Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Remember Who We Are

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And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Mark 10:13-16

When Michelangelo created a sculpture, he could see the sculpture within the marble before he began. When asked how he created a piece of sculpture, he answered that the sculpture already existed in the marble. God had already created the Pieta, David, and Moses, Michelangelo saw his job as getting rid of the excess marble to reveal God’s creation.

We are the same way. We don’t need to create the perfect “self,” God has already created it. Our perfect self is God’s unconditional love that lives within us. Our job is to allow the Holy Spirit to remove the fearful thinking, limiting beliefs, wrong conclusions about the past, and any other negatives that surround our perfect self, just as Michelangelo removed the excess marble to create his perfect sculptures.

God’s love for His children reaches beyond our behavior, our circumstances and our sin. In her book A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson writes:

To remember that we are part of God, that we are loved and loveable, is not arrogant. It’s humble. To think we are anything else is arrogant, because it implies that we’re something other than a creation of God. Nothing we have ever done or will do can mar our perfection in the eyes of God. We are deserving in God’s eyes because of what we are, not because of what we do.

What we do or don’t do is not what determines our essential value. It may determine our personal growth, but not our value. That is why God approves and accepts us as LGBT Christians. We were not created in sin; we were created in love.

In reality, our personal spiritual journey, is not so much a journey toward as it is a return to love. It is that same pure, simple, guiltless, perfect love that we came into the world possessing. It’s time to “remember who we are.” We should turn to God and exercise our free will by telling Him that we are willing to look at our lives, our circumstances, our feelings, our relationships differently. This “different look,” with consistent focus and intention, will allow the Holy Spirit to being healing light into our heart and mind. This light will dissolve away all that is not truth, all that is not love, returning us to the true essence of Christ, being one with Him. Then we will experience God’s peace, the peace that cannot be put into words.

We need to remind ourselves that God created us in love and in His image. We have everything we need to overcome the fears that have accumulated in our lives. Through God, we have access to the wellspring of perfect love.


Laboring in God’s Word

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“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
John 14:1-14

When you read what Philip said in verse 8 of John 14 does it seem like an unreasonable request? To the contrary, one might conclude that it was commendable. After all, what could be wrong with expressing a desire to see the Father whom Jesus often spoke about? Furthermore, Jesus had just mentioned that He would soon depart to go to the Father’s house and would come back for the disciples to take them there (John 14:1-3). No doubt this peaked the natural curiosity of Philip. What is the Father like? Yet, when we look at the reply of the Lord to Philip it is troubling. Philip was not commended, he was rebuked for his ignorance.

The end of the Lord’s public ministry was near and he did not fully grasp the most vital truth concerning Jesus – the manifestation of His Divine nature, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” Jesus had given proof of His Divine power throughout His ministry. Was it not Philip who said, “we have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write” (John 1:45). This led me to question how well the disciples of Jesus in our day know him? Do they understand all of the necessary truths that reveal the person and work of Christ revealed in God’s Word.

The early church father Jerome said, “to be ignorant of the Scripture is to be ignorant of Christ”. What I learn from the inquiry of Philip and Thomas (John 14:5) is that the duration of our exposure to truth does not guarantee that we are mature in the faith.

Last Sunday I mentioned that we must be hearers and doers of the Word. In Jesus we have the opportunity to overcome the nature of man. We can have the victory over the flesh by learning and applying the words of the truth. The path we are to follow is not the traditions of man, but the truth of the gospel of Christ. Seek His ways and you will find a path where there is no defilement. We must give ourselves to the “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

As far as I can tell the problem of Biblical ignorance is not due to a lack of resources. We have Bible dictionaries, systematic theology books, commentaries, lexicons, study Bibles, Christian internet web sites, books and more books from gifted authors. There is no end to the study aids at our disposal. However, all of these are of no use if we do not utilize them. They are tools to Bible understanding, but tools perform no work unless they are in the hands of the workman.

To study means to labor to discover the correct interpretation of a text. The problem is not ignorance, the problem is laziness and misplaced priorities. Some are like little babes who cannot feed themselves. This crowd is dependent on the spiritual food that comes only from the study others have done. The voice of their favorite Bible teacher has replaced the voice of the Holy Spirit who bears witness to the truth of His inspired Word through diligent personal study. Others are like Martha who was “troubled with many things (Luke 10:41).”

The maddening pace of the modern age is taking a toll on our lives, not only physically, but spiritually. We must learn from the great example set by Mary who “sat at Jesus feet and heard His word” (Luke 10:39). Take time today to sit alone at Jesus feet with your Bible and learn from Him. Consider this thought from the pen of William Whitaker, “God willed to have His truth, so sublime, so heavenly, sought and found with so much labor, the more esteemed by us on that account. For we generally despise and scorn whatever is easily acquired, near at hand, and costs small or no labor. But these things which we find with great toil and much exertion, those, when once we have found them out, we esteem highly and consider their value proportionally greater” – Disputations on Holy Scripture by William Whitaker 1588.


What Defiles a Person

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And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Mark 7:14-23

Last week, I wrote that I would continue my previous post with a follow-up to answer the last question posed to me. My commenter asked: “Regarding Jesus, what do you think Jesus means concerning sexual immorality defiling the heart in Mark 7:20-23? What sexual immorality would He have in mind and how would we know what He meant?”

First of all, you will notice that the verses that I quote above are Mark 7:14-23, not just Mark 7:20-23, because I wanted to present the wider context of what Jesus was saying. What is the key to living a life of truth and purity in Christ? Is it following the traditions of the church? No. Jesus in this section showed that purity in Christianity was not an outward thing but a matter of the heart.

Jesus had just scolded the Pharisees for following their traditions rather than following the word of God. In fact they gave such importance to their traditions that they completely negated the word of God, which was leading people astray. Jesus showed the error of their ways and then went on to correct them.

The argument came up over the washing of hands before eating. This was a tradition the Pharisees were teaching and were annoyed because the disciples of Jesus were not following their tradition. In showing the error of their argument, Jesus said to all the people that, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.” (Verses 14-15)

A person is not defiled by eating without washing their hands, at least not in the sight of God. A person is defiled when they behave poorly towards their fellow man. Real defilement is a matter of behavior not food. When someone behaves badly towards another they are showing a lack of respect and of love for that person. The basis of both the old and new covenants is love. So when a person acts in opposition to love, they are defiled for they are not acting in accordance with the nature and the will of God.

To eat with unwashed hands could make you sick physically, but it will neither commend nor cause your rejection before God. He does not care whether we wash our hands to eat or not. The old saying that “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” is completely wrong. What will cause you to be defiled is anger, wrath, malice, evil behavior, fornication, licentiousness, adultery, murder, deceit and so on. These are the true blots and blemishes on the character of man.

The application of what Jesus is saying goes far beyond the issue of what foods we eat. The same principle applies to the music we listen to, the beverages we drink, the movies or tv shows we watch, the books we read etc. There is nothing external to you that will defile you because sinful corruption and defilement comes from the human heart. Your goal should not be just to rigidly and ritualistically avoid all the things external to you that you consider unclean and unrighteous. Your goal should primarily be to surrender your heart to Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to transform your heart, transform your motives, and transform your desires so that your heart no longer desires to sin but desires to obey God and live a life of purity. Do not think that by avoiding all the “unclean” foods, drinks, places, or activities that you will automatically be clean and righteous. It would be a tragedy if you spent your life, like the Pharisees, completely preoccupied with all the external issues but never dealing with your internal heart issues.

So nothing outside of a person corrupts him/her, does that mean we’re free to eat, drink, watch, read anything we want anytime we want? Be careful. In 1 Corinthians 10:23 Paul addressed this issue by saying, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” So in a sense, barring any explicit Biblical commands to the contrary, yes we are free to “do anything.” However, it is not always constructive or beneficial to “do anything.” For example, a Christian who is a recovering alcoholic has the freedom to drink alcohol, but it probably would not be beneficial for him/her to do so. Jesus’ proclamation that nothing outside of a person makes him/her unclean and unrighteous is not meant to be used by you as an excuse to simply do whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, and however you want.

Remember, the root issue is your heart. If a person is pursuing sinful behavior, it is not because something external to that person caused them to become sinful, but is because their human flesh wants to sin in that way. Your sin isn’t a result of something outside of you; it is a result of your human heart and flesh wanting to be in rebellion against God. Read through that list of sinful vices Jesus listed, keeping in mind his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount that even looking at a woman lustfully is adultery, or that even being angry can be as bad as murder. After reading that list ask yourself, “Which of these/how many of these have I committed in the past day? Week? Month? Year?” How have you attempted to overcome those sinful behaviors? Simply avoiding external things and abiding to external rules is not enough to defeat your sin. You need Jesus. You need your heart to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Instead of simply trying to correct your behavior, continually be surrendering you heart over to Jesus, and continually be seeking to have your heart, desires, and motivations conformed to the will of God. Only with a heart transformed by the Holy Spirit will you be able to experience true victory over sin.

Though the question from my commenter explicitly asked to address what Jesus meant by “sexual immorality,” I find the complete context to be more beneficial to study than two words near the end of the passage. However, I do want to address this because I think it is important for LGBT Christians to understand. Sex outside of marriage, i.e. rape, fornication, and adultery, is clearly defined as sin, as are the lustful thoughts that go with them, even without the act, as Jesus states in the Sermon on the Mount. However, that being said, when different places forbid LGBT marriages, they take that away from us. We are denied the right to be married and have a fulfilling and loving relationship within the confines of marriage. Furthermore, homosexuality as a sin is a tradition of man and is not upheld by a true reading of the scripture of the New Testament. Those who condemn homosexuality are no better than the Pharisees that Jesus corrects. As was pointed out in our study of the Book of James, we must be hearers and doers of the Word.

In Jesus we have the opportunity to overcome the nature of man. We can have the victory over the flesh by learning and applying the words of the truth. The path we are to follow is not the traditions of man, but the truth of the gospel of Christ. Seek His ways and you will find a path where there is no defilement.


Warning Against Worldliness

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What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
 
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
 
James 4:1-12
 
When was the last time you heard a sermon warning against worldliness? I suspect for most believers it would have been a very long time indeed. There are several reasons for this. Likely it is because we are in fact very worldly, and we don’t like to speak to our particular sins, so we just drift along. Also, you are particularly unlikely to hear a sermon, or in this case read a Bible study, about worldliness and gay Christians.  First of all, most of us would start squirming in our chairs.  My first thought would be, “This can’t be good.”  The reason for this is that as gay Christians most of our naysayers consider homosexuality to be a sin of worldliness.  That as gay Christians, we want to sin, be a part of this hedonistic culture, and call ourselves Christians.  But I hope that if you are one of those who regularly follow my Sunday posts, then you will know that is not the message I will deliver here.  I write these posts as both Bible studies and as a way to deliver the truth.  Therefore, I want to study this passage in a way that brings to light the kind of worldliness that applies to LGBT Christians.
 
There is also another reason Christians don’t tend to dwell on worldliness. We have tended to misunderstand what the warnings against worldliness actually mean, and/or have quite distorted the actual biblical teaching on this. That is, we have often thought that worldliness means having nothing to do with this material world altogether.  Or, as LGBT Christians we have been branded as worldly people because too many people believe that homosexuality is a choice.  The truth is, as I believe it (and I do believe that God helped me understand this after much prayer and meditation), God created us to be gay.  He had a purpose for us.  Whatever, that purpose is, we cannot deny God for creating us or leading us down this path.  We are all God’s children and have his undying and eternal love.
 
James is not the only one to warn about worldliness.
John: 1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
 
Paul: Ephesians 2:1-3 – And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
In the text from James above, these verses make me think of the person who tries to live in both the world and in the kingdom. It can’t be done. Living in the kingdom means the Spirit dwells within us, and God reigns over us. It must be all or nothing. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”  Therefor, ask yourself to describe you in one word.  What would you say?  If you are worldly, then your answer might be your profession or an adjective describing how you feel or act, but truthfully, the answer should be very simple: Christian.  Whatever else you are, however else you might describe yourself, it is being a Christian that should come first.
 
James finishes this section of scripture we are examining with a warning about verbally attacking or slandering our brother. When we do this, we are not only attacking, but judging his character. In doing so, we are speaking out against and judging the law. Think about it. We are to love our Lord God with all of our heart, soul, strength and might; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we speak against our brother, we are not loving our neighbor as ourselves, and might as well throw the whole commandment out the window.

…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God…. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” Romans 12:2, 9

As believers, we are not of the world. Worldliness is not a kingdom attribute.
 
If you’re wondering if a behavior or activity is worldly, ask yourself these questions:
  • Does this activity, thing, pursuit take my heart away from God?
  • Does it sabotage my communion with God and my walk in the Spirit?
  • Does it undermine or seek to displace my relationship to Christ as the power of my life?
  • Does it attempt (is it designed) to do so?
  • Does it feed the self-centered, appetite-driven, God-hating part of me called the flesh?
  • Does it inflame my desire to disobey God’s commands?
  • Does it produce pride, contention, immorality, or any other behavior contrary to the love of God and the love of others?
  • Does it lure me into obsession with what is earthbound and temporal versus what is heavenly and eternal?
In John 18, Jesus answers Pilate by repeating this phrase twice:  My kingdom is not of this world.
 
If you follow Jesus, then your kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven, and it is not of this world.
 

 


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