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Forming a Complete Picture of God

It’s rare that you see kindness and severity in the same sentence. These opposing terms highlight elements of God’s nature. According to the apostle Paul, you should take note and appreciate both aspects of God’s personality. While God can demonstrate affection, concern and warmth, this is only one side of the picture. When commands, decrees and expectations aren’t met, God’s wrath is displayed through curses, loss and rebukes.

Then note and appreciate the gracious kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s gracious kindness to you—provided you continue in His grace and abide in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off (pruned away), Romans 11:22.

In the second half of the passage above, the apostle Paul adds a spiritual disclaimer. God’s grace and kindness is dependent upon how you exercise your free will. Those who abide in the fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, enjoy and partake in fellowship with God. However, if you indulge your sinful nature, the severity of God can be unleashed upon disobedient souls. When you consider the pros and cons, a complete picture of God comes into view.

[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents]. But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations], 1 John 1:6-7.

The disciple whom Jesus loved uses an analogy to paint his own picture of God’s true nature. Comparing a relationship with God to taking a walk, you have one of two options. According to John, each choice either represents light or darkness. Decisions inspired by the Holy Spirit result in blessings. On the other hand, poor choices influenced by your sinful nature bring spiritual darkness. The more you abide in Jesus, the clearer human minds become, able to envision a complete picture of God.

by Jay Mankus

How Bad Do You Want It?

To excel at a high level, many athletes join travel teams at an early age to maximize their full potential. Depending upon an individual’s commitment, desire and overall talent, coaches will push these rising stars to new heights. Parents will continue to fork over thousands of dollars each year with the goal of eventually earning a full college scholarship. The end result often relies on how bad do these student athletes want to compete at the next level.

Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?] 37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect), Matthew 22:36-37.

From a spiritual perspective, God uses free will to reveal who wants it more. Instead of forcing the earth to comply, God introduced the Ten Commandments to the nation of Israel in Exodus 20. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ opened the door for Gentiles to be welcomed into God’s family. For anyone who wants to excel spiritually, Jesus summarizes a primary goal: love God with all your heart, soul and mind.

Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, 20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

In a letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul adds another element to how bad do you want to draw near to God. Paul suggests that human bodies are on loan from God. Thus, if you want to reach your full potential as a believer, treating your body as a living temple of God is essential. Those who want it more spiritually will separate themselves via fruits of the spirit. Since talk is cheap, time will tell how bad you want to please God?

by Jay Mankus

The Desires of the Spirit

From my own personal experiences, many of the so called “spirit filled” churches that I have attended over emphasize certain spiritual gifts. Instead of teaching the desires of God’s Spirit, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gift of prophecy and speaking in tongues overshadow what God desires. Thus, I find myself as an adult who lacks the knowledge and spiritual insight to keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit, Romans 8:5.

When the concept of the Holy Spirit was first introduced to his disciples, Jesus refers to this Holy Ghost as a Counselor. Synonyms for counselor include advisor, confidant, guide and mentor. If this was Jesus’ ultimate goal, then I have been misinformed about the role of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, I need to simplify my understanding to an invisible counselor who yearns for me to become aware of the desires of God’s Spirit.

But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all the Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future], John 16:13.

The apostle Paul has provided a list below to visualize what God prefers. These fruits of the Spirit are desired actions, behaviors and character traits that Christians should seek to obtain. Mere Christianity written by C.S. Lewis contains two types of virtues, with the second only accessible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Cardinal virtues such as prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice are qualities that anyone can possess. Yet, the theological virtues of charity, hope and faith are limited to Christians.

But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, 23 Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus (the Messiah) have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires.

According to Paul, sinful appetites, desires and passions keep many individuals from every fulfilling the desires of the Spirit. Until your human flesh is crucified, dying to self, the ability to produce spiritual fruit is hindered. This may explain why many regions of the world are filled with darkness, void of any spiritual life. If you want to add flavor to the lives of those who you come in contact with daily, follow Paul’s advice by pursuing the desires of the Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

The Prompting

The term prompting refers to the action of saying something to encourage, persuade, or remind someone to do or say something. Promptings may be inspired by advice, conviction, inducement, peer pressure or the urging of a loved one. If a prompting is not immediately acted upon, this reminder fades away until a new sense of urgency renews a willing desire to act.

When we were living in the flesh (mere physical lives), the sinful passions that were awakened and aroused up by [what] the Law [makes sin] were constantly operating in our natural powers (in our bodily organs, in the sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh), so that we bore fruit for death, Romans 7:5.

According to the apostle Paul, spiritual promptings are often ignored, distracted by greater physical promptings to drink, eat or sleep. Instead of operating in the supernatural, most human beings spend a majority of their earthly lives chasing worldly passions. Due to strong fleshly desires, sinful passions are awakened and aroused, prompted by sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh. This explains the internal tug of war described in Galatians 5:16-18.

But now we are discharged from the Law and have terminated all intercourse with it, having died to what once restrained and held us captive. So now we serve not under [obedience to] the old code of written regulations, but [under obedience to the promptings] of the Spirit in newness [of life], Romans 7:6.

The only way to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit is by terminating all intercourse with the flesh. If you are confused by my analogy, I’m just quoting the passage above. The apostle Paul is simply suggesting that spiritual fruit is conceived by following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Colossians 3:1-9 is a good reference point, a call to die to self by setting your heart and mind and things above, eternal treasures. While ignoring physical promptings is not easy, the Spirit is willing to overcome a weak body, Matthew 26:41.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming Futile Thoughts

Futile is defined as a pointless effort, occurring when individuals are incapable of producing any useful result. Synonyms include fruitless, ineffective, of no use, vain and worthless. After reading the passage below, I began to wonder, what causes sharp minds to become dull and futile?

Because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and godless in their thinking [with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations] and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves], Romans 1:21-22.

A letter written to the church of Galatia illuminates how thoughts become futile. The apostle Paul uses the expression clear and obvious when referencing fleshly acts and practices in Galatians 5:19. A list of these ungodly acts follow in verses 20-21. At the end of these traits, Paul suggests that those who live according to their sinful nature will not inherit eternal life, sliding further and further away from God with each indulgence.

If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit,] Galatians 5:25.

So if you find yourself in this unfortunate state, how do you reverse this trend? Where do you turn or what can be done to become fruitful and useful once again? At the end of Galatians 5, Paul introduces the concept of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. Instead of gratifying sinful desires, obedience to the fruits of the Holy Spirit brings life. As soon as Christians understand their obligation to God’s Spirit, Romans 8:13, futile thoughts can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t easy, but can be done with prayer and fasting along the way.

by Jay Mankus

Inactive, Missing Something or Unplugged?

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you, John 14:6.

When I read the New Testament, I see a Holy Spirit that is far greater than modern times. The seminary I attended nearly two decades ago used the rationale of a special anointing limited to first century Christians. According to Acts 2, the Day of Pentecost enabled apostles and disciples of Jesus to speak in foreign tongues, restoring communication barriers created during the building of the Tower of Babel. When these apostles and disciples passed away, this special anointing of the Holy Spirit disappeared.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come, John 16:13.

The one problem with this theory is that Jesus never mentions 2 different outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Jesus compares the Holy Spirit to a counselor, guide and helper. While certain denominations get caught up in debating the validity of speaking in tongues, perhaps the lack of a powerful Spirit lies within. Maybe a lack of spiritual fruit is a symptom of a far greater problem. From my perspective, the Holy Spirit’s full potential has been minimized due to one of three scenarios. Either I am idle, inactive in my faith, missing something like a post baptism transformation or I am unplugged, relying on my human nature instead?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law, Galatians 5:22-23.

The apostle Paul confronts this issue in a letter to the church at Galatia. According to Paul, there are two invisible forces at work: the Holy Spirit and Sinful Nature. During a letter to the church at Rome, Paul suggests that your mindset will dictate which force you will follow. Until modern believers dedicate themselves to practicing first century spiritual disciplines, the Holy Spirit will remain a unrecognized force. If only I could tap into this power, my camouflaged faith will be unveiled. May this blog inspire other believers to develop a spiritual hunger for God’s Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Being Open to God Calling an Audible In Your Life

In the context of sports, an audible occurs when a quarterback changes an offensive play at the line of scrimmage. When a quarterback reads the defensive scheme on the field, if the designed play is destined to fail, an audible serves as a backup plan. Audibles put players in a more favorable position to succeed if coaches allow players to improvise. However, if this freedom is not permitted by coordinators or the head coach, stubbornness will lead to failure.

A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them, Proverbs 16:9.

This same principle applies to the spiritual realm. According to an Old Testament prophet, God has a plan and purpose for every human life, Jeremiah 29:11. However, if individuals aren’t teachable, open to God’s will for their life, minds often take human beings in a different direction. This fact inspired King Solomon to refer to God’s audibles, using trials and tribulations to alter human steps back into the right direction. This is how God’s Spirit realigns and reconnects mankind back toward the Creator.

If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit], Galatians 5:25.

The apostle Paul adds to this concept in a chapter about the fruits of the Holy Spirit. While the sinful nature, human desires, pull people in the opposite direction of God, the Holy Spirit calls audibles day after day. As followers of Christ begin to discern, listen and understand whispers from God, you can keep in step with the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, I find myself too busy, distracted and pre-occupied with my own life to listen. If I would only be open to daily audibles called by God, blessings, success and victories would follow. May this blog inspire you to keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

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