Chapter 5: Common Law “Marriage” part II
Happiness or Holiness:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 5:1-6).
For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God (I Thessalonians 4:3-5).
“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24, NAS).”
Neither immorality nor impurity should be named among God’s people. These texts are life-altering. Far too many people are concerned more with their personal happiness than holiness before God and it should not be. When seeking happiness, there’s guilt involved feeling like they’re being selfish seeking such happiness. In this state of guilt, the concept of holiness gets swept under the rug.
Imagine if you will a person completely surrendered to God. This particular person will no longer seek happiness nor will they be led by emotions of guilt, shame, fear, or anything else. They will be, on the other hand, focused solely on pleasing the Savior. In this condition, there is no room for anything other than holiness; they’ll do whatever it takes to be in direct obedience to the One who can resolve any matter. A person, such as the two men mentioned above, would be able to make clear, concise decisions concerning their own personal life. They would be able with ease to tell their girlfriends that, since they’re seeking the face and holiness of Christ, they must of necessity break union, or at the very least, stop living in sin. Their desire for holiness would cause them to surrender completely to Christ and, in so doing, do whatever necessary to follow Christ.
One must understand that commitment and surrender are vastly different things. Commitment in or to anything means that you are the one in control; you can quit whenever you want. Surrender, adversely, denotes one not in control, you can’t quit as you no longer have a say or vote in the matter; you have consigned your vote, say, and will. Countless people are “committed” to their girlfriend or boyfriend and suggest that, because of their commitment, they don’t need to marry. However, God doesn’t call people in relationship with Himself to commit, but to surrender.
Since human marriages are a reflection of our relationship with Christ, we too are to surrender ourselves to our spouse. This way, there’s no out because you aren’t controlling the relationship, God is and/or your spouse. Commitments are broken at will every day because the one committed controls how long they stay. When both the husband and wife surrender to each other, there is an unbreakable force; yet in today’s marriages, both want to do nothing more than commit so that, if they eventually want out, they can leave.
When we say marital vows, most miss the fact that this is supposed to be a form of surrender, a giving yourself to the other; two becoming one (both are surrendered into one new creation). Because people miss this, too many are committed for a season but, eventually, they check out be it with literal divorce or emotionally though remaining legally married. In living together unmarried, one inadvertently surrenders themselves to a person without covenant and that can only lead to a disaster. This is why people who are living together having taken on each other’s bills, kids, property, etc. feel trapped though they’re actually free to leave. Surrender means crucifying self; it means to lay down your life for another. We all need to stop surrendering ourselves to one without covenant because, without covenant, there is no protection and all the lines of what is right and wrong are blurred leaving everyone confused and imprisoned.
To reiterate, God doesn’t call anyone to happiness, but holiness just as He doesn’t call us to commit, but to surrender. Surrender causes us to become lost in Christ. Surrender causes us to become lost in our spouse. Surrender takes your focus off personal happiness (selfishness) and diverts it toward holiness (selflessness). Keeping this in mind, it will assist you in the quest for the correct union of marriage preordained by God. Instead of asking, “Will this make me happy?” always ask yourself, “Can I surrender to him or her? Should I surrender to him or her? Can I utterly subject myself to him or her and be in right standing with God?” These questions can literally save you from entering an unholy relationship of fornication, adultery or unholy marriage and even save you from exiting a correct marriage gone sour through divorce.
Commitment and happiness = self-focus and personal control
Surrender and holiness = God-focus and control abandonment
Prayer of Purity: Father, may I be self-controlled as Jesus was when He walked in human flesh. As I seek purity, reveal to me the weaknesses of my flesh that I will flee evil instead of deceiving myself into thinking that I have strength I do not possess. Lead me into the path of righteousness that I will not cast my foot upon a stone and stumble and fall. I choose today to crucify my fleshly man and receive Holy Spirit to take His rightful position as the ruler of my heart. I repent of all impure activity in my past and receive your forgiveness. I choose to abstain from all sexual impurity. Thank You, Jesus, for paving the way of holiness. Amen.
Chapter 5: Common Law “Marriage” part I
And those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:8-13).
Two Become One:
For anyone who reasons, “If I become one with someone through sexual intercourse and we are considered as married, what’s the purpose of marriage? I don’t need a certificate to validate my relationship. In the sight of God, we’re already married,” I direct them to Jesus’ response to the Samaritan woman. In John 4:17-19, we read: “The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You have correctly said, “I have no husband;” for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.’”
There are a couple of items that need to be addressed. One, Jesus said that she stated correctly ‘I have no husband’ yet she had five husbands prior to her current common-law husband. If she is five times divorced and Jesus made it known that she didn’t have a husband, she is cleared of still being married post-divorce. Secondly, though she was entering into sexual relations with the one not her husband, Jesus did not consider that as validation of marriage in God’s sight. Her granted divorces were honored by God as no longer married and equally, her common-law husband wasn’t a husband at all.
We see continually that marriage is the place of covenant; the only place that God can and will honor sexual relations between a man and a woman. Sexual intercourse is to be kept holy as God intended. It is not for us to use as a tool to alleviate tension, validate a romantic relationship, or abuse in any capacity. Sex outside of marriage is a sin and extremely dangerous, much like a toddler with a butcher knife or loaded gun.
The next question asked a lot among followers of The Way (Christ) is, “What is appropriate conduct in dating?” Let’s look at the next section of Bible passages:
Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:1-5, NKJV)
The phrase “to touch a woman” is an idiom referring to “sexual relations.” Apto is the Greek word Paul uses for “to touch.” It has the sense of touch, cling, take hold of; to kindle as in “to kindle a fire.” It can mean any form of physical touch from light caress to actual sexual intercourse.
Paul continues with the word “nevertheless” which connects all that he is saying. Dating is a western practice that isn’t found anywhere in the Bible. This would lead me to believe that dating as we know it in modern western society is invalid. With Paul’s apt “nevertheless,” he instructs men and women to marry and then (as in post-marriage vows) conduct yourselves in any form of touch that is holy in the sight of God.
Many argue that there are numerous things not mentioned in the Bible yet that does not constitute then as sin and that is true for many things such as celebrating birthdays or things of that nature. However, with dating, there are Scriptures that specifically speak to relations between a man and woman that would directly negate the form of dating for which is common today. If “dating” simply meant spending quality time together getting to know one another, that would be acceptable, but all the excessive touching between unmarried couples is indeed sin.
Paul continues to instruct the married couple to not abstain from sex. Within marriage, the man and woman are no longer their own, they belong to each other. We can conclude from this one section of verses alone that touching within the confines of dating is not permitted. We all know that few, if anyone, will uphold God’s way of thinking, sad as the fact is. If you must date, keep your body parts, all of them, to yourself since the more two touch, the more they “burn” and are tempted to forget God and act in the flesh (literally and metaphorically), and will possibly lead to a marriage or some form of improper conduct that God never designed or ordained.
Living together, having sex before marriage, merging households without marriage – these are merely common occurrences in the modern-day Babylon in which we live. We’ve set such a low precedence that no one, including Christians, seems to know right from wrong in any given situation, especially in the arena of romantic relationships.
As I’m writing this, I am currently involved with attempting to help two men out of their unholy unions with women not their wives. Both men feel so trapped that they struggle to see a way out. They’re all miserable because none of the four entered their relationships while in right standing with God; Yeshua was not consulted in the least. These men, because they’re living together in sin with their girlfriends, have wedged themselves into a role of father to their girlfriends’ children and husband to women not their wives. These four have basically been playing marriage all the while having no marital covenant – a recipe for disaster!
One fellow and his live-in girlfriend are both married to estranged spouses. He refused to get out of the relationship when it was suggested and, because he hesitated to do what was holy and helpful for everyone, he eventually became aggressive as they both would badger one another mentally, emotionally and physically. As a result, now he’s in jail. If only he’d been obedient to God so as to remove himself from an adulterous relationship, he’d not be in jail. He tried so hard to force something to work that couldn’t and it ended in a worse way than necessary. This guy was too worried about her kids because he was their only support that he missed God’s plan altogether.
Because of his emotional and financial ties to her children, he felt as though he couldn’t leave. So, he remained in an unhealthy, unholy, unhappy relationship and it ended more poorly than if he had just said, “This isn’t working. It isn’t right in God’s sight. We need to separate.” Fear became a factor; afraid of hurting her, hurting her kids, leaving them abandoned, etc. When fear is in play, wisdom cannot prevail. When fear is in action, God’s voice cannot be clearly heard or obliged. Because of placing himself in a situation that was against God, fear became the lead which causes nothing less than chaos and confusion.
The other gentleman has children and his girlfriend has a child; together they’ve lived for many years. He is acting as father to her child and she is acting as mother to his children. Now he’s trying to get his life aligned with Yeshua and feels stuck just like the other guy. He doesn’t hate her but he doesn’t love her. They can’t divorce because they’re not legally married and he feels trapped in his own home. He illegally positioned himself to become something (husband, father) he never was. They are “common law” married but, in the sight of God, they’re simply living illegally due to fornication and lack of covenant. He too is fearful of what will happen when and if he breaks the relationship as she and her child have nowhere to go.
My suggestion to them both would be to align themselves with God and, in so doing, pull the plug on the very unhealthy relationship, stop having sex, stop living together and recalibrate from there. Fear is a terrible thing but always comes into action when lives are not aligned with the God who has already overcome fear. Imagine if they both began to walk in surrender to Christ. They would no longer worry about the outcome, but only that they are living a holy lifestyle in accordance to God’s commands. By recalibrating their thinking from an earthly, fleshly perspective into a heavenly, godly one, all fears would calm and they would have faith to do what is correct trusting that Yahweh will work things out for all involved.
Those who live in common-law relationships miserable and sometimes volatile are setting a very low bar of life for their kids. They currently worry that the kids will be hurt if they split, but I say that they’ll be hurt worse in the long run if they don’t make an immediate change. Doesn’t everyone want their children to grow in a home where the parent or parents are at peace, joyful, and walking in accordance to Christ’s will? Living together unmarried will always, in time, lead to misery. The only exception is when the couple repents, aligns with Christ and then moves forward.
Chapter 4: The Covenant of Intercourse, part II
The Rich Man’s Riches:
And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property (Matthew 19:16-22).
In this God-less society in which we currently live, I liken this rich man’s riches as unto sex outside of marriage. So many unmarried people want to go to church and be a “good person,” yet they refuse to give up sex that God ordained only for the marriage bed. Interestingly enough, the rich man asked which commands he was to follow. This infers that he was interested in obliging only the minimum amount of commands. He was not interested in giving all of himself so as to inherit the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
When I conduct pre-marital counseling, the first thing I ask is “are you having sex outside of marriage?” People hate this question! They hate it because they are guilty, yet still ask God to bless their upcoming union. That’s like asking your fiancé’ to be faithful to you, yet every now and then, they are to allow you to have an affair. We do not rightly seek God’s favor when we refuse to obey His simple commands – it is a contradiction in every way.
Becoming One – Pro’s and Con’s:
As previously mentioned, sex was designed marvelously by God to be an offshoot of a covenant seal; the glue that bonds two people together in holy matrimony. In the spirit realm, Holy Spirit being inserted within our person is a form of intercourse. In other words, when we confess and repent of the sin nature, the water that ran from the side of Jesus pours through us and washes us. Holy Spirit is then inserted within and then we are covered by Jesus’ blood. Holy Spirit is our Seal of Promise of what is to come. We are “in” Him and He is “in” us – intercourse. Through such intercourse, we bear His fruit and multiply the fruit of the Spirit. Such spiritual intercourse causes new births – offspring of the new union bonded through intercourse. Likewise, through such intimacy in sexual intercourse, mankind multiplies physically.
Understanding this concept, we can now see that the problem comes when we become one with someone other than our spouse. Being married to someone God ordained for us since before the foundation of the Earth bears good fruit. Children of such a union (generally speaking) are well rounded and secure because they were produced through holy covenant. In this perverse generation, however, everyone is having sex with whomever, wherever, and whenever the mood strikes. This act of sin bears fruit from that which is unholy, absent of covenant. As a result, there are whole generations of people who, because of the lack of covenant between their parents, are confused, distressed, oppressed, bewildered, angry, depressed, lost, and so on. The Law of increase (Genesis 9:7) remains, but it produces bad seed instead of good seed, and all of it multiplies!
Before we go any further, please know that I am not condemning people born out wrong covenant or out non-covenant. I am simply pointing out the fact that the majority of these particular people are this way due to the manifestation of God’s Law in effect. In the garden prior to the Fall, God set in action the Law of increase (go forth and multiply). Multiplication happens for the good when people are obedient to God’s commands. On the flip side, it happens for the negative when people are disobedient to His commands.
Above where I quoted Hebrews 9:16-17 stating that covenant does not go into effect until men are dead, I pointed out that through marriage vows two people are to die to self and become one. When people are engaging in sex outside of marriage, there is no covenant because no one has died in order to activate covenant. When this happens and we are procreating regardless, anger ensues because people are having the responsibilities of life that should only come through covenant. This is because covenant brings protection. Lack of covenant in the midst of covenant-responsibilities brings anguish.
Once all is said and done, we “good Christians” get angry at God because He didn’t better protect us. We need to understand also that God cannot protect those who step outside of His covenant boundaries. When we disobey God’s commands, it’s due to having brought our dead flesh back to a form of life. When we break covenant with Yeshua, we remove ourselves from His umbrella of protection.
It’s simple, really. When man dies and joins Christ, covenant is in effect; protection is activated. When we resurrect our fleshly cursed nature from Adam (though saved from hell), we break covenant with God and become unprotected. More specifically, when we engage in sex outside of the covenant bonds of marriage, we willfully enter territory unprotected with people who have no desire to protect us; or if they do desire to protect, protection eludes them.
Chapter 4: The Covenant of Intercourse, part I
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals…food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for Yahweh, and Yahweh for the body…Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But the one who joins himself to Yahweh is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 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 6:9, 13, 15-20)
“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge (Hebrews 13:4, NAS).”
We Make Our Messes
When God’s people choose to sexually give themselves over to another outside the marriage covenant, in essence, they are setting their body above God making it and its desires an idol above God. Sex outside of marriage is a serious matter that has been diminished into something seemingly harmless, sinless.
God has given us direction and informs us as to the consequences of our actions. When we sin against God, especially in this arena, first we revel in it; then, when the bad seed turns into a harvest, we wonder why God has forsaken us because it’s too heavy to bear. We reason, “I am a good person. Why did God let this happen?” We must stop worshiping man (self or others) and placing self above Yahweh. Idolatry will always lead to a shattered life.
Marriage is intimacy. Intimacy is communion; drawing as near to someone as possible, otherwise known as intercourse. Because this word, intercourse, is grossly underestimated, I have listed the definitions:
- connection or dealings between persons or groups
- 2. exchange especially of thoughts or feelings: communion
- 3. sexual intercourse
- Communication between individuals; a commingling (to blend thoroughly into a harmonious whole); intimate connection or dealings between persons or nations, as in common affairs and civilities, in correspondence or trade; communication; commerce; especially, interchange of thought and feeling; association; communion.
- The act of sexual procreation between a man and a woman
Sex is merely one form of the expression of intercourse; it is not intercourse itself. Sex was created by God to be a beautiful expression of covenant commitment which changed lives for the better. It is one form of expression of life-changing covenant. Hence, sexual activity outside of marital covenant falls flat and leaves one empty and frustrated. There is a greater void to someone before they engaged in sex because there is no unity through covenant. The people are left having become “one body,” yet devoid of covenant.
As it is now, sex is destroying lives because it has not been kept sacred. The world is now flooded with fatherless children, motherless children, and childless parents (through abortion). There are teens who are parents. There are adult men and women murdering their unborn and born children because they were conceived from fornication or adultery. Sexually transmitted diseases are running rampant because society has made sexual intercourse something for everyone and anyone. God did not create sex for this purpose and we are all suffering at the hand of our own selfish indulgence, negligence, lack of self-control and abuse. God is not the problem – we are.
Marriage Covenant Requires Death
As a recap from chapter two, “For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives (Hebrews 9:16-17).” Entering into marriage brings death to both people as individuals and recreates them anew as one being. This is a requirement for true success, both in our spiritual marriage to God and physical marriage to people; yet it rarely happens due to our gross lack of understanding of covenant. The refusal to die to self in order to activate covenant results is disastrous for all involved! If dying to self seems extreme, understand that we don’t fully enter into the covenant of marriage until we do. In fact, when two people refuse to become selfless, their marriage covenant hasn’t truly been activated.
Take a close look at the opening Scripture of this chapter. The act of sex makes two become one. To restate, sexual activity was created as a bonding tool exclusively for marriage. It is one way (but not exclusively) for people to express unity, oneness – intercourse. It is designed to be a physical depiction of what happens spiritually with God. When we give ourselves over to another human being in this capacity, we are uniting with them, be they our created mate, or a random person we’ll never see again. This is a serious act that, especially this day and age, most people take lightly, including many within the body of Christ.
Look at what happens when we have sexual intercourse outside of the bonds of holy matrimony. People become erratic, possessive, ashamed, needy, condemned, and they feel entitled to liberties with the other person even if they barely know one another. There is a “clinginess” that takes effect, especially for the woman. This is because she and he became “one flesh” whether they understand it or not, like it or not. Sex is a spiritual form of super glue, if you will.
For the man, generally speaking, he becomes closed off and runs the other way. If there was a friendship, it flies out the window. Everything becomes awkward and uncomfortable. This is because they both gave and took what wasn’t theirs to offer or receive. This is God’s law in motion; the law of “two become one flesh.” It’s like the law of sowing and reaping; reaping a bad harvest as a result of sin is not punishment but rather law in motion. So it is with sex outside of marriage.
Chapter 16: What Are You Giving?
Are we emitting a scent of love or hatred, kindness or brutality, gentleness or harshness, forgiveness or grudges, mercy or mercilessness, grace or guilt, honor or guile? If we do not love our brother, stranger, family and enemy, we are not of God. We are the only people who get to choose what we permeate toward a person or group of people. We are the only ones who can determine our eternal fate; after all, God has given us free will. Neither God, Satan, nor our offenders can set our destination; that’s all on us. God has laid an unshakable foundation for us and we choose what structure we build upon it.
Yahweh has withheld nothing from us. All tools are at our disposal so as to allow us the opportunity to make good choices despite the climate. What we decide to do with His instructions, commands, warnings, armor, and blessings is all on us. Choose wisely. If we’ve acted foolishly, change course. Give mercy to the merciless, forgiveness to the unforgivable, grace to the graceless, love the hateful, and grant gentleness to the harsh. God has a way of moving in the hearts of the worst of people. Allow His grace to be sufficient.
Have we diligently and regularly asked ourselves, “What am I giving?” Asking ourselves questions on a consistent basis and answering ourselves honestly will allow us to realign when needed. We tend to excuse bad behavior with “it’s just this one thing”. Unfortunately, that “one thing” becomes “two things” and, inevitably, those one or two issues invariably multiply becoming a mountain of disaster. Resentment, bitterness, guile, anger, vengeance, hatred, impatience, unkindness, and so much more of this ilk are not what is of God. These are not good traits and they will destroy many in the end if we do not purposefully eject them from our inner man. What are you giving?
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love (I John 4:7-8, NAS).”
“The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes (I John 2:10-11, NAS).”
“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8, NAS).”
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:12-14 (NAS).”
“The godless in heart harbor resentment…(Job 36:21, NAS).”
“And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart (Matthew 18:21-35, NAS).”
“But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation (I Thessalonians 5:8, NAS).”
“…show them the proof of your love…(II Corinthians 8:24, NAS).
Chapter Fifteen: Strength for the Weary, part II
Weakened Unto Death:
What a beautiful act of unwavering love when God sent His Son in human flesh weakening Himself, the Almighty, so as to rescue those who are weak. Honestly, I can’t mention this enough as we, His creation, seem to keep missing this incredible act of kindness, thoughtfulness and, yes, weakness. He became all things to all people so some may be saved. I become overjoyed and saddened simultaneously when reading I Corinthians 9:22. The gift of Christ thrills me; adversely, the fact He states “some” may be saved is sad. Only a few will answer the call of Christ by surrendering their fleshly strengths so His strength can prevail.
Mankind, better yet Christ-kind, gets so frustrated at God when things aren’t fixed the instant they pray or within a week, months or several years. They expect God, because they deem themselves a “good person”, to jump the moment they pray or, better yet, they expect to have no real life issues as though they are exempt. These people have deluded themselves into thinking they deserve exemption from hardships.
The truth of the matter is, God has already extended all the help there is to give – the sacrifice of His life. What we fail to see, especially within the confines of the professing Church, is that we are to relinquish our lives (all the good and the bad) so that we may position ourselves to receive His completed help, as previously discussed. John 16:33 states, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This is a past-tense statement, not an “it is forthcoming” possibility. Furthermore, John 19:28-30 confirms with clarity, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished…when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”
We become weary in situations of life, death, divorce, abuse, poverty, resentment, rejection, abandonment, or whatever life throws our way, and haven’t figured out how to receive the power and dominion we’ve already been bestowed while enduring hardships. When will we understand that weakness is the greatest place to be? “He gives strength to the weary”, reads Isaiah 40:29. This isn’t just a matter of saying, when we are weary, God gives His strength; it’s far more reaching than that. It’s saying, it isn’t until we are fully weakened that we are in a place where we can receive His strength. When we are strong in ourselves, who needs God or anything He has to offer? When things are great, good, or even bearable, we continue to cling to dead flesh. In turn, without intending, we forgo the rest and peace of Christ which can only be birthed through relinquishing ourselves to God.
If you truly want to be renewed in strength, stop resisting natural weakness. It isn’t a shortcoming; it’s the only place where Christ can actually take over. When you realize “it’s finished” and there’s nothing more for Christ to do on your behalf, you’ll quickly perish your fleshly nature so that His completed work can begin to manifest in every area of life.
When Paul became truly weary, he was positioned to receive the fullness of Christ. Jesus gave Himself over to utter weakness that the glory of God the Father could accomplish His perfection through His human death. Strength for the weary comes because you are weak. Because Christ was weakened unto death, He could bear us when we are weakened unto death. In other words, once we have suffered and disciplined ourselves to cast our cares upon Jesus, only then can we guide others how to do the same.
He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:29-31 (NAS)
“To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some (I Corinthians 9:22, NAS).”
Chapter 14: It’s All About Refinement
If I have heard once, I have heard a thousand times, “They were such a good person until thus and so happened; then they really changed for the worse.” With all my being, I believe trials and tests do not change a person, they simply bring to light who the person is at their center. It was definitely true in Job’s case as well as my own. Neither of us knew what was wicked within until the disasters came.
Adam lived in utopia and it was true for him. The worst comes out of people in dyer situations because the love of Christ is not in effect. Sure, they may be saved from hell but a person led by Holy Spirit would be able to recognize what God was allowing to happen and even why, instead of tail-spinning out of control and losing sight of God’s reality. Just because one is led by Holy Spirit for a long time does not mean that, in an instant, they can’t revert back to the flesh. Satan is crouching at the door waiting for an opportunity to stumble you. You and I must daily die, which is merely a result of having been transformed into the image of God.
When my first husband left with a note on the coffee table, I fell apart. I began cursing, ranting and raving. Why? It was because I had no grounding in an intimate relationship with God. I had never once said, “Father, show me everything that is wrong within me. Lead me into righteousness.” I had received salvation at the age of six and went on my way “getting people saved” as I was taught. I didn’t drink, curse, sleep around or do drugs. I was basically a “good” kid. However, in reality, it was all a lie because there is no one good but God.
I failed to hear from God, receive warnings, admonition, or anything of the kind. If I had, I would not have married two wrong men. I knew nothing of God except being able to quote a few Scriptures. In my mind, making a profession of faith was equated to “an intimate relationship” when it was nothing more than the beginning of what should have developed into an intimate relationship. I was weak in Christ on my best days and was so because I thought myself spiritually strong and mature.
A terrible weakness in God’s people is the feeling of unworthiness, yet we call it humility. When you focus on your own unworthiness, you are focused on self. Although it certainly appears humble and righteous on the surface, contrary to popular belief, this is another lie from Satan. It is actually false humility, self-abasement, and self-righteousness.
False Humility: “I am unworthy to walk in the shoes of Jesus, so I won’t. I’ll sit here quietly in my recliner of do-nothing. Praise God, one day I’m going up yonder in the sweet by and by. I’ll wait here ‘til I get to Heaven to throw my crowns at His precious feet. Who am I to walk in authority and speak with boldness? I’m too humble to do that.”
True Humility: “I am unworthy and I know it. However, with that knowledge, I (the unworthy one) choose to surrender and live only unto Christ (the worthy One). I choose His worth and allow Him to speak, think and operate through my mortal body. I choose to walk boldly and courageously in the authority and power He projects through me. I give God all praise, honor and glory for all accomplished.”
I pray every believer will get this imbedded in their spirit, heart, and mind. God is not asking for your perfection or power since you have none to offer. He is asking for your willingness to allow Him to move through your weak mortal body as you are merged with Him as one entity. Allow refinement when the hard times hit let you be overtaken by the evil one through despair. God is the perfection in the weakest places of life. Yoked together Christ is the only hope for strength and a sound mind.
“so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:7, NAS).”
“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:7, NAS).”
If there’s one “skill” I have honed having a chronically ill child, it’s patience. Patience, as many know, is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. My entire adult life, I’ve functioned in two speeds: fast and faster. I made quick decisions in everything; procrastination is not in my vocabulary. This can be an asset but, also a liability depending upon the situation. With a child who is perpetually ill, there is no such thing as “instantaneous”. There’s waiting on getting an appointment with specialists, waiting on meds to kick in, waiting on doctors to decide the next move, waiting in a lobby to be seen by doctors who are running behind (sometimes hours), and so on.
In this, I have learned (by force, in a manner of speaking) that patience is an invaluable asset in the Kingdom of God and, in turn, my life. Although, there are times when going fast can be good because we need to think on our feet, it can cause a stream of destruction by refusing to slow down long enough so as to properly evaluate the end result of our momentary actions. Patience comes from pause and pauses are very good. Pauses allow us to properly assess what is happening and what needs to occur next if, that is, we are wise enough to stop whining through the halt.
Impatience has proven itself deadly or, at the very least, tumultuous. Abraham birthed his own enemy through Ishmael. The prodigal son received his fortunes immediately but, then lost everything until he humbled himself. Judas received his fortune by selling out Jesus and his end was quite horrible. Eve’s impatience for more caused the death of mankind; on and on the stories go. The impatience of my youth caused me to marry a vile man; the repercussions took two decades to subside. On the flip side, Joseph, because of his intense patience, became ruler over all of Egypt, second only the Pharaoh. Patience, once Abraham surrendered to God’s timing, birthed many nations in his old age through Isaac.
My point is this: there is good in every obstacle if only we look to God. “There are no problems, only possibilities and opportunities”, I heard back in the 90’s from a wise man. I must admit, I initially thought the man was loony but, it began a new quest to look at things differently. Fast forward twenty-five or so years: I could easily murmur and complain about how difficult this all has been with Sophia or, I can choose to look to God so as to recognize good which has come about through the intense difficulties we have faced. Patience allows us or, rather, me, to see with Kingdom vision instead of the here-and-now.
I am forever changed for all this and I know, with great confidence, it will (in time) change Sophia for the better. There will be people with whom she can relate whereas someone else may not. This will cause her to be a game-changer in the lives of those who are otherwise hopeless and helpless. It will make her far more compassionate and relatable than someone who can only assume how they would feel or respond in a particular trial. Patience in allowing ourselves to endure something with grace and growth instead of attempting with futility to “get out of jail free quickly” develops endurance, perseverance and victory.
Watchman Nee (my favorite author and man of God) said (and I paraphrase) God’s people try too hard to pray themselves out of tribulation when, all the while, God is purposing to train us through it. Getting out to quickly actually hurts us because we soon will have to start over in another trial so we may eventually learn what we need. God’s will is not necessarily to experience “healing” (in whatever capacity) instantly because we will miss its purpose. In this thinking, my friend was correct: There are no problems, only opportunities and possibilities. Are you looking for your possibility and opportunity?
Chapter Thirteen: Igniting God’s Completed Work
Faith, faith, faith and more faith is the key to unlock the Kingdom of God and His power therein. When I read Hebrews 11 in its entirety, I stand amazed; first at God, and, secondly, at the people who withstood things most of us can’t fathom in their wildest nightmares. What these folks endured is nothing short of a miracle because they didn’t buckle, not even in the face of death. The chronicle of these mighty people of God reminds me of Matthew 10:28 which instructs, “do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
In this world and, more specifically, in the Church, people are far more concerned with what people think of them than being obedient to the Word of God (the expression of His power). Forget being concerned with being hung, beaten, burned or tortured in some capacity since we can’t get past being afraid of someone rejecting us. This is a sad fact but, looking around the churches, it’s evident. We are far more concerned with the opinion of our fellow man than following Christ outside the city walls no matter the repercussions.
How can we possibly walk an authentic life of faith if we can’t get past worrying about what someone thinks of us be it family, friends, co-workers, fellow church members, or whomever? This behavior does not and cannot please Yahweh. Having good intentions without faith cannot please Him; consequently, we squelch His power within us. When we are not walking in faith, God cannot materialize His completed work and then we’re left wondering, “Where’s God? Why isn’t He helping me? Where is His power now?” To quote my friend, Rachelle Freeman Sanders, “Faith doesn’t move God; faith is your positive response to what God has already done by grace. ‘Won’t He do it?’ you ask. No, He’s already done it!”
When you get to the place where you genuinely desire experiencing His power moving in your life, start with faith. This isn’t to insult where you are with Christ; it is simply a fact which applies to everyone. This is for me and this is for you. Faith is where Holy Spirit power ignition begins and ends and it usually comes prior to falling in love with Him. Faith is the vehicle which delivers into your life that which God has already accomplished before the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:3). Everything past, present and future was perfected before the Earth was set in motion, we’re just watching it unfold over the centuries. How you operate in faith in the face of your most ferocious adversary will determine how far God can present and produce His completed work.
Faith is paramount to any Christ-follower. Faith is the ignition switch to God’s power and strength. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Without faith, how can one have joy in Him? If we only have information about God with which we desire to share with others yet have no joy, where is the supernatural strength required to be displayed in everyday life so as to draw others to Christ?
We who desire earnestly to follow Christ must understand, all that is to be done is already accomplished. There is nothing more for Christ to do on your behalf. Money problems? Already solved. Children problems? Already resolved. Spousal problems? Already finished. Do you see? God sees the end from the beginning because, in God’s timing, the ending has already been fulfilled.
If this were inaccurate, how could God have spoken of Jesus in the Old Testament? How could the prophecies yet to come have been written? It’s because it’s already finished. Furthermore, how could Christ say in John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” The “what is to come” part reveals what already is but is yet to be. The truth is, according to the Spirit of God, all is already complete. We’re simply awaiting it’s unfolding.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval…and what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:1-2, 32-40, (NAS)
“and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:2-3, NAS).”
Chapter Ten: Spirit of Power, Love and a Sound Mind
The King James Version of II Timothy 1 uses the words “sound mind” (which I prefer believing it makes the message clearer) instead of “discipline”. That being said, a sound mind produces self-discipline so I believe the words to be interchangeable here. There are scads of texts referencing the mind so, we can logically deduce the mind is of great importance. When we are weak in body and heart, if we keep our minds sharp as to the person, promises and love of God, we won’t so readily lose our minds, as is so commonly stated as a natural reaction to weakness in times of trouble.
We must keep our minds clear because the world and all its woes will readily overtake us if we allow. We must be vigilant, watchful and sober-minded lest we fall prey to the one who despises us without measure. God has, with great liberty, given us a spirit of power and love and discipline. We are created in His image; thusly, we have His nature. We generally, unfortunately, choose the nature of the flesh over the nature of God. When we allow Holy Spirit to overwhelm us, we will have no room in us to be overwhelmed by the flesh.
To say, “I love the Lord” and think yourself close to God just because you prayed an unbiblical “sinner’s prayer”, you’re faithful to church, and do good deeds, is insufficient so as to sustain you in this world of muck and mire. We must know the Lord on the most intimate level if we can expect to be sustained through life’s trials and tribulations.
We are instructed in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” In other words, dwell on God, His Kingdom, His righteousness, His love, His power, His authority, His comfort, His promises, and whatever is of the Kingdom of God. There is no way, in the midst of chaos and confusion, any of us can set our minds on these things if we are not locked in to God 24/7/365. It’s difficult enough when you are, so you can understand the difficulty of being able to reroute your mind when you’re only a Sunday church-goer or Christian by title and not in daily action.
Life can be grueling, no doubt. I know, for me, even though I know God and His Word intimately, how challenging it can be to “speak that which is not as though it already was” as did God Himself in Romans 4:17. We are to speak God’s promises, not the circumstances. Inevitably, when I get worn down, sometimes the circumstances come right through my lips without even thinking. That’s the nature of the flesh at hand. I have to immediately pull down the words (remove them) and replace them by speaking God’s promises. As with Sophia, though it appears she’ll never be better (circumstance), I speak, “I thank God she’s already healed, in Jesus’ name. We will soon witness the physical manifestation of God’s promise of her healing.” If I didn’t walk and talk with God every moment of every day, I would not have His strength to overpower my fleshly weaknesses.
Throughout the challenges with having had toxic black mold in our home causing the auto-immune issues of which Sophia and I have had to contend, God has been faithful so as to speak directly to my spirit reassuring me we are both healed. Believe me, there were times all I could see was the pain and suffering but, regardless, because I hold fast to His promise, I can see the end from the beginning. No one can survive (much less thrive) in this wicked world with merely some theology and a lot of church activities. Survival and thriving through this rough terrain requires knowing God in such a way that no one and nothing can steal your faith. Having a mind set on the heavenly (whatsoever is good, pure, etc.) instead of that of the earthly (whatsoever is horrible, bleak, tainted, etc.) is a matter of life and death.
“For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God (II Timothy 1:6-8, NAS).”