Living a Spirit-filled life

I recently wrote about what it means to engage in all the steps that God has provided for us to fully enter into His Kingdom.

A key result of fully entering into God’s Kingdom is being filled with His Spirit in a discernible way. It is what was promised by God through the prophet Joel.

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28) 

This was the key purpose of Christ’s work on the Earth. To facilitate the ushering in of God’s Kingdom on the Earth. A Kingdom that is in and by His Spirit. A spiritual Kingdom over which He is King.

One of the defining characteristics of this spiritual Kingdom and the work of the Spirit is its supernatural nature. Here in Joel we see that the result of God’s Spirit being poured out is a range of supernatural experiences for young and old, male and female, rich and poor.

It resembles a life that is above and beyond our natural plane. One that is empowered by God Himself. And one that is not determined by social class, race, gender, or age.

All you need to do is read the Gospels as well as the book of Acts to see what this looks like in action.

Sadly however, much of the Christian world today has actually lost this dimension of God’s Kingdom. There are roughly four different camps in this regard:

  1. Cessationists – Those who believe that the supernatural (and especially the gifts of the Spirit), have ceased.
  2. Fearful – Those who believe in the supernatural but do not actively function in spiritual gifts.
  3. Immature – Those who believe in the supernatural and function in spiritual gifts, but do so in unhealthy ways.
  4. Mature – Those who believe in the supernatural and function in spiritual gifts in healthy ways.

Cessationists base their belief on one scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:8 which says that one day, when the perfect comes, the gift of tounges will cease. They have created an entire doctrine around this stating that the perfect, which has come, is the canonised scriptures, i.e. the Bible. Thus, their belief is that because we now have Gods Full Revelation there is no longer any need for the gifts of the Spirit. This could not be further from the truth, and Frank Viola does a great job refuting it in this PDF booklet called Pouring Holy Water on Strange Fire.

The Fearful are those that believe in the supernatural and spiritual gifts but do not engage their faith in order to function in them. Such people may have once functioned in spiritual gifts when they were new believers, but because of the bad fruit that came from engaging in them in unhealthy and immature ways, they became cautious and even fearful of the gifts. Others in this camp have never actually functioned in spiritual gifts themselves because they may have grown up in an environment that did not encourage the healthy functioning of spiritual gifts. Either way, those in this camp are generally cautious, fearful, and even suspicious of spiritual gifts, even though they believe in the supernatural nature of God.

They generally quote Matthew 7:22-23 as their reason for focusing on developing a deep relationship with God rather than functioning in spiritual gifts.

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:22-23)

The problem of course with this thinking is that this scripture does not condemn the gifts, it simply reveals that functioning in spiritual gifts does not mean that one has a close relationship with the Lord. The fact that some function in immature ways does not give us license to reject growing up into maturity ourselves. And functioning in spiritual gifts is very much part of what it means to be a mature son in God’s house. All you need to do is look at the way Jesus (a mature son) functioned in the gospels and the way He trained His disciples to function as well.

The Immature are those who believe in the supernatural and function in spiritual gifts but often do so in ways that are unhealthy or which produce bad fruit. These could be the people that Jesus refers to in Matthew 7 who are part of His Kingdom, but who have departed from walking close to Him. Instead they have exalted the gifts of the Spirit and used it to make a name for themselves (like Simon the sorcerer wanted to do in Acts 8). Others in this camp are simply ignorant. They have not had any mature disciples teach them how to function in spiritual gifts in ways that are mature and healthy. The Corinthians fell into this camp and therefore Paul wrote them a letter designed to disciple them into a mature understanding and practice of spiritual gifts.

The Mature are those who believe in the supernatural and function in spiritual gifts, and do so in ways that are healthy and upbuilding. There are numerous examples of such people in the scriptures, including Jesus, Paul, Peter, and Phillip. All these people functioned in spiritual gifts in ways that revealed God’s Kingdom, and brought Heaven to Earth. In ways that ultimately revealed God’s love to people. Thus, the defining characteristic of the mature display of God’s supernatural power is love. It is the main reason that Paul explained to the Corinthians what love looks like immediately after explaining to them the correct functioning of the spiritual gifts. His desire was that they would understand that God’s aim is love flowing from a pure heart (1 Tim 1).

Living in the Spirit

In order to grow into a mature believer that can engage in the supernatural and effectively function in spiritual gifts and bare significant spiritual fruit, it is important to be continually “filled” with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). Provided that one has been filled with the Spirit as I discussed here, life in the Kingdom involves being filled over and over and over again. In fact, it is a life of being daily filled with God’s Spirit.

The Christian life is a life that is not our own. It is God’s life flowing within us. It is His divine life lived out in and through us.

It is not so much a belief system, or a set of doctrines, or a set of religious habits (like reading your bible), or even a so-called “righteous” life where you try to stay free from sin. It is a life that is fundamentally other-worldly. It is an empowered life. A life from above.

As such, the Christian life is not so much what we do, but what God does in and through us. It is not about our attempts to reach Him and please Him, but instead His ability to work in and through us. It is about His Spirit flowing in us.

Therefore, what matters most in our day to day lives is the degree to which we live in and by His Spirit. The degree to which we allow His life to flow in and through us. The degree to which we open to Him and walk in and by His Spirit. This is the Christian life!

God revealed that this is what He would do through Eziekiel:

And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ez 36:27)

After His Spirit was poured out on all flesh in Acts 2, this became the defining characteristic of a born-again life. One that is filled with the Spirit. There are numerous references to this in the New Testament:

  • And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be (continually) filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18)
  • Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. (Acts 6:3)
  • Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord. (Acts 11:24)

The book of Acts reveals that that which was most notable in prominent disciples was being full of the Spirit, and the  Epistles often encourage believers to be filled with the Spirit. Again, this is the defining characteristic of the Christian life, being full of God’s Spirit.

There is a difference between “walking” in the Spirit and being “full” of the Spirit. In Galatians Paul talks about walking in and by the Spirit. This is the practice of inwardly turning to the Lord and learning to be led by the Spirit rather than by our sinful flesh. It has to do with listening to that still small voice of the Spirit and obeying His instructions and unctions. This is a very important aspect of living in the fullness of the Spirit. There are numerous practices that one can adopt in order to walk in the Spirit more effectively. Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet wrote a good book entitled Jesus Speaks which covers this topic in detail.

Being “filled” with the Spirit on the other hand is more outward. It is what happens when God’s Spirit fills you up to the point that you are flowing over. You flow over outwardly, generally from your mouth. That is why people who get full of the Spirit generally express themselves to God through their mouths. You will see that in the book of Acts, when people were filled with the Spirit it generally resulted in an expression that came out of their mouths, whether speaking in a foreign tongue, or praising God, or prophesying, or something that made them seem “drunk.” It was “abnormal,” almost like they were out of control.

But this is the normal expression of someone that is full of God’s Spirit. It is a physical expression that points to a heavenly reality. A human experience and enjoyment of God’s nature and realm. That is why being filled with the Spirit is generally accompanied with a supernatural experience of one of God’s characteristics. Like supernatural Joy, or Peace, or Boldness, or Faith. It is God Himself filling that person.

It is this experience of being “filled” with God’s Spirit that enabled the early disciples to preach God’s word with boldness amidst persecution, break bread with joy in their hearts amidst having very little, perform miracles with great faith, experience peace and joy while in prison, and so on. The feelings that filled them were supernatural. They were God’s characteristics filling them to a point of overflowing.

So in addition to functioning in Spiritual gifts, being filled with the Spirit enables us to experience God’s nature in a way that transcends our human environment. In situations where we should experience fear, instead we have faith. Where we should be despondent or depressed, instead we have joy. When we should be anxious or stressed, instead we experience peace.

Being filled with God’s Spirit is the only way to truly live! It sets us free from what our situations and environments would determine our lives to be. It breaks us out of what this world would confine us to experience. It releases God’s supernatural life and nature into us to the point that it flows over into our situations. This helps us break through the prisons that Satan would try to trap us in. Whether depression, despondency, anxiety, and so forth. By being filled with God’s Spirit we receive and enjoy His Kingdom and nature, instead of Satan’s. And as a result of it flowing over it has the power to change our situations. It brings Heaven to Earth and replaces the Kingdom of this world with God’s Kingdom.

This is perfectly illustrated in Acts 16 by the way that Paul and Silas praised God amidst being imprisoned. The Spirit of God so overflowed in them that it caused an earthquake to break them out of jail. God’s Kingdom came and displaced the kingdom of Satan. This is the power of being filled with the Spirit.

So what are some ways in which one can be filled with the Spirit?

Some of the ways that I practice and appreciate include:

  • calling on the name of the Lord Jesus (Oh Lord Jesus!),
  • praying in tounges (spiritual prayer language),
  • praising the Lord loudly,
  • singing to the Lord from the depths of my being,
  • prophesying and praising God,
  • rejoicing and making a joyful noise to the Lord (see the Psalms),
  • fasting often,
  • fervently pray-reading the word, and
  • praying boldly.

There are probably others, but these are the one’s that you can see illustrated in the New Testament as well. I have found that when I actively engage with these spiritual practices that the Spirit begins to fill me up. And if I continue to engage in them by faith I get filled up to the point that I overflow. It is at this point that I begin to experience that I have no more inhibitions. That I am able to freely sing and pray and prophesy with boldness. It’s like going from being stuck in mud to being able to fly around without any restraints. It is usually at this point that functioning in spiritual gifts is also much more effortless and accurate.

Paul defines this experience as freedom in the Spirit.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17). 

It is a space where you are no longer chained and bound by your human faculties. Your mind, or your will, or your emotions, are no longer controlling you, instead it is your spirit, empowered by God’s Spirit that is determining your actions. The bible often compares this experience to being drunk. One could say that drunkenness is the demonic counterfeit for being filled with the Spirit. The main difference of course with the two is that when filled with the Spirit one still has full control of one’s faculties, they are just all empowered by God’s Spirit.

As we can see with the descriptions of the men in Acts, they were “full” of the Spirit. This means that they were not just simply filled with the Spirit at times (although I’m sure there were times that they overflowed more than at other times), but they were men who lived “full” of the Spirit. This implies that they actively engaged with God’s Spirit in ways that enabled them to consistently be “full” of Him. As such, they walked in God’s authority and were able to preach His word boldly, perform miraculous healings, discern demonic spirits, prophesy boldly, and function in numerous other spiritual gifts.

We may wonder how they came to live this way. Well, the bible does give some hints.

  • Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes 5:16-18)
  • I thank God that I speak in other tongues more than all of you. (1 Cor 14:18)
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

The Lord has given us practical tools that we can use to be filled with the Spirit. Praying, prophesying, calling, singing, dancing, fasting, tounges, and so on, are all ways that we can focus our beings on God and tap into His Spirit. There is however one ingredient that needs to be mixed with these practices in order for them to help us become filled with the Spirit, and as I’m sure you have realised, its faith.

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. (Hebrews 11:6)

If you want to be filled with God’s Spirit you need to draw near to Him in faith. In other words, you need to engage in these spiritual practices by faith, with a clear intention of being filled with the Spirit.

In addition to faith, you need to open yourself up for God to fill you up. These practices help you to empty yourself of your thoughts about yourself and your life and focus your attention on God. They prepare you for His filling. They close off all the other taps and begin to open your spirit to be watered by God’s Spirit. They help you open God’s spiritual tap so that you can experience what Jesus revealed would happen to all those who believed.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

This spring is one that we can enjoy every day. One that can well up in us and water all our inward parts, and bubble up to the point that it overflows from our mouths and bodies. If we allow ourselves to be continually filled with the Spirit we eventually become “full” of the Spirit and can walk in the power and wisdom of God everyday. We can enjoy the freedom of God and begin to live by all of His characteristics rather than our own. If we do this for long enough, these attributes of God eventually become deposited in us in a permanent way and give rise to more permanent spiritual fruit.

Thus, living in the fullness of the Spirit as a mature disciple of Jesus means:

  • Being baptised in the Spirit for the first time;
  • Walking in and by the inward direction of the Spirit;
  • Continually being filled with the Spirit to the point that it overflows outwardly;
  • Learning to experience and enjoy God’s characteristics in Spirit rather than our own;
  • Learning to function in spiritual gifts;
  • Ultimately letting God’s Spirit dwell in us richly to the point that we are “full” of the Spirit.

This is what it truly means to live the Christian life. It is a life that is full of the Spirit of God!

One last thing is to realise that we can get filled up with the Spirit individually and with others. It is a dimension of God that is there to build us up in our personal walk as well as to build up His body. So in addition to getting filled up on one’s own, the most enjoyable times are often experiencing God’s Spirit together with others. After all, this is our birth right. Our inheritance from above. So surely we should enjoy it as often and as we can and with as many others as we can. As such, our times together should be marked with the experience and expression of God’s Spirit. For that is what we are. A spiritual people called to display Heaven on Earth.

How full would you say your life is with the Spirit? What do your times look like when getting filled up with the Spirit? What practices do you enjoy in order to experience being filled up with the Spirit? What testimonies can you share from times when you have been filled up with the Spirit?

The image of this blog post is of a well in the Tuhala village in Northern Estonia. For thousands of years the well has been overflowing every year in Spring when the melting of snow and excessive rains cause the underground water systems to become overwhelmed. It ends up flooding the entire surrounding area. Although it has become to be called the “Witches Well” by the locals because of the belief that it is witches that cause the well to overflow, I think it is a beautiful picture of  what Jesus referred to in John 4. It is a picture of a Spirit-filled life!

Are you fully in God’s Kingdom?

If you have ever heard the good news of God’s Kingdom then you will know that He invites everyone to leave the Kingdom of this world and join Him in His Kingdom. It is a Kingdom of love, power, and truth. And it is a Kingdom that will one day cover the whole earth as the waters cover the sea (Is 9:7).

What is important to know is that this is a spiritual Kingdom. It exists in the spiritual realm, as does God Himself. So in order to engage in it we need to use our spirits. Only by using our spiritual faculties can we live and breathe and have our being with God in His Kingdom (John 3:5).

In order to fully participate in God’s Kingdom we need to activate all of the faculties in our spirit. Activating them is not automatic, but requires faith.

In his message on the day of Pentecost Peter gives us the keys that help us unlock all the aspects of our spirits we need to enter in and fully participate in God’s Kingdom.

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:36-41)

As you can see in the passage above Peter stresses the revelation of the Kingdom of God and encourages everyone to reject the kingdom of this world, by rejecting this crooked generation. The crooked generation is simply those people that love the kingdoms of this world and reject the Kingdom of God. It is those that reject God’s rulership for the rulership of the gods of this world (money, pleasure, success, fame, etc).

Peter explains that God is calling unto himself a different generation of people. A people to whom He has made a promise (a people of the promise). And this invitation is to everyone. To those who are near (the Israelites), their children (future generations), and those who are far off (the Gentiles). Everyone whom the Lord is calling unto Himself and into His Kingdom.

The way Peter makes this clear to them is by announcing that God has made Jesus both the supreme ruler of the world, as well as its chosen saviour. He has made him both Lord and Christ. Jesus, the man, the one who was crucified, has been raised from the dead and has been established as the earthly ruler and administrator of God’s Heavenly Kingdom.

Until this point there had been no human that could facilitate God’s Kingdom for all of humanity. So for the most part, His Kingdom remained in the Heavens. But because of the absolute obedience of Jesus, God raised Him up and established him as the one who would bring this Kingdom to Earth.

Hearing this truth convicted the crowd in a very real way. They were “cut to the heart.” They did not know what to do with this information. When they heard that Jesus was the King of God’s Kingdom on the Earth, and the one chosen to liberate people from the kingdom of this world (in order to come under God’s rule), they wanted to know what they needed to do to respond to this news.

In response to their cry, Peter and the rest of the Apostles gave them four important steps that they needed to take. Four doors, if you will, that they needed to proceed through in order to fully enter into the Kingdom of God. They are as follows:

  1. Repent
  2. Be Baptised
  3. Experience the forgiveness of sins
  4. Receive the Holy Spirit

These four steps are neatly divided into two groups of two. The first two steps involve something that we do, whereas the second two involve something that we receive. To repent and be baptised are choices that we make and acts that we engage in by faith and in obedience to God. Only once we have been obedient to these two steps can we receive the two gifts that God wants to give us, which is the forgiveness of our sins and the Holy Spirit. Receiving these two gifts is also a matter of faith and obedience.

There are many people today who may think they are in the Kingdom of God because they have “accepted Jesus into their hearts,” or because they have “prayed the sinners prayer,” or because they “attend church,” or because they have “accepted Jesus as their ‘personal saviour,'” or for a range of other seemingly “spiritual” reasons. But there is only one road that Peter and all the first Apostles shared with us as the true way into God’s Kingdom.

First, before a person can even take the road to God’s Kingdom there is something that such a person needs to experience.

Being “cut to the heart.”

The crowd experienced being cut to the heart for two reasons. Firstly, they were convicted by the fact that it was their hatred and sin that got Jesus crucified, and they were convinced that God raised him from the dead in order to establish him as the Lord and Saviour of the world.

Until a person is truly convicted of the way that they have turned against God and lived in rebellion against Him, and become fully convinced that Jesus, the man who lived in first century Palestine, was crucified, raised to life, sat down at the right hand of God, and was then established as the supreme ruler and chosen saviour of the world, they cannot truly take the road to God’s Kingdom. This is not simply an experience of mentally understanding it and acknowledging it as true. It is something that affects one deeply. To the point of having only one response, “What can I do to be saved from this place?” It is a cry from a truly cut-up heart.

There are some that have mentally acknowledged that Jesus is the world’s saviour, turned away from their worldly lives, been baptised, and now attend a church, but this does not mean they are in the Kingdom of God. Although they may have left their original lives and lifestyles, they may not have actually entered into God’s Kingdom. The reason: they have not truly turned away from their rebellion towards God, nor actually surrendered to Jesus as master. They are just part of a religious system that is modeled around Jesus and which causes them to live more morally. As such, they may have just left one of Satan’s kingdoms for another more religious one. (Remember, Satan is the ruler of the Kingdom of darkness. Within that kingdom he has a range of little kingdoms all designed to keep us in darkness. Religion is one of those kingdoms. It is a form of godliness but without any true spiritual power – 2 Tim 3:5)

Truly entering into God’s Kingdom requires a work of God’s Spirit in our inner beings that is coupled with faith. It requires an experience that is similar to the one the crowd had that Peter preached to. One where we experience being “cut to the heart” because we have for the first time truly realised that Jesus is the supreme ruler and the one chosen to redeem all of who we are for God’s Kingdom. He is the one we are supposed to love and serve and surrender all our being to for the glory of our creator, and for the fulfillment of life’s purpose.

Only once someone has had such an experience will they truly be able to take the road into the Kingdom. Because in truth, until such a time they will not actually have a revelation that there is such a Kingdom, or that all of who they are actually opposes it. Only once they truly realise that there is a Kingdom in the Spirit, which requires the complete rejection of all others, will they be able to take the journey there. Only once they see that by submitting to anything other than Jesus (even living a good life) they actually oppose God’s Kingdom, and that they need to completely submit their lives to Jesus as Lord and Saviour, will they be able to truly enter into God’s Kingdom.

Once they truly accept and receive this revelation, nothing is ever the same again. They begin to experience God speaking to them by His Spirit in very real and often supernatural ways. They begin to have new desires and new feelings. Their channel to God has essentially been opened and they can hear His voice and sense His leading.

With the crowd that Peter spoke to, their first experience of this speaking was the “conviction” of the Holy Spirit. Being “cut to the heart.” This was God speaking to them, confirming that that which Peter was saying was true, and strongly encouraging them to respond to it. In a similar way, someone who has truly received a revelation about God’s Kingdom and its King, will experience God’s voice, and that voice will encourage them to take the road to His Kingdom.

Once they have responded to God’s voice, then they can take the four step journey there.

Repent. This means that we turn away from and reject all other kingdoms (including the “good” ones like religion). Whether it is the pursuit of success, fame, money, pleasure, power, goodness, impact, etc. We give up all allegiances we have to these kingdoms and surrender to Jesus as our new Lord and King. As a result we also turn away from all sin and darkness and choose to submit our lives to be made holy. We submit our beings to become cleansed, sanctified, and set apart for our new lives in God’s Kingdom. A life that is completely and utterly determined by Jesus alone.

Baptised in Water. This is the act of burying the old life, with all its evil allegiances in water (a picture of death), and coming up in the new life in God’s Kingdom. When done in faith, water baptism severs all unholy ties and demonic bonds that Satan used to control one in his kingdom. As a result, many people experience freedom from addiction, unholy patterns, illnesses, mental oppression, and a range of other demonic forces after being baptised in water.

Forgiveness of sins. As a result of rejecting the kingdoms of this world as well as one’s old life of sin, the Apostles say that we experience the forgiveness of our sins. We experience all our sins being washed away as they are buried with our old life. This is something very experiential. When one has truly obeyed God and repented from everything that stands opposed to Him and His Kingdom, that person has a very definite inward experience of being forgiven. For the first time their conscience is clear and they know that God has forgiven all their sins and that they are free. This is a wonderful feeling!

Receiving the Holy Spirit. Upon truly repenting, truly dying to one’s old life, and experiencing freedom from sin, God promises that we will receive the Holy Spirit. This is when someone receives God’s Spirit and empowerment. It is a spirit of love, power, and a sound mind (truth) (2 Tim 1:7). It is this Spirit that enables us with His supernatural nature. When received properly the Spirit empowers us to actually live and move and function in God’s Kingdom. Without the Spirit we might get to the entrance of the Kingdom of God, but we will not be able to truly enjoy and participate in all that it is.

For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his beloved Son (Col 1:13)

Going though all four these stages fully transfers us from Satan’s kingdom into God’s Kingdom and enables us with the gifts that we need in order to grow and function effectively. It opens up all our spiritual faculties and enables us to fully participate in His Kingdom and fully and meaningfully function as spiritual beings. If someone stops before completing the journey, their spiritual transition will essentially be incomplete and as a result their ability to grow and function spiritually will be stunted. I have seen this happen too many times.

For the most part, people seem to get stuck at the point where they need to receive the Baptism of the Spirit. For this reason I will cover it in more depth.

The Baptism of the Spirit

While speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus explained how important it is to be born of water as well as the Spirit. In fact, he said that unless you are born of water as well as the Spirit you cannot even enter the Kingdom of God.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)

I have heard it said that receiving the Spirit is “automatic” when responding to the truth about Jesus and God’s Kingdom through repentance and baptism. It is likened to being “saved” and having a relationship with God. But I am not convinced of this. I base this on a combination of things, namely, the scriptures, my own experience, and the experience of many others.

There is an account in Acts 8 which perfectly illustrates this.

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17)

In this example it is perfectly clear that even after repenting and being baptised the people in Samaria did not receive the Holy Spirit. They were considered “new believers” and as such “saved,” but they were lacking something. They had not completed their transition into God’s Kingdom. For this reason Peter and John prayed for them so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. This reveals something striking:

Receiving the Holy Spirit is NOT AUTOMATIC after repentance and baptism in water.

There is another example of this is Acts 19.

And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all. (Acts 19:1-7)

In this example, the Ephesians had been baptised for the remission of their sins, but they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. As such, Paul rebaptised them and after he laid his hands on them the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began to function in spiritual gifts.

It is interesting that this was the first thing that Paul asked them. He did not ask them if they had repented, or if they had been baptised, or if their sins had been forgiven, or if they had a relationship with God. He asked them if they had received the Spirit. This reveals that receiving the Spirit was fundamental for Paul and the other Apostles. It was clearly very important for living under the rulership of Jesus and participating in the Kingdom of God.

As such, receiving the Holy Spirit was THE defining characteristic of being a member of God’s Kingdom.

Another important point is that Paul rebaptised them. They had already been baptised for the forgiveness of their sins. But it was John’s baptism. It was a baptism designed to set them apart for the coming Kingdom. In that sense, they had been separated from the kingdom of Satan, but they had not yet entered the Kingdom of God. For this reason Paul baptised them in the name of the Lord Jesus so that they would come under His rulership. That opened the door for them to receive the Holy Spirit.

It is also important to see that the Spirit came “upon them.” This is different from the awareness of God’s presence and the hearing of His voice that we so often associate with becoming “saved.”(*) This was something that affected their behaviour and which was noticeable to others. It was not just an inward knowing. It was an outward experience that was visible to others.

*(If you look at Acts 9 you will see that Jesus revealed Himself to Paul, spoke to him, and directed him, and this all happened before he had been baptised in water or filled with the Holy Spirit. So experiencing God in these ways does not mean that one has been filled with the Spirit).

Finally we must see that the receiving of the Holy Spirit resulted in a manifestation that resembles the spiritual gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12. But they were not just any gifts, they were specifically gifts that empowered them to reveal the truth about God to those around (tounges and prophecy). It was something visible, something supernatural, and something that brought glory to God, while at the same time revealing the truth about His Kingdom, His power, and His blessing to all around. It revealed that God’s supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit was real and available to all humanity.

Based on these passages there are a few clear points to consider regarding fully entering into God’s Kingdom.

  1. Receiving the Holy Spirit is crucial for entering into the Kingdom of God.
  2. Receiving the Holy Spirit is the defining characteristic for New Testament disciples of Jesus.
  3. Receiving the Holy Spirit is not automatic after repenting and being baptised in water.
  4. Receiving the Holy Spirit is not the same as being “saved,” having a relationship with God, being aware of God’s presence, or hearing His voice.
  5. Receiving the Holy Spirit is contingent on coming under the rulership of Jesus Christ by being baptised in His name.
  6. Receiving the Holy Spirit results in the Spirit coming upon us and causes visible supernatural manifestations.

Although not everybody’s experience of receiving the Holy Spirit is as dramatic as those described in the book of Acts, everyone that I know (including myself) that have experienced the baptism of the Spirit can testify that something supernatural took place. I would not go as far as to say that unless someone speaks in tounges or prophecies they have not received the Spirit, but I would say that based on the testimony of scripture as well as on the experience of many believers, receiving the Holy Spirit is a discernible supernatural experience.

In addition, based on 1 Corinthians 12, Acts 13:52, and Ephesians 5:18 it is clear that functioning in spiritual gifts and being continually filled with the Spirit, is not limited to the day that one receives the Holy Spirit. After receiving the Spirit and being enabled with gifts, the idea that scripture paints is that believers would be continually filled with the Spirit and continue to function in those gifts in order to reveal God to the world and build up the Body in supernatural ways. In fact, the scriptures encourage believers not to be content with only one or two gifts, especially those that are lower on the scale of usefulness, but to “eagerly desire the greater gifts” (1 Cor 12:31). This again reveals that receiving the Holy Spirit and functioning in supernatural spiritual gifts is very important for functioning in the Kingdom of God. As such, every person that desires to be an active citizen of God’s Kingdom should seek to receive the Spirit and begin to function in spiritual gifts.

Fully in God’s Kingdom

So how do you know if you are fully in the Kingdom of God? How do you know if have completed the transition from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of God.

Well, it is quite simple. What is your answer to the Apostle Paul’s question to those in Ephesus?

Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?

If you have never had a supernatural experience where you received the Holy Spirit then there could be more than one reason.

  1. Just like those in Ephesus you did not know that there was a Holy Spirit that came upon people in a discernibly supernatural way.
  2. You know about it but you are skeptical or afraid.
  3. You have grown up or been a part of a church movement that does not believe in, condemns, or simply does not have faith for the discernible supernatural baptism of the Spirit and the functioning of spiritual gifts.
  4. Like those in Ephesus, you have not actually come under the rule of Jesus, you have just experienced the remission of your sins. (i.e. Jesus is your “saviour” but He is not your Lord, Master, Ruler, and King – you believe you are going to heaven because your sins are forgiven, but your life is still your own to do with as you please, and God is simply there to bless you and help you because he loves you so much).
  5. You desire the baptism of the Spirit as described in the scriptures and experienced by others but no matter how much you have sought it, you just have not received it.

Well, if you are in any one of these camps and desire to fully enter into and function in God’s supernatural Kingdom then here are some things you can do.

  1. Surrender to Jesus as Lord. If you simply got baptised in order to go to heaven, to join a church, to live a moral life, or because Jesus is a great guy and you want God to bless you because he is all about loving the world with little to no strings attached, then you need to get rebaptised into the name of the Lord Jesus. In other words, you need to come under his rulership. You need to submit to him completely.
  2. Ask God to transform your thinking about this. Read Acts and see for yourself how the Holy Spirit came upon people and how they operated because of it.
  3. Deal with your issues regarding this. Just because people you know have functioned in spiritual gifts in a way that is disorderly or even questionable, do not let that be the basis of your belief. Let what the scriptures say be your guide.
  4. Apply your faith to the truth about this. It is real. It is from God. And it is for us today. It is God’s promise to everyone, those who are near, and to you who may feel far off.
  5. Find someone who can lay their hands on you and pray for you to be filled with the Spirit. If you don’t know of anyone that can help you, or if those who have prayed for you struggled to help you, you may be able to find someone close to you on this map (https://thelastreformation.com/)

Above all, please realise that being fully transferred into God’s Kingdom, having access to all your spiritual faculties, and fully functioning as an active Kingdom citizen matters. The whole of creation is eagerly waiting for the sons of God to be revealed (Rom 8:19).

Jesus only started his earthly ministry after receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was a discernible and supernatural event. Thereafter he was able to walk in the power of the Spirit and functioned in a multitude of spiritual gifts which brought God’s Kingdom to Earth. His disciples followed in this pattern and faithfully passed it on to us through the scriptures. Since then, many have believed, accepted, and humbly submitted to this pattern which has allowed them to fully enter into and function in the Kingdom of God in their generation.

How about you?

The Journey to Obedience

If you love me, you will obey me! (John 14:15)

The life of a disciple of Jesus is not a complicated one. It is actually very simple. It comes down to one very basic response…. “Obedience.”

The challenge is that we absolutely suck at it! We really really really struggle to truly obey from the heart.

Give us religious rules to follow (legalism), or give us “grace” that will cover all our challenges (libertinism), or give us lots of things that we can keep busy with (limbo), but just don’t speak the living word to our innermost beings in such a way that requires us to surrender and obey (Lordship). We will generally do anything to get out of having to truly surrender to and obey the Lord from our hearts. But this is not what the Lord desires:

“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)

He wants us to hear His voice, and obey Him.

Legalists drown out God’s voice with their religious rule keeping, and libertines sear their consciences with a false idea of God’s love and grace. Those that find themselves in a state of limbo are those that acknowledge His Lordship outwardly, but resist it inwardly. They generally ignore His voice, run away from His voice, try to drown out His voice, or a range of other tactics which keep them in a state of spiritual limbo.

None of these three camps are able to live in the freedom and power of the Kingdom. They may talk the language of the Kingdom, but they are unable to live in it.

The writer to the Hebrews takes dead aim at all three these groups when he compares them to Israel.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
    on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
    and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
    they have not known my ways.’
11 As I swore in my wrath,
    ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 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. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

If you would like to read the portion that the writer is referring to you can read the account in Numbers 13 & 14. It describes how Israel faithlessly disobeyed God by not entering and taking the promised land that He gave them to take because of their fear of the strength and the size of the people in the land. 

Because of their disobedience He kept them from being able to enter the land and instead He led them back into the wilderness as a punishment. All those that had disobeyed first needed to die before Israel could enter into the promised land. Only those who faithfully obeyed were able to enter the land with the new generation of Israelites.

What is so interesting about this story is that a few months prior to this event Israel had seen God do numerous powerful miracles to bring them out of Egypt and out of slavery. So they were not unaware of His power. Yet when He commanded them to enter the land and told them that He would give it into their hands, they shrunk back in fear. To the point that they wanted to return to slavery in Egypt. It’s hard to believe. But it happened. And it reveals something very significant.

Faith is not automatic.

Even if you have seen God work before, your faith to believe Him for something new, in an unfamiliar territory does not come automatically. The reason is because faith is like a muscle. You are the one that controls it. It does not have a life of its own. It is under your authority. And it is your choice if you want to use it or not.

That is why God punished them for their disobedience. Because their sin was that they chose not to exercise their faith in obedience to His instruction. They chose not to believe! Instead they chose to fear.

You may think that fear is automatic. But actually it is also a choice to fear. Yes, the emotion comes automatically, but it is our choice whether we are going to obey it or not. Israel chose to obey their fear rather than the living God. And because of that He punished them.

In those 40 years in the wilderness they were not waiting for the fearful generation, but for the rebellious generation to die out. Only then could they enter the promised land.

Freedom and rest is our promised land in Christ. And God commands us to enter it. He is the Lord. He calls the shots. And because of His great love, He purchased our freedom on the Cross. And now he commands all men to leave slavery in Egypt and enter the promised land of freedom and rest in His presence.

It is not so much an invitation as it is a command.

through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations. (Romans 1:5)

The true gospel is not an invitation to be saved from your sin (as many preach it today). The gospel of the Kingdom of God is a command to accept Jesus Christ as the Lord (King, Master), and to renounce your sin, and everything of this world, and enter His promised land of freedom and rest.

Sadly however, many of us leave the world (Egypt) in response to God’s loving salvation, but then instead of obeying His instructions and fully entering the promised land (in every aspect of our lives), we roam around in the desert forever.

And the same thing was happening in the first century amongst God’s people. That is why the writer to the Hebrews makes such strong statements regarding it. That we should fear lest any of us fail to enter that rest. That we should take care lest there be in any of us an evil and unbelieving heart, leading us to fall away from the living God. That we should strive to enter that rest so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

My brothers and sisters, this is serious. It is not in the grey realm that we always try to keep it in. The, “these are my issues,” “it is too painful,” “I’m too scared,” its a journey,” type of excuses. It is very black and white. Not entering into any form of freedom in your life is sin. And it is a result of the hardness and deceitfulness of our hearts. It is not actually fear or confusion or pain or whatever we fool ourselves with. Beneath all those layers lies the true source of our lack of rest and freedom in Christ…. rebellion!

The hard and deceitful heart that the Hebrews writer speaks of will form within us all if we do not take care. It is a heart that does not want to be ruled. A heart that does not want to submit to God. A heart that deep down resists His Lordship. Because it wants to stay in control. Like the Israelites our hearts would compel us to rather go back to Egypt than have to obey God. It would prefer things to be cosy and comfortable. Where He gives us the niceties that we need, but does not require much from us. That is the type of God our hearts automatically desire. We do not have to choose for our hearts to respond in this way. Our hearts are naturally deceitful above all things (Jer 17:9).

That is why the Hewbrews writer encourages us to exhort one another daily, because unless we actively and consistently engage our hearts with truth, they will naturally default into hardness. They will naturally turn God into something He is not. A God who caters to our needs and requires little from us. Even a God that pities us and exists to serve us. A God who we can choose to obey or not, based on how we feel.

But that is not who God is. God does not invite us to obey Him and claim the promised land and battle all the giants in it. He commands us to do so. It is His express will for us is to deal with all the giants in our land (whether fear or depression or pain or whatever it may be) and to fully enter into His rest.

If you are a true disciple of Jesus, your choice is not whether you want to be free or not. Whether you want to enjoy the rest of God or not. It is whether you want to obey Jesus or not. That is your only choice. The choice to exercise your faith, enter the promised land and let God help you deal with all the giants, or to exercise your fear, rebel against God and wonder in the wilderness.

If you choose to rebel against God, He will not leave you. Just like with the Israelites, He will be with you in the wilderness. He will be your cloud by day and your fire by night. He will feed you, clothe you, protect, and be there for you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. But this is God’s mercy towards you. And only because of the intercession of Jesus on your behalf (His blood intercedes for you). It is not automatic. This mercy has come at a very high price, and we should not take it for granted.

God would have destroyed Israel for their disobedience if it was not for Moses who interceded on their behalf. His work gained mercy for them, causing God to change His mind and instead walk out a 40-year journey in the wilderness as punishment. And in a similar way He will patiently travel with you through the wilderness until every rebellious part of you has died out. And then, once you are finally ready to obey, He will be with you to enter into the land and take down all the giants so that you can enjoy His freedom and rest.

In that sense, we all need to go on a journey to obedience. It is a journey in the wilderness. And it is a journey that is determined by our rebelliousness. It is not the rest of God. It is not the destination. And it is not a place that we should get comfortable in or even think about in light terms. No, in that place we should fear lest we take God’s mercy for granted and fail to enter God’s rest. We should take care, lest we continue to let our hearts be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. And we should strive to fully enter into God’s rest.

So what does this journey to obedience look like?

Well, as the writer to the Hebrews says, we should allow the word of God to pierce our innermost being. We should allow the word, which is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword to pierce to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow. We should allow it to discern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. So that we can see what is sinful and rebellious and unbelieving within us. And let all those parts within us die! By letting them be crucified.

Remember, we have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Gal 2:20). And if by the discerning of the Lord’s speaking we find in ourselves anything other than Christ which is still alive in us, we need to apply the truth of our crucifixion with Christ to it. We need to inform it that it is dead!!! We need to transform our minds with the truth. Lead our hearts to obey!

Only once all these things within us have died in this way, and the new generation (Christ) has been birthed in their stead, will we be able to enter the promised land and enjoy the rest of God.

If you are serious about entering God’s rest and freedom, then it means becoming serious about the journey to obedience. It means making a very definite commitment towards it. One that will impact your whole life. Your time, your lifestyle, your relationships, etc. It means entering into a “programme” with the Lord where you intentionally position yourself to let His word pierce your being and transform you.

It means giving up legalism, libertinism, and limbo, and beginning to walk under His Lordship.

Just because you are in the wilderness, it does not mean that you cannot begin to surrender to God’s Lordship. The new generation of Israelites were born in the wilderness. They were born there as a result of their parents’ disobedience. But that is where they were trained to love and obey God. I can imagine that they all took it very seriously because they probably knew why they were in the wilderness in the first place and what it would mean to get out. So I’m sure they actively engaged with learning to love and obey God, so that they would be ready to obey Him when the time came to take the land. And as we can see in the scriptures, they did just that. When the time came they obeyed God and took the land by trusting Him that He would do what He said He would. In the same way, you can  begin to train your inward parts to love and obey God even while in the wilderness of disobedience!

So what does this look like practically?

There are many ways to go about actively engaging with God’s word and person. Some of the ways that God has led me to do so in my life have included: fasting food weekly, daily bible study, reading a book on a specific issue I was struggling with (co-depenency) and actively engaging and dealing with what it brought up, seeing a brother who is gifted in counseling once a week and actively opening up my life to him, walking in the light with a group of men in specific struggles, actively waiting on God for a specific purpose, faithfully and humbly working in a specific job that He has given me to do, asking brothers and sisters to help me overcome a certain addiction and being faithful to the interventions that were put in place, consistently reading the specific ministry of a servant of God and letting God speak to me, spending time with someone in whose life I could see fruit in a specific area and humbling myself to learn from them, waking up early each day to pray and be in God’s presence, consistently fellowshipping with a specific group of people, journalling about a specific issue daily and prayerfully working through what surfaced, taking long walks in the forest each week to bare my heart to the Lord and let him speak to me, giving up worldly entertainment to get into the Lord’s presence daily, and so forth.

All these things enabled God’s word to pierce my being in very real and consistent ways. And I engaged in them until everything within me that needed to die was dead and buried! This dedicated, consistent, and face-as-flint approach, enabled Christ to be formed in those areas in a comprehensive and thorough way. In a way that has changed my life forever and enabled me to consistently enjoy the rest and freedom of God.

How you choose to take this journey is up to you. It may mean different things at different times depending on the issue. But whatever you do make sure that you commit to it and that you engage in it consistently until the work is done. Make sure that you consistently open up your being to the Lord in a real and vulnerable way. Otherwise you will just be going through the motions and there will be no fruit.

And remember, although you choose to commit to it, it will ultimately be the Lord that gives you the grace and the strength to see it through. Sometimes you will have the strength and grace to work through a sentence of a book or pray for 10 minutes for example. Whereas at other times you will have the strength to actively work through a page or a chapter or pray for 2 or 10 hours. The key is to not focus on how much you do, but rather the consistency with which you do it.

Also, it is vital to remember that you will not be alone in your pursuit. The Holy Spirit will be your very active and involved companion. He will literally help you every step of the way. By giving you strength, wisdom, and insight, enabling you with God’s power, leading you to the next step, and revealing God’s word and person to you. He is the one that will comes alongside you, and keep you cool by day and warm by night as you take the journey to obedience.

If you take God’s mercy seriously, are faithful to actively and intentionally engage with God in the wilderness, and faithfully walk out the journey to obedience, the Lord will deal with all the rebellious parts within you and enable you to love and obey Him in a way that gives you the rest and freedom that your heart so desires.

No matter what you choose to do, remember the parting words of the writer of Hebrews.

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Remember, that although you may think you can rebel, you are not your own. You have been created. You have a master. And if you consider yourself a disciple of Jesus, then you have been bought with a price. And although He is a loving Master that is patient and kind and long-suffering, you cannot hide from His sight. All that you are is visible to Him. And all that you are will need to stand before Him and be dealt with by Him. You cannot rebel forever. You can either choose to take the road to obedience now, and let Him deal with what is within you in a way that forms Christ in you and gives you rest. Or you can wait for the day of judgement when every person will have to give an account and then God will deal with you as He sees fit.

Personally, I would like to exhort you as long as it is called “today,” and say:

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart. For there remains a Sabbath rest for you. Do whatever it takes to enter it!

Does your life feel like a parable?

Do you ever feel like your life is like one of Jesus’ parables?

Like stuff is happening that God wants to use to reveal Himself and His Kingdom to you through, but you just can’t seem to fathom what He is actually saying….

It could be in the context of a relationship, or its in a reoccurring dream, or its in the thoughts you keep having, or the feelings you keep feeling, or it’s in the context of your work or family life, or in a goal that you can’t seem to reach, or a desire that keeps evading your grasp, or a habit you just can’t seem to kick, or a pattern in your life you just can’t seem to overcome….

Whatever it may be, I think we all get into spaces in our lives where we just can’t seem to comprehend what is going on or how to move forward. We go around in cycles, but we just can’t seem to experience change or freedom. Sometimes we gain a bit of insight, but for the most part we just feel stuck.

In this way, our life feels like one of Jesus’ parables. We see our lives happening in front of us, but we can’t make sense of what it actually means. We ask ourselves….What is God trying to tell me? And why can’t I get it?

Well, one day Jesus’ disciples came to him and asked him why he uses parables to teach the crowds. His answer was unexpected:

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
    and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
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.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matthew 13:11-17)

Here Jesus differentiates between two kinds of people. People that are blessed with understanding about the Kingdom, and people that are not. Those who did receive deeper revelation about the parables were part of Jesus’ disciples, and those who did not were in the crowds.

Here is an important lesson: Although the message of the Kingdom is for all, understanding of the Kingdom is only for those that actually follow Jesus and commit themselves to him.

So how does this relate to our lives?

Well, I think it is important to realise that although we have committed our lives to Jesus, there are times where instead of engaging with him as a disciple, we engage with him as someone in the crowd.  We hear and see what is happening in our lives, but we do not understand what God is speaking to us.

A good example of this is Peter in Matthew 16 who gained great revelation about Jesus being the son of God, and in the next breath tries to stop him from going to the cross. In the first account Jesus commends his insight and says to him, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven,” and in the very next account he rebukes his lack of insight and says to him, “you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Peter went from having revelation about the Kingdom in one breath to immediately having no understanding of it at all in the next…. and we are the same.

Engaging with Jesus as a humble and committed disciple is not automatic. It is a daily choice. And this is especially true when it comes to our lives, and the difficult things we face in them.

God is always revealing Himself to you through the story your life, but He is doing it in a way that will draw you out from the crowd. And until you leave the safety of the crowd, you will not understand what He is saying to you.

Being part of the crowd means that your heart is dull, your ears are hard of hearing, and in some elements of your life, you have intentionally closed your eyes. You stay at a safe distance from Jesus. You marvel at who he is and what he does for you, you even follow his ministry, listen to his teachings, and receive from him what you can. But unlike a disciple, you do not leave your life behind in order to be near him always.

And this reveals another important aspect of God’s nature and character: He only truly reveals Himself and His ways to those He considers His friends. Those that have left the crowd in order to be near to Him.

If you read the scriptures carefully you will notice that there are no parables that the disciples figured out on their own. Every single one confused them. In each case they had to ask Jesus what they meant. And because they were His disciples He explained their deeper meaning to them.  In this way they were given the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven because he considered them his friends (John 15:15).

And this reveals to us the true purpose of the parables. They are designed to be ambiguous and grey. Confusing to the point of causing their recipients to become inquisitive. Inquisitive enough to search out their true meaning. And in doing so, seek out Jesus to explain it to them.

After Jesus left a town, most of the crowds returned to their homes to live their lives. Although they did not understand the parables, it didn’t seem to matter to them. Because their sicknesses were healed, their desire to be amazed was fulfilled (through the many miracles), they listened to teachings from a great prophet, and at times, even their stomachs were filled. They had received from Jesus what they needed.

Only a handful actually realised that there was more to Jesus than miracles and meeting their needs. There was more to his stories and teachings. There was more to his ministry and person. And even though they might not have understood what he was saying, they knew that if they could be near to him they would eventually understand. They would eventually get a deeper glimpse of this “Kingdom” he was referring to. So they left their life and began to follow Jesus wherever he went. They left the comfort and safety of their life and home in order to be near Jesus, and hopefully, discover his Kingdom.

So what does leaving the crowd mean to us today? Jesus is not limited to an earthly body. So leaving the crowd to be near him is not based on literally leaving our home to follow him around Galilee.

He is now in Spirit, and he is still walking around this earth, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven, ministering to the needs of humanity, teaching about the Kingdom in stories and parables, and calling disciples to follow him. And today, just like during his earthly ministry, there are those that remain in the safety of the crowd, and those that leave everything in order to follow him.

Leaving the crowd can mean different things to us at different times in our lives.

Outwardly, it may mean leaving a specific group of friends or ending a relationship, giving up an unhealthy practice, getting rid of material possessions that have a hold on us, leaving a specific job, or making certain lifestyle changes (to name a few).

Inwardly it often means giving up certain ideas about God, about ourselves, about our family or children, about others, about our past or our pain, and about how we think our lives should be, or should have been.

Relationally it may mean forgiving someone, being honest with someone, having consistent fellowship with some brothers and sisters, opening up your inner life to a brother or sister you trust, opening up issues in your marriage or family life to a loving and godly couple, or beginning to walk in the things the Lord has called you to for the building up of His Body.

Whatever it may be (and it could be more than one thing), it is generally not easy, because it means giving up what is known, what is comfortable, and what we can control in order to draw near to the Lord. It means coming out of our “self-life” in order to walk with Jesus in His life. But if we are willing to open it up to the Lord, He will call us out of it, and give us the strength to obey and follow him.

So how do you know if you are responding as a member in the crowd or as a disciple?

Well, there is a simple way to determine where you stand in any area of you life. Are you gaining understanding about your life that is causing God to turn and heal you? Because according to the portion in Isaiah mentioned above, that is the mark of God’s blessing towards His disciples (those who are near to him). Transformation, healing, and growth.  And not just in a general way, but specifically in the areas in which we struggle. It is a life changed.

Jesus has not stopped speaking to us in parables. Because He is now in spirit, he is not limited to his earthly body, nor is he limited to speaking parables within the culture and the context of 1st century Jewish life. He can speak parables to you using any and every aspect of your life today. And if you have ears to hear and eyes to see, it too will be given to you to know the secrets of the Kingdom. Secrets that He has purposefully hidden into your life’s story with an intention for you to discover.

The question is, how inquisitive do the stories in your life make you? How much do you desire to actually come to understand the King and His Kingdom?

Inquisitive enough to leave the safety of the crowd in order to be near Jesus? Inquisitive enough to leave behind the way you have thought, the approaches you have taken, the concepts you have believed, and the way you have lived, in order to know him and make your home with him….

If you stay in the crowd, you will simply remain confused. Jesus will be the guy who’s ministry you followed for a little while, the guy who provides for your needs, does great miracles, to whom you pray, about whom you sing, who’s teachings you appreciate, and who’s disciples you know, but you will not understand or be able to effectively walk in the Kingdom of God today. And eventually, according to Jesus, even the spiritual life that flows from those things you have will come to an end.

However, if you leave the crowd today (in the specific things that are keeping you from being near Jesus), it will be given to you to know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. And you will not only gain an understanding of the parables he speaks to you through your life, but even more will be given to you (through your nearness to him), and you will have an abundance (you will be able to enjoy all the riches of the Kingdom that are in Christ).

Action Steps

If there are areas in your life that feel like a parable, here are some steps you could consider taking. Let the Lord guide you as to which you need to take.

  1. Prayerfully consider areas in your life in which you simply do not gain insight or growth, and ask the Lord what He would like you to do.
  2. Spend some time seeking the Lord through fasting, prayer, and through reading the scriptures, and trust him to speak to you.
  3. Spend some time with a wise and discerning brother or sister (in whose life you often see growth), and open up to them the area in your life that seems to be like a parable. Truly open your heart to receive what they have to say.
  4. Go on your knees and repent for the way you have been remaining in the crowd (in the specific area of you life), and immediately give it over to the Lord. Surrender it completely to the Lord. (relinquish control)
  5. Confess to brothers and sisters close to you about the area in which you have been remaining in the crowd, and ask them to help you come out, stay out, and remain near to the Lord.

 

If Jesus was Lord of my city

I am currently reading Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,” by Frank Viola. At the end of each section of the book he gives a few action steps that one can take in order to engage with what has been shared. At the end of part three he gives the following action step:

If Jesus was the actual, literal, and practical Lord of your city—meaning, He was running the show and calling the shots—how would your city be different than it is today? Be as detailed as you can.

Here is my answer to that question. I live in Cape Town, South Africa:

If Jesus was the literal Lord of my city it would probably be a more developed version of His earthly ministry. He and his governing team (kingdom disciples) would administer the constitution of His Kingdom to all the regions of my city. And all the inhabitants would benefit.

I imagine that his governance would infiltrate every aspect of life. Education, Work, Healthcare, Entertainment, Politics, the Environment, and so forth. The goal would be that His kingdom would be established and that all it’s citizen’s would participate and enjoy life together.

Politics

He would be king, so there would be no democratic approach to laws and governance. He would make the rules and His disciples would facilitate them in every corner of the city. Those who are interested in being part of His kingdom administration would be able to join a local chapter to participate in local governance (i.e. the ekklesia). In fact, I imagine that He would encourage everybody to be part of governance in their area in some way….

Legal

Because people have a free will there will always be transgressions. So there would need to be a system to deal with them. I imagine that there would be consequences for all transgressions (accept traffic fines… ), but that they would be restorative rather than punitive. The system would be designed in such a way that people can learn from their mistakes and grow. And I know the Lord would facilitate this in a way that is loving and just. In this way “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…” because all would receive justice. (Rev 21:4)

Healthcare

Jesus spent a lot of time during his earthly ministry engaged in healthcare. He was always healing the sick and setting people free from demonic oppression. He also loved on and ministered to those who had experienced psychological trauma (the woman at the well). I imagine that a city run by Jesus would be very much engaged with healthcare. All his disciples would be trained to facilitate basic healthcare, but there would be some (like Peter) who would be specifically trained and gifted to function in this way. In this way “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore…” (Rev 21:4), because all that is needed to care for the health of citizens will be available.

Finance

I imagine that the financial system would be similar to what God instituted for Israel. There would be “taxes,” but these taxes would be used wisely and there would be 100% accountability and transparency. I doubt we would see them in the same way we consider “taxes” today because people would give them gladly. People would be encouraged not to horde their money and resources, but make it available for the building of the Kingdom. In this way, our homes and possessions would not be our own, but only ours to steward for the sake of the Kingdom. If we stewarded them well, the King would give us more to steward. There would also be no needy people in my city (Acts 4:34) because all resources would be redistributed in such a way that everybody could be sustained.

Education

I work in education so this would be close to my heart. I would like to see an education system that is centered on developing every single person’s unique potential. Considering that God makes each person, the Lord Jesus would be able to help us know what that potential is. We would then have different streams and variations of teaching and learning that can be engaged with in an organic way based on people’s progress and development.

Entertainment

If you look at the scriptures carefully you will notice that Jesus cracked a lot of jokes. I imagine that he liked to have fun, especially considering that he enjoyed spending time with children. I imagine that this would be expressed in his kingdom. There would be places, spaces, and times where people can be entertained, but in ways that are wholesome and clean.

The Environment

I imagine that when the Lord begins to govern, the environment will finally be honoured and cared for in the way that it deserves. Pollution, climate change, and a host of other damaging environmental elements will be dealt with. Systems will be put in place to rehabilitate the environment and ensure it grows and flourishes. Practices will be put in place to ensure sustainable living.

Work 

Work is a very important aspect of God’s kingdom. Even from the beginning He gave Adam work to do. I imagine that in a city run by the Lord, everyone would contribute to the building up and managing of the kingdom and all it’s spheres. There would be no such thing as unemployment, because everybody would have a unique job to do. One given to them by the Lord Himself.

Business

When I think about business I think not about administration (which is what government organisations are designed to do), but I think about innovation, development, and growth. I think about new innovative approaches to solving problems in ways that are accessible to the average person. I imagine that in a city run by the Lord there would be much opportunity for entrepreneurship and business development to facilitate new innovative ways of doing things and solutions that serve the needs of all households.

Worship

From the beginning of his earthly ministry Jesus showed people what it meant to truly worship God. It was not about religion (a dead system with holy times and holy places – John 4:21-24), but about lives lived in spirit and in truth. He did not come to establish a religion, but a kingdom. So in my city I imagine that Jesus would do away with ALL religion (including the one that starts with a C), and he would teach people what it really means to worship God and live in His Kingdom.

Family

God’s kingdom has always placed a large emphasis on the family. Next to individuals that love and honour him, the family has always been the basic unit of the Kingdom, even from the beginning (Adam and Eve, Noah’s family, Abraham’s family, etc.). It is in that place where all the basic elements of the kingdom are fleshed out. Politics, finance, legal, healthcare, education…. all these elements are part of the family unit. The family is like a microcosm of the kingdom. If Jesus is not the living Lord of a family, and the family is not actively engaging with His Kingdom constitution, then that family will not be able to effectively participate in the local chapter of His governance (ekklesia), nor in the city-wide administration (New Jerusalem).

Therefore I imagine that Jesus will be intimately involved with families. He will teach husbands how to love their wives (Eph 5:25). He will teach wives to honour their husbands and submit to them (Eph 5:22). He will teach children how to obey their parents and honour them in everything (Eph 6:1). He will teach mothers how to effectively nurture their children, and teach father’s how to train their children (rather than neglect or frustrate them by placing expectations on them) (Eph 6:4). He will teach the family as a whole how to love him together and how to listen to him and obey him. How to be filled with him, grow in him, walk in him, and enjoy all that he is. He will teach families how to have true fellowship with one another, and what it means to truly love each other. He will establish his kingdom in each family in my city.

In Spirit

Finally, I imagine that although the Lord will have all authority and power and will wield these wisely and justly, He will ultimately accomplish his will by and through his loving passionate presence. He will not do it by his might, nor his power, but by his Spirit (Zech 4:6). And in this way “every eye will see him” for who he truly is (Rev 1:7), and of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end. In my city he will establish and uphold his kingdom with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.

What would your answer to Frank’s question be?

PS: Can you guess why I chose the image for this blog post?

Open up to the Lord – Song

Open up to the Lord

Capo 4
Verse
G      C           Em    D
The Lord Himself goes before you;
G       C      Em    D
In every step, He is with you;
G             C     Em     D
His presence will, never leave you;
G              C      Em       D
His awesome love, cannot forsake you.
Chorus
C              G
So do not be afraid anymore;
C                                                D
Do not be discouraged, He’s right at your door;
C        (D)  G
Do not be afraid anymore;
C   D        G
Just open up to the Lord.
Bridge
C               G
Cuz it’s love, love, love
C               G
Love, love, love
C       D      Em         C
Just love, love, love
D              G
He’s filled with love.


Lyrics & Music: Dylan Cromhout
Inspired by: Deuteronomy 31:8 (written for a dear friend)
Sung by: Dylan Cromhout, Cape Town
Download Song: Open up to the Lord

How to let the Lord love you? – Healing

In the previous blog post, we looked at the great need for repenting from the lies that we have believed about God before we are able to truly believe the truths about His love and enter into them by faith. Today we will look at the important role that healing plays in being able to experience God’s loving presence.

Finding oneself disconnected from love, and particularly God’s love, is a universal human experience. Sin separates all of us from experiencing the love of God. That is, until we meet the Lord Jesus and discover His saving grace and experience reconciliation with God through Christ’s work on the cross. But for many, this is still something that they struggle to experience in reality, even though they have believed into Jesus and experienced salvation from their sin. They may know that they are free from sin, but yet they still struggle to boldly approach God’s throne as a son whom He loves… whether it is to receive from Him, open their beings to Him, or to just spend time with Him.

There are only two reasons why people do not approach God boldly. Ignorance and Fear. Many do not know that they can approach God and enjoy all that He is, whereas others are too afraid to do so. Ignorance is something that can be solved by hearing the good news that there is a God that loves us and wants to know us, and that through Jesus we have a way to know Him. Fear on the other hand is much more complex. There can be many reasons we find ourselves afraid of God. The problem is that often we do not even realise when we are afraid of Him.

The reasons that we fear God are perfectly illustrated in Genesis 3.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. – Genesis 3:1‭-‬6

Satan deceived Adam and Eve with a lie about God’s character. He made them think that God was keeping something from them, and that He could not be trusted. This mistrust caused them to take matters into their own hands to gain that which they believed God was keeping from them. This mistrust led to disobedience which resulted in sin. And that sin led to fear. Fear of God.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
Genesis 3:7‭-‬10

Sin caused Adam and Eve to cover themselves with fig leaves and hide away from God (probably behind some bushes). They did this because they were afraid. They knew that God was all powerful and that He was the just judge over all the universe. So they were afraid of what He would do to them if He found them. They were afraid of confronting God in their sinful state.

In this story we see that Fear doesn’t stand alone. It is built upon and works in tandem with a range of different emotions and experiences. Doubt, Mistrust, Desire, Disobedience, Sin, Shame, and Fear were all woven together to separate Adam and Eve from God, and from His love.

And it is no different when it comes to our relationships with God. Without even realising it we inwardly hide from His presence and His love. We clothe ourselves with fig leaves and hide our hearts behind bushes. And often our fear is also very much intertwined with a range of other experiences and emotions.

In order to be found in His love and in His presence it requires us to let go of the things that cause us to fear. To be healed, so to speak from the things that have caused us to believe Satan’s lies, doubt God’s goodness, Mistrust His character, Desire that which give us Independence from God, Disobey His life-giving ways, Sin against Him, and end up in places of Shame and Fear.

The challenge is that we cannot heal ourselves. We cannot sort ourselves out behind the bush in order to be joined back to God in the open. Even if we are the ones that caused the separation, we are unable to make things right. Only God can. The beauty is that He loves us so much and desires to make things right so that we can be joined to Him again and walk with him in the openness of the garden.

God does this in two specific ways that are seen in Genesis 3. He disciplines Adam and Eve (Gen 3:14-19), and He clothes them with animal skins (Gen 3:21). This heals them from their Sin and sets them free from Fear. They are disciplined for their sin in very specific ways, and their nakedness is covered with clothes that are made by God himself (by shedding the blood of an animal to atone for their sin). Once this happens they are no longer afraid of God. For that which separated them from Him had been dealt with. They were free to walk with Him again.

Today our experience is no different to Adam and Eve. We also need to experience God’s disciplining and clothing in order to be healed and set free to enjoy His presence and love again.

for the LORD disciplines (corrects) those He loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. Prov 3:12

God disciplines us by revealing to us what it was that we have done wrong, what lies we have believed, what aspects of His character we have mistrusted, what desires caused us to seek independence, how we have disobeyed Him, what sins we have committed, and how this has caused us to experience shame and fear. He shows us our mistakes and then corrects us. He lovingly reveals to us the consequences of our actions and instructs us in the truth. The truth about Himself, and the truth He wants us to believe and walk in.

I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. – Isaiah 61:10

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. – Gal 3:27

Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, and do not obey your flesh and its desires. – Rom 3:14

Then, once we have humbly received this disciplining he clothes us with His Son, Jesus Christ. He places garments upon us that He himself has made (through shedding the blood of His Son for our atonement). Naturally we need to let go of the flimsy fig leaves of our own design in order to truly receive the garments of His design. Garments that can truly cover our nakedness. Garments that can truly set us free from shame. Once He has clothed us with Christ, we are free again to enjoy His presence and love.

If you have never truly experienced this spiritually then it will be very difficult for you (if not impossible) to truly experience God’s love as a vibrant reality in your life. You may have believed that Jesus clothes you as a spiritual truth, but you may not have truly faced God and let him actually heal you from the things that keep you from experiencing His loving presence. Which means that although you are clothed with Christ in spirit, you have not truly entered into this revelation experientially. It is still an objective truth rather than a subjective reality for you.

So, how would you know if you have actually experienced this healing or not? You will know. The difference is like night and day.

If you have never truly experienced this healing in your inner being, you will no doubt continue to experience shame, fear, depression, doubt, unworthiness, self-rejection, mistrust, and a range of other things that are evident of separation from God.

If you have experienced even a small measure of this healing you will experience an overwhelming sense of peace, as well as a deep sense of God’s pleasure. You will experience God smiling at you and it will fill you with a peaceful joy that cannot be explained. The center of your being will be filled with an experience of God’s loving pleasure.

The journey towards maturity is for every part of our inward person to go through this healing process so that our entire being may be found in His loving presence until we are completely rooted and grounded in His love (Eph 3:17).

So how do you take a journey towards experiencing this healing…. we will begin to look at that in our next set of blog posts.

If you have ever experienced the healing discussed in this blog post, please share your testimony in the comments section below. It will be very helpful for those who are on this healing journey.

If you would like to engage with me on a more one on one basis about what you have read or about your current and unique situation, please feel free to email me at dhcromhout@gmail.com.

This blog post is the 6th in a series. Click on the links below to see the rest:

  1. Step 1 – Let the Lord love you.
  2. How to let the Lord love you?
  3. How to let the Lord love you? – Just Ask!
  4. How to let the Lord love you? – Faith
  5. How to let the Lord love you? – Repentance

How to let the Lord love you? – Repentance

In my previous blog post about learning to let the Lord love you, I talked about the necessity of faith when it comes to receiving the Lord’s love. Initially I included a section about repentance for those who struggle with actually receiving faith to believe into and experience God’s love. However, after publishing the post I thought about it and decided to rather use a separate post to focus on it.

We have come to see that in order to enter into and receive God’s love we need to have faith. And as we discussed last time, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).  In order to receive the faith to believe into and receive God’s love we need to hear the truth about God’s love spoken to us by the Lord Jesus, and we need to hear it in our inner being.

But what if we are unable to truly open our hearts to the inward speaking of the Lord Jesus regarding God’s love? What if we open our minds to hear, but for some reason we cannot truly open our hearts to hear through the word of Christ…. We hear His words spoken to us, sung about, we read about it in books and have friends tell us about God’s love, but for some reason these truths do not sink down into our spirits and produce the faith we need to enter into and receive God’s love.

In such cases we need to hear the first words Jesus spoke when he began his ministry…

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2).

We all come with baggage. We all have had experiences in our lives that have taught us to believe in certain ways. And this is especially true for what we believe about God.

If for example we had unloving parents, our hearts may automatically believe the same about God. These lies then stand in the way of us being able to believe anything else about God. And Jesus knows this about us. That is why His first words to us are…

“Repent!””Change your mind about God, for what you always thought was true, is not…””In fact, His kingdom is right here, it has come near you. He wants to know you…”

The Lord cannot fill a house that is already full. If our hearts are full of lies about God then we first need to give up those lies before He can fill us with the truth. We first need to repent from what we have believed and ask God to forgive us for believing those lies about Him for so long. Only once we have truly repented and rejected those lies and been set free from Satan’s dark grip on our hearts can we truly begin to receive the Lord’s inward speaking and gain faith to believe and enter into God’s love.

If you are at this place I suggest that you repent. And if you are struggling to do so on your own, I suggest spending some time with a brother or sister that can help you do so and even minister to you in the spirit. Someone that can help you become free from the lies and the bonds that Satan has used to ensnare your heart for so long. Once your house is clean, you will be able to receive the Lord’s inward speaking, gain faith, and enter into a lifelong journey of enjoying His love for you. And you will come to see and experience as many dear believers have, that this love will forever change you. You will never be the same again. For there is nothing sweeter than being found in His love.

If you have ever had to repent and be set free from lies that you believed about God, please share your testimony in the comments section below….

This blog post is the 5th in a series. Click on the links below to see the rest:

  1. Step 1 – Let the Lord love you.
  2. How to let the Lord love you?
  3. How to let the Lord love you? – Just Ask!
  4. How to let the Lord love you? – Faith

How to let the Lord love you? – Faith

A few years ago I started a series of blog posts called “How to let the Lord love you.” However, soon after starting this series I took a break from blogging, so I never actually completed the series. Now that I have started blogging again, three people that I know are on a journey of learning to let the Lord love them, so I thought it would be a good time to add some thoughts to the topic.

In the previous post I dealt with learning how to ask the Lord to love us in the ways that we desire to enjoy His love. In this post I would like to discuss the importance of “faith” when it comes to letting the Lord’s love in.

The first thing we need to understand about the Lord’s love is that it is a reality whether we experience it or not. God is love (1 John 4:8). So His love towards us is not based on how He feels today. It is who He is. Thus, for His love towards us to end, He would have to end, and as I’m sure we all know, that is not possible.

What does change however is the degree to which we experience His love. And that is determined by our faith.

Faith is required to enter into or receive anything from God.

“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. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:7-8)

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Jesus also portrayed this aspect of relating to God during his earthly ministry. His miracles were generally a response to the faith of the people who came to him to be healed. He would often comment on their level of faith or ask them why they lacked faith. Much of his teaching towards the disciples was also based on encouraging them to have faith. Jesus taught us clearly that the degree to which we believe is the degree to which we will receive… (#cliche, but true)

According to Paul we have been blessed in Christ with EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3). That includes grace, and mercy, and strength, and courage, and endurance, and kindness, and longsuffering, and boldness, and peace, and righteousness, and holiness, and the list is endless. Everything that is true of God is available to us in Christ. We have been given all these wonderful spiritual realities in Christ when we received Him. And for that reason we can enter into and experience them in increasing measures as we allow the Lord to grow in us…. as we allow him to permeate our being with the character and nature of God. We can be transformed by all these realities as we open to the Lord and appropriate them by faith.

And of course, this is also true for LOVE. I would say, that love is the foundation of all these realities. Love is the greatest of all the gifts (1 Cor 13). Without love, the other gifts don’t really make sense and don’t really function effectively. Love is the pinnacle of God’s person. But just like all the other aspects that are in Him, we need faith to enter into, experience, and enjoy it. But how do we do that?

“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).

Faith is enabled in us when we HEAR the truth. But not just by our physical ears, but in our spirits. That is why the scripture says we need to hear through the word of Christ. We hear the truth in our hearts when the Lord Jesus himself speaks to our inner person. It is only through His words that faith comes….

This inward speaking can come as a result of many different things. Sometimes it is through reading the bible, or hearing a testimony, or reading a book, or meditating on the truth, and so forth. But generally it comes as a result of engaging intentionally with the truth. Opening our hearts to receive the truth and allowing ourselves to take an inward posture of letting the Lord speak to us. If our hearts are truly open to the truth and we even seek the Lord’s inward speaking, then He will speak to us in such a way that produces faith and enables us to believe.

If you are ready to allow the Lord to fill you with faith to believe into and experience His love, then I would recommend that you posture your heart to receive that and ask the Lord to lead you to the truths that He wants you to receive. These may come from books about His love, reading the scriptures that talk about His love, spending time with brothers and sisters that will love you and minister His love to you, listening to and meditating on music that speaks about His love, and so on. There are so many ways in which you can grow in His love. Just let him take you on a journey of receiving and enjoying His love. He is the master at wooing our hearts. If you let Him, He will truly sweep you off your feet. 🙂

If you have heard the inward speaking from the Lord Jesus and gained faith to believe into and experience God’s love, please share about it in the comment section below.

This blog post is the 4th in a series. Click on the links below to see the rest:

  1. Step 1 – Let the Lord love you.
  2. How to let the Lord love you?
  3. How to let the Lord love you? – Just Ask!

Crazy for me – song

Crazy for me

Capo 6

Verse 1

G                            C
Wounded for me, wounded for me,
G                                         D
There on the cross He was wounded for me;
G                                             C
Gone my transgressions, and now I am free,
G                                   D                  G
All because Jesus was wounded for me.

Verse 2

Dying for me, dying for me,
There on the cross He was dying for me;
Now in His death my redemption I see,
All because Jesus was dying for me.

Verse 3

Risen for me, risen for me,
Up from the grave He has risen for me;
Now evermore from death’s sting I am free,
All because Jesus has risen for me.

Verse 4

Living for me, living for me,
Up in the skies He is living for me;
Daily He’s pleading and praying for me,
All because Jesus is living for me.

Verse 5

Coming for me, coming for me,
Soon in the air He is coming for me;
Then with what joy His dear face I shall see,
Oh, how I praise Him! He’s coming for me.

Verse 6

Crazy for me, crazy for me,
All that He does He is doing for me,
Crazy for me, crazy for me,
All because Jesus is crazy for me. x3
Oh boy! Yes Jesus is crazy for me
Jesus my Jesus is crazy for me.


Lyrics: W.G.Ovens, v1 (1870); Gladys Watkins Toberts, vv. 2-5; Dylan Cromhout, v. 6
Music: Dylan Cromhout
Sung by: Dylan Cromhout, Cape Town
Download Song: Crazy for me