How Do Believers Really Know? By Spiritual Insight.

 

INSIGHT: the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing. (Online dictionary)

1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (ESV):

And I, when I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Wisdom from the Spirit

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor
the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

How can we know that God is real, that the Bible is true and that we are loved and saved by grace through faith in Christ? How do we know all this and more? How do we know what we are thinking? We know because we know our own thoughts. I know far better than anyone what I am going to do in the next hour. And God knows what God is thinking and what God is doing. Just like the spirit of humans know what humans are thinking, so the spirit of God knows what God is thinking and God has given to us that spirit, His Spirit. There is a spiritual man and a natural man as we see in verse 14. The natural man (person) can’t see or imagine more than his or her world or devices but the spiritual person has the spirit of God. One of the most brilliant scholars in history, John Calvin, wrote these words:

If it be objected, “How can this be known?” I answer, both to disciples and to teachers, God is made known to be the author of it by the revelation of the same Spirit. Moses and the prophets did not utter at random what we have received from their hand, but, speaking at the suggestion of God, they boldly and fearlessly testified, what was actually true, that it was the mouth of the Lord that spoke. The same Spirit, therefore, who made Moses and the prophets certain of their calling, now also testifies to our hearts, that he has employed them as his servants to instruct us. Accordingly, we need not wonder if there are many who doubt as to the Author of the Scripture; for, although the majesty of God is displayed in it, yet none but those who have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit have eyes to perceive what ought, indeed, to have been visible to all, and yet is visible to the elect alone. This is the first clause, that we owe to the Scripture the same reverence, which we owe to God; because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing belonging to man mixed with it. (Commentary on 2 Timothy 3)

Look how Paul prays for the saints in Ephesus in chapter one:

17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Can we imagine living with that kind of knowledge and insight, inside of us, knowing the love of the Father, the rule of Christ and the hope we have?  This is spiritual insight revealed by God’s Spirit within us. It’s God’s spirit that opens our eyes and gives us wisdom.

Is it not true that little children know what their parents are thinking because within these little minds has been formed the love and desire of their moms and dads? How much more shall we, the children of God, know what God is thinking about us and for his creation.

This awareness, insight and knowledge all begin at the cross of Christ. That’s where Paul starts when he says that the cross was central to his life and teaching. We need to bow, kneel before that cross where Christ gave his life for us. That cross to the world represents weakness, defeat and failure. That’s how the world sees it because the world has its eyes blinded by the powers of darkness but the spiritual person sees, in the weakness, the power of God at work. In love and forgiveness the world was changed.

If you are reading this and have any sense of the reality of God then know that comes from God himself by his Spirit. This is truly insight. Thirst for it and for the Christ who makes it possible to us. Let us place our confidence in this Christ so that when he calls us to follow him we will know what it means for our life and our future.

And all of this is made possible by God’s grace operating in the sphere of prayer, obedience, scripture reading, and other spiritual disciplines that create an inviting avenue for God’s spirit.

 

A Fresh Approach to the Beatitudes

It seems that a lot of folks look at the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 as some sort of spiritual self-examination to determine if they can get into the Kingdom of God.

I see them as wide-open invitations for everyone to place their confidence in Jesus because he IS the Kingdom of God. And he is there for everyone.  It is not a matter of reaching some kind of spiritual achievement before you can realize his presence. It’s a matter of trusting him to give you the Kingdom, entrusting it to you and me.

I want to imagine for a moment Jesus on a hillside with lots of people who have come there because they have heard that he might be the new Messiah for the people of Israel. Most of them have come to the hillside because they are not so welcome in the temple or synagogues. Perhaps the sick, the sinful, a few ‘righteous’ folks and among the crowds those whom Jesus would call to follow him were there too.

Now this is the first large gathering of folks and what Jesus would say would set a tone for his ministry. He wanted to be clear about what was expected in this new age and he wanted the people to be sure they knew their place in the Kingdom of God.  Some say that Matthew used ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ out of sensitivity about using the name of God. Kingdom of heaven and Kingdom of God are the same.

So Jesus is looking over the crowds. He knows who they are and why they have come. And he is about to make an invitation to join him in this Kingdom that he has brought. Remember that his first words were, ‘Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’. (Matthew 4)

So now I want to use some different language for the beatitudes, words that have more impact on the folks for whom religion has become irrelevant or outdated. Nevertheless they express this good news that Jesus is announcing.

So let’s begin.

You have a special place in God’s heart and providence, you who think so little of yourselves, who have so little.  Even though you are not knowledgeable about spiritual things God places high value on your life and wants to give you his kingdom.

And you, the ones who hurt, ache, and grieve over life’s casualties, God has taken special regard for you in his kingdom. He wants to soothe you, comfort you, and hold you in his arms in his Kingdom and say, ‘It’s ok. You’re safe now’

And then he looks around and notices the people who always seem to take the last place or perhaps have been shoved there. There seems to be no room for you but THIS, my life surrounding and embracing you, is the new Promised Land You are with me and God will make sure that you share in everything that I have and will have. God is colonizing the earth with people like you. You rule!

And then Jesus takes note within his spirit of the Jews in the crowd who have longed for justice, righteousness, fairness that only the Kingdom of God could bring, only the Messiah could enact. Jesus is that justice, righteousness they long for. He is the Son of God, the King incarnate and tells them in so many words that their search is favored by God, approved by God if you will. They will be as satisfied as the sheep that graze on good ground.  God has heard their cry and sent his son to set things aright in the Kingdom of God.

And then there are those in the crowd who are so kind to others. In the midst of their hard lives they take time for others for it’s the only way perhaps right now that justice can be done. One on one. Face to face. God has a place for them in his heart. It’s for them his Kingdom has come. They may not have religious training. They may not be good Jews but they care. Love matters to God and so Jesus promises that in his administration they are going to receive, know, and experience the mercy, the kindness of God.   MORE TO COME…..

 

ANGER ON THE HIGHWAY (second in a series on Road Grace)

Recall that Jesus told his disciples that not only were they NOT to commit murder they were further instructed to NOT be angry with those who were close to them nor were they to insult their neighbor. See Matthew 5:21,22.

So come with me as we get into our 3600-pound car and learn something about anger on the highways of life. Because out there on the streets you will have plenty of opportunity to observe anger even, your own which is what we are here most concerned about.

Let’s do some defining of this word anger. It means to be indignant or enraged. It is the ego’s reaction when anything outside threatens to trespass on the property of the self. It is a kind of contempt for another person’s words or actions. Oh, you can be frustrated because you can’t do a job and be said to get angry but the anger we are discussing here is a reaction to another’s actions or words. See it’s YOUR car, YOUR right to drive, YOUR space that needs to be respected and YOUR power that no one should attempt to thwart.

You are riding down the road doing the speed limit but some big ole SUV comes up behind you to infer that you need to ‘move it buddy’. Oh, yeah, that can provoke some contempt and words like ‘jerk’, ‘idiot’ and worse might come to your mind.  And because of your pride, if you have a friend riding with you, you might say, ‘watch how I deal with these kind of people’, at which point you brake suddenly for the imaginary moose that just ran out in front of you. There, that will show him or her not to fool with me.

Then there are the times when a person might cut in front of you provoking your thoughts to be, ‘people like that really make my blood boil.’ That’s anger, and revenge might just seem justifiable. And the list of similar experiences goes on.

Now, you might be thinking, what does all this have to do with following Jesus’ words, his commands about anger? Good question. The answer is that rage on the highway translates into rage in relationships. If we are the kind of people who get angry with someone on the road we might well have our tempers flare up at other provocations. Think of what causes you to get angry with your spouse, child, co-worker, and neighbor.

What I am suggesting is that out there on the highway, down the streets of life is the opportunity to address this anger, be more conformed to the life of Christ that is already in you.  Remember Paul wrote that is it no longer we who live this life but Christ who lives in us. See Galatians 2:20.

So the first thing we will have to do is recognize our egos, our prideful selves, our power and the temptation to easily be angered.  Identify that inclination even before you get on the highway. Review in your mind’s eye the times you have been angry on the roads of life and never mind justifying those incidents. Instead say to that ‘self’, that ego: “You are not helping me”. “You feel good but you are no good.” ‘Now get outta here, go away.’ See you can talk to your ‘self’. You really can. As a child of God, a follower of Christ and a spiritual person you have the power to stand back and address the self that inside of you, a self that needs power and prestige. A self that does not like humility does not see humility as an answer to anything. Watch some of the FAST AND FURIOUS movies and see how good revenge and power feels. These movies are meant to feed the ego. They sell better that way.

Secondly you, and I, are going to want to pray that as we use our one ton, two ton vehicle or more if you are an over the road truck driver, pray that you will have a calm spirit. You might want to write Psalm 46:10 over your visor, BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. The ‘I’ there is not referring to you or me. How about Psalm 37:8 ‘refrain from anger’.

See getting rid of anger takes discipline, spiritual disciplines.  Even taking a defensive driver course can be a spiritual discipline of saying, ‘Lord, I am doing this to be more like Christ out there on the highway and thus more like Christ in every daily living situation.

You might need a mentor, someone with whom you drive that lovingly holds you accountable. “George, you need to calm down. Let’s pull over here and take a break. George, you really don’t need to keep blowing your horn. Uh, uh, the one finger wave is not the way to go. George, keep your eyes on the road while I pray for you. George you really are a great guy. You don’t need to prove anything out here on the highway.’

And finally, relax. Jesus isn’t giving us new laws so that we can declare how righteous we are by how little we get angry on the highway. Work with him, drive with him. If you fail then forget it and get on with the next situation that will present itself for your improvement.  Eventually you and I will be less angry out there and in other circumstances and relationships as well.

So start your engines.