August 09, 2017

BEAUTY IS ONLY SKIN DEEP... OR, IS IT?


There are very beautiful women in this world who are Godly and who dress pleasingly to the Lord. First off, I wanted to say that right up front. However, on the other hand, there prance around too many primping, mirror-gazing, 'lovely-to- look-upon' females woefully lacking the Bible's ideal that prioritizes a quality known as inner beauty. They may not know it, but their body language gives them away. They strut as if on a world stage to which all fixedly gaze but are sadly and carnally sucked in by their alluring and warped self perception. But, be that as it may,  thank God for others,  who, with humble bearing, dress modestly, forego the stage strut, put away their obsession with mirrors and behave in a lady-like manner. For any guy looking for a wife, this latter type should be the preferred kind. Of course guys would easily say that both outer and inner beauty are the perfect combination, if in the same package. But if not, should not just inner beauty  be preferred?  Such will be the preference of a man who is both sensible and spiritually sensitive.   

Phillip, a 16 year old New York State guy, once remarked, "What really bothers me about girls is that they often say, 'Why can't guys just like me for who I am, rather than for my body?' And then, they dress like they want the guys to look at their bodies. Wearing tight jeans and shirts isn't the best thing to do when you want guys to stop looking at your bodies. Try dressing modestly."

Considering the observable fact that the female gender is so beautifully designed by its Creator, THE BIBLE (which has much to say about sex, appearance, lust, etc.) plainly instructs the often-gazed-upon female this way: It assumes the gaze saying "...as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:2,3). 

A lady's "adornment" (Greek kosmos = the world), that is her world with which she is preoccupied, the sphere in which she spends much time, ought not to be overly concerned with the "merely external." There is nothing wrong with 'dressin' up all fancy like and lookin' pretty,' but, if that is with what a girl or woman is obsessively preoccupied, then a correction is vitally necessary. Of course, the world system of fashion, does a robust business emphasizing the mere outer appearance. Therefore, a female desiring to please the Lord is at once faced with overwhelming odds. 

But, a Christian should be very attentive to God's idea of beauty. He looks on the heart, not just mere outward 'looks.' A follower of Jesus should strive for the same mind-set. 

A sixteen year old New Jersey girl once said, "Recently, one boy said that if girls want to be liked for who they are (and not what their bodies look like), they should 'try dressing modestly.'" Then, with a smarty remarked she continued, "Excuse me! Clothing is a person's signature of individual freedom. If a girl wears 'tight jeans and shirts,' does that give guys license to harass her? I think not. Any female should have the right to wear what she wants, free of harassment." Then she continued, "I don't understand how, in this day and age, guys are still saying the same old thing. This reminds me of the rapists who give the excuse that the woman, the victim, was asking for it. Everyone is responsible for his/her own comments and actions. Please respect one another's body and soul." 

What? Is this gal serious? The first question in the Bible is "Am I my brother's (sister's) keeper? The rest of the Bible says MOST CERTAINLY, YES! Early on a concerted and hopefully parental  effort must be made to thoroughly educate girls about the opposite sex. I say the process needs to start early, quite a bit sooner than many think.  Far too many are way too naive about this. They think such information is ingrained at birth, but a good sitting down and frank information session on what makes the male gender tick and the female perk cannot be overly stressed. Girls need to understand the male drive and libido. The degree differs in males but can in many cases be extremely powerful. Jesus talked about men being eunuchs, some born that way, others made that way (as in the case of a slave), and yet others voluntarily making themselves such for the sake of a worthwhile cause. But such are the exception.  In other words, the libido force ranges from zero (the born eunuch) all the way to one-hundred. Now, a woman's libido can fit anywhere on a similar scale. The point I'm trying to make is this: Given the power of the sexual drive in most of us, don't we have a responsibility to NOT unnecessarily or carelessly stir up that drive in the opposite sex? And if we do, don't we bear some of the responsibility, at least, for any aberrant behavior on the part of the other? Common sense, let alone Scripture, clearly says, "Yes."

So, in conclusion, this Bible injunction needs to be heeded by both sexes: "make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts" (Romans 13:14). Such "provision" which stirs up lust should be made neither by the guy or the gal, not only in behalf of themselves but for the sake of the others too.

Dear girls and women, you are God's beautiful creation, and SMART. Be well informed on these matters and behave accordingly. 

Once there were eleven people (10 men and 1 woman) hanging onto a rope that came down from a helicopter. The rope started to fray so it was agreed that one person should let go; if not, then the rope would break and everyone would die. No one could decide who should let go. So finally, the woman gave a really touching speech. She said she would give up her life to save theirs because women were used to giving up things for their husbands and children and since men were the superior sex, they must be saved.

When she finished speaking, all of the men clapped. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A WOMAN!

dick christen

August 07, 2017

A LINE OF REASONING FOR A LIFE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS...


I've developed this line of reasoning...... God speaks, we obey and such is an act of righteousness. Such an action sets us apart and that 'set-apartness' is our personal holiness. God greatly desires us to be 'different' or holy. This is contrast with the world around. Righteousness is the action; holiness the resulting 'state.' The sum total of many actions of righteousness (taking God at His Word and acting accordingly) results in a reputation of holiness. Romans 6:15-19 seems to support this. Paul sums up the passage saying "... so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification" (19d). Distinction made. No wonder "the righteous Lord loveth righteousness." He wants us in practice to be holy as He is holy. Therefore, "obedience" is the key to the Christian life. I must hear His Word, fear God, and behave as He desires. (Read Proverbs 2 where this is outlined as the way to wisdom.) And so we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, all the while deeply grateful for our steadfast position of righteousness IN Christ Jesus. At salvation the believer has imputed or credited to him the righteousness of God IN Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21..."He (the Father) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." In daily practice the believer in Christ is to practice the above line of reasoning for the sake of a life of righteousness BY Christ Jesus. He is more than willing to give the strength needed to so walk. What a salvation! 

August 01, 2017

WHEN 'THE BAD' TRIES TO SUCK US IN...


A PROVERB... Proverbs 1:10

"My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent." 

When evil powers attempt to 'suck us in' (and they are enticingly strong) we must enrelentingly resist! The way to do this is to so grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord that God's power in us triumphantly offsets the allurements of sinners and sin all around us. By God's power we can say "NO!" The vacuuming powers of evil cannot ingest solid objects of righteousness. "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord,  and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10).

-Dick D. Christen

June 29, 2017

ABIDING TRUTHS IN JOHN 3:16


ABIDING TRUTHS IN JOHN 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

(Below, the parentheses are mine, explaining the wealth of abiding truths packed into this familiar verse. Ponder each point made.)

“For God (GOD’S DEITY)…
so loved (LOVE’S INTENSITY) 
so loved (SALVATION’S CHARITY)…
the world, (THE PLAN’S IMMENSITY)…
that he gave (GOD’S GRATUITY)…
his only son, (THE GIFT’S SINGULARITY)…
that whoever (THE OFFER’S AVAILABILITY)…
believes (THE SINNER’S RESPONSIBILITY)…
should not perish (THE BELIEVER’S SURETY)…
but have eternal life.” (SALVATION’S ETERNALITY)

     NOTES:
-       The verse begins high and ends high – God and eternal life – but in between delivers us from the lowest depths of sin. Psalm 40:2 expresses it well: “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”

-       God’s reservoir of love, though expressed intensely, never diminishes in capacity. Man-made reservoirs all diminish with usage. Such must be refilled. But God's reservoir level remains constant even when drawn upon.  And so, we teach our children to sing, “YES Jesus loves me…”


-       The IMMENSITY of our INIQUITY is far more match by the INTENSITY of His CHARITY.

-       AGAPAO in the Greek can be rendered “love” but perhaps, using older English, the word “charity” is better suited. AGAPE love is not mere emotion or feeling. It rather is a calculated response that pours from the mind and heart to address the need of someone else. It is more action than feeling. It does! It acts! Its objective is the well-being of its subject. Does not “charity” befit this more than “love?” Sadly,“love” has been reduced to mere emotion or sex in today’s world.

-       God giving His ONLY son, Jesus, is reminiscent of Abraham taking his son, Isaac, to mount Moriah and being willing to offer him up to God, as God had commanded. What faith! Often God’s instructions go contrary to what we deem right and proper, even contrary to what elsewhere He tells us. But, deep faith does what He says and expects Him to cover the situation, never going contrary to His own Word. And God never fails!

-       The Amplified Bible brings out various word shadings which enrich our understanding of the verse:

“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life” (John 3:16).

When Jesus saves a sinner that sinner “shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost).” When truly saved the believing sinner is most certainly secure, saved for time and eternity. Jesus promised such security when He said, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28 – Amplified Bible).

                    More secure is no one ever,
                    Than the loved ones of the Savior.
                    Not yon star on high abiding,
                    Nor the bird in home-nest hiding.


-Dick D. Christen 

June 16, 2017

WHERE DO THE SOULS OF THE DEAD GO?


WHERE DO THE SOULS OF THE DEAD GO AT DEATH? ARE THE DESTINATIONS DIFFERENT NOW THAN BEFORE THE CROSS OF JESUS?

If the question is asked: Where do believers and unbelievers go when they die? A quick and somewhat trite response would be … “Believers go to heaven and non-believers to hell.” But as this paper will show, this would generally be very true but rather simplistic. Read on because there are intriguing details to be discovered.

Delving into Holy Scripture we quickly learn that ‘hereafter placement’ is a rather complicated subject. Nevertheless, piecing various passages together a complex but plausible explanation emerges.

In Luke 16 we learn of a certain rich man who died and went to a place of great and immediate torment. The NASB (New American Standard Bible) and other worthy translations call it HADES. Arriving there, he painfully cries out, “I am in agony in this flame” (v24). 

In the same story we also are told about a poor beggar who also died. Interestingly, he was taken by angels to a place called ABRAHAM’S BOSOM. The text does not say he went “up” but rather just names the place. 

And so, to review, there are two men who both die but go to different places. The one is a place of torment. The suffering rich man himself calls it just that..."torment." The other destination is a place of comfort, warmth and safety. Lazarus, the poor beggar, restfully enjoys this! Does not the word ‘bosom’ as in ABRAHAM’S BOSOM suggest just this? A mother’s bosom can surely be described in such a manner. In fact, Abraham in replying to the cries of the rich man informs him accordingly: “He (Lazarus) is being comforted.”  

And so, there are two destinations for these two disparate souls. But, let me ask a probing and curious question: Could the two places in fact be two compartments of the same place?

Ponder the story as it unfolds in sacred Scripture:

 “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony” (Luke 16:19-25).

In the version I’ve used, the word HADES is a proper rendition. "In Hades" the rich man cried out. Other versions use the word "hell" but such a translation is a less than accurate rendering. Regarding this, consider this brief explanation: As we commonly think of the endless place of torment for unbelievers, the precise word in the Bible for "hell" is GEHENNA, not the term HADES used in our text. GEHENNA is the place gruesomely described as endless torment, fire and brimstone. Of it Paul, the Apostle, says: Jesus will come with His mighty angels and with fire “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). This frightening description sets forth the final abode of all who reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ and who suffer, as a consequence, ‘eternal destruction.' Yes, hell is forever. THIS IS GEHENNA and the word is found in such passages as Matthew 5:22; Luke 12:5 and James 3:6. At the end of the Bible it is aptly but horrendously depicted as a “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14,15).

But in our text, Luke 16, a different word is used under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is the Greek word HADES. The rich man died and went to Hades. It seems that at least one compartment of this place is very much hell-like or Gehenna-like but not yet the actual GEHENNA. GEHENNA comes in view much later. All who have not received the gift of forgiveness and everlasting life in Jesus Christ will appear at Christ's Great White Throne Judgment Seat which will be at the conclusion of Christ's 1,000 Kingdom millennium on earth. There unbelievers will be consigned forever to GEHENNA. This truth is set forth in Revelation 20:11-19. In his prophetic vision John declares:

"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and  books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and HADES gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and HADES were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Clearly, a distinction is made between HADES and a LAKE OF FIRE. The latter is GEHENNA. 

But the rich man goes to HADES. It seems that one part of HADES is very much hell-like or Gehenna like. Remember he suffers excruciating pain. The poor man, Lazarus, on the other hand, is in a state of peace and painlessness. Question: Could it be that HADES is compartmentalized? There exists an awful experience for some but a delightful, heaven-like existence for others. Many responsible Bible students think so.

Therefore, HADES may well refer generally to the grave but, more specifically, to two intermediate places or compartments to which departed souls go. One is awful and the other pleasant, and these are the destinations to which the rich man and Lazarus go at their demises. In other words, Hades was very probably divided into two such compartments, one for the saved and one for the lost, and that between the two there was a great gulf fixed. How do we know about such a fixed gulf?

Responding to the rich man’s wails of desperation, Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.” (Underlining is mine.)

Let me ask, does not this open the possibility that before Calvary there existed two destinations for the departed, which nevertheless were in reasonably close proximity? And so, the rich man and Abraham engage in discourse back and forth.

The lost rich man desperately responds, “'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead’” (Luke 16:25-31). This response underscores the immense authority and power of Holy Scripture. The suffering soul is begging for a miracle. If only Lazarus could rise from the dead and go back to the brothers to share the Good News of Jesus. Surely they would believe. But Jesus makes it clear that nothing can supersede the power of the Word of God. It is "quick and powerful." Furthermore, "faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). In our times many, looking for the spectacular (and please serve it with much hype), underestimate God's ordained means whereby souls are saved. Paul's testimony was: "I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:2-5.

At death every person in the world (except Enoch and Elijah) went to one of the two places comprising Hades. And this, UNTIL the moment of Christ’s death. The believers went to the place of comfort in Hades and the unbelievers to the place of torment. But, during the time Jesus was in the grave SOMETHING VERY SIGNIFICANT HAPPENED! 

While Jesus’ body lay motionless in the grave, His soul (the person Jesus) was very active. This is borne out when Peter preached Jesus at Pentecost (Acts 2). In looking back at Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter said that when He died His soul went to Hades but in doing so was in no way threatened or in danger. He said that God the Father would not “abandon” Jesus’ soul to Hades. This does not mean He would not visit there, but that He would not be permanently consigned or helplessly trapped in Hades. Nor was His body (still in the tomb) going to be subject to corruption. Peter quoted an Old Testament passage to affirm these statements. And while the passage refers to King David it more deeply and prophetically is about Jesus, and this according to the law of double reference. Thus, Peter quoted it when sharing where Jesus went while His body lay in the tomb:

 Jesus is talking and says: “Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:9-11; cf. Acts 2:25-31).

While dead in body, Jesus went to SHEOL! (SHEOL is the Old Testament Hebrew. HADES is the Greek rendering for the same place in the New Testament.) Upon arrival He probably visited both compartments. According to the Apostle Peter he went to the dark compartment of Hades: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison” (1 Peter 3:18-19). The context for this Scripture informs us that His soul (‘in the spirit’) specifically addressed the rebellious of Noah’s time. He may have called this particular group out while at the same time all heard His voice. And so, every soul in bad-HADES heard the message of His atoning work for sinners. HE IS THE VICTOR! (If only they had believed and listened to Noah and the numerous Prophets God sent through the ages). 

But then, (and all this while His body lay in the grave), He went to the good side of Hades where Lazarus and all believers resided before Christ’s death. Then, HE DID SOMETHING EVERLASTINGLY SPECTACULAR! 

He led these believing souls out of HADES and upwards to Paradise, or heaven. He would include in this upward miracle the thief that believed on the cross, according to His promise, along with all believers from the ages before the Cross. 

Listen to the Apostle Paul: “When HE ascended on high, HE led captive a host of captives, and HE gave gifts to men. (Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things)” (Ephesians 4:8-10).
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Can we not surmise that after preaching in bad-Hades (“He descended into the lower parts of the earth”), Jesus went to good-Hades, gathered up the saints (the “captivity” – occupying good-Hades throughout Old Testament times) and ascended with them to Paradise (heaven). Since then, all who die in Christ, go to this same place, heaven. Jesus said that He wanted us to be where He is. That means “up,” not down, because in Acts 1 where Jesus’ personal rapture is vividly described, He is seen ascending into heaven, the disciples being in utter awe. “He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).

When Peter confessed Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus said to him, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19). Notice the verb tense: “shall have been bound in heaven.” Whatever is bound in earth through the preaching of the Gospel, “shall have been bound in heaven.” The power of the “keys” given Peter originates in heaven. These are the Gospel keys. Salvation is of the Lord. It is only logical that those saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus go to heaven, from whence came the gift Jesus. Again, remember, Jesus declared, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). That place is heaven. Hades was just a place for departed believers until Jesus went there and took them to heaven. What a grand moment that must have been!

In the Ephesians 4 passage, which tells us about Jesus descending into Hades to lead captivity captive, it also says He gave gifts to men. What are these gifts? These are the persons and means by which the Church grows and becomes Christ-honoring. In light of the work of Christ in taking believing sinners to heaven, a great practical appeal is made. We do well to heed it! We are saved not just to go to heaven when we die, but to live for the glory of God until we do. Here are the gifts given: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…” (Ephesians 4:11-15).

This tells us that, until Christ comes and takes us to heaven, we are to avail ourselves of these gifts in order that we might be equipped for service, built up, unified, growing in the knowledge of Christ, and maturing “to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” In other words, until that glorious upward trip to heaven, we have much to do for Jesus’ sake! Jesus said, “Occupy until I come.”

But, I must ask myself the question, am I ready for the hereafter? At death will I go “up” or “down?” All who know Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord will go up. He has said “I will receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” He also announces this: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). This is the Gospel appeal. He paid for sinners’ sins on the cross. He took our place that we might be freed from the guilt and penalty of sin. The sinner must believe this, receiving Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:8-10).

A dear friend of mine often witnessed to his unsaved dad about life in Christ. His father refused the message and, in fact, told his son that, while he loved him, he didn’t want to hear about salvation in Jesus Christ anymore. Further hope and conversation for his father's conversion were stifled At the same time, the father was a fastidious man. He had an earthquake preparedness kit meticulously filled. But he refused Jesus. He was ready for an earthquake but not for heaven.

So, a vital question for all to consider is: When death claims you, will you go up or down? An old Southern doctor had his office over a drugstore. In front of the drugstore was a sign reading, “DR. RILEY IS UPSTAIRS.” When the old doctor died, after a long life of day and night service for his neighbors, he left no money, not even for his own burial. When they examined his books, they found written over account after account, “Paid off.” When he was buried his friends wanted to put up some memorial or stone on his grave. They had no money for an expensive stone or marker, so they set up over his grave the sign in front of the drugstore. That was his beautiful epitaph: DR. RILEY IS UPSTAIRS.

Will I go up or down when my life on earth ends? The Gospel of Jesus Christ says it will one place or the other. 


-       Dick D. Christen

May 27, 2017

APPRECIATING THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT...


APPRECIATING THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

I REALLY WANT TO KNOW GOD BETTER

A jokester once commented, "My Smartphone is very smart! It disappeared the other day. But, I traced it down. It was at Harvard." .....Well, I thought that was somewhat humorous. I might add (and this isn't designed to be funny), my smartphone is also extremely sensitive! There's an inside adjustment that allows me to make it more or less sensitive to my touch on the screen. With regard to a greater awareness of the Holy Spirit, I sometimes wish I had a button on the back of my ear that would make me more impressible to the presence of the Holy Spirit within me.

The Bible teaches that when sinners are "born again" (saved) they receive the Holy Spirit. Paul said, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And, very clearly, he again declares, "But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him" (Romans 8:9).

The fact being established, the question remains, how can this indwelling person, the third person of the trinity, be uppermost in my thoughts? How can He be a chief controller of my life? How can the Holy Spirit fill me and make the perfections of Jesus seen in me? I very much would like my life to be abundant in what the Bible calls the "fruit of the Spirit." The Word says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:22-24). Certainly, if this fruit hangs on the boughs of my life Jesus Christ will be most obvious to those looking on. The aggregate of these nine segments of Holy Spirit-wrought-fruit equals the very life of Jesus. 

Most believers in Jesus Christ deeply desire to know God better and experience increased sensitivity to Him. With the Apostle Paul they may well say, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10).

And, they may heartily sing with the hymn writer Thomas Chisholm:

“I have one deep supreme desire
That I may be like Jesus
To this I fervently aspire
That I may be like Jesus
I want my heart His throne to be
So that a watching world may see
His likeness shining forth in me
I want to be like Jesus.”

It is good to note that the Holy Spirit is also a seal which not only guarantees a believer's security in Christ but also affirms the glorious truths of the Holy Spirit's porposes and potential in the Christian's life. The writer Paul attests to this when he says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Spirit Himself is the seal. This seal is unbreakable, the Holy Spirit being God. Can deity be broken? Therefore believers are secure in Christ, eternally saved. Since the relationship is unbreakable we are motivated to lovingly and submissively yield to the fact of His presence. And, because the Holy Spirit plays such an integral part in the believer’s life, then it stands to reason that awareness of and sensitivity to His presence is paramount. Really, the very phenomenon itself supernaturally works to these ends. 

I say the Holy Spirit Himself quietly and deeply motivates the Christian to remember His presence within and to yield to His presence and sanctifying work. But, while the Spirit so urges us, we ourselves bear a responsibility to take an initiative in recognizing and wanting that potential.  Twice in the following passage the believer is instructed to "walk in the Spirit." The word "walk" occurs at the beginning of the paragraph and again at the end. But a different word is used in each occurrence. The first word "walk" means to "walk about." That is, in every aspect of life make the Holy Spirit paramount. As the passage concludes, the word "walk" occurs again. This word in the Greek language is a more militaristic one. It has to do with order and intentional planning. Here's the Word of God:

"But I say, WALK (walk about in all of life) by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are:  immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions,  factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also WALK (in a militaristic and disciplined way) by the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16-25)

 Now, in light of this New Testament teaching let us further note A MOST INTERESTING OLD TESTAMENT ACCOUNT wherein ancient Israel and her relation to the Holy Spirit unfolds:

In many Old Testament passages we learn that the Holy Spirit was very prominent in Israel’s history. (There are distinctions between the Holy Spirit’s presence in Israel and that with which He blesses today’s Church.) But long ago the prophet Isaiah addresses God’s people in a time of horrendous spiritual declension. They are far from God and the prophet highlights how their behavior has offended the Holy Spirit. Their power is gone and the blessings and close care of their Almighty are eclipsed. Isaiah records wayward Israel as follows:

“But they rebelled and grieved HIS HOLY SPIRIT; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them. Then His people remembered the days of old, of Moses.
Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock? Where is He who put HIS HOLY SPIRIT in the midst of them, Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name, Who led them through the depths? Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble; As the cattle which go down into the valley,
THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD gave them rest. So You led Your people, To make for Yourself a glorious name” (Isaiah 63:10-14, underlinings mine).

In conjunction with the above three mentions of the Holy Spirit, three truths come to the fore:

1.   THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON WITH EMOTIONS THAT ARE INHIBITEDLY AFFECTED BY ERRANT BEHAVIOR ON THE PART OF GOD’S PEOPLE. 

Israel “rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.” As a result they lost power and effectiveness for God, let alone intimacy with Him and special care by Him. God ever cares for His own, even when they disappoint Him. But there exists a “special love and care” which all believers may experience and should cherish. We might call it Special Care Plus..

In setting forth truth about the soon-coming Holy Spirit, Jesus says “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him” - John 14:21 – Do not these words from Jesus indicate the existence of a special care or love granted His obedient followers? We are surely loved before salvation and always as His children, but when saved and obedient we are objects of a further intimate kind of love. Not all believers enjoy this! A dad may well love a child, unendingly so, but when that child behaves obediently and pleases the dad, a special feeling of love surges forth and may well be to the advantage of the little one. And so, as Jesus says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father.” The love of God that saves us is necessarily unconditional. Salvation is all of grace. But a kind of daily intimate love is premised upon our response to Jesus’ Words. We have the commandments of the Lord and the one who “keeps them….will be loved by My Father.” I love my child and will always love him. I hug him. But when he obeys me in a specific incident I hug but with an extra special strength. Even so Jesus instructs those who already have saving love that they can warmly enjoy even more. In effect He says, I love you and will always love you but I want to love you moment by moment even more intensely. Therefore, in the present Church Age loved Christians can be on the receiving end of even more love, when obediently pleasing the Heavenly Father. This is why the New Testament tells us not to grieve the Spirit, nor quench Him. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).

Christians are not only indwelt by the Spirit but are “sealed for the day of redemption.” This ‘sealing’ guarantees that the Spirit never leaves the believer in Christ, BUT He can be deeply hurt. When He is hurt it is like relegating Him to the basement of our souls instead of granting Him full run of the house. Walking in the Spirit means sensitivity to Him in every square inch of our lives. And this guarantees victory in the daily walk of the Christian.

Do catch the promise of such victory in this phrase of Scripture: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). This is a most important verse because there is a promise in it. How can we overcoming our natural disposition to sin? Well, note the promise. If we walk in the Spirit we “will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”

I like this story I clipped from a daily devotional: “An elderly man who grew an amazing amount of food in a small garden sad, ‘I have little trouble with weeds because I leave them no room. I fill the ground with healthy vegetables.’ A listener responded, ‘I tried this formula a few years ago when I found the weeds outgrowing my impatiens in a 5x5 area. After pulling out the weeds, I added another box of flowers and watered them well. I had to uproot a few weeds, but the flowers soon took over, leaving no room for unsightly vegetation.’”

The author (H.V.L.) goes on to say, “This formula works not only in horticulture but is also effective in keeping sins of the flesh out of our lives. Paul put it like this: ‘Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.’ And Peter said that we would neither be ‘barren nor unfruitful’ if we supplement our faith with virture, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Peter 1:5-8). In the Old Testament, Isaiah promised the Israelites that the nation would become like a watered garden if they would fill their lives with good deeds. Isaiah 58:11 says, ‘And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden.’” Are sinful weeds getting you down? If so, pull them out. Confess your sins. Trust God to forgive you.  Become accountable. Then fill your life with good things. It’s the old ‘displace/replace’ theory of life. Pull out the weeds, BUT put in the new seed. You’ll soon find your garden fruitful and productive, with hardly any room for weeds.

2.   WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GRIEVED OR QUENCHED, IT MAY APPEAR THAT GOD HIMSELF HAS ABANDONED HIS PEOPLE. 

Isaiah asked, “Where is He who put HIS HOLY SPIRIT in the midst of them, Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name, Who led them through the depths?”

    God never forsakes His true people! His Covenant with Israel of old is irrevocable. In Psalm 89 God said concerning David: “If his sons forsake My law and do not walk in My judgments, If they violate My statutes and do not keep My commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes. But I will not break off My lovingkindness from him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness. My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure forever and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful. Selah” (Psalms 89:30-37).

His love for the Church is likewise inviolable. He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5-6). 

That being said, when God’s people persist in sinning “it may appear” as if God has abandoned His own. Hence, in the Christians service a void of power becomes obvious and any lasting impact missing. Fruitlessness is experienced. The efforts of Christian leaders and preachers seem empty and routine. A kind of boredom sets in. Everything seems routine. When such is the case Christians must get on their knees, confess sins, cry out to God in repentance and seek a re-manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s fullness and power. The Holy Spirit is ever present but has been grieved and quenched. 
  
    Once in London a social gathering of high society was in progress. Present was a well-known actor. After some time an elderly and much esteemed minister asked the performer if he would give a recitation. A strange look passed over the great actor’s face. He paused for a moment, and then said, “I can, and I will upon one condition; and that is that after I have recited it, you, my friend, will do the same.” Impressively the actor began the Psalm. His voice and his intonation were perfect. He held his audience spellbound; and as he finished a great burst of applause broke from the guests. Then, as it died away, the aged minister arose and began to recite. His voice was not remarkable; his intonation was not faultless, but when he finished, no sound of applause broke the silence, but there was not a dry eye in the room, and many heads and hearts were bowed in reverential awe. The great actor rose to his feet again. His voice shook with uncontrollable emotion as he laid his hand upon the shoulder of the aged minister and said to the audience, “I have reached your eyes and ears, my friends, but this man has reached your hearts. The difference is just this: I know the 23rd Psalm but he knows the Shepherd.”

Today’s Church is truly Laodicean in its all too frequent action-packed but power-lacking, struggling and anemic mode of existence (Revelation 3:14ff). Christian leaders seem ever to plan yet another “how to” seminar trying somehow to gain more effectiveness and/or numbers. To the Laodicean Church and to so many in today’s Church, surely Jesus says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit (vomit) you out of My mouth.” The Church had “deeds” but apparently functioned in a hum-drum, compromising and business-as-usual fashion. In our day it seems this same malady prevails in too many circles. Does it not behoove us to fall on our knees, confess our sins and this rather common and mere methodological  approach to His work, begging for forgiveness and a reinstatement of the fullness of the Holy Spirit and power? When self-oriented living and ministry are replaced by Spirit controlled living and service for God, we just may know again the deep effect of the godly old minister who movingly impacted his listeners.

3.   WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT IS IN CONTROL, A CARNAL, OVERLY-AMBITIOUS AND STRIVING RESTLESSNESS IN CHRISTIAN LIFE AND WORK IS REPLACED BY A CALM AND SENSIBLE POISE OF A CHRIST-HONORING DIGNITY. 

    Of Jesus it is recorded, “HE will not quarrel, nor cry out;
    Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets” (Matthew 12:19). Although always hard at work, He never appeared flustered. Likewise, in referencing Israel’s days of triumph when the people walked obediently with God, the Prophet describes it like this: “Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble; as the cattle which go down into the valley, THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD gave them rest.” There exists a very special patience, calmness and rest to those who stay close to God. Listen to the wise man of Proverbs: “He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:27). A “cool spirit” pertains to calmness.

Be this as it may, at the same tune it nevertheless is true that sincere Christian living always entails a tension between the flesh (the old sin nature) and the spirit (the new life within every Spirit indwelt believer). The saintly Apostle Paul encountered this. At one point he shares that he found “a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:21-23). The stress of this struggle can be extremely volatile and persistent. It’s the new tangling with the old. But God purposes to give us victory, a victory attained ONLY when the Christian walks in the Spirit. This presupposes a moment by moment exacting obedience to the words and ways of the Holy Scriptures. The righteous Lord loves righteousness and loves to reward such living. (Read Proverbs 11-12). When the Christian lives righteously (the sum total of all our acts of righteousness is holiness), then, and only then, the Holy Spirit is unleashed (un-grieved and un-quenched) to fill us, control us and produce the Christ-life within and through us. God does not look for perfection, but He does prize obedience. We then gloriously experience what Jesus taught us when He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). When we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, He immediately gives us rest with God (the sin question is settled and we are fully justified in Christ), and then, day by day when we permit His Lordship in our lives, we wonderfully experience the peace of God, which, as set forth in Philippians 4, “passes all understanding.” It’s all part of the riches of grace every Christian has in Christ Jesus. It available. It’s right at hand or within. But, we must by faith avail ourselves of it. This is what is entailed when we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. As Paul instructs, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

Only the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to ward off the sinful impulses within and the evil onslaughts that come from without.

F.B. Myer used a striking analogy to illustrate how it is possible to be victorious. He wrote, “When I was a boy, I’d go to the Polytechnic in London where my favorite diversion was a diving bell.  It had seats around the rim, and at a given time it was filled with people and lowered into a tank. We used to go down deeper and deeper into the water, but not a drop ever came into that diving bell, though it had no bottom and the water was quite within reach. You see, the bell was so full of air that though the water ‘lusted against’ the air and the air ‘lusted against’ the water, because air was being pumped in all the time from the top, the water could not do what it otherwise would. Likewise, if you are full of the Holy Spirit, the flesh-life is underneath you, and though it would surge up, it is kept out.”

And lso when the believer in Jesus is full of the Holy Bible, full of prayer, full of the fellowship of the saints, full of faith and, because of obedience, full of the Holy Spirit, the life of God controls us and the old flesh nature is kept subdued. Then we realize the teaching and promise of Galatians 5:16 - “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” This is truly knowing God and the power of the resurrection.

With this in mind, someone may well say, “but this taxes the Christian and places an enormous amount of responsibility on his shoulders. And further, it seems opposed to the principle of grace. Really? Then, in closing, consider this: Paul, ever extolling salvation by grace alone, nevertheless admonishes believers with these words….For the grace of God has appeared,  bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). The grace that appears, saves, but also instructs Christians how to live.


-       Dick D. Christen





May 06, 2017

TRYING NOT TO BE GOD....


Ecc 8:16 — Ecc 8:17 (interpretive parentheses, mine) The wise man Solomon says.... 

"When I determined to LOAD UP ON Wisdom (Google everything I think about) and examine everything taking place on earth (watching TV news morning, noon, and night) , I realized that if you keep your eyes open day and night without even blinking (intense worldly concerns even in place of my Bible, needed rest and family), you'll still never figure out the meaning of what God is doing on this earth (God wisely keeps much from the purview of mere creatures. We couldn't handle it). Search as hard as you like, you're not going to make sense of it (Our little minds can't really grasp stuff that's too deep. So, don't strain the brain when you don't have to. It's an exercise in futility. Anyone for another attempt at reconciling God's sovereignty and human responsibility?) . No matter how smart you are, you won't get to the bottom of it.

THEREFORE.... 

Proverbs 3:5
"Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own." MSG.

- dick d christen

April 15, 2017

THE RESURRECTED JESUS CHANGES LIVES!


                          WHEN THE LIVING JESUS APPEARS
John’s Gospel 20:11-21:14

A.  JESUS APPEARS TO MARY AND MOVES HER FROM BEING TEARFUL TO BEING WORSHIPFUL (20:11-18)

         But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb……Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher)……Jesus *said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father…”

B.  JESUS APPEARS TO THE DISCIPLES AND MOVES THEM FROM BEING FEARFUL TO BEING FILLED FULL (20:19-23)

         So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “ Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

C.  JESUS APPEARS TO THOMAS AND MOVES HIM FROM BEING DOUBTFUL TO BEING HOPEFUL (20:24-31)

         But Thomas, one of the twelve, called  Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” …. After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

D.  JESUS APPEARS AGAIN TO THE DISCIPLES AND MOVES THEM FROM BEING BLEAKFUL TO BEING BOUNTIFUL (21:1-14)

         Simon Peter *said to them, “I am going fishing.” They *said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.
But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus *said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved *said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.
So when they got out on the land, they *saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. Jesus *said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.

-Dick D. Christen





March 20, 2017

WHAT? SAVED BY 'GRASS'????


SAVED BY GRASS? YES, OLD KING NEBBY WAS SAVED FROM INSOLENCE AND PRIDE...... Dan 4:31-35

King Nebuchadnezzar was King of Babylon when God's people, because of their persistent sin, were horrendously taken into captivity. Jerusalem was destroyed and many, many taken from their homeland. Daniel was one of them. Nebuchadnezzar was most proud and God decided to uniquely humble him. Immediately, after a boastful spat of self-extolling, we read this in Scripture:

"While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. YOU WILL BE GIVEN GRASS to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws." 

Then, after such an ordeal, Nebuchadnezzar gives his testimony:

“But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; 
  'For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
  And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. 
  “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
  But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
  And among the inhabitants of earth;
  And no one can ward off His hand
  Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’"

When God truly moves into a life He effects radical change. He specializes in that! He makes saints out of sinners. He humbles the proud. He puts repentance in an unbelieving heart. God dynamically does such! He most certainly did it to a boastful and arrogant Babylonian king. 

Perhaps after his humbling episode Nebuchadnezzar had a saying, like,"There go I except for the GRASS of God." He needed this experience to humble him and bring him to the place of fully realizing his need for God and God's GRACE. Some believe that he was saved. At the very least, he sure came to an acknowledgment of Who the true God is. 

Every believer in Jesus Christ says, often, "Apart from grace my heart would be estranged, wayward, rebellious, faithless and lost/But, oh, my God in grace has has arranged to rescue my soul at infinite cost."

- Dick D. Christen


March 16, 2017

PREACHING IN A NON-ROTE FASHION OR PREACHING WITH IMAGINATION...



PREACHERS OF JESUS CHRIST are not parrots. As close as they should stay to Holy Scripture, God has gifted them to put eternal truths in words of their own,  explaining the sacred truths and coining them in such a way as to be understandable to the listeners. This is not putting their words above Scripture but rather is the exercising of the gift of preaching/teaching imparted by God so as to make clear “the sense” of any given passage. In Ezra’s day it is said that, upon gathering the people and reading the Scriptures, “THEY (the teachers) GAVE THE SENSE, AND HELPED THEM TO UNDERSTAND THE READING” (Nehemiah 8:8). This gift when recognized and valued for what it is, requires teachers of the Word to so trust God that, after diligent study and prayer, they are not overly dependent upon notes and should rethink any inclination to merely read the message at time of delivery. Such dependency stilts not only the style of delivery but inhibits the soul and mind from being a ready tool of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit wants to be in full control of the messenger's mind controlling the formation of the thoughts and words to be uttered at the moment of preaching. This, of course, is different from the Divine process used in the authorship of the Scriptures themselves, but is akin to the anointing in 1 John 2:27, possessed by all believers, only especially tailored to the preaching experience.  A preacher who reads his sermons, even though a good reader and animated, over time becomes very predictable and singsong. (This latter word is defined as “monotonous rhythmical cadence, tone, or sound.) I'm not saying a reading preacher can't be used of God or controlled by the Holy Spirit to some extent (history, often positively so, informs us of this possibility), but I am saying that being glued to a manuscript can't help but serve as an inhibition to some degree of God's perfect ideal.

I once heard a preacher renown for Scripture memory. He had a fantastic gift to recite Scripture, verse after verse. It was most impressive except that, when he was finished, and, upon after-message reflection, I concluded that it was void of imparting “the sense of Scripture.” And, even though it was an amazing display of a gifted mind, my soul was craving the contemplation and practical significance of all those verses set forth. It was a stand-up display of a most gifted mind and the good content thereof, but it was not preaching. Preaching is the God-given ability to understand the truths of the Bible and to set them forth in an imaginative and life challenging way. All acceptable preaching is teaching but not all teaching is preaching. Teaching aims principally for the mind to inform it of truth. Preaching aims for the mind, of course, but also presses truth further to the stirring of the soul (the emotions) and the inciting of the soul to put what is learned into practice.

Historian George Marsden in a Wall Street Journal (March 23, 2016) extols the abilities of C.S. Lewis in writing. What he said about Lewis is applicable to preachers. Marsden said, “MERE CHRISTIANITY contains arguments enlivened with images, metaphors and analogies that capture the imagination. The Lewis of MERE CHRISTIANITY is the same as the Lewis of THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. Imagination, he believed, was ‘the organ of meaning,’ even if reason was ‘the organ of truth.’

Marsden goes on to say, “Lewis’s first ambition had been to be a poet. It shows in his prose, where meaning is often conveyed through vivid analogies. Lewis writes that when God enters your life, he begins ‘to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.’ He explains that becoming Christian isn’t an improvement but a transformation, like a horse becoming a Pegasus.”

Somehow, I think what Lewis masters in his writing preachers should apply to their preachments. True preaching emanates from the diligent study of the Bible (utilizing all the sound principles of hermeneutics), with truths processed by the mind under the illuminations of the Holy Spirit and messages prepared prayerfully but with deep thought processes that specialize in proper presentational order for the delivery thereof, and the inclusion of appropriate illustrations from the Bible and explanations that search for imaginative ways of setting forth the precious truths of any given passage of Holy Scripture.

Jesus did this when instead of merely saying if you believe in Me you are changed within, declared the truth in this manner, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” And if that wasn’t imaginative enough, He proceeds to say, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37,38). Think how relevant, colorful and stirring that was! Who wouldn’t want to lift the cup and drink?

Dick D. Christen