebel against their creator.

What can one do especially when time is getting short? Each September, many of us who are older remember the hauntingly beautiful tune and words of “September Song” sung by Frank Sinatra in 1965. The song had these lyrics, “Oh, it’s a long, long time from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September.”  And later in the song, “Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few, September, November.” It was not a Christian song but the lyrics remind us that time is running short and opportunities have to be taken lest they be lost for ever! The time to bring more healing into the world is right now, not just some time in the indeterminable future!

My little short-term contribution is to pray through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, praying that the truths embodied in that letter may be experienced in today’s world. The truths are life changing for individuals and have the power to change nations and individuals within the nations if they are known, prayed and acted on.

What I would love to happen as I formulate these prayers in coming blogs is that at least one individual in a nation might pray the prayer and begin a transformation in his or her own situation within their own nation. With readers looking at my blogs from over 185 nations there is that distinct possibility if they pray to God personally. He loves to hear and to answer prayers prayed sincerely to Him from any “insignificant” person anywhere in any “insignificant” part of the world. You will notice of course that I have put “insignificant” in inverted commas because in God’s sight no one is insignificant and He cares for His whole creation. He can do great things through the most unlikely people in the most unlikely places!

The blogs [articles] will feature the passage of scripture from Ephesians first, then some notes on meanings of words and then the suggested prayer. His word is infallible. My suggested prayer will not be. However it is an attempt to get folk praying for God to work a mighty healing in His world and especially in the bodies, minds and spirits of individuals in His world. Many of my friends have children and grand-children facing life-threatening illnesses and I am trusting our prayers will make a difference in the lives of those needy people.

It may take some time to cover Ephesians but I have these 3 articles with suggested prayers already posted on my blog site. They are the following:-

Blog No.192. Praying Our Way Through Paul’s Letter To The Ephesians. Ephesians 1:1-2. A Gracious Greeting about God’s Grace and Peace

Blog No.193. Praying Our Way Through Paul’s Letter To The Ephesians. Ephesians 1:3. Thanking God For What We Have In Christ

Blog No.284. Praying Our Way Through Paul’s Letter To The Ephesians. Ephesians 1:4. We are chosen by God Himself to fulfil His purpose for us in His world.

Blog No.285. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Saturday 01 September 2018.

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Healing, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Spiritual Gems in the New Testament | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

284. Praying Our Way Through Paul’s Letter To The Ephesians. Ephesians 1:4. We are chosen by God Himself to fulfil His purpose for us in His world

The passage of Scripture.  Eph 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”

Some notes on the passage

When did He choose us? Before the foundation of the world! Before anything was made, you and I as believers were in the mind and purpose of God for the world He was to create! Talk about significance! Chosen by Him! Beforehand! It is all of grace!

Why did He choose us? To fulfil His purpose for us in His world.

What was His purpose for us in the world? That we should be “holy and blameless before Him.”

“Holy” is [hagios] meaning basically “set apart”. Set apart from the unbelieving world and set apart to God for His purposes.

“Blameless” is [amōmos] without blemish. The word is used of sacrifices without any blemish and of an unblemished character as well. It is used of Jesus as ‘unstained” in Heb 7:26, “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.”

“Before” is [katenōpion] meaning “directly in front of” Him. It is interesting that both [amōmos] and [katenōpion] are used together in Jud 1:24 “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.” God is able to fulfil His purpose for us by His grace even as we stand before Him at the end of time.

A Suggested Prayer

“Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your amazing grace in choosing us to belong to You before the world was made.

We thank You too that You had a purpose in choosing us, that we should be set apart from the world’s ways and its values to belong wholly to You.

We thank You that in Your love and power You give us the grace to live holy lives before You. Forgive us for the times we have not drawn upon Your grace and failed to be Your holy and blameless people.

We thank You for Your promise in Your word that You are able to keep us from stumbling and to present us blameless before Your presence in glory with great joy.”

Please fulfil Your purpose in our lives as we continue to offer ourselves completely to You. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. AMEN.”

Blog No.284. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Saturday 01 September 2018

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Sanctification, Spiritual Gems in the New Testament | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

283. Factors Influencing Mental Health. Human Enemy No.3. THE ENEMY AGAINST US. THE DEVIL AND THE POWERS OF DARKNESS. (Study 3 of 3.)  

Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus that the believers there should be prepared for battle. Not just a future battle, but a battle being fought at the present time. It was a battle for the minds and hearts of humans. He wrote, “Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” Eph 6:11. In this simple command Paul identifies who the enemy is, the fact he has strategies he employs in the battle and he also mentions the resources needed to win the battle.

  1. WE ARE TO REALISE THAT HUMANS ARE IN A SPIRITUAL CONFLICT

There are powers at work in this world besides the power of God, and these are opposed to Christ and to His people.  We see that in our baptismal vows in which we promise to “renounce the devil and all his works. ” The Cambridge English Dictionary has a definition for “renounce.  It is “to say publicly that you no longer own, support, believe in, or have a connection with something.” The Greek New Testament word is [apotássō ] meaning “to take leave of, bid farewell; to dismiss, forsake, separating oneself from others, places, or things (Mar 6:46; Act 18:18, Act 18:21; 2Cor 2:13).“ [Word Study Bible.] So to renounce the devil is to affirm that you want nothing to do with him or with his purposes in the world. It also means you are affirming that you want to be set free from any lingering influence he has on you.

Jesus spoke of the existence and power of Satan and demons, and delivered people from their power. Peter preached about Jesus saying, “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Acts 10:38. [“Oppresssed” here is the Greek word [katadunasteuō] made up of the intensive ‘kata’ and the verb to exercise power. The devil seeks to exercise ongoing control over humans.]

CS Lewis wrote that the great strategy of the enemy is to get people to believe that he doesn’t exist or to have them wrongly focussed on Satan and the powers of evil.  Paul knew they still existed but were disarmed, “He [Jesus] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” Col 2:15. Disarmed but still active!

Paul writes that we need to put on the armour of God in order to know His protection and victory in our lives.

  1. WE ARE TO RECOGNISE WHO IS THE ENEMY AND WHAT ARE HIS STRATEGIES

  • There are 18 references to Satan in the Old Testament and 29 in the New Testament. The passage in Eph 6:11 refers to his “schemes”. The Greek word is [methodeia, compare English ‘method’] which Thayer describes as “ cunning arts, deceit, craft, trickery.” Satan has strategies in place to deceive and trick humans.
  • Some of these strategies have to do with his nature. As the deceiver, he deceives. As diabolos the accuser, he accuses. As the Father of lies He ensures lies are spread.
  • He had the power of death as the writer to the Hebrews indicated, but Jesus died to break that power, “Jesus … that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Heb 2:14-15.
  • He can afflict people like the afflicted woman in Lk 13:11 “And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.” When Jesus healed her he said, “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” Lk 13:16. Jesus released the hold Satan had on her body so that she became free to  straighten up.  
  • He promotes fear, as Peter warned, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Pet 5:8. Especially the fear of death, “and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Heb 2:14-15.
  • He is the tempter who tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He can use people in his temptations. We see how Peter was used when he thought he was acting in love, by trying to prevent Jesus from going to the cross. Jesus replied to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Mk 8:31-33.
  • We also see how Judas was used when he betrayed Jesus, and how he opened himself to an attack of Satan. John records that during the last Supper “the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him.” Jn 13:2. A short time later, after Judas had taken the morsel from Jesus, John adds, “Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly” Jn 13:27. Judas followed through with his intention to betray Jesus. Satan capitalised on Judas’ desire to bring harm to Jesus.
  • Satan blinds people to spiritual realities. Paul wrote about those who were perishing through unbelief and that Satan has blinded them, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Cor 4:3-4. The tragic thing about spiritual blindness is that people don’t know they are spiritually blind!

Paul goes on in verse12 to show that Satan has, as his helpers, the powers of darkness.  He lists them as following, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph 6:12. We are not just to identify these powers with the structures or the people involved, but with the evil forces operating behind them.

  1. WE ARE TO PUT ON THE WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD. Eph 6:13-17

Eph 6:13 “Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Paul here uses an analogy showing how God’s people could take hold of the victory God could give them. As a soldier would dress up in armour for the battle, so Christians can avail themselves of the armour God supplies to enable them to win the victory. Paul describes the armour in verses 13 to 17. It is a picture similar to that in Isaiah 59:16-17 where God describes how He will bring victory over His enemies, Isa 59:16 “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. 17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.”

It is interesting to note however that these words are followed by a reference to a coming Redeemer who would bring victory to those who turned to Him from their sins, Isa 59:20 “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD.” Not only that but it appears this Redeemer would introduce a new covenant with His repentant people involving God’s Spirit being permanently endowed on them, Isa 59:21  “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.”

What the does the armour signify? It signifies protection from [and victory over] the enemy. It is important to note that the emphasis in this passage is not on the weapons themselves but on the truths they represent. So we look beyond the armour [belt, breastplate, shoes, helmet and sword] to the following realities which are ours in Christ. I mention this because I have found some believers to be in a state of anxiety or even shame because they had forgotten to put on one aspect of the armour on that particular day. So they felt unnecessarily vulnerable, a situation Satan can use to his advantage!

[Perhaps Paul foresaw that when He expressed the same truths in another way. He wrote in simple terms, Rom 13:12 “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy.” So the armour has been simplified to the “armour of light,” meaning the light and life Christ came to bring, John 1:4. But he followed that with an even simpler command, Rom 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” ] It is Jesus Himself who bring protection and victory rather than the symbols of His reality. These, then, are the realities behind the symbols of the weapons.

  • TRUTH. The victory is established and held together by truth, Eph 6:14 “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth,” Jesus taught his followers that they would come to know the truth which would set them free. Jn 8:32. “You shall know the truth, and the Truth will set you free.” It is essential to realise that truth is not some vague changeable concept swirling around in space. Rather it is focussed on Jesus. He is the ultimate reality who is the truth about creation [He made it] and the truth about humankind [as the only One who embodied what true humanity should look like]. He is the truth about the way to God, as He affirmed, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jn 14:6. Truth became incarnate in Jesus who came “full of grace and truth” Jn 1:14. The law may have been given through Moses but “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17. Walking in the truth is dependent on following Jesus as the truth, Eph 4:20 “But that is not the way you learned Christ! 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.” To look for truth apart from the revelation of Jesus as a person and apart from His teachings is to live in a world of unreality because TRUTH became incarnate in Jesus.
  • RIGHTEOUSNESS. It is expressed in righteousness. “and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” Paul wrote that Jesus is our righteousness, 1Cor 1:30 “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Theologians express the truth that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as believers and that God sees us as being clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. In that sense then it means that believers look beyond their own righteousness to live in such a way that the righteousness of Christ is seen in their lives openly, as a breastplate would be seen on their person. In other words, the righteousness of Christ being not only imputed to them but also imparted to them and exhibited through them as they live in a vital living faith-union with Him.
  • PEACE. It takes its stand on the fact that peace is available to the people of God. Eph 6:15 “and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” Such peace is available in and through Jesus who came into the world to bring peace, Eph 2:14 “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” He established peace in the world as the Prince of peace, and He establishes peace in the hearts of individuals in the world, who open their hearts to Him. He alone has achieved the reconciliation needed to establish peace, Col 1:20 “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
  • FAITH. Faith brings victory in difficult situations as the shield of faith is taken up to extinguish the accusations [or the flaming darts] of diabolos, the accuser, the evil one, Eph 6:16 “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” Again we need to note that Paul is not talking about having faith in faith. Rather it is about having faith in Jesus. Faith in who He is as a person and in what He has done for humans in His death, resurrection, ascension and session at the right hand of God. One of the first books I ever read as a believer I found immensely helpful . It was titled, “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” by Professor John Murray. Redemption was accomplished when Jesus won victory by His death on the cross as His triumphant cry rang out, “It is finished!”  Redemption is being applied as He continues to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit on those who trust Him for their forgiveness and salvation.
  • SALVATION. The helmet symbolises the protection of the head and the mind, Eph 6:17 “and take the helmet of salvation.” Salvation is not just a concept. It is a gift given by the grace of God to those who receive it freely in Jesus. It is in Him and in Him alone, 2Tim 2:10 “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” That was the subject of the early preaching in Acts, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12. Having the assurance of the certain hope of salvation equips the people of God for their struggle against the powers of darkness in the world.
  • THE WORD OF GOD. It means wielding the sword of the Spirit [the word of God] as a defensive weapon and as a weapon of attack against the powers of darkness. Eph 6:17 “and take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The word of God brings discernment and protects the believer from being deceived and led astray, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Heb 4:12. Jesus promised His followers that they would get answers to their prayers as they continued to abide in Him and in His word, Jn 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Being in the centre of God’s will by aligning oneself with Jesus as Lord and by aligning oneself with the truths of His word is the ultimate weapon for achieving victory in spiritual warfare.
  • SUPPLICATION. It means looking beyond human resources and praying to God to supply the resources only He can provide for every area of life, including victory in spiritual warfare, Eph 6:18 “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Praying in the Spirit would certainly include praying in tongues but appears to be wider than that. It is the prayer originated by the Holy Spirit Himself, the sort of prayer envisioned in Rom 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The advantage of such a prayer is that it more in conformity with the will of God, Rom 8:27 “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Therein is victory!
  • It involves persevering prayer, not only for God to supply our own personal needs, but also to supply the needs of others in the body of Christ, “To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” That meant for Paul’s Philippian readers that they should continue in their prayer for Paul Himself that he would be bold in presenting the gospel message, Eph 6:19 “and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Paul often wrote about the unity of believers such as in 1Cor 12:25 where he instructed that “there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.” To be faithful in prayer for other believers was to be in the will of God for His people, for that was what Jesus their Lord and Saviour is doing for His people continually, Heb 7:25 “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Victory then is not just knowing what the various weapons are. It is trusting in the risen Christ who embodies in Himself all the meaning behind the symbols of the weapons. Indeed believers should be walking in victory, for as Paul indicated it is our Christian [new] birthright, For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Gal 3:27. But he also knew that believers living with a fallen nature in a fallen world needed to consciously maintain their focus on Jesus and become what God had equipped them to become. They had to  “… put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph 4:24. That is what victorious Christian living is all about as we recognise and win victories over the methods and strategies of the evil one who would seek to destroy us.

 Blog No.283. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Wednesday 29th August 2018

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Salvation, spiritual warfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

282. Factors Influencing Mental Health. Human Enemy No.2. THE ENEMY WITHIN US. The Flesh. Our Fallen Human Nature. (Study 2 of 3.)

For centuries people have argued whether humans are born good or born evil. Some talk of the ‘innate goodness of humankind” meaning that humans are basically good at heart. But human experience would cast doubt on that theory. It is said that William Golding wrote his book “The Lord of the Flies” as a challenge to R.M. Ballantyne’s novel “The Coral Island” which painted a picture of the adventures of three boys marooned on a South Pacific island, the only survivors of a shipwreck. It was a wonderfully happy existence together on a tropical island. By contrast Golding painted a different picture of “innocent” schoolboys being marooned on an island without any adults being present. However it was not long before the ugly parts of human nature began to surface with murder eventually taking place among them.

Human nature as Jesus saw it

On one occasion some religious teachers asked Jesus a question about what makes humans impure. His answer shows that evil comes from within people, not just from their response to their external environment, “20 What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23. It is interesting to see the emphasis on such behaviour as coming from out of a person, from within and from out of the heart. Interesting too to note that the list contains thoughts and attitudes as well as actions. Not only are many sins listed but they are described as being defiling in verses 20 and 23 and as being evil in verse 23.

 Human nature as St Paul saw it

Though Jesus did not use the word ‘flesh” in this context, the characteristics He described correspond to those outlined by Paul in his description of the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21, namely “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these… .”  The “flesh” here refers to unregenerate human nature or the nature humans were born with.

The characteristics of the old nature are seen here in the realms of sex [sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,], the realm of religion [idolatry, sorcery], the realm of society [enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy] and the realm of personal discipline [drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.]

There is an unfortunate over-emphasis in some church groups on the fact that believers have died with Christ and so they suggest that their sin nature no longer exists. They quote verses like those in Rom 6:6 -7 “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.” The deeply disturbing aspect to this is that some boast that they no longer sin, saying that as the flesh nature is gone, then the Spirit alone has influence on them. What they fail to appreciate is that those verses have to be read in context and the verses following provide a warning to such an attitude. Paul is writing to born again believers in Rome and he warns them twice in successive verses, Rom 6:12 “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” AND Rom 6:13 “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” He obviously saw it as a possibility that believers could let sin reign in their bodies and that they could present their bodies to do evil. The encouragement he brought was that believers could have dominion over sin by the grace of God, Rom 6:14 “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”. Even then we need to realise that “grace” is not only a reference to God’s unmerited favour but refers to God’s enabling by His Spirit. To give way to temptation means they would not be drawing upon God’s grace or help.  While they kept on drawing on God’s grace and enabling, it would mean sin would not have dominion over them.

 Human Nature according to the 39 Articles of the Church of England (and Anglican churches worldwide)

Article IX on Original or Birth-Sin includes these words, “Original Sin …  is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is ingendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated”

The last phrase reminds us that when people are born again they do not lose their old fallen nature but it remains in them for as long as they live. However its power can be overcome when they continually and habitually choose to walk by the dictates of the Holy Spirit and not according to the dictates of their old flesh nature.

The inner battle in believers

The problem of our old nature, the flesh, is that it is opposed to the Spirit of God. Gal 5:16ff.  There is an inner battle in all believers for control of their lives. Either God has to be in control by His Spirit or else the old nature brings the desire to rule one’s own life. We need to decide to walk by the Spirit instead of giving way to our old nature. As Paul wrote, Gal 5:16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Gal 5:17. This verse has the one command to “walk by the Spirit” and adds the consequence of doing so, namely that one “will not gratify the desires of the flesh” as one continues to walk by the Spirit.

He describes the inner battle or conflict in the life of the believer as due to inner conflicting desires, Gal 5:17  “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Paul tells us in other places that the law is good but it cannot of itself produce goodness. It can show what is right and wrong but has no power to enable us to do the right. Only the Holy Spirit can bring that enabling. In Romans 8 he shows the relevant place of the law and the Spirit for Christian living. We fulfil the law’s requirements when live in the power of our new Spirit-given and Spirit-empowered nature rather than responding to the dictates of old flesh nature. Rom 8:3 “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”.  Walking by the Spirit actually fulfils what the law has always required in terms of godly living in the will of God.

 Flesh or Spirit? That is the question!

The mind is involved in living the Christian life. One has to follow the dictates of the Holy Spirit and not those of the flesh. One mind-set brings life. The other mind-set brings death as Paul goes on to describe, Rom 8:5 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” The flesh cannot be tamed to conform to the Spirit’s desires nor can it be integrated with the spirit nature to bring about one “nicer” nature in humans.

How the victory is won in the lives of believers

Paul wrote in Philippians that the desire and the empowerment to do the will of God and fulfil His purpose for us comes from the working of the Holy Spirit within us, “work out your salvation … for God is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Phil 2:12-13. Salvation is a free gift in Christ. However, having accepted that gift, believers must work out the implications of receiving that gift, in their daily living. They are to “work out” in practice what God is “working in” them by His Spirit.

 How can we have victory over the impulses of our fallen nature? By allowing God to keep on filling us with His Spirit as Paul commanded in Eph 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”  The verb “be filled” is actually a present [imperative] tense which means “keep on being filled.” It is also passive, meaning that we cannot fill ourselves. Only the Lord can do so as we ask Him to fill us.

The Christian life is not a once-for-all filling by the Holy Spirit. Rather it is an ongoing openness to the Lord to enable Him to keep on filling us with His Spirit.  Then and only then will the fruit of the Spirit be continually manifest in and through us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” These characteristics remain as we remain open to His Spirit, as Paul describes in Gal 5:25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Responding moment by moment to His leading and to His empowering by His Spirit enables believers to live as they should, for Him.

 Blog No. 282 posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 20th July 2018.

(PLEASE NOTE: Study No 1 in this series of of 3 is found in Blogs No. 278 [micro version] and 279 [macro version.])

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Temptations, TOPICS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

281. The Incredible Rescue of Footballers in Thailand. A Prayer-Answering God. Some Thoughts On Psalm 139.

What do you do about a world increasingly getting into chaos? For example, you have climate and other scientists disagreeing violently with each other over the place of carbon dioxide in so-called global warming. That may be understandable but the decisions of the leaders of many nations as they act on some of the so-called scientific opinions is not so understandable and may prove to be counter-productive to the welfare of their people. In the USA you have a duly elected President who is being ridiculed and mocked by some actors, by some “neutral” TV presenters and by some so-called comedians (who are not humorous but humongous in their crudity.) The American people made a choice but there are some folk who will not accept the result of the elections and are advocating mayhem and violence in a bid to remove the President and anyone associated with him. In other countries you have dictators being elected because they insist they are working for the good of the people when their past actions lend no substance to their claims.

But there is hope. We were reminded of this as we just witnessed the release of 12 young football players and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand.  Many experts thought it was an impossible situation and certainly many throughout the world were highly motivated to pray for their safety and release. It was an amazing recovery program by the Thai Navy seals helped by courageous volunteers from all over the globe who also risked their lives in the recovery process.  Many see the result as an answer to their prayers.

Does God answer prayers in today’s world? For those who have been in difficult situations and who brought their needs before the Lord and saw their prayers answered, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” However not everyone has a picture in their minds of a benevolent divine being. It is of little help if the picture in our minds is of a capricious god who has no desire to listen to nor care for their needs of those who cry out to Him for help. If you scratch some people deeply enough you find that there is a simmering resentment towards God for some perceived “failure” on His part towards them or towards members of their families. The writer to the Hebrews put it quite bluntly, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Heb 11:6. The writer saw 2 things as necessary in approaching God. The first is to believe that He actually exists. The second is to believe that His character is such that He wants to reward those who do seek Him.

This is similar to what Jesus taught when He said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Mat 7:7-11. It is not enough to think God exists. Humans have to be proactive in asking, seeking and knocking to enable Him to bestow good things on those who approach Him in faith.

In some previous articles I looked at Psalm 139 which contains some of the most profound concepts of the characteristics of God one can find anywhere. In brief David describes God as the Searching God who knows everything about us. He then turns that statement about God [“O LORD, you have searched me and known me!” Ps 139:1] into prayer at the end of the Psalm, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!  Ps 139:23.] What David does is to base his prayer of openness to God in verse 23 on the attributes of God he has described throughout the whole Psalm.

I thought it might be helpful to have the links to those articles gathered in the one place in this article. You can open any of these articles by clicking on the number at the beginning of each subject.

139. An Outline Of Psalm 139. The Character Of The God Who Knows, Loves And Cares. Series No.1 of 7.

140. God Knows Everything About You And Still Loves You. Psalm 139:1-6. Series No.2 of 7

141. The God Who Is Present Everywhere. Psalm 139:7-12. Series No.3 of 7.

142. The Omnipotent God. He Can Do All Things. He Made Us. Psalm 139:13 18. Series No.4 of 7.

143. A Prayer Of Openness To God. Psalm 139:23-24. Series No.5 of 7.

144. Using The Truths Of Psalm 139 In Counselling Situations. Series No.6 of 7.

145. Applying The Truths Of Psalm 139 In Counselling Situations. Series No.7 of 7.

146. Praying To Bring About A Better World. Psalm 139:23-24.

(NOTE: Much of the same material can be found on my Kindle book ‘The Searching and Knowing God who Knows and Cares” based on Psalm 139, on this link (   )

Blog No.281. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog  on Wednesday 11th July 2018

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, Prayer, Real Life Stories, Studies in Psalm 139, TOPICS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

280. An amazing, amazing story! An “insignificant” man who made a “SIGNIFICANT” contribution to this world. “Heaven tonight?”

Sometimes we wonder whether we have ever made any sort of impact for good in the life of another person. At a recent dinner I was reminded of the story of an ordinary fellow who tried to help others find faith in God but who didn’t realise the impact he had had directly and indirectly on multitudes of people.

It is of personal interest to me as I have met a couple of folk who were “accosted” in George Street, Sydney by the gentleman in question. One of them was in clerical gear as a clergyman. He was shocked to be asked whether he knew or not if he would go to heaven if he died that night. He knew he was right with God but was delighted that someone cared enough to ask him and others the question.

It is of interest for me too as I often walked down George Street in Sydney when I was doing National Service in the Royal Australian Navy in Sydney (Oh dear, some 63 years ago!) and sometimes was accosted by similar folk wanting to convert me. “Fortunately” I had a good side-step (honed by playing football in the Australian Navy Rugby Union team at that time ) and was able to go on my way unhindered. But how great is the Lord who touched my life just a few years later and eventually had me ministering for 18 years as the Leader of the Healing Ministry in St Andrew’s Cathedral in George Street just a short distance from where this man used to try to interest people in the gospel message.

Mention is made of the wonderful dynamic Gymea Baptist church where I had the privilege of being invited to do seminars on Healing. Little did I know then of the “insignificant” fellow in that fellowship who had made such a “significant” contribution to the Kingdom of God by his faithful ministry over many years.

Because most of my readers live in the USA it would be great for my USA friends to pass the link on to others. The fellow probably met up with thousands of U.S. servicemen and women and business folk over the years and it would not surprise me to hear that a friend of an American reader might say, “I remember that fellow” or “I knew someone he accosted in George Street many years ago.” With readers from over 180 countries there may be others around the world who might have met him in Sydney!

I know you will be moved by his amazing story and so will others with whom you share it. It is free to share being on You Tube.

Blog No.280. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 31st May 2018.

Posted in Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Real Life Stories, Salvation, TOPICS, Tributes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

279. Factors Influencing Mental Health. Human Enemy No.1. “The world”. THE ENEMY AROUND US. [Macro version].

In a previous article (No.270) I listed the 3 main enemies to the mental health of humans as being the World, the Flesh and the Devil. Believers are asked to renounce them as a means of coming out from under their negative and damaging influence. How do these enemies seek to influence us, and how can we gain victory over them? We begin with the first enemy, the “world’.

A). WHAT IS MEANT BY THE “WORLD?’

There are two main words for “world” in the New Testament. The first is the Greek word [oikoumenē] meaning the [planet] earth, the inhabited part of the world and the peoples of the world.  (We will not be considering this word in the present article.) The other word is [kósmos] which also means the created world and its inhabitants. However, it has a much wider meaning. It can also mean the following.

 In a positive sense it can mean the people of the world for whom Christ came to die and to save and who are meant to respond to Him in faith

God in His love sent His Son to save the world by dying for sinners, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.“ Jn 3:16-17.

Jesus gave as His reason for His first coming, “… I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” Jn 12:47.

God sent His Son to take away the sins of the world, as John the Baptist declared when he saw Jesus approaching him, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jn 1:29.

Jesus taught that He came to bring life to a world spiritually dead through sin, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Jn 6:33.

Paul wrote that Jesus came to reconcile the world to God, “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Cor 5:19.

 In a negative sense it can mean everything and everyone alienated from God and antagonistic to His purposes in and for the world

It is the “world” in this sense that believers are meant to renounce in order to be free from its influence. Unregenerate humans (those not yet born again of the Holy Spirit) follow the world’s ways and are spiritually dead, blind, deaf until they are born again from above, as these verses indicate.

Eph 2:1-2, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—”

Eph 2:4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—”

2 Cor 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Acts 28:27, “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

Even human wisdom is seen to be folly in the sight of God, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness.” 1 Cor 3:18-19.

Humans can be conformed to the world’s values, the world’s ways of thinking and the world’s ways of behaving, “Do not be conformed to this world …” Rom 12:2.

Humans can be held captive by worldly thinking, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Col 2.8

Humans can have the wrong sort of love which is focussed on the wrong object (that is, on the world and not its Creator), “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 Jn 2:15-17.

B).  HOW CAN PEOPLE OVERCOME THE INFLUENCE OF THE WORLD FOR BETTER MENTAL HEALTH?

i).         By recognising that the unbelieving world is our enemy. As it was for Jesus

The world would rejoice in the death of Jesus, Joh 16:20, but would also hate His followers following His death and resurrection. The world brings ongoing tribulation to the people of God, but there is victory in Him, Joh 16:33, “… . In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” AND 1Jn 4:4-5, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them… .”

The world did not recognise God nor Jesus as His Son. Nor did they recognise His followers as the people of God. John encouraged his readers to  recognise their privileges as being loved by God and indeed as being His children,  1Jn 3:1, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”  Believers belong now to the family of God and need to keep on affirming that truth in a world that is hostile to God and to His children.

ii).        By understanding the blessings coming from our true identity in Christ as believers

Believers have died with Christ in their faith-union with Him and have become free from that which once held them captive, “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations.” Col 2:20.

Believers belong to God and are able to recognise truth from error in a way that unbelievers cannot, “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” 1Jn 4:6.

Believers are able to mature in wisdom and knowledge. Paul prayed for the Colossians, “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  Col 2:2-3.

Believers are “not of the world ” but belong to God as they live in the world, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Joh 15:19.  

Believers are hated by the (unbelieving) world but Jesus prays for His own that as they live in the world, they will be protected from the evil one, and be sanctified by His word, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Joh 17:14-16.

Believers are always being prayed for by Jesus, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Heb 7:25. Believers are never neglected! They are always being prayed for! By Jesus!

iii).       By receiving a new attitude in our thinking as our minds are renewed

The process begins as we present all we are to God as Paul exhorted his readers, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Rom 12:1.

In doing so, we allow ourselves to be transformed by Him, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rom 12:2. Or in the translation by JB Phillips, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould.” That is an apt description of what takes place as we are pressured by the unbelieving world around us to conform to its values and practices. The solution is to have our minds transformed by the Holy Spirit to be able to recognise, know and do the will of God as we commit ourselves completely to Him and to His will for us.

iv).       By learning to operate with divine wisdom rather than the wisdom of the world 

Wisdom is the [new] birthright of believers. God chose us as “nothings” in the world to belong to Him and to impart to us His wisdom, in and through Christ, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Cor 1:27-31.

Believers are promised wisdom when they need it, provided they ask for it, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Jas 1:5. However they need to ask sincerely, believing that God hears and answers the prayers of His people, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” Jas 1:6-7. 

The Holy Spirit imparts God’s wisdom and knowledge to His people. Paul prayed for his readers that they might receive a deeper personal knowledge of God Himself, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,” Eph 1:16-17. He also prayed that his readers in Colossae might know the will of God and “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Col 1:9.

v).         By exercising faith in God and in God’s presence in us

John affirms the true identity of believers as belonging to God. They gain victory over the world because of God’s powerful presence in them, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1Jn 4:4.

They overcome the world by believing Jesus is the Son of God, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 Jn 5:4. It is faith in God that allows Him to accomplish victories in and through our lives.

SUMMARY: [Previously published separately in blog No 278 as the Micro version of this whole article.)

1). Every person ever born is a creature in this physical world.

2). Humans rebelled against God so God sent His Son into the world to save the people of the world.

3). The response of those in the world varied. Some in the world chose to reject Gods’ salvation in Christ. The Bible sees them as still belonging to the [unbelieving] world.

Others in the world chose to believe in Jesus and received Him as Saviour. They still live in the world but as John declares, they are “not of the world.” They are now “in Christ” [in a living personal relationship with Christ] as they live in the world.

4). The [unbelieving] world, influenced by Satan and the powers of darkness, is antagonistic to God and to the people of God. The unregenerate “world” is spiritually blind, deaf and dead and cannot understand spiritual realities or people of the Spirit.

5). Victory over the world is possible by recognising our identity in Christ and acting on it in the ways suggested in section [B] above.

6). It is the truth that is known to believers by the illumination of the Holy Spirit AND acted on in the power of the same Holy Spirit, that brings freedom and victory over the world to the people of God.

Blog No.279.  Posted on Friday 4th May 2018

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Christmas, Creation, Evangelism, Forgiveness, Justification, Mental Health, Salvation, TOPICS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment