28 February, 2011

GCC Women's study ~ Seeking Him: Lessons 6 & 7 ~ Holiness and Obedience

Seeking Him: Lessons 6 & 7 ~ Holiness (A heart like His) and Obedience (The acid test of love)

Submitted by Leah Page on Mon, 02/28/2011 - 9:34pm SH011

Seeking Him: Lessons 6 & 7

HOLINESS: A Heart Like His
"...Strive for peace with everyone and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Hebrews 12:14

We have 2 kinds of holiness: Positional and Personal (or "practical")
Positional ~ purchased by God through Christ, imparted to the believer so that his/her faith is "reckoned" as God's righteousness ~ SECURED and so "already" ours
Personal ~ the outworking of the holiness God has reckoned to us as believers ~ evidenced in the way we think and live ~ progressive and increasing as we are made more and more like Christ (conformed to his likeness) ~ effected because God has given us his holy Spirit who empowers us to choose righteousness ~ will be fully realized when we are Glorified (we will be like him for we will see him as he is!)

Imagery: Getting ready for the wedding!
How ridiculous, a bride who would forget her wedding day, showing up disheveled and astonished!
In Ephesians 5:25-27, we see that what Jesus was purchasing FOR the church, his Bride (namely, her holiness), he also accomplishes IN her, "that he might sanctify her [make her holy], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."

So we, the bride, by means of God's grace, and by the power of God's spirit in us, also make ourselves ready. "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" 1 Peter 1:13-16

This is a transformation that takes place from the INSIDE OUT ~ unlike Jesus' cursing of the Pharisees in Matthew 23 who were clean in their outward appearance like whitewashed tombs, but inside were "full of dead men's bones"! "...God doesn't look on the face of things; he looks at our hearts. He doesn't just glance at our hearts; he searches them." ~NLD

*Suggested assignment: Take some blank paper - in a journal or notebook, or just plain paper, and write out the verses for the "top ten" items in the day 5 inventory list, just 10 or so of the 65 items listed that the Lord brought to your particular attention as areas of your own "personal holiness" for which he is bringing conviction. And ask the Lord to impress these areas in your heart and life so that you might walk faithfully in them.

(ended classtime reading from the end of Revelation, how the Bride appears before God without any blemish, having made herself ready ~ and how our heavenly Groom is revealed in his Glory ~ even so come quickly, Lord!)

OBEDIENCE: The Acid Test of Love
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15

Obedience is the pathway to personal holiness ~ it is the means by which God guards us, effect his BEST for us. (It is not as though God is desiring mere "do's and don'ts," but rather because of his love FOR us, he desires obedience FROM us because his commands are not wearisome or hardships, but rather are his means for blessing us, enabling us to walk his BEST path for our lives.

His love is the basis of his self-revelation - his commands are for our Good! And when we obey out of love for HIM, we walk in greater intimacy WITH him. (Put another way, our obedience doesn't EARN God's favor, it springs forth FROM it!)

portion from a letter penned by John Newton (author of hymn, "Amazing Grace") in which he compares the Believer in his "Scripture-character" state versus his state "from experience," [clarifying comments in brackets].

"To hear a believer speak his apprehensions of the evil of sin, the vanity of the world, the love of Christ, the beauty of holiness, or the importance of eternity, who would not suppose him proof against temptation? [how could such a person, with such a right view of things, fail to walk in obedience?] To hear with what strong arguments he can recommend his watchfulness, prayer, forbearance, and submission when he is teaching or advising others, who would not suppose but he could also teach himself, and influence his own conduct? [clearly, such a one must "have it all together!" when it comes to their own walk with God?] Yet, alas!...The person who rose from his knees, before he left his chamber, a poor indigent, fallible, dependent creature, who saw and acknowledged that he was unworthy to breather the air or to see the light, may meet with many occasions, before the day is closed, to discover the corruptions of his heart, and to show how weak and faint his best principles and clearest convictions are in their actual exercise. And in this view, how vain is man! what a contradiction is a believer to himself! He is a believer emphatically, because he cordially assents to the word of God; but, alas! how often unworthy of the name!

"If I was to describe him from the Scripture-character, I should say, he is one whose heart is athirst for God, for His glory, His image, His presence; his affections are fixed upon an unseen Savior: his treasures, and consequently his thoughts, are on high, beyond the bounds of sense. Having experienced much forgiveness, he is full of bowels of mercy to all around; and having been often deceived by his own heart, he dares trust it no more, but alive by faith in the Son of God, for wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and derives from Him grace for grace; sensible [aware of the fact] that without Him he has not sufficiency even to think a good thought. In short, he is dead to the world, to sin, to self, but alive to God, and lively in His service. Prayer is his breath, the word of God his food, and the ordinances [God's righteous commandments!] more precious to him than the light of the sun. Such is a believer -- in his judgment and prevailing desires.

"But was I to describe him from experience, especially at some times, how different would the picture be! Though he knows that communion with God is his highest privilege, he too seldom finds it so; on the contrary, if duty, conscience, and necessity did not compel, he would leave the throne of grace unvisited from day to day. He takes up the Bible, conscious that it is the fountain of life and true comfort; yet, perhaps, while he is making the reflection, he feels a secret distaste which prompts him to lay it down, and give his preference to a newspaper. He needs not to be told of the vanity and uncertainty of all beneath the sun [surely he knows very well that the things of this earthly life are fleeting and temporary!]; and yet [he] is almost as much elated or cast down by a trifle, as those who have their portion in this world. He believes that all things shall work together for his good, and that the most high God appoints, adjusts, and over-rules all his concerns; yet he feels the risings of fear, anxiety, and displeasure, as though the contrary [opposite] was true. [!!] He owns [admits] himself ignorant, and liable to be deceived by a thousand fallacies [false arguments]; yet is easily betrayed into positiveness [assurance!] and self-conceit. He feels himself an unprofitable, unfaithful, unthankful servant, and therefore blushes to harbor a thought of desiring the esteem [praise] and commendations of men, yet he cannot suppress it. Finally, for I must observe some bounds, on account of these and many other inconsistencies, he is struck dumb before the Lord, stripped of every hope and plea, but [except] what is provided in the free grace of God, and yet his heart is continually leaning and returning to a covenant of works....

[How then will we be victorious? How can we walk in obedience rather than being forever undercut by our own failings?]

"...I think it safe to use Scriptural language -- The apostles exhort us to give all diligence to resist the devil, to purge ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, to give ourselves to reading, meditation, and prayer, to watch, to put on the whole armour of God, and to abstain from all appearance of evil. Faithfulness to light received, and a sincere endeavor to conform to the means prescribed in the word of God, with a humble application to the blood of sprinkling, and the promised Spirit, will undoubtedly be answered by increasing measure of light, faith, strength, and comfort; and we shall know [for in the end we will certainly see him as he is], if we follow on to know the Lord [don't give up! it is he who endures to the end who shall be saved!] ...."

God concerns himself with every detail (consider our study of Exodus 25 and 39-40) ~ And just as when Israel under Moses' leadership built the tabernacle of God according to ALL that the Lord had commanded Moses, and God's glory filled the tabernacle, so our obedience is inextricably linked to walking in intimacy with him.

Video summary: God is God - he has the right to tell us what to do. All nature obeys his commands, evil spirits even must obey his commands. But God gives us the opportunity to obey from "freedom," because God wants lovers. God's commands are always for our good, that it may go well with you - as he says repeatedly throughout the Scriptures. Obedience is a means of our protection, our joy, God's working his best in and for our lives. Disobedience is the pathway of conflict; we want the blessing, but we don't want to obey. Like with illustration from life of Helen Keller, God teaches us to obey him as the means of impressing our hearts with the reality of his goodness and love.

GCC Women's study, Seeking Him: Lessons 4 & 5 ~ Repentance and Grace

Seeking Him: Lessons 4 & 5 ~ Repentance (The Big Turnaround) and Grace (God's provision for every need)

Submitted by Leah Page on Tue, 02/15/2011 - 9:03pm RevivalSH011

From Class Discussion:

"...Humility and honesty provide the fertile ground in which seeds of grace and revival can grow and bear fruit. The next step, then, is responding to God's conviction in genuine repentance." ~NLDeMoss

•Mourning over our sin
•A sense of desperation with regard to "getting the sin out" (as a vile infection must be removed!)
•Turning from sin ~ and Turning (and running full tilt) toward God
•Turning not ONLY from sin, but turning from SELF-EFFORT, to call on God to do what only he can in, for, and through us
•Posture of "face down" worship
•"Poverty of (poor in) spirit"
•Seeing our sin as God sees it ~ Asking God/Allowing God to expose our sin to ourselves in all its ugliness [because we are trusting HIS goodness!]
•Speaking in "agreement" with God about our sin ("confession")
•Turning from "passing the blame" ~ and Turning toward accepting responsibility for our own actions
•Crying out for the Lord's mercy
•Mind/heart = Roots; Doing/behavior = Fruits
•GODLY sorrow ~ vs. WORLDLY sorrow

characteristics of GODLY sorrow include (from 2 Corinthians 7:8-12): leads to repentance, according to the will of God SO THAT suffering of loss is decreased or removed, without regret (though may regret "for a little while"), leads to salvation/life, earnestness [desire to be holy], eagerness [to make things right], indignation [sin is detestable!], fear [a holy "dread", reverence for our God who is offended by sin], longing [intense desire], zeal for holiness [hatred for anything that robs God of his glory!], punishment [making right/restitution], results in INNOCENCE ~ gives evidence that repentance has had its full effect.

Some of the "personal inventory" questions from day 5 of study on Repentance:
~Does sin in my life bother me?
~Do I have an attitude that says, "Lord, everything I know to be sin, and everything You show me in the future to be sin, I am willing to forsake!"?
~Am I willing to call my wrong actions "sin," rather than viewing them as weakness, "struggles," or personality traits?
~Am I willing to accept personal responsibility for my actions, without pointing the finger of blame at anyone else?
~Am I willing to take whatever steps may be necessary to make complete restitution for my sin?
~Am I more concerned about grieving God than about the consequences of my sin?

"Is God calling you to turn away from any particular sin in your life? Responding to God is more important than whatever you were planning on doing next. If God is speaking, the time to respond is NOW. Will you humble yourself and allow Him to being restoring you?....He loves you, offers grace to cover any sin, and longs for you to walk in freedom and joy." ~NLDeMoss

"At this stage in the process, it could be easy to feel overwhelmed with a sense of conviction, failure, and guilt; some may even be tempted to give up on seeking God for revival. The good news is that God does not ask us to meet His requirements on our own -- in fact, He knows we CAN'T live humble, holy, obedient lives without Him." ~NLDeMoss

•God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble
•We weren't SICK, we were DEAD in our sin
•We were children of God's WRATH by nature (born "in Adam")
•Grace is the means by which God SAVES - secures our redemption
•Grace is also the means by which God SANCTIFIES - keeps us and delivers us TO our ultimate redemption
•God, BY GRACE, provides the way of escape in temptation
•God, BY GRACE, provides means of endurance
•God, BY GRACE, readily gives help in time of need
•God, BY GRACE, removes the PENALTY (guilt) of sin, and the POWER (authority/rule) of sin, and progressively even the PRESENCE of sin, realized finally and perfectly once "we shall see him as he is" in Glory!
•God, BY GRACE, trains us to renouce ungodliness and worldly passions
•God, BY GRACE, trains us to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives in the present age
•God's grace is SUFFICIENT for us, even in suffering - God's power is perfected in our weakness

10 February, 2011

GCC - Seeking Him, Lesson 3: Honesty ~ Silence is Not Always Golden

Seeking Him, Lesson 3: Honesty ~ Silence is Not Always Golden
Submitted by Leah Page on Wed, 02/09/2011 - 5:38pm Revival SH011

Lesson 3: Honesty ~ Silence is Not Always Golden

Guardrails for discussion:
It seems very "trendy" - especially in "mainline" Christianity - to talk about being "honest" these days. It takes different forms, such as being "authentic" or "transparent," etc. But right up front, I'd like to set some "guardrails" for our discussion, with the disclaimer that as always there should be "wisdom" in our disclosures.

Being "authentic" in our post-post-modern culture often resembles far more a kind of "uncertainty" about the truth. As if to be "honest" means you must admit "I don't really know what I think I know about thus and such." But this is not the kind of "honesty" we are talking about today. By way of recommending a good resource for further discussion on this kind of faux "honesty," our book plug for this week's lesson is "Why We Are Not Emergent By Two Guys Who Should Be" - coauthored by Pastor Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. You can actually obtain a copy of the first chapter online for free which in and of itself would be very helpful in considering this topic. CLICK HERE.

As to WHY this appeal to "authenticity" is so attractive, it has largely to do with conveying a humble, teachable spirit. And THIS truly IS desirable - not merely appearing to have such a spirit, but actually BEING humble before God (roofs off!), and with others (walls down!). Humility, however, is not the same thing as "uncertainty." What do we mean?

Guardrail #1: Our Hearts are Deceptive
We know our hearts are deceptive in part because we know ourselves. But we also know this because God has given us the light of his word to shine into our hearts and expose the sin rooted there. So our HUMILITY is a necessary component (as we studied in lesson 2), because we do not in fact always "know" what we think we know. Or act for the reasons we think we are acting. We must always be cultivating a humble dependence on God to search us, to know our hearts, to see if there be any wicked way in us, and to LEAD US in the way everlasting.

Guardrail #2: God's word is SURE
Our reasons for confidence in God's word are many, and it is not the intent of this study to establish those evidences, necessarily. But for our discussion on HONESTY, especially as we are seeking God and asking him to REVIVE us from the inside out, we must be always evaluating our own hearts and intentions, (and the instructions we receive), etc. against the standard of God's self-revelation, God's righteous requirements for our lives, God's work IN us that we might will and do his good pleasure.

Honesty for the sake of mere self-disclosure is not in itself revitalizing! Honestly only exposes the gunk we carry around, it doesn't help REMOVE it! So for that, we need the sure, gentle, unrelenting surgeon's scalpel of God's word (wielded by our good and loving heavenly Father!) to do a deep and penetrating work.

Psalm 15:1-2
Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.

Psalm 24:3-5
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

What does it mean to "speak truth in your heart"?

"Ever since Adam and Eve first disobeyed God, the tendency to cover our sin has been a part of our sinful human nature....We don't have to be trained how to hide or pretend -- it comes naturally. Even after we are redeemed in Christ and the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us, we often battle the urge to deceive. But God cannot bless or revive a heart that refuses to acknowledge the truth." ~NLDeMoss

Psalm 32:1-5
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered [by GOD, not by a covering of our own making!]. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

We are not only inclined to hide our sin from each other, and to hide our sin from God, but we hide it even from ourselves. We don't want to believe that we are really "that bad." But God desires truth in our inner man - and as we talked about in our first lesson, he wants to send those plowing blades DEEP to turn up the soil, so our hearts will be soft and receptive and able to bear much fruit, fruit that will last.

One of the main ways the Lord does this work is to bring us to a point of confession, as David committed himself to in the above Psalm. To "confess" is to "speak in agreement with" God over our sin. That is more than just saying/speaking our sin - it is to agree from our heart that this sin is as offensive to us as it is to God. Let's call it what it is! Putrid, rotten, defiling, grotesque, damning, and it MUST MUST MUST be exposed to its root so it can be fully put to death!

How do we know if we are being sanctified? How do we know if we are being revived? We are growing to LOVE what God loves and HATE what God hates, and instead of justifying ourselves, we call sin SIN. We allow the Lord to shine his light into the dark and ugly places of our hearts - not for the sake of condemnation, because if we are in Jesus we are no longer condemned! But because God must cut out ALL the cancer or it grows back and worse than before.

Hebrews 4:13
...And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

"...It is for our good and by God's mercy that He reveals the truth about us, no matter how shameful that truth may be. We learn that the reason God discloses our thoughts, actions, and motives is to bring to us peace (rest; Hebrews 4:11-12). God is not a bully; He is a Savior. He cannot be soft on sin. His justice requires holiness that we, in our humanity, do not have the capacity for. The demands of God's justice have been satisfied through the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Christ on the cross. However, we must come clean; we must confess. Silence only condemns us by keeping us guilty.
"Think about this...confessing our sin -- breaking the silence -- ushers in the forgiveness and cleansing of God. So, why hide? Why remain silent?" ~NLDeMoss

One last word ~ One of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of our spiritual enemy is that of ACCUSATION. Satan literally means "The accuser" of the brethren. If, then, we have willingly followed the Lord's Spirit into the deep dark places of our hearts, and we are willingly letting our loving FATHER do the work of digging about, unearthing our hidden sins and shining the light on them so that they begin to shrivel up and one by one be cast aside, what power or authority or right does our Accuser have in heaping guilt upon us?! By walking with God, in humility and honesty and ready confession, we DISARM our enemy!

Proverbs 18:10
The name of the Lord is a strong tower ~ The righteous run into it! and are SAFE.


08 February, 2011

GCC Women's study; Seeking Him, Lesson 2: Humility ~ Coming to God on His Terms

Lesson 2: Humility ~ Coming to God on His Terms

"Humility is a virtue more often praised than sought. Who wants to think little of himself? The world admires the self-confident, the ambitious, yes, even the proud! Yet biblical humility - recognizing oneself as a sinner before the holy God - is a prerequisite for starting down the path to revival."

As we looked at in week one, the work of the Lord in bringing revival begins with breaking up of the fallow groud of our hearts, using the deeply penetrating work of the spears of a powerful plow (the double edged sword of God's word!) which dig down into the tender places of our soul, to turn over the hard soil and bring the nutrient rich soil of a broken and contrite heart to the surface.

One example from our study included looking at Isaiah ch. 6 in which Isaiah recounts his face-to-face encounter with the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, seated on the throne of heaven and appearing in his GLORY. When confronted with the glory and perfection and holiness of our Good God, humility is immediately conscious of its falling short, its imperfections, its "undone-ness" as Isaiah observed, "Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips, and I come from a people of unclean lips!"

Which is the exactly necessary disposition to then receive FROM God the very cleansing, merciful work. We see the dispatching of a burning coal to remove Isaiah's obstacle for standing in God's presence, namely, his unholiness, his "woeful" (cursed!) state.

We examined snapshots from the lives of both Rehoboam and Asa in 2 Chronicles. Even acknowledging that these snapshots don't give us all the complexities of the lives of these two Kings of Judah, we nevertheless trace the reverse patterns in each of their lives: Rehoboam ruled from a place of pride, was confronted with the word of the Lord by means of one of God's prophets, and he and the people's response was to humble themselves before God, and so they received deliverance. Asa started well, ruled from a place of humility and even observed first-hand how the Lord gave grace, but when given the opportunity to seek his own solutions rather than being led by the Lord, he exercised his pride, and when he was confronted with the word of the Lord by means of one of God's prophets, he responded with even more pride, angered by the rebuke, and suffered in his own body the consequences of his refusal to seek and depend on the Lord.

Certainly, these summaries aren't the whole of their stories, but they give us, nevertheless, living pictures of God's GRACE even to confront our pride by means of his word!, and yet, how we respond to that "cutting" of God's discerning even between the thoughts and intents of our hearts will determine the path that then we walk.

"For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" ~Isaiah 57:15

"For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart. And not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, naked and defenseless to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do." ~Hebrews 4:12-13 (Amplified)

God opposes, and brings low those who are proud and self-sufficient. But not only does he give grace to the humble, he does so by drawing NEAR to those who have acknowledge that in themselves they are spiritually bankrupt, or as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, they are "poor in spirit." Our God "makes his dwelling place" with us (!) when we surrender our firm grip on our own self-importance and self-exaltation. Loosing our fingers in this way frees us to lay hold of HIM who has laid hold of us.

Next Lesson: HONESTY