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Lessons of Love and Forgiveness from a Testimony

(Ver 1.1) Today I believe that I am led to share a testimony from a friend.  I personally believe the Bible very strongly.  I believe the Bible is the inspired spoken word of an Almighty God that has been written down by human men for our spiritual benefit to learn and grow from it.  God’s word says in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is nothing new under the sun.  This verse informs me very clearly that history repeats itself.  What has been will be again.  And this lesson also teaches us that if we do not learn what has happened to others we can very easily fall into the same trap of Satan our self.  I believe that any one of us should say “if not for the grace of God there go I” when reading about what others have done or not done.  I ask you to read this testimony with an open mind but also with a heart of love, mercy and forgiveness.  I know there will be some that will feel superior and self-righteous while reading this like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11 that prayed and said “I thank you God that I am not as other men” and named sins that others were guilty of like a true hypocrite would.  However, this self-righteous Pharisee was condemned by Jesus for his attitude and his words and I believe that it would be very wise for us all to not to choose to do the same.  Please allow me to give you the foundational Bible verse for this short lesson:

2Co 2:10  To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; 

2Co 2:11  Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

 

In verse 11 is found the primary focused warning written to Christians concerning for us to not be ignorant of Satan’s traps, plans and pursuits. But, the context of this statement is clearly about our forgiveness and more specifically about us forgiving other men for what they have done.  According to the inspired word of God in Mark 11:25, if we do not forgive what others have done, God will not forgive us either of our sins.  I believe this teaches us that there is a divine spiritual law of reciprocal activity. I believe that how we treat others will be how God will treat us and this is His divine reciprocal choice. Therefore, if we forgive others we will be forgiven and if we do not forgive others we are in serious trouble. Please learn to forgive others, it is an absolute necessity.

Before we read the testimony I would like us to learn another very important truth from this verse 11.  This verse plainly states that if we do not forgive others it will open the door for our enemy Satan to come in and attack us.  This truth is very similar to what occurred in the life of Job but Job’s sin was different than what is being spoken of here in Verse 11.  Here in verse 11 God informs us that Satan is able to take advantage over any Christian if we allow Him to do so by our wrong actions of implied un-forgiveness.   Perhaps soon the Lord will lead me to write a more complete Study on the subject of how we open the door for the enemy but that is really not the main subject today.

Let’s read the testimony and learn what the enemy did to one of our dear brothers in Christ.  Try to think about what is said from his perspective and not your own personal viewpoint like a Pharisee.

 

LOST & FOUND

 

This is my testimony:

“I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch, like me.

Through many dangers toils and snares, I have already come.

How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”

(lyrics, from the song, Amazing Grace)

 

In the safe recesses of my memory is that time so many years ago cuddling on my mother’s lap while she read to me the classic children story, “The Little Engine that Could,” by Watty Piper. I would have her read it every night if my way prevailed, and sometimes mom would read it two times in one sitting: “Again, again,” my young voice pled.  It was such a monumental struggle for that little engine to pull those cars full of toys up that mountain for delivery to the children on the other side. That captivating thought flooded my mind: “I think I can, I think I can.”  Despite its size, the little engine triumphantly pulls the train up that mountain. Would it? Could it? The image was real and I sensed even then that life at times could be a challenge and a true struggle.  As a mere child of four, I began to grasp this lesson that life may at times be a struggle reaching the other side to that place of joy and victory.

Two decades later, in my early twenties, I found myself singing in a Christian band. Often we sang this somewhat country classic, “Life is Like a Mountain Railway.” In this song the lyrics warn, “…we must make the run successful from the cradle to the grave.  Watch the curves that fill the tunnel, never falter never fail; keep your hands upon the throttle and your eyes upon the rail. Blessed Savior there to guide us, Till we reach that blissful shore, And the angels there to join us, In God’s grace…, forevermore…” I see a thread and theme from early life. Many years from those moments that single message of struggle I have surely known. Yet, the Savior of my soul has never left or forsaken me, though at times I had strayed, wandered, and taken my eyes off the rails, He has always kept His eyes upon me.

I learned early the fallacy of believing that once you confess Jesus as your personal Lord, and personally accept His sacrificial crucifixion, that life will be an effortless and pain-free endeavor. No, it has not been that. I learned a phrase when acquiring my pilot license. This phrase was a seasoned pilot’s definition of flying: “Flying,” he said, “are hours of boredom, broken up by moments of sheer terror!” Christian life might be like that too.

Another analogy which helps explains how I experience life as a Christian is to recall the two years spent in a war zone. A variation to the old pilots’ thoughts was an enemy strategy of deliberately leading us into a state of lethargy. Days would go by, weeks, and maybe a month and his presence seemed to vanish. There would be little or no confrontations. The enemy would lay low, hide, retreat, allowing the thought to develop in us that he was either beaten or uninterested. Slipping into relative peacefulness you never saw hell dropping on top of you. In the middle of a fitful sleep, the sky would explode with light and fire, concussions of rockets knocking you from your bunk. Noises of confusion as people ran yelling orders, weapons rattling as everyone scrambled for orientation, the smell of sulfurs and fears all combined in that dark. For days following such attacks, we would again become hyper vigilant to movement, sounds, and imaginations. You had to realize that the enemy was unpredictable and ruthless. No matter the seeming peaceful state you enjoyed, in a war zone you had to always remain prepared.

Clearly, a harsh reality was to know that though many people loved you at home, there were well-armed people very close by who hated you for simply being you. This was a hard concept to embrace emotionally – that another living person actually would kill you without any regret or regard. Over the two years in that place I had to be reminded on many occasions this was a war zone and blood could be spilt at any moment. Today I am reminded that Christians may struggle with the idea someone hates them and labors to harm them. We mostly tend to see ourselves as lovable, kind, sensitive, and peaceable; why would anyone hate you or desire your ruin?

I became a Christian one year after I was discharge from the U.S. Army. Although I’d never known the true Gospel or the acceptance of Jesus’ personal gift to me, memories of childhood are full of a consciousness of God’s existence and even His presence. I believed in God, I simply didn’t know His Word or just how deep and profound was my need for His righteousness and acceptance. By His plan I was led to hear the Gospel of Jesus preached, and my heart opened to ‘hear’ the Truth. With a faith, only gained as a gift, I was willing and able to call out and ask for forgiveness and acceptance, embracing Jesus’ sacrifice and the provision of His eternal life indwelling me daily. At twenty-one, my feet and heart were set on a new course. The Word of God was coming alive in me, a passion and gratefulness washed over me. I was free from guilt, free from wandering in the darkness of life and given a purpose and qualification to pursue my Heavenly Father and Lord Jesus, with the help and power of the Holy Spirit. I began to run.

After becoming ‘saved’ my resume,’ so to speak, began to grow and included a number of wonderful activities and accomplishments. I’d become the president of the Christian Fellowship in college, and the co-founder of a contemporary Christian band and theatrical ministry travelling much of New England proclaiming the good news on college campuses, coffee houses, park concerts and churches. Out of that ministry came a radio ministry which I hosted for five years. Eventually I was trained and prepared to launch out on a new church ministry. The church began with approximately twelve dedicated people as we began ministering in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Over the following fifteen years our family at home increased, and the church too grew in new members and growing outreaches. In some ways it all seemed quite successful, with lots of effective outreaches, joys, and progress – perhaps as men judge progress. Though it was understood struggles could and did come, most things were manageable and the enemy seemed at bay and easily contained. In hindsight, and with further spiritual growth, I think too much of our methods for handling conflict were undertaken in fleshly and carnal ways, depending on our human capabilities and gifting. I had thought I was prepared and equipped for a prosperous Christian life and ministry, I don’t believe I ever would have imagined the viciousness and true spiritual battles yet to be faced in life. Though I’d studied ‘spiritual warfare’ through reading books, hearing sermons, and of course studying the Bible, the battles to come would compound beyond my imagination.

Certainly in those years simple and relatively ineffective skirmishes had to be faced. However, the first and most devastating battle and conflict came when my wife and I endured the still birth of our full term baby son, Jedidiah. The agony of losing him was unimaginable. The enemy made a move, he had a foothold. Between guilt, anger, uncertainty, hurt, loss, and unending questions living in my mind, this attack wounded deeply. In further hindsight, it was a harbinger of intense battles yet to be waged.

The toll of poor choices, such as putting other interests before our marital union, including but not limited to inattention, alienation of affections, over commitments to many so-called important activities, including ‘Christian work,’ led to the degeneration and finally dissolution of marriage. While the marriage was failing the church suffered greatly. Eventually, as people began to leave, the ministry came to a close. Not only had the battle raged externally, the inward condition was too troubled to continue reaching out to others. This seemed total devastation, and life began a further downward spiral. I sincerely began to doubt if “I could.” One might wonder if the battles were over.

No, it was far from over. Doubts flooded my soul; how could God let these things happen? How far away from God’s will had I been? Could I ever really hear God’s will and know how to follow? Had I been so unfaithful God simply did not desire my fellowship any longer? I was in a wilderness, it was hard to hear, hard to feel, sometimes hard to care. I questioned my prayer, honestly thinking perhaps I had committed an unpardonable sin (I realize today how this sounds, yet then it was overwhelming). Feeling and believing myself unworthy, with a strong sense of failure, satan was relentless. He knew I was one struggling to stay off the mat, like a fighter pummeled. Perhaps I was heading for the final knock-out. Surely it appeared faith to believe God loved me was being knocked out of me under a relentless flurry of strikes. Not only was I not able to love myself, surely God no longer cared either. Satanic influence was overwhelming. A sad consequence was running from God’s Word. What I began to see in Scripture was condemnation and judgment of so many failures. My mind was being blinded, my eyes shutting under the force of so many punches.

My behaviors reflected this loss. I became reclusive. I was afraid to speak the truth – even to myself. Little did I know, but an incident which occurred a year after the marriage ended, would soon be used as a complete knock-out punch. Not only had I been rejected by a wife, I surely must be rejected by God. Desperate for companionship and acceptance I was now susceptible to even more poor choices. What began as an innocent moment of consolation with a vulnerable woman, lapsed into inappropriate intimacy. This was but a momentary mutual action, and one which did not consummate in other than brief petting, however, it would be more than enough for Satan to throw the haymaker and accuse me of behavior which never took place. Seven years later the story had escalated and false accusations were brought against me. I was accused and convicted of an indecent assault.

The day I heard the judge pronounce a prison sentence, I certainly knew my life was finally and perhaps mercifully over. I was so alone and afraid. Clearly God must now despise me. I must have been cast out. I had some defect which I may have been unaware and which meant God could not love me. Did I bring this on myself? Nothing was clear. Would clarity ever come to me?

Within the first twenty-four hours of prison, perhaps that which I feared most seemed to face me. I was being confronted by a large African man in a prison cell block, accompanied by a Spanish speaking Porte Rican. The previous twenty-four hours found me plunging into a deep abyss of darkness, fear, anxiety, and despair believing that I would never know God’s love or care again. This seemed the ultimate abandonment, the bottom, a profound loss of hope and self abhorrence; it was a dreadful aloneness. What would become of me? What would my grandchildren think? What about my children, how could they manage this horror?

And there he was, towering over me, a huge man, speaking to me in such a thick African accent I could barely understand. His question, “Are you okay?” “Are you okay?” over and over he asked. He was blocking me and I couldn’t see anything but this giant and threatening looking man. Finally I said, “No, I am not okay!” And then as he looked at me, with what I now know were deeply compassionate eyes, the most amazing sounds came from him. He began to minister wonderful, loving words to me, expressing that God knows where I am, and that He is here with me, that He has never left me or forsaken me. He began to share that through all of this, God had a big plan for me, and He was going to use this to shape me anew….

And then his voice seemed to slip away and I no longer actually heard his continued speaking or the terrible sounds of the cell block. Rather, I seemed to leave that cell block and went someplace in my spirit that was quite, safe and peaceful. There I faced the Holy Spirit One on one. Though my questions were not directly addressed, I knew He was aware, and what He did was fill me with peace, with confidence, and with the assurance of His love and clearly His acceptance and compassionate comfort. Though I realized the answers I needed so desperately wouldn’t happen then, I knew an assurance of His control coming alive in me again. I actually knew the reality was that “all things work together for those who love Him…” Though burdened with guilt, doubts, and a sense of abandonment, and feeling profoundly lost during this season of battle, I now knew He was not going to let me go! I knew more and more would be revealed as I trusted in Him once again, fully and without apprehension or insecurity.

The suffering did not end completely that night, but the awareness I was really no longer in chains, no longer a prisoner to what I could only imagine to be failure, guilt, shame, and to letting my Lord down, began to flood my life, and has continued to this very day. And then, as if awakening from a dream, the awareness of my terrible surroundings came in to focus again and I spoke once more to this man, his name I learned was Adam. I simply said, “I am okay now!” Though still facing many unknowns, there was within a new courage, a sure hope and that certain assurance He was with me through it all.

Is it biblical as a Christian to be touched a second time, a third time, again and again? This is a question you may ask yourself. When we speak of salvation is it a one-time event, or is this an ongoing saving? Though I’ve walked through a deep and dark valley, I have found the battle is won and our Lord’s grace is sufficient for me. What I have found is that “Greater is He which is in me than he that is in the world.” What I have found is that “What (satan) intends for evil, God intends for good.” What I have found is that “When I am truly weak, He is truly strong.” What I have found is that when others forsake and bare false witness, with harsh judgment, He embraces and accepts and walks with you. What I have found is that He has a balm of healing and restoration in which He brings double, triple, and unknown levels of restoration, hope, confidence and love. All of these testify that when He saves you it is an everlasting salvation and one which Satan cannot snatch, though he may expend wicked energies and efforts to destroy us at any opportunity.

I have found we really do live in a world of spiritual battles, and unless we stand prepared to engage, with God’s Word, with unwavering faith and without doubt, anyone can stumble, anyone can fall. And there are many biblical warnings that we should never stand proud in ourselves believing we could never fall or let the Lord down. I have found the evil one is paying close attention and he is crouched at the door. But, I have found that though a child of God fall, our Father will not walk past and look elsewhere. He will stoop to our lowest place and with the heart of the Good Samaritan, He will bind our wounds, He will bring us to a safe place, and He will pay whatever the price to see we are rewarded our place with Him in His everlasting Kingdom of love and peace.   And finally, for now, I have found that the Callings of God are without repentance (without a change of His heart), and that “what He began in us He is faithful to bring to pass.”

 

CONCLUSION

We all have failed and come short of the Glory of God. If you have never failed then you are free to cast the first stone at my friend. But for me I will not be picking up any stones. Love will always restore a brother and help a brother that is turned around and is making the effort to do what is right. There was only one sinless man on the earth and His name was Jesus Christ. He did not come into the world to condemn the world and this was the main lesson from John 8:11 and John 3:17.

Gal 6:1  Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

We could spend days on this verse alone. We all too often look at another man’s faults while ignoring our own.  The problem with this verse is that it is extremely conditional.  Only a few people that I have seen in my life qualify to ever be called truly “spiritual”.  It would take me more time to explain this truth than I also have today.  I will simply inform you that I do not yet feel that I qualify to be at this level of this category.  I am human as well as my friend.  I have made mistakes and have been in the flesh sometime too often.  It is my heart’s desire to become more spiritual and I pray that it will be yours as well.

My main point from Galatians 6:1 is that we should be on a pathway that helps to restore people back into the fellowship with Christ. If anyone that calls themselves a Christian and is not trying to build up a brother that has fallen then I believe that they are either extremely carnal Christians or I doubt seriously that they are a Christian at all.

I would like to end this mini lesson with the warning that is given to us in Galatians 6:1. Here we find a similar bit of wise counsel that we read first in 2 Corinthians 2:11.  Remember when Paul said Satan could get an advantage over us?  That is the similar advice being transferred to us in this statement “lest we also be tempted”.  The implied words not being directly related to us is that if we don’t forgive someone for what they have done and then pursue (make an effort) to restore them back to the LORD, we our self could be carried away by the same trap of deception.  I find that very powerful and more than just a suggestion to follow after.

I pray that this testimony has been an encouragement to someone.  Perhaps you have fallen in a similar way.  It is not too late for you to turn your life around as my friend did.

If you have a comment about this lesson, you are free to share it. However, if you are going to be mean spirited and unforgiving, I will warn you that I will probably not publish your comment.  Also, if you have a good testimony like my friend about how God has worked and changed you, I would love for you to share that.

My friend that wrote his testimony is doing well.  God has helped him tremendously and blessed him. He reads his Bible, and studies it.  He goes to church.  He prays for me and others.  He has been a great encouragement to me.  I believe that the Spirit of God led my new friend to contact me and get to know me.  I am very happy to call him my friend and I praise God for a new brother in Christ that I will hopefully meet here or in heaven soon.

Thank you for reading and studying the Bible with me on this website. I am always amazed at the love and grace of God that permits me to do this for Him.   May God bless you and keep you.

 

 

Understanding Bible Faith! Do I Have All the Faith I Need For Right Now? Part 13

(Ver 1.2)  This is Part 13 in a series of Bible studies answering the questions about the Reality of Bible Faith.  What it is, where it came from, how I get it, why it is important and how you can use it.  I have taught many things in this series so I will not attempt to repeat them all again today.  If you have not read this series from the beginning I would strongly recommend that you go back to Part 1 and start reading there first.  In previous lessons I taught that faith was measurable meaning every Christian believer does not possess the same amount of faith.   That teaching raised the question that many people have; does that mean I need more faith if the situation that I am facing is greater or more severe?  Well I listened to a TV preacher this week that said that every Christian already had all of the faith of Jesus available to them right now.  This preacher then implied that the only problem that a Christian possessed was simply that they did not know how to use the faith that they already had.  In a way I agree with those statements and when I heard only his Bible verses that he gave he made a very convincing lesson.  But he also failed to mention or take into account all of the other scriptures that I have given you that contradicts what he was teaching.  The Bible is way too complicated for us to take one set of truths and attempt to make them the entire truth.  If we do this then we are claiming to be smarter than God and choosing to ignore what else God says on the subject.  There are over 220 verses in the New Testament alone that directly mention the word “faith” and then there are many other indirect related verses that must also be considered on the related dependent subjects of believing, beliefs, confidence, expectation, fear, doubt, unbelief and worry to name a few.  In order to confidently teach any subject we are going to have to know the majority if not all of the verses that are related to the subject of faith.  For example here is one verse that my TV preacher brother must have ignored on the subject of faith:

2Co 10:15  Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly,

Paul in writing to the Corinthian church and is looking down the road to the future when their faith would be increased in order that they can become a greater blessing to others.  Wow, I do not know if you heard what I just said.  Paul does not tell the Corinthians that they already have ALL FAITH and that they just need to learn how to use it.  Paul clearly says your faith is growing and you need to continue to allow it to grow.   The Greek word translated as “increased” means to grow, increase or enlarge.  If you can enlarge your faith, then you do not have all of the faith that you could have.  There is a definite statement of conditionality placed upon their faith increasing.  It is very clear to me that they do not possess enough faith to accomplish what Paul is looking for or expecting for them to use right now.  Do you understand this?  Faith is like a growing plant or even the fruit on a tree.  Spiritual growth is like natural growth.  When you are born again as a spiritual child you do not yet possess the fullness of all love, joy, peace or any other fruit of the spirit.  Spiritual fruit grows on spiritual trees and it is not something that just magically appears and is there instantly.  People are the spiritual trees that will produce the spiritual fruit, if they feed their spirits and water their spirits with the word of God to allow this fruit to grow.  The word “faith” is included as one of the nine fruits of the spirit found in Galatians 5.  Planting seeds and getting harvests is how practically everything in the spiritual realm works.  The concept of planting seeds and growing fruit is a natural concept that applies directly to the spiritual realm.  Faith is a fruit of the Spirit and not something that you have all of the moment you become a Christian.

Rom 10:17  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

In an earlier Bible lesson on faith I taught you about how faith comes.  Reading in Romans 10:17, we know that Bible Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  Therefore Bible faith has a staring origination point that is totally dependent upon you first hearing God’s Word.  If there is no hearing, then there is no ability to have faith in God.   When you were saved it was because you heard a preacher tell you the truth about Jesus Christ and you believed it and you accepted and confessed Him as your Lord.  Does this concept of hearing God’s Word and getting faith carry forward beyond salvation or does it end at salvation?  In other words is a Christian when they are born again automatically given all the faith that they will ever need as my Christian brother was teaching?  Or is faith still based upon the foundational principle found in Romans’ 10:17 of hearing God’s Word and getting faith?   According to my TV preacher friend, you already have all of the faith given to you by God and you just need to learn how to use it or to apply it.  If that was true, ignoring Romans 10:17 Christians would never need to hear the Word of God again after they were saved.  There would be no need to go to church, no need to study the Bible and no requirement to listen to another preacher.  Just go get saved and you got it made.  Unfortunately this is not how I have discovered that spiritual things work.

The problem with this philosophical doctrine of automatic faith maximization is that it relieves Christians of any further responsibility to learn more about faith and it reduces or oversimplifies the truth that you only need to learn to use what you have already been given by God.  Think with me about the children of Israel looking into the Promised Land of God.  Did God not say I have given you the land?  Did they automatically possess this land?  Obviously they did not and they still had personal responsibilities to perform in order to possess what was clearly given to them by God.  My point is that just because God has given you something does not mean that you have it in your possession and can use it.  One of the verses that my TV preacher brother used was the one that I already addressed in this series so I will not repeat all of that information again.  This verse was found in Romans 12:3 and it is one that many preachers like to jump onto and claim that every Christian has been given the same exact measure of faith by God and they therefore reason that there is no need to try to increase it, just use it.   What we need to understand is that the Bible holds more than one truth on any given subject.  We are therefore required to learn them all and then to balance each of them to become aware of the actual overall truth.  I keep saying this and I will continue to say it, the Bible is much more complex than you think.  Let me show you another verse in the Bible about faith and then you tell me how this verse conflicts directly with what the unnamed TV preacher said:

Rom 12:6  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

Can you read?  Can you understand the words written in this verse?  If God had given to everyman the Measure of Faith why is there differing proportions of faith that is required to prophesy?   The Greek word translated as “proportion” means a piece or a part and not the whole amount.  I guess you could reason away this verse by saying that you have all faith, but that it only requires a small part of the whole to prophesy.  That is certainly one way to look at.  However, I do not believe that is what God is saying.  If it was, then you should stand up in church next Sunday and start to prophesy and see exactly what comes out of your mouth and if any of it actually comes to pass.  If it does not happen like you said then you are a false prophet.  I personally believe whatever we do for God is done by our faith in Him.  But that does not mean that we already have all of His faith.  It means we need to learn to use the small part that we do possess and then allow it to grow into a greater quantity.  The usage of the word proportion clearly implies growth potential to me.  I guess you could choose to look at it differently if you want to.   Let me show you another potential set of conflicting verses with contradictory information for my TV preacher brother:

1Co 12:8  For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

1Co 12:9  To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

1Co 12:10  To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

1Co 12:11  But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

Paul is writing about spiritual gifts that come from the Spirit of God that have been given to different men and women in the church.  It is very clear that some have some of these gifts and probably many others do not.  The Word of Wisdom and the Word of Knowledge are two impartations of the Spirit of God that I have seen demonstrated by only a very few preachers.  These are very clearly not spiritual gifts that everyone possesses, only a very few.  Now we continue to the next verse 9 and it says to another meaning not the same one as before God has been given the gift of Faith.  Uh oh?  That seems to be a major problem for my TV preacher brother.  This verse is NOT saying that God has given to every man this gift, is it?  Why is it even necessary for God to give any man this spiritual gift of faith if God has already given to EVERY man “the measure of faith” as the TV preacher has claimed?  I think that is a very excellent question to try to figure out the answer to.  My TV preacher brother probably could not answer this question or didn’t think of this question, so he must have just ignored this information.    What is the gift of faith?  For that matter what are any of the gifts that are mentioned in these verses referring to?  If you do not know what they are then you are certainly going to write them off as being unrelated or unimportant.  Every spiritual gift mentioned in these verses is a SUPERNATURAL manifestation of the Spirit of God through a human being to accomplish a divine purpose on the earth.  Why is this necessary?   Wow that is another excellent question we need to answer today.  I believe it is necessary because God can only accomplish things that we cannot in our own ability or power if we cooperate and believe.  God occasionally gives to us spiritual gifts such as the working of miracles to confirm His word that has been taught.   God will also use the Word of Wisdom or the Word of Knowledge for a sign to help those present.  God will use other of the spiritual gifts as ways to strengthen, build up and to edify the body of Christ.

Let’s go back to faith and leave the other spiritual gifts alone for now.  Why if a Christian already has all the faith of Jesus would it be necessary for God to give them this spiritual gift of faith?  In one of my faith lessons I taught that Jesus always claimed that it was the individual faith of the person receiving that was the determining factor mentioned for anything supernatural that occurred on the earth.  If you do not understand this concept you better go back and reread that lesson again.  This meant that nothing happened supernaturally on the earth unless a man or a woman believed God and His word and placed their faith in only those factors.  This is why everything in the Old Testament occurred.  This is why everything in the Gospels occurred.  This is why everything in the modern church still occurs today.   For example in the O.T., the deliverance of Israel from Egypt was based upon the faith and obedience of Moses.  If Moses did not have any faith in God and would not have believed what was spoken to him then the children of Israel would still be in captivity or God would have had to find another deliverer who did believe Him.  What about Noah and the great flood of the planet?  Could God have saved Noah anyway, the animals and the blood line of Christ if Noah had not believed God and obediently built the boat instructed by God by faith?  You see it was only Noah’s faith and obedience in God’s word that caused the supernatural power of God to manifest.  I probably will get some people, who disagree with me, but you go through the Bible and you see the involvement of the partnership of man with any major event of supernatural demonstration of the power of God and then you tell me one (other than creation before there was a man) that God did independently from man.  Even the virgin birth required Mary to believe in the words of an angel sent by God.  It was clearly her faith that allowed God to come into the world in the flesh.  What I’m getting at is that faith allows God access into the world and the lack of faith prohibits or reduces His ability to do anything.  I know I’m going to get a lot of religious commenters from these statements that try to tell me that God is sovereign and that He can do whatever He desires at any time.  Ignorant people often say things that are problematic to others who actually know more about the subject under discussion.

Understand what the gift of faith is.  The gift of faith is the supernatural faith of God present inside a man to accomplish something that a man would not normally be able to accomplish without it.  Also note that none of these spiritual gifts are resident full time in anyone.  They are there temporarily as the Spirit wills to accomplish a single goal and never given at the will of the man or woman using them.  They are given by God for a short time and they are then dormant.  Even Jesus Christ who was God in the flesh and had the Spirit of God without measure could not operate in all of the spiritual gifts all the time.  You go through the Gospels and read them very closely.  You will see every manifestation of the spiritual gifts (except tongues and interpretation) mentioned in the ministry of Jesus Christ at one time or the other.  But at other times Jesus could not do any miracles because of the unbelief of the people present (Mark 6:5) and then other times Jesus did not even know who it was that touched his garment and got healed (Mark 5:30).  The presence of Jesus at the porches healed only one man and there were probably hundreds of others who did not get healed (John 5:2-3).   It clearly shows the manifestation of the Spirit of God was totally dependent upon the Spirit of God and not the man that was given the gifts.  I hope you understand these concepts.  If not, please ask me questions and I’ll try to answer them more clearly.

Heb 12:2  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I’ll wrap this lesson up with this verse for today.  I find this verse very interesting in the chosen phrasing of the translators.  Jesus Christ is called the “Author” of our faith.  Clearly this implies to us that our faith has a starting or originating point.  The Greek word “author” technically means a chief leader.  However I love the use of the word “author” in this verse.  In the English language the term author means the writer of words.  Since we learned that faith comes by hearing God’s Words earlier we know that faith is a spiritual word based system given to us from God.  Without God’s words there would be no Bible faith on the earth.  In the context within this verse Jesus is also called the “finisher” or “completer” of our faith.  It sounds like a man writing a book.  It sounds like the book was started at some point in time and then progressively grown through phases or chapters to an ultimate end of completion.  Writing a book is like growing a garden of words.  This is what God is doing whether you realize it or not.  That is how I view our faith and God’s Word.  I believe that the hearts of men and women are the new writing tablets of God’s divine authorship and I can give you Bible verses to back that belief:

Heb 8:10  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

Did you see what God says in Hebrews 8:10?  God says I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their spirits.  How does God get His words into or onto your spirit?   Is that an automatic one time occurrence or is that an ongoing continual process?  My personal faith in God had a starting point and my faith is now increasing based upon my knowledge of God’s word and it will eventually be completed because of the continuing work of the Spirit of Christ within me.  This is the continuing ever increasing faith and that represents a state of transitional passage from faith to ever increasing faith (Rom 1:17).  This tells me that we are responsible for participating in the spiritual growing process of our faith.  This tells me that it is not automatic or that we have already been given all of the faith that we need.  If our faith was already complete, we would no longer need a Jesus to be our finisher.  Wow, I hope you understood what I just said.  I am still awaiting a completed work of my savior Jesus Christ and I hope you are also.  But, I also have a role to play.  It is only with my involvement that God will continue to write on my heart His Word.  Jesus is the Author, His word is the spiritual ink, my heart represents His blank pages and I get them written onto my heart by hearing them over and over.  This is how things work and when you understand that you will be on the path to growing up into a faith giant killer like David.

I have attempted to teach you another basic faith lesson today.  No you do not have all of the faith that you need to do everything that you need to do for God.  If you did, then we would all be in heaven right now.  Ask yourself this question, do I know and understand the entire Bible?  If you answered no, then you do not have all of the faith that you could have.  We are all still growing in the knowledge of Him and we better all be building our faith in increasing stages.  I really did not talk directly about how much faith you need for each situation.  I believe that it takes greater faith for bigger situations.  In other words there are people today that have faith for millions of dollars that at one time they did not have faith for even two dollars’ worth of food.  My TV preacher friend was one of those individuals.  His testimony was that he and his wife went a long time without food because they had no money when they first started in the ministry.  Now he teaches on TV and it costs him literally millions of dollar to pay the costs of TV time.  Truly it is self-evident that his faith has increased over the years because his knowledge of God’s word also increased over the years at the same time.  So if you want to be a TV preacher and think it is automatic success, just try it and we will watch you fail.  I have seen many preachers on TV fail and they are no longer around.  It is very clear to me that those who succeed are those that believe God will supply the need and those that fail are those that ask for donations from people.  Faith is always the factor for success.  But faith as we saw in Romans 12:6 is proportional.  God said for us to do thing according the proportion of our faith.  It was implied that we could overextend our faith and fail.  If you want to start a TV ministry, first start with a group in your house and build your faith to grow to the millions of viewer level.  If you fail with 4 in your house then you will fail even more with 4 million on TV.  So faith is a factor and faith grows but there is also another matter that needs to be taken into account.  Jesus taught us that even with a mustard seed size of faith we could move a mountain (Mat 17:20).  A mountain represents a symbolic great obstacle or problem.   So we must balance the fact that we do not have all of the faith that we could have with the fact that we just might have enough faith to solve at least some of our problems we are facing right now.  What I recommend is that you prioritize your problems.  Maybe they are financial, marital, children, or job related, emotional or even physical health related.  Then go find all of the scriptures you can find on that subject that you deem to be your greatest need.  Finally, feed your spirit on them daily speaking them out loud to yourself so that you can hear them to cause faith to come.  There will come a time very soon after you do this continually that faith will become resident in our heart to solve your problem in that area.  I also recommend that you do not start with the greatest most severe problem and combine every related need at the same time.  To overwhelm your faith can be disastrous.  It is usually best to start with the smaller things first and then work to the larger things like my TV minister example.  Get faith for your daily natural food needs and then grow your faith to the millions of dollars of TV time costs.  My TV preacher brother did not start on TV, he spent many, many years not on TV learning God’s word and growing in faith.  It is like David in the Old Testament.  He started watching sheep and grew to be King of Israel.  David killed lions and bears before he ever tried to take down the giant facing Israel.  Grow in faith and learn how faithful God is with your small successes and then greater things will come to allow you to have larger victories.

I hope and pray that you have learned more about the subject of Bible faith than you knew before.  This is always my goal.  I want to provide spiritual knowledge and insight to help you to grow spiritually.  Thanks for taking the time to study the Bible with me today on the subject of faith.  My guess is that I’m not even close to being finished with this topic but it will help me to know if you have any specific questions in any area.  So drop me a comment and share anything that you might be struggling with and I will do my best to try to be a blessing to you.  So until next time, may God continue to bless you with all the knowledge and spiritual wisdom of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

If you would like to continue to study in this series you may go to “Part 14“.

Gen 3:22-24 Guarding The Way To The Tree of Life Pt 2

(Ver 2.1)  This is Part 7 in a study series on the subject of Understanding Genesis 3.    It is also a continuation of the last lesson concerning the Tree of Life introduced by God in Genesis 2 & 3.  If you have not read the Genesis 3 lesson series from the beginning I might suggest that you go and start with verse 1 and read Part 1 first.  If you have not read this current subject on the tree of life from the beginning I would suggest that you go and start with “Part 6” first before you study today’s lesson.  Studying the Bible is one of the greatest challenges we will ever face in life, God who is a Spirit writes us a book about both natural and spiritual things and we have to be smart enough to discern which words are speaking of which.  This is by far one of the greatest challenge and the trickiest methods that God has implemented in this Book to conceal the truth.  You can clearly see that God calls spiritual things and natural things by the same name and that He rarely ever tells you which one He is talking about.  In my last blog I introduced you to some more complex subjects found in the Bible.  We began trying to figure out if the trees in the garden in Genesis 2 and 3, were physical fruit trees or were just symbolic representations of spiritual truths.  I am a firm believer that these trees, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life were symbolic spiritual representations.  I have a number of reasons for this logical deduction based upon many verses that I have already given to you and then some more we will discuss today.  In my last lesson on this subject I also showed how that God places a Cherubim to guard the way to the tree of life and how God was not keeping the way from the man, but from another spiritual being, someone who was interested in obtaining its power and benefits.   If you understand compass directions and reading maps you can understand what I showed you last time about the differences between east and west.

Next I also took you to Revelation and showed you in the last chapter the clear reference to the tree of life.  It is funny how things from the beginning are repeated in the prophecies of the end.  It seems to me that God must have wanted it (the tree of life) to play a major role in His plan if it ends up the way it started.  We can see that this information found in Revelation 22 seems to imply we are that tree, that produces fruit and drinks from the river of life flowing from the throne of God, but that is my opinion.  Today I want to go through other scriptures found in the Bible that describes this tree.  These are the verses that represent God’s commentary on the subject so I place great value upon them.  Hopefully we can, by searching the Bible see who or what this tree of life is and who God was keeping from it.  If you search your Bible using your computer you will discover around 11 verses that contain a direct reference to this “tree of life”.  These three words occur, four times in Genesis, three times in Revelation and four times in Proverbs.  It is absolutely fascinating what these verses say to us.  We will start with the last verse in the Bible about this tree.

 Rev 22:14  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

In this verse that is written to the church it declares that those who keep God’s Words may have the right to the tree of life.  The word “right” here is a very interesting word because it means authority, power, and liberty.  But more than that, it can refer to someone who is a potentate, magistrate and superhuman.  These are all terms of royal sovereignty and ruler ship; terms given to kings for example.   I believe what God is saying is that He wants it to end how it started, but without the influence of evil.  To me it goes along with Genesis where God said that Adam could stretch forth his hand (power) and take from the tree of life.  God intended the man to eat from this tree of life from the beginning, but Adam made the wrong choice.  Now let’s go to the first occurrence in Revelation and see what that verse says to us.  Here we find Jesus speaking to the church:

Rev 2:7  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

You see some more valuable information given to us.  Jesus is speaking directly to the church and He tells us, that whoever overcomes, to him will be given to eat from the tree of life.  Overcoming implies an enemy or opposition force that is opposing us, trying to keep us from eating and partaking of that which was promised.  The prize of winning this battle or contest appears to be us eating from this tree of life.  That sure seems to be the reward for overcoming these evil forces of opposition.  Finally, we see the location of this tree given again.  This time it does not contain any reference to or is any way associated with the Garden of Eden.  Even though we do not know the actual location of this tree of life we can clearly see its relationship being repeated with it being in the “middle” of the paradise of God.  Adam, when God told him of this tree said it was in the middle of the garden.  So what was this garden?  Where is this paradise?  What does it mean to be in the middle?  I feel that the term middle could be a symbolic reference to someone who is well centered.  Not into the extreme of this or that, but one that holds on to a well-balanced understanding of God’s Word.  Of course this is my opinion again and I would hope that you can at least understand how I arrived at that opinion. I would also make this suggestion for you to consider, Jesus when asked about the Kingdom of God always told people it is not here and it is not there, but the Kingdom of God is within you.  People wanted to focus on outward things and God wants us to focus on inward things.  Inward things would be things associated with the heart and the spirit of man.  Keep that in mind when trying to figure out where this paradise of God is located.  I believe that God’s garden is within us.  We are the garden of God that produces the precious fruit that God places such great value upon that He purchased it with His shed blood.

We can now move to the only other direct references in the Bible to the tree of life and these are found in the book of Proverbs.  Proverbs was written by King Solomon and holds great understanding and wisdom from God.  This book contains extremely valuable spiritual information about which we need to better understand.  I’m going to start with a verse found in the 11th chapter and it goes like this:

Pro 11:30  The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

This verse speaks to us about fruit in relation to a tree of life.  But did you notice where the fruit was and what type of fruit it is speaking about?  The clear implication is given to us that this is a spiritual tree with spiritual fruit.  The church is declared to be the righteous ones by faith, in the New Testament (Rom 10:10, 2 Cor 5:21), so we can claim this verse as applying to us directly with great confidence.  If we are supposed to produce fruit unto God as it says in Romans 7:4, then what kind of fruit is this that God is looking for?  We can clearly assume it is spiritual fruit and that spiritual fruit only grows on spiritual trees.  This is the “fruit” of the righteous and this verse says this comes from a tree that has eternal life.  I guess I paraphrased that verse a bit, but we will get there eventually so hang in there.

Pro 3:18  She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.

Here we have another verse which has great spiritual implications.  This verse points us to the origin for the fruit that we are supposed to be producing.  God’s words are declared to be the spiritual seeds of life.  If planted in our hearts and watered correctly it will produce this spiritual fruit.   In this verse in Proverbs God speaks about a woman who is symbolic of a spiritual force to be desired.  This woman if you look at the context of the chapter is called “wisdom” and “understanding”.  To have a sexual relationship with this woman is a covenant act of knowing her.  God declares that by knowing “wisdom” and “understanding” you will participate in eating from the tree of life.  It is a spiritual system of planting and reaping.  God’s word contains all of the essential ingredients necessary to produce this tree of life.  It actually says that by us knowing and understanding His word it would cause us to live and eat from the tree of life.  But it really says more than that, it implies that we are the trees of life that produces the fruit for God’s glory.  It is fascinating that we have read a couple of direct references to the tree of life and that these point us to spiritual things and not to any natural fruit trees in a physical garden.  God did make the natural fruit trees, to help us to understand these spiritual concepts, but too many Bible teachers have ignored the spiritual things to focus only on the natural.  Let’s continue in Proverbs to the next reference to this tree of life found in chapter 13:

Pro 13:12  Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

Pro 13:13  Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.

Pro 13:14  The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.

Pro 13:15  Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard.

These words again point us to spiritual things.  In verse 12 it declares that “desire” is a tree of life.  That to me is an interesting concept.  If you look up this word in the Strong’s, we can learn that this word means “lust”.  That implies there are certainly good and positive desires and things to lust after.  Conversely it means there are bad or evil things that you should not desire to know or participate with.  To lust after God and God’s Word are right desires that produce good results.  By reading down to verse 14 we can see another reference to the waters of life that flow from God’s throne.  These waters are again are God’s words and what He has spoken to us.  So within the context of these verses we have a relationship established between the tree of life and God’s words.  These are very awesome verses in Proverbs and we are at the last direct mention of the tree of life, given to us in chapter 15:

Pro 15:4  A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

This is probably the most important of all the verses that we have seen so far on this subject.  This verse informs us that the words coming out of our mouths produce this tree of life.  You see just because God says something good for you in the Bible, does not mean that you have to accept it.  You can say something totally opposite to what God has said and you will not benefit from what God has said in any way.  What you say is far more important than what you can possibly imagine.  What you say affects you personally more than it affects anyone else.  What you say personally determines if you are saved or not.  If you recall from another verse I gave in an earlier blog, also from Proverbs that says “death and life are in the power of the tongue” and then it says “those who love it will eat the fruit thereof”.   We can clearly see that God has given us the choice to live or die based upon what we say.  God’s spiritual system is a word based system.  Everything that God has done has originated from His spoken words.  God’s words have dominion over all other words, but yet they do not overrule the words that you speak.  God’s words are ultimate truth, but your words are what are true for you.  God does not force His will on anyone.  Your will and your words rule your life and determine your destiny.   The subject of words in the Bible is probably one of the most important subjects you can study and yet many ignore it and close their eyes to it.  Just because you ignore the subject doesn’t mean your words are not working for or against you.  The law of gravity works for you regardless of whether you understand it or not; if you do not believe in the law of gravity and step off a tall building you will find that your fall will be met with a disastrous end regardless of your beliefs.  It is much better if you cooperate with the laws of nature than if you ignore them.  This is the way of spiritual laws found in the Bible also.   Be smart enough to learn about spiritual laws and then let them rule your life.  Perhaps someday I will get into more depth on this subject of words in a future Blog.  I hope that you have been challenged to see these spiritual subjects today in some new light and that they have become more real to your spirit.  I have believe that I have given you sufficient evidence that the church is the ones who partake of the tree of life and produce fruit unto God.  There are many, many more scriptures in the Bible that speak to this subject and further confirm what I have been attempting to say to you.  If you can you should go and search for them and see what they say.  God Bless!

If you would like to continue reading the Bible study series on Understanding Genesis 3 please continue to “Part 8“.