God’s Great Plea to Our Heart: “Do Not Forget Me!”

One of the great flaws of the human heart is to fall into habitual forgetfulness of God. We have a tendency to not remember God on a daily basis as the heart wallows in this sea of forgetfulness. A parent’s heart would be crushed if their beloved child forgot them. A bride’s heart would be wounded if her groom forgot about her love and devotion to him. There may not be a worse feeling for someone than to feel that you have been forgotten. No one wants to be a distant memory. Yet God is consistently forgotten day after day in the busyness of our hectic lives. We forget the amazing love, mercy and grace of God that has been poured into our lives in countless ways. We forget God’s words of instruction to guide us through the uncertainty and confusion of our times. We forget God’s constant plea for a deeper intimacy and relationship with Him. God easily disappears from our thoughts with a troubling constancy. The heart forgets. The heart does not remember. God fades from our memory with a relentless persistency, and the heart of God is grieved that His very own children have so easily forgotten Him.

Can a virgin forget her ornaments or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number. (Jeremiah 2:32, ESV)

You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. (Deuteronomy 32:18, ESV)

This is the great tragedy of forgetfulness that we live our lives unmindful of God, barely giving him a thought. We have forgotten the God who intricately knitted us together in our mother’s womb and beautifully formed every physical detail of our bodies. We have forgotten the God who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light and birthed within us His incorruptible seed, giving us the gift of His glorious salvation and eternal life. We have forgotten the God who has called us to a mighty purpose for His kingdom and has written a magnificent plan for our lives. This is the crime of the century—to allow our hearts to fall into forgetfulness of our awesome God.

The Hebrew word for “forget” means to ignore, to wither, to cease to care, and to be oblivious of from want of memory and attention. We must not allow God to wither from our hearts by ignoring Him and giving Him little attention. We cannot cease to care about God being at the center of everything we do and everything we are. We must never let God be labeled “the forgotten one” in the depth of our hearts.

It is sad to say, but most of us give more attention to our grocery list than God. We have become consumed with everything else, but God. We are consumed with our television shows, our music, our careers, our schedules, our success, our sports, our families, our education, our politics, our fitness, our comforts and our finances. We remember more about our IPhone apps than we remember about God. We remember the latest sport scores and statistics more than we remember God. God has to be more than just on our mailing list when we send Him a nice card from our hearts twice a year on Christmas and Easter. For a Christian, God should be more alive, important, and thought of, than any earthly thing. God has to be the living and burning passion of our hearts. We cannot follow the ways of this world where God is dead in the hearts of people. God must be more than a fleeting thought or a desperate prayer when we are in trouble. God must become the lifeblood of our heart, and the reason for every breath we take. We must cultivate in the soil of our hearts an expectation and excitement of knowing, experiencing and fellowshipping with God in a deep and meaningful manner.

A Personal Encounter with God Daily

A.W. Tozer in Experiencing the Presence of God: Teachings from the Book of Hebrews says:

How many Christians really harbor within their own spirit the daily expectation of God’s presence? How many truly expect a personal encounter with God? It is quite important to cultivate a daily expectation of God’s presence in your day … Each day presents a new opportunity to experience God and fellowship with Him. Nothing should so occupy the mind of the Christian than discovering God in his day … My encounter with God today may be of such a nature as to alter the course of my entire life. With a sacred expectation for me to dwell upon each morning, as I get up, I look for God in all the circumstances of my day. Let me give personal testimony that I never anticipate a day without experiencing the presence of God … Start the day seeking God’s presence and search for Him all through the day and revel in the gracious encounter of God throughout the day.[i]

Our heart is the place where we are to experience God with beautiful intimacy. Our heart is the sacred temple, the holy of holies, and the refuge where we cleave to God’s healing presence and love. God is not found in a relic, statue or image; God is found when He makes His permanent home in our hearts. Your heart is uniquely designed to be His dwelling place, His abode, and His meeting place of intimacy. Your heart was created to overflow with His presence and to be full of His love, joy and peace.

However, most of us have not given our hearts to God completely, without reservation, and with nothing held back. Too often we have honored God with our lips, but our heart is far from Him. We have a whole religious culture today with churches on every corner, but so few of us have ever really given God all of our heart, with no strings attached. If God does not have your heart, then you will forget Him. God is knocking at the door of your heart right now. He is pleading with you to let Him in. Dine with Him! Abide with Him! Give Him the keys to your heart! Don’t shut Him out! Don’t forget Him! God cries out daily like He did in Proverbs 23:26: “My son give me your heart!”

Listen to His passionate plea to His children in Jeremiah.

“I thought to myself, ‘I would love to treat you as my own children!’ I wanted nothing more than to give you this beautiful land—the finest possession in the world. I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’ and I wanted you never to turn from me. But you have been unfaithful to me, you people of Israel! You have been like a faithless wife who leaves her husband. I, the Lord, have spoken.” Voices are heard high on the wind swept mountains, the weeping and pleading of Israel’s people. For they have chosen crooked paths and have forgotten the Lord their God. “My wayward children,” says the Lord, “comeback to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.” (Jeremiah 3:19-22, NLT)

God is waiting for us to run into His arms and call Him Father. He wants the constant cry of our hearts to be “Abba, Father!” He wants us to move and live in His wonderful presence, and experience Him in the deepest levels of our hearts. We cannot forget Him when our heart is synchronized with His heart, and when His life is our life, His strength is our strength, and His will is our will. If we walk in the path that He has designed for our lives, we will be full of the joyous presence of God, and we will not forget Him. The purpose of our life will be to praise, love, and serve Him, and He will be at the forefront of every thought and movement of our lives.

Yet God knows the tendency of our hearts to stray from Him, and turn down a path that causes us to forget Him. Israel chose the crooked path, and they forgot Yahweh. This is the twisted and distorted path that the Devil continually lays before us, lined with the tempting delicacies of the world. When we forget God, we are like the unfaithful wife who leaves her husband to have an affair with her new lover. Unfaithfulness to God is a direct result of forgetting God days without number. The forgetful heart gives birth to the unfaithful heart.

But look at God’s tender appeal to our hearts even when we forget Him. He cries out to us every moment of the day and night, “Come back to me! Turn from your crooked path! Remember me! I am here for you! You are my beloved child! I love you more than you will ever know! Turn back to the right path I have ordained for your life, and I will heal your wayward heart! I will heal your shattered heart! I will give you rest and mend your broken hearts! I just ask this one thing: Do not forget me!”

At the Root of all Forgetfulness is Idolatry

At the root of all forgetfulness is idolatry. We have allowed something to capture our attention other than God. Forgetfulness arises in the heart when a new idol, a new lover, a new obsession, a new fascination or a new passion has consumed our hearts. This causes us to lose our way, stumbling around in darkness, as we turn from God’s path of blessing to the ruts of rebellion. When we forget God, we will ultimately betray Him and His Word. Forgetfulness causes breaches in the spiritual walls of our hearts, allowing the enemy to have access. Forgetfulness opens the door to the enemy to make our heart a wasteland where God is not wanted or worshipped.

Jeremiah gives us a somber warning about the betrayal of forgetfulness.

Who has heard of such betrayal as this? Ask the nations around you. Even they won’t believe this dreadful thing the virgin Israel has done to Me. Does the snow ever melt on the peaks of Lebanon’s mountains? Does the cool water of those mountain streams ever run dry? They have forgotten Me. Instead, My people offer incense to worthless gods, worshiping them as though they are real. They have lost their way, stumbling from the ancient path of blessing. Now they walk in the ruts of rebellion instead of taking the high road of obedience. Because of their forgetfulness, their homeland will become a wasteland; those who pass by will hiss and whistle; Disturbed at the sight of this eerie desolation, they will shake their heads in horror. (Jeremiah 18:13-16, VOICE)

You cannot grow into full spiritual maturity when your heart languishes in forgetfulness. You cannot flourish in God and produce much spiritual fruit when you continually disconnect from Him and forget Him minute after minute, hour after hour and day after day. Your fruit will wither and die if you forget to cultivate your relationship with your Heavenly Father. You are building your life on sinking sand if you forget God and His words of life. Your heart cannot stand against the schemes of the devil and his kingdom if you allow your heart to wallow in forgetfulness. Your confidence in God will fade and dwindle, and you will not run the race of life with patience and endurance if you forget your God.

The book of Job enlightens us to these truths.

Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh? Can reeds flourish where there is no water? While yet in flower and not cut down, they wither before any other plant. Such are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless shall perish. His confidence is severed, and his trust is a spider’s web. He leans against his house, but it does not stand; he lays hold of it, but it does not endure. (Job 8:11-15, ESV)

To Forget: Tears Down the Fence That Separates Life from Chaos

The Hebrew word for “forget” has even a deeper meaning when we look at its word picture. Remember that Hebrew is a pictographic language, and each letter of the Hebrew alphabet represents a picture. Every word in Hebrew is formed by adding these pictures together to visually illustrate the meaning of a word.

The Hebrew pictograph for the word “forget” is Shin-Kaf-Chet and means what destroys the fence around the open palm or hand. The open hand of God has given us life, blessings, and purpose. The open hand of God has given us instructions for life in His Word. He has also put a fence or protective boundary around our heart that allows us to live separate from the chaos of this broken world. To forget is to tear down and destroy this fence.

Skip Moen in his “Hebrew Word Studies” explains in more detail this pictograph for the Hebrew word “forget”:

To forget is to tear down the fence that provides life … God fences us in on purpose. The broken world is a dangerous and unhealthy place. God protects with His instructions, often in ways that we cannot comprehend. When we forget, we tear down the fence that keeps life and chaos apart. When we forget, we let sin in. When we forget, we open the door (as Paul says) and life tumbles.[ii]

God’s instructions in the Bible are a fence to protect our hearts from the onslaughts of the enemy. God’s commandments are a fence that allows us to live in the refuge of His grace, mercy and blessing, free from the contaminating influences of sin, lusts and the world. God builds a mighty fence with His words that is designed to withstand all the fierce storms of our spiritual adversary.

Forgetting God is Not Acting on His Word or Standing on His Promises

Yet when we forget the instruction of our God, as Hosea 4:6 warns, we begin to tear down this fence. When we forget our God, the fence becomes broken and full of holes, and our hearts become extremely vulnerable to the devil. Satan can capture and enslave the heart when we tear down the fence that God has built for our lives by forgetting our God and His Word. To forget is to not act on God’s Word, and stand on His promises.

Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today. (Deuteronomy 8:11, NASB)

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Psalm 119:15-16, ESV)

So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors—stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God. The warriors of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned their backs and fled on the day of battle. They did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his instructions. They forgot what he had done—the great wonders he had shown them. (Psalm 78:7-11, NLT)

When we forget God and refuse to live by His instructions, we will flee in the day of battle. We will wilt under the pressure of this world. When the giants of fear, worry, and anxiety stand ready to war against our hearts, we will have no strength, confidence or faith to resist them because we have forgotten God Almighty. Forgetfulness causes the heart to be seized with fear and to run away. We will not be able to hold our ground as Christians and stand fast in the Lord, if we allow His mighty works, powerful words and glorious presence to fade from our conscious thinking.

Look at David when he faced the giant Goliath. Scripture says: “he hasted and ran into battle to meet the Philistine!” Pastor Eric Ludy has enlightened me about the meaning of the word “hasted” in the Hebrew which is to move forth like liquid, to act with instant energy, and to go swiftly like a charging lion. David did not forget His God, the mighty deliverer Yahweh, and he charged into battle with liquid ferocity for he knew God never loses. He knew in His heart without any shadow of doubt that “Yahweh only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I will not be greatly shaken” (Psalm 62:2).

David knew God! David trusted God without reservation. David had the courage of a thousand men for he had absolute confidence that God was His salvation and the impenetrable fortress of his heart. He did not forget the awesome nature, marvelous works, and life-changing words of Yahweh as he boldly confesses: “I will set the Lord always before me” (Psalm 16:8).

Each generation has the responsibility to set its hope and trust in God alone. Unfortunately, our culture is geared toward causing the heart to forget God and to minimize His importance in our daily living. We will wander aimlessly in the wilderness of the world unless we make a diligent daily effort to remember God and His exceedingly great and precious promises. When we forget Him, the heart becomes stubborn and unfaithful. In the forgetfulness of God and His Word lies all spiritual weakness. We cannot grow up in Christ as strong mature disciples, bearing much spiritual fruit if we allow our hearts to play the game of forgetfulness with God. We must make the constant pledge in our hearts, “I will not forget you!” May the cry of our hearts always be, “I will not forget your Word!”

Erasing God’s Instructions

Skip Moen in “Hebrew Word Study” expounds further on this Hebrew word shakar (forget):

Forgetting is not about a mental condition. It is about a moral failure. To forget is to tear down the fence between chaos and life. Forgetting is failing to bring something into action. Forgetting is the failure to respond to the demands of the Lord. It’s not mental. It’s moral. “Forgetting has the sense of not bringing into conscious thought and thus not allowing something to shape a response.” Notice that forgetting in Hebrew is a deliberate act. It’s not a lapse of memory. It is an intentional exclusion of what should be considered. In other words, God indicts Israel not because Israel didn’t remember Him but because the people refused to allow His presence to influence their actions. The people erased God’s instructions from their minds. They knew what they should have done but they ignored it. Have we forgotten YHWH in the Hebraic sense of shakah? In a nation that calls itself Christian, have we erased His instructions? It certainly seems so. Of course, there are many who sincerely bring His ways to mind and act upon them. But when more than eighty percent of the population claims to believe in God and nevertheless behaves as if God is deaf and mute, you have to wonder if shakah doesn’t apply. This is not merely a matter of bad ethical choices. This is deliberate worship of the Ba’als, the false gods of power, money and sex that promise satisfaction but deliver death. Shakah is a sign of idolatry. It is planned disobedience.[iii]

At the Center of Disobedience is Forgetfulness

You make the choice, whether your heart is going to remember God or forget Him. Forgetfulness is always a deliberate act. Forgetfulness is always at the center of disobedience. Forgetfulness is always a sign that the heart has strayed into idolatry. It is interesting that one of the root words for “sin” in the Hebrew means forgetfulness. At the core of sin is a heart that has forgotten the majesty, grandeur and holiness of God. At the core of sin is a heart that has erased God from its thinking, forgetting His instructions, and deliberately choosing to follow another god.

As Christians, we have two natures battling within us for control over our hearts. We are born with a sin nature that causes the heart to forget God and rebel against His Holy Word. The sin nature is in complete hostility against God and causes the heart to be lost in self-worship. God has no importance, value or significance to the sin nature. The sin nature does not remember God as He is revealed in the pages of Scripture. There can be a religious bent to the sin nature as we see in the Pharisees or in the devotion to idols. Yet God is a thousand miles away from the religious heart and has long been forgotten. The powerful words of Scripture that give health, peace and life have been tossed aside and rarely come to mind. The sin nature loves religion, but hates God. The sin nature loves man-made rules and regulations, but hates the truth of Scripture that shows the utter depravity and worthlessness of the flesh. The sin nature is always trying to exercise its dominion over the heart with the express purpose of molding it into a chamber of forgetfulness where God is not wanted. If we walk according to the flesh, we will always forget God, and He will become a distant memory and a fleeting thought that is kicked out of the heart quickly.

It is impossible to please God and walk with Him in deep and abiding intimacy, if our sin nature is ruling our thought life. God wants to be remembered. God wants to be thought of. God wants to be treasured. God wants to be adored. God’s glorious heart is greatly grieved when we forget Him. We must not allow sin to have dominion as the king of our hearts. Jesus Christ crushed the power of the sin nature on the cross so we no longer have to live our lives in constant forgetfulness of God.

Christians are born again with a new divine nature. We are sealed with the gift of Holy Spirit, which is all the power, compassion, righteousness, and grace of Christ born within us as incorruptible seed. This new nature causes us to remember God and constantly brings the things of God to our minds. This divine gift of Holy Spirit is our guide, teacher and helper so we become stronger and more rooted in God.

The Gift of Holy Spirit Helps Us Remember

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26, ESV)

If we walk by the Spirit, God is a living reality in our thoughts and actions, and He will not be forgotten. The Spirit of God brings to remembrance the words, wonders and works of God. When we live according to the Spirit, we set our minds and hearts on the things of the Spirit and not the things of the flesh (Romans 8:6). The Spirit of God dwells within every cell of our body by the new birth, and it reminds us that we are the beloved children of God. Think of the incredible intimacy available with the Heavenly Father as we call Him “Abba Father” (Romans 8: 15-16). The Spirit of God always leads us into the bosom of our loving Heavenly Father where we can enjoy His close presence, becoming one with Him in everything we are. The Spirit of God is always teaching, leading, comforting, encouraging, warning, helping, enlightening, reminding and instructing our hearts so we live our lives in Christ, and do not forget God or His precious words of life.

You must choose which nature is going to rule your heart. You must decide which nature is going to be the guiding power of your life. Are you going to put on the rotting grave clothes of your old sin nature, which will cause you to forget God days without number and live in rebellion against Him? Or are you going to put on the holy and righteous clothes of the new nature, where you live each day in close communion with God, marveling at His wonders, passionately praising and worshiping Him, as you align your steps according to His Word?

Both natures are constantly bringing thoughts, images, words, and desires to the forefront of our hearts, causing us to either remember or forget God. The old nature brings to the mind, the lusts of the flesh, and the seductive trappings of this world. The new nature exercises its influence to bring us to a place where God is supreme in all our thoughts, motives, and emotions.

One of the main responsibilities of the Holy Spirit is to lead our hearts into a constant state of remembrance. As our spiritual guide, the Holy Spirit lays before our hearts the wonderful tapestry of truth in all its brilliant glory so we know and understand the attributes, character, and marvelous heart of Almighty God. Our eyes are opened to see just how magnificent, merciful, loving, powerful and limitless God is. Who could forget such an awesome God? Who would let such a magnificent God fade from their memory?

Who Will Be the Forgotten One of Your Heart?

The critical question for all spiritual warfare is, “Who will be the forgotten one of the heart?” Whom is the heart going to remember and whom is the heart going to forget? We turn our backs on the forgotten one. We lose all our passion for the forgotten one. We cannot love and worship the forgotten one. Forgetfulness of God always leads us into the valley of sin and disobedience against Him, and opens the door for the enemy to establish a stronghold in our hearts. Forgetfulness of God weakens the heart and paves the way for sin to be its dominant master. Forgetfulness of God and sin are the two wicked partners in the destruction of the heart for God.

Twice in Deuteronomy (6:12 and 8:11), God has this urgent message, “Beware that you do not forget Yahweh!” The Hebrew word “beware” is shamar, which means to exercise great care, to watch over, to preserve, to guard, and to protect. It conveys an attitude of attentive care and protectiveness realizing the sacred duty of remembering God. God is warning us the danger is too great to allow the heart to fall into the consistent pattern of forgetting Him. You must be a diligent watchman of your heart, exercising care to ensure that God is not the forgotten one.

The heart has a natural inclination, borne from our fleshly nature, to forget God, and we cannot allow this to be the characteristic of our hearts. The Devil is masterful in his schemes, in causing us to not remember Yahweh’s loving heart and His living words. Everything in Satan’s kingdom is designed with the specific purpose of causing us to forget our blessed Lord. If we care about the condition of our hearts, we cannot let this happen. We must tune our spiritual ears to hear our Heavenly Father’s constant passionate plea to our hearts “Do not forget me!” “Remember me!” “Let me be your God in everything!”

[i] A.W. Tozer, Experiencing the Presence of God: Teachings from the Book of Hebrews (Bloomington: Bethany House Publishers. 2010), 1842, Kindle Edition.

[ii] Skip Moen, “”For Whom the Bell Tolls (2), Hebrew Word Study, February 25, 2011, http://skipmoen.com/2011/02/25/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-2/

[iii] Skip Moen, “Forget-Me-Not.” Hebrew Word Study. February 1, 2011, http://skipmoen.com/2011/02/01/forget-me-not/

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We are God’s Masterpiece!

Beloved, if you are IN CHRIST by grace through faith (Eph 2:8,9note), do you know what God says about you in Ephesians 2:10? You are God’s “Workmanship,” God’s “Masterpiece,” created IN CHRIST JESUS for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The Greek word for “Workmanship” is Poiema which gives us our English words POEM and POETRY. Poiema means “something made” and in context is something made by God Himself. As a new creation skillfully and artfully created IN CHRIST JESUS (2 Cor 5:17note), have you ever thought of your new (supernatural) life as a work of “divine poetry?” Beloved, as believers “each of our lives is the papyrus on which the Master is producing a work of art that will fill the everlasting ages with His praise.” (S Gordon) You are God’s masterpiece. You are His poem. You are His work of art. When we look at ourselves this way, we begin to understand our incredible value in Christ. Indeed, as C S Lewis said “We are a divine work of art.” “If Rembrandt’s artistic masterpieces have great, undisputed value, would not God’s one-of-a-kind human masterpieces convey even greater value?” (D Robertson) Indeed, beloved of the Lord, you are ONE OF A KIND! A quality piece of artistry woven and molded by the Master Craftsman’s hand, His masterpiece to be on display not just in time on earth but throughout eternity in heaven, so that He might receive eternal praise, glory and honor! So no matter how you “feel“, the fact is that in God’s eyes, beloved in Christ you are eternally God’s own Personal Poiema!. So “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Php 4:4note)

Timothy Keller asks “Do you know what it means that you are God’s workmanship? What is art? Art is beautiful, art is valuable, and art is an expression of the inner being of the maker, of the artist. Imagine what that means. You’re beautiful, you’re valuable, and you’re an expression of the very inner being of the Artist, the divine Artist, God Himself. You see, when Jesus gave Himself on the Cross, He didn’t say, “I’m going to die just so you know I love you.” He said, “I’m going to die, I’m going to bleed, for your splendor. I’m going to re-create you into something beautiful. I will turn you into something splendid, magnificent. I’m the Artist; you’re the art. I’m the Painter; you’re the canvas. I’m the Sculptor; you’re the marble. You don’t look like much there in the quarry, but I can see. Oh, I can see!” Jesus is an Artist!” And you beloved are His crowning achievement, His masterpiece!

The idea of poiema is that our new life in Christ is like a poem which expresses “form and pattern along with beauty. Like the underside of grandmother’s cross-stitch, the everyday of our lives may look to be knotted and hopelessly tangled. But when we turn the fabric over, we see design and beauty that was there all along but that we never foresaw.” (Gage) Perhaps you don’t feel much like a work of divine poetry, but regardless of how you feel, the truth about you as God’s workmanship, is that you are His Masterpiece (NLT), His Handiwork(NAB), His “Work of Art” (NJB), in fact, a work of art that is one of a kind! You are “custom designed”, “tailor-made,” by the Master’s hand. “Each of our lives is the canvas on which the Master is producing a work of art that will fill the everlasting ages with His praise.” (John Phillips)

“While Milton’s epic poems Paradise Lost (which was our position in Adam) and Paradise Regained (our eternal position in Christ) are true masterpieces, they pale in comparison to the masterpiece of the true child of God. The world says that each of us is a product of our environment or a product of our own experience. Even Christians have a tendency to think that way. But God’s Word declares that the believer is actually “the product of God. Think of poiēma in the context of a potter. Does the pot say to the potter, “Well, you know that I had a little something to do with what I have become?” Of course not; the clay has nothing to do with the process. It’s the potter who goes out and seeks the clay, brings it into his workshop, and molds it according to his own vision. Likewise, the “Divine Potter” molds us into vessels He can use. That’s exactly what Paul illustrated to the Romans, in fact: “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Ro 9:20-21).
What a challenging thought it is to know we are each God’s work of art!” (J D Watson)

J C Philpot – Consider what is here declared of those who are saved by grace through faith—that they are God’s “workmanship”—the fruit and product of His creative hand.  All, then, that we are and all that we have that is spiritual, and as such acceptable to God, we owe to the special operation of His power.  There is not a thought of our heart, word of our lips, or work of our hands, which is truly holy and heavenly, simple and sincere, glorifying to God or profitable to man, of which He is not by His Spirit and grace the divine and immediate Author!

C H Spurgeon says it this way – “You have seen a painter with his palette on his finger and he has ugly little daubs of paint on the palette. What can he do with those spots? Go in and see the picture. What splendid painting! In an even wiser way does Jesus act toward us. He takes us, poor smudges of paint, and He makes the blessed pictures of His grace out of us. It is neither the brush nor the paint He uses, but it is the skill of His own hand which does it all.” (Praise the Lord!)

Indeed, the redeemed should sing out like David “I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well.” (Ps 139:14)

As Spurgeon says “If we are marvelously wrought upon even before we are born, what shall we say of the Lord’s dealings with us after we quit His secret workshop, and He directs our pathway through the pilgrimage of life? What shall we not say of that new birth which is even more mysterious than the first, and exhibits even more the love and wisdom of the Lord.”

O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art!
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
-Thomas Chisholm

The only other NT use of the Greek word poiema is in Romans 1:20 -note where Paul writes “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood throughWHAT HAS BEEN MADE (All one Greek Word – POIEMA) so that they are without excuse.”

As creationist Henry Morris says “God has written two poetic masterpieces, as it were, one in the physical creation, one in the lives of men and women redeemed and saved by His grace (Eph 2:8). Both give eloquent testimony to the eternal power and Godhead of the Creator-Redeemer.” Two great “divine poems” – thecreated world and re-created, redeemed men and women in that world. Even as the “heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Ps 19:1note), we too as God’s MASTER CREATIONS should never be ashamed to let others see His WORKMANSHIP in us by our Spirit enabled obedience to Jesus’ command to “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they see your GOOD WORKS, and glorify (give a proper opinion of) your Father Who is in heaven.” (Mt 5:16note) As new creatures in Christ, we need to remember that we were created for God’s glory, and created for good deeds, because it is by our good deeds that our Father gets all the glory (cf Ps 115:1note). Indeed, the chief end of each of our lives is “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism) In summary, Eph 2:8-10 teaches that we are saved not BY good works but FOR good (supernatural) works and in the mystery of His amazing grace He even rewards us for those Spirit enabled works (cf 2Cor 5:10noteRev 22:12note)!

Dr W H Houghton, pastored the Calvary Baptist Church in NYC and later served as president of Moody Bible Institute. When Dr. Houghton became pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle in Atlanta, a man in that city hired a private detective to follow Dr. Houghton and report on his conduct. After a few weeks, the detective was able to report to the man that Dr. Houghton’s life matched his preaching. As a result of Houghton’s faithful life as God’s POIEMA“, that man became a Christian.

In Ps 143:5note David prays “I remember the days of old. I meditate on all Your doings. I muse (meditate) on the WORK (LXX = POIEMA) of Your hands.” Have you meditated on the truth that now IN CHRIST, you are “the WORK (poiema) of” His hands? It is good to meditate on what God has made and rest in the confidence that “He Who began a good work in you will complete it in the day of Christ Jesus.” (Php 1:6note).

Regarding the works we as God’s workmanship are to work out, E W Moorewrites that “The works are ready, waiting for us, all we have to do is to be willing to be led into them. How many disappointments we should have been spared in life if we had always acted on this conviction. God knows what we are fitted for far better than we know ourselves. He who made us knows whereof we are made. He won’t put “square pegs into round holes. If we would be useful in Christ’s service our wisdom is “to have no plan except to enter into His plan for us and imitate Paul who said “Lord, what do you want me to do? (to which Jesus replied) “Arise and go to Damascus and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.” (Acts 9:6NKJVActs 22:10Lowell adds that “No man is born into the world whose work is not born with him; there is always work, and tools to work withal, for those who will.”

Great Master, teach us with Your skillful hand;
Let not the music that is in us die!
Great Sculptor, hew and polish us; nor let
Hidden and lost, Your form within us lie!
—Horatius Bonar

ILLUSTRATION – Kent Hughes – “In Christ we are of untold worth. This great truth may be hard to actually take hold of as we exist in frail human bodies carried along in the rush of modern-day busyness. Some of us have had things happen which make us doubt our worth. But we are His “workmanship” — His work of art. Moreover, we are in process (Phil 1:6note). Michelangelo was once asked what he was doing as he chipped away at a shapeless rock. He replied, “I’m liberating an angel from this stone.” That’s what God is doing with us. We are in the hands of the Great Maker, the ultimate Sculptor Who created the universe out of nothing, and He has never yet thrown away a rock on which He has begun a masterwork. His tools are Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, His Word, and the preaching of the Word.” And often God’s Spirit uses difficult circumstances or difficult people to sculpt our character into His “masterpieces” conformed to the image of His Son (Ro 8:29note).“In Christ” we are of untold worth. This great truth may be hard to actually take hold of as we exist in frail human bodies carried along in the rush of modern-day busyness. Some of us have had things happen which make us doubt our worth. But we are his “workmanship” — his work of art. Moreover, we are in process.

THE CRAFTSMAN’S TOUCH – Dennis Fisher writes “I recently saw a documentary about the making of a Steinway piano. It traced the meticulous care that goes into crafting this fine instrument. From the cutting of trees until the piano appears on a showroom floor, it goes through countless delicate adjustments by skilled craftsmen. When the year-long process is complete, accomplished musicians play the piano and often comment on how the same rich sounds could never be produced by a computerized assembly line. The secret to the final product is the craftsman’s touch. When the tabernacle was built, we see that God also valued the craftsman’s touch. He chose the craftsman Bezalel and said of him: “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood” (Ex. 31:3-5). Today God’s Spirit dwells in the hearts of believers (who are His temple, His possession – 1Cor 6:19note). Yet the call to craftsmanship has not ended. Now each individual believer is God’s “workmanship” (Ephesians 2:10note). The Master Craftsman is the Holy Spirit, who chips away at flaws in our character to make each of us like Jesus (Ro 8:28noteRo 8:29note). And as we yield to His workmanship, we will find that the secret to the final product is the Craftsman’s touch.” (The Craftsman’s Touch – Our Daily Bread)

The Spirit is the Craftsman
Who makes us like the Son;
He’ll mold and shape our being
Until His work is done. —Sper

The Father gave us the Spirit
to make us like His Son

Jon Courson reminds us that “God is saying, ‘You are My poetry. You’re special to Me. I’m not giving up on you.’ He is making you something not only useful but beautiful, something that is poetic.” Indeed, every believer is God’s poem in a world of prose, God’s beauty in a world of gloom, God’s fine art in a world of moral degradation. And God’s most marvelous creation is making spiritually dead men alive in Christ! Created in God’s image (Ge 2:7), yet born in sin, we are redeemed and re-created in the image of His Son. Dear saint, don’t ever forget that you are the subject the Creator’s (Jn 1:3) two creations, and as the result of His second creation, you are His ultimate workmanship, His most lyrical poem, His crowning achievement, His greatest masterpiece and you will be “on display” to show the universe the full extent of His creative genius throughout eternity! Hallelujah!

Courtesy of http://www.preceptaustin.org/gods_masterpiece-poiema_greek_word_study

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The Third Gateway to the Heart: The Thoughts, Part 7: The Lesson of Lazarus

We must take off our grave clothes when it comes to our thought life. Our thinking must come out from among the dead where sin, corruption and rebellion abound and into the glorious light of His presence. Jesus Christ is crying out to our thought life like he cried out to Lazarus: He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus! Here! Outside! (John 11:43).

In many ways we are just like Lazarus when it comes to our thinking. Our thought life is dead, wrapped in grave clothes, stuck in a tomb and rotting away, waiting for someone with real authority and power to rescue us, and call us into life. We need a resurrection in our thinking. Jesus Christ stands in complete triumph at the tomb of our thinking having defeated every captivity, stronghold, and prison that has ever entombed our heart.

Jesus Christ cries with a loud voice at the tomb of our thoughts. This is a beautiful shout of victory in three words “Lazarus! Here! Outside” This also is a battle cry. Jesus stands at the great stronghold of the human race, which is death. The grave cannot hold those whom the Savior redeems. The grave cannot hold those whom the Savior calls. This is the shout that makes the enemy tremble. Be frightened Satan! The Son of God is here! The death grip will be loosed! With one shout from Jesus, everything is made alive and the works of the Devil crumble.

Jesus first calls Lazarus by name. How beautiful and how touching. Jesus cares deeply about you. Jesus is calling you. He wants you to hear his voice and be delivered from the tomb of every stronghold that plagues your heart. You are so precious to Him as a pearl of great price and He is standing before you with an invitation for freedom. He does not want your thinking in the grip of any stronghold that stands between you and Him. He wants to dwell in your heart without restriction or hindrance. He has the key to the prison door and is commanding you to come forth. The days of living in the dark night of the soul is over. A new day is dawning for your thought life.

Next Jesus commands, “Outside!” which is the Greek word exo and means out from the doors. This is the ultimate exit strategy from every stronghold. Jesus demands that Lazarus come out of the place of bondage and come forth to meet the Savior. The exit strategy for every stronghold is Jesus. Only Jesus Christ has the power to break every stronghold. Only Jesus Christ can provide a way out of the tomb. Only Jesus Christ can release our heart from these dead prisons to the glorious light of his gospel. It is time to come outside from the doors of these strongholds. Jesus’s command is crystal clear. “You must exit these strongholds!” They must be demolished.

Lazarus is not asked just to come back to life, but Jesus commanded him to come to a specific place. “Here!” Next to Him! Right beside Jesus. We were not released from the grip of the enemy so we can go back to our place of past living or occupy any place we wish. We were released so we could stand right next to the one who set us free. There is no other place of freedom. There is no other place of deliverance. There is no other place of rescue. We were given life so that we could always be by his side. We were given life so that Jesus Christ could live in our thoughts, minds and hearts. “Here!” is the place we always want to be in our thinking, out of the dead strongholds of our sin nature, into the glory of His presence.

Jesus Christ: The Centerpiece of our Thinking

Our thinking must follow Jesus and be by His side wherever he may lead us. Jesus Christ should be the centerpiece of our thinking for he has given us a new life out from among the dead. Our thoughts can be clothed in the Lord Jesus Christ as we cast off the grave clothes of our old way of thinking and clothe our thoughts in the robes of his righteousness. There is no other place for a Christian’s thought life than in Christ.

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. (Romans 13:11, 12, 14, NIV)

The hour has come to hear the voice of the Lord calling us to awaken from our spiritual slumber. It is time to cast off the works of darkness from our thinking and put on the armor of light to shine upon every thought. We cannot allow our thoughts to rot in the crypt of sin and the flesh. The corpse of the old man must be thrown off the throne of our thinking. He cannot exercise control and authority over our thoughts any longer. Jesus Christ has raised our thought life from the dead so that our thinking can begin a new life and location “in Christ.”

Our thoughts are the key to our relationship with God. Our intimacy with God is deeply impacted by how we think. Return your thinking to God and extract the precious from the worthless in your thoughts. We are treasure hunters when it comes to our thinking and hold fast to the good treasures and discard the worthless things of no value. We need to filter our thoughts and only allow those thoughts that glorify God to settle into our brains and dwell in our hearts.

Therefore, thus says the LORD, “If you return, then you extract the precious from the worthless, You will become My spokesman. They for their part may turn to you, But as for you, you must not turn to them. “Then I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; and though they fight against you, They will not prevail over you; For I am with you to save you And deliver you,” declares the LORD. “So I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, And I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent.” (Jeremiah 15:19-21, NASB)

When we return to the Lord in our thought life, He will restore our hearts to reflect a beautiful picture of Him. We can bring our thinking back to the presence of God where all the negatives, fears and impurities will melt away. Our thought life will become a fortified wall of bronze where no earthly power, fleshly lust and unholy desire will be able to penetrate into the territory of our heart. The Hebrew word for “fortified” means inaccessible and impenetrable and describes the impossibility of something being thwarted or overcome. God is the builder of this bronze wall around our heart and it is impossible for anything to smash through it. Nothing can penetrate the wall and overcome it. This fortified bronze wall will allow us to walk in great deliverance and victory and will be a mighty shield and barrier against evil. This massive wall of protection around our heart keeps Satan from gaining access and prevents him from exercising any control and authority over our lives. Jesus Christ is this fortified bronze wall, and when we locate our thought life in Christ, then absolutely nothing can break through and corrupt our heart.

The construction of this wall begins with extracting the precious from the worthless in our thinking. We are bombarded with worthless ideas, images and words every day and we decide what we are going to think about. When our thinking is rooted in Christ and we lead every thought captive and bring it to the feet of our Lord, then God will fortify a wall of bronze around our heart that no gate of hell can prevail against it. Our heart will be a brilliant demonstration of the salvation and deliverance that only comes from the hand of the Lord.

We can never develop this type of spiritual thinking pattern in our own power and strength. We cannot overcome the entrenched thinking of the flesh on our own. The only way we can conquer the thoughts that continually flow out of our sin nature and transform our thinking into a heavenly pattern is through Christ. In Christ lies the secret to transformed thinking. In Christ lies the power to eradicate sin from our thinking. In Christ lies the key to a new thought life energized by the Spirit of God.

God designed every human being with the capacity to be governed by God Himself. This is built into the blueprint of the human heart and this is how life was meant to be lived. The heart was never met to function without God at its helm. The heart has been designed for God Almighty to dwell and reign within it by means of the Spirit of God where God gains access and is able to exercise rulership over our emotions, will, and behavior. At the time of the new birth, we receive the very nature of God Himself borne within us, and in this nature is the inherent ability to have His victory on the cross manifested in our thinking.

Major Ian Thomas in The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me states:

God so engineered you and me that His presence is indispensable to our humanity, teaching our minds, controlling our emotions, directing our wills, and governing our behavior. Your new birth put God into action in you … What kind of Christian do you want to be? To choose to be a carnal Christian is spiritual oblivion. But if you decide genuinely that Christ be everything and have everything in your life … then He is ready to lead you into discoveries that can completely revolutionize your whole humanity for time and eternity … Consent, therefore, to die to all that you are which does not derive from all that Christ is and thank Him for His willingness to make it real … The resurrected Christ now lives, to continue His Life in you … You must die to your own natural ability to deal with the flesh, for you cannot crucify yourself. That is God’s business … You realize that it was never God’s purpose to improve the flesh, to educate it or tame it, let alone Christianize it. It has always been God’s purpose that the flesh-condemned, sentenced, and crucified with Jesus Christ-might be left buried in the tomb and replaced by the resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The risen Christ must exercise control in your mind, in your emotions and in your will, expressing Himself through your personality.[i]

The only way we win the battle of our thinking is to surrender it to Him. He purchased us with the price of His precious blood and our thought life is now His possession. Give Him what is rightfully His! We have no right to be the masters of our thinking any longer. Jesus Christ wants to take up residence in our thinking and be the Captain, the Savior, the Mighty One, and the Lord of all the thoughts that mold and fashion our hearts. We cannot in our own strength lead captive even one thought to the obedience of Christ, but He can. Every part of our body and mind is now His. We are a new creation in Christ and the flesh, which allowed sin to rule our mind, thinking and body, is now dead. The flesh has no right to exercise any authority or control over any part of our mind or body for it was crucified with Jesus and died on the cross. Its reign is over. Its kingship has been overthrown. Its right to rule has ended. We must declare its death sentence daily and never give sin and the flesh one inch of our thought life or soon it will be building strongholds and ruling our thinking. The risen Christ has imparted His new life and He has the right to rule every single part of our mind and body including our thinking.

We have a choice to make. We can allow our thoughts, mind and body to be instruments of sin or instruments of righteousness. My eyes are now His eyes, I only see what He would see; my ears are now His ears, I only hear what He would hear; my thoughts are now His thoughts, I only think what He would think; my mouth is now His mouth, I only speak what He would speak; my hands are now His hands, I only work the work that He would work; My heart is now His heart and out of my new heart comes His love, compassion, kindness, tenderness and mercies. We now have the mind, thoughts and motives of Christ because of our new nature birthed within us. The mind of Christ is the new ruler of our thought life. Allow Him to do the impossible in our thinking. Allow Him to separate the chaff form the wheat in our thought life. Allow Him to bring the fires of holiness and purity to our thoughts. Allow Him to build Himself in our thought life. If we allow Jesus Christ to be the king of our thought life, our heart will be transformed into image of our Lord and we will become a brilliant lighthouse to all the world of the glory and splendor of our God.

[i] Ian Thomas, The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2006), 26, 35.

 

Chapter 10: The First Soil of the Heart: The Great Robbery

 

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Intensify Your Study of Scriptures and Make God Smile: Rightly Divide the Word of Truth!

2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB): Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Amplified: Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. (Amplified Bible – Lockman)

Darby: Strive diligently to present thyself approved to God, a workman that has not to be ashamed, cutting in a straight line the word of truth.

Wuest: Bend your every effort to present yourself to God, approved, a workman unashamed, expounding soundly the word of the truth. (Eerdmans)

Young’s Literal: be diligent to present thyself approved to God–a workman irreproachable, rightly dividing the word of the truth;

BE DILIGENT: spoudason (2SAAM):

Wuest = “Bend your every effort”.

A COMMAND TO DETERMINE
TO BE DILIGENT

Be diligent (4704) (spoudazo from spoude = earnestness, diligence) conveys the idea hastening to do something with the implication of associated energy or with intense effort and motivation. It suggest zealous concentration and diligent effort. Spoudazo speaks of intensity of purpose followed by intensity of effort toward the realization of that purpose.

Spoudazo is in the aorist imperative, a command to do this now. Don’t delay. Do it effectively. Demonstrate a zealous persistence to accomplish an objective. ”Do your utmost for His highest’!  It is vitally important that we understand Paul’s charge to “Just Do It!” Paul is not seeking to put us under the burden of the law but quite to the contrary he expects us to submit to the Spirit of Grace (Heb 10:29), the only One Who can enable us to keep this command. Stated another way ,God’s commandments always come “pre-packaged” with His enablement (His “Enabler” the indwelling Spirit)! This command can only be obeyed as we are yield to the indwelling Spirit Who continually “energizes” us Php 2:13NLTnote! Therefore it is imperative (pun intended) that we stay filled! (Eph 5:18note! – even the desire to stay filled is “paradoxically possible” only by the Spirit! Oh, what a divine delightful mystery!) Daily filled we must daily walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16note) not grieving Him (Eph 4:30note) or quenching Him (1Th 5:19note). Then we can be diligent!

Study of God’s Word takes effort! Inductive Bible study is the most difficult Bible study I have have ever done has also been by far the most rewarding and edifying.

Spoudazo – 11v in NT – Gal 2:10Ep 4:31Th. 2:172Ti 2:152Ti 4:92Ti 4:21Titus 3:12He 4:112Pe 1:102Pe 1:153:14. NAS renders as – diligent(6), eager(2), make every effort(3).

Spoudazo is used in the papyri in such senses as “do your best, take care, hurry on the doing of something.”

Spoudazo is marked by careful unremitting attention or persistent application. The idea is give maximum effort, do your best, spare no effort, hurry on, be eager! Hasten to do a thing, exert yourself, endeavour to do it. It means not only to be willing to do with eagerness, but to follow through and make diligent effort. Give your utmost for His highest!

In other words spoudazo does not stop with affecting one’s state of mind, but also affects one’s activity.

Spoudazo conveys the idea of exertion. It means to be conscientious, zealous and earnest in discharging a duty or obligation.

The verb speaks of intensity of purpose followed by intensity of effort toward the realization of that purpose.

To be diligent is to exert steady, earnest, and energetic effort and suggests earnest application to some specific object or pursuit. The idea is careful and persevering in carrying out tasks or duties. It means to be assiduous (marked by careful unremitting attention or persistent application).

Spoudazo basically means to make haste, and from that come the meanings of zeal and diligence. One commentator describes it as a holy zeal that demands full dedication.

Wuest says that spoudazo means “to make haste, do one’s best, take care, desire. The idea of making haste, being eager, giving diligence, and putting forth effort are in the word. The word speaks of intense effort and determination.” (Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament)

The supreme purpose of the diligent and selfless teacher is to please God. – For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?” Paul asked Galatian believers. “Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ (Galatians 1:10note)

Every Christian teacher and preacher should be able to say, “Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our hearts (1Thes 2:4note).

His greatest desire is to hear his Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant (Mt 25:21).”

Charles Kingsley – Have thy tools ready; God will find thee work.

The most beneficial study of God’s Word requires diligence and perseverance, but the results are worth the effort. A. B. Simpson said…

God has hidden every precious thing in such a way that it is a reward to the diligent, a prize to the earnest, but a disappointment to the slothful soul. All nature is arrayed against the lounger and the idler. The nut is hidden in its thorny case; the pearl is buried beneath the ocean waves; the gold is imprisoned in the rocky bosom of the mountains; the gem is found only after you crush the rock which encloses it; the very soil gives its harvest as a reward to the laboring farmer. So truth and God must be earnestly sought.

Steven Cole what the key is for a saint to be diligent to rightly divide the Word…

So many Christians are haphazard and lazy rather than diligent in their approach to God’s Word. They don’t systematically read, study, or memorize it. If they read it at all, they jump from passage to passage, pulling verses out of context. They aren’t seeking to know God and how He wants them to think, to believe, and to relate to others. Their lives and relationships are falling apart, but they don’t search diligently to discover what God’s Word tells them

to do about these problems.

The key to being diligent in God’s Word is to be motivated. Motivation is the key to learning. Have you ever been on an airplane and watched the passengers as the stewardess gives the instructions on how to use the emergency breathing apparatus? They’re reading their newspapers or impatiently thinking, “Hurry up so we can get going!” They’re not motivated to hear her boring instructions. But suppose they’re airborne and the pilot comes on the intercom and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re experiencing some severe trouble with our engines. We’re going to have to depressurize the cabin and make an emergency landing. The stewardess is going to explain how to use the emergency breathing apparatus.” Do you think he would have to add, “Please give her your full attention”? People would be motivated!

So the key to being motivated to be diligent in God’s Word is to recognize, “I live in the presence of God! Someday soon I will give an account to Him. His Word alone contains His wisdom on how to live in a way that pleases Him, which is the only way to true happiness for me. So I’ve got to be diligent to search out what the Scriptures say about knowing God and His wisdom for living.” (See full message 2 Timothy 2:14-19 Using the Word Properly)

TO PRESENT YOURSELF: parastesai (AAN):

Present (3936) (paristemi from pará = near + hístemi = place, stand) literally means to stand beside or near, to present and includes idea of yielding, to place at the disposal of another and so to lay oneself out for the use of another. In the Septuagint (LXX) paristemi was used as a technical term for priest’s placing offering on altar. This word conveys the general idea of surrendering or yielding up. Josephus (Ant., 4, 113) writes

“He then slew the sacrifices, and offered (paristemi) them as burnt offerings, that he might observe some signal of the flight of the Hebrews.”

The aorist tense here indicates a decisive, wholehearted act, yet in this case it is one requiring the diligence of repetition.

Paristemi – 40v in NT (study the uses especially in Romans) – Matt. 26:53Mk. 4:2914:47697015:3539Lk. 1:192:2219:24Jn. 18:2219:26Acts 1:3104:10269:394123:24243324:1327:23fRom. 6:13161912:114:1016:21 Co. 8:82 Co. 4:1411:2Eph. 5:27Col. 1:22282 Tim. 2:154:1722NAS renders paristemias -bystanders(5), come(1), commend(1), help(1), present(11), presented(4), presenting(1),prove(1), provide(1), put at My disposal(1), stand before(2), standing(2), standing beside(1), standing nearby(1), stands(1),stands here(1), stood(2), stood before(1), stood beside(2), took their stand(1).

It is a standing alongside of or before God, of presenting oneself for inspection, as it were, in order to be approved by Him.

The verb paristemi is used in a similar manner by Paul in his letter to the Romans where he writes “why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before(paristemi) the judgment seat of God.” (Ro 14:10note)

Note that this judgment has to do with a believer’s service, not his sins (1Co 3:1112131415). It is a time of review and reward, and is not to be confused with the Judgment of the Gentile nations (Mt 25:31323334353637383940414243444546) or the Judgment of the Great White Throne (Rev 20:1112131415notes). The latter is the final judgment of all the wicked dead.

Be diligent that you might receive your degree…

A.U.G.
Approved Unto God

Steven Cole points out that…

Present is used (2 Cor 11:2Ep 5:27 [note]) to speak of a bride being presented to her bridegroom. It’s a very personal, loving act when a young woman gives herself to a young man in marriage. In that culture (pre-women’s lib) it meant that she was giving herself completely to him: her devotion, her time, her body, her complete focus was now toward her husband because of his love for her and her love for him. That’s how we should come to the Bible. It’s not just a book of principles for how to live. It tells us of Christ’s enduring love for His bride. As His bride, we should seek to please Him and be available to do His will. As such, our focus should not be on what others think of us, but on what God thinks. Too many pastors fall into the trap of pleasing people, rather than pleasing God. While it’s nice to be liked, my main focus is to be, “approved to God.” Our goal is to please our heavenly Bridegroom who loved us and gave Himself for us.

When Jim Elliot, who was later martyred in the jungles of Ecuador, was a student at Wheaton College, he wrote in his diary, “My grades came through this week, and were, as expected, lower than last semester. However, I make no apologies, and admit I’ve let them drag a bit for study of the Bible, in which I seek the degree A.U.G., ‘approved unto God’” (Shadow of the Almighty [Zondervan], p. 43).

Come to the Bible to deepen your love life with the Lord, to learn how you can please Him more. (See full message 2 Timothy 2:14-19 Using the Word Properly)

APPROVED TO GOD: dokimon parastesai (AAN) to theo:

Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. (2Co 5:9note)

The Steps of Those Whom He Approves
Wait on the Lord and keep His way,
And then, by Him approved,
Thy heritage shall still remain
When sinners are removed.

Approved (1384) (dokimos from dokime = test, proof, trial = idea is that when you put metal through a fiery testing and it comes out on the other side enduring it “proven”, “authentic” or “genuine” Click discussion of related word dokimazo and the antonym = adokimos) describes one who has stood the test.

Vine writes that dokimos signifies “that which is approved by being proved, that which stands the test (Vine, W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)

Wuest adds this description that dokimos means to “put to the test for the purpose of being approved, and having met specifications, having the stamp of approval placed upon one. (Wuest, K. S. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans)

dokimos man or dokimos character is like metal which has been cleansed of all alloy and impurity. In James 1:12 (see below) the weaknesses of such a one have been eradicated and he emerges strong and pure. That which is dokimos is shown to be trustworthy and genuine.

Approved describes anything tested and fit for service. As alluded to above, this term was used of gold and silver which has been purified by fire of all alloy.

Dokimos is the word describing money which is genuine or as we would say sterling (silver) [sterling = conforming to the highest standard]. In other words, a persons must first be “proved” before being “approved”. One so approved is assayed by the One Who has eyes like flames of fire (Rev 1:14note) yet passes this scrutiny and is counted as worthy.

Dokimos is a word which motivates one to have a “God consciousness” (cp “Coram Deo” – before the face of God!), a consciousness of His presence and of living and acting in His sight, so as to please Him in all things. (e.g., see the use by James below)

Sometimes it is helpful to get a sense of the meaning of a word by observing uses of its antonym and here Isaiah 1:22note presents us with a clear picture, where God is speaking to faithless Israel declaring “Your silver has become dross (Hebrew = siyg = literally that which is turned away or skimmed off in the refining process, the waste or impurity, the refuse after smelting precious metal and figuratively that which is base or worthless), Your drink diluted with water. (Comment: The Septuagint -LXX translates siyg with the Greek word adokimos)

Richards writes that dokimos “is used in the NT in the sense of recognition, of being officially approved and accepted.

Barclay – The Greek for one who has stood the test is dokimos, which describes anything which has been tested and is fit for service. For instance, it describes gold or silver which has been purified of all alloy in the fire. It is therefore the word for money which is genuine, or, as we would say, sterling. It is the word used for a stone which is fit to be fitted into its place in a building. A stone with a flaw in it was marked with a capital A, standing for adokimastos, which means tested and found wanting. Timothy was to be tested that he might be a fit weapon for the work of Christ, and therefore a workman who had no need to be ashamed. (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible)

The root dek-, dechomai, accept, gives two verbal derivatives dokeo and dokao. The former means (intrans.) to appear, have the appearance, (trans.) to think, believe, consider right; the latter means expect. Derivatives of the former are: (a) dokimos, trustworthy, reliable, tested, recognized, used as a technical term for genuine, current coinage, but also applied to persons enjoying general esteem; (b) adokimos, untested, not respected; (c) indirectly also dokimion, test, probation; (d) from dokimos are also derived dokimazo, test, pronounce good, establish by trial, recognize, and apodokimazo, disapprove of, reject, blame; dokimasis and dokimasia, investigation, testing (preparatory to installing in an office); dokime, approved character, trial. (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan)

Dokimos is used 7 times in the NT…

Romans 14:18 (note) For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.

John MacArthur comments: Dokimos (approved) refers to acceptance after careful examination, as when a jeweler carefully inspects a gem under a magnifying glass to determine its genuineness and value. When we serve Christ selflessly, we prove ourselves “to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (see note Philippians 2:15). (MacArthur, J: Romans 9-16. Chicago: Moody Press)

Romans 16:10 (note) Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.

Comment: O, that the “tribe” of Apelles might increase for whatever it was he did in the way of ministry and service, it was done in the sphere of [sufficiency of, power of, grace of] Christ, allowing Christ to live out His supernatural life through him. Apelles understood the vital principle Jesus taught in John 15:5 that “if you abide in Me and I abide in you shall bear much fruit for apart from Me you can do absolutely nothing that will pass the test.” The “works” of Apelles will be tried by fire in 1 Corinthians 3:13-14 and even as pure gold will be found to pass the test of purity in the eyes of the Refiner. May God be pleased to raise up many Apelles in the modern church in America. Amen.

1 Corinthians 11:19 For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approvedmay have become evident among you.

2 Corinthians 10:18 For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.

2 Corinthians 13:7 Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we should appear unapproved.

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.

James 1:12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial (the test is not designed to destroy us but to display the genuineness of our faith); for once he has been approved (dokimos – in the context he has passed the test and his faith is intact), he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (Comment: The principle is simple and clear that perseverance brings God’s approval, and His approval brings the crown of life)

There are 6 uses of dokimos in the Septuagint (LXX) (Gen 23:161 Ki 10:181 Chr 28:1829:42 Chr 9:17Zech 11:13) and here are some representative uses…

Genesis 23:16 And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, commercial standard (Lxx = “approved [dokimos] with merchants”.

1 Kings 10:18 Moreover, the king made a great throne of ivory and overlaid it with refined (Hebrew = pazaz = refined; Lxx = dokimos) gold.

1 Chronicles 29:4 namely, 3,000 talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and 7,000 talents of refined (Hebrew = zaqaq = purified, refined, purged; Lxx = dokimos) silver, to overlay the walls of the buildings;

2 Chronicles 9:17 Moreover, the king made a great throne of ivory and overlaid it with pure (Hebrew = tahor = pure, clean, genuine – used ninety times in the Old Testament, primarily to distinguish things that were culturally pure, capable of being used in, or taking part in the religious rituals of Israel; Lxx = dokimos) gold.

Donald Barnhouse has the following interesting explanation of dokimos writing that

In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into moulds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century, more than eighty laws were passed in Athens, to stop the practice of shaving down the coins then in circulation. But some money changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money. They were men of honour who put only genuine full weighted money into circulation. Such men were called “dokimos” or “approved

AS A WORKMAN: ergaten:

This was Paul’s warp and woof, to be God’s man, God’s workman who expressed his earnest expectation and hope this way “that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Php 1:20-see note) (And we should each seek to be imitators of Paul, just as he was of Christ)

Workman (2040) (ergates from ergazomai = meaning to engage in an activity involving considerable expenditure of effort. It is the root of English words like ergs, ergonomics, etc) literally describes a worker (workman) or laborer, someone who is engaged in labor (Mt 10:10Mt 20:1-28, etc). An ergates is one who effects something or brings about an effect through exertion of effort, whether mental or physical. In the spiritual realm, some of the workers are good (believers – Mt 9:37381Ti 5:182Ti 2:15) and some are evil (unbelievers = deceitful workers in 2Cor 11:13, evil workers – Php 3:2, workers of evil literally in Lk 13:27)

Liddell-Scott – (I) a workman: esp. one who works the soil, a husbandman, Herodotus, the country-folk. 2. as Adj. hard-working, strenuous, Xenophon (II). one who practices an art, c. gen., Id. (II) a doer, worker, Sophocles, Xenophon.

Ergates – 16x in 15v – not found in non-apocryphal Septuagint (“evildoer” in 1Macc 3:6).

Matthew 9:37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Matthew 10:10 or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support.

Matthew 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 “When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’

Luke 10:2 And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

7 “Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.

Luke 13:27note and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’ (Literally workers of unrighteousness)

Comment: Jesus is just – these individuals just don’t accidentally (or unintentionally) fall into sin, but actually “work at” committing sin. Their punishment (eternal damnation) fits their crime (“tireless” evil workers).

Acts 19:25 these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business.

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.

Philippians 3:2note Beware (3 separate present imperatives – commanding continual vigilance) of the dogs, beware of the evil workersbeware of the false circumcision;

1 Timothy 5:18 For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

James 5:4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.

There are also a number of metaphorical uses in the NT (as here in 2Ti 2:15) describing one who is engaged in the work of some spiritual activity, whether good or bad (study the uses below, noting the repeated association that the ergates is “worthy of his wages” – beloved the hard working farmer should be the first to receive his share of the “wages” even now [2Ti 2:6note] and yet even better he is storing up wages in the “bank of heaven” (cp 1Ti 4:8noteMt 6:20note, cp Mt 19:211Ti 6:171819He 10:34noteHe 11:26note1Pe 1:4note). Are you working for this life or the life to come? Do not lose heart as you labor [Gal 6:910], striving according to His power which mightily works within you [Col 1:28noteCol 1:29noteHe 13:2021note], for your “payday” awaits eternity and the bema seat [word study] of Christ [2Cor 5:101Co 3:1112131415], the Lord of the harvest. Redeem the work days you have [Ep 5:16noteRo 13:11noteRo 13:12note] for the days are evil and our life is but a vapor – cp Ps 90:12noteJas 1:1011noteJas 4:14Ps 102:3notePs 102:11notePs 103:1516notePs 144:4noteIsa 40:671Pe1:2425noteJob 7:6)

Only one life
Twill soon pass
Only what’s done for (in) Christ will last

So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.
— Moses – Ps 90:12note

Lost, yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset,
two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes.
No reward offered, for they are gone for ever.

Redeem the time! God only knows
How soon our little life may close,
With all its pleasures and its woes,
Redeem the time!
— Anonymous

God set a goal, yet gave the choice
To mortals how time may be spent,
Admonishing that worth, not length,
Values time’s accomplishment.
— Mortenson

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
(Julius Caesar, 4.3.217)

Whatever your hand finds to do,
verily, do it with all your might;
for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol
where you are going. (Eccl 9:10)

Life is too short for us to do everything we want to do; but it is long enough for us to do everything God wants us to do. – Anon.

Spend your time in nothing which you know must be repented of; in nothing on which you might not pray for the blessing of God; in nothing which you could not review with a quiet conscience on your dying bed; in nothing which you might not safely and properly be found doing if death should surprise you in the act. – Richard Baxter

Time should not be spent, it should be invested in the kingdom of God. -John Blanchard (Blanchard, John: Complete Gathered Gold: A Treasury of Quotations for Christians – Recommended)

Time is not yours to dispose of as you please; it is a glorious talent that men must be accountable for as well as any other talent. – Thomas Brooks

There is nothing puts a more serious frame into a man’s spirit than to know the worth of his time. -Thomas Brooks

We are to redeem the time because we ourselves are redeemed.-Richard Chester

Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life to save. -Will Rogers

Too busy for all that is holy on earth beneath the sky,
Too busy to serve the Master, but—not too busy to die!—Anon.

ETERNITY will be appreciated only in the measure that we have rightly handled TIME!-F. King

Adoniram Judson alluded to making the most of your opportunities when he wrote that…

A life once spent is irrevocable. It will remain to be contemplated through eternity…the same may be said of each day. When it is once past, it is gone forever. All the marks which we put upon it, it will exhibit forever…each day will not only be a witness of our conduct, but will affect our everlasting destiny….How shall we then wish to see each day marked with usefulness…! It is too late to mend the days that are past. The future is in our power. Let us, then, each morning, resolve to send the day into eternity in such a garb as we shall wish it to wear forever. And at night let us reflect that one more day is irrevocably gone, indelibly marked.

Many years ago when the great missionary Adoniram Judson was home on furlough, he passed through the city of Stonington, Connecticut. A young boy playing about the wharves at the time of Judson’s arrival was struck by the man’s appearance. Never before had he seen such a light on any human face. He ran up the street to a minister to ask if he knew who the stranger was. The minister hurried back with him, but became so absorbed in conversation with Judson that he forgot all about the impatient youngster standing near him. Many years afterward that boy—who could never get away from the influence of that wonderful face—became the famous preacher Henry Clay Trumbull. In a book of memoirs he penned a chapter entitled: “What a Boy Saw in the Face of Adoniram Judson.” That lighted countenance had changed his life. Even as flowers thrive when they bend to the light, so shining, radiant faces come to those who constantly turn toward Christ! Over 3000 years ago Moses prayed a prayer that is reflected in the life of Adoniram Judson and might well be an appropriate prayer of every saint who loves “His (Christ’s) appearing” (2Ti 4:8note) (Spurgeon’s devotional)…

So teach us to number our days,
that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom
(Psalm 90:12) (Spurgeon’s note)

Ergates in the ancient world was used especially of one who works the soil. Xenophon uses ergates to describe one who practices an art.

Ergates is used 15 times in the NT (no uses in the non-apocryphal Septuagint) and is rendered in the NAS as laborer(2), laborers(6), worker(1), workers(4), workman(1), workmen(1).

Matthew 9:37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38“Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Matthew 10:10 or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support.

Matthew 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.

Matthew 20:2 “And when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.

Matthew 20:8 “And when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’

Luke 10:2 And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

Luke 10:7 “And stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.

Luke 13:27 and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers (literally “doers of unrighteousness” = ergates adikia).’

Acts 19:25 these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business.

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.

Philippians 3:2note Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;

1 Timothy 5:18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.

James 5:4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.

The Word of Truth is the workman’s tool for building, measuring, and repairing God’s people. Carriers of the truth of God are to represent that truth and the God of truth well enough that we need never apologize for ourselves. God wants His people to be well prepared in the interpretation of God’s truth. The messenger who interprets God’s truth for others is an agent of His revelation.

It is clear from both the OT and NT, as well as from church history and our own time, that many of the worst false teachers claim to be servants of God (2Co 11:13). The majority of scribes, Pharisees, and other Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day considered themselves to be the godliest of the godly, as well as the only reliable interpreters of Scripture. Jesus called these men “blind guides of the blind” (Mt 15:14Mt 23:1624)

Wuest writes that “A workman approved is a workman who has been put to the test, and meeting the specifications, has won the approval of the one who has subjected him to the test. (Wuest, K. S. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans)

Steven Cole illustrates the approval every workman should strive for “A young man once studied violin under a world-renowned master. When his first big recital came, the crowd cheered after each number, but the young performer seemed dissatisfied. Even after the final number, despite the applause, the musician seemed unhappy. As he took his bows, he was watching an elderly man in the balcony. Finally, the elderly one smiled and nodded in approval. Immediately, the young man beamed with joy. He was not looking for the approval of the crowd. He was waiting for the approval of his master. Christians should be living for God’s approval. We will be approved unto Him as we use the Bible to grow in godliness. Are you growing as a craftsman who uses God’s Word of truth accurately and skillfully to grow in godliness? The misuse of the Bible will lead you to ruin. The proper use will lead you to godliness. (2 Timothy 2:14-19 Using the Word Properly)

Paid loafers and social parasites! – “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 It is easy for preachers to become paid loafers and social parasites, wasting their days in pleasure, recreation, and bumming around with open palms and an expectant look. Sadly, the religious hucksters and hirelings of the world have earned their reputation. Let no gospel preacher do so! The pastor has no boss within sight. He is not required to keep regular office hours. And no one checks up on him, to be sure he is working. That is as it should be. Yet, the very fact that a church treats her pastor as she should, makes it possible for the pastor to abuse his office, neglect his work, give himself to idleness, or to providing luxuries for himself and his family; when he should give himself relentlessly to study, and prayer, and preaching. If we devote ourselves to this labor, there will be little time or energy for other things. “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely.” 1 Timothy 4:15-16

WHO DOES NOT NEED TO BE ASHAMED: anepaischunton:

Not…ashamed (422) (anepaischuntos from a = without + epaischúnomai = be ashamed) describes the absence of a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.

The diligent workman who handles the Word rightly is irreprehensible (blameless)

Diligence in handling the Word now prevents one from one day having to stand before God and experience the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of having done something dishonorable with the Word of Truth. Let us always seek to Be Bereans – Acts 17:11.

I want among the victor throng
Someday to have my name confessed;
And hear my Master say at last,
“You stand approved, you did your best!”
—Simpson

The diligent workman has no cause for shame and is not liable to be put to shame when his work is inspected.

Application: Could I challenge you to consider measuring all your thoughts, words and deeds by the phrase…

“A workman who does not need to be ashamed.”

HANDLING ACCURATELY: orthotomounta (PAPMSA):

Handling accurately (3718) (orthotomeo from orthós = right, standing upright, continuing in a straight direction, figuratively = right, true, of ethically correct behavior + témno = cut or divide) means to make a straight cut, cut straight (of a craftsman cutting a straight line, farmer plowing a straight furrow, mason setting a straight line of bricks, workmen building a straight road.

Metaphorically as used here it speaks of carefully performing a task.

The present tense calls for us to continually rightly divide the Word of Truth. We are to take no short cuts or vacations when it comes to handling God’s Worth in a trustworthy manner. Every time you teach or preach God’s Word of truth you must seek by the Spirit’s illumination and the enabling grace of Christ to cut the Word of Truth straight. In marked contrast are the false teachers who twist the Scriptures to their temporal benefit and their and their hearers eternal detriment!

John MacArthur explains that “Because Paul is a tentmaker, he may have been using an expression that tied in with his trade. When Paul made tents, he used certain patterns. In those days tents were made from the skins of animals in a patchwork sort of design. Every piece would have to be cut and fit together properly. Paul was simply saying, “If one doesn’t cut the pieces right, the whole won’t fit together properly.” It’s the same thing with Scripture. If one doesn’t interpret correctly the different parts, the whole message won’t come through correctly. In Bible study and interpretation the Christian should cut it straight. He should be precise… and accurate. (MacArthur, J: The Charismatics. Zondervan)

BDAG writes that orthotomeo is ” found elsewhere independently of the NT only Pr 3:611:5, where it is used with hodos and plainly means ‘cut a path in a straight direction’ or ‘cut a road across country (that is forested or otherwise difficult to pass through) in a straight direction’, so that the traveler may go directly to his destination. (Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature)

NIDNTT adds that “orthotomeo is found elsewhere only at Prov. 3:6 (In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.) and Pr 11:5 (Lxx = Righteousness traces out blameless paths: but ungodliness encounters unjust dealing.), where it is used in connexion with (hodos = way, path) cutting a path in a straight direction. It is connected with temno, cut. The idea is that of cutting a path through a forest or difficult terrain so that the traveller may go directly to his destination (Arndt, 584). The vb. occurs only at 2 Tim. 2:15 where the RSV has: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling [orthotomounta] the word of truth.” The phrase may be compared with Plato, Laws 7, 801E: “to proceed along the way of legislation which has been cleared [tetmemenen hodon] by our present discourse.” Arndt suggests that the meaning in 2 Tim. is to guide the word of truth along a straight path, like a road that goes straight to its goal. Other interpretations are to teach the word aright, expound it soundly, shape rightly, and preach fearlessly (cf. Moulton-Milligan, 456 f.). (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan)

The careful exegete and expositor of God’s word of truth must be meticulous in the way he interprets and pieces together the many individual truths found in Scripture. The first and most important principle is that of basing doctrine and standards of living on Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura), a key watchword of the Protestant Reformation.

The image of orthotomeo is that of laying out a road. The teacher is to lay out a clearly marked pathway for others to walk. This effort requires study. Teachers are those who have been gifted by the Spirit and have devoted their minds to God so that they might impart His wisdom to His people. The Word of God however can be abused as well as used. It is always in danger of being distorted by teachers who handle it casually. The only effective way to prevent distortion of the Word of truth is diligent preparation at the study desk.

Where teachers and learners are lax in their study of the Scriptures, Bible classes are often filled with godless chatter and vain babblings. Instead of becoming mature in the faith, members and teachers become ungodly. Yet they claim success because their teaching becomes so popular, spreading “like gangrene.”

Spurgeon commenting on “handling accurately” writes ““Rightly dividing, or Straight Cutting. A ploughman stands here with his plough, and he ploughs right along from this end of the field to the other, making a straight furrow. And so Paul would have Timothy make a straight furrow right through the word of truth. I believe there is no preaching that God will ever accept but that which goes decidedly through the whole line of truth from end to end, and is always thorough, honest, and downright. As truth is a straight line, so must our handling of the truth be straightforward and honest, without shifts or tricks. There are two or three furrows which I have labored hard to plough. One is the furrow of free grace. “Salvation is of the Lord,” — he begins it, he carries it on, he completes it. Salvation is not of man, neither by man, but of grace alone. Grace in election, grace in redemption, grace in effectual calling, grace in final perseverance, grace in conferring the perfection of glory; it is all grace from beginning to end. If we say at any time anything which is really contrary to this distinct testimony that salvation is of grace, believe us not. This furrow must be ploughed fairly, plainly, and beyond all mistake. Sinner, you cannot be saved by any merit, penance, preparation, or feeling of your own. The Lord alone must save you as a work of gratis mercy, not because you deserve it, but because he wills to no it to magnify his abundant love. That is the straight furrow of the Word. (click full sermon “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth”)

Barclay comments that orthotomeo “literally means to cut rightly. It has many pictures in it. Calvin connected it with a father dividing out the food at a meal and cutting it up so that each member of the family received the right portion. Beza connected it with the cutting up of sacrificial victims so that each part was correctly apportioned to the altar or to the priest. The Greeks themselves used the word in three different connections. They used it for driving a straight road across country, for ploughing a straight furrow across a field, and for the work of a mason in cutting and squaring a stone so that it fitted into its correct place in the structure of the building. So the man who rightly divides the word of truth, drives a straight road through the truth and refuses to be lured down pleasant but irrelevant bypaths; he ploughs a straight furrow across the field of truth; he takes each section of the truth, and fits it into its correct position, as a mason does a stone, allowing no part to usurp an undue place and so knock the whole structure out of balance. (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible)

Let us continually seek to be like the Psalmist who wrote…

Thy word is very pure,
Therefore Thy servant loves it.
Psalm 119:140
– note

Spurgeon (note) commenting on this verse writes…

Thy word is very pure. It is truth distilled, holiness in its quintessence. In the word of God there is no admixture of error or sin. It is pure in its sense, pure in its language, pure in its spirit, pure in its influence, and all this to the very highest degree — “very pure.”

“Therefore thy servant loveth it,” which is a proof that he himself was pure in heart, for only those who are pure love God’s word because of its purity. His heart was knit to the word because of its glorious holiness and truth. He admired it, delighted in it, sought to practise it, and longed to come under its purifying power.

George Horne – Thy word is very pure. In the original, “tried, purified, like gold in the furnace,” absolutely perfect, without the dross vanity and fallibility, which runs through human writings. The more we try the promises, the surer we shall find them. Pure gold is so fixed, Boerhaave, informs us of an ounce of it set in the eye of a glass furnace for two months, without losing a single grain.

John Morison – Thy word is very pure; therefore, etc. The word of God is not only “pure,” free from all base admixture, but it is a purifier; it cleanses from sin and guilt every heart with which into comes into contact. “Now ye are clean,” said Jesus Christ to his disciples, “by the word which I have spoken unto you”: John 15:3. It is this its pure quality combined with its tendency to purify every nature that yields to its holy influence, that endears it to every child of God. Here it is that he finds those views of the divine character, those promises, those precepts, those representations of the deformity of sin, of the beauty of holiness, which lead him, above all things, to seek conformity to the divine image. A child of God in his best moments does not wish the word of God brought down to a level with his own imperfect character, but desires rather that his character may be gradually raised to a conformity to that blessed word. Because it is altogether pure, and because it tends to convey to those who make it their constant study a measure of its own purity, the child of God loves it, and delights to meditate in it day and night.

Sir William Jones (1746-1794) wrote…

Thy word is very pure. Before I knew the word of God in spirit and in truth, for its great antiquity, its interesting narratives, its impartial biography, its pure morality, its sublime poetry, in a word, for its beautiful and wonderful variety, I preferred it to all other books; but since I have entered into its spirit, like the Psalmist, I love it above all things for its purity; and desire, whatever else I read, it may tend to increase my knowledge of the Bible, and strengthen my affection for its divine and holy truths.

Graham writes the following concerning “Thy word“…

Let us refresh our minds and our memories with some of the Scripture adjuncts connected with “the word,” and realize, in some degree at least, the manifold relations which it bears both to God and our souls. It is called “the word of Christ,” because much of it was given by him, and it all bears testimony to him…It is called “the word of his grace,” because the glorious theme on which it loves to expatiate is grace, and especially grace as it is seen in Christ’s dying love for sinful men. It is called ololoj tou staurou, “the word of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18), because in the crucifixion of the divine Redeemer we see eternal mercy in its brightest lustre. It is called “the word of the gospel,” because it brings glad tidings of great joy to all nations. It is called “the word of the kingdom,” because it holds out to all believers the hope of an everlasting kingdom of righteousness and peace. It is called “the word of salvation,” because the purpose for which it was given is the salvation of sinners. It is called “the word of truth,” because, as Chillingworth says, it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without mixture of error for its contents. And we will only add, it is called “the word of life,” because it reveals to a sinful, perishing world the doctrines of life and immortality. — IV. Graham, in “A Commentary on the First Epistle of John,” 1857.


Rightly Dividing The Word – In 1879, James Murray was hired as the editor of The Oxford English Dictionary. He had little advanced education, but he was a gifted linguist. Murray enlisted a large number of volunteers around the world to read widely and send him usages of assigned words. At Oxford, he and a small staff of scholars cataloged and edited the definitions they received.

During his lifetime, Murray was knighted and awarded an honorary doctorate from Oxford. Today, the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary is still recognized as one of the most accurate and comprehensive dictionaries in the world.

Murray’s legacy of precision and accuracy with words reminds me of what the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, a young pastor of the Ephesian church: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2Ti 2:15). The phrase “rightly dividing” is a metaphor derived from the stonemason’s craft of cutting stones straight to fit into their proper place in a building.

(Ed commentIf a man like James Murray would be willing to invest such zeal and passion for that which is passing, how much more invigorated and motivated should believers be to purely divide and passionately proclaim the living and active, eternal, life changing Word of Truth!)

Precision with words is essential to an accurate interpretation of God’s Word. Let’s be people who care deeply about what the Bible says and what it means. — Dennis Fisher (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Correctly handling the Word of truth
Takes diligence and care;
So make the time to study it
And then that truth declare. —Hess

Rightly dividing the Word
multiplies our understanding.


Imagine That!  – My friends and I were anticipating a contemplative time looking at a collection of artwork about the prodigal son who returned home to a forgiving father (Luke 15). When we arrived at the information table, we noticed the brochures, books, and a sign pointing to the artwork.

Also on the table was a dinner plate with bread, a napkin, and a glass. Each of us privately pondered what the significance of the plate could be. We wondered if it represented communion fellowship between the prodigal son and his father when he returned home. But as we examined it more closely, we realized simultaneously: Someone had left a dirty plate on the display table. And it wasn’t bread, but leftover cookie bars! Our imaginations had been wrong.

We had a good laugh, but then it made me think about how sometimes we imagine more than what’s really there while reading the Bible. Rather than assuming that our speculation is correct, however, we need to be sure our interpretation fits with the whole of Scripture. Peter said that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). As we depend on the Spirit’s instruction, a careful study of the context, and the wisdom of respected Bible teachers, we’ll avoid seeing things in the Word that aren’t really there. (Anne Cetas)

We must correctly hear God’s Word,
Or we will be misled;
We must give careful thought and prayer
To what the Author said.
—Hess

A text out of context is often a dangerous pretext.

THE WORD OF TRUTH: ton logon tes aletheias:

THE WORD OF GOD
IS THE WORD OF TRUTH

Word of Truth – What a beautiful name for the Bible, especially in a world which is becoming more and more the opposite, where men’s words are no longer binding. How we need to remember that Satan is a liar, the father of lies and has no truth in him, which emphasizes our great need to be totally dependent on the Word of Truth to counter his evil but very deceptive lies! Take a moment and ponder each of the 5 Biblical uses of this great phrase Word of Truth (Ps. 119:432Co. 6:7Col. 1:52Ti 2:15Jas 1:18)

Think of God’s Word of Truth as the “sun” (Son) and then consider how the planets function in such order as they rotate around the sun. In a similar way believers should live their entire Christian life within the orbit of God’s Word of Truth, ultimately manifest in the Logos, His precious Son, Our Lord and King. Amen.

The following “outlines” on the Word of Truth are adapted from Spurgeon’s notes on Psalm 119:140 (see notes directly preceding)

The crystal stream (of the Word of Truth)

(a) Flows from under the throne.

(b) Mirrors heaven.

(c) Undefiled through the ages.

(d) Nourishes holiness as it flows.

The enraptured pilgrim.

(a) Keeping by its brink.

(b) Delighted with its lucid depths.

Pleased with its mirrored revelations — self, heaven, God.

Cleansed and refreshed by its waters. –W.B.H

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The purity of God’s Word (of Truth)

(a) It proceeds from a perfectly pure source: “Thy word.”

(b) It reveals a purity otherwise unknown.

(c) It treats impure subjects with absolute purity.

(d) It inculcates the most perfect purity.

(e) It produces such purity in those who are subject to its power. —

The love which its purity inspires in gracious souls.

(a) They love it because, while it reveals their natural impurity, it shows them how to escape from it.

(b) They love it because it conforms them to its own purity.

(c) They love it because to a pure heart the purity of the word is one of its chief commendations. —

The evidences of this love to the pure word.

(a) Desire to possess it in its purity.

(b) Subjection to its spirit and teachings.

(c) Zeal for its honour and diffusion. –W.H.J.P.

Word (3056) (logos from légō = to speak with words; English = logic, logical) means something said and describes a communication whereby the mind finds expression in words. Although Lógos is most often translated word which Webster defines as “something that is said, a statement, an utterance”, the Greek understanding of lógos is somewhat more complex.

Cremer explains that lógos is used of the living, spoken word,

the word not in its outward form, but with reference to the thought connected with the form,… in short, not the word of language, but of conversation, of discourse; not the word as a part of speech, but the word as part of what is uttered.

Barclay adds that

the Greek term for word is lógos; but lógos does not only mean word; it also means reason. For John, and for all the great thinkers who made use of this idea, these two meanings were always closely intertwined. Whenever they used lógos the twin ideas of the Word of God and the Reason of God were in their minds. (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible Series. The Westminster Press)

In the Greek mind and as used by secular and philosophical Greek writers, lógos did not mean merely the name of an object but was an expression of the thought behind that object’s name. Let me illustrate this somewhat subtle nuance in the meaning of lógos with an example from the Septuagint (LXX) (Greek of the Hebrew OT) in which lógos is used in the well known phrase the Ten Commandments.

The Septuagint translates this phrase using the word lógos as “the ten (deka) words (logoi)” (Ex 34:28), this phrase giving us the familiar term Decalogue. Clearly each of the “Ten Commandments” is not just words but words which express a thought or concept behind those words.

That which corresponds to or adequately expresses what is real (Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion).

This then is the essence of the meaning of lógos and so it should not be surprising that depending on the context lógos is translated with words such as “saying, instruction, message, news, preaching, question, statement, teaching, etc”. This understanding of lógos also helps understand John’s repeated usage of this Greek word as a synonym for the second Person of the Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ.

TRUTH:
ALETHEIA

Truth (225) (aletheia from a = indicates following word has the opposite meaning ~ without + lanthano = to be hidden or concealed, to escape notice, cp our English “latent” from Latin = to lie hidden) has the literal sense of that which contains nothing hidden. Aletheia is that which is not concealed. Aletheia is that which that is seen or expressed as it really is (this idea is discussed more below).

The basic understanding of aletheia is that it is the manifestation of a hidden reality (eg, click discussion of Jesus as “the Truth”). For example, when you are a witness in a trial, the court attendant says “Raise your right hand. Do you swear that you will tell the truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?” And you say, “I do” and you sit down. The question the court attendant is asking is “Are you willing to come into this courtroom and manifest something that is hidden to us that only you know so that you will bear evidence to that?” Therefore when you speak the truth, you are manifesting a “hidden reality“. Does that make sense? An parallel example in Scripture is the case of the woman in the crowd who had touched Jesus (Read context = Mk 5:24-2526-2728-293031-32), but when she became “aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him, and told Him the whole truth ” (Mk 5:33) and nothing but the truth. She did not lie. She spoke no falsehoods.

Truth then is the correspondence between a reality and a declaration which professes to set forth or describe the reality. To say it another way, words spoken or written are true when they correspond with objective reality. Persons and things are true when they correspond with their profession (which we describe with words like integrity, sincerity, non-hypocritical, etc). In other words, “what you see is what you get”. Hence a truth is a declaration which has corresponding reality, or a reality which is correctly set forth. Since God is Himself the great reality, that which correctly sets forth His nature is pre-eminently the Truth of Creation (Natural Revelation) and the Truth of Scripture (Special Revelation). Thus it is not surprising that rebellious, sinful men actively hold down or suppress the Truth of Creation (and the glorious Creator) (Ro 1:18) and even exchange this clearly manifested (and objective) reality (Creation) for a lie (Ro 1:25).

Gilbrant on aletheia – One of the principal terms for expressing the concept of “truth” in the Greek language is alētheia. Originally the word denoted something which was not hidden or a disclosure of something which was hidden. In Greek philosophy the word often carries the sense of that which really exists, “the reality behind all apparent reality.” Therefore, it has been customary to conclude from this that there is a marked contrast between the Greek and Hebrew view of the nature of “truth.” According to this view, in classical Greek alētheia stands in opposition to that which is only apparent or perceived to be real. The Hebrew notion of truth points to that which is sure and reliable as the “truth.” No doubt this is substantially correct. But it would be erroneous to assume that alētheia should solely or principally imply a philosophic concept of reality. Obviously Greeks as well as Hebrews needed a word which decisively expressed truth as over against falsehood and deceit. Such a concrete sense can also be discovered in the Greek alētheia just as it can in the Hebrew ’ĕmeth. Both of these terms have distinct shades of meaning which are worthwhile to investigate. Alētheia functions in various contexts. To the philosophers it expressed “being” in the absolute sense of the word, i.e., “existence.” Historians used the term to signify real events as distinct from myths. In forensic language (legal) the term characterizes an accurate assessment of a fact, in contrast to an incorrect observation or assertion. Alētheia not only stands for irrefutable facts, but it also expresses the truth itself, that which is unattainable to the human mind and which can only be perceived in ecstasy or through divine revelation. (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

THE GOD OF
TRUTH

One of the attributes of God is Truth. God is the definition of truth; He is absolutely true, and all truth accords with God’s actions. God is all that He as God should be and that His word and revelation are completely reliable. He is absolutely dependable, without falseness of any kind. God’s plan, principles, and promises are completely reliable, accurate, real, and factual. God is real not imaginary, vain and empty like the idols of the pagans, who represent a so-called god of their own vain imagination. Truth can be depended upon and does not fail, change, or disappoint and so practically God’s promises are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus and His word cannot fail or disappoint. The practical aspect of God’s unchanging truthfulness is that we can stand on His promises with full assurance of faith no matter how we feel, no matter how dire our circumstances. We can trust and rest on this great attribute of God, forever and forever. Amen. And since God is truth, He desires that those who would give a proper opinion of Him also be truthful in the words and deeds. (Ro 12:9). Scripture on God is truth: Ex 34:6Nu 23:19Ps 19:991:4100:5146:6Isa 25:165:16 Da 4:37Mic7:20Jn 17:172 Cor 1:20Rev 16:7. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the truth” (Jn 14:6). His word to mankind is absolutely reliable and can be trusted implicitly. It means He will never renege on any promise He has made. (See also Truthful by C H Spurgeon; The Truth of Godby Bob Deffinbaugh; The Truth of God by Thomas Watson – Scroll down; Of the Veracity of God by John Gill; Let God Be True! by Richard Strauss)

Lewis Sperry Chafer writes that “Truth” is “the character of God is in view when He is called the God of Truth. He not only advances and confirms that which is true, but in faithfulness abides by His promise, and executes every threat or warning He has made. Apart from the element of truth in God there would be no certainty whatsoever in this life, and men would wander on in comfortless perplexity not knowing whence they came or whither they are going. Without truth in God, a revelation is only a mockery. On the contrary, as asserted in the Bible, “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Ro3:4). Though men deceive, the veracity of God can never be questioned to the slightest degree. Truth in God is surety that what He has disclosed is according to the nature of things and that His disclosures may be depended upon with plenary certainty. This certainty characterizes alike every revelation from God by whatever means.”(Biblical Theism Pt 3/4 The Attributes of God – Bibliotheca Sacra: Vol. 96, Page 14-16, 1939)

Charles Simeon wrote that “truth is a conformity of our feelings and actions to our professions and this God requires of us in the whole of our spirit and conduct.

Noah Webster defined truth as “Conformity to fact or reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be. (1828 Dictionary)

Nelson’s New Illustrated Dictionary says truths is “conformity to fact or actuality; faithfulness to an original or to a standard. In the Old and New Testaments, truth is a fundamental moral and personal quality of God. (Ex 34:6Dt 32:4Ps 25:10)

Friberg gives one of the best summaries of aletheia (the following is modified slightly) and includes the Greek word that is the antonym…

(1) Truth speaks of what has certainty and validity (Ep 4.21), The opposite = plane [word study] = going astray from the path of truth, thus error

(2) Truth describes the real state of affairs, especially as divinely disclosed truth (Ro 1.18). The opposite = muthos [word study] = fiction, myth

(3) Truth speaks of the concept of the Gospel message as being absolute truth (2Th 2.12)

(4) Truth can describe the true-to-fact statements (Lk 4.25). The opposite = pseudos [word study] (lie, falsehood); (See devotional related to lying – Which Tire Was It – Our Daily Bread)

(5) Truth speak of what is characterized by love of truth (truthfulness, uprightness, fidelity – in one’s words or conduct = thus equates with sincerity, veracity) (1Co 5.813.6). The opposite = adikia [word study] = wrong, evil

(6) Truth describes reality as opposed to pretense or mere appearance (Phil 1.18). The opposite = prophasis [word study] =pretext, excuse.

(a) Idiomatically “in truth” = really, truly, indeed (Mt 22:16)

(b) Idiomatically “according to truth” =. rightly (Ro 2.2)

(c) Idiomatically “upon or on truth” = of a truth, as the fact or event shows, really, actually (Acts 4:2710:34 [lit. = “of a truth”], Lk 4:25Job 9:2Is 37:18KJV) (Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Baker Academic)

Aletheia is a reality which is firm, solid, binding. When aletheia is used of individuals, it characterizes their action, their words or their thoughts and conveys the general sense of integrity (integer = one) (See Integrity – A Few Thoughts)

Truth is the correspondence between a reality and a declaration which professes to set it forth. Words are truewhen they correspond with objective reality: Persons and things are true when they correspond with their profession. Hence a truth is a declaration which has corresponding reality, or a reality which is correctly set forth. Since God is Himself the great reality, that which correctly sets forth His nature is pre-eminently the Truth. Ultimately Jesus is “the Truth” and He is “the Word”.

Aletheia speaks of veracity, reality, sincerity, accuracy, integrity (“what you see is what you get”).

Vine – Aletheia, truth “expresses that which is consistent with reality.”

Aletheia is the opposite of fictitious, feigned, false.

TRUTH or CONSEQUENCES
THE BATTLE:
TRUTH vs UNTRUTH

Charles Spurgeon once said that

The spotless purity of truth must always be at war with the blackness of heresy and lies.

God deals in truth, but Satan traffics in untruth (lies) (Jn 8:44). As a corollary God deals in faith, while Satan traffics in fear (What then is the “antidote” for fear? See Fear, How to Handle It). It follows that spiritual warfare is not a power struggle as much as it is a truth struggle and the battlefield is our mind. The only way to defeat the lie of the devil is with the truth of God and His Word. It therefore behooves all believers to make it their continual practice to take in the Word of Truth that we might be able to wage war with the deceiving Devil. Jesus is our model in this spiritual war with unseen forces of darkness, fending off the enemies fiery missiles of temptation and lies with the Word of truth in Deuteronomy (Mt 4:3-4 quoting Dt 8:3Mt 4:5,67 quoting Dt 6:16Mt 4:8-910quoting Dt 6:1310:20). Beloved, if Jesus memorized the truth of Scripture to counter to lies of Satan, how can we do less? (See Memorizing His Word and Memory Verses by Topic) The only antidote for the poison of Satan’s lies is the Truth of God’s Word. “God’s truth stops the spin of Satan’s lies.” (See Breaking The Spin Cycle – Our Daily Bread)

Beloved, if you need some motivation to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus in this war (2Ti 2:3,4) take a moment and let this grand old hymn stir the passions in your heart…

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.
(Play – Battle Hymn of the Republic)

And if that doesn’t make your pulse quicken listen to Martin Luther’s great hymn…

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little (truth) word shall fell him.

That word (truth) above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
(Play – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God)


Truth is like a “bluegill” fish in our continual “war of terror”

San Francisco and New York City are using bluegill fish to check for the presence of toxins in their water supply, which could be a possible target for a terrorist attack. A small number of bluegills are kept in a tank at the bottom of some water treatment plants because the fish are sensitive to chemical imbalances in their environment. When a disturbance is present in the water, the bluegills react against it.

Like these bluegills, Paul wanted the Galatians to beware of and react against any toxic disturbance in the “true gospel” that was being preached. The toxin was defined as the false principle that God grants acceptance to people and considers them righteous on the basis of their obedience to a set of rules (especially circumcision and dietary laws). In short, obedience to the law was needed, apart from faith in Jesus. This false teaching was a toxic disturbance of the truth and the Galatians were told to react strongly against it. Paul said that anyone preaching a gospel that is not based on grace through faith in Christ alone should be accursed (Gal. 1:89).

Let’s faithfully study the Scriptures so we can detect the toxins of false teaching and proclaim the truth of God’s wonderful salvation through faith in Jesus. (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Lord, teach us from Your holy Word
All error to discern,
And by Your Spirit’s light help us
From Satan’s snares to turn. —Bosch

If you know the truth,
you can discern what’s false.


Alvin Plantinga adds that

The contemporary intellectual world is a battle or arena in which rages a battle for our souls.

James Dobson concurs noting that

The heated dispute over values in Western nations is simply a continuation of the age-old struggle between the principles of righteousness and the kingdom of darkness.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) describing his own day

Truth is so obscure in these times and falsehood so established, that unless we love the truth, we can not know it.

J. C. Ryle

Let us never forget that truth, distorted and exaggerated, can become the mother of the most dangerous heresies.

The Theological Lexicon of the NT says

To speak the whole truth is to conceal nothing, and alētheia is the opposite of lying or forgetfulness. An event is true (alēthēs) when it is unveiled; a hidden reality becomes explicit. A person who is true or sincere is one who conceals nothing and does not try to deceive.

Greek philosophy and religious strivings were dominated by the search for truth (Thucydides 1.20.3), as Plato explicates it: “By searching for truth I strive to make myself as perfect as possible in life and, when the time comes to die, in death.” The truth not only gives life; it gives the good life (Epictetus 1.4.31; 3.24.40), because it orients action: “If you knew the truth, you would necessarily act rightly.” (Spicq, C., & Ernest, J. D. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament. 1:66. Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson. 1994)

Comment: How fascinating that the pagans had within them (surely placed there by God) a sense of the importance of truth in order to assure a genuine appreciation of this present life. So close but yet so far for they did not know “the Truth” (Jn 14:6)!

Whatever God says is truth and so is to be regarded as the standard of all truth. In Christ’s high priestly prayer, He declares that the Word of God is truth (John 17:17). In other words, the Word of God does not just contain truth (which of course it does), but is truth in its very essence.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, the One Who leads Christians into all spiritual truth (Jn 16:13). And because the Holy Spirit is truth, the world cannot comprehend Him and His ministry (John 14:17).

Wayne Detzler adds that aletheia

was seen mainly as a contrast with a lie. Homer wrote that a lie is either the absence of truth or a partial truth. If one deceived another by telling only part of the truth, this was a lie. In writing his Odyssey, Homer mentioned the role of a judge in a race. His job was to tell the truth about the winners and losers of a race.

Thucydides contrasted truth with exaggeration. Anyone who expanded or embellished the truth was really telling a lie. Thus truth is contrasted with boasting or flattery.

Plato contrasted truth with appearance. Some things may appear to be real, but actually are an illusion.

Truth is seen mainly by contrast. It contrasts with a lie of statement or understatement. Another contrast is seen between truth and exaggeration. Finally, truth stands out in contrast with appearance….

Truth in the Scripture is tied inextricably to the person of our God. He is the 380 Source of all truth, and the Trinity emphasizes this aspect of God’s character. No Christian can either know or practice truth, apart from constant reliance on the One who is Truth. He is Truth, because He conforms to and indeed creates ultimate reality. (Wayne A Detzler. New Testament Words in Today’s Language)

Mounce

Perhaps the most common use of the noun alētheia and the two corresponding adjectives is to refer to something that is accurate. For example, Paul claims before Festus and Agrippa that what he said regarding Jesus and the resurrection is “the truth” and reasonable (Acts 26:25). Jesus’ testimony is true and valid because the Father testifies about him (Jn 5:3132; cf. Rev 21:522:6); our testimony about Jesus is also true (Titus 1:133 Jn. 12). But truth is not only in statements. Paul uses that adjective alēthinos to describe God Himself. The Thessalonians turned from idols in order to “serve the living and true God” (1Th. 1:9). And because God is true, what God speaks is also truth; “your word is truth” (Jn 17:17). Not only is God true, but Jesus is “True” as well (Rev 19:11). He is “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:1417). In fact, Jesus Himself is “truth” (Jn 14:6), and if we are His disciples, we will “know the truth” (Jn 8:32). Jesus is “the true vine,” through which his followers draw nourishment. John uses the adjective alēthēs to denote a spiritual reality about Jesus that is beyond the observable world. Jesus proclaims that his flesh is “true food” and his blood is “true drink” (Jn 6:55). Furthermore, especially in John’s writings, the Holy Spirit is referred to as the “Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:1715:2616:13; cf. 1Jn. 4:65:6). The Holy Spirit recalls to our minds the words of Jesus and certifies to our hearts that they are true (Jn 15:26). (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan)

Aletheia is a key word in the Gospel of John (24x or almost 1 in 4 NT uses – also 28x in John’s epistles – 1Jn =16, 2Jn=5, 3Jn=7) but is much less common in the synoptic Gospels (7x in all 3 Synoptics).

Horatio Bonar wrote that…

Truth is not the feeble thing which men often think they can afford to disparage. Truth is power; let it be treated and trusted as such.

Note the association of aletheia with the Gospel (Col 1:5Gal 2:5Ep 1:13). The Gospel is the expression of truth, ultimately the truth about God, the truth about man in sin and the truth about the provision of redemption from our sinful state. Although 1Ti 2:4 and 2Ti 2:25 do not use the word “Gospel”, clearly the context of both passages associates salvation (which comes only through the Gospel) and the knowledge of the truth. Sadly, truth can be turned aside from (2Ti 2:18) or resisted (2Ti 3:8). To turn from the truth of the Gospel does not make it any less true!

Everett Harrison – In Homer (truth) aletheia denotes veracity as opposed to falsehood. Later classical times witness an enlargement of usage, since it comes to express what is real or factual as opposed to appearance or opinion. That which is true corresponds with the nature of things. In this sense the truth is eternal and divine, for the Greek recognized no distinction between the natural and the supernatural. These values are continued in the Septuagint use of aletheia, but because of the circumstance that it was often used to translate ‘emeth, a Hebrew word for truth which stresses the elements of reliability and trustworthiness, a new content becomes added. Often the word is used to describe God and also His Word. On these one may rest with confidence, for they will not fail. So, whereas the classical aletheia largely serves as an intellectual term, the same word in its Septuagint setting has often a decidedly moral connotation, especially when used with reference to the divine. New Testament writers draw from both streams of meaning, so that the exegete must be constantly on the alert to detect, if he can, whether aletheia means reality or trustworthiness. John and Paul make largest use of the term. The Greek sense seems clearly present in passages like Romans 1:25, whereas a comparison of Romans 3:3 and 3:4 shows with equal clearness that here the Hebraic background is powerfully operative. Paul is especially fond of linking the word truth with the gospel. Here the two strains may be said to unite, for the gospel message corresponds to reality (that is, it is ultimate truth, much in the same way that the writer to the Hebrews argues the finality of the Christian dispensation with the aid of the related word alethinos, as John does likewise), and for that very reason is reliable, but even more so because the gospel originates with God and possesses His own guarantee. For John the acme of the concept lies in its application to Jesus Christ. To be set free by the truth and to be set free by the Son are two ways of saying the same thing (John 8:3236). Dodd observes that whereas the Jewish conception was to the effect that the divine truth (’emeth) was expressed in the Torah, John places it in the person of Christ (see the discussion in Kittel, op. cit., pp. 88-90). Paul comes close to doing the same thing (Eph 4:21). The New Testament, then, has arrived at a synthesis of the two approaches to truth, and this synthesis is thoroughly defensible in the court of reason, for only that which possesses reality is worthy of confidence. But the daring step taken here is in the identification of truth in all its finality with the man Christ Jesus. (The Importance of the Septuagint for Biblical Studies )

Courtesy of Precept Austin Bible Study Website: http://www.preceptaustin.org/2_timothy_215-19#Bible – The Word of God

 

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The Third Gateway to the Heart: the Thoughts-Part 6: The Spiritual War Cry: Lead Captive Every Thought to Christ!

The last and great truth of how to tear down strongholds in our hearts is in 2 Corinthians 10:5. This verse shines like a diamond concerning the daily battle in our thought life. We must always ask: where are our thoughts leading us? Do our thoughts lead us to Christ or away from Him? Are we leading our thoughts into obedience to Christ or are our thoughts leading us into rebellion?

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV)

Demolishing reasonings and every haughty mental elevation which lifts itself up against the experiential knowledge which we believers have of God, and leading captive every thought into the obedience to the Christ. (WUEST)

Two Dangerous Thought Patterns to be Demolished

The word “demolish” in the Greek means to tear down, destroy and forcefully throw down. The word is in the present tense, which means it is to be a continuous daily activity that becomes a habit of life. God commands in no uncertain terms that we destroy two areas of thought. These are the two pillars of evil that first raised their ugly head in the Garden of Eden and have plagued mankind ever since. These two thought patterns are responsible for sin entering into the human race and are the beginning of rebellion against God. Every wicked thing in society can be traced back to this mindset.

First Dangerous Thought Pattern: False Reasoning

The first thought pattern is false reasoning. The Greek word is logismos meaning to think about something in a detailed and logical manner, reflecting upon it and finally drawing conclusions through the use of reason. It is the mental view of something in its various aspects and involves contemplation and intellectual examination. The word is used in both a positive and negative manner in Scripture. Here the usage is negative and refers to the reasonings of a mind at enmity with God. We get the English word “logic” from this Greek word. It is a person using his logic against God’s truth. It is men and women exalting their opinions, speculations, and reasonings above the knowledge of God. These become systems of worldly philosophies, religions and opinions that distort the truth of God’s Word and elevate themselves above God Almighty.

It is never wise to try to out think God Almighty! It is never good to try to out reason God with our finite thinking. It is foolish to think we are wiser or more logical than God. Who would even have the audacity to think we are more enlightened than God? This is the height of sinful thinking and the fuel of every evil in the history of the world. These are false reasonings and rationalizations trying to justify the error of a person’s exalted thinking. They are opinions that appeal to a person’s self-adequacy without the need of God.

This type of thinking permeates every level of our society and this is why evil is so entrenched in the world. This is the devil’s favorite strategy in the educational, cultural, religious and political institutions throughout all the ages. It is the use of the mind to pursue empty things where God is not wanted. It is built on the arrogant notion that we know better than God and that reliance on God is a naïve way of thinking. It is the mind of man elevating itself above the mind of God. This type of prideful heart is revealed in the book of Job.

They say to God, ‘Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge of your ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit do we get if we pray to him? (Job 21:14-15, ESV)

It is amazing that the human heart can become so full of pride that it tells God Almighty to “Get out of here! I have no desire to know your ways! Why should I serve you?” This is where the arrogant reasoning of the mind without God leads the heart. This is the path of destruction for any person.

Lucifer let this type of thinking get the best of him as he wanted to usurp the throne of God and be worshiped. Lucifer became corrupted by his own wisdom and lost his glorified position in heaven. He even convinced one third of the angels to embrace this haughty way of thinking. Eve thought she could be wise by defying the commandment of God and her thinking brought about the tragic fall in the Garden. Jesus often rebuked the religious leaders of his day and even his disciples when he said, “Why reason you in your hearts?” He was in essence saying why are you exalting your man-made doctrines and religious reasoning above the truth of God? Why are you thinking in a way that does not glorify God? This type of prideful thinking caused the religious leaders to crucify their promised Messiah. This type of thinking is the Devil’s playground and allows Him to build resistance and rebellion against God in the hearts of people.

God is not against knowledge, as He wants us to have an accurate knowledge of the truth and be instructed in the ways of wisdom and righteousness. But Proverbs 1:7 tells us that, “The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but fools despise skillful and godly wisdom, instruction, and discipline.” The beginning of all true knowledge is the respect and reverence of the Lord. God’s knowledge and wisdom far exceeds the knowledge of the world. It is the height of foolishness to reject skillful and godly wisdom and instruction.

God earnestly desires to give knowledge, wisdom and understanding to His people. 1 Kings 4:29 says that “God gave Solomon wisdom, knowledge, insight and understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” 1 Kings 10:24 says that “the whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom that God had put in his heart.” God has not changed. He still wants to put His wisdom into our hearts. He still desires to give us the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are found in Christ. But we must be careful not to become arrogant in our reasonings and exalt our thinking above the knowledge of God. Unfortunately this is happening in Christianity and it is causing strongholds to take root in our hearts.

Hosea 4:6 declares that lives are destroyed when the knowledge of God does not dwell in the thought life and hearts of God’s people. God had a great controversy with Israel because of all their religion, arrogance and idols. God said, “You do not know me! There is no truth, mercy, and knowledge of God in the land!” Israel had rejected the knowledge of God in their thinking, and therefore their families, communities and nation were destroyed.

Without the knowledge of God, a nation will be consumed and perish in their own sin. Without the knowledge of God living in our thought life, we can never overcome sin in our thinking. We will languish in the wilderness of the world without a living, vibrant and true knowledge of God. Only God can enlighten the eyes and give us a full understanding of the truth as it is revealed in the Bible. We must build our thinking on the foundation of God’s Word and our heartfelt trust and love of God. Then our thinking is in line with truth and our hearts can be free from strongholds that hold us in captivity.

Whatever the field of knowledge, God has an infinitely more knowledge than any person who has ever lived. God is the greatest physician because He intricately weaved together every part of the human body as a beautiful tapestry. God is the greatest scientist because He created the order of the heavens and holds the entire universe in the palm of His hand. God is the greatest economist for He knows the laws of prosperity and the solutions for any economy to flourish. God is the greatest statesman for He knows the best ways to rule a nation and conquer all the woes that plague countries around the world. God is the greatest educator for He can teach us the truths of life about love, relationships, strength, character, and wisdom. God has all the answers in any area of life that may confront us. The knowledge of God is far superior to the knowledge of man and our thinking gets upside down when we think we do not have to have the knowledge of God. God strongly warns us against this type of thinking as it always leads to the corruption of the heart. God always stands against this infiltration of pride into our thinking because it always contaminates our relationship with Him and is toxic to our spiritual life.

The Bible declares that it is the true critic of all knowledge and is also the ultimate critic of the motives and intents of our thought life. For our thinking to get a passing grade it must pass the test of Scripture and survive the double-edged sword of the Spirit. The Word of God reveals to us the true condition of our thinking. The Word of God reveals the true motive of every thought that ever occupies our mind.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)

Second Dangerous Thought Pattern: Exalted Thinking Above God

The second thought pattern in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that has become a pillar of evil is lifting up our thinking above God. The Greek word is hupsoma and means to lift up and raise high, and literally means a towering fortress. Here it refers to erecting proud altars of thinking that we exalt above the truth that God has revealed in His Word. It is thinking immersed in self-glorification and self-adoration. The world has wired our brains to become absorbed in this kind of thinking. We get lost in our world where our opinions, attitudes and desires are all that matters. This isn’t intellectualism it is the height of selfishness. For lack of a better word it is idiocy to ever think we know better than God and can laud our thought life above God.

This is an attitude that proudly resists the true knowledge of God and refuses to experience the beauty and wonder of knowing our wonderful Heavenly Father. This way of thinking is a banner of pride that sets itself up as a towering fortress against the truth of Scripture. This lofty tower is a wall that has been raised up by the vanity of the mind and blocks the divine knowledge of God from entering the heart. On this wall is a clear message for the Creator of the Heavens and Earth that says “Keep out! Private! God is Not Needed Here!” This is a rebellion against God when we practice this type of thinking.

These high towers are built on the foundation of pride and promote the great lie that we do not need God. Many think rational intelligence, logic and modern enlightenment is better than God. However, to be human, in its most basic essence, is having a personal, intimate, loving relationship with God. To refute this truth is to refute your own humanity. The devil wants us to create our own reality, truth, and morality without the necessity of God telling us what is right or wrong. However history bears witness that when the truths of God and the Bible become irrelevant and despised, society becomes more corrupt, cruel, and debased. I am not talking about a religious makeover, but the truth of the Bible unadulterated and unchanged by the mind of man. There is also a rise in evil and a decline in personal integrity, responsibility, and decency when the knowledge of God is rejected in a generation.

Ray Steadman in Spiritual Warfare says:

One of the schemes of the devil is to exalt reason to the exclusion of faith … We love to think of ourselves as rational, intellectual beings who have a logical reason for all our ideas, beliefs and actions. But this exaltation of reason opens the door to error and arrogant self-deception. We delude ourselves into thinking we are motivated by logic, when in fact we are motivated by emotions, desires and dimly understood drives—then we use our intellect to come up with pseudo-logical, self-deceptive rationales to justify our illogical emotional decisions![i]

God’s wisdom exalts the cross of Jesus Christ and human wisdom degrades and is offended by the cross. Jesus Christ is at the center of all true knowledge and wisdom of God and our thinking should always be brought back to Christ. We need to demolish these towers of reasoning and logic that defy God and mock His Word. The cross of Jesus Christ is called the wisdom of God because it represents God’s commitment for salvation to the world. It is the exaltation of His divine glory and grace in the finished work of Jesus Christ. The world hates the cross because it reveals to the human race its helplessness from the power and consequences of sin without Christ. The cross symbolizes total reliance on God for eternal salvation through His free gift of grace. Humans are powerless before the cross and hate to bow their wisdom at the foot of the cross and acknowledge their total inadequacy to save themselves. The cross breaks every stronghold and towering fortress of Satan. No stronghold or mental prison can stand before the weight of the cross.

2 Corinthians 10:5 is a war cry to lead captive every thought to the obedience of Christ. Like a soldier engaged in war, take control of your thought life for the glory of God. Every thought is important. Every thought must obey the Lord Jesus Christ. The gates of hell will shake and tremble when we let the Lord be the leader of our thinking. Obedience to God, which is the weapon that the Devil fears the most, begins with our thought life. If God is to be obeyed and loved with our hearts, then we cannot let our thoughts be captured and controlled by our enemy. We must stand guard with the whole armor of God at the gate of our thought life and in the power of the Almighty God tell Satan “Not on my watch! You cannot have my thought life! My thought life belongs to my God!”

The Devil knows the important of your thoughts and he marshals every military strategy, deceitful scheme and strategic movement of his kingdom to influence your thinking. If he can mold and control our thinking, he controls the character, life and boundaries of the heart. The heart is a mirror, reflecting our thinking, and we can never take care of our heart if we do not take care of our thoughts. Every thought must bow its knee to the Lord Jesus. Every thought must be captivated by the Lord Jesus. The flesh is powerless to exercise authority over a disciplined thought life that is focused on Christ. We must let the light of the world, Jesus Christ, shine in our thoughts. We take every thought captive and bring it to the throne of Christ and ask our Lord, “Is this thought worthy of your kingdom?” “Is this thought worthy to occupy your dwelling place?” “Is this thought molding my heart into the image of my Lord?” “Is this thought a danger to my devotion, love and service for you?” “Does this thought bring glory to you?” Any thought that does not pass this test and hold up under the scrutiny of Jesus Christ must be tossed from our mind so it does not take root in our hearts. Our thinking must be rooted and grounded in Him and separate from our old ways of thinking that kept us in chains, hopelessly bound in prisons of darkness, selfishness and ignorance.

[i] Ray Steadman, Spiritual Warfare: How to Stand Firm in the Faith (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 1975), 98.

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The Third Gateway to the Heart: The Thoughts-Part 5: Demolishing Strongholds in Our Thinking-The Lessons of Jericho

One of the greatest sections of Scripture concerning this great war for the thought life of the Christian is in 2 Corinthians:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds); casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (10:3–5, KJV)

We all have strongholds in our thinking that must be demolished. We cannot destroy them by the weapons and strategies of the flesh. No psychological counseling, self-help book, or life class can completely annihilate these strongholds without Christ. It is like shooting a BB gun at a Navy battleship. The weapons of the flesh lack the spiritual power to blow these strongholds out of our minds and hearts. These fortresses can only be obliterated by spiritual weapons rooted in Jesus Christ. Only God’s mighty weapons have any chance of tearing down every brick of the strongholds that captivate our hearts.

The Greek word translated “stronghold” means fortress, castle, or prison. It was used in Greek literature to describe a strong military installation and a fortified place. This is the only time this Greek word is found in the New Testament, but the word is found thirty-two times in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. These usages shed some additional light on its meaning.

The first use of this word in the Bible concerns the prison that Joseph was cast into.

Joseph’s boss took him and put him in prison, the place where the men who did wrong against the king were put in chains. So there he was in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him kindness. He gave him favor in the eyes of the man who watched over the prison. (Genesis 39:20–21, NLV)

Remember me when it is well with you, and show me kindness. Say a good word about me to Pharaoh. Get me out of this prison. For I was stolen from the land of the Hebrews. And here also I have done nothing for which they should put me in prison. (Genesis 40:14–15, NLV)

Joseph was an amazing man of faith whose heart was a wonderful example of trust in God even in life’s most difficult circumstances. He was taken away captive from his homeland and unjustly thrust into prison, and his great heart cry has become the cry of every child of God: “Get me out of this prison! Deliver me from this dungeon! Take me away from this stronghold!”

We were all stolen from the Garden of Eden, our true homeland, when Adam and Even sinned. We were thrust into the dungeon of our sin nature, and our hearts became captive to the power and weight of sin.

Joseph was not delivered from the dungeon by his own strength, power, or ability. He was only set free and given a place in authority next to the king because God was with him, and the mercy and favor of God rested upon him.

God sets the pattern in this first use of the word stronghold in the Bible. The only way to be delivered from the dungeons that hold us in captivity is through the mighty power of God. Only God can answer the cry “Free me from this prison and tear down this stronghold!” Only God is strong enough to demolish every stronghold.

What are these strongholds? How are they built? How do they capture our hearts?

A stronghold is an entrenched or fortified way of thinking that has become so engrained into the mind that it produces habits of character and ways of life. These strong fortresses have been built by the brick and mortar of our thoughts. Brick by brick we construct these fortresses by our thinking.

In the Old Testament, the word stronghold was used to describe the fortifications of a city when its builders formed a formidable wall around it for protection. It was constructed to resist all attacks, allowing it to be more easily defended.

In Bible times, a stronghold around a city consisted of stone walls that were often fifteen feet thick and twenty-five feet high. It was extremely difficult for an army to successfully defeat an enemy protected by such a stronghold.

A stronghold represents a place in our minds and hearts where the Enemy has become entrenched and where we have become in bondage to Satan.  It becomes a secured sanctuary where the Devil can exercise influence and authority over our lives. It is where the Devil can run his covert operations and wreak havoc in our hearts. It is his military base, where he launches his fiery darts into our hearts in an attempt to steal, kill, and destroy the knowledge of God and the image of Christ from producing fruit in our lives. A stronghold is a point of operation where Satan can keep a person captivated, incapacitated, and under control. It is an emotional, mental, or experiential mind-set that thrusts the heart into bondage and keeps it from growing spiritually in the Lord. It is a mental fortress of wrong thinking.

One of the Hebrew words for “sin” means to slowly twist a fence around a person. Strongholds are like fortresses with huge barbed-wire fences around them, built by the power of sin, with a sign hanging at its entrance that says, “Keep out! This is the property of Satan. No trespassing allowed. This is the realm of darkness, and no light is allowed here. God is not wanted here!”

These strongholds feed off of sin, and the fences grow higher, thicker, and more twisted the more sin dominates our thinking. The heart was never designed to have these barbed wires like us in mental and spiritual prisons. God wants the heart free from every fortress of bondage.

Strongholds are designed by Satan to enslave us. Their purpose is to keep the life and glory of God from being manifested in our hearts and setting us free to love Him. Strongholds rearrange the boundaries that God has set for our hearts and fence us in, so we live, breathe, and move in captivity. Strongholds are the tool of the Devil to hinder the purposes of God in our lives and destroy our God-given calling. Strongholds are one of the great enemies of the heart. The strategy of the Devil for every man, woman, and child on earth is to build these wicked strongholds in the heart. He marshals all the spiritual forces of his entire kingdom to this end, as each stronghold is cleverly designed to turn the heart away from God.

A stronghold is always rooted in a faulty thinking pattern based on lies and deception that exalts itself above the knowledge of God contained in His Word. Deception is the glue that holds every stronghold together. Every stronghold cleaves to a lie that our thinking patterns have been twisted to believe.

Beth Moore, in Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds, says:

Basically, a stronghold is any argument or pretension that “sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” A stronghold is anything that exalts itself in our minds, “pretending” to be bigger and more powerful than God. It steals much of our focus and causes us to feel overpowered. Controlled. Mastered. Whether the stronghold is an addiction, unforgiveness toward a person who has hurt us, or despair over a loss, it is something that consumes so much of our emotional and mental energy that abundant life is strangled—our callings remain largely unfulfilled and our believing lives are virtually ineffective. Needless to say, these are the enemy’s precise goals….Based on my understanding of Scripture, anything that steals, kills or destroys the abundant, fruitful life of a believer can be considered a stronghold of the enemy. [i]

Strongholds can literally rewire our brains if we continue to reinforce toxic and ungodly thoughts. A stronghold can actually be visually viewed in images of the brain. It looks like a huge tree with branches that have spread its root system into the physical structure of the brain. A stronghold is woven into our genetic makeup and even restructures our cells to create emotions that are harmful to our spiritual well-being. These strongholds will imprison us and hold us hostage until they are torn down.

God designed the brain so that we can demolish strongholds and effectively rewire the brain. He also designed the brain so that we have every opportunity to eradicate these toxic thoughts before they become strongholds. If we take control of our thought life, become aware of what we are thinking, and take vigilant watch over our thoughts, these strongholds will wither and fade away. Otherwise, the stronghold can spread its roots deep into the physical brain and become strongly embedded in the heart.

A stronghold can be any area of sin that has risen to dominate our thinking to the point it becomes entrenched in our way of life. What are some of the strongholds that Satan loves to build as fortresses in our hearts?

Fear is a huge stronghold and is the foundation of many other strongholds.

Unbelief is a common stronghold. Every stronghold has at its core a disbelief in the promises and faithfulness of God. Rejecting the truth of Scripture allows false reasoning and erroneous logic to control the thinking process.

Unforgiveness is another colossal stronghold, and many other strongholds grow out of an unwillingness to forgive. If left untreated, unforgiveness becomes a spiritual cancer, poisoning the heart with its root of bitterness. Satan takes immediate advantage of any unforgiveness in our lives and uses it to build powerfully effective strongholds that can crush our heart.

Pride, guilt, lust, greed, depression, covetousness, and addictions are some of the other strongholds that can torment our minds and destroy our hearts. A stronghold is tangible evidence of the pursuit of the unholy in our thought life.

Do these strongholds only afflict the unbeliever who has not accepted Christ? Are they only the problem of the unbelieving world and not the concern of the Christian? Absolutely not! Strongholds and dungeons of captivity are running rampant in the minds of Christians and greatly hindering our walk with God and our Christian growth.

Beth Tirabassi, in Sacred Obsession: What You Chase After You Become, expounds on this enormous problem:

You cannot imagine how many people I meet who say they know God but are broken and confused, hiding their true selves, addicted to a substance, involved in emotional affairs, extremely overweight and battling with food every day, defiantly bitter about something, angry and easily able to wound with their words, abused, trapped, and desperate, obsessed with the illicit, habitual liars, too self-centered to love those who need them, and consumed with chasing after the unholy. They believed the lie that the sacred is not enough. Instead of being obsessed with the sacred…instead of loving God and others with intimacy and intention, instead of being free to dance on the inside or outside, instead of being able to laugh with pure joy and lift their hands with extreme freedom, instead of caring for the needs of others with selfless abandon, instead of being aware of God’s presence, when His blanket of comfort or power comes over them…they are numb….I don’t totally understand the dynamics of every addiction, but I do intimately understand the relentless pursuit which gets a hold of you—almost to the point of complete destruction. And I am guessing that you understand addictive compulsive obsessions too. You’ve felt their impact on someone you love. And you know if you don’t do whatever it takes to get the addiction out of your life; it will consume everything you love. Everything you are.[ii]

In 2 Corinthians 10:4 God commands that these fortresses must be pulled down and eradicated from our hearts. The Greek word for “pulling down” is kathairesis, which means to take down, to destroy, and to bring to extinction.

The first usage of this word in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, is enlightening as to the deeper meaning of this word.

You must not worship the gods of these nations or serve them in any way or imitate their evil practices. Instead, you must utterly destroy (kathareisis) them and smash their sacred pillars. You must serve only the Lord your God. (Exodus 23:24-25, NLT)

The root of every stronghold is idolatry—the worship and service of rival gods that have established a fortified dwelling place in our hearts.

We cannot serve the Lord our God if these dungeons of idolatry are dominating our hearts. These strongholds are like tumors that have fastened to our hearts and attempt to utterly consume it. When you are diagnosed with a tumor, you go to the doctor to get it surgically removed so it will be eliminated from your body. Likewise, God does not want one fortified stronghold to remain in our thinking or our hearts.

Do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:27, NIV)

Leave no such room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]. (AMP)

In the Greek, this is a present imperative and could literally be translated “Stop giving the devil a foothold in your heart and life!”

The Greek word for “foothold” means territory and a defined area like a district, town or dwelling place. We cannot give the enemy an inch of territory in our thoughts.  We cannot give him a dwelling place in our minds. If we give him a foothold, the Devil will aggressively take territory and build fortresses. If we give him a deed of land in our minds, he will stake out more boundaries to control as much real estate as he can. He is a spiritual squatter who attempts to gain legal title to property by a hostile, continuous possession, to the exclusion of its true owner. The owner, through neglect, has failed to protect the land against the actions of its adverse possessor who has treated the land as his own for a significant period of time. Eventually he is recognized by the law as its new owner.

The Devil has no legal right, by the authority of the finished work of Jesus Christ, to occupy one blade of grass in the real estate of our minds. Don’t give him any land on which to build a fortress. Don’t let him establish a military base. Don’t allow him to become the owner of one square inch of your thinking through neglect or inattention.

The Lesson of Jericho

There is a beautiful illustration of this truth in the book of Joshua. When Joshua was about to lead the nation of Israel into the Promised Land, he faced thirty-one hostile nations that were not about to surrender their territories to the people of God. These hostile empires were thirty-one strongholds, most having heavily fortified cities, and were described as giants in the land of Canaan (Numbers 11:31-33). The Devil placed these nations right in the heart of the Promised Land.  If Israel was to inherit the land God had promised them, they would have to defeat these nations and tear down their strongholds.

God told Joshua that not one nation, stronghold, or person could stand against him. Joshua was to courageously advance into enemy territory and conquer every stronghold in the name of God Almighty. God encouraged Joshua to not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God was with Him. God was going to show in spectacular fashion in the presence of His people that no stronghold can stand against His mighty power.

The first kingdom-city that stood in the way of Joshua and all of Israel was Jericho a formidable, heavily fortified city. This stronghold had to be demolished, but human logic and reason would label this task as impossible. Jericho was one of the greatest cities of its day, and was surrounded by a great embankment with a stone retaining wall twelve to fifteen feet high. On top of the retaining wall was a mud-brick wall six feet thick and six to eight feet high. At the crest of the embankment was another mud-brick wall that was forty-six feet above the ground level outside the retaining wall. If you were standing in front of this city, the walls would be close to seven stories high.

This stronghold’s massive fortifications dared any soul, army, or nation to attack it. Joshua could have easily thought, “Are you kidding me? This is impossible! This stronghold is impregnable!” But is anything too hard for God? What people say is impossible, God says is possible with Him! (Luke 18:37).

On the eve of this battle, God Almighty sent Joshua a heavenly visitor to put things in spiritual perspective and to confirm that this stronghold was going to be demolished by God. The Lord of Hosts would fight on the frontlines of battle as a great warrior to tear down every fortress that stood in the way of God’s people entering into the Promised Land.

When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:13–15, NIV)

God sent the commander of His army, the captain of the Lord’s mighty host, to show Joshua that this battle to tear down the stronghold of Jericho was God’s battle. These walls would only come down through the mighty weapons of God Almighty.

God does not engage in battle to lose. He is always victorious and He never fails on the battlefield, no matter how formidable the enemy. Our God is a warrior against every evil stronghold and He always brings overwhelming victory to His children who trust and obey Him and absolute defeat to all those who oppose Him.

God’s plan to demolish this stronghold did not include battering rams, or a massive frontal attack of troops, or some otherworldly tactic of war. His weapons made it one of the most unconventional battles in the history of the world. Only God could get the glory and praise for this type of battle plan. Only He could win this war.

Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day. While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priest shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction. (Joshua 3:5; 4:23–24; 5:8–10; 6:2–7, 18a, ESV)

It was by faith that the walls of Jericho collapsed, for the people had obeyed God’s command to encircle them for seven days. (Hebrews 11:30, PHILLIPS)

The Battle of Jericho: 8 Keys to Demolish Strongholds

In the battle of Jericho God sets forth the pattern of how we should approach the tearing down of every stronghold in our minds and hearts.

Come out of the Wilderness

First, if we want God to deal with our strongholds, we must come out of the wilderness of sin and the world. We cannot have wilderness thinking and lifestyles and expect our strongholds to come tumbling down. Actually, the opposite happens. The strongholds built by sin strengthen their fortifications in our hearts as long as we play with the golden calf in the wilderness. We wander about in spiritual blindness and stumble in the darkness, not knowing where we are going, as long as our hearts treasure the wilderness more than they treasure God. We must follow Jesus and let Him lead us out of the wilderness and into the promised land of a new life in Him.

We must never turn our gaze back to longing for the wilderness. We must fix our eyes on our Lord. We should seek His face, hunger for His presence, passionately pursue Him as our first love, and walk out of a past dead in trespasses and sins into the transforming power of our awesome God.

Consecrate Yourselves

The second thing we must do to tear down any stronghold is to consecrate ourselves. The Hebrew word translated “consecrate” is qadash, which means to be set apart, sanctified, holy and pure, and is used to describe what is set aside for God’s purposes. Qadash is to be completely dedicated to God for His glorification. It is a holy separation, where we pursue the sacred and consecrate all to Him. Our actions, words, and thoughts become instruments for His glory. Everything in our lives is set-aside for Him.

We must not conform to the world’s way of thinking or mold our lives after the fleeting mind-set of this age. We must boldly come out from among the world in our thought life, and separate our thinking from the evil spiritual atmosphere that has been orchestrated by the Prince of the Power of the Air in every area of society.

Becky Tirabassi says in Sacred Obsession:

We have allowed culture to consume us and make us like it. The average Western Christian is much more like his culture than his God….We have become incredibly ineffective as children of the King—no longer considered by ourselves or others as a holy, set–apart people of the living, loving God.[iii]

Do not allow the culture to consume your thought life and make it a wasted opportunity for the King of Glory. Our thinking must live under the banner of holy separation from the evil of this world. When we consecrate our thoughts to Him, God can tear down the strongholds caused by destructive thinking. The presence of God should penetrate our thoughts like beautiful rays of sunshine breaking forth in celebration of a new day. We must renew our minds by bringing our thinking to a new quality that is branded by God as pure, selfless, and compassionate.

What label would characterize your thinking? Would it be the brand of Christ or the brand of the flesh? Would it characterize the beauty of God or the ugliness of sin? It is time we examine our thought life to see what label it carries. Our earnest desire and driving passion should be that God is glorified by our thinking. We should be passionate to consecrate our thought life to the glory of God, for no stronghold can withstand the power of a consecrated thought life dedicated to the honor, praise, and majesty of our God.

Our Spiritual Circumcision in Christ

Thirdly, for God to tear down the strongholds in our minds, we must boldly stand in our spiritual circumcision in Christ under the new covenant, allowing God to circumcise the old ways of the flesh from our hearts. In that circumcision, the flesh will be pulled away from its grip on the heart and the power of sin broken in Christ and rendered inoperative. We do not need to have a slave’s habitual obedience to the flesh anymore. This circumcision is the enablement to break free from all sin, and to live in the freedom of our new life in Christ.

At the foundation of every stronghold is the carnal thinking of our flesh, fed by our sin nature. We can claim the benefits of the new covenant, which freed us from the power of sin controlling our lives and its relentless building of strongholds in our hearts. We can now walk by the Spirit of God and allow its holy work within us of burning the chaff, tearing down strongholds, and purifying our hearts.

Communion: The Power in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ

Fourthly, for the stronghold to be demolished, we need to know and believe the amazing power in the body and blood of Jesus Christ memorialized in the communion ceremony. Just like the Israelites who observed Passover before the walls of Jericho came crashing down, we can walk in the magnificent power of our redemption, accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The power of Satan to maintain strongholds in our hearts was permanently broken, crushed, and defeated at the cross, and His authority to rule our lives was overthrown and destroyed by our Lord Jesus.

Every captivity that has held the heart a prisoner in its strongholds has been blown to smithereens by Jesus Christ. No stronghold can stand against the blood of Jesus Christ. No stronghold can stand against the body of Jesus Christ. Our salvation is so complete that it can tear down the walls of any physical, mental, or spiritual stronghold, no matter how long it has been rooted and engrained in our hearts. When He cried out on the cross, “It is finished,” He was declaring the death sentence for every stronghold that has ever held us captive and oppressed our hearts. When the angel declared, “He is risen!” it was a heavenly declaration of a new age for all those who choose to believe.

Salvation is now available through Jesus Christ. In this salvation there is no room for the old strongholds to continue to plague and control our lives. Praise God there is a new freedom in Christ from every stronghold. The power of the Holy Spirit can reduce these fortresses to ashes in the unquenchable fire of God’s holy presence.

We must elevate our thinking to our heavenly position in Christ. Our thoughts must be filled with the truth of our redemption in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus if these strongholds are to come tumbling down.

The Battle is Not Yours but God’s

The fifth truth illustrated in the battle of Jericho is to realize that the battle is not ours, but the Lord’s. Joshua saw the commander of the host of heaven’s armies, and he had no doubt that the mighty God of Israel was going to fight for His people and bear His mighty arm against Jericho.

Only by the powerful weapons He has given us, like prayer and the sword of the Spirit, can we engage in this battle. Trust God to bring these strongholds to nothing. Believe God is our warrior and cry out in victory, “If God be for me, if God be on my side, what stronghold can stand against me?” Even if the wall is seven stories high and seems impossible to overcome, our God created the heavens and earth and can demolish any stronghold.

No stronghold can stand against the Almighty God! He will simply breathe on any stronghold and its walls will crumble. Believe in your awesome God. Trust in your Almighty God with unwavering devotion. Know that He is faithful to demolish every stronghold.

We can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is with us and in us, and we have nothing to fear. Never let unbelief in God and His Word raise its ugly head and take root in your heart. Unbelief is the fuel of every stronghold. It is the great enemy that will try to overtake your thinking patterns.

The altar of unbelief is established in the heart through our thought life. We cannot succumb to thoughts that God does not care, that He doesn’t deliver, and that He is not trustworthy. Unbelief doubts the character of our God and allows the Devil to build strongholds of unbelief in our hearts.

Unbelief doubts the integrity and accuracy of the God-breathed Word of God.

When unbelief toward God and His Word is demolished in our thinking, the miraculous God can rise up and do His mighty work of destroying these fortresses so they no longer control our lives.  We must lay every single battle to demolish these strongholds at the feet of our God and let Him arise in our hearts and take out these bastions of the Enemy.

The Ark of the Covenant: The Power of God’s Word and Presence

The sixth truth is, just as the Ark of the Covenant was marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, we can take the Word of God and march it around every stronghold, confessing its truth and claiming its power. The Word of God is the mighty weapon in our thinking that will tear down the bricks of unbelief, fear, and doubt that have built their strongholds in our minds. We must know the Word, meditate on the Word, confess the Word, and believe the Word if these strongholds are ever to come down.

God declares in Jeremiah 23:29 (HCSB): “Is not My word like fire…and like a hammer that pulverizes rock?” The holy fire of God’s Word will melt any stronghold. The mighty power of God’s Word will pulverize the walls of any mental fortress. The hammer of God’s Word is the great weapon to demolish all these strongholds. This is why the Word of God must live and abide in our thought life.

The great philosophies and religions of the world are like a plastic toy hammer against these strongholds. They are powerless to bring the walls down. Only God’s holy Word, which He has magnified above all His name (Psalm 138:2), can crush these fortresses that have established residency in our hearts.

The ark also represented the presence of God, where God lived and met His people. When God is present, strongholds dissolve and crumble. No stronghold can remain in the light of His presence. We must hunger after God’s presence to be a living reality in our hearts. We must practice the presence of God in our thought life if these strongholds are to dissolve. God is calling us to carry His presence into battle and let our hearts be a living ark that radiates the glory of God Almighty.

Do you hunger after God’s presence like a newborn bird craves food from its mother? Do you pant for God’s presence like a thirsty deer pants for water? Do you know that God is with you and in you every moment of the day? It is time we set the glory of God’s presence before the walls of every stronghold that captivates our minds and holds us in bondage.

Tell the stronghold that you want to introduce it to the Almighty God whose power and majesty is beyond measure. These dungeons of bondage melt when they touch the glory of our God. God cries out to us like He did in Isaiah 45:2, “I will go before you and level the mountains. Bronze doors I will shatter, and iron bars I will snap!” Our mighty God will level every fortress and shatter every stronghold that stands in defiance of His truth if we only let Him. Let the weapon of God’s holy presence be carried into battle for the destruction of these strongholds and stand still and see the salvation of our Lord. When God is vitally present in our thinking, then the victory is assured over every stronghold that has ever tormented our lives and held sway over our hearts. The trumpets of God must once again sound in our hearts announcing to the world that the presence of God has arrived and the judgment of destruction on every stronghold has been pronounced from the throne of God.

Have Unshakeable Faith in God and His Word

The seventh truth is to have faith in God and His Word. Only by the exercise of faith can God move into action and accomplish the impossible. Our faith rests on the truth that with God all things are possible and nothing is too hard for Him.  Strongholds are so prevalent in the hearts of Christians because there is a vast shortage of believers who have childlike faith that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. We have more faith in the power of the enemy to defeat us than in the power of God to deliver us. Faith is an unwavering trust and confidence in our God that he will never fail us. It is to be fully persuaded that what God has promised, He is able to perform. No stronghold is demolished without faith. Strongholds arise when there is unbelief dominant in our thinking.

Faith always begins at the thought level. The strongholds of Satan will sift our hearts like wheat if we don’t have strong faith and confidence in our God. Take the shield of faith into battle against these strongholds to quench all the fiery javelins of the wicked one.

Faith not only tears down strongholds in our hearts, but also prevents new strongholds from finding a dwelling place in our minds. Faith comes by hearing the mighty promises of the Word of God and believing what God has spoken. God does not lie. His promises are always true. His promises cannot fail. As Jesus proclaimed again and again: “O ye of little faith! Why do you doubt?”

Our entire culture is designed to build fear and unbelief in the promises of God and God’s true character. We have made God too small; our vision is too mundane and we do not understand the greatness of our God. Strongholds abound as our faith is miniscule and shipwrecked on the island of doubt, worry, and fear. Truth faith has absolute confidence that God is able and willing to bring about the miraculous and the extraordinary in our lives. True faith has absolute confidence no matter how high the walls, that it can demolish any stronghold that grips our thinking with fear. True faith not only moves mountains, but it smashes strongholds into pieces. Faith is the key ingredient to keep our hearts healthy and free from these fortresses of bondage.

Wait on the Lord

The last truth in the Battle of Jericho is that we must wait on the Lord. God did not move to demolish the walls of Jericho until the seventh day. The Israelites were commanded to wait patiently for their God and not even utter a word until God’s appointed time. They were not to analyze God’s battle plans or have discussion groups about the best way for God to handle the situation. They were not to hand God an agenda and a timetable to try to get His approval. They were to be still in their thoughts, hearts and mouths and see the mighty salvation of the Lord.

God does not need an advisor. God does not need a counselor. God does not need a time scheduler. God needs people who will simply trust, obey, and wait for Him to act. Isaiah 64:4 boldly promises that God acts on behalf of those who trust in Him.

One of the most beautiful acts of faith in our Lord is to wait on Him for we know He is never late. God’s timing is always perfect. Many strongholds fail to crumble because we get inpatient with God as our flesh takes over and we take matters in our own hands. We attempt to tear down the stronghold in our own strength and worldly wisdom. It never works. It is like trying to destroy a military installation with a bb gun. It is a recipe for failure and never effective in demolishing strongholds in our hearts. Strongholds can never come down until we learn to wait upon the Lord and move when He moves and act when He acts, and faithfully follow His triumphant battle plan.

It is absolutely essential if strongholds are to be demolished and our heart set free, that we cultivate thinking patterns of waiting on the Lord. We cannot let anxiety and fear control our thinking where we develop an “I want it now” mindset and fail to wait on our God. We have become such an inpatient generation and we hate to wait on anything. But as in any battle, any movement of troops made in haste against the commands of its general, leads to disaster and often a crushing defeat. The soldier must trust the general’s heart and His commands and not allow his thinking to commit rebellion against his commander-in-chief.

The nature of our flesh does not want to wait on anyone. The flesh is incredibly impatient, demanding, and arrogant as to its ways. The flesh never understands the great truth of God’s faithfulness. The flesh deceives us into thinking we do not have to wait upon the Lord. Don’t make this disastrous decision to the health of your heart by following the flesh’s advice.

Waiting on the Lord is to trust in His faithfulness. Waiting on the Lord is to trust in His promises. Waiting on the Lord is to place our hope only in Him. God will absolutely never fail to perform what He has promised. He cannot lie. He did not stutter when He promised to demolish every stronghold if we trust Him and do what He has told us to do.

We should be like David who cried out in the Psalms 62:5: “My soul only waits on God for my expectation is from Him.” and in Psalm 25:5: “Lead me in thy truth and teach me for you are the God of my salvation and on you I wait all the day long.” David was a man after God’s own heart because his soul waited on the Lord day and night and his hope rested in the Lord.

David set forth the keys on waiting on the Lord in Psalm 37 which is to first trust in the Lord, then delight in the Lord, then commit our way to the Lord and then rest in the Lord. The actions of trusting, delighting, committing and resting, prepares our heart to wait patiently for the Lord. No matter how long it may take, we wait on the Lord for He will bring deliverance and salvation from every stronghold that captivates our hearts. He is our expectation. He is our hope. He is our confidence. Never get discouraged. Never lose heart. Never give up.

The Hebrew word for “wait” is qavah and it means to wait with breathless anticipation and to earnestly look towards something with great expectation. Qavah also means to be gathered together in unity. It comes from the root meaning to twist and bind together like a rope, which becomes strong as many strands are intertwined together. When we wait on God our heart becomes knit together in strength with God and like a mighty rope our heart becomes intertwined with the very heart of God and everything He is. We become one in purpose and in action. We are bound together in a loving union of trust and confidence. We wait in eager expectation for we are excited to stand still and see how the magnificent God of wonders will act. There is no “maybe” or “perhaps” in waiting for the Lord for we have absolute confidence in God. When we wait upon the Lord a wonderful transformation of our heart takes place where the shackles of doubt are replaced with an unwavering confidence in God.

As Christians we have had too many walls of Jericho in our hearts for far too long. Fortresses stand in the way of the glory of God being manifested in our hearts. We have betrayed our hearts by allowing these strongholds to remain deeply rooted, distorting the image of Christ. As Saul lost his kingdom because he failed to eliminate the Amalekites, we have lost the true king from reigning on the throne of our hearts because we have failed to tear down the fortresses of our flesh. God is crying out to us daily: “Remove these strongholds from my dwelling place!” They have no right to be there. They must be demolished if God is to rule in our hearts.

[i] Beth Moore, Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds (Nashville: B& H Publishing Group, 2009), 3,14,15.

[ii] Beth Tirabassi, Sacred Obsession: What You Chase After You Become, (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006), 6,7,11.

[iii] Ibid., 123.

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The Third Gateway to the Heart: The Thoughts-Part 4: Pleasing God with our Thought Life

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)

Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect. (NCV)

As Christians we must demonstrate a way of thinking that is not molded or shaped by the world. We cannot copy the thinking patterns of the world for our hearts will never be transformed into the living image of our Savior. The truth of the Word of God must be the solid foundation of our thought life. There is life-changing power in the partnership of truth and the Spirit of God. When these two pillars of transformation are at work in our thought life, we will think, act, and be just like Jesus. We will shine brightly to the world the inner reality that Christ lives in us.

Each day we walk in this way of thinking, more of the glory of the Lord will be manifest in our lives. We will know Jesus more intimately as we press into truth in our thought life, for He is the truth. The more we think according to truth and walk by the Spirit in our thought life, the more Jesus can burn the chaff of selfishness, fear, unbelief, and every other attitude that dishonors God from our hearts.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1–4, NASB)

The words “set your mind” come from the Greek word phroneo, which means thinking to the point it moves the will, reasoning and emotions. It is thinking with a purpose and a direction. This verb is in the active voice in the Greek, which means we must choose by a decision of our will to think this way. It is in the imperative mood, which means this is a command of God Almighty. It is also in the present tense, which means that this way of thinking should be our habit and way of life.

Are your thoughts a dwelling place for God Almighty? Are your thoughts like a little bit of heaven? Do your thoughts reflect the pattern of the majesty and glory of heaven, or are they entrenched in the things of this world?

God wants the habit of our thought life to be the spiritual things of His kingdom, not the temporal things of this earth. We choose whether our thoughts are directed upward or focused downward. Our spiritual position in Christ is that we have been raised with Him and are seated in the heavenlies. Why would we want our thoughts to be consumed with the trivial things of this earth instead of the eternal truths of heaven? We have died to our old ways of life. Our new life is centered with Christ in God. For Christians, Christ is our life now, and this should be reflected first and foremost in our thinking.

A.T. Robertson, in Word Pictures in the New Testament, says:

It does matter what we think and we are responsible for our thoughts. Paul does not mean that we should never think the things upon the earth, but that should not be our aim, our goal and our master. The Christian has to keep his feet upon the earth, but his head in the heavens. He must be heavenly-minded here on earth and so help to make the earth like heaven.[i]

God commands us to think from a heavenly perspective, with eternity stamped on our thoughts, and to no longer allow the temporal things of this earth to control our thought life. Our new life in Christ demands a new way of thinking. Our vision is to be uplifted to where our Lord is seated on the right hand of God. We must keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, looking full in his beautiful face. The glory and holiness of our Lord bursting forth from his heavenly throne should be the image we frame our thoughts around. How could anything on earth compare to this?

The illusory reality of the world of material things produces uncertainty and emptiness at every turn in life and ultimately enslaves the heart in bondage. If our thoughts are centered on the things of this world, we will be plagued with defeat, frustration, and despair.

Bishop K. C. Pillai, in Orientalisms of the Bible: Volume 1, has an enlightening translation of Matthew 6:19-21.

Let not your thoughts be centered in material things where fears and worries breed defeat and frustration, and where doubts break through and steal your thoughts. But let your thoughts be centered in the Spirit, where neither fear or worry breeds defeat or frustration, and where doubts do not break through and steal your thoughts. For where your thoughts are, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19–21)[ii]

If we stake our thought life on Him who is unchangeable and forever faithful, and whose goodness is from everlasting to everlasting, then the thieves of doubt, worry, and fear will never break through and steal our thoughts. God should be the solid rock and firm foundation of our thought life.

When worldly thoughts become the focus of our thinking, they dim our spiritual vision and cause us to lose our sense of eternal value. James Alexander Stewart, in Opened Windows: The Church and Revival, describes the tragic consequences when worldliness dominates our thinking:

Worldliness robs the Christian life of its radiant dynamic character. Worldliness is anything that takes the keen edge off my spiritual life and dims my vision of the Lord. Worldliness is anything that robs me of my deep inner love-life with my glorious Redeemer. Worldliness is anything that takes away my burden for souls. Worldliness is anything that hinders my spending time in the closet in earnest intercession, by the power of the Spirit, for the church and the world.[iii]

One day in the future, we will reign with Christ for all eternity. This wonderful truth should always be in our thoughts. Barclay, in his Letters to the Colossians, states:

From now on Christians will view everything against the background of eternity and no longer live as if this world is all that mattered … Christians will no longer worry about things that the world thought important. Ambitions which dominated the world will be powerless to touch them … They will set giving above getting, serving above ruling, forgiving above avenging. The standard of values for Christians will be God’s, not the world’s … In the light of that cross, the world’s wealth and ambitions and activities are seen at their true value—and Christians are enabled to set their hearts on the things which are above.[iv]

Eternity Conscious

Oh, how life changes when we begin to view things from a heavenly perspective. Things above should be the center of our thought life. Then all the problems and worries of this world will fade and lose their grip on our hearts. Everything we think about should be filtered through the lens of eternity.

A.W. Tozer, in Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in Christian Life, states:

We who live in this nervous age would be wise to meditate on our lives and our days long and often before the face of God and on the edge of eternity. For we are made for eternity as we are made for time, and as responsible moral beings we must deal with both.[v]

A spiritual revolution and earth-shaking revival can be birthed when the body of Christ allows eternity to grip their lives and drive their thought patterns.

Leonard Ravenhill, in Why Revival Tarries, says:

Oh that believers would become eternity conscious! If we could live every moment of every day under the eye of God, if we did every act in the light of the judgment seat, if we sold every article in light of the judgment seat, if we prayed every prayer in the light of the judgment seat … then we would have a Holy Ghost revival that would shake this earth and that in no time would liberate millions of precious souls.[vi]

All of the desires for our lives dramatically alter when we think about eternity. The judgment seat of Christ has nothing to do with obtaining salvation, as we are saved by grace because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ paid the price for our salvation, and we have eternal life as a gift of God’s grace. Christian believers will already be in heaven with the glorious new bodies we received after the Rapture, when we stand before Christ’s judgment seat. This judgment will determine our eternal rewards and our positions of responsibility in His kingdom. God will examine the fruitfulness of our lives and the pattern of our conduct while we were on the earth. God will bring to the light the plans, purposes, and motives of our hearts and give amazing rewards for those works of goodness that pass His test.

Do you see why a thought life that is focused on eternity changes everything? I have in my house a poster from the movie Gladiator that says, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.[vii]” Eternity never ends. Eternity is forever. How can we compare seventy or eighty years of life on this earth to eternity? Where should our priorities lie: the pleasures of this temporal life or eternity?

The judgment seat of Christ will issue forth the final verdict as to our eternal rewards and our destiny in His kingdom. Will we be decorated with rewards and victor crowns, and given great responsibility before God and His Son, Jesus Christ, in the future kingdom? Or will we barely get through the door and only by the grace of God?

Our lives are the testing ground for eternity, as each day we are either making or marring a destiny, winning or losing a reward, and securing or losing a crown. Will our motives, plans, purposes, and works withstand the test of fire at the judgment seat of Christ?

As Christians we need to set our hearts on eternity and adjust our motives and hearts accordingly. It is never too late to begin to accumulate and earn future rewards in the service of our Lord.

God has equipped us with everything we need to walk in obedience to His Word. Our thought life is the critical component to the final verdict that Jesus Christ issues about our eternal responsibility in His kingdom. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” We cannot allow anything in our thought life to cloud, mar, or dim the vision of eternity. We must set the GPS of our hearts on eternity and judge every thought, action, and motive in the light of this heavenly vision.

Romans 8:5–8 says:

“Those who are habitually dominated by the sinful nature, put their minds (phroneo-think) on the things of the sinful nature, but those who are habitually dominated by the Spirit, put their minds (phroneo-think) on the things of the Spirit.” For to have the mind (phroneo-think) dominated by the sinful nature is death, but to have the mind (phroneo-think) dominated by the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind (phroneo-thoughts) dominated by the sinful nature is hostile to God, for it does not marshal itself under the command of the law of God, neither is it able to. Moreover, those who are in the sphere of the sinful nature are not able to please God. (WUEST)

What nature is driving your thought life? Is your thinking habitually dominated by your old sinful nature inherited from Adam or by the new nature, the Spirit of God that was birthed within you when you were born again? Our thinking is never neutral; it is always being dominated by either our old or our new nature.

The consequences are monumental, the implications are staggering, and the repercussions are life-changing in regards to which nature controls our thought life. The most important consequence of our thinking is the effect it has on our relationship with God. The Bible is clear on this significant truth. If our thinking remains in the sphere of our sinful nature, we can never please God. If our thinking remains under the control of our sinful nature, we take up a hostile position against God. We will build in our hearts a pattern of hating the things of God.

Pleasing God Begins With Your Thought Life

Pleasing God begins with our thought life. Do you want to please God? Do you want to live a life that is well-pleasing to Him? Then you must take control of your thought life. The way we think determines the quality, intimacy, and depth of our relationship with our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Carelessness in our thought life, by allowing the sin nature to control it, is dangerously destructive to our walk with God.

Do you want to become an enemy of God in your thinking? Do you want your mind to be classified as a rebel to God, and hostile to the purposes of God in your life? Do you want your heart to be branded as the property of your spiritual enemy? If not, then you must habitually renew your mind to the Word of God and walk by the Spirit in your thought life.

Sin must not be the slave master of our thought life. Through the overwhelming victory of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection, sin no longer has a right to reign over our thinking. Our old way of thinking was nailed to the cross and died in Him, so our thought life no longer has to be an instrument of sin in our lives. Our thinking should be dead to sin and alive to God. Our thought life should be rooted in God’s love, grace, and mercy. Our thinking life should be rooted in holiness. We must keep our thinking pure if we want to have our hearts transformed into the image of Christ. This is the demand of the lordship of Jesus Christ.

One pattern of thinking produces death: death in our relationship with God, death to the fruit of God in our lives, and death to God’s deliverance being manifested in our lives. The other pattern of thinking produces life and peace: the life of the Christ flowing through us, which produces the beautiful fruit of the Spirit in our hearts. The peace of God mends our broken and agitated hearts, giving us a godly calm and assurance even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.

Which pattern of thinking is going to control your thought life—the fleshly pattern of death or the spiritual pattern of life? Choose this day what god your thoughts are going to serve and what nature your thoughts are going to bow to.

Depending on when we became Christians, most of us have had decades of practice where our thinking was controlled exclusively by our sin nature. Thus it is a radical departure from our normal thinking patterns to allow the Word of God and the Spirit of God to become the center of our thought life. I never said this was easy. Thinking rightly is a growth and training process. But we must approach our thought life with the same discipline as an athlete in training for the Olympics. We must approach our thinking with the same intensity as a cyclist training for the grueling Tour De France. We must approach our thought life with the same relentless dedication of a prizefighter’s training for a heavyweight boxing championship. But the stakes are much higher and the reward is much greater.

The urgency of our times demands discipline, sacrifice, and commitment. Who would make such a ridiculous demand of us? Who would require that type of dedication? God!

Sin is relentless and is always crouching at the door of our thought life, ready to infiltrate it and turn it as a rebel against God. The Devil wants to take the fight out of you. He wants to brand your thought life with apathy for the things of God. He wants to make you lazy and spiritually asleep so he can come as the thief in the night and sow tares of fear, doubt, and unbelief in your thinking. We have been asleep at the switch for way too long. Wake up and exercise discipline and eternal vigilance over your thought life!

Approaching our Thinking with the Discipline of a Spiritual Athlete

More than any other Christian who ever lived, the apostle Paul understood the importance of discipline in the Christian thought life. He used God-inspired images and words to illustrate the truth that the Christian is an athlete of the Spirit and must approach the Christian walk with the discipline and training of an athlete.

Train yourself for godliness. (1 Timothy 4:7, NIV)

I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7, KJV)

The desperate, straining, agonizing contest marked by its beauty of technique, I like a wrestler have fought to the finish, and at present am resting in victory. My race, I like a runner have finished, and at present am resting at the goal. The Faith committed to my care, I like a soldier have kept safely through eternal vigilance, and have delivered it again to my Captain. (WUEST)

We must fight the good fight of faith in our thought life and train our thinking for godliness. The Greek word translated “fought” is agonizomai. It was a familiar term in Greek writings concerning military and athletic endeavors. It was used to emphasize the discipline and effort needed to win in both arenas. In the athletic sense it means to contend in the games for a prize with great physical exertion and intensity. It is an all-out push for victory with every ounce of physical and mental strength. It was used of a runner straining every muscle to reach the finish line. Nothing is left on the sidelines. Nothing is left in the locker room.

The root of this word comes into English as the word agony. These Greek athletes were engaged in the intense competition of the games even to the point of physical agony. This Greek word is in the present tense and imperative mood, which means that God is commanding this level of spiritual discipline as a continuous, daily habit of life.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!

All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step, I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24–27, NLT)

Should we have any less intensity and passion for God than the Greek athlete had to win a prize? Should we labor any less fervently for Christ than the Greek athlete labored in the games? We should make it our aim as Christians to fight the good fight and finish the race God has called us to with everything we have. No half-hearted, weak effort is acceptable. We are at war! So fight the good fight!

This fight begins with our thinking. If the battle for the thought life is lost, the heart is lost. We cannot let our hearts be a casualty of war because we were lazy and undisciplined in our thinking. God has given us everything we need to fight the good fight. God is our team captain, and He urges us to get into the spiritual arena to wrestle for His purposes. We should accept nothing less than an all-out effort in this fight with the rigorous discipline of an elite athlete or top soldier.

Unfortunately, the majority of Christians have been too undisciplined, entangled, apathetic, and soft to fight with the intensity of an athlete. Are you willing to lay everything on the line for the Lord Jesus Christ and change the way you think? Or is your Christianity a convenient Sunday show for an hour that does little to wake up your thinking to Christ.

We are in an intense fight for our thought life. It is the ultimate contest, the supreme event, and the final championship match for control of our hearts. We can either get into the ring and fight for our thinking or stay on the sidelines, never adventuring to take the hand of God as our team captain. It takes courage, conviction, and tenacity to stand for Christ in our thinking.

Are you willing to make the sacrifice necessary to take control of your thought life? Are you prepared to push yourself to the point of physical and mental exhaustion for the purity of your thinking in your walk with Christ?

[i] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2000), 499.

[ii] Bishop K.C. Pillai, Orientalisms of the Bible: Volume 1.

[iii] James Alexander Stewart, Opened Windows: The Church and Revival, (Ashville: Revival Literature, 1958).

[iv] William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 171-173.

[v] A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1961), 42.

[vi] Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1959), 47.

[vii] David Franzoni, Gladiator, Movie, directed by Ridley Scott, (Los Angeles: DreamWorks, 2000).

Excerpt from The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life 

https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Key-Everything-Christian-Life/dp/1483447928/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1499477494&sr=1-1&keywords=heart+key+to+everything

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