"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Month: December 2012

Knowing God in Daily Life

One morning not long ago I was having my daily, personal time with God. I noticed something I found both convicting and helpful.

My Old Testament reading was in Ezekiel 21-22. As I read I began to observe an amazing contrast going on throughout Ezekiel’s prophecy.

On the one hand Ezekiel routinely speaks of his reception and transmission of God’s word to those to whom it was spoken. These expressions are found repeatedly throughout his prophecy:

  • “the word of the LORD came to me” (49x)
  • “declares the LORD” (86x)
  • “thus says the LORD” (126x)
  • “prophesy” (25x)

Ezekiel knew he had heard from God! And thus was able to confidently, authoritatively pass that word on to God’s people.

But on the other hand I ran across for the second time (cf. also 13:6-7, 10) his denunciation of others “prophets” who did not accurately hear God and transmit God’s word:

“And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD has not spoken.” (Ezek. 22:28)

Clearly and frequently Ezekiel heard the word of the Lord, discerned it as such, knew he had heard Him rightly, and communicated it in God’s Name with utter confidence. Ezekiel knew when he’d heard God and when he had not. Additionally, he knew when others had not heard Him and inaccurately spoke in His Name.

How can you and I be like Ezekiel? How can we be sure not to be like the other “prophets” of his day? How has that task and responsibility changed this side of Jesus’ completed redemptive work and with a closed canon of Scripture?

I then turned to that day’s New Testament reading, which happened to be in the latter half of Hebrews 11. There I read of the great men and women of God …

“who through faith conquered … enforced … obtained … stopped … quenched … escaped … were made strong … became mighty … put … to flight … received back … were tortured … suffered … stoned … sawn in two … killed …” (Heb. 11:33-36).

They too had heard God, knew it, and acted upon it. And their faith was clear for all to see.

Obviously it is of the utmost importance to rightly hear and discern God’s voice/word. But it is equally important to act upon His voice/word! It is easy to become immobilized by introspection and equivocation and “discernment” efforts. God intends us to hear and know His voice … and act upon it in faith!

Faith moves! Faith acts! Faith does! Faith achieves! Faith receives! Faith leaves demonstrable evidence! Faith leaves footprints!

And the net of all this in Ezekiel is found in the oft repeated phrase: “then you will know that I am the LORD” (72x).

So I conclude this: God speaks that we might act that we (and others) might know Him in experience!

If we fail to rightly discern His voice, we will never know Him in experience.

If we hear and rightly discern His voice, but do not act in faith, we will never know Him in experience.

If we act with utter conviction and confidence upon what we believe to be the word/voice of God, but (despite our bluster and bravado) have not rightly heard him, we will never know Him in experience.

If we hear and rightly discern His voice and even communicate it to others, but do not act upon it in faith, we will never know Him in experience.

We can cry and wail all we want about wanting to “experience” God and know Him deeply, but unless we authentically and rightly hear His voice and then act upon it in faith, we (and those for whom we are divinely accountable) will never know God in experience.

Father, would you please enable us to leave a trail of faith-footprints through 2013. We ask this in Jesus’ Name and for your glory. Amen!


Union With Christ

You are “in Christ” (Colossians 1:28) and “Christ [is] in you” (1:27).

How can we be “in Christ” and at the same time have Christ in us? When we hear the word “in” we think spatially, and being in something and that something being in you do not seem to be possible at the same time in the same way. But our union with Christ is not a spatial reality, but a relational and spiritual reality. This, however, does not make it any less real.

Realizing that no illustration is perfect (including this one), allow me to paint a picture which might crack the door of our understanding. Christ is infinite (1:15ff). The Pacific Ocean seems infinite to us. The Pacific Ocean is not infinite, but it seems to be from our perspective. The Mariana Trench reaches depths of over six and a half miles. Whether you are four foot eleven or seven foot six, the water definitely would be over your head. Thus for the sake of illustration the waters of the Pacific might help us.

Picture a helicopter flying you into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You ask the pilot to bring the helicopter to a standstill, hovering just above the surface of the water. Then you leap from the helicopter. You are now “in the Pacific.” You signal the pilot and he turns the craft and speeds away. Your entire identity is now wrapped up in the fact that you are “in the Pacific.” You are surrounded by seemingly endless miles of open water. There are an estimated 622 million cubic kilometers of water in the Pacific. You are now in those waters. This now defines your existence. This answers the question of your identity.

But this only helps us with one line of this foundational truth of our union with Christ. It aids us in seeing ourselves “in Christ.” But what of the other essential strand of truth—“Christ in you”?

Picture yourself now taking an action that will be completely counter-intuitive. It will go against everything that you’ve come to deem rational and logical. It will cut cross-grain against everything you’ve ever known as sanity and in accord with reality. It will defy what seems to be “life.” Yet now, by an act of your will, you draw in a deep breath, turn yourself downward and swim with all your might. You kick and use your arms—going as deep as you are able with one breath. There you are, twenty or thirty feet below the surface of the Pacific. You are “in the Pacific.” Now you open your mouth and . . . draw in a huge breath!

To this point you have been “in the Pacific.” But now “the Pacific is in you”!

“Ah,” you say, “but now I am also dead!”

Precisely. You have died with Christ (Col. 2:20; 3:3). In fact you were buried with Him (2:12a). But you have also been made alive with Him (2:12b; 3:1). In fact it is “Christ who is your life” (3:4a, ESV)! This has been and continues to be actualized by His indwelling Spirit (1:8). “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (3:1-2). In other words, think in accordance with reality—the new reality established for you by God in bringing you into union with Christ! A reality that provides you . . .

  • A New Identity: You “in Christ”
  • A New Presence, and thus a new power, and thus an entirely new potential, and thus a life is defined by completely new possibilities: “Christ in you” (pp.40-41, Colossians and Philemon for Pastors)

Hot off the presses!

I am excited to announce the release of my latest book: Colossians and Philemon for Pastors. I believe that any and all who love the Word of God and study to understand and live it will appreciate the book.

If I may say so, it would make a great gift for your pastor.

Currently you may purchase the book at the publisher’s website (follow the link above). Soon you will be able to acquire it also at Amazon.com and other online retailers or ask your local bookseller to order a copy for you.

The book has been endorsed by Dr. Ray Ortlund, Jr (Pastor of Immanuel Church, Nashville, TN and director of Renewal Ministries), Dr. Donald Alexander (Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies and Spiritual Theology, Bethel University), and Pastor Caleb Kolstad (First Baptist Church, Freeport, IL).

In the coming days I’ll offer some quotes and insights into the nature of the book.

Lavish Grace!

“A simple correspondence of the sacrifice to the sin would have been sufficient to set our hearts free. And Christ did indeed offer just what was needed for our sins. Yet the perfect sacrifice of the God-man, Jesus Christ is not only sufficient, but abundantly sufficient for our debt. ‘In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace‘ (Eph. 1:7). Note: not ‘by the riches of his grace,’ but ‘according to the [infinite and immeasurable] riches of his grace’! The grace measured to us in Christ is not simply out of a reservoir of divine goodness, but in proportion to the limitless measure of the whole of God’s infinite grace. Our salvation arises out of ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’ (Eph. 3:8)!” (Pathways to Peace, p.76)

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