Apr 17, 2012
Apr 17, 2012
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25
The loud crackling noise startled me. Recognizing the sound, I raced to the kitchen. I’d accidentally tapped the start button on the empty coffee maker. Unplugging the appliance, I grabbed the handle of the carafe. Then I touched the bottom of the container to ensure it wasn’t too hot to place on the tile counter. The smooth surface burned my fingertips, blistering my tender skin.
As my husband nursed my wound, I shook my head. I knew the glass would be hot. “I honestly do not know why I touched it,” I said.
My response after making such a mistake reminded me of Paul’s reaction to a more serious issue in Scripture—the nature of sin.
The apostle admits to not knowing why he does things he knows he shouldn’t do and doesn’t want to do (Rom. 7:15). Affirming that Scripture determines right and wrong (v. 7), he acknowledges the real, complex war constantly waging between the flesh and the spirit in the struggle against sin (vv. 15–23). Confessing his own weaknesses, he offers hope for victory now and forever (vv. 24–25).
When we surrender our lives to Christ, He gives us His Holy Spirit who empowers us to choose to do right (8:8–10). As He enables us to obey God’s Word, we can avoid the searing sin that separates us from the abundant life God promises those who love Him.
Lord, thanks for breaking the chains that used to bind us to a life controlled by our sinful nature.
The Holy Spirit transforms us through His love and by His grace.
In Romans 7 the apostle Paul laments that sinful tendencies within us sometimes win out over righteous impulses. In what ways can we yield to the Holy Spirit’s power to experience more righteous living?
For further reading see ourdailyjourney.org/spirits-wind.
1 Corinthians 3:6-15
Our God-given purpose is to glorify our heavenly Father. Ephesians 2:10sheds light on the means by which we accomplish this: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.”
As believers, we are responsible to do God’s work. One day, we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and be held accountable for our service. “Judgment” can be a daunting term. Remember, though, that Jesus redeemed us by His death and resurrection and paid the penalty for our sins. He took our punishment, and we no longer face condemnation (Rom. 8:1). Christ’s judgment for Christians determines His rewards for each believer.
During this evaluation, God will test our actions. Today’s Scripture passage likens this to proving the quality of a substance through fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Once the fire burns away impure motives and worthless tasks, the Lord will give recompense for that which remains.
From the outside, we may look as if we’re living obediently, striving to honor Jesus. So many tasks appear selfless and honorable, yet underneath the noble appearance, there can be ugly motives. We often deceive even ourselves about the reason for our actions. Since our desire should be to please Christ, we can ask Him to purify and change our hearts.
Consider your actions over the past few days. How much time and energy did you spend serving Christ for His glory? This can include any area of involvement—not just efforts related to church. Ask God to reveal whatever is driven by a selfish motive and needs to be brought under His authority.
“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Corinthians 6:12)
Christians are saved by the grace of God, not by works of righteousness. Therefore, in a sense, they are free to do whatever they please. “All things are lawful unto me.” The Christian, however, is under a higher law, the law of love and of seeking to please and honor his Savior and Lord.
Therefore, when a question arises as to whether a certain act is right or wrong, the decision should be based on how the act impacts the cause of Christ. Does it help or hinder in the winning of the lost or in edifying the believer? Does it honor the Lord and His Word or bring reproach against His truth? For example, Paul concluded he could not afford to “be brought under the power of any” practice (e.g., drinking, smoking, gambling) that might limit the power of God over his actions and decisions.
In a similar passage, Paul says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Corinthians 10:23). Thus, nothing is expedient for the Christian that does not edify (that is, “build up”) spiritually either himself or someone else.
In a similar vein, he said elsewhere that “there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. . . . Let not then your good be evil spoken of . . . Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:14, 16, 19).
This test of expediency, therefore, if applied sincerely by the believer in terms of advancing or hindering the purposes of God in Christ, can be of great help in decision making regarding doubtful issues. HMM
1 Kings 8:1
Solomon prepared the temple before he brought the ark to it, and an old writer well observes that before we pray we should prepare our heart that it may be a temple for the Lord.
1 Kings 8:5
They paused on the way at different spots, and offered sacrifices, till, as Josephus tells us, “the ground was moist with drink-offerings and sacrifices.” It was the jubilee year, and the season was the feast of tabernacles, so that the crowds were great, and the joy overflowing. When shall we see the whole earth hold jubilee and adore the ascended Saviour?
1 Kings 8:10, 11
The cloudy pillar was the token of the presence of God, and its filling the sanctuary was a sign of his graciously accepting the temple. We cannot tell whether it was the dazzling brightness, or the deep, portentous darkness, which overwhelmed the minds of the priests, but assuredly it is a glorious thing to have the Lord so present in the midst of his people that all our works become as nothing, and we feel that no longer do we “stand to minister,” but the Lord himself is there.
1 Kings 8:22
He was not a priest, and could not therefore present the sacrifices upon the altar; but as the representative man for the nation he did well to offer up the national prayer.
1 Kings 8:23, 24
Observe how he dwells upon the covenant. It is sweet praying when we can plead the promises.
1 Kings 8:27
So even in the dim light of Judaism it was seen that the Lord dwelleth not in temples made with hands; how astonishing it is that under the Gospel men should still cling to the notion of holy places.
1 Kings 8:30
In our highest joys we have still need to say “forgive.” Our hearts are out of order when that word does not rise to our lips. Let us plead with God to bless us throughout all our lives, and evermore to forgive.
2 Corinthians 11:23
I am often amazed by people who say they want to be mightily used by God but yet are so “soft”! It doesn’t take much at all to ruffle these people’s feathers. A little inconvenience or discomfort is enough to upset them and start them complaining. And if they are asked to do a little extra work for free, they act like martyrs who are doing something extremely sacrificial!
If you’re going to do something mighty for God, you have to throw yourself into the call of God and do what is needed, regardless of whether or not it is convenient to you. The fact is, doing what God has called us to do must be paramount in our lives—more important than any comfort or pleasure. Like the examples we see in the lives of Jesus and the apostle Paul, we must be willing to do anything required or go to any length to do exactly what God has assigned to us.
Of course God wants His people to be blessed! But a believer shouldn’t start whining and complaining just because he runs into an attack of the devil that affects the level of comfort he is accustomed to. And if he’s asked to do a little more than what is usually asked of him, he shouldn’t start griping that the extra task is not a part of his job description. When a person does that, we can know that this is someone who will not do something mighty for God—at least not until he makes an adjustment in his attitude!
To push the forces of hell out of the way, you have to be more determined than hell itself. You have to be willing to do anything necessary to get the job done. The vision before you must be more important than your own personal pleasure. When you adopt this mentality for your life, you will always push through hard times and take significant territory for the Kingdom of God.
Paul then goes on to tell us more about his determined attitude to finish God’s call, regardless of what he has to do to finish it and the challenges he has to face on his way to victory.
Stripes Above Measure
In addition to working hard, Paul tells us what he has physically endured in order to fulfill his heavenly assignment. He tells us that he has been physically beaten as he pursued the fulfillment of his God-given task, experiencing “… stripes above measure….”
The word “stripes” is the Greek word plege. It means to smite, to hit, to wound, or to violently strike. There are many examples of this word in the New Testament. In Luke 10:30, Jesus tells us, “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” The word “wounded” is this Greek word plege.
Notice that the man’s wounds were so devastating that when the thieves departed, they assumed he was dead. These were mortal wounds. Now Paul uses this same word to describe the kinds of beatings he received as he sought to fulfill his God-given assignment in life.
This word is also used in Acts 16:33 to describe the kind of beating Paul and Silas received in Philippi. After God’s power shook the prison walls and set Paul and Silas free, the keeper of the prison came to them to ask how to be saved. Acts 16:33 tells us that once the prison guard was saved, he “… took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes…” This word “stripes” is the same Greek word plege. Here we see an example of the physical beatings Paul endured.
But this incident in Philippi was just one example of Paul being physically knocked around by opponents to the Gospel. In Second Corinthians 11:23, he goes on to say that he experienced these stripes “above measure.”
The words “above measure” are from the Greek word huperballo. It is a compound of the words huper and ballo. The word huper means above and beyond what is normal. The word ballo means to throw. And when these two words are joined together, they depict a very powerful picture!
Imagine an archer who takes his bow and arrows to the field for target practice. He aims his arrow at the bull’s-eye, pulls back on his bow, and shoots the arrow. But he misses his target and shoots way over the top or exceedingly out of range. The arrow flies way beyond the range of anything considered normal. This pictures the meaning of the Greek word huperballo.
Paul’s use of this word tells us that he was beaten way beyond the range of what we could even begin to imagine. The word huperballo describes both the frequency and the intensity of his beatings. The beatings Paul received occurred frequently. They were cruel, severe, merciless acts of brutality. What Paul’s enemies did to his body was way over the top! But Paul never allowed even these acts of physical brutality to affect his commitment to the task God had given him.
You must be more determined than the forces that will try to come against you. Otherwise, it won’t take much pressure to make you say, “This is too hard” or “I didn’t understand how difficult this was going to be.” You’ll mentally start packing your bags so you can transfer back to more comfortable territory where less is expected of you.
By no means am I wishing hardships or hard times on you. But I do pray that you make up your mind to be tougher than anything the devil ever tries to throw in your direction. In your flesh alone, you are not strong enough to withstand the devil’s assaults. But with the power of the Holy Spirit, you can resist, stand against, and drive back everything the devil will attempt to do to you, to your family, to your business, or to your church or ministry. Isn’t it time for you to make up your mind to stick with God’s call on your life and press ahead in the power of the Holy Spirit?
Prisons More Frequent
Paul goes on to tell us that he has been “… in prisons more frequent….” The word “prison” is the Greek word plulake. It describes a place of custody a prison ward, or a place heavily guarded by keepers and watchmen. Such a prison was usually a small, dark chamber in which the most hardened, dangerous, and menacing prisoners were confined. The prisoners who were put into this particular kind of chamber were considered so risky that they were usually accompanied by a host of prison guards who guarded them twenty-four hours a day.
This word plulake (“prison”) is used in Acts 12:4 for Peter’s imprisonment in Jerusalem. Acts 12:4 tells us, “And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” Peter must have been viewed as especially risky to have four quaternions of soldiers assigned to keep watch over him!
Paul was also kept in this kind of extreme confinement many times during his ministry; this is what he means when he says here that he has been in “prisons more frequent.” In fact, Paul became so familiar with this type of confinement that he even spent his final days under similar circumstances: “And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him” (Acts 28:16).
No one wants to go to jail! But if going to jail meant that Paul would accomplish his apostolic calling along the way, that was what he was willing to do. Paul was ready to undergo any inconvenience, pay any price, and go to all lengths to do what God had commissioned him to do. Even jail would not stop him.
In addition to the beatings and imprisonments he endured, Paul also says he was “… in deaths oft.” The word “deaths” is from the Greek word thanatos. Here, however, Paul uses the plural form, thanatoi, which is literally translated “deaths.”
We know that Paul wrote in First Corinthians 15:31, “… I die daily.” We tend to spiritualize this statement, but in reality, Paul faced actual physical death on a regular basis. When he wrote, “… I die daily,” he actually meant, “I am constantly confronted with the prospect of death.”
Paul faced death so often that he learned how to face it bravely. In Romans 14:8, he wrote, “… whether we die, we die unto the Lord….” In First Corinthians 15:55, we see that he learned to meditate on victory rather than on mortality and fatality: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” These are not allegorical verses about death. They are the thoughts of a man who faced the prospect of death almost on a daily basis.
Paul never sought to live under this constant threat of murder or execution. It was just a part of the journey to get where he needed to go. But rather than run and hide from imminent danger, he faced it bravely and kept moving forward to do what he was called to do.
Had Paul been less committed, it would have taken only a few of these difficult experiences to knock him out of the race. But because he was totally focused on finishing the assignment Heaven had given him, he pushed beyond each of these attacks, and at the end of his life, he was able to say, “… I have finished my course…” (2 Timothy 4:7).
The Holy Spirit who empowered the apostle Paul to overcome each of these instances is the same Holy Spirit who is available to help you. You never have to be a defeated victim. If you choose to take advantage of the power that is available to you, the Spirit of God will energize and lift you to a place of victory over any obstacle the devil tries to throw in your way. Never forget that you have resurrection power residing inside you (see Romans 8:11). If you’ll yield to that power, it will supernaturally quicken you to overcome every time!
So throw open your arms of faith and embrace the Spirit’s power to overcome each attack the devil has tried to orchestrate against you. If you’ll embrace that power, it will begin to flood you with everything you need to survive and to gloriously succeed in your task! Make the decision to let it start flowing today!
Lord, I thank You that because Your Spirit lives in me, I have everything I need to overcome any attack the devil would try to orchestrate against me. Because Your resurrection power resides in me, I am stronger than the devil; I am tougher than any problem; and I can outlast any time of difficulty. It is not a question of IF I will win, but of WHEN I will win the victory! I thank You for giving me the power of the Holy Spirit to outlast every attack and to persist until I have accomplished what You have asked me to do!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that I am totally focused on finishing the assignment Heaven has given to me. I will successfully push beyond each attack of the enemy because the Holy Spirit is empowering me. I don’t have to be a defeated victim. I choose to take advantage of the power that is available to me. Therefore, the Spirit of God will energize and lift me to a place of victory over any obstacle the devil tries to throw in my way. I have resurrection power residing inside me, and it supernaturally quickens me to overcome every demonic attack that tries to assault me and my purpose in life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
If you aspire to win the “race,” then do these three things:
1. Get rid of every “encumbrance” and sin “that cleverly places itself in an entangling way around [you].” To name a few:
2. Run the “race” before you with patient endurance. (Hebrews 12:1) (Hebrews 6:15; Romans 2:7; 8:24, 25)
3. Keep your eyes on Jesus and emulate His example. (Hebrews 12:2, 3) (Luke 6:40)
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1b-3)