Heaven in Your Sights

The ultimate impact of Christianity cannot be experienced on earth.  There are heavenly realities that are beyond our comprehension.

Yet most Western Christians have learned to be very earthly in their view of things.  They think about things of this natural life, instead of having Heaven in their sights.

I am prompting you here to take stock of the Heavenly realities and to get your perspective back on track.

Impact on Eternity

Your human existence is incredibly short.  We have about 70 years to live on planet earth.  And even if you lived double that, to 140 years that is not even a blink in terms of eternity.

Your eternal existence is SO amazing and SO extensive, that your experiences on earth don’t rate a mention.  Even a whole life of fine meals, comfortable furnishings, fast cars, impressive views, memorable holidays, wonderful friends, fun moments, and the like, will be long forgotten within moments of seeing the glories of heaven, or facing the horrors of hell.

Eternity is hard for us to grasp, but its reality and its impact should not be ignored.

Eternal Riches

The absolute blessedness of being God’s child, in the Heavenly family, surrounded and immersed in blessings that make human treats seem worthless, is SO profound and SO glorious that no amount of wealth, fame, fun, excitement, power, glory, significance or indulgence on earth has any value compared to those eternal riches.

Yet so many Christians are totally distracted by their urge to gain more of that which is of no value.  We get caught up in the same quest for money, success, promotion, importance, love, satisfaction, possessions, fulfilment and such, as those whose eternal destiny is shockingly tragic and horrible.

It is time to refocus our attention on the eternal riches.

Biblical Instruction

In view of the endemic addiction to the world that seems to hold the western church spellbound some Bible instructions stand in glaring contrast to that worldly culture.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world the love of the Father is not in him.” 1John 2:15

“If you have risen with Christ seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Col 3:1,2

“For they that live by fleshly natural values think about things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Romans 8:5,6

The Instruction if Jesus

Add to those previous verses given to us by the Apostle Paul and the Apostle John the clear statement of Jesus about not laying up treasures on earth.

Do not store for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust corrupts things and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupts and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Heavenly Treasure

Do you have anything stored up in heaven yet?  How much is in your heavenly account?

How would you know how much you had?  What are you looking forward to in eternity?

Or are you distracted by your store of earthly wealth?  Are you much more aware of you earthly bank account than your heavenly treasure?

How do you add to your heavenly riches?

Persecution Dividend

Jesus taught that you get a heavenly reward when you are persecuted for your faith here on earth.  It’s not a pleasant thought in terms of our human experience, but it pays really good dividends.  Persecution is a pretty good eternal investment.

Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Matthew 5:11,12

All those times you avoided being in a spot where you might be teased or mocked for your faith you missed out on adding to your heavenly reward.  Your concern about things “below” cost you greater blessings “above”.

Losing What You Try to Save

Another danger with being preoccupied with this life is that we might be tempted to try to “save” it, and end up losing much more.

Jesus warned that if we try to save this life, protecting yourself, your reputation, or whatever, you will lose your life.

“For whoever saves his life will lose it: and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25

If you are anxious to save your skin, protect your reputation, preserve your opportunities for comfort and pleasure, or similarly “save” your life, Jesus warns that you will lose it.  But if you abandon those things for Christ’s sake you will find real purpose and pleasure in your life, and great blessing in Heaven.

Angels Food

A great analogy for our life is given in the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites after coming out of Egypt.  They were supernaturally sustained in the wilderness by food that was on the ground fresh every morning.  This manna kept them alive for forty years.

But the people loathed what they referred to as “light bread”.  It just didn’t satisfy their hankering for the kind of food their appetites wanted.

“And the people spoke against God and against Moses, Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread or any water; and our soul loathes this light bread. ” Numbers 21:5

Yet the food the people loathed was very special.  It was “angels’ food”, the “corn of heaven”.  That means it nourished the spirit of man, but did not pander to the human appetites.  And remember, that food kept the people alive for 40 years.

“And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.  Man did eat angels’ food: he sent them meat to the full.” Psalm 78:24,25

Flesh Rejecting Spiritual Things

The “angels’ food” situation reveals something that is patently obvious from many points of view.  Natural man despises spiritual things.  Man rejects spiritual things and wants to pursue that which indulges and satisfies their fleshly nature.

Spiritual things are awesome and wonderful, such as we see in the wilderness where the manna sustained human life for 40 years.  But spiritual things don’t pander to our lusts and pride.

Note that the key qualities of this world, which our natural man hankers after, are matters of pride and lust.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abides for ever.” 1John 2:15-17

Spiritual things do not cater for our pride, but will call us to be humble.  Spiritual things will not feed our lusts, but will call on us to die to our flesh.

Tricking it Up

The modern western church caters for fleshly interests.  Rather than promoting what is strictly spiritual, churches try to “trick up” their services, music, presentation and message, so they can attract people.

But to attract people means we are pandering to their flesh.  Remember that spiritual things are not inherently attractive to natural man.  Angels’ food is loathed by people, unless God is calling them and doing a work in their hearts.

So we now have thousands of churches with all the tricky bits to pander to human pride and human lust.  Good looking people up front and state of the art design and deco, with upbeat populist messages, promises of more fun and more fulfilment, ego stroking affirmations and similar accoutrements are packaged together to create an appealing context to attract the public.

The gospel is morphed from “you need to be saved from your sin” to “God loves you and wants you to have a good time”.  Joining the club is more the model than laying down your life.

So it is not surprising that the fleshly “What’s in it for me?” theme should underlie much of what we call modern western Christianity.

Look to Heaven

Turn your eyes heavenward.  Stop being distracted or even addicted to this world and its glitzy seductions.  There is no dividend from investing in your flesh.  There are FAR more wonderful things to experience than those things that appease your pride and lust.

If you pander to your flesh you die.  If you, through the Spirit of God, do put to death the impulses of your natural man you will live.

“For if you live after the flesh, you will die: but if you through the Spirit do put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

I call you to so live this life that you will be more than ready for the mansion Christ has prepared for you in His Father’s house, and for the great reward waiting for you in Heaven.  There are riches and blessings for us to enjoy that are beyond our comprehension and they are ours for ever, world without end, in Heaven, not on earth.

Testing Your Troubles and where they came from

Are you troubled by anxieties, doubts, despair, being offended with others and similar inner struggles?

Many people fight with such things and do not stop to test those troubles using the standard that Jesus taught them.

As I assist people working through faith challenges I notice in them, and in myself as well, that trials stretch us and show up our inner vulnerabilities.  Under pressure we are all much more likely to be troubled, titchy, touchy and trantrummy (I made that word up so I’d have another ‘t’ word).

So, under pressure we are able to test our troubles and get insights into what is going on inside us.

Inner Struggle

When you step out in faith in God two things will be tested inside you.  Your faith will be tested, to see if it is genuine or just a sentimental notion or some attempt to manipulate God.  And your “flesh” will also be tested.

Your flesh is your natural self that existed before God brought salvation to your heart and life.  When you become a Christian your spirit man comes alive, eager and willing to love and trust God and to relate with God as God’s child.

However, your natural “flesh” self is also still alive within you, with all its selfishness, jealousies, pride, lust and self-reliance.  And the inner struggle within you is your ‘natural flesh self’ resisting the spirit man within you.

This is not some psychological notion, but a truth revealed in the Holy Bible, by the great Christian leader Paul, writing to the Christians in Galatia, in Asia Minor, nearly 2,000 years ago.

“The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you choose.” Galatians 5:17

Rebellious Flesh

Your natural man is a real stinker.  I don’t say to offend, since we all have natural flesh inside us.  But the Bible tells us that our natural man is rebellious against God and is a barrier to our walking with God.  Note these words of Paul written to the Christians at Rome, nearly 2,000 years ago.

“They that are fleshly pay attention to the things of the flesh; but they that focus on the Spirit attend to the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded (following our natural fleshly ideas) is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal (natural) mind is hostile against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So those that live out of their natural flesh perspective cannot please God.” Romans 8:5-8

When Paul said the natural mind is hostile to God and can’t submit to God’s law the original Greek wording suggests a soldier who simply refuses to follow orders.  When he is told to wheel right he wheels left.  When he is told to run he stands still.  That’s the picture of your rebellious, stroppy flesh man inside you, intent on resisting God.

That Voice in Your Head

When you move to step out in faith you will likely find your head filling with voices and thoughts that tell you not to do it, or to be careful, and so on.  Those thoughts are likely the rebellious voice of your flesh.

The thoughts are your own thoughts, coming from a part of you that refuses to submit to God.

Your mind will come up with a million excuses, doubts, insecurities, sound reasons for not rushing ahead, reminders of past failures, feelings of offence toward God or others, and so on.

You may even be tempted to think you are hearing the voice of wisdom and wise caution.  You may well feel great relief when you decide not to step out in faith.  But that could still be the voice of your rebellious flesh in your head.

Testing the Voice

So, if your head is full of doubts, concerns, aroused feelings, disquiet, despair or whatever, you need a mechanism to test the voice to see if it is God giving you caution and protection or whether it is just the voice of your flesh rebelling against what God wants you to do and what your spirit man on the inside wants to do in faith toward God.

Would you like to have a ready test on hand for those times?

I can give you a test that comes from the highest authority. This is a test that was given to us by Jesus Christ Himself.

Check the Fruit

The test is to check the “fruit” of the voice inside you.  Jesus told us that we will know what we are dealing with when we look at the fruit.

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  Wherefore by their fruits you will know them.”  Matthew 7:16-20

What is the fruit of the voices inside your head that try to stop you stepping out in faith?  Is it the fruit of the Spirit of God?  We are told what that fruit is and it is good fruit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23

Practical Example

To give you a practical application think of someone prompted to forgive a relative.  The relative had offended them and they now feel impressed to forgive and show that forgiveness by giving the relative some needed financial assistance.

At first the Christian is excited by the idea.  It is a bold and daring thing to do and consistent with some Bible verse or message they heard preached.

A while later, however, they are filled with concerns.  An inner battle is going on.

The range of cautioning thoughts could include: “They don’t deserve it”; “They may completely misunderstand what I am doing”; “This could stir up strife between us”; “I really don’t have the money spare at the moment”; “When I think about what they did to me they will never deserve my forgiveness”; “Other people don’t have to do something like this”; “God is so unfair to expect me to do something this ridiculous”; “My family won’t approve”; “Doing this will make me look so arrogant and I don’t want to be rejected”; “I’ve had thoughts like this before but how do I know this is really God leading me?”; “I always get caught in this kind of anxiety. Why doesn’t God speak more clearly to me? Being a Christian is just too hard”; “I’m just a lousy Christian because I shouldn’t be having this inner struggle”.

It is not uncommon for people to end up in some kind of mental tangle with doubts, misgivings, anxiety and so on.

Applying the Test

So let’s apply Jesus’ ‘Fruit’ Test to this situation.

The person first felt prompted to do something daring; in line with a Bible truth.  Their faith was stirred and their heart responded.

But then they became caught up in a quagmire of cautioning thoughts.  How can they know which thoughts deserve their attention?

We already know that those thoughts can come from their spirit man or from their flesh.  And we also know that the natural flesh thinking is antagonistic to faith in God.  And we know that listening to the Spirit will bring the “fruit of the Spirit” which includes love, joy, peace and faith.

Armed with that information we can then ask, “What is the fruit that comes from the thoughts swirling in your head?”

Do those thoughts prompt doubt, fear, offence, condemnation, insecurity, misgiving, uncertainty, agitation, anxiety, or similar fruit?  If so, then we know it is not the voice of the Spirit, but the voice of the flesh.

If those thoughts prompt joy and peace and arouse faith, then we know it is the voice of the Spirit, not the flesh.

I Will Believe

My encouragement to you is to “choose to believe”.  If you sense a prompting to be bold in faith realise it is your spirit man that produces the fruit of faith.

If your heart and mind then fill with misgivings, doubts, anxieties, fears and the like, take note of the fruit.

Some thoughts keep invading your mind, but they always produce bad fruit.  So why do you keep entertaining them?  Every time you give room to those thoughts you end up in fear, insecurity, doubt, anxiety, offence, shame, misgivings, etc.  There is no joy and peace and no faith.

If a robber steals money out of your hand, would you offer him more?  If you invest money in a fund that crashes would you invest more in that fund?  If you give in to your flesh and your flesh robs you of joy, peace and faith, why would you give in to your flesh again?

The Apostle Paul put in the terms of “You don’t owe anything to your flesh, because your flesh never paid out on any investment you made to it!  Giving in to your flesh kills you!”

“Therefore, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, you will die: but if you through the Spirit do kill the deeds of the body, you will live.”  Romans 8:12,13

Only Believe

“Only Believe.”  “Why do you doubt?”  “Do not give in to unbelief.”  “Hold on to your confidence.”

The counsel of Christ and the Bible is to choose to believe.  It may be a tough decision to make while so many stormy thoughts are raging in your head.  But check out the fruit of those thoughts.

Those thoughts rob you or joy, peace and faith.  They are thoughts that do not come from God.  They are thoughts from your flesh, which is at war with God.

So choose to believe and to destroy doubt.  Hold on to your confidence in God.  When you do that you will triumph over your own flesh and you will please God, because only faith can please Him.

It’s not about whether you win or not, but whether you stood in faith.  Faith pleases God.  Whether you get the victory you believe for or end up in the fiery furnace or the lion’s den, God is pleased.  And your spirit man has won out over your flesh.

And your inner troubles have been conquered.

So test your troubles and give them what they deserve.

Nobility by Walking in the Spirit

I have pointed out in earlier posts that Nobility is anchored in our creation. Nobility is attached to things based on their birth or some other special quality. There is no more special origin and quality than to be made in the image of Almighty God. We are Imago Dei – made in the image of God.

Thus we are spirit beings, with profound spiritual significance. Our destiny is to express all that God is by our actions and lifestyle. We are to be like God, who is holy, loving, creative, totally faithful, responsible, forgiving, just, and so on. We must also recognize that we are created by a moral God and placed in a moral universe. We are therefore moral beings, accountable to God for what we do with our lives.

At the same time we are ‘flesh’. This means we are made of natural senses that empower us to engage with the natural world in which we have been placed. Those senses can, of themselves, provide us with delight, in taste, touch, sight, sound and so on. Humans, then, can choose to pursue the delight that human senses provide. When they do that they are now living out of their natural, sensual being, rather than their spiritual qualities.

Since nobility is based on our special-ness, when we live out of our spiritual value we have unparalleled nobility. When we live out of our natural senses we lower ourselves to the level of an animal in pursuit of natural experiences.

So, mankind’s nobility is tested by the fact that he is ‘also flesh’, as God described us in Genesis 6:3. Man is not to look out for opportunities to indulge the flesh but is to live by God’s spiritual destiny on his life.

The Apostle Paul put it this way, “do not use freedom as an opportunity to indulge the flesh, but serve one another out of love”, Galatians 5:13 (author’s paraphrase).

The challenge for humans, however, is that their natural senses can become quite obsessed with gratification. This is especially so if those senses have been awakened and indulged.

When the Israelites were fed supernaturally in the wilderness for 40 years they were fed a substance that sustained their bodies, but which did not indulge their appetites. The miracle ‘manna’ would form on the ground each morning and be collected for their sustenance. They made bread and other food from it. The food was physical but its essential quality was spiritual.

The Bible described the manna as “angels food” (Psalm 78:25). Angelic food would be sufficient to feed a spirit being, since angels are spirit beings. It was able to sustain natural bodies because people can be sustained and kept alive by having their spirit fed. Yet spiritual food would do nothing to pander to human appetite, even though it miraculously sustained human life.

As a consequence the people loathed the food, which they called ‘light bread’, and they lusted for meat, onions and other things their taste buds craved (Numbers 11:4-6,21:5). They said “our soul loathes this light bread”. While their body was sustained by manna, their appetites were unsatisfied with it. It did nothing to appease their natural cravings for strong flavours and tickled taste-buds.

The historical experience is metaphorical of the way humanity despises living for spiritual values. In order to walk in the Spirit and live out of our spiritual realities we have to put our flesh to death, dying to natural appetites.

The issue is not staying alive or sustenance, but the human pleasure derived from the natural senses. And therein is the nobility challenge for all humanity. When we turn our focus from the divine to the natural we are the ones who abuse our own nobility and degrade our own existence, selling out our true potential for such temporary and meaningless experiences as the gratification of our human appetites.

Let me put it another way. We are made in the image of God, imago dei. So we have divinity stamped in our being. This is the basis of our highest nobility. Yet we are made with natural senses that can feed appetites of lust and self-gratification. When we bring out body under control, and die to our fleshly appetites, living to fulfill spiritual destiny, we achieve our highest nobility. When we abandon spiritual focus and seek gratification of our appetites we degrade ourselves and can totally destroy any self-worth within us.

The Bible truth of our special creation by a loving God to whom we are accountable, is a solid basis for appreciating our nobility. The lie of evolution, baseless in science, defying proof or even a workable theoretical base, yet pushed as essential dogma for acceptance into many corners of western society, strips humanity of its nobility.

I call you to rise to your true nobility. I call you out of the trough, where the pigs wallow. You are created for much higher destiny and nobility than the pub brawl, seedy back alleys, hollow halls of human vanity, vain and baseless ambitions of self importance, and so on. You are created for the throne room, where your mentor, the Living God, waits to tutor you in eternal authority and global significance.

Fellow noblemen, please stand. Stand in the presence of God. Stand in your created destiny. Stand in your nobility. Stand against evil. Stand in freedom from human appetites. Stand in the glorious liberty of the children of God. Stand, because He has called you to stand for His glory.

Chili con Carne for Logophiles

If I labelled this post as ‘incarnation’ you probably would have skipped over it, but if I aimed at your stomach there’s a higher chance you’ll give this post a look – so “I got you!”

I’m doing another word thing, so I put Logophiles in the title line. Let me lead you through a review of Chili con Carne and other words, to get to something worth keeping in mind.

Chili con carne is the name of a meat dish, coming to us from the Spanish. Chili refers to chilli – duh! ‘con carne’ means ‘with meat’. The Spanish word ‘carne’ originates from the Latin and means flesh or meat.

The same Latin root is used in English words. A carnivore is a creature that eats meat. So, a crow is a carnivorous bird.

The word Carnival originated with reference to meat, since the original event was a festival that took place in the Lenten season, where meat is not eaten. So the ‘carn’ was lifted, giving us ‘carnival’.

To ‘incarnate’ means to make something into flesh. Thus to ‘re-incarnate’ means to make something into meat once again. The concept of reincarnation involves a person losing their ‘meat’ and being put back into a flesh body at a later time.

So that leads me to a closer look at ‘incarnation’. Incarnation is the process of something that is not flesh taking on human form. This is what happened with Jesus Christ. He has always existed as God. We know that God is spirit, so Christ was a spirit being, without fleshly body, from before the beginning of time. The incarnation is a miracle, because God stepped into the natural realm, which He is not bound by, and endured its impositions and limitations, so he could take upon Himself a human body.

The Shocking Incarnation

Some religions are offended by the idea of the incarnation. In the late 1980’s I heard a Moslem speaker contend with the claim that Jesus Christ is God. The speaker, at that time a leading international orator on behalf of the Moslem faith, claimed that the Koran defined a god as a being that did not have an anus. A deity should not be subject to the physiological impositions of our human existence. The orator pointed out that one of the Australian Aboriginal tribes also had the same definition of a god, by which he effectively put Islam on the same footing as a tribal belief system.

By reference to the Koranic definition of a god, the orator declared that Jesus Christ could not be God, because the requisite anatomical qualification was not met.

Now, it is true that the Living God is not subject to the limitation of human flesh. Due biological process is not something that impacts Almighty God in the slightest. He is spirit and free of all the limitations and constraints impacting mankind.

So, God’s willingness to endure the ‘incarnation’ makes it all the more wonderful. It is a miracle that the God of the universe should so choose to identify with the beings He created that He would subject Himself to the indignity of human existence. But there’s more. God not only became human, including the necessary biological implications, but He allowed Himself to be falsely condemned to death and then butchered in a sacrificial carnage.

Oh, and there’s another ‘carne’ word. Carnage refers to the flesh of slain animals or men. Carnage involves death and dead bodies. Bodies cut open, bleeding and dismembered befit the concept of carnage.

Jesus Christ had his flesh torn open by cruel scourging. His hands and feet were torn open by the nails. His side was spear-pierced and His head punctured with thorns.

It is shocking that any God would allow such treatment, especially when He had the power and authority to do as He wills. The only way such an event could occur is with the willing co-operation of God, Himself.

So the Moslem orator was right in his desire to elevate the quality of deity, but wrong in his understanding of the incarnation. His god would never perform such an act of love. His god would not suffer indignity and pay an inconceivable price to save his followers.

Our God, the true and Living God, God Almighty, is the God of the incarnation. Jesus Christ is the ‘incarnate God’ – the God who became flesh.

Now, the thing that often stops people from loving and accepting the salvation available via our incarnate Saviour is man’s ‘carnal’ nature. Man is spirit, but he is ‘also flesh’ (Genesis 6:3). That ‘flesh’ is our ‘carnal’ dimension. When we live out of our fleshly desires we are living a carnal life. If we live after the flesh we will die. But if we, through the Spirit of God, put to death the deeds of our carnal body we will live.

Christians have crucified (died to) their fleshly inclinations and they present their body to God as a living sacrifice. And therein they find life that is far beyond the rewards of their fleshly existence.

Now, you just go right ahead and enjoy your Chili con carne. And as you do, spare a thought for the wonder of the incarnation and the challenges of your own carnality.