Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bowing Low in Worship

Abraham and the Three Angels
Dear God-seekers,

Today I would like to show from Scripture the importance of bowing low before the Lord in worship. I think this is somewhat of a missing element in our worship these days. Worship has become highly commercialized and is somewhat like a spectator sport, in which we are entertained by watching others worship. I'm not saying that we should not enjoy worship. Certainly we should lift up our hands and praise the Lord, making a joyful noise, singing unto Him, even worshiping Him with celebration and holy dancing in the Spirit. This is the kind of worship God enjoys!

But have we become too proud or dignified to bow before the Lord? Have we become too familiar with Him and too comfortable in His presence that we no longer give Him the worship that is due His holy and awesome name?

Bow Down
The Hebrew verb for “worship” is "shachah," which means, “to bow down” (Strongs).

For example, when Abraham’s servant saw that his journey was successful in finding a wife for his master's son, Isaac, it says, “Then the man bowed low and worshiped the LORD.” (Gen 24:26).

Notice that it says that he both bowed low and worshiped the Lord. The Hebrew verb for “worship” (shachah) is used here. But in addition to that verb, it also explicitly says he bowed low, which is the Hebrew word “qadad”, meaning “contract or bend the body (or neck) in deference: - bow (down) (the) head, stoop.” (Strongs).

Even when Abraham’s servant retold what he did, he says he bowed low and worshipped, using those same two Hebrew words, qadad and shachah.

"And I bowed low and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had guided me in the right way to take the daughter of my master's kinsman for his son.”  (Gen 24:48)

In addition to these two verses above that I have just cited, there are other Scriptures as well, where we find people bowing low with their faces to the ground (qadad) and worshiping (shachah) the Lord, such as the following verses:

“So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.”  (Exo 4:31).

“You shall say, 'It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.' And the people bowed low and worshiped.” (Exo 12:27)

The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. (Exo 34:5-8)

Then David said to all the assembly, "Now bless the LORD your God." And all the assembly blessed the LORD, the God of their fathers, and bowed low and did homage to the LORD and to the king. (1Ch 29:20)

“Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped.”  (2Ch 29:30)

“Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” (Neh 8:6)

Faces to the Ground
In this last verse, we discover another Hebrew expression that is used in Scripture as well for bowing in worship. The expression is “faces to the ground.” So what makes this last verse in Neh 8:6 unique from all the others I have just cited is that in addition to containing both the Hebrew words, qadad (bow down) and shachah (bow down, worship), it also contains the Hebrew expression “faces to the ground.” This verse literally says that after they said “Amen! Amen!” While lifting up their hands, “They bowed low and bowed down to the Lord in worship with their faces to the ground.” It essentially uses a triple reference to bowing low to the ground in worship to the Lord.

The Hebrew word for “face” is “aph,” which means “properly the nose or nostril; hence the face; forehead” (Strongs). And the Hebrew word for “ground” is “'erets”, meaning “earth or ground” (Strongs). Let’s look at some other passages that uses this expression “face to the ground” with regard to worshiping the Lord.

Another verse that has this same connotation is depicted in the pictorial illustration above, showing Abraham bowing to the earth before the Lord. The Scripture says, "Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth..." (Gen 18:1-2)

Fall on Your Face
There is one other verse in the Bible that has this same triple reference like Neh 8:6, regarding worship of the Lord (1), bowing down (2) with one’s face to the ground (3). It says, “Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD.”  (2Ch 20:18)

In this passage, while king Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground in reverence for the Lord, all the people displayed a much greater act of worship by falling down before the Lord and worshiping the Lord. In addition to containing the expressions, “bowing low”, “face to the ground” and “worshiping” the Lord, this verse in 2 Chronicles 20:18 also uses the expression “fell down.” The expression “fell down” comes from two Hebrew words. One is “naphal” meaning “fall or lie” and the other word is “panim” or “paneh” meaning “face” or “faces”. In other words, this expression literally means they “fell on their faces” before the Lord.

Another passage that uses the expressions “faces to the ground” and “worship” refers to Solomon’s dedication of the temple, when the fire from heaven came down, the glory filled the house. It says, “Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the house. The priests could not enter into the house of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD'S house. All the sons of Israel, seeing the fire come down and the glory of the LORD upon the house, bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave praise to the LORD, saying, ‘Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting.’"  (2Ch 7:1-3)

This verse also contains another word, in addition to the expressions “faces to the ground” (qadad) and “worshiping” (shachah) the Lord, which is the Hebrew word “kara” meaning in this case to “bow, fall, or prostrate” (Strongs). In fact it even adds that it was “on the pavement” that they fell or bowed down. So this has a beautiful, triple reference to worship of the Lord.

Bowing in the Psalms
Let’s look at a few more verses about bowing before the Lord in the book of Psalms, which is a book of worship.

“But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, At Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You.” (Psa 5:7).

In this verse, the word “bow” is the Hebrew word “shachah”, meaning “worship.” In addition to that, David the psalmist said that it was in reverence for the Lord that he bowed. The Hebrew word for “reverence” is “yir'ah,” meaning “reverence: dreadful, exceedingly, fear (-fulness)” (Strongs). Therefore, David bowed in worship in the fear of the Lord. This is an aspect that is missing today from our modern worship. We have joy, we have freedom, we have love, but we have lost the fear of the Lord. We need to bring back the fear of the Lord into worship once again. Also see my article, Should you fear the Lord?.

“All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship, All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him, Even he who cannot keep his soul alive.” (Psa 22:29). This verse uses both “shachah” (worship) and “kara” (bow, fall, or prostrate).

“Then the King will desire your beauty. Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.” (Psa 45:11)

“Let the nomads of the desert bow before him, And his enemies lick the dust.” (Psa 72:9)

“And let all kings bow down before him, All nations serve him.” (Psa 72:11)

“I will bow down toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.” (Psa 138:2)

“Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” (Psa 95:6). This verse uses the Hebrew word “barach”, meaning “bless, or kneel”, in addition both “shachah” (worship) and “kara” (bow, fall, or prostrate).

Once again, as with the fear of the Lord, it is rare to see people kneeling in worship any more. We see people standing or sitting in worship, but kneeling is a beautiful and biblical way to express your love, adoration, and worship to the Lord. The Scripture calls us to come worship, bow down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker.

Bending the Knee in the New Testament
"Thou Art Worthy" by C.V. Lacroix
Under the New Covenant, kneeling is still a common form of worship and prayer. The Scriptures refer to bending, or bowing, the knee before the Lord.

For example, the apostle Paul knelt or bowed his knees before the Father. He said, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,” (Eph 3:14-15)

In Miletus, Paul met one last time with the elders of Ephesus to encourage them. "When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all." (Act 20:36). Likewise, after spending seven days with the disciples at Tyre, they escorted Paul to his ship and knelt together in prayer. Luke wrote, "After kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another." (Act 21:5). Another example is the apostle Peter, who got down on his knees and prayed in Joppa, before turning to the dead woman's body and raising her back to life (Ac 9:40).

One day every knee shall bow before the Lord. “For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’" (Rom 14:11)

“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Php 2:9-11)

Bowing in the New Testament
In the New Testament, we find many different expressions that refer to falling down and bowing in worship before the Lord. Sometimes they are used in conjunction with each other.

The three magi from the east came to Bethlehem of Judea and bowed before the King. It says, "After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Mat 2:11). The first thing they did when they found Him, even before they presented Him with their gifts, was they fell, or alighted, to the ground. Then they worshiped Him while they were down there.

The Greek word for worship is "proskuneo," meaning "to fawn or crouch to, that is, (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore): - worship" (Strongs). The Greek word "proskuneo," is a derivative of two words, "pros" and "kuon." The word "pros" means "toward or forward". The other root word is "kuon," or "dog". These two words together connote the meaning "to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand" (Strongs). The magi were most likely prostrate, as they were worshiping the Lord and adoring Him, paying homage to the King.

The demon-possessed man also did this. "Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him;" (Mar 5:6). The Greek word for "bowed down" is “proskuneo” (do reverence to, adore, worship), as used in Mat 2:11.

This is what satan wanted Jesus to do for him, when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.  “He said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.’" (Mat 4:9). The Greek word here for “fall down” is “prospipto” meaning  “to fall towards, that is, (gently) prostrate oneself (in supplication or homage), or (violently) to rush upon (in storm): - fall (down) at (before)” (Strongs). The Greek word for "worship" here is “proskuneo” (prostrate, worship, adore).

That is the same Greek word that is found in the response that the Lord gave to satan. Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" (Mat 4:10)

This is the same Greek word for "worship" used in the verse about when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well. He said, "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (Joh 4:23-24)

The blind man that Jesus healed did this. "And he said, 'Lord, I believe.' And he worshiped Him." (Joh 9:38)

Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, "You are the Son of God!"  (Mar 3:11). The Greek word here for “fall down” is “prospipto” (fall, fall down).

"But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet."  (Mar 7:25)

"But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, 'Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!'" (Luk 5:8)

I have already mentioned the account of the demon-possessed man in Mark's gospel, where the Greek word "proskuneo" (prostrate, worship, adore) was used. However, in Luke's gospel, the word "prospipto" (fall, fall down) is used instead to refer to the same incident:

"Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, 'What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.'"  (Luk 8:28)

"When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed."  (Luk 8:47; cf., Mar 5:33)

The apostle Paul spoke of the way an unbeliever or ungifted man would fall on his face and worship God, if he entered a meeting, in which everyone was prophesying. He said, "But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you." (1Co 14:24-25). 

The Greek words used here in 1Co 14:25 are “pipto” (fall, alight, fall down) and “proskuneo” (prostrate, worship, adore). Another Greek word is also used to indicate explicitly that it is "on his face" that the man will fall. The word for "face" is “prosopon” meaning “the front (as being towards view), that is, the countenance...face…” (Strongs). 

Falling Down in Worship in Heaven 
Just as worship on earth includes falling down, so does worship in heaven. The same three words used by the apostle Paul in 1 Co 14:25 -- “pipto” (fall, alight, fall down), “prosopon” (face), and “proskuneo” (worship) -- are used in the following verses in Revelation 7:11 and 11:16:

"And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God..." (Rev 7:11)

"And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, 'We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.'" (Rev 11:16-17)

Likewise, there are other verses about falling down in worship. "And the four living creatures kept saying, 'Amen.' And the elders fell down and worshiped."  (Rev 5:14)

"And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, 'Amen. Hallelujah!'" (Rev 19:4). The Greek words used in Rev 5:14 and Rev 19:4 are the same as those used in Mt 2:11 regarding the three magi: "pipto" (fall, light on) and "proskuneo" (prostrate, worship, adore).

Bowing Low is Undignified
It's true that bowing low to the ground is an undignified act, but this is the nature of true worship. The flesh (sinful nature) thinks about self and how it will look down their on the ground. It thinks about getting dirty down there in the dust. The enemy will tempt you to think about those things that concern yourself. He'll plant a thought in your mind that you must not bow low or lay prostrate, because it may pose some risk to you, your health, your dignity, your hair, or your clothing.

But the new man denies himself, takes up his cross, and says, “I will die for Jesus, because I love Him, and He’s done so much for me!” The new man says with king David, "I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes." (2 Sam 6:22a, NIV). Therefore, resist those temptations that keep you from bowing low, falling down with your face to the ground, and prostrating yourself before the Lord in worship. It's a way of surrendering yourself lovingly in complete abandonment to Him.

Moreover, it's also a way of expressing your reverence and awe of Him. "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire." (Heb 12:28-29, NIV)

The Lord Himself Worships This Way
Even our Lord Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, worships this way. He is our example, whose steps we must follow.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, "He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.'" (Mat 26:39)

Just like the three magi from the east, the Lord fell, or alighted, on His face. This is how He prayed to the Father in heaven on that fateful night that He was betrayed. His posture reflected his complete surrender to the Father's will.

Even now in heaven, the Lord prays to the Father, as He always lives to make intercession for us (Heb 7:25). And as I wrote in my article, Ezekiel Moses Testimony of Heaven and Hell, brother Ezekiel of Nigeria, Africa testifies to seeing the Lord in heaven, laying prostrate on His face before the Father's throne. He said, "I was looking for the Lord Jesus Christ.  I wanted to see Him. I looked up and down.  Behold, afar off, I saw King of kings and Lord of lords.  He was lying down (prostrate), and the twenty-four elders were before Him." I highly recommend reading that entire article, which will change your life. The section where I covered this in the article is called, "The Throne Room."

Worship Has Many Forms
Of course, worship has many forms, which are depicted in Scripture, and laying prostrate or kneeling are not the only acceptable ones. I have mentioned some other forms of worship in this message already, such as standing (Ps 134:1), lifting our hands (Neh 8:6; 1 Tim 2:8; Ps 63:4; 134:2; 141:2; Lam 3:41), sitting (Ezra 9:3), singing with joy (Ps 96:1-2; 98:4; 104:33), rejoicing (Phil 4:4; Ps 33:21; 118:24), celebrating His goodness (Ps 145:7), and holy dancing in the Spirit (Ps 149:3). Also see my articles, Lifting Hands in Prayer and Lifting Your Face in Prayer.

Face to the Ground is Ideal for Repentance
That being said, the last thing I would like to mention is that laying prostrate on the floor is the ideal position for repentance. If we are truly repentant, this allows us to express ourselves best to God, as we humble ourselves before Him, seek His face, and turn from our sin, asking for His forgiveness.

Moses lay prostrate before the Lord for forty days on behalf of the Israelites' sin, because the Lord said He would destroy them (Deut 9:25). Likewise, Ezra lay before the Lord on the ground in repentance, because of the unfaithfulness of the Israelite exiles, who had married foreign women with their detestable practices. He was "...praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God..." (Ez 10:1a, NIV).  He was prostrating himself before the house of God, according to the NASB. The Hebrew word used for "prostrating himself" is "naphal" (to fall, lie), which we have already mentioned.

In Jesus' parable of the slave that owed ten thousand talents, he prostrated himself before his master, as he begged him to have patience. "So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.'  (Mat 18:26). The Greek words used here are "pipto" (fall, light on) and "proskuneo" (prostrate, worship, adore), which is the same word used elsewhere in the Scriptures for "worship". This helps to show that the Greek word for "worship" also means to "prostrate" oneself. It also gives us another Scriptural example of laying prostrate during repentance.

A Hungarian sister, who received a revelation of heaven and hell, testified, "And Jesus said it’s important not just to repent at church, but at home also. And even to get down on your face before God when you repent, and bow before Him. I mean, not bow, but lay prostrate before Him, because the Lord told me this the only acceptable way in front of the Lord to repent. We are not just bowing our heads before the Great God. We have to lay down before Him. It’s important that when we repent, we don’t just, like at church, sit in our seats and just bow our head. But we go up front and take the most humble position and lay before the Lord to repent. We have to lay our lives down before Him and say, 'I don’t care if anyone kills me or what happens to me. I don’t care about anything else—what will happen to me.'”  -- Eudoxia Varga. For the complete testimony, please see Eudoxia Varga Testimony of Heaven and Hell.

Putting it All Together
Therefore, we learn from Scripture that even though the word “worship” itself means to “bow down,” it is often used together with other expressions that further emphasize the humble, subdued position of one’s body before the Lord. Indeed, worship involves kneeling before the Lord, even bowing down before the Lord with your face to the ground. It involves falling or bowing prostrate before Him in reverence and awe. It is an act of humbling yourself under the mighty hand of God. All glory and honor be to the Lord forever and ever. It is my hope that this message has helped to inspire you to greater heights in worship, as you lower and abase yourself before the Most High. For there is no other God beside Him, and He alone deserves our highest worship.
  
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted. The image of the water color painting, "Abraham and the Three Angels," c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The illustration "Thou Art Worthy" is by my seventeen-year old daughter C.V. Lacroix. You can find more of her lovely artwork at A Brush with Life.

Author's note: I also recommend reading Should you fear the Lord?, Lifting Hands in Prayer, Lifting Your Face in Prayer, Crying Out to God Loudly, Avoiding Worldly Worship, Eudoxia Varga Testimony of Heaven and Hell, Ezekiel Moses Testimony of Heaven and Hell, Baptized with the Spirit, The New Wine, Who intercedes for us?, Praying for the Lord Jesus, and Whatever You Do, Do All Like This. You may access the Main Directory for this Seeking the Lord blog for more articles like this, as well as my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Saints Alive in Jesus

Who are the saints? Traditionally, many Christians have come to think of saints as those who live exemplary lives for Christ and have been officially recognized for that by the Church after their death. In this traditional sense, these people are elevated and referred to with the title of Saint before their name. In fact, many practices are connected with this tradition, such as the veneration of relics. In one country, they have an annual parade where they carry the hand of Saint Stephen in a box.

As long as this is what the Bible teaches, we are fine. But if not, then once again, we need to follow Scripture as our sole rule of faith and not traditions of men. It was Jesus Himself who told the religious people of His day that they invalidated the word of God by their tradition, which they had handed down. (Mar 7:13). So let’s see what the Bible teaches on this. 

The Usage and Meaning of the Term "Saints"
First of all, the term “saints” is used 68 times in the Bible (Psa. 16:3; 34:9; Dan. 7:18,21,22,25,27; Mat. 27:52; Acts 9:13,32,41; 26:10; Rom. 1:7; 8:27; 12:13; 15:25,26,31; 16:2,15; 1Co. 1:2; 6:1,2; 14:33; 16:1,15; 2Co. 1:1; 8:4; 9:1,12; 13:13; Eph. 1:1,15,18; 2:19; 3:8,18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18; Php. 1:1; 4:22; Col. 1:2,4,12,26; 1Th. 3:13; 2Th. 1:10; 1Ti. 5:10; Phm. 1:5,7; Heb. 6:10; 13:24; Jude 1:3; Rev. 5:8; 8:3,4; 11:18; 13:7,10; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6; 18:20,24; 19:8; 20:9). In the Old Testament, it is used 8 times and 60 times in the New Testament. The most frequent occurrence of it is found in Revelation (13 times), Ephesians (9 times), Romans (8 times), Daniel (6 times), 1 Corinthians (6 times), 2 Corinthians (5 times), Colossians (4 times), and Acts (4 times). The term in Greek for saint is “hagios”, meaning “sacred (physically pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially consecrated): - (most) holy (one, thing), saint.” (Strongs).

Now that we have established the fact that the term "saints" means the "holy ones", I'd like to say a word about the use of the expression "holy man". The only two people in the Bible referred to as “a holy man” were Elisha and John the Baptist (2Ki 4:9; Mk 6:20). The Lord Jesus Christ, of course, is referred to as "The Holy One", and five of those instances are in the New Testament (2Ki. 19:22; Job 6:10; Psa. 78:41; 89:18; 106:16; Pro. 9:10; 30:3; Isa. 1:4; 5:19,24; 10:20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19,23; 30:11,12,15; 31:1; 37:23; 40:25; 41:14,16,20; 43:3,14; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7; 54:5; 55:5; 60:9,14; Jer. 50:29; 51:5; Eze. 39:7; Hos. 11:9,12; Hab. 3:3; Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; John 6:69; 1Pe. 1:15; 1Jn. 2:20).

The singular version of the word "saint" is rarely used in the Bible, but it does exist. For example, Aaron, the brother of Moses is referred to as a saint (Psa. 106:16). Moreover, the prophet Daniel received a vision from God, in which he heard one saint speaking, and then he heard another saint reply to the first one (Dan. 8:13). Lastly the apostle Paul told the Philippians to greet "every saint" there (Php. 4:21).

The Believers In Rome Were Called Saints
Paul wrote, "To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom 1:7)

These Roman believers in Christ were called as saints while they were still alive on earth, serving the Lord. Paul was addressing as "holy ones" all who were beloved of God in that city.

This term was used not only of the Romans believers, but also the believers in Jerusalem (Act 9:13; 26:10; Rom 15:25, 26), Lydda (Act 9:32), Achaia (2Co 1:1), Ephesus (Eph 1:1; 2:19), Philippi (Phi 1:1), Corinth (1Co 1:2), and Colossae (Col 1:2).

Let’s see what other things Paul wrote to the saints.

Paul prayed for the saints regularly
One of the things we note in the Bible is that Paul prayed for the saints continually. He wrote, "For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you." (Rom 1:9-10).

And he taught that we as saints should pray for one another: "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints." (Eph 6:18)

Paul prayed for them often, because they it was necessary. Even the Holy Spirit intercedes for the saints (Rom 8:27). Saints need to pray for each other constantly. This is quite different from the traditional view of saints, in which we ask the saints in heaven to pray for us.

Paul, the great apostle, considered himself the least of all saints
To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, (Eph 3:8)

Paul put himself below every other person in Christ who had been made holy, calling himself the least of the saints! This is amazing, considering he lived a selfless life of complete dedication to Christ, suffered much for the Lord, preached the gospel all over the world, and wrote thirteen of the twenty-seven New Testament Bible books that we have today.

Paul longed to impart a spiritual gift to the saints
For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine. (Rom 1:11-12)

So even though they were saints, they needed ministry. They needed to have a spiritual gift imparted to them. And Paul also knew that he would likewise benefit from his contact with them as well. This is always the way it goes. There are no big shots in the kingdom. No matter what our role, whether saints or apostles, we all benefit mutually from one another when we minister to each other.

Saints have nothing in themselves to boast about
Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
(Rom 3:27-28)

Even though the Romans were saints, they couldn’t boast about it. The reason is that it was not by their works that they were considered saints, it was because they had been justified by faith. Neither can we boast, except in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." (Rom 1:17)

Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; (Rom 3:22)

These Romans were justified the same way everyone else is – by faith. This is a revelation you need to receive from the Holy Spirit. There's a lot of meaning packed into that short phrase, "the just shall live by faith." Meditate on this until you get it. To be justified means to be made righteous. We are justified not by our works but by faith in Jesus Christ. And when we’re justified, we are put in right standing with our Holy God.

The saints need to be equipped to do works of service
for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (Eph 4:12).

The saints are not just those who have finished the race and are in heaven now. Saints are also those of us here on earth who still need to be equipped, so that we can do the works the Lord has prepared for us to do since the world was created!

Saints are all those who call on the name of Jesus who have been sanctified 
Paul wrote, "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:" (1Co 1:2)

The saints will possess the kingdom and judge the world
The heavenly being that spoke to the prophet Daniel said, "But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come." (Dan 7:18)

Paul wrote, "Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?" (1Co 6:2)

Since the saints will one day possess the kingdom and judge the world, we should be able to settle disputes between saints without taking matters before legal courts. And there are many other implications for the lives of saints today when we consider this glorious future.

There are saints in all the churches of the saints
Paul wrote, "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints." (1Co 14:33)

Not every church is a church of the saints. Some congregations may be churches in name only and have none of Jesus' life in them. The true gospel is not preached there, and they are spiritually dead. But then there are churches of the saints! This is where you will find saints, if you want to meet one or be one, too!

Saints are supposed to live pure and holy lives
Paul said that it is proper among the saints to live pure and holy lives, and that immorality, impurity, and greed must not be named among them. He wrote, "But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;" (Eph 5:3)

How much this message is needed today in the churches of the saints! Holiness is a topic so seldom spoken about. It seems no one believes in holiness anymore. Yet we are taught by the Lord to "be holy, even as I am holy." (1 Pe 1:16). This is perhaps the most important point in this entire article. For more on this critically necessary topic, please see my articles, Holy Living in a Perverted World, Ask for the Ancient Paths, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, and Holy Fire Baptism.

Saints need their eyes opened in order to see
Paul wrote, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints," (Eph 1:18)

Paul prayed for the saints in Ephesus that the eyes of their heart be enlightened, so they would know the riches of the glory of Jesus’ inheritance in the saints. Have your eyes been opened to this yet? If not, ask the Lord to open them.

He said, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." (Eph 3:14-19)

Putting it All Together
So we can see that the saints are all who have been justified by faith in Jesus Christ and sanctified, and who follow Him. This includes those who have passed on into glory already and those of us who are still here on earth. It’s not a special class or title reserved for the elite Christians. That false tradition only renders the Word of God invalid. It leads people to think they should rely on this supposed elite class of officially recognized saints to pray for them and get their messages to God’s throne. Yet no place in the Bible are we taught to pray to those saints in heaven or to ask them to pray for us. Neither does the Bible teach us to adore relics or assign special powers to them.

If you are a believer in Christ, do you normally think of yourself as a saint?
If you have been justified by faith in Christ, have you also been sanctified as well?
If you are truly a saint, how should that affect the way you speak and act?

Once we recognize that all disciples of Christ are called to be saints, then we should begin to act like it. We should pursue holiness that we may be sanctified, pray for the saints, greet the saints, do the works of service the Lord has given each of us to do, and leaders should equip the saints for these works. But none of us can boast, because it is not by our own merits that we are saints. It’s through the shed blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. My prayer with Paul is that the eyes of your heart may also be opened to see who you are in God and what He has given you. It’s glorious. 

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB

Author's Note: If you enjoyed this article, I also recommend reading Holy Living in a Perverted World, Ask for the Ancient Paths, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, Keeping Your Body Pure and Holy, and Holy Fire Baptism. You can access the Seeking the Lord Main Directory or my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." Now I'd like to ask a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Afflictions of the Righteous

Strength in Weakness  - C.V. Lacroix
When you go through painful afflictions, the enemy may try to make you feel forsaken by God or cursed. But the Scriptures teach us that the Lord sometimes afflicts us, His servants, for our own good. So I want to encourage you today, and remind you that there is value in affliction. If you respond correctly to it, the Lord can use it in your life for good.

The Benefits of Affliction
There are many benefits of affliction in our lives. The Psalmist said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your Word.”  (Psa 119:67). He was going astray from the Lord until he was afflicted. His afflictions led him to repent and once again keep God's Word.

Again he says, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.” (Psa 119:71). This indicates that the afflictions were a good thing, because they enabled him to learn the Lord's statutes.

He recognized that it was the Lord who afflicted him, when he said, “I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”  (Psa 119:75). He understood that the Lord is righteous in His judgments upon us, and it is in faithfulness that He chooses to afflict us.

As he was worn down in the process, he cried out to the Lord, “I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your Word.” (Psa 119:107). So affliction can cause us to return to the Lord, press into Him once more, and even lead to revival in our lives.

God Surely Afflicts Us
Just in case you still have any doubt whether the Lord actually afflicts us, I want to assure you that He does. The psalmist prayed, "Your wrath has rested upon me, And You have afflicted me with all Your waves. Selah." (Psa 88:7). He felt the Lord's wrath like waves of affliction in his life.

And the Moses prayed, "Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us, And the years we have seen evil." (Psa 90:15). He acknowledged that the Lord had afflicted His people for many years, and prayed that the Lord would make them glad for a corresponding period of time.

There are many other verses in the Bible about affliction.

Afflicting Yourself with Fasting
It is possible to afflict yourself with fasting. “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting, And my prayer kept returning to my bosom.” (Psa 35:13). In this verse, the same Hebrew word is translated “humbled” which is translated “afflicted” elsewhere in the Psalms.

Affliction Weakens a Person
Whether the affliction is through your own doing, such as fasting, or the Lord's doing, it has a weakening effect on your natural man. The psalmist said, “He has weakened my strength in the way; He has shortened my days.” (Psa 102:23). In this verse, the same Hebrew word is translated “weakened my strength” which is translated “afflicted” elsewhere in the Psalms. Therefore, affliction and weakness are nearly synonymous. In fact, affliction may even shorten a person's life span.

Sickness and Disease are One Type of Affliction
One type of affliction that can shorten a person's life span is sickness and disease. Here are some verses that say so.

"For an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]" (Joh 5:4)

Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed. (Act 5:16)

And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. (Act 28:8)

I also want to encourage you that if you are sick, the Lord still heals today just as He did during His earthly ministry. Please see The Power of God to Heal, Healing is in the Atonement, and When We Are Not Healed.

Affliction Can Cause Death
The psalmist indicated that the affliction he experienced were so terrible that he was overcome by them. In fact, he said that at one point he was about to die from his afflictions. He prayed, "O LORD, why do You reject my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me? I was afflicted and about to die from my youth on; I suffer Your terrors; I am overcome. Your burning anger has passed over me; Your terrors have destroyed me. They have surrounded me like water all day long; They have encompassed me altogether. You have removed lover and friend far from me; My acquaintances are in darkness."  (Psa 88:14-18)

Now let's consider some of the righteous people in the Bible who were afflicted.

Joseph was Afflicted
Affliction causes physical pain like Joseph experienced in his feet from shackles of iron.
“He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They afflicted his feet with fetters, He himself was laid in irons;” (Psa 105:17-18)

David was Afflicted
David said, "I believed when I said, 'I am greatly afflicted.'" (Psa 116:10)

A Song of Ascents. Remember, O LORD, on David's behalf, All his affliction;  (Psa 132:1)

Naomi was Afflicted
Naomi was afflicted by God. She said to them, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?"  (Rth 1:20-21)

Job was Afflicted
Of course, Job was afflicted by God.  “He said, ‘Because He has loosed His bowstring and afflicted me, They have cast off the bridle before me.’” (Job 30:11)

Paul was Afflicted
We cannot fail to mention the apostle Paul and all of his afflictions that he suffered. He said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;” (2Co 4:8)

“For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.” (2Co 7:5)

He gave a rather lengthy list of his afflictions in his second epistle to the Corinthians:

"...imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure." (2Co 11:23-27)

Yet through all of this he could still say it was worthwhile and he didn't complain. He told the Corinthians, “But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;” (2Co 1:6)

He also told the Corinthian church about his thorn in the flesh, which many have speculated about, as to what it was. “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2Co 12:7-10)

Some people believe the thorn was a disease in his eyes, while others believe it was an arrogant man in his life that caused him a lot of grief. But regardless of what it was, we do know a number of things for certain about that affliction. It was given to him by God to keep him from exalting himself. It caused pain in his flesh like that of a thorn. It was actually a messenger of satan to torment him. The word "torment" means to rap with the fist, so this was painful either physically or emotionally or both. It made Paul weak. When Paul prayed to the Lord to take it away, the Lord would not do so. Instead He assured Paul that His grace was sufficient and that His power is perfected in weakness. So Paul was content with weaknesses. This was one of Paul's afflictions.

The Ancient Martyrs Were Afflicted
The apostle Paul wrote about the ancient, who were afflicted in many ways: “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.” (Heb 11:37)

Our Lord Jesus was Afflicted
Even our very Lord Himself was afflicted. The prophet Isaiah predicted His sufferings hundreds of years beforehand saying:

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted…He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” (Isa 53:4,7)

God is Afflicted
The people of Israel were afflicted for four hundred years in Egypt. And whenever His children are afflicted, He is afflicted. “For he said, ‘Surely they are my people, children that will not lie:’ so he was their Saviour. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” (Isa 63:8-9)

As our great high priest, the Lord is touched by the feelings of our infirmities. In other words, He is able to empathize. As the Scripture says, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Heb 4:15, KJV).

Hope for the Afflicted
In the midst of our affliction, we need to have some hope of a brighter and better day. We find that hope all throughout the Scriptures. But here are a few verses:

“I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted And justice for the poor.” (Psa 140:12).

“Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted.” (Pro 3:34)

“Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people And will have compassion on His afflicted.” (Isa 49:13)

O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.”  (Isa 54:11, KJV).

"In that day," declares the LORD, "I will assemble the lame And gather the outcasts, Even those whom I have afflicted. "I will make the lame a remnant And the outcasts a strong nation, And the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion From now on and forever.  (Mic 4:6-7)

“For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (2Th 1:6-8)

“Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” (1Pe 4:1-2)

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” (1Pe 4:12-13)

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Jas 1:2-4)

There is No Other Way to Enter the Kingdom of God
The apostle Paul taught that there is no other way to enter the kingdom of God than to go through hardships. “They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. 'We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,' they said." (Act 14:21-22, NIV)

The Pearl in the Oyster
Rare Treasure by C.V. Lacroix
The Lord has given us a wonderful illustration in nature, which we find in the way a pearl is formed inside an oyster. It all begins when an irritant gets stuck inside the oyster. Then the oyster tries to ease the discomfort by coating the speck with a substance known as calcium carbonate. That substance hardens around the speck, thus forming a pearl. The pearl is made of the same luminous substance that lines the inside of the oyster shell.

Likewise, the Lord allows afflictions in the life of the righteous, which are eventually formed into lovely pearls. These may not be seen until we enter glory, but the evidence of the pearl in our lives may be seen even now, as the Lord's own character is formed in us.

In light of this, it seems fitting that the twelve gates of the holy city, the New Jerusalem are twelve pearls; each one of the gates is a single pearl (Rev 21:21a).  When the righteous enter through those gates of splendor, rejoicing with exultation, perhaps it will remind them at that moment what a precious pearl the Lord has produced in their lives through the past afflictions they have endured on earth.

Putting it All Together
God surely afflicts us for our own good. It’s also possible to afflict yourself, such as with fasting from food and/or sleep. Affliction weakens a person and causes physical pain. Sickness and disease are one type of affliction. In fact, affliction can even cause death.

Affliction is common to all the righteous people on earth. Truly there is no other way to enter the kingdom of God. Joseph, David, Naomi, Job, Paul, and the Lord Himself were all afflicted. So were the ancient martyrs.

But perhaps the most amazing thing is that the Lord Himself is afflicted when His people are afflicted. He does not stand by coldly and watch us in our afflictions. Rather He too is afflicted to see us in that state. He hears our groans, He has compassion on us and cares deeply for us.

We can be encouraged to know that the Scriptures are full of hope for the afflicted. There is grace available to endure and a future reward for the afflicted. So if you are going through afflictions right now, I hope that this has helped you see the value of what you are going through, along with the purpose, the necessity, and the glory that awaits the righteous afflicted. Therefore, please take this opportunity to seek the Lord, to draw near to Him, to repent, to pursue righteousness, holiness, and the Kingdom of God, as well as to experience personal revival. If you do, it will all be worth it in the end.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted. The "Strength in Weakness" and "Rare Treasure" illustrations were done by my seventeen-year old daughter, C.V. Lacroix. You can find more of her lovely artwork at A Brush with Life.

Author's note If you know a believer going through afflictions, please share this article with them.  If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy The Fiery Sufferings of the Believer, The Refiner's Fire, Overcomers in This Life, Even if it doesn’t happen like we expect, God Chooses the Weak ThingsThe Power of God to Heal, Healing is in the Atonement, When We Are Not Healed, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, Pleasing the Lord, Holy Fire Baptism, The Burning Ones, The Three Elijahs, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies, Holy Living in a Perverted World, Ask for the Ancient Paths, Holding Fast the Faithful Word, Having a Servant's Heart, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, The Beauty of Brokenness, The End Time Saints, and Aim for Perfection. You can find more of my articles related to Seeking the Lord on the Home page of this blog. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." Now I'd like to ask a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Overcomers in This Life

Dear God-seekers,

I want to encourage you today to be overcomers in this life. If you have been born again and come to know Jesus Christ, that's what He has made you to be. But you've got to persevere until the end, in order to make it to heaven. It is not enough to merely give you life to Jesus, or to begin following Him initially, but then fall away when things start to get difficult. It is only those who endure to the end that are saved. Jesus said:

"You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Mat 10:22)

He also said, "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” (Mat 24:13; Mk 13:13).

The Greek word for "endure" in these verses is "hupomeno", meaning "to stay under (behind), that is, remain; figuratively to undergo, that is, bear (trials), have fortitude, persevere: - abide, endure, (take) patient (-ly), suffer, tarry behind." (Strongs).

With that in mind, we have a divine mandate to endure to the end. The Lord has commanded us to endure patiently (see Rev 3:10, NIV). Unless we do so, we will not achieve the goal of your faith, which is the salvation of your soul (1 Pe 1:9). Therefore, I’d like to share with you some keys to overcoming.

Twelve Keys to Overcoming
There are many keys to being an overcomer that are given in Scripture, but here are twelve of them:

1. They overcame the accuser by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony:
The apostle John said, “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.’” (Rev 12:10-11)

In the passage, the devil is thrown down to the earth. With such an evil foe seeking to work them woe, they cannot fight him in their own strength. There are three ways cited, in which the saints who are on the earth overcame the accuser of the brethren. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.

Make it your daily practice to plead the precious blood of Jesus. Plead His blood upon yourself and upon your loved ones. One single drop of Jesus' blood is more powerful than satan and all the demons of hell combined! He shed His blood for us on the cross, and it was through the cross that he made a public spectacle of the devil, as well as his subordinates, known as the world rulers and authorities. The Lord not only made a public display of them through the sacrifice of Himself, but He disarmed them and triumphed over them through the cross.

It's amazing how God allowed His Son to be beaten, humiliated, nailed to a cross, and brought to the point of greatest weakness that any man has ever known. He allowed the devil to take his best shot at Jesus. But satan could not defeat the Lord, even in that condition. Instead the Lord gave up His life -- nobody took it from Him. He conquered death, and took the keys of hell and death from the enemy. Then He came back to life and lives forevermore. His blood is alive, and the devil cannot stand the blood of Jesus. Therefore, we are victorious through His blood.

In addition to pleading His blood, you also need to testify for the Lord, because the saints overcame the accuser by the word of their testimony. That's when you tell others what the Lord has done in your life, including salvation, deliverance, healing, and whatever else the Lord has done for you. You overcome the accuser by the word of your testimony. And likewise, whenever you make Personal Proclamations of Faith in the face of the enemy, this too defeats them.

Lastly, there is self-denial. The saints overcame the accuser, because they did not love their own lives unto death. When you do not love your life, even to the point of death, then the devil cannot defeat you. The worst thing he can do to a person is to kill them, and this has happened to many martyrs down through the centuries, who have been put to death for their faith in Christ. But the devil could not defeat them any more than he could defeat Christ on the cross. So don't love your life, even unto death, and you will be victorious.

2. Faith in Christ, Who has overcome the world 
The second key to overcoming the world is our faith in Christ. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (Joh 16:33). He said we would have trouble in this world, but no matter what kind of tribulation we face, we can be courageous, because our Lord has overcome the world.

The apostle John said, "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1Jn 5:4-5)

Likewise, the book of Hebrews is full of conditions for reaching heaven. These conditions are indicated by the word "if" in many passages of that book. For example, Paul wrote, "But Christ was faithful as a Son over His house--whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end...For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end," (Heb 3:6,14). We are exhorted to hold fast our confidence until the end, as well as the beginning of our assurance and the boast of our hope. Only if we hold fast these things, keeping the faith, will we become partakers of Christ.

3. Trusting in Him Who is in You
The third key to being an overcomer is related to the second one. Trust in the One inside of you, who is greater than the devil who is in the world. His presence makes the difference.

The apostle John said, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1Jn 4:4)

4. In the Name of the Lord Jesus
A fourth key is the name of the Lord. We overcome the enemy in the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mk 16:17-18).

There is power in the name of Jesus. "The seventy-two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.'" (Lk 10:17, NIV)

"The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe." (Pro 18:10)

"For whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Rom 10:13)

Also see Ps 118:10-12; Joel 2:#2; 

5. Christ’s Authority
Another key, which is directly connected with the name of the Lord, is using the authority that Christ has given to us. When you speak in Christ's name, you speak in His authority.

When the disciples returned rejoicing that even the demons submitted to them in the name of Jesus, He said, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.” (Luk 10:19)

6. Overwhelmingly Conquer Through Him Who loved us
A sixth key is that it is through Him who loved us that we conquer, not in our own strength. Paul said, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Rom 8:37).

The Greek word for "overwhelmingly conquer" here is "hupemikao", meaning "to vanquish beyond, that is, gain a decisive victory: - more than conquer." (Strongs). Hallelujah! This is possible through Him Who loved us. We gain a decisive victory through Him.

7. Being strong in the Lord
A seventh key is to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, and to have His Word abiding in you.

John said, “I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1Jn 2:14). These young men were strong in the Lord, and the word of God was abiding in them. That was how they overcame the evil one.

Paul said, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” (Eph 6:10-11)

King David wrote, "The God who girds me with strength And makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds' feet, And sets me upon my high places. He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, And Your right hand upholds me; And Your gentleness makes me great. You enlarge my steps under me, And my feet have not slipped. I pursued my enemies and overtook them, And I did not turn back until they were consumed. I shattered them, so that they were not able to rise; They fell under my feet. For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me. You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me, And I destroyed those who hated me." (Psa 18:32-40)

8. Taking Up the Full Armor of God and Standing Firm in Christ against the enemy
An eighth key is to take up the armor of God daily and trust in it to protect you in the evil day, as well as standing firm in Christ against the enemy.

Paul said, “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” (Eph 6:13). 

9. Pray at All Times in the Spirit
A ninth key is to pray in the Spirit at all times.

Paul said, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,” (Eph 6:18)

10. Be Sober and Alert
A tenth key is to be sober and alert.

The apostle Peter said, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1Pe 5:8).

Being sober is not possible when you are under the influence of alcohol. It is also not possible when you are caught up in foolishness and silliness. May the Lord help us to be a sober people, who are on the alert, so that we can overcome our adversary, the devil.

11. Resist the devil, firm in your faith
Another key related to the last one is to resist the devil, who is seeking someone to devour.

Peter said, “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (1Pe 5:9). There is great power in simply resisting the devil.

12. Submit to God
Finally a twelfth key to overcoming, which is related to resisting the devil, is submitting to God.

James wrote, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Jas 4:7).

More Keys
I have given you just twelve of the keys to being an overcomer, but you can find many more in Scripture, if you search for them, and I encourage you to do so. For example, wisdom is another important key (Pr 21:22, NIV), as well as the way of the Lord (Pr 10:29). So is the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Ac 1:8), as well as the baptism with fire (Ps 97:3; Mt 3:11). I recommend reading Baptized with the Spirit and Holy Fire Baptism, as well as The Way, Will, and Word of God.

Eight Promises for Overcomers
I began by saying I wanted to encourage you to be an overcomer, and I hope that this message is doing that for you. Now I want to give you the following promises that the Lord made to those who overcome, which I believe are sure to encourage anyone who sincerely desires to do so:

1. The Right to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God
'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.' (Rev 2:7)

2. Protection from the second death
'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.' (Rev 2:11)

3. Hidden Manna to Eat, a White Stone, and a New Name
'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.' (Rev 2:17)

4. Authority over the nations
'He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; (Rev 2:26)

This promise is for he who overcomes, and he who keeps the Lord's deeds (works) until the end. For more on keeping the Lord's works, I recommend reading my articles, Practicing Your Righteousness and Faith Works! 

5. Clothed with White Garments, Name in Book of Life, and Name Confessed Before the Father and His angels
'He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (Rev 3:5)

6. Be an Eternal Pillar in God’s Temple, the Name of God Written Upon Him, and the Name of the City of God, and the Lord's New Name
"'He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name." (Rev 3:12)

7. To Sit Down with Jesus on His Throne
'He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. (Rev 3:21)

8. An inheritance, Jesus Will Be His God, He will Be Jesus’ Son
"He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. (Rev 21:7)

Since I do not want to add or take anything away from the words of the prophecy given in Revelation, I recommend reading the entire book, in order to get the full context of these promises. If you do, you will receive the blessing promised to those who read the words of that prophecy, and heed the things which are written therein. "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near." (Rev 1:3)

Putting it All Together
Now that we have received the Lord’s command to endure to the end, and we know that it is the only way to be saved, we must obey Him. We have at least twelve keys to overcoming. They include overcoming the accuser by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony; not loving your own life even when faced with death; faith in Christ, who has overcome the world; trusting in Him who is in you, in His name and authority; our faith in Christ is the victory; overwhelmingly conquering through Him who loved us; being strong in the Lord and His Word abiding in you; being strong in the Lord and the power of His might; taking up the full armor of God and standing firm; praying at all times in the spirit; being sober and alert; resisting the devil, firm in your faith; and submitting to God. But there are many more like wisdom, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and the baptism with fire.

And not only will the Lord save those who overcome and who endure to the end, He has even given eight promises in Scripture for overcomers. The promises include the right to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God; protection from the second death; hidden manna to eat, a white stone, and a new name written on it; authority over the nations; being clothed with white garments, your name in the Book of Life; the Lord confessing your name before the Father and His angels; being an eternal pillar in God’s temple, the name of God written upon you, and the name of the city of God, as well as the Lord's new name; to sit down with Jesus on his throne; and receiving an inheritance. Indeed for the one who overcomes, Jesus will be his God, he will be Jesus’ son.

Armed with this knowledge, and with the full armor of God, let us go forth, marching to Zion. Let's stay the course and press on toward the goal. If God is for us, who can be against us? No weapon that is formed against us shall prosper.

As the lyrics of that old song by Acapella say, "We've been made more than conquerors, overcomers in this life. We've been made victorious through the blood of Jesus Christ." -- More Than Conquerors.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted. The "Homecoming" painting © 2012 is by Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Author's note I invite you to visit these related articles of mine: Overcoming the WorldStriving to Enter the Kingdom of God, Taking Heaven by Force, Holding Fast the Faithful Word, Pressing on Toward the Goal, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, The Straight and Narrow Path, Ask for the Ancient Paths, You Must Be Born Again, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, Aim for Perfection, The Way, Will, and Word of God, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, Righteous Deeds and White Robes,  Faith Works!, Practicing Your Righteousness, Keeping Power of God, The Lord Will Rejoice Over You, The Afflictions of the Righteous, Even if it doesn’t happen like we expect, Doing What is Right, and Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth? I also recommend my daughter's poem, Reward of the Overcomer. You can access more articles like this from the Home page of this blog, and you can also find my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.