Posted in back to basics, born again, holy spirit, regeneration, sanctification

Back to Basics: Hello, Holy Spirit

By Elizabeth Prata

I’d mentioned that I had wanted to get back to basics and do some blog entries on the foundational things. The Holy Spirit is near and dear to me. But He is often overlooked in the Trinity, in favor of prayers to Almighty God and to Lord Jesus. But the Holy Spirit has an important ministry we’ll take a look at in this essay. We’ll also see how He is prophesied to minister in the last of the last days and in the Tribulation.

The last days are the entire Church Age. They began at Pentecost and they will end after the Rapture/Tribulation/Millennium Kingdom. So Paul was in the last days. Martin Luther was in the last days. Charles Spurgeon was in the last days. We are in the last days. But I believe we are in the last of the last days, the moments remaining perhaps but few. Well, we are 2000 years closer, anyhow!

However the ministry of the Holy Spirit has been with us since Genesis 1:2 where we’re told “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Don’t you visualize Him as a dove, his wings outstretched and fluttering over the waters almost hugging the world as it was being formed? He is referred to again in Genesis 1:26 when God said “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Therefore we can conclude the Holy Spirit is God.

He has a personality. In Genesis 1:2 and Job 33:4 we read that He creates life. He inspired the Bible writers. He comforts (Acts 9:31) and He teaches (John 14:26). He imparts the love of God to the saints and joy too. He maintains the church in edification (Acts 9:31). There is so much more I could write about the Spirit, books have been written, but turn to this one,

“Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” (Proverbs 1:23). He is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding! (Isaiah 11:2). And we need Him for that, desperately. Without Him we cannot understand the Word of God.

“But as it is written, no Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Without Him we cannot understand the Word.

God reveals the things God wants us to know and to have by His Spirit. That is huge. God revealed Himself to us in creation, then He revealed Himself to us in Jesus on earth as His Son, now He reveals Himself to us through His Spirit bringing understanding of the Word, which is Jesus. Kind of circular, you say? Yes, that is the Trinity. They are God but they each are a Person distinct from the other, with different ministries, which are harmonized perfectly and completely in holiness in One. If you don’t understand that, it’s OK, I don’t either! It is one of the mysteries of God that He can be three in one…

The Spirit’s ministry in some ways remains the same and some ways changes throughout the course of the covenants. In most cases in the Old Testament, the Spirit “came upon”, He did not indwell. John the Baptist is an exception. John the Baptist is considered an Old Testament prophet because he died before the cross. Nevertheless, John was filled with the Spirit in the womb. Another example of God filling someone with the Spirit prior to the cross is Exodus 31:1-2, filling Bezalel to know how to build the temple. But normally, the Spirit came upon them for the period necessary to fulfill the task set before them (2 Chronicles 24:20, Judges 3:24).

God could and did take away the Spirit. The Spirit came upon Saul as King (1 Sam 10:6) but God removed it when Saul rebelled (1 Sam 16:14). David begged God not to take away the Spirit in his rebellion with Bathsheba. (Psalm 51:11).

When Jesus told the Disciples that He was going away but He would send a Comforter, it was the Spirit He was referring to. The Spirit descended on the Apostles at Pentecost, filling them. (Acts 2). However that portion of the Spirit’s ministry changed, He now indwells us permanently. He is the deposit of guarantee of our inheritance and His seal of ownership on us. (Ephesians 1:14 and 2 Corinthians 1:22). If we confess our sins and believe by faith Jesus is Lord, He sends the Spirit into us and we can never lose Him (John 10:29). This doctrine is called “Once Saved, Always Saved” and I believe in it. If we could lose the Spirit as in OT days then there would be no guarantee, would there? If God sends the Spirit to indwell but takes it away, He breaks His own seal, doesn’t He? No, it cannot be so!

One ministry the Spirit inhabits is the restraining ministry, and it is that one that I’ll finish with. In Genesis 6 we read that God tell us that “My spirit will not strive with man forever…” This is the chapter of the conditions leading up to the worldwide judgment of the Flood. It seems to be telling us that at a certain point, He removes the restraining ministry from man when sin has reached a certain point, or that he removes Him prior to a worldwide judgment. However, He never removes His Spirit from the earth completely because how would we be drawn to the cross, otherwise? The verse goes on to say ‘nevertheness his days are 120 years’.

We know He is the restrainer of lawlessness because Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8.

“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”

He restrains Lawlessness. The Greek word is defined “lawlessness, iniquity, disobedience, sin”. He restrains sin.

Doesn’t it seem like things are getting worse and worse in terms of morality, crime, greed, apostasy? I’m 60 years old and I look back and think on the formative images I saw on the news during the 1960s and 1970s. I saw the riots, the advance of the homosexual agenda, political upheaval, the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Viet Nam war. Women’s rights and abortion and Planned Parenthood and the Pill came in too. When I saw the Democratic National Convention riots, I thought the world was coming to an end, literally. It seemed to my young eyes and heart that everything was crashing down. It looks to me now from the vantage point of half a century on earth, that each new generation was exponentially worse than the previous one, and that lawlessness is compounding.

Romans 1 describes a progression of sin and when it saturates a society enough it seems that God lifts His hand, because we read several times in Romans 1 “God gave them over.” When enough people have been given over in a society, sin reigns more and more and the society runs rampant with sin.

I have no clue if He is lifting His hand fast or slow. I do not know at what rate the restraint is being removed. But my opinion is that the sudden change in society in the 1960s, and with the lurch forward into sin in America this past year, is evidence that He had lifted it some, because such a flood of lawlessness came in all at once. In the last year, the cravenness of apostasy and false doctrine in the church is another indicator to me that His hand is going up, faster and faster now.

I think the worldwide judgment is very close, and one of the reasons I believe so is that the lawlessness (sin) has increased to such a degree, and that is because the Restrainer is restraining less and less until the moment in 2 Thessalonians He does not restrain at all. The Thessalonians verse says the antichrist will not be revealed until the Restrainer is removed, and that is in the middle of the Tribulation, and what a time that will be! No time in human history will be worse, because sin will be given free reign to do its worst.

You can avoid being on earth, and be purified and refreshed if you appeal to Jesus in repentance for sins and trusting in Him. It is the Spirit that brought you here to read this, He draws one and all to the cross, and then convicts you of your sins. Read Galatians 3:1-5, and this commentary says of it, “The two are linked: the cross opens the door for the Spirit, and the experience of the Spirit is the result of faith in the message of the cross of Christ.” Kind of circular you say? That’s the Trinity, of which the Spirit is a part!

If you are an unbeliever, appeal to Jesus for your sins to be forgiven. This is repentance. You’re sorry for your wrong things you do and you understand that they are crimes against Jesus. He will forgive you if you are sincere, and then He will send the Spirit to come inside you and help you resist more sinning. This is called regeneration, literally being born again as a new creation.

You can never escape sinning but when you do (and we all do, Christians too) appeal to the Spirit for help resisting them and repent to Jesus for them. We repent after we are saved, too. As you submit more deeply to the Holy Spirit’s ministry, though, you will find that you want to sin less and less. The Spirit is making you a new creation, in His likeness and in holiness. This is sanctification.

Posted in paul washer, regeneration

"How Did Lazarus hear Jesus? He was dead."

In 8 minutes, Paul Washer explains the Doctrine of Election, the goodness of God, and the evilness of man. He does so in a loving and beautiful way. A student had approached Pastor Washer at the Deeper Conference, asking him to explain the doctrine of Election. The link to the sermon that Paul Washer recommended can be found here: http://www.anchoredintruth.org/sermonplayer#!/swx/pp/media_archives/106081/episode/22276

Posted in holy life, mercy, regeneration

A budding stick

My kitchen window won’t stay up. So I use a stick to prop it open. I got the stick from the yard a couple of years ago. LOL, I had to be fast because my landlord is diligent and he goes around and picks up all the dead sticks blown down from windstorms.

It’s been cool lately and I’ve enjoyed being able to open my windows and have the breeze go through, rather than having to live in AC air. Yesterday as I raised up the window and grabbed the stick from the well of the sill, I noticed for the first time that the stick was budding.

I thought it was strange, because I’ve had the stick for a couple of years and it has always been dead. It was dead on the ground when I got it, it languished dead in the windowsill through winters, rains, and heat, and it was dead when I used it to prop up the window all this time. Here is a photo:

Looks like a dead stick, doesn’t it? Well, it is!

But then a leaf grew!

Actually, two leaves are growing!
See?

So the stick is like us before we’re saved. We are dead in our sins. We bear no fruit, we have no life. Sure, we are walking around and living and working and marrying and stuff, but we are dead sticks walking.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,” (Ephesians 2:1)

But when we are born again, we are first justified. This means being forgiven, we are now having a right relationship with God. It is a legal term of justice, the Judge giving a pardon. Then we are regenerated.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,” (Colossians 2:13)

“…even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5)

Regeneration means born again, a rebirth, having new life. The next step in His process is sanctification, which means the process of God molding us as His clay to become more Christlike in all we think, say, and do. Sanctification is a long process, a lifetime, and then an eternity. It is the process of living a holy life. We cannot do this apart from Jesus.  Justification is a one time event happening in one moment, the moment God forgives you of sins.

Regeneration is the glorious moment of new birth. Paul captures it in chapter Titus 3:5:

“he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,”

If God makes a dead stick bud, then He can make you bud too! Seek Jesus for forgiveness of sins, He will wash them away and renew you as His new creation in a holy rebirth and subsequent sanctifying growth that will last all your life, in this age and the eternal one to come.

Posted in back to basics, born again, holy spirit, regeneration, sanctification

Hello, Holy Spirit!!

I’d mentioned that I had wanted to get back to basics and do some blog entries on the foundational things. The Holy Spirit is near and dear to me, and I pray to Him daily. But He is often overlooked in the Trinity, in favor of prayers to Almighty God and to Lord Jesus. But the Holy Spirit has an important ministry we’ll take a look at in this essay. We’ll also see how He is prophesied to minister in the last of the last days and in the Tribulation.

The last days are the entire Church Age. They began at Pentecost and they will end at the Rapture. So Paul was in the last days. Martin Luther was in the last days. Charles Spurgeon was in the last days. We are in the last days. But I believe we are in the last of the last days, the moments remaining perhaps but few. However the ministry of the Holy Spirit has been with us since Genesis 1:2 where we’re told “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Don’t you visualize Him as a dove, his wings outstretched and fluttering over the waters almost hugging the world as it was being formed? He is referred to again in Genesis 1:26 when God said “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Therefore we can conclude the Holy Spirit is God.

He has a personality. In Genesis 1:2 and Job 33:4 we read that He creates life. He directs where to preach and where not to preach. Remember Paul’s seeking of direction for where to go next in his mission fields? The Spirit stopped him from going north, then south, and eventually directed Paul to go to Greece, blessedly bringing the Gospel from the Middle East to Europe. (Acts 8:29; Acts 10:19-20; Acts 16:6-7).

He comforts (Acts 9:31) and He teaches (John 14:26). He imparts the love of God to the saints and joy too. He maintains the church in edification (Acts 9:31). There is so much more I could write about the Spirit, books have been written, but turn to this one,

“Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” (Proverbs 1:23). He is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding! (Isaiah 11:2). And we need Him for that, desperately. Without Him we cannot understand the Word.

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Without Him we cannot understand the Word.

God reveals the things God wants us to know and to have by His Spirit. That is huge. God revealed Himself to us in creation, then He revealed Himself to us in Jesus on earth as His Son, now He reveals Himself to us through His Spirit bringing understanding of the Word, which is Jesus. Kind of circular, you say? Yes, that is the Trinity. They are God but they each are a Person distinct from the other, with different ministries, which are harmonized perfectly and completely in holiness in One. If you don’t understand that, it’s OK, I don’t either! It is one of the mysteries of God that He can be three in one…

His ministry in some ways remains the same and some ways changes throughout the course of the covenants. In most cases in the Old Testament, the Spirit “came upon”, He did not indwell. John the Baptist is an exception. John the Baptist is considered an Old Testament prophet because he died before the cross. Nevertheless, John was filled with the Spirit in the womb. Another example of God filling someone with the Spirit prior to the cross is Exodus 31:1-2, filling Bezalel to know how to build the temple. But normally, the Spirit came upon them for the period necessary to fulfill the task set before them (2 Chron 24:20, Judges 3:24).

God could and did take away the Spirit. The Spirit came upon Saul as King (1 Sam 10:6) but God removed it when Saul rebelled (1 Sam 16:14). David begged God not to take away the Spirit in his rebellion with Bathsheba. (Psalm 51:11).

When Jesus told the Disciples that He was going away but He would send a Comforter, it was the Spirit He was referring to. The Spirit descended on the Apostles at Pentecost, filling them. (Acts 2). However that portion of the Spirit’s ministry changed, He now indwells us permanently. He is the deposit of guarantee of our inheritance and His seal of ownership on us. (Ephesians 1:14 and 2 Corinthians 1:22). If we confess our sins and believe by faith Jesus is Lord, He sends the Spirit into us and we can never lose Him (John 10:29). This doctrine is called “Once Saved, Always Saved” and I believe in it. If we could lose the Spirit as in OT days then there would be no guarantee, would there? If God sends the Spirit to indwell but takes it away, He breaks His own seal, doesn’t He? No, it cannot be so!

But remember the Tribulation is actually a return to the Old Testament days, finishing up those last decreed 7 years as punishment of the Jews and the world for unrighteousness (Daniel 9:24). Therefore the way I read it, the Spirit will return to the ministry of ‘coming upon’ but not indwelling. It is why they will sacrifice in the Tribulation, also.

Jack Kelley explained it this way:

“The only passage that describes the requirements of Tribulation believers is that they obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus (Rev. 14:12). It means they will have to keep the commandments as best as they can, trusting the blood of Jesus to cover them when they fall short. Old Testament standards were essentially the same, except they didn’t know the name of their Savior. Except for taking the mark of the Beast, the Bible doesn’t identify any red lines beyond which salvation would be revoked, but based on what it does say more weight will be given to maintaining their faith than anything else.”

One ministry the Spirit inhabits is the restraining ministry, and it is that one that I’ll finish with. In Genesis 6 we read that God tell us that “My spirit will not strive with man forever…” This is the chapter of the conditions leading up to the worldwide judgment of the Flood. It seems to be telling us that at a certain point, He removes the restraining ministry from man when sin has reached a certain point, or that he removes Him prior to a worldwide judgment. However, He never removes His Spirit from the earth completely because how would we be drawn to the cross, otherwise? The verse goes on to say ‘nevertheness his days are 120 years’.

We know He is the restrainer of lawlessness because Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8.

“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”

He restrains Lawlessness. The Greek word is defined “lawlessness, iniquity, disobedience, sin”. He restrains sin.

Doesn’t it seem like things are getting worse and worse in terms of morality, crime, greed, apostasy? I’m 51 years old (well, I will be in three weeks 🙂 and I look back and think on the formative images I saw on the news during the 1960s and 1970s. I saw the riots, the homosexual agenda, political upheaval, the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Viet Nam war. Women’s rights and abortion and Planned Parenthood and the Pill came in too. When I saw the Democratic National Convention riots, I thought the world was coming to an end, literally. It seemed to my young eyes and heart that everything was crashing down. It looks to me now from the vantage point of half a century on earth, that each new generation was exponentially worse than the previous one, and that lawlessness is compounding.

I believe America in the early to mid 1960s there was an influx of demonic activity. I believe that was allowed to happen because the Restrainer was slowly lifting His hand.

Now, this idea of the Restrainer being removed is biblical, Gen 6 and 2 Thess speaks of it. But I have no clue if He is lifting His hand fast or slow. I do not know at what rate the restraint is being removed. But my opinion is that the sudden change in society in the 1960s is evidence that He had lifted it some, because such a flood of lawlessness came in all at once. I believe that 9/11 was another indicator that He had lifted His hand some more. And in the last year, the cravenness of apostasy and false doctrine in the church is another indicator to me that His hand is going up, faster and faster now. Just look at the headlines on Drudge this Black Friday morning:

Woman pepper sprays other Black Friday shoppers ‘to gain an upper hand’…
‘Competitive shopping’ turns into chaos…
VIDEO: Mayhem over $2 waffle maker…
Woman shot, robbed in SC after midnight shopping trip to WALMART…
NC police use pepper spray to break up melee…
GUNFIRE ERUPTS AT MALL…

And these persistent commercials of the blond woman training for Black Friday are off the charts gross.

I think the worldwide judgment is very close, and one of the reasons I believe so is that the lawlessness (sin) has increased to such a degree, and that is because the Restrainer is restraining less and less until the moment in 2 Thessalonians He does not restrain at all. The Thessalonians verse says the antichrist will not be revealed until the Restrainer is removed, and that is in the middle of the Tribulation, but if things are this bad now, you can get a clue as to how much worse they will be then.

And also, this shows us how bad and destructive sin is. One little sin is the first gangrenous cell in your body desiring to contaminate every other cell near it and march up every limb you have and turn it black from putrefaction. That is how the world will be at the revealing of the antichrist, iniquity having been made full. (Dan 9:24). You can avoid being on earth, and be purified and refreshed if you appeal to Jesus. It is the Spirit that brought you here to read this, He draws one and all to the cross, and then convicts you of your sins. Read Galatians 3:1-5, and this commentary says of it, “The two are linked: the cross opens the door for the Spirit, and the experience of the Spirit is the result of faith in the message of the cross of Christ.” Kind of circular you say? That’s the Trinity, of which the Spirit is a part!

If you are an unbeliever, appeal to Jesus for your sins to be forgiven. This is repentance. You’re sorry for your wrong things you do and you understand that they are crimes against Jesus. He will forgive you if you are sincere, and then He will send the Spirit to come inside you and help you resist more sinning. This is called regeneration, literally being born again as a new creation.

You can never escape sinning but when you do (and we all do, Christians too) appeal to the Spirit for help resisting them and apologize to Jesus for them. We repent after we are saved, too. As you submit more deeply to the Holy Spirit’s ministry, though, you will find that you want to sin less and less. The Spirit is making you a new creation, in His likeness and in holiness. This is sanctification.

So when you share all this with someone and they say, “Man, you’re not crazy, you’re possessed!” you can proudly say yes, “I boast in the Spirit that is in me! Praise Jesus!”
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Posted in holy spirit, prophecy, regeneration

The lovely work of the Holy Spirit

When we repent and come into reconciliation with Jesus, He sends the Holy Spirit into us and the Spirit begins the work of regeneration. Because we are born dead, spiritually empty and carnally minded, when the Spirit comes, He revives us and begins the work of shaping us like clay, into the Lord’s likeness. Here are but two verses that remind us that He grows us sovereignly and perfectly:

“One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” (Acts 16:14)

“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Rom 8:6)

The change is not instant, from one who is dead in the flesh to one who is bearing all the good fruit is that the Spirit nurtures in us (Galatians 5:22-26). Even the Apostle Paul battled flesh (Romans 7:15). But through constant submission, prayer, study of the word, and good works in His name, the Spirit leads us into good things, which will be completed on the day we are glorified in body at the rapture. (Gal 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

But sometimes it is hard to detect if we can see this change in ourselves. In growth by degrees you don’t see it at first. Our first day of school was Friday and I looked at the little kindergarteners I’d worked with last year. Some had sprung up like weeds! I noticed it because I had not seen them for 8 weeks. But do I notice growth or change in myself? No. But I’m sure others did, not having seen me for 8 weeks either.

I remember the first time I noticed a Christlike change in myself. I was saved 7 years ago and really started studying the bible and attending church 5 years ago. So I’d have to reach back in my mind ten years to go beyond the point when the Spirit began His regenerative work in me.

During my 30s I traveled to Italy once a year. I love Italy so much. The rolling Tuscan hills filled with sunflowers, the steep and somber Umbrian mountains, the castles, villas, architecture. I fell in love with the art. In the Accademia Galleria where the famous sculpture of David is housed, I was absolutely floored when I saw it for the first time. Since I was not saved, I had no idea, really, of the story behind it, other than the surface. David killed Goliath with a rock. That’s as far as my understanding went. But I did a great study of Michaelangelo, the sculptor of the statue of David, and the marble itself. I even went to Carrara to see where the marble came from and how it was extracted from the mountain.

The bible says for us to “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” (Col 3:2). So I do. I ponder heaven, and the Spirit and Jesus and the things He has told us in the bible. As I looked to heaven I mourned the loss of all the beautiful things in Italy. I’d think of the tribulation earthquakes and pictured in my mind the crumbling of the leaning tower of Pisa, of the Colosseum, of the castles that had stood for thousand years. “Gone…” I’d muse to myself. “How tragic!” I thought of the David, the most perfect man-made thing I’d ever seen, and though of how anything else could be more beautiful. For a long time I could not picture it and went around sad that my treasured Italy and everything in it would be destroyed.

So one day I was musing along in my mind and thought of the David again. “Gone…” I shook my head. Then another thought popped into my mind. “Hey! I can go over and see the REAL David!” It was then I laughed because I could detect the Spirit had grown me over time. My mind was no longer on earthly things but realized that a greater treasure was the resurrected, glorified and perfected David that the Lord had personally set as King of Israel! I laughed out loud. The real David, how about that! I began to get a glimmer of just how beautiful the Lord’s work is in us and that there will be many more things that will be stunningly beautiful that my brain can’t even conceive of but was just getting a tiny glimpse of. Slowly and surely the Holy Spirit does His work in us, praise God.

My mind was instantly set at ease as I realized I’d let go of earthly things and trusted the fact that no matter how lovely the things of earth are, the LORD is preparing a place for us that will be astoundingly beautiful, the foremost beauty of which are the glorified and redeemed people populating the place through the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ.

Do you have a moment when you came across a growth marker in yourself when you realized that your response to a thought or a situation was a direct result of the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit? Please share. Let’s celebrate Him!
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Posted in laodicean church, prophecy, regeneration, repent

Where’s the beef?

Remember this Wendy’s commercial from the early 1980s?

I used to love Clara Peller, who was a breakout hit for several years in the ad cycle. Good for her.

In the world in general there is a steep decline in civility, modesty, and behavior that would comport with what the Lord advises is pure living. With all the millions of Christians claiming that they are Christian, you would think that there would be more modesty, cleaner language, more purity, stronger families, and higher regard for Godly things. There is a terrible disconnect and it all has to do with transformation.

Philippians 3:20-21 reminds us that we have a bodily transformation to look forward to: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”

But before we get there, 2 Corinthians 3:18 reminds us that after submitting to the Lord, our transformation of mind and spirit is an ongoing process- “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”[emphasis mine]

We would expect such an ongoing transformation. When we first believe, He sends the Holy Spirit to indwell our body. A supernatural occurrence begins to start the transformative process- the transfer of a divine being from heaven to our flesh. If you really mull through all the ramifications of this, it is mind-blowing. God sends a part of His very self to be planted inside our body which then works as an engine of transformation to His likeness.

Paul reiterated the transformative process in Romans 12:2- “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Our minds AND our bodies are being transformed by the Spirit into Jesus’ likeness.

What this looks like on the ground is a slow or a fast but a visible process where people eschew the same activities, recreation, language, and thoughts they had before. A beer-drinking, porn consuming, profanity laced man will become a gentle, moral, and upstanding husband or bachelor. Initially, the transformation is hard for the new believer but it gathers speed and becomes easier as His holiness spreads in us like a tapestry being enlarged, thread by thread. After a while, we notice that our eyes can’t stand the same television shows, books, movies, and computer activities we used to enjoy. We notice that not only has our own language cleaned up, but hearing it from others is jarring. Not only do we notice that our character is being transformed but being around unbelievers is a strain as the things they say and do hurt our gentle soul because they are an affront to God. Friends drop off, new ones are made. You begin to eagerly look forward to church, not counting it as a trial but a joy. The Spirit is transforming you.

When you repent, you renounce yourself. You allow Christ to become in you more fully every day. Now, reformation is not regeneration. Reformation is a fleshly effort in our own strength to change our ways. Due to our sin nature, permanent reformation is impossible. We will fail. If we could reform ourselves to the extent necessary to become acceptable to God, then we would not need Jesus.

Regeneration means we are being knit by a divine, supernatural process into a new creation. But it doesn’t happen spontaneously. When we are saved, we are always saved. But are we growing? The writer of Hebrews acknowledged that even after some lengthy period of time, some Christians were not growing. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” (Hebrews 5:12). They should have been strong enough to have been teaching others at least the basics (‘first principles’) by then, but were disappointingly still ingesting milk and not strong meat!  Do a self-check. Are you still on milk of the Word and not the meat?

When I say that regeneration is not spontaneous I mean that it takes effort of the Christian to apply himself to the process. Once you are saved you are always saved, but as for growth to produce good fruit, if the new Christian never reads the bible, never or rarely attends strong worship or listens to bible preaching, never studies, haphazardly prays, or only occasionally does any deeds, they won’t grow. They may have heard the word, but they are not doers of the word- in the aforementioned things.

James 1:21-27talks about being a doer. “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

This is the age of the Laodicean church. There are many who are hearers only and worse, what they prefer to hear is false doctrine that tickles the ears. They are not growing, and in truth, many of them are even deceived as to their natural state. Thinking themselves saved, they are not. If you never confess your own sins, thinking that your initial confession and forgiveness covered it all forever, you will not be regenerated. James urges us James 5:16, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” We all sin daily but if we confess daily then we are purified and the gratitude for this purification makes us submit even more to the Spirit’s work in us. It is a cycle.

Jesus said that there are true disciples and false disciples. (Mt 7:21-23). Many won’t make it into the kingdom, they will realize too late that their hearts deceived them. Check yourself. It is pretty simply really. “WHERE’S THE BEEF?” Do you have a fluffy exterior, big and laden with condiments, but if you peek inside, is there little to no meat? Has there been spiritual fruit borne of your deeds lately? Or not? If not, there is a problem.

Take another look at the commercial. Except let this script run through your mind:

“It certainly is a big church.”
“It’s a very big church.”
“A big, busy church.”
“It’s a very big, busy…[lifting the top to peer at what is inside]…church”
“Where’s the Gospel?”
“Some churches give you a lot less Gospel on a platter of tolerance.”
“Where’s the beef??”
Announcer extolling solid doctrine, un-watered down and meaty.
“Where’s the BEEF?? I don’t think there’s anybody back there.”

I hope you are asking yourself the important and ever-pertinent question- where’s the Gospel? Look at your church. Look at yourself. Are you on meat? Do you feel yourself being regenerated, part of an everlasting cycle of doing, hearing, growing? Or not? Ask yourself now. You don’t want to find out you belonged to a Laodicean Church when it is too late to change the outcome…

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