Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line

Monday, September 11, 2017

Contending for The Faith



Contending for The Faith
         
Perhaps the first thing we learn as Christians desiring to lead people to following Christ is that most have little interest in such things.  Their unbelief binds them to a prison of their own ignorance leading them into ever increasing destructive life-patterns.  In their ignorance, they deem the preaching of the Cross a foolish waste of time (I Corinthians 1:18).  This ignorance of unbelief keeps them on worldly pathways pursuing some ambiguous thing called happiness.  For them, happiness is another word for pleasure and love is another word for sex


II Timothy 2:22-3:5 defines both the problem and the solution.  God expects faithful believers to be proactive as these sinners are being taken away by the mudslide of sin accelerating them towards the pending judgment of God on this world. 

22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow {chase after or steadily pursue} righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. 1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (II Timothy 2:22-3:5).

Contending for “the faith” is doing what is necessary to ensure that orthodoxy is transposed from one generation to the next.  This transposition of “the faith” from one generation to the next focuses on reaching the next generation through Evangelism, which is primarily discipleship focused.  The faithful disciples of one generation must lead the next generation to receive Christ as Lord and be perfected to do “the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).  Any local church that does not have this missional vision has been corrupted.  The local church is the emphasis of II Timothy 2:22 in the words “with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”  Any Christian that is not fully invested in a local church that has this missional vision has also been corrupted. 

II Timothy 2:23 tells the faithful believer with a Biblical missional vision to “avoid. . . foolish and unlearned questions.”  The reason given to avoid these types of questions is “knowing that they do gender strifes.”  There are always those types of people who ask pointless questions intent more upon arguing than upon edifying.  The word “foolish” is from the Greek word moros (mo-ros’). 

This admonition about avoiding “foolish . . . questions” is most probably addressing the questions that came from those that were, or had been, involved in the mystery religions such as Gnosticism.  Gnosticism was the original religion of Syncretism – blending, merging, and integrating all kinds of religious beliefs together through endless Dialogue.  The wise disciple-maker avoids these foolish discussions because his source of Truth (Epistemology) and faith is founded solely in the clear instruction of the inspired Words of God.  Since the Bible is the ONLY authority for life and practice, what the Bible says is final.  Therefore, to such a person, endless debates and arguments about extra-biblical views and the philosophies of men are pointless wastes of time (“strifes”). 

The word “unlearned” simply means uninstructed.  This refers to those who have never been discipled in the Word of God.  They may have numerous educational degrees and even be very well read.  However, they are “unlearned” in the Scriptures.  The danger is that they come into local churches with an appearance of knowledge or have much knowledge about religious ideas.  They will be respected by many because of their education and status in life.  They will often be promoted to leadership positions in the church for which they are not qualified.
 
The admonition regarding getting involved in these foolish discussions and debates is that “the servant of the Lord must not strive” (II Timothy 2:24).  The “servant of the Lord” must be able to distinguish between the person genuinely wanting the Truth and the person who simply wants to debate.  Once the disciple maker gives a person a clear Bible answer to a question and that person disagrees with that Bible answer – WALK AWAY!

There is an old saying, “Convince a man against his will, He’s of the same opinion still.”  A person wanting to be right even when proven wrong is a fool.  However, he will not have a good opinion of the person that shows him to be a fool.  Therefore, Paul tells Timothy, “be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves” (II Timothy 2:24b-25).  There is often a thin line between being pertinent and impertinent.  Once a person crosses that line, the damage is already done.  Possessing dogmatic knowledge does not mean that such a person has a right to be obnoxious.  There are five words in I Timothy 2:24b-25 that give us directions for reaching people who think they have the answers, but are really without a glue.  If we want to be effective in reaching another generation in helping them become followers of Jesus, we must understand these five words and how they are applied within the spiritual dynamic of soul winning and disciple making. 

1. Gentle - from the Greek word epios (ay’-pee-os) meaning friendly, pleasant, and a person with which it is easy to talk.  The gentle person can disagree without being disagreeable.  He can contend for the faith without being contentious.  Being kind to the people we are trying to reach must be apparent.  Attacking lost people for the sins they commit and the sinful practices of their lives is not the same as patiently trying to persuade someone that God has absolute boundaries for righteousness.  This opposite of gentleness is often manifested by those claiming to be street preachers where they stand on a corner or in a park shouting condemnations at lost people for how they dress or how they live. 
2. Apt to teach – is from one Greek word, didaktikos (did-ak-tik-os’).  The meaning is descriptive of a person whose demeanor is instructive.  A person can be instructive without being condemning.  Instruction from the Word of God has the power to convict and condemn.  Again, this instruction is intended to be directed to the person asking questions with an interest in finding absolute answers.  This person “apt to teach” is willing to take the time to carefully explain spiritual things to the person making inquiries. 
3. Patient is from the Greek word anexikakos (an-ex-ik’-ak-os).  This describes the person willing to endure the arrogant, obtrusive ignorance that often accompanies people antagonistic towards spiritual absolutes.  Another good synonym is forbear.  To be forbearing means to hold yourself back.  Not everything that can be said should be said.  To be forbearing understands the concept of the right time, place, and circumstances while being self-disciplined enough to wait for that right time, place, and circumstances.
4. Meekness is from the Greek word praotes (prah-ot’-ace).  The practical meaning is a gentle humility.  This is directed towards the way we instruct those that “oppose themselves.”  The opposite of gentle humility is rude haughtiness.  If there is an underlaying attitude of arrogance towards the ignorant, that attitude will manifest itself to some degree in negative ways.  When arrogance is perceived by the hearer, most of what is said will be rejected regardless of the fact it is Bible Truth. 
5. Instructing is from the Greek word paideuo (pahee-dyoo’-o), which literally means to train up a child.  It is critical to understand that people learn through levels of comprehension.  Understanding the level of comprehension of the person with whom you speak is critical to instructing him so he can understand what you are saying.  Secondly, since the person thinks he has a level of comprehension far above what he actually possesses, care must be taken so as not to be condescending in instructing him.  To help a person grow in understanding is often done in baby-steps.  Be careful not to overload a person with too much information or you will overwhelm him.  Be patient and carefully explain small portions of Scripture each time you meet. 

Most importantly, remember the last part of II Timothy 2:25b - “if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”  Although considerable doubt is expressed in the text about such a person ever changing his beliefs or unbelief, there is hope when we understand that God’s involvement is the major part of any hopeful possibility.  Long after the words we say and the moment of instruction passes, God remains with the person.  There are no doors to shut Him out or time restraints upon His access to the human spirit. 

II Timothy chapter two explains how we are to deal with people that are seeking truth, but are ignorant and confused.  These people are Agnostics.  The word agnostic simply means - I don’t knowJude 1:3-8 explains how to deal with the heretic who seeks to divide a local church with false teaching.  These types of people infiltrate local churches and must be dealt with more swiftly and even harshly.  These are wolves intent upon carrying away innocent sheep.  How many sheep should be sacrificed to the wolf before the wolf is removed?

3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once {for all} delivered {stewardship} unto the saints. 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. 8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities(Jude 1:3-8).

          Jude 1:3-8 clearly details harsh and swift retribution to the types of deceivers mentioned in this text.  Such people are extremely dangerous.  They can destroy work that has taken years to accomplish.  Over the years, it has become increasingly apparent that the corruption of society and the perversion of truth has no limitations.  Just as in the days of Noah, God must intervene and bring His judgment on the world to halt the advancement of Satan’s agenda of corruption.  Each year the world has proven itself capable of going ever deeper into the miry pits of the filth and degradation of sin.  Professing believers no longer are amazed at the world’s propensity for perversion.  These professors of faith march just a few steps behind the worldly bringing the world into local churches.

          However, it is continually amazing to watch the willingness of professing Christians in their progressiveness in this perversion by staying one step behind the world like a child following a trail of bread crumbs.  These deceived never seem to give any considerations to where they are in their own digression of corruption and defilement.  “Lukewarm” churches, meaning compromising people, have become so complacent to doctrinal error and worldliness that they have become completely silent, accepting almost anything without question or consideration.  God’s will in these matters never seems to be addressed, nor His Word consulted.

          Instead, the matters of “the faith” are relegated to humanistic rationalism while the definitive truths of God’s Word are mitigated into obscurity and irrelevancy.  For much of today’s professing Christians, “the faith” is nothing more than a hodge-podge of human philosophies amalgamated together to appear non-judgmental and to give everyone a warm, fuzzy feeling with little or no consideration to whether those beliefs have any foundation in Divine origin or authority.

          This humanistic perversion of Christianity has little connection to the idea of “the faith” as detailed in God’s inspired Word.  In fact, for this type of Christianity, God’s Word is only referenced to maintain a semblance of connection to the real thing.  The only reason this fiasco continues is that the clear majority of real, Bible believing Christians have become theological pacifists and given up on contending for “the faith.”

          “The faith” defined by Scripture is the body of divinely revealed truth inscripturalized in the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments.  Most of God’s communication with mankind has not come in a booming voice from Heaven (although He has done so on a few occasions).  God has chosen a few men with which to speak and through which He spoke down through the ages.  These men were called Prophets of God.  They were Mediators (middle-men) between God and men.  The last Mediator (and only remaining One) is Jesus Christ.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Peter 1:19-21).

          The words “more sure” in II Peter 1:19 are from the Greek word bebaios (beb’-ah-yos), which refers to something that is stable, firm, or trustworthy.  This is followed by the admonition “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed.”  The words “take heed” are from the Greek word prosecho (pros-ekh’-o), meaning to apply one’s self to, attach one’s self to, hold or cleave to a person or a thing.  It can also mean to be given or addicted to something or to be devoted to a thought or effort.

          This statement is immediately followed with a warning regarding “false prophets.”  These were men that distorted and perverted God’s Words for selfish purposes to gather a following so as to “make merchandise” of those followers.  Of course, in doing so, they must lead those followers away from following Christ.

1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (II Peter 2:1-3).

          It is amazing how little concern people give to these warnings regarding “false prophets” and their destructive “heresies.”  Contending for “the faith” involves every believer in the battle-arena for the preservation of God’s Word by “contending” with these “false prophets” and their manipulation of people through the distortion and perversion of the Word of God.  The grave danger of theological inclusivism is the willingness to accept or tolerate obvious distortions and perversions of the Word of God.  Theological inclusivism ceases to contend for “the faith” and, in doing so, allows for the distortion and perversion of that “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).

          The word “once” in Jude 1:3 is from the Greek word hapax (hap’-ax), which means once for all.  The word “delivered” is from the Greek word paradidomi (par-ad-id’-o-mee) and refers to something being given into the hands of another to keep, use, take care of, and manage.  In other words, the Word of God was deposited into the hands of the Sanctified Ones (Saints).  God will hold us responsible for its preservation both in the written documents (Apographs) and in the maintenance of doctrinal purity.

          The written composite of these ancient Mediators is called the Holy Bible.  The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments reveal God’s historic dealings with mankind from the beginning of time.  They reveal His will in minute detail.  The revealed will of God detailed in these sixty-six books is what God’s refers to as “the faith.”  Believers are commanded to “keep the faith” and “contend for the faith.”  The former is about living “the faith” and the latter is about ensuring that God’s revealed will is not changed, distorted, or perverted by mankind.  This is about what Jude warns in Jude 1:3-8.

          Believers preoccupied with these two commands are called “the faithful.”  The “faithful” are concerned about any perversion of God’s revealed will due to the propagation of false doctrine and lifestyles, including their own, that lead people astray from the paths of righteousness (right living).  The “faithful” are unwilling to consent to any form of perversion of truth to any degree.  The moment they do, they cease to be “the faithful.”

          The word “contend” of Jude 1:3 is from the Greek word epagonizomai (ep-ag-o-nid’-zom-ahee).  It is a derivative of the Greek word agonizomai (ag-o-nid’-zom-ahee) with the epi (ep-ee’) prefix added to it.  Agonizomai is the word from which we get the English word agonize.  The epi (ep-ee’) prefix heightens its meaning to the highest level.  When it comes to “the faith,” the believer is commanded to endeavor with the highest level of strenuous zeal to insure the purity of theological content and the clarity of meaning.  This is the subject matter of all twenty-five verses of the book of Jude, warning about those who turn “grace” into “lasciviousness” (liberty into license). 

          If there ever was a day in history that this admonition is relevant, it is the twenty-first century.  Today’s Christian seems to argue that being out from under the Law and under grace means we can live any way we want because then we let God do want He does best, i.e., show mercy and forgive sin.  This only goes to prove that “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  The same old nonsense just keeps re-arising out of the slime-pits of human corruption with new names on it, but it is still nonsense.

          This rationalistic scum on the pond of human depravity has been a historical problem from the days of Apostolic Christianity.  Paul had to deal with it in his epistle to Rome in 50 A.D., less than twenty-seven years after the resurrection of Christ.

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein” (Romans 6:1-2)?

          This is what is known as Antinomianism.  This is what any deviation from “the faith” does.  It perverts God’s will and gives man permission to do what God forbids.  It is not only a perversion of the doctrine of grace (Divine enablement); it is a mockery of the Lordship of Christ and denies the practical application of that Lordship in the believer’s life.

          This is one of the things that the Apostle Peter refers to in his second epistle as “damnable heresies.”  “Heresies” is from the Greek word hairesis (hah’-ee-res-is), referring to false teachings that lure men away from right practice and capture the deceived to form their own following.  The person thus deceived ceases to be a disciple of Christ and, in fact, ends up becoming a disciple of the person that deceives him; forming his own sect, yet still calling this perversion of truth Christianity.  In doing so, the person deceived denies both the Lordship of Christ and “the faith.”  The two are equal in scope.

          Satanic attacks on “the faith” come on two fronts: questioning God’s Word (distorting what God has said) and denying God’s Word (has God said?).  This is particularly evident in Satan’s deception of Eve.  Be aware of such nonsense and guard against it with every fiber of your being!

          Although a believer should contend for “the faith,” he is not to be contentious (argumentative) or involve himself in raising questions regarding theological issues to which the Word of God does not clearly speak.

9 But avoid {shun; i.e., do not answer} foolish questions, and genealogies {Jewish pride of ancestry}, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition {calling attention to an error} reject; 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted {turned around and hardened in his thinking}, and sinneth {false doctrine perverts practice}, being condemned of himself” (Titus 3:9-11).

          When dealing with someone holding to obvious theological heresy, we are not to keep trying to change his mind.  In fact, we are commanded not to admonish him to change his beliefs more than two times, after which we are commanded to “reject” the heretic.     The word “reject” is from the Greek word paraiteomai (par-ahee-teh’-om-ahee).  It does not refer to excommunication from the church, although that should be required if the person’s doctrine disagrees with the church’s doctrinal position.  It means to shun or avoid.  It literally means to have nothing more to do with him.  The reason behind this is stated in Titus 3:11. The word “subverted” is from the Greek word ekstrepho (ek-stref’-o).  It refers to something that is twisted or turned inside out, or someone that is corrupt and perverted in his thinking.  Changing this type of person’s mind must be done by God.  We should pray to that end.  Only God can open the eyes of the blind and cause the deaf to hear, while the devil provides every opportunity for the dumb to speak. 

16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. 17 They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods” (Isaiah 42:16-17).

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Faith and the Sanctity of Purpose



Faith and the Sanctity of Purpose

          The prophet Haggai prophesies in about B.C. 520 according to Ussher’s Chronology of the Bible.  This places this minor prophet after the seventy-year Babylonian captivity of Israel when king Cyrus financed the return of a remnant of faithful Jews to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  The substance of the prophecy is God’s displeasure with the faithful remnant who were not being faithful in doing what they had been returned to Jerusalem to do.  These people had lost their spiritual purpose and were preoccupied with building their own homes and their own lives anew in the Promised Land. 

The whole of the book of Haggai is to correct a false belief of the returning remnant recorded in Haggai 1:2; “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.”  In the next few verses, God speaks through Haggai to address this corruption of His will and the corruption of their spiritual priorities. 

Keeping first things first is often one of the most difficult things in a believer’s life.  First things are always God things!  Why did God redeem us?  Why is God so concerned with our practical sanctity?  God wants to use us!  However, God will not use us if we are not sanctified in the priority of His purposes.  Look at what God says to the corruption of the sanctity of the priority of purpose in Haggai 1:3-11.  In addressing the corruption of the sanctity of the priority of purpose, God is addressing a severe corruption of “the faith.”

3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this {the Temple of God} house lie waste? 5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. 7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. 9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. 10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. 11 And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands” (Haggai 1:3-11).

          This message from God came to Haggai and was delivered to the returned remnant in Jerusalem on the first day of the sixth month (Haggai 1:1).  Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest and the people of Israel immediately began to “fear before the LORD.”  They feared because they knew they deserved God’s chastisement.  Out of their repentance, they began to obey what God commanded (Haggai 1:12) and restore the priority of their purpose in serving the Lord in the sanctity of that purpose.  They understood that God had separated them from the captive nation of Israel for the specific purpose of rebuilding God’s Temple in Jerusalem.
 
Then God speaks again through His prophet Haggai in verse thirteen “saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.”  These are words that all sanctified people long to hear from God.  These words “stirred up the spirit” of the people of God (Haggai 1:14).  The Hebrew word translated “stirred up” means to open the eyes or to awaken.  It is a sad testimony of the carelessness of believers to see any of God’s children sleeping while God’s Word is being proclaimed.  However, the emphasis of the text is that the remnant of Israel was wide awake physically pursuing their own wants and desires while spiritually sound asleep to God’s purposes.  The demands and needs of life can very quickly consume our time to the place it soon consumes our whole life.  God’s purposes increasingly become secondary until this group of believers might just become known as the Putoffski Clan.  All such people need a stirring from God.  The reality of their faith needed to be confronted and they need a reminder of why they were at Jerusalem by the grace of God in the first place.

Apathy towards the purposes of God will slowly put the believer to sleep spiritually.  Faith in the knowledge of God’s presence awakens the apathetic from the lethargy of spiritual slumber.  They believed the Word of God and God “stirred up the spirit” within them.  What “spirit” was that?  God “stirred up the spirit” of their purpose for being at Jerusalem.  People who really believe the Word of God, get stirred up in anticipation of what the presence of God in their midst means.  This is genuine spirituality.  Genuine spirituality is excited about the things of God and excited about participating with God in what He wants done.  If a person does not understand his spiritual purpose, God will not be able to stir up that purpose.  The purpose must be inside before it can be stirred up.  Perhaps this is why there is such a depth of lethargy in the local churches of modern Christianity.  They have lost sight of their missional purpose for existence.

The Discouragement of Comparisons (Habakkuk 2:1-9)

          There were but a few of the faithful remnant who had seen the splendor glory of the temple Solomon built for God.  However, most had heard the descriptions of that glorious structure.  As they returned to rebuild, they were sorting through and using the rubble of that destroyed temple.  Even the best of their restoration must have been discouraging compared to their memory of Solomon’s Temple.  This discouragement of comparison was weakening their faith.  They had neither the unlimited resources nor the large skilled laborers that Solomon had available to him. 

      There is also the context of the account of Ezra chapters five and six that needs to be entered to all of this.  Without going into detail, the rebuilding of the Temple was stopped because some “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” (Ezra 4:1) and “4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, 5 And hired counsellers against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:4-5).  Through some political maneuvering by the adversaries, that began around B.C. 534, the work of rebuilding the Temple was suspended by king Artaxerxes in B.C. 520 (Ezra 4:23-24).  In B.C. 519 (Ezra 6:14), Darius would confirm the decree of Cyrus to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple rebuild would be completed in the “sixth year of the reign of Darius the king” (Ezra 6:15).

          In Haggai 2:10, the timetable is four years before the completion of the Temple rebuild.  In the middle of all this turmoil, we read about what happened in Ezra chapters four through six.  The substance of God’s conversation with Haggai is to question the priests concerning their own sanctity before God as a continuing source of hindrance to God’s blessing upon the rebuild of the Temple.  It would be worthless to have a rebuilt Temple if the priesthood was still corrupted.  The principle is simple: spiritual work cannot be accomplished except by a spiritual people! 

10 In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. 13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. 14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. 15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: 16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD. 18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it. 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you (Haggai 2:10-19).

          When some professing Christians (let alone unsaved people) hear preachers preach about listening to rock or country music as sin, they must think them to be narrow minded fruitcakes.  When preachers give the Biblical definitions of modesty, they must think them carryovers from the Victorian Age.  When they preach that social drinking, dancing, and going to movies are sin, they must think of us as radical fanatics.  Yet even these practices divide between the holy and the unholy.  Haggai 2:12-13 shows the extreme degree to which God takes holiness.  If we are to be holy, we must view holiness from God’s perspective, not man’s.  God has not changed!

       For many people, all these “No-No” things are viewed as the imposition of archaic rules to take the joy out of their lives.  Satan has succeeded in taking their focus from the blessings of God for those living in holiness, and putting their focus on the restrictions of God that keep us out of sin and living in holiness.  When people focus on the restrictions, they become bitter towards God and begin to resent His demands on their lives.  The reality is that God wants us to live in holiness so that He might bless us and use us for spiritual accomplishments in this life beyond our every expectation or imagination. 

          God is holy!  This fact is a reality to those with a real, living Biblical faith.  That kind of faith understands that because God is holy, He cannot use a person who lives in sin to any degree.  Although preachers seldom communicate this very well, their concern is that Christians live in holiness so that God can use their lives to His glory.  In preparing ourselves to be used of God, sanctity must be the central priority of our lives.  Sanctity begins in the heart.  The desire to be used of God begins with a consuming desire to be holy before God.  The first qualifier to any spiritual work is to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” (I Peter 3:15a).

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (I Peter 3:15)

      So often we read this verse of Scripture and think that knowing Scripture is what God means when He tells us to “be ready.”  Read the verse again.  What is the conclusive statement that qualifies the believer to always be ready to be a witness for Christ?  It says, “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.”  Obedience to what God says, not knowing it, is what makes us “ready.”  Something sanctified is dedicated/devoted to what it separated unto.  Every form of worldliness must be eradicated from the believer’s life if he is to be sanctified before God.  You ask, what is worldliness?  Worldliness is any thought, desire, or action that cannot be done with a clear conscience that God has authorized it by clear teaching from His Word. “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith {clear instruction from God’s Word}: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

Biblical faith understands that sanctity before God is an essential to God’s blessings.  Without sanctity, you will never be ready to serve God and do “the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12) no matter if you have the whole Bible memorized chapter and verse.  Being ready means being rightLet me ask you, can you be right if you allow any sin any place in your life? 

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:” (Psalm 66:18)

          The word “regard” (Hebrew, ra'ah, pronounced raw-aw') means to give any place to sin, to the degree we ought not to even consider doing anything God forbids.  We should not even think about sin, let alone do it, if we want to be used of God or be blessed by Him.  Scripture is redundant with this truth.

8 For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? 9 Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him” (Job 27:8-9)?

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8).

“The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29).

“Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31).

Why is living in holiness so important?  God has taught me, by my own miserable failures, that service without sanctity is an operation in futility.  Unless God is with us, blessing our efforts and spiritually empowering our lives, even the hardest work and the most noble cause will fail to achieve its goal.

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

          The formula for the blessing of God upon sanctified service is repeated over and over throughout the Old Testament.  That formula is summed up in Romans 12:1-2.  These verses summarize the practical necessities for the service gifts of Romans 12:3-8 before those service gifts can be blessed of God.

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

          The word “prove” in Romans 12:2 is from the Greek word dokimazo (dok-im-ad’-zo), which means to test something to prove it genuine after careful examination.  There are three conditions in Romans 12:1 and 2 that are necessary before God will prove to us that what we do and how we do it are His will.  Nothing done out of the will of God or contrary to these three criteria can be blessed of God.  Without God’s blessing, nothing will be produced from our efforts regardless of how hard we work.  That is also exactly what Haggai 2:15-16 says as well.

The three conditions of service in sanctity of Romans 12:1-2

1. We must yield ourselves to God to be used of Him.  However, before we can be used, our lives must be separated from any practice which God condemns (“thou shalt not”) and consecrated to do whatever God commands (thou shalt).  This is what God means by presenting our bodies “holy” and “acceptable.”
2. We must not allow the influences of this world (sociological or peer pressure) to mold us in any way, shape our thinking, or influence our practices.  This is expressed by the words, “be not conformed to this world.”

    “Conformed” is from the Greek word suschematizo (soos-khay-mat-id’-zo), which means not to conform one’s mind and character to any pattern of life other than God’s.  Paul expressed this another way in Colossians 2:6-8.

6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8).

3. The third condition for God’s acceptance and blessing on our service is that we must work with Him at changing the way we think and see things in this world.  This is expressed by the words “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Paul expressed this again in II Corinthians 10:5.

4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 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; 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (II Corinthians 10:4-6).

          In B.C. 536, a Gentile king named Cyrus decreed that a remnant of Israel could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of God.

          Ezra 2:64 tells us 49,997 dedicated, cream of the spiritual crop Jews returned from Babylon to begin rebuilding the Temple of God.  By the second month of B.C. 535.  According to Ezra 3:10, the foundation of the Temple was complete.  The work was progressing well in spiritual unity.  The people were consecrated to the work and doing it, serving the Lord in sanctity.  Then it happened.  Satan introduced the contaminating spirit of defilement.  The work stopped.

1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel; 2 Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither. 3 But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. 4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, 5 And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:1-5).

          For the next fourteen years the work of God stopped while the people of God pursued their own careers and built their own houses and land.  They lost their vision of the purpose for their return to Israel.  How did this happen?  An unholy alliance sought in infiltrate their purity and their sanctity.  Their enemies were able to hinder and eventually stop the work.  During this time of work stoppage, the builders lost the sanctity of their purpose for being in Jerusalem, which meant the loss of spiritual empowerment.  The loss of spiritual empowerment meant the loss of desire for the work God sent them to do.  Our ministry in sharing the heart of God for the lost, ignorant, and confused, by soul winning and discipleship of people, is our living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1).  To think that personal sacrifices can be offered with unclean hands that are not dedicated and committed is foolishness (Haggai 2:12-13).  This is the context of Romans 12:1-2 just before the emphasis changes to the empowering of the service gifts in Romans 12:3-8.

          Now, in the book of Haggai those fourteen years have passed.  Haggai and Zechariah are called of God to exhort the people back to the work of building the Temple.  However, before the work could resume and be blessed of God, change in thinking and practice was required (“turning,” Haggai 2:17).  The people of God needed to be brought to the conviction of their uncleanness, which existed because of their apathy and the contamination of their lives due to the incorporation of lifestyle practices offensive to God.  They needed to be brought to the place of recognition of sin, repentance, confession, and cleansing (four decisions).
 
          According to Haggai 2:17, God had brought tremendous chastisement upon these people to turn their hearts to holiness.  The work was a secondary priorityHoliness was the firstNever lose this perspective of ministry!

          We often mistake doing spiritual work as spirituality.  For many years I dedicated myself to doing the work of ministry while being complacent and unbroken about the lack of holiness in my life.  God wants dedication in holiness to Him, before He wants dedication to the work.  God wants dedication of our bodies and lives in holiness to Him so that He can do the work of the ministry through us.

          “From this day” (Haggai 2:19), the day when people return to service in sanctity; from that day “will I bless you” (restore and revive you).

1. Biblical faith understands that God expects more from us than just getting to the work.  God expects holiness in our lives. 
2. Biblical faith understands that God wants a return to the work based upon the understanding that we serve Him.  God expects holiness in that service.
3. Biblical faith understands that our service must be permeated with personal holiness before God can bless it.  Holiness begins with separation from worldliness and continues with and unswerving pursuit of godliness. 

The word “holy” refers to something sacred that is also morally and ethically pure.  Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary[1] defines sacred as “devoted exclusively to one service or use (as of a person or purpose).”  The person who understands this, maintains this sanctity of purpose as he goes through the daily routine in meeting the necessities of life.  

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us {the priesthood of all believers} in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).

[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sacred

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Faith God Blesses and Uses!



The Faith God Blesses and Uses!

         
Faith building is a process that is often difficult and trying.  Even when people choose to trust in Christ for the gift of salvation, believing in God and trusting Him with their lives is often described as a roller-coaster existence.  Humanity is by nature Empiricists.  That simply means that they believe in what they can see, taste, touch, smell, and feel.  Before Adam’s fall into sin, humanity could experience God through their senses to some degree.  We do not know to what degree that was, but we know that Adam conversed with God.  God’s first recorded communication with Adam and Eve is recorded in Genesis 1:28-30. 


27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so” (Genesis 1:27-30).

          Adam and Eve knew God by experience and through conversation with Him, but we can be sure that their comprehension of Who and What God is was far beyond their empirical senses.  Initially, knowledge of God would come from understanding the infinite depth and complexity of His creation as Adam named all the various species of animals, plants, and insects.  It would immediately become apparent that the Being that created all the earth, animals, and all that sustains their existence, must be a very powerful Being.  Adam and Eve did not exist while God was creating the universe, so the only way they knew about the God of creation was the testimony of the existence of the creation.  They knew the creation belonged to God because God said, “I have given you” (Genesis 1:29).  They knew God was in authority because He commanded them, “16b Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).  The point in all of this is that humanity’s knowledge of God has always been primarily by faith.  There has been historical encounters and interaction with God recorded in the Scriptures by the inspiration of God to give us added knowledge of God and His will, but faith is still predominant.  Faith grows through knowing the Word of God and the historical actions and conversations with God from His Word (Romans 10:17).

          Faith cannot be transferred from one person to another.  A child does not acquire faith from his parents.  A child can begin to grow faith by seeing the example of his parents’ faith, but he will need to apply his own faith before that faith can be said to be his faith.  There is no such thing as surrogate faith or proxy faith.  Just as parents cannot eat food for a child to sustain him, so it is with faith.  Everyone must build and develop his own faith. 

          In II Kings 2:1-15, in the account of Elisha acquiring Elijah’s mantle, people are often confused into thinking that Elijah transferred his power with God to Elisha in the transfer of Elijah’s mantle to Elisha.  This is certainly not the case.  Power from God was not in the mantle, but in the faith in God of the person owning the mantle.  This is the substance of the narrative of II Kings 2:1-15. 

          Notice in II Kings 2:5 that all the “sons of the prophets,” including Elisha, knew that it was the very day that God was going to take Elijah home to glory.  They all were waiting to see this miracle of God.  Fifty of the “sons of the prophets” (II Kings 2:7) “stood to view afar off.”  Only Elisha was near Elijah having the kind of faith that wanted the power with God in prayer that Elijah had. 

1 And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. 2 And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel. 3 And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. 4 And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. 5 And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. 6 And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. 7 And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. 8 And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground” (II Kings 2:1-8).

Three different times Elisha says to Elijah, “As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.”  The prophets all knew that this was Elijah’s appointed day to die.  They probably knew some catastrophe was going to happen and Elijah’s life would be taken.  They may have even known it was going to be by a “whirlwind.”  This is why they watch from a great distance.  They did not want to be killed by the “whirlwind” too.  Elijah’s consistent admonition to Elisha to stay away was the testing of Elisha’s faith.  Could God take Elijah with Elisha in close proximity without taking Elisha also?

9 And it came to pass {the proximity of the death of Elijah}, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. 10 And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. 11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces {an act of faith in anticipation of getting Elijah’s mantle}. 13 He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; 14 And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over. 15 And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him” (II Kings 2:9-15).

According to II Kings 2:16-17, the fifty “sons of the prophets” thought God might take Elijah up in the whirlwind only to cast his body upon some mountain top or into some valley nearby.  They would spend three days searching for the body of Elijah.  They most probably did not see everything Elisha saw in Elijah’s death and home going.  Although we do not know for sure, they probably saw the “whirlwind,” but not the “chariot of fire, and horses of fire.”  Elisha did not need to go searching for Elijah’s body with them.  Elisha knew to where Elijah was taken.  There are some things we know by sight and other things we know only by faith.  Which of the two do you think God honors and blesses the most? 

          In every generation of believers there have been men and women with such high levels of faith and commitment to God, He has been able to mold them to be wondrous vehicles of His power and grace.  These people have become living testimonies to the reality of God’s existence and His ability to transform lives.  God has moved in the lives of previously insignificant people to shape their character in such a way as to be able to use them to do great things.  Faith is the key to all of this!

          God’s use of people is not always based upon what they are, but rather upon what they could be (potentially).  God sees within them a moldable spirit (we can change our spirit) and a quality of character that could be developed because of a level of commitment to know Him and serve Him.  As their level of commitment increases, these believers’ quest to know God personally and intimately increases (expressed in the O.T. by the words “seek His face”).
 
          In this process of growing in faith, God transforms the believer as the believer sets aside worldly, selfish, and carnal desires to incorporate the truths of God’s Word into his everyday life.  Worldly, selfish, and carnal desires are not compatible with the growth of faith and spiritual growth.  Their supreme quest of life was the search for a personal and intimate knowledge of God that resulted in transformed lives.
 
The transformed life that God uses to accomplish great things is the product of the quest for growing faith, not its goal.  It is a great thing to attend each of the weekly services of your local church, but it is a vain and empty use of time if your primary goal is not focused on meeting with God, worshiping Him in spirit and truth, and cultivating a personal and intimate relationship with Him.
 
          It is certainly a good thing to read and study the Word of God and discover God’s wondrous truths, but it is a vain thing if those truths do not bring us into a closer, more intimate relationship with God.  It is good to pray and witness, but they are empty exercises without the touch of God upon them.

          What differentiated Elisha from all the many other prophets (II Kings 2:3 & 5) prompting God to choose him as Elijah’s replacement?  Why was only Elisha chosen to receive the same blessings that God had given Elijah and not all the other prophets trained by Elijah?  It would appear the reason why was because Elisha’s central desire in life was to be used of God in such a magnificent way as to enable him to daily glorify the God of heaven on earth.  Elisha sought to personally and intimately know the incomprehensible God.  Only God could make Himself comprehendible to anyone.  The Apostle Paul communicated this kind of knowledge of God and the means through which any believer might attain it.

9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him {these things are incomprehensible and unimaginable} . 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit {the inspired Scriptures}: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (I Corinthians 2:9-13).

          You may not realize it, but every time you open your Bible, every time you listen to a sermon, or participate in a Sunday School lesson, you involve yourself in a supernatural event called faith building.  The spiritual dynamic involves three elements.

1. A sanctified believer (separated from worldliness unto God) desiring to know God’s will for his life and to be used to bring God glory.
2. The Holy Spirit as the Illuminator and Convictor of right and wrong
3. Knowledge of the Word of God

          Elisha wanted to be used of God in the same way and to the same degree that Elijah had been used.  His life was consumed with that desire.  He did not want this for personal fame or glory.  He was a man who knew that the greatest blessing of heaven would be to daily live in the presence of God.  The desire of his heart was to know God personally and intimately.  That is a desire God delights in giving.

1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God” (Psalm 42:1-2)?

          When a true believer dies and goes to Heaven, do we cry because he is gone or do we cry because we did not get to go with him?  Answering this question truthfully is a test of the reality of our faith.  When the Church’s desire is directed toward the world, rather than God, it will always fail of the faith necessary to live for Him.  Such people will never be used of Him to fulfill the Great Commission.  Elisha believed his life would continue after Elijah’s departure.  He was willing to remain by Elijah’s side when God took his life.  He was willing to risk his own life to insure he had power with God as did Elijah.  There was no guarantee that God would give that same power to Elisha, even Elijah knew that.  Elisha was willing to risk his very life for the possibility.  This defines full surrender!

          The people who have historically been used of God to accomplish great things are those people who have maintained a proper perspective of their relationship with God.  We must maintain the perspective that we exist within a much larger and spiritual dimension of God’s presence and existence.  The person of living faith understands that his being used of God is totally dependent on God’s presence before he can accomplish anything for God.  Although we live and minister within a physical dimension of existence within the spiritual dimension of existence, only that which is spiritually accomplished in the spiritual dimension will have eternal benefits.  Jesus spoke of this reality in John 15:1-8.  Being connected to the “Vine” is being connected to the spiritual power of the eternal Creator Jesus. 

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
          Secondly, we must maintain the spiritual perspective that God is seeking men and women that He can use in great ways.  We must be spiritually aware that each of us possesses the potential to be the kind of person that God can use to magnify Himself to this world.  The reason there are so few of these people in history is because there are so few who are willing to make the personal sacrifices in walking away from their desires for the things of this world - FULL SURRENDER!

          When considering the spiritual potential of people, we should wonder if they will be one of those people God will use in some great way to magnify Himself to this world.  The potential to be one of those people lies within every one of us.  What might be the single thing that is keeping God from using a person the way He wants to use him.  What thing of this world has a hold on your life that might be keeping you from realizing the potential you have in Christ?  Every one of us has something.  It is called a besetting sin.  Sometimes the failure is as simple as putting your life goals for yourself before God’s life goal for you. 

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

          Hebrews 12:1 reminds us that history has recorded and surrounded us with many faithful, but imperfect, people who were greatly used by God.  In most instances, they were their own hinderers to being used of God to even a greater degree than they were.  However, we should never lose the context of the reality that it was their own journey through their failures that brought them to the place where they were totally surrendered to God and dedicated to bringing Him glory.
  
          The one thing that differentiated Elisha from all the other prophets was his zeal and desire to be used of God as Elijah had been used.  He would not allow any desire in his life to hinder that from happening.  How can we be sure Elisha was that kind of person?  We can know Elisha wanted God’s will more than anything by with who he kept company and the priorities of his life.  There are four things apparent about Elisha that are critical to understanding why God blessed him in the way He did. 

1. He knew Elijah was the man God was using.  Therefore, he spent every waking hour with Elijah.
2. He wanted the power with God that Elijah had.
3. It does not appear he was greedy for power or position.  It seems his motives were pure.
4. In the last hours of Elijah’s time on earth, God was testing Elisha, not Elijah.

          What did Elisha see in Elijah that filled him with the desire to be used of God in the same way?  Elijah was a man with a vision of life that transcended this world.  When Elijah understood he was going to die soon, he planned a journey to visit the three schools of the prophets at Jericho, Gilgal, and Bethel.  Elijah had started these schools to train another generation of faithful men to continue doing the work of God.  Another generation of doctrinally sound, applicationally driven, faithful Christians should be the goal of every believer.  Who (not what) will be the generation of people you have trained to replace you?
 
          Never follow a leader who has no vision for the next generation or who is not concerned that our children (and children’s children) are prepared to live in the world that confronts their Christianity and tempts their lives.  Such a person has no vision of reality or of the warfare in which we are all engaged.  There are three abilities necessary to a blessed ministry.

1. Availability – a person must be available whenever, wherever, and to everyone
2. Dependability – God and others must be able to depend upon us to do what we have committed ourselves to do
3. Viability – a person must be proven, trained, and capable of doing what we are committing ourselves to do

          Elijah was a man of faith, of vision, of hope, and of unhesitant obedience to God.  He was a man who intimately knew God.  This defines the “spirit” of Elijah (II Kings 2:9) that Elisha wanted.  Elijah’s mantle was merely representative of this “spirit.”  Elijah was anointed with the Spirit of God in a very special, unique way.  This was because Elijah’s faith was special and unique. 

          The “spirit” of a man is what motivates him and what compels him to act in certain ways or to do certain things (II Kings 2:9).  Elijah’s “spirit” had little or no inclination toward the things of this world.  He desired what God desired.  Elisha could have asked for anything in the world, but he asked for a “double portion” of Elijah’s “spirit.”  God reads our hearts.  He knows our desires and what we treasure in life.

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

          Elisha wanted to think like Elijah.  He wanted to have faith like Elijah.  He wanted a vision of life that transcended this temporal world and he wanted a double portion of it.  All those Godly desires made up the character of the man that God had used.  This is what Elisha wanted from God upon Elijah’s death. 

          Elijah’s power was not some magical thing in his mantle.  The spirit of Elijah was whatever made him a person God could use.  For years Elisha had traveled with Elijah and in those years Elisha had learned the lesson few men learn.  He had learned the lesson of what made great men of God great men of God.  Here are three summary points for you to consider about what made great men of faith great men of faith.

1. It is not who they are.  It is what they are.  Elisha did not want to be who Elijah was.  He wanted to be what Elijah was and double that.  The greatest failures I have known in Christian service are those trying to be a carbon copy of someone they hold in high regard.
2. Elisha wanted the spirit of Elijah, which he would use in his own individuality.
3. The spirit of Elijah was the spirit of a man of God, which enabled him to hear the voice of God through all the distracting calls from the temptations of this world.  Being so familiar with God, he knew it to be God’s voice and listened to that voice alone.

          Knowing what you know about the spirit of Elijah, what if you (like Elisha) were assured of having a double portion of that spirit if you wanted it?  Would you ask for it?  What if you knew that you could have the spirit that Christ possessed while He walked on this earth?  Would you ask for it?

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.  20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:15-20).

          All the resources of the Spirit of Christ are already available to you in His indwelling Spirit.  It is just a matter of what you want in life.  You can be filled and controlled by the Spirit of Christ with a vision of eternity or you can live your life chasing after fleeting promises of happiness in selfish pursuits.  It is just a matter of faith and full surrender. 

          The problem of not accomplishing great things to the glory of God is not because you have failed in the past or even the sin in which you have lived.  What determines future successes for Christ is the decisions we make today.  The mantle of Christ is always available to the Christian who will make Christ’s desires his.

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.