• Arise, shine!

    For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.

  • The word of God is food for our spirit

    Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  • The teaching of the Early Church

    The early church is the answer to the questions and the solution to the problems of the end time church.

We are called "to become into the likeness of His son", to be Christ-like
The Kingdom of God and the Challenges of the End Times
Knitting east and west
A call for reconciliation
The union between Christ and the Church, His Bride, is a great mystery

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  • The early church is the answer to the questions and the solution to the problems of the end time church.
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Foundations of the Spiritual Life (3)

Foundations of the Spiritual Life (3)

The Correct Vision

A. Correct vision of God

I. God is a Trinity

This is another talk in the series of the foundations of the spiritual life and living in Christ.

The first foundation discussed was counting the cost. We highlighted that the spiritual path entails a cost. This cost is necessary to prepare ourselves, our inner vessel, to receive the divine gifts which come to us as grace upon grace. This grace becomes part of our inner spiritual building.

The second foundation discussed was the state of the heart. The heart can be divided; we need to pay attention to our heart and to have an undivided heart. We also need to learn to direct our heart to take a certain direction and to be inclined to do the will of God and be fixed on Christ. There are many references in the bible that indicate that the person is responsible to incline his heart and give it a direction. The heart may not have a specific direction and it is the person’s responsibility to learn to give his heart a specific direction, that is, to determine its direction.

The third foundation is having a correct vision of God, of oneself, and of the enemy (the devil).

The first point in this third foundation is the correct vision of God. 

Having a correct vision of God is a matter of great importance because we should be transformed into this image. If the image of God is distorted or limited in our minds, our transformation will also be limited and weak. But if we have a correct and rich image and vision of God, our transformation will be genuine and rich. This will lead to a rich and growing spiritual life, which is not limited or constricted and which does not come to a halt. Therefore, the main purpose of having a correct vision of God is to form a correct image of Him in our mind.

God revealed Himself as a Trinity. We first need to understand why God presented Himself as a Trinity; then we will explain further in separate talks about each Person of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

God chose to reveal Himself as a Trinity because this is His truth. Such truth is of great importance and significance for man.

Why is this important to man?

Man is created in God’s image; therefore, man’s essential and deep needs are satisfied and filled only through the full discovery of God as a Trinity.

In other words, since we are created in God’s image, this means that He is the origin. If I am an image, I will not be able to fully discover myself nor find satisfaction of my needs until I fully discover God.

God’s attributes are so rich that they cannot be revealed as one facet; so, He chose 3 facets; One God in three Persons. Therefore, He chose to reveal himself as a Trinity. I need to discover these 3 Persons because this is the original image that I was created on. The more I discover these original Persons, the more I find true satisfaction and fulfilment of my needs; otherwise, there will always be something groaning and unfulfilled in my personality.

The character of God is the original while my character is the image of it. This original Person of God has 3 revelations and I am the image of all this. Therefore, each of these Persons fulfils a certain need that I have. The more I comprehend these matters and receive satisfaction of my needs, the more my character or personality is corrected and becomes wholesome, restored and finds fulfilment of all its needs.

How can this be practically understood and applied?

God chose to reveal Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

[Illustration: This is like a pyramid or a triangle that has three facets. If I lift up my eyes to God, I can see one of the facets of the pyramid looking upon me; and this facet that is directed towards me is exactly my need at that specific time. At another time, I lift up my eyes to God to find a different facet waiting for me. This illustration is just to help in understanding –though it is not a fully proper or accurate illustration].

This means that sometimes God looks down upon me as the Father; at other times as the Son; and at times as the Holy Spirit. In other words, He desires to have fellowship with me through the Person of the Father; at other times, He gives me the opportunity to have fellowship with Him through the Person of the Son and at times through the Person of the Holy Spirit.

How can I discover this and how can it happen practically?

Each of these Persons fills and satisfies an essential human need.

Man has three essential needs. The science of Psychology elaborates and adds to these needs and subdivides them. This is fine; yet, we can actually sum up all the psychological needs of the human personality in three main areas or three main pillars:

  • The need to belong
  • The need to have deep peace between man and himself and between man and creation, both the rational and no-rational creation.
  • The need to be enabled, that is, to discover a certain role or message in life and be enabled to carry it out.

The absence of any of these elements is expressed and reflected in various ways in one’s life. For example, the absence of peace results in a guilty conscience which can in turn lead to having a sense of inferiority. This often leads the person to search for compensations for this psychological need. As a result, one can put on various images that are alien or foreign to his true self in order to compensate for what is missing or lacking. Because of this, one may act as though he has two different personalities or sometimes tries to impersonate other persons. When he is with people, he speaks and acts in a way that is not his true self; when he goes home, he realises that he was not himself; he was acting out a different personality alien to who he truly is. Yet, he feels unable to do otherwise because he does not want to reveal his true inner self. He may not even know why he is behaving as such. In fact, this is often the result of having a guilty conscience for a long time which has led to having a sense of inferiority in certain areas and a sense of superiority in other areas or even a sense of self-rejection. These things together form a fake personality which one presents before others. The true personality of this person remains hidden inside him because of his guilty conscience and the lack of a deep sense of peace.

The true and deep sense of peace comes only when one’s conscience experiences true forgiveness. Forgiveness is a deep human need because man is created to be righteous. Because we fail to live in righteousness, we live with a sense of guilt. As humans, we cannot bear this sense of guilt; and so we suffer from it. We experience the outcome of this guilt which is often expressed as a sense of inferiority, a sense of superiority, or a sense of self-rejection, forming an outer fake personality for oneself while the true personality which is suffering and groaning remains hidden inside.

The same applies to the absence of the sense of belongingness. This can happen if one grows up in a family where his parents and/or siblings are not able to make him feel that he belongs, that he is a person who is wanted, accepted and loved. Even when families try to offer this acceptance and love, this is often done in a way that does not always fill one’s deep and full need. This causes one to grow up suffering from a sense of rejection or a sense of being unwanted or unloved. This in turn results in various behaviours including anger, anxiety, stress and violence. Some may try to compensate for this missing need through the outer appearance including clothes, furniture, possessions, manner of speech and conduct. This happens because that person senses that he is lost, unwanted, of no value, and neglected. Consequently, this person may try to be violent by words or actions to prove and express his existence and draw the attention of others to him. He wants to say: ‘I am here; why is no one noticing me?’ He may wear very attractive or different clothes to draw other people’s attention. He may also attract the attention of others through his possessions by buying for example a very unique car that no one else has. By this, he is reacting to the negligence and lack of acceptance that he suffered from as a child. He tries to compensate for it when he grows up. This is of course an unhealthy behaviour that has its manifold results.

The third human basic need is to have a message and role in life and feel able to fulfil it.

Notice that each of these human needs is essentially based on and derived from God’s mind towards man:

  • God created man to belong to a family and be a member of a family.
  • God created man to live in righteousness and holiness, reflecting to others who God is because he is the image of God. God is righteous and holy; and so man should also be righteous: ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ (1Peter 1: 16).
  • God created man to have a specific mission on earth which he carries out for the purpose of extending and proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

These three elements became man’s deep need since he has been created to be a member of a family, to live in righteousness reflecting God’s image to others, and to have a message and a role and carry them out proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

If any of these needs is missing, one feels lost and as if unable to find himself. As a result, one tries to make compensations and this is even more painful and agonising because it makes one enter into vicious circles. This is the reason behind many psychological conflicts and abnormal behaviour. When escalated, they sometimes become mental health issues.

The ultimate solution is in God who revealed Himself as a Trinity who satisfies all the essential human needs:

  • The Person of the Father fills and satisfies man’s deep need to belong.
  • The Person of the Son fills man’s need for peace and forgiveness.
  • The Person of the Holy Spirit reveals to each one his/her mission and role in life and He enables us to carry out this role from one stage to the other, step by step.

Let us clarify each of these points from the practical point of view:

  • The Person of the Father fills and satisfies man’s deep need to belong.

God is an eternal essence; yet, He chose to describe Himself using words that we can understand so that we can perceive His Character.

The Person of the Father who is eternal truth chose for Himself the word ‘father’ because we all understand who a father is.

The father is the person who shelters me, protects me, looks after me, accepts me in my weakness, and rejoices in me. This is exactly what I need; something deep within me needs a person who can fulfil these needs. If these needs are satisfied, I will feel embraced and not lost.

In God the Father, I feel the divine arms embracing me, providing me shelter, cover, and a sense of belongingness and rejoicing in me. I feel loved, accepted, and wanted. I feel that I belong. I experience true warmth surrounding me, sheltering me, looking after me and after all my affairs.

The depth of man cries for the warmth that embraces and protects, that makes one feel loved, wanted, and accepted; and that makes him feel that he is a person not a thing. The deep agony within man is that he has lost the sense of being a person and feels as if he has become a thing. One wakes up in the morning having many responsibilities and things to do; yet, deep within he feels lost and in agony. However, if this need is filled and satisfied, one would wake up feeling that there is warmth surrounding him.  How great if one experiences this warmth in his house where there is sacrificial and giving fatherhood and motherhood which are a reflection of God’s Fatherhood and Motherhood! God is a Father and a Mother. When we grow up in a home where there is this giving fatherhood and motherhood, we wake up every morning sensing certain warmth which brings us deep comfort. Every day, he feels he is a person not a thing, who is loved and wanted, who belongs, who is protected, looked after, and all his steps are well planned.

This is in fact a reflection of God, the Father. God intended that each child would have a mother and a father who reflect to him the true Character and Person of God, the Father, because God is a Father and a Mother[1] at the same time. They are meant to offer this child these needs.

When this child grows up and starts to have spiritual insight, he would start to understand that his parents were the shadow or the small manifestation that reflects the Heavenly Father who has the true Fatherhood and Motherhood that offer true satisfaction, warmth, tenderness, and protection.

It is the divine hand that tells me every morning that I am wanted, accepted, deeply loved, belonging to the Trinity, and a member of the household of God.

When this person was a child, he needed to hear from his parents that he is a member in this family who is loved and wanted. He needed to be reassured that he is surrounded with love and protection and that all his matters are well looked after. When this child grows up, he realises that this is not sufficient because these needs are only a reflection of a much bigger need which is not earthly and limited but eternal.

From outside, one is a body, a tent that will be taken off; but, from inside, he is a spirit that is eternal. From outside, one needs to eat and drink love and tenderness; but from inside this need can only be filled by the eternal love and tenderness of God.

Psychologists maintain that at the age of 18 months a child starts to be aware of all the essential human needs. They also maintain that when a breast fed baby cries, he is not only crying for milk; his stomach needs the milk while his heart needs love; he is crying for milk together with the love and embrace of his mum’s arms around him.

Some studies have shown that babies who are not breast fed and who grow up in nurseries not in their parents’ arms have many problems. This is because when a baby cries, he is asking for milk to be given to him through a person who embraces him and is tender to him; this person should reflect the eternal truth of God who is a Father and a Mother.

Many of us grew up in families where parents did not understand their responsibilities in accordance to the true Christian mind. As a result, many of us have unsatisfied needs. Unless these needs are healed and dealt with, they will continue to cause an inner groaning that will reflect on our personalities, relationships and future –no matter how clever we are in trying to hide them or overcome them.

If we desire to live the fullness of what we have been created for and carry out our full role and responsibilities in accordance to the divine will, it is crucial that our inner hidden needs would be healed.

Even if we succeed in hiding and silencing them, this will not work because the inner agony and groaning cannot be silenced or supressed.

Therefore, if I desire to live my full humanity and carry out my full role, these inner distortions have to be restored. This is similar to a plastic container that has certain parts that has been squeezed in; and so its shape and size changed. As a result, this vessel or container cannot perform its function. Similarly, God will not show me my full role if my size and shape is changed. This is because my full role can only be carried out through the full size and shape of my vessel. Otherwise, God would be requesting me to do something that I am not capable of doing –since part of my vessel is squeezed or crushed! At the same time, the person would be in agony because deep within him, he has potentials that are not released since the area of these potentials is pressed in.

When one lives the fullness of his humanity, he experiences the fullness of peace and comfort; and he discovers his role and carries it out. This role should be like a symphony on earth.

The word ‘symphony’ is very important and relevant in this context. We are the image of the Trinity, created to be a praise or symphony. This is the mind of God reflected in His word. In Ephesians 2: 10, we read: ‘For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them’. According to the Greek origin, these words mean ‘we are created as a poem or praise’. In the Old Testament, we read that God often told His people that He wants them to be a song or praise on earth[2]. Any song or praise consists of two components: words and a tune. God created each one of us as a poem. This poem needs a tune to give it its beauty.

Who composes the tune?

The Holy Spirit is the eternal tune; He composes a specific tune for every poem. He knows the tune of each one of us. Therefore, our fellowship with the Holy Spirit is very important. He in the One who shows me what’s inside me; He shows me that there is a symphony printed on my spirit, that I am eternal not earthly; I am not mere flesh, but I have a symphony written on my heart. He also tells me that this symphony is not only words but words that have a tune. He asks me to give Him a chance to make it a song and praise on earth.

When the Holy Spirit draws near and takes the lead in our lives, the tune starts to play and it becomes a symphony that pleases God’s heart and also pleases the person’s heart.

People around me will also hear the symphony[3], the sung poem. It will be a light on earth and eternal comfort that shines from each one of us. Each one of us is a symphony which is different from the other; there is no end to these symphonies.

We will remain an unsung poem and a symphony that is not played until we are corrected and restored from within and our deep inner needs are healed through the Holy Trinity. The poem will then be discovered and the tune will be given and our life will become a sung poem, a true symphony sung and played for the glory of God and for the visitation of the world around us.

  • The Person of the Son fills man’s need for peace and forgiveness.

The Son granted us this peace and forgiveness through His redemption[4].

The work of redemption of the Son on the Cross is transferred to me through the Holy Spirit, purifying my conscience, washing away my guilt, and healing my hidden sins. These were sins at some point, but they are no more mere sins but rather pits inside me that are full of puss and form pockets of guilt.

This reflects on the outside in the form of conflicts, sense of inferiority, attempts to compensate, and various other kinds of psychological struggles and conflicts. Guilt is the reason behind all these conflicts.

One wants to live in righteousness because something deep within him urges him to do so. Yet, he often fails and is unable to. He often feels that he is full of mistakes and sins. This makes him frustrated and causes him to be filled with pockets of guilt and despair. This reflects in his relationships with others. It also causes him to suffer self-rejection because he feels that he is bad, defeated, and unable to be victorious.

The forgiveness of Jesus, His love and His redemption heal the guilt and transform the weakness and despair into strength and hope: ‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind’ (2Timothy 1: 7).

  • The Person of the Holy Spirit helps us and enables us in all the above matters

He is all powerful. He is tender. He is the eternal tune.

He is the living and purifying waters.

He is the Lord, the Giver of Life.

He is the companion who comforts us and walks with us in our sojourning on earth.

He is the “Paraclete” who defends us before our enemy, the accuser.

Through Him, we have fellowship with the Father and the Son.

He transfers to me the Fatherhood and Motherhood of God the Father; and hence, my needs are healed. He transfers to me the warmth of the Father and surrounds me with it.

The Holy Spirit transfers to me the divine plan, my role that the Father has for me. The Son reconciled me to the Father allowing this role to be granted to me and it became possible for me to discover it. The Holy Spirit opens my eyes to see this role and message. After I see my role, the Holy Spirit enables me to carry it out. He is my strength. He walks with me and fulfils this message through me. He accompanies me every day.

The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Trinity who shows me my role and who accomplishes it in me and through me.

He dwells in me and walks with me, granting me His sweet comforting companionship.

He enables me and grants me strength.

He is the Divine energy, ‘dynamos’, as the book of Acts describes Him.

He generates energy when I feel cold and frustrated.

He is the Generator of love when I feel unable to love others.

He is the Generator of Life when the death that is deep within me manifests and imposes itself on me.

He is the Generator of ability when I feel unable, crippled, and that things are beyond my ability and I cannot deal with them.

He is the continuous Generator of all that I need from the well of redemption that has already granted me these things and the Holy Spirit transfers them to me.

This is God the Trinity whom we often fail to understand and do not wish to talk about; He is the final and ultimate deep answer for the broken and destroyed humanity. This is what we should proclaim and be proud of before all the earth because wherever man is and whatever he believes, his inner depth will continue to need and call upon God the Trinity.

The ultimate restoration, satisfaction, and correction of the human soul are through the Trinity who should be our bosting and proclamation to a world that has rejected the Trinity or stumbled in the Trinity; and hence, became lost and destroyed.

To sum up, we highlighted the importance of having a correct vision of God, of oneself and of our enemy. I need to have a correct vision of God so that I may be transformed to His image. Inasmuch as my vision of God is correct, my transformation will be correct. Inasmuch as this vision is complete and rich, my transformation will be rich. If this vision is small, limited or constricted, my spiritual growth and understanding will be hindered and constricted.

The correct vision of God includes understanding that God is a Trinity. God reveals Himself to me in various ways depending on my need in order to satisfy and fill all my deep needs.

He fills my need to belong, my need for fatherhood and motherhood, for warmth and embrace, for love and being a person not an object, a person who is loved and wanted.

God also fills my need for forgiveness. I have been created to live in righteousness. He fills my need for forgiveness, purification, and righteousness; the work of redemption washes me, cleanses me and enables me to walk in righteousness.

I should also have a role and a message. The Holy Spirit reveals to me this great and eternal message and role. He makes it become a true symphony that has words and a tune; it fills me with joy; it makes me become a song and praise on earth; and it heals the wounds and the groaning of the people around me because we are called for this. This is the work of the Holy Spirit who has chosen to be our companion in our sojourning until the very end of our life.

Finally, I want to conclude with the passage in Ephesians 1: 3 – 14. Apostle Paul looks at the divine icon where sometimes he sees the Father, at other times, he sees the Son, and at times he sees the Holy Spirit:

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  having predestined us to adoption as sons [the reference here is about the Father] by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved [the Beloved is Jesus; since we are in Jesus, the Father looks upon us as beloved and as His children. When I receive this, it heals me and works wonders in me]. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, [the reference here is to the Son who grants forgiveness of sins] according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,  having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,  that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance [the reference here is about the Holy Spirit when He works in me making me taste eternal life] until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.’

  • Verse 6: ‘to the praise of the glory of His grace’ (the reference is to the Father).
  • Verse 12: ‘to the praise of His glory’ (the reference is to the Son)
  • Verse 14: ‘to the praise of His glory’ (the reference is to the Holy Spirit)

This is the Trinity and His revelation in this passage.


[1] Isaiah 63:16; 66:13

[2] Zephaniah 3:19, 20

[3] They will hear it in spirit

[4] Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 1:20

Foundations of the spiritual life (2) continued

Foundations of the Spiritual life (2) continued

The Heart

The work of the Holy Spirit

‘I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, to the very end’ (Psalm 119: 112).

‘Hear, my son, and be wise; and guide your heart in the way’ (Proverbs 23: 19).

The heart is a central part in man’s life. It is the spirit of the person, the inner and deep direction of man: ‘the inward thought and the heart of man are deep’ (Psalm 64: 6).

The heart is the most important part of man because God’s eyes look at man’s heart[1] searching its direction and inclinations.

If one is not paying attention to his heart, he can be praying, worshipping and ministering and then all of a sudden he finds that he is estranged from God. This is because earlier on this person’s heart was taking a wrong direction and inclination whilst he was not aware or paying attention; and then all of a sudden one realises that he is in this wrong road or direction. This is similar to someone driving a car and then took a wrong turn. As a result, he finds himself in a different road or direction.

Therefore it is important to pay attention to the movement of the heart and its different reactions in different situations. It is important to watch over the heart in general and make sure that it is undivided and that one has ‘a loyal heart and with a willing mind, as we have read earlier in 1Chronicals 28: 9 when David was passing on his experience to his Son Solomon at the end of his life. This is the first point about the heart which we discussed earlier.

Today, I want to focus on the verses we read at the opening of our talk which are two examples of numerous verses in the book of Psalms and Proverbs where we read the phrase: ‘incline your heart’. Inclining my heart means giving it a direction.

One is responsible to realise and discern the direction of his heart; and then determine which direction his heart should take. In other words, one needs first to know where his heart is and which direction it is taking. When one discerns the direction of his heart, he then needs to deal with his heart and specify for it the direction it should take. For example, I would tell my heart: ‘How long will you falter between two opinions? (1Kings 18: 21) O, my heart, you cannot be heading in different directions; take one direction; choose the direction you will take’.

If we fail to do so now with our hearts, two or three years later we will find ourselves estranged from God. We would then wonder why we became lukewarm all of sudden. In fact, it was not all of a sudden; early on, the heart made a slight deviation and had a different inclination, but we did not pay attention to it.

In our relationship with God, we need to learn to observe our heart and incline it and direct it in the way of God’s commandments.

This can be done by praying and asking God’s help to reveal and expose our heart and correct it, as the Psalmist prayed saying:  ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’ (Psalm 139: 23, 24).

It is the person’s responsibility to come before the Lord in prayer saying: ‘Lord, it is written about You that You search the hearts (Jeremiah 17: 10); please, help me to see my heart and what You find in it.’

This is similar to a test that is done in a laboratory; God also tests the heart.

In Deuteronomy 8, we read that God tested the heart of the people, the children of Israel, to let them know that they have wrong inclinations and wrong directions in their hearts. This wrong direction made the people die in the wilderness and not enter the Land of promise. In1Corinthians 10: 5, it is written about them: ‘but God was not pleased with the majority of them’.

We need to get to know the Person of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. He is the Person of the Trinity who comes to us to dwell in us and become our companion, the Paraclete, who walks side to side by us.

The more we pay attention to Him, the more He reveals Himself to us in a deeper way. After that, it will not matter where we are; whether we are together in a retreat or a spiritual day or in any other place; the place is not what makes the difference; the place does not make the day good or the spirit fervent; what makes a difference is the Spirit, the Comforter. When He draws near us, He makes a great difference in the atmosphere; His presence amongst us stirs our hearts.

Therefore, exactly as I was saying that it is important to pay attention to our hearts and incline it in the right direction, we also need to be careful not to quench or grieve the Holy Spirit.

We have all experienced that at times we can be fervent in the spirit and then we do something or say something and then find that we are quenched.

We should not grieve the Holy Spirit in each one of us and also in our midst. We are a family of ministers; we have been together for a while and have served the Lord together. When the Holy Spirit sees a group of people like this, He desires to make them a spiritual family, one household, one net.

Therefore, we need to be aware that the Person of the Holy Spirit is in our midst; and so we need to be watchful, avoiding the things that grieve Him and doing the things that please Him.  For example, it is important to love one another, be sensitive to one another and be gentle with one another; and be watchful in our relationship with one another[2]. It is also important to submit to one another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5: 21); respect the older and love the younger.

If the Holy Spirit is grieved in our midst, we are the losers. He is the One who blesses our ministry. He is the One who draws near us and works in us and through us. If we grieve Him, we will sense that something is lost and is missing. We will continue to pray and worship; but something will be missing because He was grieved.

Therefore, it is important to pay attention not to grieve the Spirit, but learn to watch our heart in our relationship with God and our relationship with one another.


[1] 1 Samuel 16:7

[2] Colossians 3:12 – 15 

Foundations of the spiritual life (2)

Foundations of the spiritual life (2)

The Heart

The State of the Heart

Readings:

‘As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever’ (1Chronicals 28: 9).

‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart; I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings’ (Jeremiah 17: 9, 10).

‘My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways’ (Proverbs 23: 26).

Our message today is about ‘the heart’.

In the bible, we numerously read that God searches the heart.

Why are God’s eyes always looking at the heart?

It is because the nature of the fallen human heart is deceitful; it is full of cunningness and crookedness; it is indirect and not straight. It is written: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?’ 

The worst thing in the human fallen nature is the deceitful, wicked, and crooked heart.

In this series we are talking about the foundations of following Christ. Last time, we discussed one of these foundations which is: ‘the cost’. We said that grace is free, but we need to prepare a place inside us for the grace. There is a cost in preparing this place. Therefore, the cost is important for receiving any divine gift or grace because we need to prepare a place for this grace or gift.

What does it mean to follow Christ?

It does not mean that I pray, read the bible and go to church and that is all. Many people have been doing these things for many years without growing spiritually or moving forward because they do not understand the true following of Christ.

The true following of Christ means that every time I pray or have fellowship with God, I receive a grace. This grace can come when I am praying, reading the bible, receiving the divine mysteries, or in my ministry whilst sharing the word of God with others. I find that my heart is opened and it receives a grace.

After some time of receiving grace above grace, I find that I am being transformed. I will experience that some sins and some characteristics of the old man are totally disappearing from my life while new characteristics of Christ, of the new man, come into my life, grow, and become established.

I then look at myself and praise God because I had longed for this to happen in my life and it began to actually happen. I longed to get rid of a certain sin and this has actually happened. I longed for receiving divine characteristics and this has actually happened. I can notice it and others around me can notice the change as well. By this, God would be glorified in my life.

We often pray that God would be glorified in our lives. Yet, God is not glorified by words, but when people witness the true change and transformation. They would then ask about the secret of this change and they would desire it.

Therefore, ‘the cost’ is the first principle or foundation in following Christ because my life in Christ means receiving grace from Him. Every time I have a true encounter with Christ, I experience His life transferred to me in the form of a grace or a divine gift –what is called: uncreated energies. Apostle John writes: ‘from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace’ (John 1: 16). By this, one can grow; and without it, no one can grow spiritually.

My life in Christ[1] means receiving successive graces that come from Christ to my life; when His life comes to me, this is a grace, a gift. The life of the Son of God is offered and granted to me and to every person[2]. I need to receive it and hence it comes to me as a grace.

However, it is important to understand that in order to be able to receive this grace, firstly there is a cost; and secondly, I should understand that the heart is an important inner factor that plays a role in receiving the divine gifts.

Today, we will talk about ‘the heart’ as a foundation of following Christ.

We need to learn to apply these foundational principles in our lives. If we do not apply them, these talks will be some knowledge of no actual benefit. The life in Christ is not knowledge. The knowledge we receive should be lived and manifested; otherwise, we cannot be ministers of the Lord who have the life of Christ and who can transfer it to others[3].

I have just highlighted that the heart is the part in the fallen human nature which has an inclination towards crookedness, cunningness, fluctuation and divisiveness. The prophet Jeremiah diagnosed it correctly describing it as ‘wicked; who can know it’. He also said: ‘the heart is deceitful above all things’.

We fluctuate in our relationship with God and in what we give and offer to Him; we do not want to give Him our whole heart. Yet, God requests the whole heart[4].

The heart is the essential part that receives the divine gifts and graces. This essential part is not prepared and is divided. I like to walk with God but there are other things that I like as well; and I tell myself there is no problem in that. This actually indicates a divided heart.

Since you are a group of ministers, not just any youth group, you need to know that you have a special calling to serve God. You need to look at ministry as a divine calling with a responsibility.  A minister or a servant of the Lord is not just a title that we are given. It cannot be as such. We cannot serve God with a divided heart.

Apostle Paul had a special motto in the spiritual life which we can sum up in one word and that is: ‘all’. Let us look at some examples of this:

‘And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work’ (2Corinthians 9: 8).

‘Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus’ (Colossians 1: 28).

As clear from the above verse, Apostle Paul wants to bring everyone (all) to Christ. He does not only want every man to know Christ and remain at a limited level, but to grow and be mature (perfect man); he wants all to be perfect, that is, to grow and mature in knowing Christ.

Our problem these days is that we, as Christians, are not yet willing to give all our life to Christ.

What is it that we have that we do not want to give up!

All what we have is our ego, pride, corruption, uncleanness, emptiness that we are trying to fill with all sort of things, and ambitions.

Are we not willing to give away and surrender these trivial things of the dust and of corruption for Christ’s sake?

We cannot be true Christians if we offer part of our lives to Christ and keep another part for our pleasures: a certain relationship, certain passions or desires, certain inclinations or characteristic; things that I like and I am used to and cling to[5].

We are ministers and so our motto should be to bring every person to Christ; therefore, all our life should be fully for God.

‘My son, give me your heart (which means your whole heart), and let your eyes observe my ways (which means to look in one direction with a simple eye)(Proverbs 23: 26). This will make your whole body be full of light (Matthew 6: 22).

The heart is deceitful. The problem of the divided heart is that it hinders us from receiving the grace and it hinders our spiritual growth.

If we have already understood the principle of ‘the cost’, we need to understand that the second principle is ‘the heart’ which should be undivided and be fully for Christ –if we want to truly follow Christ and serve Him.

It is true that we are ministers of the Lord, but it is still important to come to points of revision to review our life and correct the matters that need correction.

In the same way we need to learn to count the cost and understand that our life in Christ has a cost, we also need to learn to quieten ourselves and search our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

We need to pray to God to open our eyes to enable us to see the hidden motives in our hearts. We need to learn to see the divisions of the heart. I need to see whether my heart is fully for Christ or if there are parts for other things or other people. If I find something, I should repent. If I do not want to repent and leave this thing, then I need to pray asking God to help me be released from the things I am clinging to or attached to. He will surely help me.

However, the problem happens if I do not desire to be released from a certain matter or a certain wrong relationship. It is not that God does not answer the prayer but the problem is in the divided unwilling heart.  There can be rooted recurring sins that may sometimes need time to get rid of, there is no problem in that; but, the question is whether deep down I desire to get rid of this matter or not. There are things that we find pleasure in and we do not want to let go of. This is a different story.

There is a big difference between two states of the heart. I can go to the Lord saying that I despise such or such sin, yet I am not able to get rid of it and I need Your help. Believe me, in this case, God’s mighty hand will be stretched out and will help me. On the other hand, sometimes this hatred of sin is not yet complete in my heart and I pray to God saying I sought You many times in this matter. In this case, God will say: I am upright; I am not crooked like you; you are the one who desires this wrong matter. Because the person wants this sin and is holding unto it, every time, God says: ‘go away sin or go away Satan’, this sin will as though say: ‘I am not leaving because this person wants me’.

Therefore, it is important to be honest with oneself and when this is the case, one can pray asking God to help him despise a certain wrong thing in his life. One can pray: ‘Lord. I really wish to get rid of this wrong thing, but I do not despise it enough; help me, to not want it and to despise it because it is fake; it is a bond that is enslaving me; it is not worthwhile; it is a false pleasure; help me to desire the truth, to love the truth, to be inclined to it, to seek it; You Lord Jesus are the Truth.’ After God helps me to despise this binding thing in my life, I then need to ask Him to free me and release me from it.

The problem of repeated and recurring sins, weaknesses and bondages is that our hearts are not refusing them wholeheartedly without division of heart. If one has an undivided heart that is willing to get rid of a weakness or bondage or a sin, he will be released from it very easily and quickly[6]. The issue is whether the heart is divided or undivided in the matter. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

David told his son Solomon: ‘know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind’ He then continues with the phrase that is repeated several times in the bible: ‘for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts’.

God cares much about the heart. He knows it well

If our hearts are divided, we will be fake ministers walking towards judgement. We need to know that as ministers we have a divine honourable calling with great privileges; and hence it includes great responsibility.

If we do not know the foundations of walking with Christ, we will be fake ministers, void of foundations, and empty. As a result, we will never be able to transfer life to others or lead them to Christ.

Do you know why our ministry is not an effective ministry?

It is because our life in Christ is not attractive. It is written about Christ that He is the ‘Desire of All Nations’ (Haggai 2: 7).  When I read this verse, I repented because in my ministry I did not make people desire Christ; I did not reflect Him in that way. Do we serve the Desire of all Nations?! This means that in our ministry, people should be attracted and drawn to Him because in Christ there are unsearchable riches and mysteries[7]. When we open our mouth to speak about Him, the words should flow like milk and honey[8]. This is because we have Christ, the source of life, in whom there is fullness and satisfaction for all human needs. People should come after us from every place as it is written that people will come from every place asking where the mountain of God is, where the people who worship God on the mountain are[9].

The Church should be high up on the mountain[10] not down below in the world. Some ministers say we should be pleasant, laugh and joke with people and take things easy and lightly to be able to get close to the people we serve. In fact, if we do so and descend the mountain, no one will see that we are different; we will have the odour of the world. But if our life is holy and lifted up, everyone will look and see that this is the work of God who lifts up those who follow Him; on the other hand, there is the world that brings low those who follow it. The followers of Christ move from glory to glory[11]; while, the followers of the world move from destruction to more destruction.

People are searching, looking eagerly to find if there is something different from the destruction they are living in. Is there something true and genuine or are all just words that those ministers say while their life is not different from the life of the people in the world. If they find something true, they will seek it –even if we do not say much. It is written that when people find a person following God, they will run after him and hold unto his garment saying let us be with you because there is something in you that we are searching for: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you”’ (Zechariah 8: 23).

Human beings are created in God’s image; therefore, deep within them they seek God. They are searching for a door, a way, or an example to follow. We should be this example[12]. Yet, we can never be an example if our life is conformed to the world[13]. We should be lifted upwards.

Therefore, we should lay our foundations correctly. The directions and intentions of the heart should be discerned and precisely determined. If one desires to follow God, he needs his heart to be undivided in the matter. He also needs to know that anything else in his heart other than Christ is idols that he should bring out.

Jacob loved God and followed Him; yet, at a certain stage of his life he forgot about God and became estranged from Him; and so his spiritual life became weak. Then, God appeared to him in a dream and told him to return to Bethel, the house of God, the place of the fellowship with God. As a result, Jacob was awakened and he said to his household: ‘how come the idols have entered into our house!’ He realised that the idols have entered into his house.

Jacob, the son of Abraham, the father of faith, had idols in his house! The children of God who are baptised and who receive the body and blood of Christ have idols in their hearts! We do not realise that we sometimes reach such a state. There should be a solution for this. If we leave the idols in our hearts, we will just be saying words and those who hear us will feel that these are mere words. There are words in our lips, but the heart has other things that are occupying it.

What did Jacob do after God spoke to him?

Jacob wanted to obey God and he made a decision:

‘Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.” And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.” So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem’ (Genesis 35: 1 – 4).

Today, we need to make a similar decision. Today, we need to put away the foreign gods, burry them, tread on them, and cross over.

We serve the Holy One, the Lord who is high above heaven and earth who once told His servants: ‘Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord’ (Isaiah 52: 11). No one can serve Him unless he is clean and purified.

We need to put away the foreign gods[14] and change our clothes. The clothes refer to the conduct and the foreign gods are the idols.

If we want to continue our journey in serving the Lord we need to understand very well the meaning and implication of serving the Lord. We should bring every man to God; therefore, we have to put away the foreign gods and burry them. This means we will forget about them; we will put them behind us and never look back upon them. We should also change our clothes; we should change our conduct by the work of grace to follow the Holy Lord and serve His Holy Name that is lifted on high[15].


[1] Philippians 1:21

[2] 1 John 4:9

[3] Romans 8:9

[4] Proverbs 23:26

[5] Luke 9:23; Luke 14:25 – 35

[6] Psalm 86:11b

[7] Ephesians 3:8

[8] Song of Songs 4:11

[9] Isaiah 2:3

[10] Matthew 5:14

[11] 2 Corinthians 3:18

[12] 1 Timothy 4:12

[13] Romans 12:2; James 4: 4

[14] Isaiah 30:22

[15] Malachi 1:11

Foundations of the spiritual life (1)

Counting the Cost

Every true and genuine thing in the spiritual life has a cost. If one wants to truly grow in the spiritual life and receive grace that would transform his life, he has to be ready for the cost. On the other hand, anyone who wants to live a Christian life without any cost, his spiritual life will be superficial and not genuine.

Some may ask:

Why should there be a cost when God has prepared everything for us and said ‘it is finished’? Isn’t grace free?

Indeed this is very true; Grace is free.

In Romans 3: 24, we read: being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’.

It is also written: ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2: 8).

Why then is there a cost if grace is free and is a gift granted to us by God?

It is important here to point out that the cost is not at all in exchange of grace because grace is a free gift. It is not possible to pay a cost in exchange of grace because grace is not cheap; it is invaluable; there is nothing that we can give in return of it. Even if one gave his life, it is nothing compared to the value of grace; it is just the life of a human sinful person. Even if a millionaire gave all his wealth, it is still of no value. It is written: ‘If a man would give… all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised’ (Song of Solomon 8: 7). Therefore, there is nothing at all that can be offered as the price of grace. Grace can only be granted as a free gift of God.

Why then am I emphasising to you that a cost is necessary in order to live a true genuine Christian life; otherwise, it becomes superficial?

Superficiality in the spiritual life is a problem in our days and has become a phenomenon, even among ministers.

Why is the spiritual life of the ministers weak?

It is because it was built cheap without a cost; there is no grace deep within. Their life is empty, poor, lacking the powerful testimony, and lacking the manifestation of life.

How then can a life bear a powerful testimony and the life of Christ be proclaimed and manifested in it?

One has to be ready to pay the cost.

How is there a cost when grace is a free gift of God?

We need to understand this point well because it is a foundational matter in the spiritual life.

Grace is like a precious pearl. Every precious pearl should be kept in a box or a safe place. If we place a precious jewel carelessly in any place, this indicates that we do not appreciate its value.

Grace is very precious. We should appreciate its value and put it in a suitable place. It is necessary to prepare a place for it inside us. There is a space inside each person which is already occupied with something. This thing needs to come out to make room for the grace to come and fill this space. This space needs to be prepared for the grace to come in it.

What is this thing which is inside the person and fills him?

It is the old man; the ‘I’. In the mind, one has his thoughts, dreams, ambitions, and plans. In the heart, there are fallen emotions swinging him right and left. In the inner being, there is the ego, the self, the fallen nature.

The need is for all these things to come out and man’s inner being to be filled with grace.

One of the things that confuse us most in our spiritual journey is our lack of understanding of the situation and what needs to be done and how to do it. Therefore, we move a bit and then stop. However, if we learn to see what we are heading towards, this vision of the purpose will help us move forward. Lack of vision causes confusion and paralysis. In the book of proverbs it is written: ‘Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint’ (Proverbs 29: 18). Clarity of purpose and revelation are very essential.

The spiritual life of ministers should have correct and sound foundations. The spiritual life moves in stages. It is important to understand our situation at each stage and what we need to do.

The spiritual life is like a building[1] that has foundations and different levels or floors. In the life of some, their house or building is in ruins having neither the foundations nor the floors. In the life of others, there may be some spiritual information or knowledge which may not be all correct.

It is important to correct our inner building in order to have a genuine spiritual life and be able to serve the Lord. Serving the Lord entails knowing what God requests of the person and obeying it.

Ministry is not mere knowledge or information that we receive and then communicate to others; this is not the ministry at all neither is it Christianity. As ministers, we are not supposed to information-bearers. In the Christian life, ministers are life-bearers. Information goes and comes easily; but to be life-bearers requires a cost. The cost is not in the source of life, but in receiving it.

In conclusion, in order to be prepared as ministers of God, we need inner spiritual building. This inner building requires a cost. Without this cost, the Christian life would be weak and fake. The cost which we should pay is not at all the cost of receiving grace because this is impossible and this would make grace cheap; grace is a free gift of God which is offered to us. We receive grace by faith; yet we need to prepare a place for it inside us. This preparation requires spiritual diligence and paying a cost. One should receive ‘grace upon grace’, as Apostle John puts it (John 1: 16).

When I receive grace upon grace, my spiritual life is built and edified. After that, anyone who sees me will realise that I have grace. This grace is not of myself; but, from God. He is the one who has prepared it and finished it; it is His pleasure to give it to me.

It is then my role to receive it. It is written: ‘looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God’ (Hebrews 12: 15). This means that one can fall short of the grace offered.  If I do not want to fall short of grace, I should receive it in a worthy manner, be diligent, and pay the cost in preparing a place for it.

Therefore, it is important to accept the cost to be able to receive the free grace offered to us so that our spiritual life may be built up and established. As a result, one becomes a true minister of the Lord who is not bearer of knowledge and information but a life-bearer.

As people who are being prepared for ministry, our primary aim is to be spiritually built and edified and to know the purpose of God in our lives.

 

 

 

 


[1] 1 Corinthians 3: 9

Shine sister organizations

Saint John the Baptist Orthodox Brotherhood
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