There are three phrases in the new testament describing our union with Christ that we need to grasp, first with our minds and then in our spirits until we can walk in the reality of the truth that they contain. Please read my previous article on our union with Christ together with this article. I will provide just my perspective on this here.
1. In Christ – You will find this phrase repeated often in the New Testament. We find that God is the one who places us in Christ (1Cor 1: 30). This term refers to how the spiritual world sees us. The spiritual world refers to both the divine supernatural world and the dark supernatural world. They just see Christ, period. You are enveloped in Christ.
2. Christ in me – This is another phrase repeated often in the New Testament. Christ comes to dwell within us when we repent of our sins and believe in him. Paul speaks of receiving Christ (Col 2:6) and of Christ living in us (2 Cor 13:5). This term refers to how people in the natural world see us. They see us as individuals but notice something different about us. They recognize that this difference has nothing to do with us being good people, but with the fact that Christ Jesus dwells in us.
3. Christ is being formed in me (Gal4:19) – This term refers to how we need to see ourselves. When we look at our own lives, we will quickly recognize that there is so much within us that needs to change. The flesh, that has been indulged in over the years, keeps manifesting from time to time showing us that the flesh with its passions and desires need to be put to death by the Spirit of God. Thank God for HIs grace that He sent Christ Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners and now, even after being saved, with so much change still necessary, He still has placed us in this wonderful union with Christ and made His life available to us. Although we have not yet been perfected, we can take heart in the fact that we are being transformed into the image of Christ.
Let us press on to lay hold of the perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed us (3:12, NLT). May our eyes be opened and may God reveal His Son in us (Gal 1:16) that we may walk in this reality.
“He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.” 1 Cor 6:17
The disciple of Jesus Christ has been placed in a spiritual union with him. This union is with the resurrected and ascended Christ.
The ascended Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named throughout all ages (Eph 1:21). The ascended Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18) and at his name every knee in heaven, earth and under the earth shall bow and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord (Phil 2:10,11). The ascended Christ is the one who destroyed Satan (Heb 2:14), every power of darkness is subject to him (Col2:15), he holds the keys of hell and death (Rev1:18). The ascended Christ is the one who overcame death (Rev1:18) and will die no more (Rom6:9) and death has no power over him. The ascended Christ is the one who overcame sin, sickness and the curse. Through his death and resurrection, he destroyed the power of sin, sickness and the curse. He rules until all his enemies are made his footstool (1Cor 15:25).
We need to recognize this union that we have with the ascended Christ. We are in a spiritual union with the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth. It will do us immense good to meditate on this fact on a daily basis until it sinks into our spirits and we can live in that reality. Then we will live out of that reality, which is that the ascended Christ is living through us. That is why we read of Paul writing that Christ speaks through him, that Christ works mighty signs and wonders through him, that Christ lives in him, that Christ has possessed him to bring him to perfection. In fact, in Ephesians 3:17, Paul prays for Christ to dwell in our hearts.
Have you ever wondered why he prayed thus? Did we not receive Christ when we first repented and believed in him (Col 2:6)? Why then did Paul pray for Christ to dwell in our hearts?
I believe that Paul wanted us to experience the reality of Christ’s indwelling on a daily basis. It is one thing to receive Christ when we believe, but yet another to walk in that reality on a daily basis. This then gives us a new meaning to John 15 on abiding in Christ. Abiding in Christ would then mean living in the consciousness of this wonderful spiritual union we have with him. Knowing Christ, then would refer to this same spiritual union through which there is a continual impartation of life, virtue (power) and character from Christ to us. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:2,3) and this wisdom and knowledge are made available to us through this union. Through this union, Christ himself is made available to us so that we can experience and walk in the reality of his life.
Christ then, is our promised land and the concept of entering into and taking the promised land for the Christian is just an experience of all of Christ’s salvation, of all that Christ died to provide. Perfection, then is just becoming like Christ.
Stumbling blocks are that which cause a person to stumble while he is walking along a path. While on the pathway of life, we could, at times find ourselves forced to suspend our pursuits due to issues such as accidents, illnesses, sudden financial setbacks or other problems. Once the problem or issue at hand has been dealt with, we return to pursuing life until another event occurs that diverts our attention again. Often these events are marked by grief and pain and tend to be long drawn out affairs that result in much weariness and brokenness.
At this point, I want to direct you to read my article, “Biblical suffering” in this blog as this will give you a clear idea of what suffering is according to the Scriptures. As a Christian, we may face persecution or trials of various kinds (James 1), but these will result in spiritual growth ONLY IF they are not caused by our mistakes or sins. Peter says that we should not suffer as murderers, thieves, evildoers or as busybodies. He was saying that our suffering should not be the result of our sins (1Peter 4:15).
In the Old Testament, we see that as long as Israel walked with God, they experienced great peace and prosperity. Once they began to turn away from God to idols, God tried to draw their attention by sending them prophets. When they rejected the prophets, God had no other option but to remove his hedge of protection from them which allowed their enemies to attack and cause destruction. God was trying to draw their attention and turn their hearts back to himself. When they persisted in their rejection of God, he allowed them to be taken captive from Israel and to dwell as second class citizens in foreign lands. Even here, He desired that they would return to Him. In other instances, He permitted famine, withheld rain and permitted pests to destroy their crops hoping that these stumbling blocks would cause them to stop, consider their lives, repent and return to Him. The storm that Jonah passed through is a good example of a stumbling block.
Lets look at some causes of stumbling blocks in our lives –
1. God places stumbling blocks in our path – Jeremiah 6:21, Ezekiel 3:20, James 4:6. God places stumbling blocks in our path when we persistently sin and turn away from him. James says that God resists the proud. The proud will find his path blocked by God Himself. If we understand that it is God that has placed the stumbling block in our path, we ought to just fall to our knees in repentance and in re-dedicating our lives to him. When we are called to pray for others, we need to discern whether their problems have been caused by their own sin. In those cases, it would not be wise to pray for the problem to go away but for God to complete his work of turning them to himself. Often we short circuit God’s discipline in a person’s life due to our lack of discernment.
2. Satan places stumbling blocks – 1Thess 2:18, 2 Cor 12:7, 1 Pet 5:8,9 We find that Satan hindered Paul. He also causes persecution to rise against us and sends his messengers to buffet us. When we discern that the problem has been caused by Satan, we ought to take authority over the power of the enemy and destroy what has been sent against us. Too few Christians have been taught to wage spiritual warfare with discernment. We beg and plead when we ought to be using our spiritual authority and we command when we ought to be repenting for our sins.
3. We place stumbling blocks in our own paths – Ezekiel 14:1-11. In this instance, God was grieved that the people had set up idols in their hearts and those idols had caused them to stumble. The idols of the heart – not physical idols. Most of us would never dream of worshipping idols – we are not so careful when it comes to the idols of the heart. Paul calls covetousness idolatry in Colossians 3:5. Anything that takes God’s place could be categorised under idolatry. Placing idols in our hearts can erect stumbling blocks in our paths – it is a law. Ezekiel 7:19 speaks of silver and gold becoming the people’s stumbling block of iniquity. Indeed, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is an idol of the heart. Fear could also be an idol of the heart and create stumbling blocks in our lives – Job said that what he greatly feared came upon him (Job 3:25)The only way out is to deal with these idols ruthlessly. We ought to throw Jonah out, not the cargo. In these days of the sugar-coated gospel, it is rare to find sin spoken against and rarer to find calls to repentance.
In closing, whenever we find ourselves faced with a stumbling block while along life’s path, let us pause, take some time to examine our lives – find out whether it has been placed there by God or Satan or by the idols of our hearts. Let us deal with it appropriately so that we do not get diverted from our purpose in life. After all, we only live once.
Four years ago, my friend Fred Wright, the founding coordinator of Partners in Harvest church network, was discussing prophetic ministry with me when he lamented, “If something isn’t done soon, the prophetic movement is dead in five years.”
I knew what he meant.
How many of us have struggled with the failed prophecies of recent years? How about the prophetic frenzy that swirled around the Y2K computer crisis that never materialized? How many remember the Lakeland Revival and the leading prophetic voices declaring it to be “the big one” that would sweep the country and transform the culture? Significant moral failure brought that revival to an ignominious end.
Lately, prominent voices have prophesied words concerning national and world events that would seem to be at odds with one another. For instance, some prophesy an imminent and catastrophic economic crash, while others have prophesied a season of economic prosperity, especially for Christians.
What is a believer to do when well-known prophetic people speak conflicting words? How can we sort the true word from the spirit of error?
Nothing New Under the Sun
The early church had a similar problem. For this reason, the apostle Paul instituted a structure for testing prophetic words spoken in the public assembly. First Corinthians 14:29 says, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment” (NASB).
The word for “pass judgment” in the original Greek means “to separate or discriminate,” implying that New Testament prophetic people didn’t always deliver 100 percent accurate words and that their words therefore needed evaluation to separate the good from the bad.
A false prophet is one who teaches Israel to go after false gods, as established in Deuteronomy 13:1-5. In the absence of that kind of violation, and in light of 1 Corinthians 14:29, then, an inaccurate prophecy doesn’t render the prophet himself false, it just makes him wrong in that instance.
It follows that prophetic words, whether spoken in the public assembly, promoted through electronic media or published in print, must be tested and that we believers therefore carry a responsibility to sort out what we hear. Obviously, we don’t always have access to a 1 Corinthians 14 prophetic presbytery. Ideally, every one of us should be involved in a fellowship of discerning brothers and sisters with whom we can weigh such things, but circumstances too often leave us on our own to figure it out for ourselves. How, then, can the individual believer test what he hears with or without a group of friends to help do it?
While I know of no foolproof method for discerning the accuracy of any given prophetic word—aside from obvious violations of Scripture—I can certainly offer some helpful guidelines. Even when testing by the Scriptures, however, we often come up with differing interpretations and applications of the passages we use. As I heard John Wimber once say at the height of the controversy over the prophetic movement of the 1980s, “The only word God is obligated to fulfill is this Book!”
With so many changing variables, then, we need an unchangeable answer. We must build our lives on the person of Jesus and His Word rather than on prophecy delivered by any human agency.
At the same time, prophecy isn’t a human idea, it is God’s. He is the one who gifted the church at large with this instrumental operation of the Spirit. Because of that, if we are to include it as a healthy part of both the corporate church and individual believer’s lives, then we also need to broaden our understanding of the primary functions of prophecy.
For starters, we must recognize that prophecy is far more than just predicting future events. In contrast to our tendency to give prediction the greatest emphasis, prediction is actually a minor function. The Greek word actually means “to speak forth,” not necessarily to predict.
True prophetic ministry calls us to pure and undefiled devotion to God, sealing our hearts to Jesus while sorting the precious from the vile. It brings a revelation of His nature, tearing down what is not of God and then releasing, establishing and building up that which is from God (Jer. 1:10). Even in words of judgment, the predictive element should prepare God’s people for things to come, release power for destiny, inject hope and strengthen the body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:3).
Helpful Word Tests
Just as currency can be held to the light to determine its validity, so can prophetic words be held up to biblical scrutiny in the light of Jesus. That doesn’t mean every word will be clear, precise and definitively understood, but it does mean we can apply tests to see if it is God-breathed. Here are six tests I’ve learned to apply that have helped me and countless others navigate the waters of prophecy.
Test #1: Does this prophecy stand the test of Scripture?
Never will a true prophetic word contradict any portion of Scripture. This means that we must become biblically literate as believers lest we render ourselves vulnerable to deception packaged and presented as anointed revelation.
Unfortunately, Bible study has come on hard times these days when much of the body of Christ has become either lazy or focused on supernatural experiences at the expense of grounding in the Word. This must be remedied.
Test #2: Does this word reflect the revealed nature and character of God?
Once again we must turn to the Bible, especially 1 John 4:8: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (NKJV).
For example, in sorting out words predicting God’s wrathful judgment in catastrophic economic or natural disasters, we must begin with God’s essential nature. Is He really a wrathful judge sitting in the heavens eagerly awaiting His chance to punish us for breaking the rules? Or does He actually reveal Himself as a loving Father who sends ample warnings over extended periods of time, again and again calling His children to turn from destructive ways?
The biblical record shows Him to have sent prophetic voices to plead with Israel over hundreds of years. As Israel failed to listen, God sent judgments—minor disasters in the wider scheme of things—intended as pressure to turn Israel from their destructive and wicked ways and to separate the precious from the vile. Actual wrath came only after long centuries of such pleading. And even then, wrath flowed from the Father’s heart of love as a last resort intended to purify Israel when nothing else had worked.
Long before Israel became a people, God in His mercy would have spared Sodom, had there been even 10 righteous in it. Don’t you think there are yet the equivalent of 10 righteous in America and the western nations? Judgment has come to separate the precious from the vile, but is not yet wrath. Whether judgment or wrath, a loving Father seeks to restore His children to Himself. Prophecies devoid of love and hope are at best exaggerated and, at worst, blatantly wrong.
Test #3: Does the prophetic word pass the reality check?
This one calls us to think rationally rather than be carried along by something that stirs our passions. Some of us learned long ago that becoming spiritual doesn’t mean we must throw our brains on the table.
For instance, will a coming revival sweep America and restore the nation to its Christian foundations? Forget for a moment who is prophesying such a revival and do the reality check. Where is the surrounding culture headed? What elements need to be present in the culture for there to be that kind of revival, and are those elements present? Are those conditions in place today? Would it therefore be a culture-sweeping revival or something that would manifest in certain islands of glory amid a continuing sea of darkness?
At this point I’m not judging the accuracy of these prophecies of culture-changing revival. I’m saying that as we evaluate the accuracy of any prophetic word, we need to realistically assess the culture in which we live in order to wisely adjust our focus and strategy.
In another example, when prophetic voices declare the imminence of a one-world government, you might want to look at actual trends. Objectively speaking, the world currently trends toward fragmentation, with each ethnic group demanding—and often getting—its own independence and sovereignty. Whether or not in fulfillment of biblical prophecy, if the one-world government actually materializes, it probably won’t be soon. Such a prophecy of imminence should be questioned.
In more personal terms, imagine for a moment that you are a musician who receives a prophetic word that you will stand before thousands to play your music. Do you have the skill? Does the quality of your voice merit star status? How do people actually respond to the songs you write? Or did the so-called prophetic person simply read the ambition in your heart and reflect it back to you as if it were a word from God?
Romans 12:3 says, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (NASB).
Does a reality check validate the word given?
Test #4: Do any concrete realities accompany the prophetic word?
Obviously this flows from the previous test. There will often be some sort of tangible confirming reality embedded in or accompanying the prophecy itself. When God called Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let the Jewish people go, the built-in confirmation was a physical burning bush. When Saul, who became Paul, received his call to ministry, he saw a bright light, heard an audible voice and suffered blindness for a few days. These were concrete manifestations accompanying the revelations.
In 1992 I received a flood of prophetic words indicating that God wanted me to plant a church in Denver. I had just resigned from a difficult position as executive pastor of a large church, and I very much wanted to leave town. I told the Lord that if He were truly speaking through those words, He would have to provide three months’ worth of income upfront.
The confirming reality came when people attending a conference in Vermont, where I was a speaker, began to give to us. No announcement had been made, but before it was over, those wonderful people had provided one-and-a-half times the amount I had asked of the Lord. A concrete reality accompanied the prophecy.
Obviously, not all true words contain an immediate confirming reality. In such cases, the prophetic word should be prayed over, not lived for, until reality does or does not validate the word.
Test #5: Have you filtered out your emotions?
Human emotions form a kind of lens that distorts the prophetic word, magnifying and adding to it, as it passes through the heart of the prophetic person. Emotions affect the hearer in the same way, shaping what and how we hear. Extreme negative words excite our fears, ignite anticipation and even inflate our sense of pride in knowing something esoterically spiritual.
On the other side, positive words can have the same impact, effectively shielding out the peace flowing from the Father’s heart and distorting the word as we allow ourselves to be carried away. We must seek and live in intimacy with the Lord, not the excitement generated by any positive or negative prophetic pronouncement.
I will never forget the months leading up to the 2008 presidential election. I was actually with a group of well-known prophetic people who declared that Sam Brownback, then a senator from Kansas, would be the next president.
First, this reflected an emotional desire to see a conservative candidate in the office and it clouded their hearing. Second, their emotional state prevented a reasoned assessment—a reality check—of the condition and direction of the culture around us. Barack Obama won the election.
Test #6: Have you measured the speaker’s fulfillment record?
Before receiving any prophetic word as truth, take time to examine the track record and character of the speaker. While I don’t believe the New Testament requires 100 percent accuracy, it does require substantial accuracy.
In Acts 11:28, Agabus accurately prophesied a famine so that the body of Christ could prepare in advance. Later, in Acts 21:11, he told Paul that the Jews would arrest him if he went to Jerusalem.
One hundred percent accurate? Not quite. The Romans, not the Jews, arrested him, although they did it in response to Jewish pressure. Agabus’ track record for accuracy fell just short of 100 percent, but he was certainly accurate in substance.
Deuteronomy 18:21-22 addresses this kind of scenario: “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”
Examine, therefore, the track record of the speaker.
In my opinion, we as a Christian body have done this poorly. When a prophetic speaker’s words have failed to be at least substantially accurate over time, we ought to stop listening. The problem is that some prophetic ministers very skillfully stir up excitement, which leads those of us conditioned by our emotionally driven culture to keep listening, even after a demonstrable history of inaccuracy.
In any case, Jesus remains our rock, the One—the only one—in whose eternal words we can rest. In Him we place our faith, not in the prophetic pronouncements of fallible men and women. Scripture cannot be broken, but words passing through the hearts of broken men and women certainly can be.
This must not lead us to deny the prophetic gift, but rather to grow in maturity and perhaps to dismantle the pedestals on which we have so perilously placed these precious saints who move in the prophetic gift.
R. Loren Sandford is senior pastor of New Song Church and Ministries in Denver and author of several books, including Visions of the Coming Days and Purifying the Prophetic. Though recognition as a prophetic voice has never been his ambition, his passion for people and the church have led directly to a prophetic calling and the need to hear the voice of God so he could help prepare God’s people for the coming days.
Luke 19:41,42 – Now, as he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this, your day the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
Jesus wept over Jerusalem wishing that the people in the city had only known that which would have brought them peace. Now, centuries later, He would probably do the same, not only for our cities but also for countless Christians who just have not been able to grasp the things that make for their peace and keep themselves in that state of peace.
All of Paul’s epistles begin with a greeting “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” The second epistle of Peter begins with a prayer for grace and peace to be multiplied to the saints through their knowledge of God and Jesus Christ.
Peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), Jesus said that he gives us His peace (John 14:27, 16:33). In other words, Jesus said that if anyone desired to experience peace, they only needed to come to Him and receive Him, for He is peace.
In fact, one of the hallmarks of a Christian who is walking with God is peace, a peace can be discerned by others. I often use this indicator to discern a persons spiritual state and have noticed that restlessness for no apparent reason could indicate the presence of demons.
The precursor to peace within is peace with God. Without being at peace with God, inner peace is nothing but a pursuit in futility. Romans 5:1 says that we can only have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, dear reader, if you are not at peace with God, and have not known that Jesus has paid the price for your sins and that God will forgive you on this basis, I encourage you to stop here and read the gospel of John. Understand that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, was buried and rose again from the dead so that you could be reconciled with God. I urge you to repent of your sinfulness, to receive him as your Lord and you will receive forgiveness of sins and peace with God.
What pains me much is to find Christians that do not experience peace although they have received Jesus as Lord. I have found myself losing my peace on several occasions until I found out why I was losing my peace and ensured that I took steps to guard the peace in my heart. I would like to show you firstly how you can lose your peace and then, how you can maintain your peace.
How you can lose your peace –
1. John 10:10 Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy. One of the aims of the devil is to steal your peace. I have noticed that demonic oppression is a major cause for the lack of peace. The reason for demonic activity in your life could be an open door due to sin or unbroken curses.
2. Matthew 13:22 speaks of the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. Philippians 4:6,7 imply that anxiety is a major cause for the lack of peace. Anxiety due to the cares of this world and the pursuit of riches as a goal in itself can rob your peace.
3. 2Cor 6:14 speaks of fellowship with unbelievers. Do note that I am not advocating that we should not have friends who are unbelievers but rather that we should not have close fellowship with them. There are many wonderful people in the world who do not know Christ and we should befriend them by all means. However, we can never enter into close fellowship with unbelievers. This kind of fellowship with unbelievers can steal your peace.
4. Gal 5:17 and 1Pet 2:11 speak of fleshly lusts. Indulging in fleshly lusts creates a war in your soul (mind, will and emotions). Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:21). I have found this to be the number one reason why Christians lose their peace.
5. 2 Cor1:8,9; 2 Cor 4:8,9; 2 Cor 11:25-28; 2Tim1:7 Trials, persecution and fear can cause us to lose our peace.
6. Matt 7:21-23 Being outside of God’s will can cause us to lose our peace.
Now, let us look at how we can maintain our peace. The Bible tells us that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17).
1. 1 Pet 2:11 – Abstain from fleshly lusts. Diligence in this one aspect can deal with more than 50% of the problem.
2. Rom 8:6 NIV – The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. Submit your mind to the Holy Spirit. When He is in control, you will experience peace. After all, peace is the fruit of the Spirit. Isaiah 26:3 speaks of the mind that is stayed on God, the result being perfect peace.
3. John 14:27, 14:6, 16:33, 2 Pet 1:2Eph 2:14, Isaiah 9:6,7 – These verses show us that fellowship with Jesus brings peace. He is the Prince of Peace, He is peace itself.
4. Phil 4:6 – refrain from anxiety. Pray about all things that tend to weigh you down. Speak to God, cast your cares upon him and his peace will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
A Baptist couple decide that they want to get a dog. As they are walking down the street in town, they notice that a sign in the pet shop is advertising “Christian Puppies.” Their interest piqued, they go inside.
“How do you know they’re Christian puppies?”
“Watch,” says the owner, as he takes one of the dogs and says, “Fetch the Bible.” The dog runs over to the desk, and grabs the Bible in its mouth and returns. Putting the Bible on the floor, the owner says, “Find Psalm 23.” The dog flips pages with its paw until he reaches the right page, and then stops. Amazed and delighted, the couple purchase the dog and head home.
That evening, they invite some friends over and show them the dog, having him run through his Psalm 23 routine. Impressed, one of the visitors asks “Does he also know ‘regular’ commands?”
“Gee, we don’t know. We didn’t ask,” replies the husband.
Turning to the dog, he says, “Sit.” The dog sits. He says, “Lie down.” The dog lies down. He says “Roll over.” The dog rolls over.
He says “Heel.” The dog runs over to him, jumps up on the sofa, puts both paws on the owner’s forehead and bows his head.
How could it ever be that Jesus Christ left the glory of heaven and came down to earth only to save man’s spirit?
Would he have gone to such a great length just to save the spirit and not the soul and body?
I believe that he came to earth, lived, died, was buried, resurrected and ascended to heaven to provide salvation for man’s spirit, soul and body. Salvation for the body here primarily refers to healing of sicknesses and living in divine health.
Yet some would say – if he did provide salvation for the body, how is it that good Christian people struggle with sicknesses?
Well, I look at it this way –
Jesus did come to save us from our sins and to free us from the power of sin. Do people still sin? Yes.
Galatians 2:17 says that if while we seek to be declared righteous by Christ, it becomes apparent that we are sinners, does that make Christ a minister of sin? Certainly not!
Similarly, if while we seek to live in divine health in Christ, it becomes apparent that some struggle with sicknesses, does it mean that Christ’s sacrifice did not provide for bodily healing? Certainly not!
What is more difficult? Saying “Your sins are forgiven” or “Arise, take up your mat”? Obviously it is more difficult to say “Arise, take up your mat”. Jesus did say that and healed the paralytic.
If Jesus could leave heaven to provide salvation for mankind, would he have stopped short of providing for salvation of the body? Certainly not!
Jesus Christ is the Savior of man’s spirit, soul and body.
So, take heart, those of you who are struggling with sickness. The Savior, Jesus, is the Savior of the body as well as of the spirit and soul. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
“Who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).
You are going to love this.
If death has been abolished, then to most of us, what we have seems to be a “dead man walking.” The corpse appears to be very much alive and well, this grim reaper who persists in continuing to mow down a fair to middlin’ number of victims every day.
“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death,” said Paul in I Corinthians 15:26.
So, has death been abolished or not?
I’m indebted to a couple of old books for some insights worth their weight in gold. One is a biography of J. B. Phillips and the other is a quote from a book Mr. Phillips wrote.
J. B. Phillips (1906-1982) was an Anglican pastor and scholar, who during World War II began translating Paul’s epistles into everyday language for the young people with whom he was working. “Letters to Young Churches” was eventually published to great acclaim, encouraging Phillips to give the same treatment to the whole of the New Testament. The result was the wildly successful “New Testament in Modern English,” popularly known as the “Phillips New Testament.” This was followed by a dozen or more books, several becoming best-sellers. (Phillips was also a friend of C. S. Lewis, who encouraged him in his translations and writings.)
In a followup article on this website, we will share the story of Phillips’ lifelong battle with depression, an essential part of his story. To modern readers–that is, contemporary Christians–the wonderful thing is that God both used him in spite of his suffering and used the suffering to refine him. The result was a life of fruitfulness which continues to this day, long after he has left us.
In his book “Your God is Too Small,” written when his fame was at its height and his popularity on both sides of the Atlantic seemed boundless, Phillips talks about Second Timothy 2:10, God having “abolished death.”
His insights are treasures.
Christ taught an astonishing thing about death, Phillips said, “…not merely that it is an experience robbed of its terror, but that as an experience it does not exist at all. For some reason or other Christ’s words (which Heaven knows are taken literally enough when men are trying to prove a point about pacifism or divorce, for example) are taken with more than a pinch of salt when He talks about the common experience of death as it affects the man whose basic trust is in Himself: “If a man keep my saying he shall never see death” (John 8:51); “Whosoever liveth and believeth on Me shall never die” (John 11:26). It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the meaning that Christ intended to convey was that death was a completely negligible experience to the man who had already begun to live life of the eternal quality.”
Good stuff? Wait. It gets better. He continues:
“‘Jesus Christ abolished death,’ wrote Paul many years ago, but there have been very few since his day who appear to have believed it. The power of the dark old god, rooted no doubt in instinctive fear, is hard to shake, and a great many Christian writers, though possessing the brightest hopes of ‘Life Hereafter’ cannot, it seems, accept the abolition of death. ‘The valley of the shadow,’ ‘Death’s gloomy portal,’ ‘the bitter pains of death,’ and a thousand other expressions all bear witness to the fact that a vast number of Christians do not really believe what Christ said.”
“Probably the greatest offender is John Bunyan, writing in his Pilgrim’s Progress of the icy river through which the pilgrims must pass before they reach the Celestial City. Thousands, possibly millions, must have been influenced in their impressionable years by reading Pilgrim’s Progress. Yet the “icy river” is entirely a product of Bunyan’s own fears, and the New Testament will be searched in vain for the slightest endorsement of his idea.”
“To ‘sleep in Christ,’ ‘to depart and be with Christ,’ ‘to fall asleep’–these are the expressions the New Testament uses. It is high time the ‘icy river,’ ‘the gloomy portal,’ ‘the bitter pains,’ and all the rest of the melancholy images were brought face to face with the fact: “Jesus Christ hath abolished death.’”
All right. I’m going to interrupt–and return to it momentarily–to insert Phillips’ own experience early in his life. In the biography, “The Wounded Healer” (written by Phillips’ widow Vera and a friend Edwin Robinson two years after his death) we are told of a dream about which Phillips wrote in his own autobiography called “The Price of Success.” He had had major surgery from which he barely survived. The dream came as he was hovering between life and death.
In the dream, the young J. B. Phillips is trudging through this world with all its filth and rubbish. In the distance he could see the glorious beauty of a celestial world and he longed to go there. However, a valley lay in front of him. As he rushed toward the beautiful vision in the distance, he came to a narrow stream, which represented death. “It was spanned by a bridge which was guarded by a kindly figure who shook his head and sent him back to the world that disgusted him. He woke in tears to be told that he would live.”
(A note from Joe: We are well cautioned not to build our theology or base our hopes on anyone’s dreams, no matter how inspiring. However, we can see why Phillips would prefer his vision of death’s “narrow stream guarded by a kindly figure” to that of Bunyan’s fearsome “icy river.” So do we!)
Back to the passage from “Your God is Too Small”….
“The fact (that Christ has abolished death) seems to many to be too good to be true. But if it does seem so, it is because we have not really accepted the revolutionary character of God’s personal entry into the world. Once it dawns upon us that God (incredible as it may well sound) has actually identified Himself with Man, that He has taken the initiative in effecting the necessary Reconciliation of Man with Himself, and has shown the way by which little human personalities can begin to embark on that immense adventure of Living of which God is the Centre, death–the discarding of a temporary machine adapted only for a temporary stage–may begin to seem negligible.”
On the other hand, Phillips addresses those people who refuse to trust in Christ. “There is no brightly cheerful note in either the Gospels or the rest of the New Testament for those whose real inward trust is in their own capabilities or in the schemes and values of the present world-system. It is (as St. Paul insists almost ad nauseam) only “in” Christ, “in” the Representative Man who was also God, that death can be safely ignored and “Heaven” confidently welcomed. We have no reason to suppose that death is anything but a disaster to those who have no grip on the timeless Life of God.”
Wow. Powerful stuff.
Earlier in this segment, Mr. Phillips spoke of Jesus as being “The Focused God.”
In order for we humans to be able to comprehend the infinite God of unlimited dimensions, Phillips says, “There must obviously be an almost unbelievable ‘scaling-down’ of the ‘size’ of God to match the life of the planet….” The result was Jesus Christ. “God was in Christ. “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” “All the deity of God dwells in Him.”
That’s why the life and then the death of Jesus on Calvary packed the power that it did. This One was God in the flesh (see John 1:14).
This is why His resurrection from the dead has such significance to us today: a) He is still alive and still around, and b) because He lives, we too shall live.
You smiling yet? I cannot wipe the smirk off my face. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Where indeed!
From here on in, child of God and believer in Jesus Christ, the news is all good. Lift up your head and rejoice!
We’re going to Heaven!
Joe McKeever is retired missions director for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Before that Mr. McKeever pastored churches in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina.
When we receive Jesus Christ as Lord, we receive the life of God for the Word says that God has given us eternal life and this life is in HIs son. Whoever has the Son has life 1John 5:11,12.
This life of God not only is in the spirit but also is present in the soul and body. Rom 8:6, 10, 11. Think about it – your spirit contains the life of God, uncreated, eternal, indestructible life. Life that will always overcome death just as light always overcomes darkness. This life will continue although the body will pass through physical death. Thats why physical death has lost its sting – because the life of God in us cannot die or cease. Thats why Jesus said that he who lives and believes in him will never die.
In the same manner, think about this – your soul, which consists of your mind, will and emotions contains the life of God, uncreated, eternal, indestructible life. Why don’t you confess it right now? My mind contains the life of God; my will is influenced by the life of God; my emotions are filled with the life of God. Death cannot influence my mind, will or emotions.
Likewise, think about this – your body contains the life of God , uncreated, eternal, indestructible life. This life is in every organ of your body, in your blood, in your skin, in your hair. Rom 8:11 tells us that one of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to give life to our mortal bodies – to bring the life of God into every part of our bodies – to conquer death (sickness) that may be present in the body. Lets confess it right now. My body is filled with the life of God. The life of God fills my heart, eyes, liver, stomach, blood, …. name each organ here. Sickness in my body will be overcome by the life of God.
We also see in the Word that God’s intent is that this life becomes a fresh, bubbling spring of life (John 4:14). This spring meets our every need. It then grows to become a river and then grows further to become rivers of life (John 7:37,38). These rivers cannot be contained but will flow out from us and bring life to others. God’s intent is that we not only receive life but be transformed into becoming givers of His life.
The life of God that we received in Jesus is then a spring and then a river and finally rivers that proceed from us.
May we be so filled with the life of God that rivers of life proceed from our innermost beings. May these rivers bring life to everyone we meet – bringing salvation, healing and deliverance to all we meet on life’s pathway.
An examination of Paul’s prayers to God for the saints reveals 4 main concerns he had. These are –
1. Knowing Jesus by revelation – In Ephesians chapter 1, he prays that we would receive the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened to know the hope to which He has called us, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints and His exceedingly great power towards us who believe. In Ephesians chapter 3, he prays that we may understand together with all the saints, the love of Christ and to know that love which transcends understanding.
We can only know Jesus by revelation. We cannot know him by our intellects alone, he must reveal himself. He alone must open our eyes to comprehend what has been freely given to us. Again, we can comprehend the love of Christ by revelation alone. Also, we can know hope and God’s inheritance in us and his power only by revelation. The knowing that is spoken of here transcends the intellect. With the intellect, we can only grasp what is available to us in written form – we can only know about Christ, and there are many who do. This knowing is apparently not enough. We need to know Him in our spirits. When Adam had a physical union with Eve, the Bible says that he “knew” Eve. Just as Adam “knew” Eve physically through a physical union, we can know Christ through a spiritual union. In 1Cor 6:17, we are told that he that is joined to Christ is one spirit with HIm. Through this union, we constantly receive an impartation of his life.
My favourite book of the Bible is the gospel of John. I am reading it now and it feels like I am reading it for the first time. I am getting such a new revelation of Jesus that I love every moment of meditation in the book.
May we know Christ increasingly by revelation.
2. Being filled with the fullness of God – In Ephesians chapter 3, Paul prays for us to be filled with all the fullness of God. The fact that he prayed thus shows us that it is possible for us to be filled with God’s fullness.
I see this as another imperative in our Christian experience. It is only through being filled with God’s presence and power that we can be effective witnesses for Christ. John says that God did not give Jesus the Spirit by measure; Jesus received the Spirit without measure. This could possibly indicate that we could receive the Spirit in differing “measures”. We have too many people who can preach, too few who are filled with God’s fullness. I believe that more can be accomplished by one person filled with all the fullness of God than ten thousand preachers who have nothing else but a message. While I firmly believe that the message of the cross is the power of God to us who believe, at the same time I recognize that God confirmed the message that was preached through miracles, signs and wonders.
Jesus said that we would bear fruit only when we abide in Him and He abides in us. It is His abiding in us that produces fruit, His fullness in us that brings fruitfulness.
May we constantly seek to be filled with all the fullness of God.
3. Being filled with the knowledge of God’s will – In Colossians chapter 1, Paul prays that we be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Jesus himself said that not everyone who says to him ‘Lord, Lord’, would enter the kingdom of heaven but he who did the will of His Father in heaven. The fact that these people cast out demons, prophesied and did wonders in Jesus name shows us that they were saved and were most probably in obedience to God’s written word. In spite of this, Jesus said that they did not do the will of God.
I believe that this refers to them not doing the revealed will of God – that which is revealed by the Holy Spirit in the various situations of life. They had a lawless and rebellious spirit that did not want to submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit, that wanted to do things their own way. For example, God may want me to live in Malaysia but I may insist on living in Europe. If I go to Europe, I would still be able to prophesy, cast out demons and do wonders in Jesus name, but I would be out of God’s will.
As Christians, we are called to submit to both the written and revealed will of God. May we seek to know His will in every major decision we need to make – be it a choice of marriage partner or where to live or a major investment or our giving or the like.
4. Christlikeness – In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul prays for us to come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Perfection is simply becoming like Christ. Romans 8:29 shows us that God the Father predestined us to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. Philippians 3:12 (New Living Translation) says that Paul pressed on to lay hold of the perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed him. Jesus, the Son fills our lives so that he can perfect us – make us like himself. 2Cor 3:18 says that we are transformed by the Spirit into the image of Christ that we behold.
Christlikeness is then the aim of the Trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all involved in our lives with this aim – to make us like Jesus.