Encounters with the Lord

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Acts 9:1-6

Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute more Christians when he had a life-changing encounter with the Lord. Jesus showed up in such a powerful way that it knocked Saul to the ground and blinded him. This was the beginning of the Pharisee Saul becoming the apostle Paul.

Encounters with the Lord change us. But not all encounters are like the one Saul had. Throughout the Bible we see people having encounters with the Lord in different ways. And in the New Testament church, because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, those encounters only increased in variety.

What follows is a list of a variety of different encounters that are available to us. This list is not exhaustive but instead representative of the variety of ways Jesus encounters us through the Spirit. There are as many kinds of encounters as there are characteristics of Christ.

1. Mercy Encounter: most Christians have had this kind of encounter with the Lord. This is when the Lord reveals our sin and our unworthy state as we stand vulnerable before the Lord and He pours out his forgiveness upon us. As His grace and mercy envelop us, we feel free from the guilt and shame of our sin. We feel washed clean and made right with the Lord. Tears often accompany this encounter.

2. Truth Encounter: this is when we have been shackled by a lie (or lies) and we didn’t even know it. The Lord reveals a powerful truth to us through scripture, through prayer, through a sermon, or through a friend. That truth rocks us to the core and breaks the chains of the lie we had been believing. Jesus is the Truth as He comes with a fresh perspective and sets us free. An “ah ha” feeling, a feeling of new revelation and new perspective, often accompanies this kind of encounter.

3. Love Encounter: this is when the Love of the Father gets poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. We may have felt unaccepted or unloved until this moment. When God’s love pours out on us we feel totally accepted and cherished as a child of God. Performance mentality is broken off of us. We finally accept that we don’t have to earn God’s love. We just bask in it. More than tears, weeping often accompanies this kind of encounter. Others have felt what they can only describe as liquid love pouring onto them.

4. Power Encounter: this is when the power of God shoots through someone’s body like electricity. These encounters most often happen during prayers of impartation, prayers for healing, and prayers for deliverance. The power of God surges through someone physically and they have physical reactions to it. They often tremble, shake, fall to the ground, have muscle contractions, and sometimes experience pain. It makes sense that our frail human bodies would have a hard time handling the power of our omnipotent God. Sometimes, especially if this kind of encounter is new to someone, it is a little frightening because a person can lose control of their bodies for a moment.

5. Peace Encounter: this is when the peace of Christ comes and blankets us. We suddenly go from a mind filled with anxiety, fear, worry, and grief to a complete calm. All the anxiety, fear, and worry leave. We feel totally at peace. Our problems that seemed so huge before melt away. The problem doesn’t change but we see it differently now. We are confident in God’s ability to work in any situation. We are not worrying about the future nor trapped in the past. When the peace of Christ blankets us, we are completely present in the moment. A sense of total calm mixed with unconditional hope often accompanies this kind of encounter.

6. Joy Encounter: this is when the explainable joy of the Lord fills our hearts. This is not joy based on people around us or our circumstances. This is an outpouring of joy from the heart of God. Sometimes there is a feeling that a person is so filled with the Spirit that they feel intoxicated or high. The heaviness of life, despair, depression, and hopelessness immediately evaporate as they are overwhelmed by the joy of the Lord. This joy encounter can be momentary (just a few hours) or it can last days. People often experience uncontrollable laughter even when nothing around them is funny.

7. Fire Encounter: this is when the fire of God comes upon a person. This is a kind of power encounter. The person feels heat all over their body or in one particular part of their body. It gets so hot that the person often sweats profusely though no one around them is warm. This can be localized if someone is praying for healing for a particular part of the body, or it can be felt all over if the Presence of God is all over a person.

8. Vision/Dream Encounter: this is a revelatory encounter where God gives a person an open vision. An internal vision is when God gives us a picture or a scene in our mind’s eye. That is a much more common experience than an open vision. An open vision is when a person is stopped in their tracks by seeing a spiritual vision externally with their physical eyes. We see this kind of encounter many times in the New Testament. Those with prophetic gifts will have more of these kinds of encounters. This kind of encounter can also happen while we are sleeping if Jesus comes to speak to us in our dreams.

9. Angelic Encounter: this is when a person sees with their physical eyes an angel near them. Often the angel has been sent to do something or say something to them. The angel is never worshipped as they are simply servants in the Kingdom of God. But the experience of seeing an angel can shake a person and cause a level of holy fear. The angel often has just been in God’s Presence and, like an aroma or a kind of radiation, the residue of God’s Presence can be felt on them.

10. Fear of the Lord Encounter: this is when a person encounters God’s Presence and God reveals to them just how close He was to them. When that revelation hits, the awesome fear of the Lord falls upon them. The awareness of just how awesome, powerful, holy, and glorious the Lord is hits a person all at once and it’s terrifying. Holy fear envelops them. Shaking, weeping, and repentance often accompanies this kind of encounter.

I know all of these encounters are real and available to us as followers of Jesus because I’ve had most of them. Though I’ve never had an open vision, I have had inner visions and I’ve had good friends who’ve experienced open visions. Though I’ve never had an angelic encounter, I have good friends and loved ones who have. All the rest of these I’ve experienced firsthand. And this is only a list of 10. There are so many attributes of God and encounters with Him that await those who pursue Him.

We don’t pursue the encounter, we pursue Jesus. We go after Him with everything we are and He meets us where we are with a unique encounter just for us. Encountering Jesus through the Spirit is life-changing. Every time we have an experience with Him we are changed by it. We get a taste of His nature and His character and we want more. And as we get to know Him, we want to be just like Him.

Cold Love

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 

Matthew 24:12-13

Jesus warns us that in the end it will be easy for our love to grow cold. When He told the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30), He made clear that both the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of God will grow together in the world. Good will increase as well as evil. Things will progressively get better and worse at the same time.

As evil in the world grows, things that are clearly wrong will be called right. Embracing sin will be the norm. Those who try to be “liked” in this culture will inevitably compromise truth for the sake of gaining favor with people. And it will be the norm to only love those who are on “your side.” Those who align with one’s ideology will be loved and those who do not will be hated.

In this environment, it is easy for our love for people to grow cold. But Jesus calls us to keep loving, even our perceived “enemy.” Or maybe we should especially love our perceived enemy. This is what sets apart the love of Jesus from what the world calls love. (I say “perceived enemy” because Ephesians 6:12 makes clear that people are not our real enemy. We are in a bigger war against a real enemy that is not flesh and blood.)

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that…

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27-28, 32-33, 36

Part of following Jesus in this world is loving people who are very different than us, who disagree with us, and yes, even those who hate Christians. Loving others is about what is happening in our heart and mind when we show acts of love toward people. Some people will receive our loving actions but not everyone will. Sometimes our loving actions will actually be seen as offensive. But our standard of love is Jesus, not people’s response.

When I love my kids, sometimes they receive it as love and sometimes they don’t like it. Telling my kids the truth and setting certain boundaries (like bedtime or limiting electronics or certain movies) doesn’t always feel like love to them, but it is the most loving thing I can do as a parent. Me loving them isn’t based off of their reaction to my love. It’s not based on whether they understand that this is loving act. My love is not based on their standards but on Jesus, our ultimate standard of love.

The same is true when we love our perceived enemies. We must love people, but sometimes that love won’t be received. And that’s okay! Keep loving! Jesus loved us perfectly. He is perfect love. Yet, so many have rejected His love instead of receiving it. This is part of the deception of the real enemy and the fallenness of our world. We shouldn’t be surprised by it.

Pastor Danny Silk says it this way in his book Keep Your Love On:

“Yes, it’s vulnerable and scary to keep your love on toward someone who has become a perceived threat—you cannot guarantee what he or she is going to do. But you can guarantee your own choice. And you can always choose connection.” 

Danny Silk

Let’s fight to keep our love on. Let’s work to not let our love for people grow cold.

New Worship

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

John 4:19-24

Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. Many of them hated each other. Yet, Jesus finds Himself near the town of Sychar in the middle of Samaria. Not only that, but He was by Himself in the middle of the day with a Samaritan woman with a questionable moral history. And in the middle of a theological conversation, Jesus delivers to this unlikely learner a massive revelation.

Jesus had come to usher in the Kingdom of God. With the presence of the Kingdom comes many changes. One of the changes was in how we worship. No longer would worship be through sacrificial animal offerings at an altar. No longer would it be orchestrated through the old covenant system of priests and ceremonial cleansing. The new worship in this new covenant would not be in the Temple and by the Law but, instead, in Spirit and in truth.

Worshiping in Spirit is what happens when we point our attention and affections toward the Father and are ushered into His Presence by Jesus through the Spirit. If we have given our life to Jesus, our spirit is united to the Holy Spirit in the same way that a husband and wife become one within marriage.

For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:16-17

Worship becomes the physical expression of intimacy between our spirit and the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it happens when we pray, or sing worship songs, or read scripture, or serve others. Other times it happens in quiet moments where we experience His Presence as “God with us.” Because we are now the Temples of the Holy Spirit, worship happens wherever we are. It happens whenever we submit our will to His. It happens whenever we lift our heart to God in gratitude and praise.

Worship happens in Spirit and also in truth. This means part of worship is receiving truth from the Lord and coming honestly before Him without deception or pretense. Worshiping in truth means we bring all that we are before the Lord. We bring our failures and our victories. We bring our hopes and our disappointments. We bring our strengths and our weaknesses. We stand before Him naked yet unashamed. And as we bring everything to Him, we receive truth–the truth about who He is and the truth about who we are in Christ.

This mindset changes how we engage in our church services on Sunday. When we sing worship songs, we are not just singing. There is a progression of true worship. We move from singing a song to praising God. Then we shift again from just praising God to actually engaging in His Presence. Many in the church still haven’t learned to worship in Spirit and in truth. They are still stuck on the first part of the progression. They stand there somewhat bored, singing a song, thinking that is worship.

These folks wonder how those other people in the service can be so passionate about a song. How can that person have tears streaming down their face over a song they’ve sung so many times before? How can that other person be so excited and exuberant, lifting their hands and getting emotional? Is it that they just really like singing? Is it just a love for music? Are they emotionally unstable people who lack propriety?

No.

It’s not about the song or emotion or music. It is that they are worshipping in Spirit and in truth. They are passionate about their Savior and Lord who rescued them and set them free. Their emotion is an overflow of the spirit to Spirit connection that is happening in that moment. Their tears are not about the song but about the Presence of the Living God in their midst.

Jesus experienced extravagant worship from a woman with a sinful life. The Pharisees who were present couldn’t believe what they were watching and were appalled by the indignity of it. Jesus then taught us something about worship as He addressed the Pharisee who was the host:

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Luke 7:44-47

Often those who are worshipping in Spirit and in truth are the ones who understand just how much they’ve been forgiven. They are the ones who understand just how undeserved their adoption into the family of God really was. They are the ones who see clearly the great debt of sin that was wiped clean by the blood of Jesus. They are the ones who are desperately dependent on the Lord for His provision and His sustaining grace. They are the ones who know how much they are loved by the Father and want to passionately love Him in return.

Cursing Words

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

James 3:7-12

Words are powerful and words can do damage. More than that, a harsh word can turn into a curse over a person’s life. They can become like a deadly poison. This is especially true if the harsh word comes from an authority figure in the person’s life (parent, teacher, coach, pastor, etc).

This is how it often happens. A harsh word is spoken. The person receives the word and either actively or subconsciously agrees with it. Then this word is used by the enemy to enforce that word over the person’s life. For example, a dad says to his son in anger, “You’re such a screw up!” The son wants to reject this word but can’t. The son lets this word sink in. His heart agrees with it. The enemy uses this to cause issues in the son’s life from this point on, from failing grades to getting fired from jobs. Over time, the enemy tries to re-enforce this word with as much evidence as possible. It becomes a “curse of words.”

But it doesn’t just happen between parents and children. It can happen between friends. It can happen at work. It can happen anytime a person speaks a word against you that isn’t in line with what God says about you. Curses come like an email with a virus attached to it. If you delete the email, no harm is done. However, if you open the attachment, the virus infiltrates your computer. If we reject the harsh word spoken against us, it falls to the ground powerless in our lives. But if we agree with it, it can be used by the enemy against us. This can even happen to words we speak over ourselves.

So what do we do?

Jesus’s death and resurrection has made us new creations. He has authority over everything and He has delegated His authority to us. So, in Christ, we have the authority to break these curses that have been spoken over us. The first thing we have to do is break any curses that have already been spoken. Here is a sample prayer for this. Pray this prayer out loud:

In the name of Jesus, I break every curse of words against me. I take every word captive that I spoke over myself. I break the power of those curses. I cancel every assignment of darkness and remove every right of the demonic to afflict me because of those curses. I cast every word of cursing to the ground to be without effect. And I call blessing to fall on me in its place. I take back every curse I have spoken against another. I cast those words down to the ground to be without effect. I return a blessing on those whom I have cursed. Jesus took my curse so I can live in blessing. 

The second thing we need to do is protect ourselves from any future word that comes at us. If someone speaks a harsh word against your identity (could be from your family, your workplace, or friend) don’t let it sink in. Have you ever had a comment from someone just kind of hang on you? It circles around in your mind over and over again? That’s because its trying to land. Don’t let it. Here are some steps to work through:

  1. Reject the word out loud. Pray, “In Jesus’s name, I reject the word that I am _______________ that was spoken by ____________. I do not agree with it. More importantly, God, I know that you don’t agree with it.”
  2. Proclaim what God says about you out loud. Pray something like, “God, you say that I am a new creation in Christ. You say that I am a beloved child of God. I am robed in righteousness. I am forgiven and washed clean.” List your real identity, who you really are, in Christ.
  3. Ask God to reveal areas you need to work on. Pray something like, “Holy Spirit, would you form in me the character of Christ. Make me more like Jesus. Show me an area where I need to step into my real identity in Christ. Show me where I am falling short. Show me any lies I am believing. Show me who I need to forgive and who I need to ask forgiveness from.”

Rather than trust someone who spoke a harsh word to you in anger and rather than believe an off-handed comment of sarcasm or ridicule, we need to trust the Holy Spirit to reveal areas that we need to surrender. Whenever the Holy Spirit reveals an area of sin or spiritual immaturity in our lives, He does so wrapped in grace and compassion. The Lord’s words of correction bring conviction but never shame and guilt. The challenge comes with encouragement and a reminder of who we really are in Christ.

So, are there words hanging over you right now? What words do you need freedom from? Ask God to reveal them. Jesus came to set you free and to see you live in freedom.

God’s Special Possession

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:9-10

If you are a follower of Christ I want to encourage you today that you are a member of a chosen people. You are a part of a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. You are adopted into the family of God. You are a part of a Kingdom that is not of this world but that has started breaking out in our world. Now, you are the people of God. Now you live in grace and have received God’s mercy. You are a beloved child of God, a co-heir with Christ of this glorious inheritance in the Kingdom of God.

It is so easy to forget these truths. This is particularly true if we see life through the warped lens of rejection. If at a very young age we were rejected by friends or family, it can be particularly difficult to see the world clearly. We begin to see everything colored by rejection. Because we were once truly rejected, we now see rejection everywhere we look even when it’s not there.

A person who looks through the lens of rejection struggles to receive feedback because they assume they are being personally rejected. This kind of person can struggle to show grace to people around them, assuming that every mistake someone else makes is somehow about them being rejected. If someone forgets an appointment it suddenly means the worst case scenario; it means the friend intentionally avoided them. Everything that can appear as a small slight becomes a major issue.

When a person looks through the warped lens of rejection long enough, they will find themselves hosting the spirit of rejection in their lives. The whole assignment of a demonic spirit of rejection is to make sure the person either is rejected or at least feels rejected as often as possible. A spirit of rejection will tempt a person to fold in on themselves in despair and depression. Or, it will tempt a person to lash out and reject others before they can be rejected again.

No matter how many times you tell a person with a spirit of rejection that they are accepted, loved, treasured, safe, welcomed, etc., they struggle to believe it. They usually have been listening to the lies that they are rejected for so many years, they struggle to believe the truth. This is when they must hear from the Lord and not just from people.

They need to be set free from a spirit of rejection not only through deliverance prayer but through a rebuilding of the truth. They need to be saturated in the truth of the Bible and discover how God sees them in order to tear down the lies that they so readily believe. It has to be more than just encouraging words. Nice words alone won’t breakthrough. It has to be encounters with Lord–truth encounters and power encounters.

Do you struggle with rejection? With feeling rejected all the time by most of the people around you? It could be that you are believing a lie. It could be that the rejection you experienced when you were young has warped the way you see the world. Maybe people aren’t rejecting you even when you feel rejected. Your feelings are lying to you, and the enemy is lying to you. Maybe it’s time to discover what God says about you and how He feels about you. Maybe it’s time to saturate your thinking with the Word of God.

Breakthrough For All

Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and who were left behind at the Besor Valley. They came out to meet David and the men with him. As David and his men approached, he asked them how they were. But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.”

David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.

1 Samuel 30:21-25

David and his men had been staying in the Philistine city of Ziklag. All their belongings were there along with their wives and children. David and his men left to fight a battle alongside the Philistines, but were sent back home because the battle was against Israel. Philistine leaders didn’t know if they could trust David to fight his own people.

When David and his men got back to Ziklag, it had been raided by the Amalekites. All their stuff was taken and their families were kidnapped. David and his men immediately went in hot pursuit of the Amalekites, but a group of them couldn’t keep up. Two hundred out of his six hundred men were too exhausted to continue. Eventually, the remaining men with David caught up to the raiders, defeated them in battle, and returned with their families, their belongings, and some extra plunder.

On their way back home, some of the men who fought didn’t want to share the bounty with the two hundred men who had stopped to rest. But David declares a new statute for his crew, “The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.

This principle of the Kingdom of God still exists today in the body of Christ. When one person pursues a gift of the Spirit, or when a person perseveres until breakthrough comes, the reward is meant for more than just that person. It becomes a gift to the whole body of Christ.

For instance, if one person’s years of bible study and intimacy with the Lord leads to powerful insights into living the Christian life, it was meant for more than just that person who spent years digging into truth. It was meant to be shared. And when it is shared, those who did little to no work digging into the scriptures benefit if they’re willing to be teachable.

Or, if a person pursues gifts of healing and prays for people over and over again. Through their victories and their defeats, God begins to pour out a unique gift to see neurological disease healed. Those painful years of persevering in prayer created the fertile soil where that gift could blossom. But that gift was meant for more than that person and his friends. It was meant for the church so that hundreds or even thousands of people with debilitating neurological disease could be set free. Then, as others hear the testimonies of healing, their faith for healing rises even in impossible situations.

One person’s breakthrough becomes breakthrough for the whole body of Christ. “All will share alike.”

There are some in the church who struggle to believe in this principle of the Kingdom because they don’t think it is fair. Like the troublemakers among David’s followers, they feel like people are getting things they didn’t sacrifice for. But the truth is that the whole Christian life is defined by getting what Someone else, namely Jesus, sacrificed for. All of our sacrifices are simply smaller and less significant imitations of His ultimate sacrifice. So when our sacrifice brings breakthrough for others, the joy of getting to identify with Jesus is ours.

The real question for the follower of Jesus is whether they just want to wait around to receive the breakthroughs that other people have paid a price for, or do they want to contribute to the body of Christ with a breakthrough of their own.

I have received SO MUCH from others who paid the price for their breakthrough and were willing to freely pass it along to me. And this is how Jesus always wanted it to be. He told His own disciples, “Freely you have received; freely give“(Matthew 10:8). A burning desire in my heart is to not be just a recipient of everyone else’s breakthroughs. I long to pay the price in order to be able to offer others a breakthrough that has happened in my life.

What about you? What breakthrough will you bring to the body of Christ?

As They Saw Fit

In those days Israel had no king;everyone did as they saw fit.

Judges 17:6

This verse in scripture is so powerful for being so short. And it resonates with the situation we find ourselves in today. When there is no recognized authority and truth, everyone just does as they see fit without regard to the word of the Lord. At this time in Israel’s history, people would just melt silver, cast an idol, hire a priest and set up a shrine to their own gods. This is exactly what a man named Micah did in Judges 17.

This is also something we see people do in our own culture when they claim to live according to what they call “my truth.” They might as well say, “my gods.”

In order to avoid this kind of post-modern polytheistic relativism, we must surrender our lives to Jesus. Surrender always requires obedience. But recognizing Jesus as King of Kings is only the beginning of obedience. There are at least three phases of obedience, each one progressively getting closer to what God intended for us.

1. Obedience out of sin avoidance: This kind of obedience is about trying to do what is right and avoid doing what is wrong. It is a sin-conscious approach to living for the Lord. The focus is on our actions and trying to do the right ones. This approach tends to focus on the cross but doesn’t go much beyond it. This is the lowest and weakest form of obedience to the Lord.

2. Obedience out of identity: This kind of obedience is a step up from the last kind. It is about knowing who we are in Christ. It is about recognizing that we are new creations in Christ. This approach to living for the Lord doesn’t just avoid sin because it is wrong. Instead, the person doesn’t choose sin because they know that is not who they are. It is not focused on action but on identity. It is an obedience that comes from the heart. This approach tends to embrace the cross but then also move into a focus on the resurrection. The fact that we have been made new by Jesus is the primary concern. Rather than trying to avoid sin, it is about being who you really are in Christ.

3. Obedience out of love: This is the most complete kind of obedience. This kind of obedience embraces the death and resurrection of Jesus and continues by focusing on our identification with Jesus in His ascension. We are now seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). It is an obedience born out of an intimate relationship with Jesus. It not only focuses on who we are as new creations in Christ but also on the interactive communication between us and Jesus.

Obedience is seen not just as sin avoidance or living out of your true identity but as actively joining God in what you see Him doing. It is actively listening to the Holy Spirit and doing what He says to do. It comes from a love for God and an experience of His love for us. Obedience then becomes a way to honor that relationship. It becomes a joy, not a burden. This is what Jesus was talking about in John 14:15 when He said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” Obedience that is born out of love is the highest form of obedience and what God always intended for us.

What kind of obedience are you living in?

With You Always

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:20

These are Jesus’s final words in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus tells His disciples (and us) that He is with us…always. He is ever-present. He knows us and likes to be with us. He likes to be near to us. His very Spirit dwells within us. He is closer to us than our own skin.

This truth should impact us in a few different ways. It should:

  1. Prompt holiness: There is no such thing as a secret sin. We walk exposed daily before the throne of grace, every heavenly being, and Jesus Himself. There is no hiding. Whatever sin we engage in is fully revealed and exposed.
  2. Destroy shame: It’s important that we not only know that our sin is daily exposed but that Jesus sees it all and still wants to be near to us. Our sin is not bigger than His grace and love. We don’t have to feel shame. We can receive daily the grace and forgiveness we need.
  3. Uproot loneliness: As a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is always with you. This means that the Father and the Son are also always with you according to John 14:10, 20, & 26. You are never alone. You also have at least one angel by your side at all times (Matthew 18:10). In other words, loneliness is a lie.
  4. Foster intimacy: Knowing that Jesus will always be with us should lead us to engage with Him daily. We need to spend time with this One who never leaves us. If He’s always present, we need to pay attention to Him, talk with Him, listen to Him and develop intimacy and friendship with Him.
  5. Repel lies: Jesus called Himself “the Truth”(John 14:6). He called the Holy Spirit the “Spirit of Truth”(John 14:17). With such wisdom and knowledge of truth in such close proximity, we should never have to waste our time believing lies. We need only to check in with the Truth and see if what is being whispered in our mind is really true or just a deception of the enemy.

If you are a follower of Jesus, He is with you…always.

How does the knowledge of this reality impact your daily life?

Prevalent False Teachings

Peter is warning the early Christians about false teachers that will try to influence the Church when he says this:

For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 

2 Peter 2:18-19

Sound familiar?

Beware of leaders and teachers in the church who think they are offering freedom by saying things like, “That lifestyle isn’t really sinful.” They think they are offering freedom by not calling sin what it really is. But instead they are peddling slavery dressed up as freedom. Their message is appealing precisely because it appeals to the lustful desires of the flesh. It calls itself love when really it is licentiousness.

This false teaching is especially appealing to those who are “just escaping from those who live in error.” In other words, this kind of message appeals to new or immature believers who haven’t yet been grounded in the truth of God’s word.

Here are some common versions of this kind of false teaching:

  1. You don’t need a church community. It’s better to be spiritual on your own than commit to (what they call) “organized religion.”
  2. Sex before marriage is normal and good. Those who champion purity are just oppressive in their forcing of Victorian Era morality on us.
  3. The only way to really love the LGBTQ community is to let them express their sexuality however they want.
  4. Abortion is a women’s right because the fetus a part of her body, and she gets to decide what to do with her body.
  5. Pornography is a just a coming-of-age rite of passage for teen boys and can actually help young women throw off oppressive patriarchal sexual repression.
  6. Other people dictate my emotional state. So if I am offended or hurt by something, I bear no responsibility. The other person must account for the harm they have done to my emotional wellbeing. If I am offended, someone else (other than me) is to blame.

The list could go on but much of this false teaching pervades our current American culture. In each case above, there is an appeal to the selfish, sinful nature. That is why these false teachings have become so popular. In response to each of the above, here is the truth that we find in God’s word:

  1. Christianity was never meant to be done alone. We were meant to live in community as the Body of Christ. Most people who avoid church community do so because they never healed from an old, emotional wound. Many don’t want to look at the mirror that community often holds up to our own lives.
  2. Sex before marriage is common but not healthy. It ushers in all manner of destructive things into our lives. Besides helping to create a rape culture and a culture of promiscuity, sex before marriage is damaging to our bodies, our emotions, and our spirits.
  3. There is a better way to love those who are attracted to the same sex than saying “do whatever feels right.” This advice is bad advice in every area of life, including our sexuality. There is real freedom available in Christ from the distortions of the LGBTQ version of sexuality.
  4. The unborn baby has its own body that needs protecting. No one should have the right to kill an innocent life. Abortion violates the body of the unborn baby in the worst possible way. The most vulnerable in our society should be protected, not discarded.
  5. Pornography is a major part of the human trafficking network of oppression. It rapes the mind, objectifies women, and fosters toxic and violent sexual fantasy. It destroys healthy sexuality and has become an addiction that is destroying our society.
  6. Other people do not have control over my emotions, I do. I am responsible for how I react to people. I am not a victim of the world around me. I must take ownership of how I respond to the hurtful and harmful things that are sent my way. Most of the time, when I am offended, there is a combination of things happening, some of which I am responsible for and some of which I am not. Maturity is learning to discern the difference.

Eyewitnesses of His Majesty

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

2 Peter 1:16-18

Peter writes to believers in Jesus to remind them of the truth they were taught. He assures them that he and the other apostles were eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus’s life. These aren’t “cleverly devised stories” that we read about in the New Testament. Peter was there when Jesus healed people. He was there when Jesus cast out demons. Peter was there when the fish and loaves were multiplied and when Jesus walked on water. He saw Jesus’s power on display firsthand.

Peter recalls here the moment when he was an eyewitness, with James and John, of the transfiguration. In fact, Peter was the one who spoke to Jesus in His transfigured form as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing. Here is Matthew’s account of that moment:

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

Matthew 17:1-8

It is important that we remember that when we read the New Testament, we are reading firsthand accounts of people who were there. These are people who were expecting their own death in the near future, as Peter did, and decided to start writing down things for future generations Christians.

These are not made up stories passed down from one person to the next. And these are not accounts of a good rabbi teaching nice things. These are eyewitness accounts of the miraculous power of the Son of God, God-incarnate, Jesus the Messiah.

One of my favorite quotes about the validity of the resurrection of Jesus comes from Charles Colson:

“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

Chuck Colson

These apostles gave their whole life for the truth of the gospel, the truth of what they saw with their own eyes that they passed on to us through the writings of the New Testament. We have now experienced in our own lives what they said was true and our lives are forever changed by it. Now we have the honor to give our whole lives to Jesus and the truth of the gospel. Now it’s our turn!