THE BEAUTY OF GENTLENESS

Eph.4:1-3 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The first three chapters of Ephesians talk about the majesty of election, sovereignty, redemption, salvation, and our eternal inheritance in Christ. The power and force of the revelation given to the Apostle Paul takes our breath away. Chapter three concludes with a prayer that we would be empowered to glimpse the revelation of God’s love for us in Christ. It is overwhelming!! The crazy thing about this is Paul’s follow up in Chapter four. Paul says therefore, because of all He has done for us in Christ, we are to walk in humility and gentleness. That’s what the revelation of Christ’s greatness does to us, it humbles us. One sure way to know if you are “getting it” is the effect the revelation has on us. Paul says it should be humility and gentleness. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on humility. Pay close attention, this is classic Jonathan Edwards.

“Holiness, as I then wrote down some of my contemplations on it, appeared to me to be of a sweet, pleasant, charming, serene, calm nature, which brought an inexpressible purity, brightness, peacefulness and ravishment to the soul. In other words . . . it made the soul like a field or garden of God, with all manner of pleasant flowers; all pleasant, delightful, and undisturbed; enjoying a sweet calm. . . .

The soul of a true Christian, as I then wrote my meditations, appeared like such a little white flower as we see in the spring of the years; low and humble on the ground, opening its bosom to receive the pleasant beams of the sun’s glory, rejoicing as it were in a calm rapture; diffusing around a sweet fragrance; standing peacefully and lovingly, in the midst of other flowers round about; all in like manner opening their bosoms, to drink in the light of the sun.”

What a great analogy!! My soul, as a Christian is like a little white flower. Humble, sweet, soaking in the light of His glory, planted in His community with His other flowers. The results of this humility and gentleness, the fragrance of Christ fills the atmosphere. Plant me Lord in the garden of God.

GIFTS FROM HEAVEN

Eph.4:7,8 – But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”

When Jesus ascended to the right hand of God, all the captives from every generation were set free. He broke the chains of sin at the cross, ascended into heaven as a conquering king, and now takes His place at the right hand of the Father. Being freed from sin was not the end but the beginning of Christ’s work. Seated at the right hand of God as the Minister of the Sanctuary, He begins to pour out His Spirit on all flesh. He is the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit. His giving of gifts is the direct result of receiving the Spirit Baptism. We see this clearly following Pentecost. The followers of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues. From that point on the other gifts; healing, prophesy, the working of miracles and all the rest began to function through their lives. The gifts of the Spirit flow out of Christ’s greatest gift to us, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. After we are baptized in the Spirit the other gifts began to follow. Here are some thoughts from the Life in the Spirit Commentary about this passage.

“Christ gives grace gifts as the ascended and exalted Lord Jesus. Since he is the one who baptizes his people with the Holy Spirit, it follows that he is the one giving the gifts of the Spirit to his body. In Eph.4:8, Paul illustrates his thought by referring to an event pictured in Psalm 68:18, where the theocratic king ascends his throne and receives a host of captives (“prisoners of war”) as evidence of his victory, along with the plunder or spoils of war, which he distributes among his men. Paul describes the conquering Christ here as ascending to his throne with captives and as giving grace gifts to his people for carrying out the ministry of his kingdom.”

We were once captives, we are now sons and daughters of God. We can now receive His grace gifts, as John said, grace upon grace. The good news is that we live in the season of God’s outpouring. In the last days of this age the Lord is pouring out His Spirit and giving gifts to His sons and daughters.

HE GIVES GIFTS TO MAN

Eph.4:8 – Therefore it says,

“WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH,

HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES,

AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”

This immediately reminds us of what Jesus said to the woman at the well, “If you knew who I was and if you knew the gift of God you would ask of Me and I would give you living water. John told us that this river of living water would come when Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God. In today’s verse Paul is quoting from David’s Psalm about the resurrection and exaltation of Christ. When He took His place at the Father’s right hand He began to give the greatest gift imaginable, the gift of the Spirit of God. When man receives that gift, the gifts of the Spirit are also given and begin to be poured out. Here is a beautiful quote from the English Puritan Isaac Ambrose on David’s prophesy.

“No sooner is Christ inaugurated in his throne, but he scatters his coin, and gives gifts. He gives gifts, or the gift of gifts, the gift of the Holy Ghost…..But, O my soul, consider especially to whom this Spirit was given; the application of the gift is the very soul of thy meditation: “unto us a Son is given, “saith the prophet; and “unto us the Holy Ghost is given,” saith the apostle; and yet above all consider the reasons of this gift in reference to thyself. Was it not to make thee a temple and receptacle of the Holy Ghost? Stand a while on this! Admire, O my soul, at the condescending, glorious, and unspeakable love of Christ in this! It was infinite love to come down into our nature when he was incarnate; but this is more, to come down into thy heart by his Holy Spirit: he came near to us then, but as if that were not near enough, he comes nearer now, for now he unites himself unto thy person, now he comes and dwells in thy soul by his Holy Spirit.”

WOW – WOW – WOW !!! God Himself is this gift, as Ambrose said, the gift of gifts. We who have received this gift have the precious Spirit of the Lord living inside of us. For those who have never received this gift, it is available right now. Jesus is exalted to the Father’s right hand and is giving out this gift of gifts to whosoever will. Today just may be your day to receive the gift of your lifetime, the gift of God Himself.

DON’T GRIEVE THE HOLY SPIRIT

Eph. 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Do you know what it means for someone to hurt your feelings? Maybe they raised their voice at you or said something you felt was disrespectful or maybe inappropriate words or jokes were shared. Then comes the kicker, “Don’t be so sensitive” they say; after they realize your feelings were smashed. Actually, being sensitive, is a positive trait not a negative one. The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit is sensitive. It is a good thing if coarse jesting, profanity, or harsh words hurt your feelings, they hurt the Holy Spirit’s feelings. Recently, R.T. Kendall spoke in our church about the sensitivity of the Spirit. He emphasized just how easily the Spirit is offended, or as Paul said, grieved. Since that teaching was given I have heard several people from the church being cautious of their words concerned about the possibility of grieving the Holy Spirit. Charles Spurgeon also cautions about grieving the Spirit in this commentary on today’s verse.

“O child of God, thou hast no life within thee apart from the life which God gives thee through His Spirit! Then let us not grieve Him or provoke Him to anger by our sin. Let us not quench Him in one of His faintest motions in our soul; let us foster every suggestion, and be ready to obey every prompting. If the Holy Spirit be indeed so mighty, let us attempt nothing without Him; let us begin no project, and carry on no enterprise, and conclude no transaction, without imploring His blessing. Let us do Him the due homage of feeling our entire weakness apart from Him, and then depending alone upon Him, having this for our prayer, “Open Thou my heart and my whole being to Thine incoming, and uphold me with Thy free Spirit when I shall have received that Spirit in my inward parts.”

If we really need the Holy Spirit to help us in all of our activities, if we really are totally dependent upon Him in all we do, we should be especially cautious about the possibility of grieving Him. Being insensitive with our words, our actions and thoughts can easily offend God. Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about becoming unsaved because of grieving the Spirit: I’m just saying you may have to ‘go it alone’ without His help.

STUNTED AND DWARFED

STUNTED AND DWARFED

Grow up into him in all things.
Ephesians 4:15

Christianity is never meant to be stagnant. We are intended to be ever changing, always growing, being transformed into the image of God’s beloved Son. We are like the rest of God’s creation. We respond to spiritual nutrients just like the plants respond to the sun and the rain. I often think about the trips I used to take into Costa Rica several years ago. The locals used to say the ground was so fertile that even the fence posts would grow. I don’t know about fence posts but most everything else would grow there. The climate was perfect. There was plenty of sun, lots of afternoon showers, and the ground was as fertile as anything I have ever seen. You throw something in the ground and it is going to grow. In many ways that is how the kingdom of God is. There is plenty of Son shining down on His people, there is the rich nutrients found in the word of God, and His showers of blessing are guaranteed. What could keep someone from progressing in The Lord? You would have to avoid His provision on purpose. Here is how Spurgeon saw it.

“Many Christians remain stunted and dwarfed in spiritual things, so as to present the same appearance year after year. No up-springing of advanced and refined feeling is manifest in them. They exist but do not grow up into him in all things. But should we rest content with being in the green blade, when we might advance to the ear, and eventually ripen into the full corn in the ear? Should we be satisfied to believe in Christ, and to say, I am safe, without wishing to know in our own experience more of the fulness which is to be found in him. It should not be so; we should, as good traders in heaven’s market, covet to be enriched in the knowledge of Jesus.”

David gave us some good insight about spiritual growth in Psalm 92:13 “Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.” One of the great keys to putting yourself in a place where spiritual growth is sure is found in this verse. What is the key? Get planted! Get planted where? Get planted in the house of God. The local church is intended by God to provide the proper atmosphere and ingredients for spiritual growth to result. Here we find the good teaching from God’s word that provides the food we need to grow strong in The Lord. Here we find the awesome presence of The Lord, this is like the showers of blessing that bring the rain upon the seeds causing them to grow. We also find the light of His presence as we walk in the light in fellowship with the body of Christ. Light, food, rain; we have all we need. The only way we can not grow is by avoiding His church on purpose.

HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN

HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN

Eph. 4:8 Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”

This scripture opens to us the source of blessing we receive in Christ. Peter preached that Jesus ascended into heaven and received the promise of the Father. He didn’t just receive this gift for Himself (He enjoyed that from eternity). He received the Promise as a man, as a representative of all those that believe in Him. As today’s scripture says, He gave gifts to men. All of the gifts He gives to us are in the person of the Holy Spirit. As we are baptized, or saturated in the Spirit we are receiving all of the gifts necessary for our walk with Christ. I recently came across an excellent quote by Isaac Ambrose. He was a nonconformist pastor in England in the 1600’s and was ejected from the church for his beliefs. Here is a rather lengthy quote on this gift, please read it, it is well worth your time.

“No sooner is Christ inaugurated in his throne, but he scatters his coin, and gives gifts. He gives gifts, or the gift of gifts, the gift of the Holy Ghost. “If thou knewest the gift of God,” said Christ to the Samaritan woman: that gift was the water of life, and that water of life was the Spirit, as John, who knew best his mind, gave the interpretation, “This spake he of the Spirit.”. O my soul, consider of this princely gift of Christ! Such a gift was never before, but when God gave his Son. “God so loved the world, that he gave his Son;” and Christ so loved the world, that he gave his Spirit. But, O my soul, consider especially to whom this Spirit was given; the application of the gift is the very soul of thy meditation: “unto us a Son is given,” saith the prophet; and “unto us the Holy Ghost is given,” saith the apostle; and yet above all consider the reasons of this gift in reference to thyself. Was it not to make thee a temple and receptacle of the Holy Ghost? Stand a while on this! Admire, O my soul, at the condescending, glorious, and unspeakable love of Christ in this! It was infinite love to come down into our nature when he was incarnate; but this is more, to come down into thy heart by his Holy Spirit: he came near to us then, but as if that were not near enough, he comes nearer now, for now he unites himself unto thy person, now he comes and dwells in thy soul by his Holy Spirit.”

Today, Jesus is still seated at the Father’s right hand pouring out gifts, better yet, pouring out the gift. Jesus came to this earth to acquire the Promise of the Father. His death for our sins made this possible. We now have access to God. At this very moment, The Lord has gifts to impart into your life. Worship Him, drink in His goodness, you will find yourself filled to overflowing enjoying the Promise of the Father.

SHEPHERD’S MARK

SHEPHERD’S MARK

Eph. 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,

Eph. 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

For people in Paul’s day, the seal was a mark of ownership. It was often attached to personal correspondence, clearly identifying whom the letter came from. Paul said we Christians are sealed, or marked by God. The Holy Spirit upon us and within us is the guarantee that we belong to God. At the time of the New Testament, shepherds would often mark their sheep individually. Just as the American cowboys would brand their livestock, the shepherd had an identifying mark on his sheep. We are also marked, marked by God. Paul said we were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Samuel Smith had some interesting observations about the Shepherd’s mark. Check this out.

“One property of a good shepherd is, skill to know and judge aright of his sheep, and hence is it that it is a usual thing to set mark upon sheep, to the end that if they go astray (as of all creatures they are most subject to wander), the shepherd may seek them up and bring them home again. The same thing is affirmed of Christ, or rather indeed Christ affirms the same thing of himself, “I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27. Yea, doubtless, he that hath numbered the stars, and calleth them all by their names, yea, the very hairs of our head, taketh special notice of his own children, “the sheep of his pasture”, that they may be provided for and protected from all danger.”

There is a major difference between the shepherd’s mark and the seal of the Holy Spirit. God has marked us all right, He has marked us with Himself. We have been sealed or marked, with God the Holy Spirit. His constant presence with us is the promise to our heart, He will never leave us or forsake us, He is with us until the end of the age. His abiding presence equips us for the purposes and plans the Lord has for us. His indwelling presence keeps us from straying off, actually His presence “leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” This mark is a sign to the forces of darkness that we are God’s property, that no weapon formed against us can prosper. This mark actually serves as a constant reminder to us that we are not our own, we are bought with a price. Our heart does not belong to the world, our heart belongs to God.
If the Holy Spirit is the mark of the Good Shepherd, then I want to be filled continually with the Holy Spirit. This is the clear distinctive in my life, I am different, I am marked by God.

PIG PIG GROWS UP

PIG PIG GROWS UP-
Merry Monday by Parris Bailey

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” Eph.4:13
When my children were little, I used to read a book to them about a Pig that loved to have his mother do everything for him. That is fine if your a baby, but this full grown PIG still sat in a high chair to be fed, and had his poor mother push him around in a baby stroller. Then the great day came when PIG PIG jumped out of his baby stroller to save a baby that was getting ready to be hit by his very own stroller. The book ends with him pushing his mom around in the stroller and taking care of her. PIG PIG GREW UP.
It might take us humans awhile to grow up. Some do better than others but sooner or later we have to put on our “big girl pants” and begin to press onto perfection. I can look back on my life and see the times I have had to “press onto perfection”. Jesus said in Matt.5:48; “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” He never aimed low in His life did he? The meaning of the word perfect in this verse includes the ideas of full-growth, maturity, workability, soundness, and completeness. When applied to a Christian, the word refers to one that is spiritually mature, complete, well-rounded in his Christian character. Perfect can also mean, according to Wuest, “to repair, to restore to a former good condition, to prepare, to fit out, to equip.” It was used of reconciling factions, setting broken bones, putting a dislocated limb into place, mending nets. The fundamental idea in this word is the bringing of a person or thing to the goal fixed by God. Jesus was even perfected through sufferings.
A.B. Simpson says; “We are perfect but not perfected. We are complete but not completed. “Ye are complete in him,” says the Apostle to the Colossians, and yet in the same epistle he adds, “that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” There is a sense, a true sense in which we may accept the righteousness and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and count it real and sufficient. As far as our faith goes, as far as our light goes, we are fully saved. We are all there in Christ just as fully as the newborn babe is complete in all its parts. But it is not yet full-grown. It has all the organs its father has, but they are yet immature. It is complete but not completed. It is perfect but not perfected. And so the consecrated soul that has taken Christ in His fullness has Him in His fullness, but yet there is to be a deeper revelation and larger fullness step by step and day by day, until at last He shall reach the “measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”
Perfect, that is a huge word in our vocabulary. In fact I think the majority of us say- “Well, excuse me, I am not perfect!” But Andrew Murray says it in this way; “There is our perfection in Christ as imparted to us by the Holy Spirit in uniting us to Him. The life which is implanted in us at the new birth, planted into the midst of a mass of sin and flesh, is a perfect life. As the seed contains in itself the whole life of the tree, so the seed of God within us is the perfect life of Christ, with its power to grow and fill our life and bring forth fruit to perfection.”
Maybe you too can relate to PIG PIG- that’s where the power of the Holy Spirit comes in to reconcile us, fix our brokenness and bring us back to the Father. Let’s crawl out of the high chair, and the baby stroller and let Him perfect that which concerns you!

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MARINATED

MARINATED

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Eph.4:4-6

What is the greatest honor and greatest happiness a man can achieve in this life? Is it to climb to the highest heights in academic achievements, or to climb the mountain of ambition and gain in the business world, or to hear the accolades of thousands because of your athletic accomplishments and trophies? No, the greatest honor and highest joy available to man, in this life and in the life to come, can be found in his connection to the Lord and His church by being filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. Charles Hodge, professor at Princeton University in the 19th century, expressed it like this in his comments on Ephesians 4:6.

“The apostle does not refer to the dominion of God over the universe, or to his providential agency throughout all nature. Neither is the reference to his dominion over rational creatures or over mankind. It is the relation of God to the church, of which the whole passage treats. God as Father is over all its members, through them all and in them all. The church is a habitation of God through the Spirit. It is his temple in which he dwells and which is pervaded in all its parts by his presence. To be filled with God; to be pervaded by his presence, and controlled by him, is to attain the summit of all created excellence, blessedness and glory.”

To be “pervaded” by God, we would say today permeated, is the greatest atainment in this life. I like the word marinated. When you are pervaded, permeated, or marinated by God Himself, you will find your highest honor and deepest happiness. Where is this place of total permeation? Why, it is in His church of course, this is the place where the Lord has chosen to dwell and to reveal His Glory, and this is the place you will discover your purpose in life. Have you ever experienced that corporate anointing that Paul describes in this verse? To experience the tangible presence of God in a gathering of believers is the closest parallel to heaven we can experience in this life. In that place of corporate saturation, many times, the Lord speaks to us. This is the place of total contentment and the place of supernatural guidance.

UNITY OF THE SPIRIT

UNITY OF THE SPIRIT

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Eph.4:4-6

Everyone knows there is supposed to be unity in the church but, many times, that is far from true. Where does unity come from? How can we attain to that atmosphere that we all long for? Obviously, it takes more than just knowing that we need unity, there has to be a spiritual effect in us corporately, a common participation in order for us to experience this spiritual oneness. Charles Hodge has some great insight on this passage, here is part of what he said.

“There are many passages to which the doctrine of the Trinity gives a sacred rhythm, though the doctrine itself is not directly asserted. It is so here. There is one Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father…It is one because there is to us one God the Father, one Lord, one Spirit. It is a truly mystical union; not a mere union of opinion, of interest, or of feeling; but something supernatural arising from a common principle of life. This life is not the natural life which belongs to us as creatures; nor intellectual: which belongs to us as rational beings; but it is spiritual life, called elsewhere the life of God in the soul. And as this life is common, on the one hand, to Christ and all his members—and on the other, to Christ and God, this union of the church is not only with Christ, but with the Triune God. Therefore in Scripture it is said that the Spirit dwells in believers, that Christ dwells in them, and that God dwells in them. And, therefore, also our Lord prays for his people, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.”

I love that, “the sacred rhythm” of the trinity. As we as individuals are filled with God, we are joined together with this spiritual rhythm with the Father and the Son. We find ourselves flowing not only with the Lord, but also with the body of Christ. He has made us drink together of His Spirit, and out of this drinking we are drawn into this heavenly dance. Can you feel the heavenly rhythm? Join into this heavenly dance today, as you do, you will find yourself being drawn out of the world and into a brand new way of life.