Can you see yourself as a church? What does your tabernacle look like to others?
Read Exodus 25:1-9
In the Creation account, we see the creation of the stars of the universe occur in five words – “He made the stars also.” Interestingly enough, 50 chapters are given over to explain the Tabernacle and its function. This shows us something of the importance of the Tabernacle.
The great lesson of the tabernacle is that God came down to dwell with His people. From Genesis to Deuteronomy we have accounts of God visiting men. These visits culminated in God’s dwelling with men in the Tabernacle or tent. John picks up the same thought and uses the same word “tabernacled,” to describe God dwelling among men in the person of Christ. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled [or pitched His tent] among us.” The Tabernacle served as God’s dwelling place for 500 years among the children of Israel. The Temple superseded it, during the reign of Solomon.
Please note that God could not dwell among His people while they were in Egypt. They must be redeemed (1) by blood and (2) by power. They must be free from the shackles and sin of Egypt. Before God could fellowship with them in this unique way they had to be redeemed and sanctified. [Express practical truth here]
It is important to consider the symbolism of the Tabernacle. One must consider also the physical features of the Tabernacle. When considering some of these we will no doubt consider Hebrews, especially chapters 9-10. The remainder of the lesson is taken up with the materials and the measurements of the Tabernacle. These can be considered at a future reading.
The Tabernacle: Its Immediate Purpose
Read: Exodus 25:1-9 and Exodus 29:39-46. The Word of God makes it quite plain that there is a twofold purpose for the divine conception and the human construction of the Tabernacle. There was an immediate and ultimate purpose. The immediate purpose was to wean the children of Israel away from the base idolatry of Egypt and set before them a pure and noble ideal of worship and witness. The natural tendency of these ancient pilgrims was downward and backward. We see a clear example of this with the worship of the golden calf in Exodus 32.
The worship of the unseen God was something new. All heathen religions had their visible gods. Thus, the immediate purpose of the Tabernacle was the provision of a place of worship. The Israelite came to the door of the Tabernacle to worship God. He could not see Him. He brought his offering – the visible expression of his reverence and awe.
Worship, in essence, is an inward spiritual exercise. Jesus said: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). True worship must originate in the Spirit. [Describe a “tripartite being”] Worship is not only to be in the spirit, but is also to be according to truth.
Consider the established relationship – Exodus 25:8 says, “Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” This was an entirely new relationship between God and man. God walked in the garden with Adam. He visited the patriarchs and communicated His will to them, but He never lived on earth until the Tabernacle was built among His redeemed and separated people. In a similar way we can never worship until God dwells in us by His Holy Spirit. See Ephesians 2:22. Finally, the Tabernacle was “the place of meeting” (See Exodus 29:42-43). God met with Moses, Aaron, and the people and revealed Himself to them.
A Place of Witness
Not only was the Tabernacle a “place of worship,” but it was also a “place of witness.” InNumbers 17:7-8 the “tent of meeting” is twice called “the tabernacle of witness.”
A Witness of the Presence of God
The Tabernacle witnessed to all of “the Presence of God.” Exodus 40:33-34 says, “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. The cloud was thereafter the witness of the presence of God among His people.” Exodus 40:38 says, “The cloud of the Lord was upon the Tabernacle by day and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all Israel, throughout all their journeys.”
A Witness of the Purity of God
The Tabernacle witnessed to all of the “Purity of God.” The words “tabernacle” or “sanctuary” carry with them the thought of holiness. Over thirty times in Exodus alone the word holy occurs in relation to the Tabernacle. The plate of pure gold that was attached to the miter worn by Aaron was inscribed “Holiness to the Lord.” The court enclosed by the white linen fence was called “the holy place.” See Leviticus 6:16-26. The first compartment of the Tabernacle was called “the holy place.” See Ex. 26:33. The innermost sanctum was called “the most holy place.” See Ex. 26:34.
A Witness of the Protection of God
The Tabernacle witnessed to the “Protection of God.” While the pillar of cloud and fire stood over the Tabernacle, nothing could touch the people of God! At night they had light to see. During the day they had shade from the tropical sun. The Psalmist describes this protection perfectly in Psalm 121:5-7, “The Lord is they keeper: the Lord is they shade upon they right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve they soul.”
A Witness of the Provision of God
Then finally, the Tabernacle witnessed to the “Provision of God.” God is really behind these symbols. All that the Tabernacle stood for was God’s promise of provision and protection for His people in the wilderness. We today can claim these same promises of provision and protection as we walk the pilgrim way towards heaven and home.
The Tabernacle: Its Ultimate Purpose
Read Hebrews 9:1-12. The ultimate purpose of the Tabernacle is to draw our attention to the Lord Jesus in whom all the types and shadows are fulfilled. The priests of old, as they carried out their duties, must have realized the imperfections and incompleteness of the ritual and sacrifices. Their exercises before the Lord were all so abstract and obscure; they must have felt that there was substance to the shadow somewhere. If this was their reasoning, they were right, for the ultimate purpose of the Tabernacle with its ceremonies was to prefigure Christ.
Let us consider the Tabernacle as it relates to the Person of Christ. “O fix our gaze on Thee, so wholly Lord on Thee, that with Thy beauty occupies.” The writer to the Hebrews, having touched upon the ritual of the Tabernacle, concludes His discourse by saying, “The Holy Spirit thus signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest” (Heb. 9:8).
Hebrews 9:11-12 says, “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Christ is the perfect tabernacle. He is the fulfillment of all that the wilderness Tabernacle typified and prefigured.
The Structure of the Tabernacle
The gold speaks of our Lord’s deity. The gold was the purest that could be produced, and therefore the most precious metal known to man. The gold is described as beaten gold. It had endured the fiercest fire and had been subjected to the hammer of the refiner and sculptor. This is significant. Not only does it portray the purity of Christ’s deity and His absolute Godhead, it also portrays what Isaiah prophesied. “He was bruised for our iniquities,” in Isa. 53:5. “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him,” in Isa. 53:10.
The golden candlestick was made of pure, solid gold. Signifying the absolute perfection of His Deity. The weight of the Golden Candlestick was 90 talents (which is equal to 95 lbs). At present day prices it would cost approximately $260,000. Perhaps Peter had in mind the golden candlestick and He of whom it spoke, when he penned the significant words, “Unto you who believe He is precious.”
While the gold speaks of the Lord’s deity, the wood speaks of His humanity (think of The Holy Mount and Mount Calvary). There are several unique qualities of the shittim or acacia tree:
1. The wood was virtually indestructible and incorruptible. Think of the following: Herod, the temptation, Nazareth, the storm, and ultimately the death of the “Lord and Christ.” The Lord endured the hatred of men and the judgment of God. The wood being incorruptible typified the holy body of the Lord, which saw no corruption, even in death. [Describe] See also Psalm 16:10.
2. The acacia tree only grew in the wilderness in adverse circumstances. This reminds us of the words of Isaiah saying that the Messiah would be “as a root out of dry ground;” A tender plant, before Jehovah.
3. It was an unattractive tree outwardly – though very valuable. This reminds us of Isaiah’s comments, “He hath no form of comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” With Christ and the Tabernacle, the beauty was on the inside.
Bringing these two great thoughts of the gold and the wood together, we have a picture of the unique Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. John says it all when he writes: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The concept of God and man being in one body battles the intellect. Yet, uniquely and gloriously, Christ was perfect – absolute God and at the same time, the perfect man – Very God of very God. “Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh,” (1 Tim 3:13).
Christ, The Perfect Priest
Christ is not only the perfect Tabernacle, but He is also the perfect Priest.
As Perfect Priest, He exercises:
– The ministry of introduction at the door of the outer court.
– The ministry of reconciliation at the brazen altar.
– The ministry of separation at the laver.
– The ministry of illumination at the golden candlestick.
– The ministry of satisfaction at the table of showbread.
– The ministry of intercession at the altar of incense.
– The ministry of communion at the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies.
In His death, He was the Priest and the Sacrifice, the One who offered and the Offering. So then, the immediate purpose of the Tabernacle was to provide a place of Worship and Witness. The ultimate purpose was that of prefiguring Christ in all the glory of His Person and the greatness of His work.
We live in a day when there’s more Bible teaching than you could ever consume available through radio, television, and the Internet etc, why should it matter where and how you’re taking in God’s truth? What’s wrong with virtual, web-based congregations for the digital-age church? Why wouldn’t you want your iPod to be your worship leader, your IPAD tablet be your pastor, and your Facebook friends your fellowship and accountability?
The answer is simple: that’s not the way God designed it.
I thank God for the technology we have available to us. Yet there is no substitute for interacting with actual people. I appreciate that if you are house bound due to illness for example this technology can be a lifeline.
The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the importance of the local church. It was the pattern of Paul’s ministry to establish local congregations in the cities where he preached the gospel. Hebrews 10:24-25 commands every believer to be a part of such a local body and reveals why this is necessary:
‘Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.’
I attended a memorial service in honor of a “Great Man Of God” yesterday and as I was being bathed in the word and soothed by the worship I looked beside me and all of a sudden I saw “A piece of Heaven” sitting next to me on that pew. My spirit was so enlighten. There are many reasons for my love of the church, but the main one is that “He” lives and we have His deposit within us that leads, comforts and reveals His love that has been shed abroad in our hearts.
Another reason from Scripture why I love the church is that it is like heaven on earth. I don’t mean that the church is perfect, or that it offers some kind of utopian escape from the realities of a sinful world. But I mean that the church is the one place where all that occurs in heaven can also occur on earth.
Christ instructed us to pray, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). In what sphere is that most likely to occur? Is it likely to occur in the House of Parliament or House of Lords? Unlikely. In the Law courts? Unlikely. In the Universities? Unlikely. Town Hall – local council? Unlikely. Where is God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven? It is not that we don’t want it to happen in these places, we would dearly love for it to be so.
But surely the place it is most likely to happen is in the church.
Let me pose a question. If all the activities of heaven were to be brought to earth, what activities would dominate?
First of all, worship. In every biblical description where people of God had visions of heaven, the one thing that stands out most is worship. Praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and devotion are constantly being offered to God in heaven. We see it in Isaiah 6:1-3, and we can read more about it in Revelation 4:8-11. In other words, every creature in heaven is continually engaged in worship.
Worship is also one of the main activities of the church. In 1 Corinthians 14:26, Paul describes what took place in a typical meeting in the early church:
“When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”
There he describes activities whose design is both to worship God and to edify the worshipers. And if an unbeliever came into the meeting, this was the desired response:
“The secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you”. (v. 25)
A second activity of heaven is the adoration of Christ. Having finished His earthly work, Christ is now seated at the Father’s right in glory in pure exaltation (Acts 5:31). God Himself has exalted His Son, and given Him a name above every name (Phil. 2:9). Christ is “exalted above the heavens” (Heb. 7:27). And throughout all eternity we will be occupied exalting His name (Rev. 5:11-14). The church is the one sphere on earth where Christ’s name is truly and genuinely exalted.
A third activity that takes place in heaven is the maintenance of purity and holiness. Heaven is a holy place. Revelation 22:14-15 underscores the perfect purity of heaven’s inhabitants:
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.”
No one is admitted to heaven who is not holy (Heb. 12:14). The church on earth is charged with preserving purity within her own midst. Matthew 18:15-20 lays out a process of discipline by which the church is to keep herself pure, if necessary through putting people out of fellowship. It’s not necessary in this context to outline the whole discipline process, but take note of the promise Christ makes in verse 18:
“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
Binding and loosing were rabbinical expressions that spoke of dealing with people’s guilt. An unrepentant person was said to be bound to his sin, and a repentant person was loosed. Here Jesus suggests that when a church on earth follows the proper procedure for discipline, they in effect mediate heaven’s verdict in the earthly church. Heaven is in agreement with their decision. When the church on earth puts out of fellowship an unrepentant member, the elders of that church are simply declaring what heaven has already said.
Church discipline is therefore an earthly expression of heaven’s holiness.
Another activity of heaven that occurs in the church is the fellowship of the saints. Our fellowship in the church on earth is a foretaste of the perfect communion we will enjoy in heaven. The church, then, is like an earthly expression of heaven. That might be hard for us to grasp or even except.
The church is the closest we can get to heaven on earth.
There’s a lot of talk these days about ‘user-friendly’ churches. Church growth experts counsel church leaders to try to provide an atmosphere in which ‘unchurched’ people can feel comfortable and at home. That strikes me a little odd, whilst I appreciate their approach we should want ‘unchurched’ people who come into our fellowship to leave saying to themselves, ‘I have never seen anything like this on earth!’ We want them to experience the love of God and yet dare I say be convicted of their need of Christ. When people come to our services or spend time with us it should be like they are experiencing a little bit of heaven.
I read an article about a large mega church in Texas where they invest tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars each year in promoting seeker friendly services. The article reviewed their attempt and concluded that they were very successful in being seeker friendly, but that they failed dramatically in making disciples.
More than any other institution on earth, the church is where the truth of God is upheld. The church is called to proclaim the truth and hold it high. (1 Tim. 3:15). Employing the truth as a weapon, we are to smash the ideological fortresses of Satan’s lies (2 Cor. 10:3-5). And it is in the pursuit of that goal that the church will ultimately realize her greatest triumph.
What if the Church is an earthly expression of Heaven?
The Spirit helps us in our weakness. —Romans 8:26
We are weak. It’s not just that we have moments of weakness now and then. Weakness pervades everything we are. We’re weak in our intellects. We struggle to understand. We don’t think clearly at times. We get confused. We’re weak in our emotions. Not only do we go into emotional meltdown at times when we just can’t take any more, but on the other hand we don’t feel deeply and richly and constantly the wonderful emotions God has for us. A big part of growing in Christ is that we stop feeling some emotions and we start feeling other emotions. We need stronger godly emotions. We’re weak volitionally, in our wills. We give in too easily to temptation, and we lack the decisiveness we ought to have.
Weakness is not one experience we have among others. Weakness is the platform on which we have all our experiences. Remember in The Great Divorce how C. S. Lewis portrayed us, as ghost-like, nearly transparent beings, compared with the massive and solid and muscular and radiant people from heaven. We’ve never known one nanosecond of non-weakness all our lives. But the Spirit helps us in our weakness. I love that word “helps.” I need a Christianity that helps me. I don’t need a Christianity that just dumps on me. Neither do you. And the Spirit helps us in our weakness. How? Let’s find out.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. —Romans 8:22
Paul has just told us how big salvation in Christ is. We have to redefine the English word “salvation.” Ask anybody on the street to define that word, and what will they say? There’s a good chance “salvation” will be about being religious and going to church. That’s not a big category of life. We can be religious and go to church on a completely recreational basis and think we’re “saved.” A lot of people in Riverside County know that Jesus is the savior. Not enough people believe that he’s a big Savior bringing a salvation way too big to fit down inside our little boxes of weekend recreational options. So we have to redefine the word “salvation.” Maybe even replace it. How about “re-creation”? That’s a bigger word, and it’s what Paul is talking about here. God is re-creating the universe. He is re-creating the human race. He is unleashing the renewing power of the resurrection to build a new everything. That is “salvation.” Paul has just told us that, in verses 18-21, so that we won’t chicken out and bail on Jesus. What we suffer to follow him is not worth comparing with the glory he will reveal to us. We know about suffering. What we need to know about is the bigness of what Christ is doing about it. When his work is completed, we want to be there to enjoy it. So don’t be intimidated by the price you’re going to pay to follow Jesus. He’s a big Savior, bigger than all we suffer.
Now we see, in verse 22, that our sufferings in the present are taking us somewhere. Jesus doesn’t save us in spite of our sufferings but through our sufferings. It feels like our sufferings produce nothing but death. But the truth is, our sufferings for Christ are producing new life: “the pains of childbirth,” it says. As we follow Christ, it gets hard sometimes. But verse 22 tells us that our hardships are part of a larger trauma. It’s as if the universe is one vast emergency room. What do we hear in this emergency room? Groaning. The whole creation is groaning together, the Bible says here. Death claims everything, even stars. And nobody, nothing, enjoys dying. Why all this groaning, all this suffering? Only the gospel explains it. Death and suffering and groaning are not some cosmic inevitability. It isn’t a flaw in God’s design. It isn’t that we’re still so low on the evolutionary ladder. What’s wrong is that we have sinned against God. The whole creation is groaning in pain for a moral reason. God created us to rule all things. God created us for authority over the creation. But we sinned, we set in motion forces we didn’t foresee. And now nature, “red in tooth and claw,” as Tennyson put it, throbs with pain everywhere.
But God is doing something about it. God is making all this groaning into the pains of childbirth. And every mom knows, when they lay her newborn baby in her arms, that the pain was worth it. God wants us to know that we’re not in the throes of death but in the pangs of new life, a life we’ve never seen before, a whole new world that only God could create. Christ got involved in our pain. He entered in. He died the worst death of all. And now, with his resurrection power, he is birthing a new universe. He’s creating something new and alive and filled with hope out of the very wreckage we’ve created. Here’s how he gets us involved in that:
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. —Romans 8:23
We groan too, don’t we? What if we didn’t groan? What if we didn’t care? What if all we wanted to do was medicate our pain with TV and credit cards and porn? If you belong to Jesus, he has given you the firstfruits of the Spirit. What does that mean? It means he’s bringing into your experience foretastes of your heavenly home. A person reborn by the grace of God – it’s nothing less than a miracle of God in your heart, it isn’t just you accepting Jesus but it’s God resurrecting your heart from the dead so that you long for him in ways you never dreamed were possible – a person reborn by the grace of God has new life within, a new awareness, the firstfruits of the Spirit, or, to change the metaphor, a down-payment on the whole deal. A person that Jesus is stirring up and getting ready for the new universe feels not less groaning but new groanings. C. S. Lewis taught us that Christians feel an inconsolable longing, an awareness that something wonderful is intensely missing from this world. When God does a new work in your heart, you start groaning inwardly for what nothing in this world can provide. It’s a desire which can pierce your heart at any moment. You just never know when suddenly your heart will be flooded with a yearning to go home, a yearning finally to be complete, a yearning to go and be with Christ. It can happen any time – in church, listening to Handel or Chris Tomlin, holding your newborn baby for the first time, saying goodbye to your wife as you leave town even for a weekend. It’s a kind of nostalgia, but for a future world you’ve never seen. Lewis called it “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” This groaning – Jesus turns the pain of this life into something sweet. He makes this kind of groaning into an “Oh!” in your heart for him that is more intense than any other feeling in your heart. In this bittersweet groaning, he is whispering to you, “Your salvation is not here in this world, but everything here is hinting at it. Don’t be fooled. Set your heart on things above.” We all know what it’s like to be house hunting and to find that house that feels just right, but it turns out to be just a house, and one we’ll move out of someday. We all know what it’s like to meet someone who feels just right, but having that “perfect person” doesn’t make the longing go away. This world, at its best, is tantalizing glimpses.
If you don’t long for Jesus, it’s because your heart is deadened with sin and self-righteousness. You’re too good for him. You need to beg him to save your dead heart. But if you do long for him, the Bible is explaining here what’s going on in your heart. Through the grace of Christ, we have the firstfruits of the Spirit. The incompleteness of this world is not mocking our longings but arousing our longings, so that Jesus can satisfy us. We wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the verse says, the redemption of our bodies. What’s that? It’s the ultimate job promotion, the ultimate recognition and honor and inclusion and completeness, when our whole beings will finally become what God had in mind, in a new world only God can create, and it will never end. This is why Jesus died on the cross. He suffered, to win for you a place in his eternal kingdom and to prepare you for it. Don’t be ashamed of your longings for him. Never let them die. They’re the best part of you. They are the beginnings of the new heaven and the new earth inside you right now. And it has nothing to do with what you deserve. It is all his kindness to you.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. —Romans 8:24-25
I don’t like calling anybody out. But we do not get “our best life now.” That is a false teaching, and it will rob you and trivialize you. The Prosperity Gospel – what if we did get our best life now? What if God so hated you that he gave you a huge salary and a big mansion and a Playboy bunny wife? What if God gave you the whole world but withheld himself, and then you lose it all the instant you die and you have nothing forever? How would your heart feel about that? If your heart would say, “Cool. I’ll settle for that,” then you hate God. You don’t want him. What you want is money and sex. Your desires are downward – what Pascal called “licking the earth.” That’s where the Prosperity Gospel will take you, and it will damn you. But if your heart says, “This world is a nice place. God made it. He’s going to redeem it. But I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold, I’d rather be his than have riches untold. I don’t mind not having my best life now. My best life is being with Jesus forever. I don’t mind savoring by faith a happiness I can’t see yet. He’s worth the wait. Offer me the whole world, and I still happily choose Jesus.” If that’s how you feel, then he has given himself to you through his cross, and your full enjoyment of him is very certain. And even now, when our desires for him are weak and we feel like quitting, he does not despise us. He helps us:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. —Romans 8:26-27
We’re not the spiritual giants we wish we were. We’re weak. We don’t even pray as well as we should. Jesus prayed all night. We have trouble paying attention in prayer for two minutes. It’s an effort. It’s an effort worth making. But we need God’s help even in prayer, and God gives it.
Back in verse 16 the Bible said that the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Now the Bible tells us something more about the work of the Spirit in our hearts. That’s why verse 26 starts with the word “Likewise.” Paul is linking verse 26 back with verse 16. And now we find out another way the Holy Spirit helps us. He helps us in prayer. That matters. Sometimes life is so overwhelming we can’t even pray. And if we can’t pray, if that link with God is cut off by our weakness, what then? We tend to think that, if things get bad, we can always fall back on prayer. But what if they get so bad not even prayer seems to work? What if we’re driven to such extreme weakness, we don’t even know how to pray? What does God do then?
The Spirit helps us. Here’s how: “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” God himself enters into our groaning and turns it into something of his own. Look carefully here: “He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Do you see it? When we are too weak to pray, we’re crushed by life, maybe even feeling forsaken by God, silenced by the intensity of our sufferings but bowing down before the Lord as our only hope and the one to whom we turn – at that moment, when we cannot speak, God searches our hearts. He doesn’t wait to hear our words. He himself searches our hearts. What does he find there? He finds the mind of the Spirit, who is interceding for us. God himself enters into our groanings and plants there his own heart and will and mind and makes our groanings into his prayers. This is where the heartcry “Abba, Father!” comes from. The Spirit himself gives it to us. We don’t understand this. But we’re grateful for it. It means we’re never alone, never defeated, never helpless, never friendless.
Ole Kristian Hallesby was a theologian in Norway during World War 2 and fought with the underground when the Nazis invaded and did time in a concentration camp. He wrote a book on prayer. He said this:
I have witnessed the death-struggle of some of my Christian friends. Pain has coursed through their bodies and souls. But this was not their worst experience. I have seen them gaze at me anxiously and ask, “What will become of me when I am no longer able to think a sustained thought nor pray to God?” . . . it is blessed to be able to say to them, “Do not worry about the prayers that you cannot pray. You yourself are a prayer to God at this moment. All that is within you cries out to him. And he hears all the pleas that your suffering soul and body are making to him with groanings which cannot be uttered. But if you should have an occasional restful moment, thank God that you already have been reconciled to him and that you are now resting in the everlasting arms.”
When your heart is so broken you can’t even get it out, it doesn’t mean God has abandoned you. It doesn’t mean you are not one of his saints. Just the opposite. The Bible says here, this is God’s way with his saints (verse 27). It’s the saints whom God leads to places where all we have left is need, and God meets us there and fills our emptiness with his fullness.
God not only knows you, he understands you and feels with you and makes you a vital part of his big salvation even in your weakness. So it’s not so bad to be heartbroken. It’s not so bad to need. We’re not bringing to God our success. We come to him as we are. And through the cross of Christ, he receives us. He doesn’t ask us for help. He helps us. He indwells us. He makes us part of his new creation, even in our weakness.
I don’t know how to “apply” this to our lives. It’s not about what we do. It’s all of God. But I think we can say, “Thank you, Lord.”
2 Corinthians 12:10
The Message (MSG)
7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
Bathyspheres are amazing inventions. Operating like miniature submarines, they have been used to explore the ocean in places so deep the water pressure would crush a conventional submarine as easily as if it were an aluminum can, Bathyspheres compensate for the intense water pressure with plates of steel several inches thick. The steel keeps the water out, but it also makes a bathysphere heavy and difficult to maneuver. The space inside is cramped, allowing for only one or two people to survey the ocean floor by looking through a tiny plate-glass window.
What divers invariably find at every depth of the ocean are fish and other sea creatures. Some of these creatures are quite small and appear to have fairly normal skin. They look flexible and supple as they swim through the inky waters. How can they live at these depths without steel plating? They compensate for the outside pressure through equal and opposite pressure on the inside.
Spiritual fortitude works in the same way. The more negative the circumstances around us, the more we need to allow God’s power to work within us to exert an equal and opposite pressure from the inside. With God on the inside, no pressure on earth can crush us!
It is not enough to begin; continuance is necessary. Success depends upon staying power. Abiding in the word and prayer is the way to have strength to deal with the pressures of life.
“When we go to God in prayer, the devil knows we go to fetch strength against him, and therefore he opposeth us all he can.” – Richard Sibbs
”1. Pray till you pray; 2. Pray till you are conscious of being heard; 3. Pray till you recieve an answer.” – Moody Stuart
“The Lord filled me with desire, and made me feel that I must be as much with Him alone as with souls in public.” – A.A. Bonar
“I should count the days, not by what I have of new instances of usefullness, but by the times I have been enabled to pray in faith, and to take hold upon God.” – Andrew A. Bonar
“Oh, that I had prayed a hundred-fold more.” Andrew A. Bonar
“We have found no means so much blessed to keep religion alive as fasting and prayer.” – Edward Payson
This is a topic of the most importance to me, because just for me Jesus died and rose on the third day and finish His work at Calvary. His death brought me a “Fresh Anointing”. How many of you reading this post can say you had enough “Oil” in your vessel to endure the challenges of life? How many of you can say you don’t need Jesus and what He represents to a fallen world? Is your testimony Jesus Christ and His blood? Today I am in need of a Fresh Oil anointing to face today’s trials and difficulties. I hope this is a word for you as it is for my wife and I.
Our text is in Psalms 92:10. I shall be anointed with fresh oil.
David is speaking about a fresh anointing; a renewal.
David had been anointed as king of Israel from his youth. In I Samuel 16:13 Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him, and the Bible says the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.
What I am trying to say is that the Spirit had not departed David, but at times he needed a refreshing; a renewal.
We live in a time when many in the church have been anointed at one time they have received the Holy Ghost, but like David, Satan has come and the cares of this world have come and stormed their kingdom so to speak.
David’s own family had tried to take away from him what God had given him.
Friend, their is an anointing thief out there. Satan wants to stop the anointing of God in your life, because he knows that it is the anointing that destroys the yolk. But the Psalmist wrote in our text, I shall be anointed with fresh oil. That means he had already been anointed.
Everybody say, I shall be anointed with fresh oil.
I like what the prophet Micah wrote in chapter 7 verse 8. Rejoice not against me O my enemy: When I fall I shall arise; When I sit in darkness the Lord shall be a light unto me.
That old devil may have pulled you down, but you don’t have to let him keep you down.
I am writing to tell you today that there is refreshing and renewal in the Lord. In fact you can be renewed day by day. (II Corinthians 4:16)
I often think of Job. I like the last chapter. It says that when Job submitted himself to God and when he prayed for his friends, God restored. Job received twice as much as he had before.
God will not only refresh and restore, he will increase.
Turn to Acts chapter 2 verse 4.
Now turn to Acts chapter 4 verse 31.
You see Peter and John had met the lame man at the gate and Peter took him by the hand and God healed him. Then they began to preach the power of the name of Jesus, and the priests and leaders of the temple began to threaten them. When they let them go, they went and joined the other disciples and told them. They knew they needed more courage, so they prayed. A fresh anointing came and with it an increase. They received boldness and verse 33 says power and grace.
How do we get this fresh anointing? Well let’s look at the early church.
They gathered together in one accord in prayer.
Friend there is nothing like an old fashioned altar service with people coming down and bending their knees together in prayer and everyone seeking a fresh anointing.
There is power in united prayer. We need unity in our churches more than ever.
We see churches where this little group sits over here and this little group sits over there. This one won’t pray for that one. One won’t come up for prayer as long as the other is up there. Nobody is going to receive anything like that.
Ecclesiastes 10:1 says, Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor.
You can’t carry around a bunch of dead things or things of death, things like bitterness, unforgiveness, and strife, and receive a fresh anointing. You have to lay those things down.
Job’s renewal came when he prayed for his friends. (Job 42:10)
Get self out of the way.
Isaiah 40:31 says, but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.
Stay at it!
Jesus told the disciples to tarry in Jerusalem to wait for the promise.
We are so used to fast food, drive up band windows and fast paced life styles that we don’t know how to tarry anymore.
The lady in Luke 15 who lost a coin, the Bible says, she did seek diligently until she found it.
Jesus asked his disciples one day, Would you tarry with me one hour?
Jacob wouldn’t let go until he got the blessing.
Repent. (Take out the trash)
Acts 3:19. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
No matter how great a move of God comes, if you have unrepented sin in your life, you are not going to be refreshed.
The Lord said in Ezekiel 34:26, There shall be showers of blessing.
Now if you think you don’t need refreshed or restored, or you aren’t sure, here is a 1 minute test.
The Fruits of the Spirit are: Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.
Are any of these missing from your kingdom?
God is calling. He is sending a fresh anointing. Do you want it?
Fresh anointing and increase.
The Fight with the Flesh
Tonight I have a desire that is stronger than love. I want to be in the arms of my God. My feelings are mixed with wanting to do His will and do what I want. I want to be closer to God as to allow me the protection I so desparately need to be kept safe from myself. The cry of my heart is Lord please give me more of you at this very moment God. My flesh is weak, but my inner man is thirsty for you. I don’t want to break fellowship with you. Rap me in your arms Father.
Have you ever felt like everything is a struggle with the flesh and the spirit? Have you ever really felt the heat of wanting to feel good outside of your creator? I am in His presence when I face everything that is coming against me and I yield my desires over to Him. Learning to walk in the spirit is a humbling experience. God tears and shreads your being to nothing to accomplish this evolution.
Having been blessed with all the provisions you need but your flesh still longs for more. Having a roof over your head that you are not even paying for, the very electricity you are using is God’s. The food you are eating is God’s provision. The clean cloths you wear are God’s provision, The water you use is God’s provision, but your flesh says: I want more, I want to be in control of my own destiny. I want what I want, not God’s provison. Can you see the pride in the attack? How come we fall to these practices without noticing the enemies deceptive practices? The alarm is wanting to gratify self. Thank you Lord for allowing me to see my need to be in the secret place tonight where I am safe in your arms.
We get the opportunity to choose before we fall. If we would be hungry to please God and let the holy spirit fully convict us of moving out of His will we would always come back to our spirit mind and kill the flesh. We are always stewards of all God gives. Kill the flesh by beating your body as Paul mentions in his gospel.
Just because we have been saved by Christ doesn’t mean Christians don’t struggle with sin.
In fact, the reality is, we find ourselves living by a superior standard of life. Our spirit has been set apart by God but our minds continue to have the pattern of the old way of thinking.
So, even though our spirit is secure in Christ we still experience a battle in our mind, will and emotions. We want to leave the old patterns of living and embrace the new life in Christ but the flesh constantly wants to have its own way.
Subject: What I’m talking about is The Fight with the Flesh.
Compliment: How Can We Overcome Sin Tendencies in our life?
In Romans 7:14-25 98% of the text describes Paul the Apostles struggle with sin. Instead of depressing us this should encourage us because Paul faced the same daily battle in his mind, will and emotions that you and I face – and he was used to write 2/3 or the N.T.!
The remaining 2% of Paul’s descriptive struggle gives us the answer we need to overcome the sin tendencies in life.
t.s. We’ll first have to understand the problem each and every one of us struggles with each and every day – Our Flesh.
[Body – Understanding What’s the Problem]
Everyone has Flesh.
Flesh is our nature while here on Earth. It is developed within us by the ways we tried to meet our needs out of our own resources
Often, as Christians, when we think of “the flesh” we think in terms of the Results of living after the flesh.
Going to Galations 5:19-21, the Bible lists some of the results of living a life geared toward fulfilling the flesh. The list includes:
Sexual immorality, impurity, hatred, bitterness, anger, selfish ambition, factions, divisions, envy and others…
But included in the Apostle Paul’s definition of his flesh were his status, education, religious zeal and commitment. (Phillipians 3:3-6)
In his book “Lifetime Guarantee” Dr. Billy Graham describes the flesh in this way:
Flesh refers to the old patterns by which we have attempted to get all our needs supplied instead of seeking Christ first and trusting Him to meet all our needs.
A Christian then can still live “after the flesh” attempting to meet his needs through his old ways of living.
To Sum up what the flesh is:
It is all of the habit patterns that we have developed over the years to meet our needs out of our own resources. It is the Self-Life.
[What did it mean to Paul?]
Sometimes we forget the humanity of great men and women in the Bible – they were people just like us.
Listen to how Paul described his battle with his own flesh:
· (v15 NLT) “ I don’t understand myself at all!”
· (v16 NLT) “I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong.”
· (v17 NLT) “ I can’t help myself”
· (v18 NLT) “ I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned”
· (v18 NLT) “ No matter which way I turn – I can’t make myself do right”
· (v21 NLT) “When I do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.”
· (v24 NLT) “ What a miserable person I am.”
In the above 7 statements Paul describes the Christians fight with the flesh that each one of us, if you’re a Christian, can identify with. This is why Paul went to great lengths.
He uses hyperbole overstating and exaggerating something to make a point.
His Point? We are all locked into this battle – this fight- of the old habit patterns that we have developed over the years. This Self-Life that wants to live life – As Frank Sinartra once sang…”To do it My Way!”
[Belief] – Now Why is this such a Problem?
The non-Christian is not engaged in this fight with the flesh because the only option the non-Christian has is to live after the flesh – after the old habits and patterns developed over the years.
But since Jesus Christ lives in the Christian. We have all of Jesus’ resources available to us – Victory, Deliverance, Freedom…these are available to conquer fleshly habits.
Unfortonately, most Christians have now learned how to rely on Christ
· Often we do not allow Jesus to actually, experientially be in control of our life
Perhaps this is the very dilemma you are facing at this point in your life?
What does it mean to “live by the Flesh?”
To live according to our flesh means to live unrenewed – it is to live and act sinfully
The Corinthian Church had this problem and were immature in the Lord and self-serving. Paul had to correct the church’s fleshly living by writing two letters to them.
The Ephesian Church had to be reminded not to think according to the Flesh. In 4:17 Paul begins:
17 _ With the Lord’s authority let me say this: Live no longer as the ungodly£ do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19They don’t care anymore about right and wrong, and they have given themselves over to immoral ways. Their lives are filled with all kinds of impurity and greed.
20But that isn’t what you were taught when you learned about Christ. 21Since you have heard all about him and have learned the truth that is in Jesus, 22 _ throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception. 23Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. 24You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness—righteous, holy, and true.
[application] You see…living by the flesh can be summed up by a mind-set in which we choose to live by our own independent habit patterns to meet our needs – our learned independence from God – instead of trusting Jesus first.
Paul would later say in chapter 8 of Romans that those who live by the flesh “cannot please God”.
Now, What does this mean to me?
As Paul described here in Romans 7, it means that My Flesh is difficult to deal with.
All of us have developed patterns to help us cope with life, deal with our problems, succeed, relate to others and escape intolerable situations.
[personal illustration] One pattern of mine – I’ll admit- is the struggle I have to be self-dependant rather then God dependant. If a problem develops before me – immediately my ingrained fleshly habit is to find a practical solution – control the situation – secure the problem and then solve the problem in a logical manner.
God seems to constantly try and break that self dependant pattern in my life by allowing me to face difficulties in which I have no control. The result – I must become God-dependant and learn trust by walking with God in faith.
Our flesh is difficult to deal with because we have ingrained patterns that we have learned since childhood.
The truth is that the older in age one becomes – the more difficult it becomes to change those patterns in the area of our thinking, our emotional ties to those patterns and even our will to want to change.
So what should I do in light of this?
Paul asked the same question in verse 24
“Who will free me from this life dominated by sin?”
Then he gives the answer in the next verse – “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
How do we fight the flesh and overcome sin tendencies in our life?
By seeking the one who defeated death. He and He alone has the power to help us overcome our fleshly desires.