Several years ago, when the Lord was delivering me from self-hatred, one of the things He said to me was “I created you on purpose for a purpose.” This was a paradigm change for me because I had always believed I had evolved from monkeys, so to hear the God of the universe, the Creator of all things say that He created me on purpose changed everything for me. He created me out of His love, intentionally, thoughtfully. I was no longer some accidental event caused by nature, taking up space on this planet, wandering and wondering why I am here. I was no longer an ancestor of some primate, but the workmanship of a loving and wonderful Father.
This heart revelation freed me from self-hatred and self-loathing which I had lived with from a young age. But without realizing it, a question lingered in my heart: “If I was made on purpose for a purpose, then what is my purpose?”
“If I was made on purpose for a purpose, then what is my purpose?”
Like most people, I spent a long time trying to find my purpose. I looked for it in all my roles as a wife, daughter, mom, career, and ministry, to find that I couldn’t find it. I kept waiting on God to reveal to me my purpose, wondering when I would begin walking in it, experiencing my purpose, thinking “will this ever happen? Tick Tock, God!”
It wasn’t until recently that I was talking to a friend who was struggling with depression, and as she talked to me I kept hearing her say “I feel like I don’t have purpose in life.” “I thought I had a purpose in ministry, but nothing seems to work out.” “I need to find purpose.”
And as I listened, I realized how familiar this sounded. It echoed of the same thoughts I had been experiencing myself for years. Purpose! What is it my purpose?
After leaving my friend, the Lord gave me a word for her. It was Matthew 3:17. Jesus had just been baptized by John the Baptist when the heavens opened up and God the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” I told her, “As Christ is so are you, therefore ‘you are God’s beloved child, in whom He is well pleased.” I gave it to her….. but I kept it for myself too.
As I meditated on it for the next couple of days I received my heart revelation.
“My purpose is not what I do, but who I am.”
My purpose is not what I do, but who I am. God created me on purpose for the purpose of being his beloved daughter in whom He is well pleased, the very same affections He has for Jesus! This means that my main purpose for existence is to be lavishly loved by the Father, to be the benefactor of His love and grace, to be the recipient of everything He has for me which was afforded for me at the Cross! Christ is the measure of God’s love for me, for as Christ is, so am I! All I need to do is receive His unending, unconditional, and generous love!
In an instant, my purpose was no longer “doing”, but instead “being”. Once again, this changes everything.
Now what I am finding is that I no longer feel the need to DO something in order to believe I have purpose. Nor do I feel the need to strive to make something happen. Instead, I am now seeing God open doors of opportunity for me to serve others. There is a huge difference between serving others out of the need for purpose and serving others because you know who you are and how loved you are.
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him…” (Genesis 1:27).”
As I was meditating on this scripture one day, the Lord gave me fresh understanding. He said “Man was created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27). So ALL that God is, man has an (intrinsic) need to be, and God is the only One who can satisfy that need abundantly.” We’re not just people who happen to have arbitrary needs and God so happens to be the answer to those needs, which is how I had been seeing it all along. No, it’s not like that at all! God created uswith these needs that perfectly match up to God’s attributes, His image because it was His intention from the beginning of time to be the fulfillment of all these needs. It’s a beautiful picture of Grace, God’s sufficient Grace! God created a demand in us that He purposed Himself to be the fulfillment of.
But we know how the story goes. Adam chose the wrong tree (The Law, self-righteousness, self-reliance) and man fell out of this perfect marriage with God, where God’s perfect Grace met all of man’s needs. Once Adam doubted God’s love for him, he gave into the temptation of trusting in his own judgment, his own mind, and he trusted in himself. And this resulted in shame and guilt, and ultimately the fear of God. Self-condemnation set in. Nakedness became the new form of lack. And as a result, self-sufficiency set in. “Self” became the main source for man getting his own needs satisfied. The perfect union of God and man, where man could freely receive from his loving God, and all his needs were met, was now broken. And from here on out, man has struggled trying to get back into this union through his own self-effort. Every person is designed with this need for God to be the Satisfier of their needs, even if they refuse to believe in Him.
But God provided the answer through another man – Jesus. When we put our faith in Jesus, and make him Lord and Savior in our life, we are immediately brought back into this perfect marriage, this union, that once existed in the garden. The perfection does not exist because of anything we do or offer in this marriage; it exists because of what Jesus offered. The Cross is where this beautiful exchange of all our human mess, gets judged and reconciled in the perfect body of Christ, and we in exchange receive His righteousness, His right standing, his relationship as son with the Father, accepted and loved, not to mention all the promises of God. Upon believing in our heart that Jesus died the death we should’ve died, we get the life He should’ve lived, including his image (2 Cor 3:18).
“it is like two sides of a zipper.”
The best way I can describe it is like two sides of a zipper. The right side is God, the left is man. The two sides were created to marry up and become one. Each tooth on the God side of the zipper represents an attribute of God. The left side represents man with all his corresponding needs. And they match up perfectly!
So when we sense a lack of identity and say “Who am I?”, The Great I AM says, “because you are in Christ, as Christ is so are you. When I look at you, I see you as Jesus, my Beloved, the apple of my eye. That’s who you are.”
When we lack purpose, The Creator says, “I made you on purpose for a purpose and you are fearfully and wonderfully made.”
When we long in our hearts to belong to someone, The Father says, “You are my son (or daughter), come to Me.”
When we need to feel validated, The Righteous One says, “because you are IN Christ by faith alone, I see you as blameless, white as snow, as perfect as Christ and I will remember your sins no more. I have given you MY righteousness and call you the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.”
When we are confused and feel like we are walking in the dark and don’t know what is true or what is false, The Truth says, “My Word is true and I am faithful to my Word. Follow me and I’ll guide in the way everlasting.”
When we feel unloved, Love says, “I love you so much I died for you even when you didn’t love me back.”
When we feel tired from working so hard, “The Provider says, “I am your Helper and Provider and I will sustain you.”
When we lack a sense of security or are filled with fear, The Protector says, “I am your refuge and your fortress, trust Me. Let me keep you under my wing. There is no fear in Love.”
When we get bad news from the doctor, The Healer says, “I am a creator of life, not death; I healed them all and I will never make you sick. Christ’s body is the source of your healing, for by His stripes you are healed. Just receive. And with long life I will satisfy you!”
When we have circumstances that are beyond our control, The Deliverer says, “Fix your eyes on me and I will carry you through the storm.”
When we feel full of strife, Peace and Joy says, “cast your cares unto me and let me take care of you. My yoke is easy. Rest in me. Peace and Joy I leave with you.”
When the accounts in our life seem unfair and unjust and we hold grudges in order to offset the scale of offenses, The Justifier says, “I forgave you completely. I will remember your sins no more. In Christ, there is no condemnation. Love does not keep track of your wrong doings. I am not mad at you, and because I do not condemn you, you are free to forgive others and not be offended.”
When we really messed things up, The Redeemer says, “I will make it right again, only better.”
And there are many more of God’s attributes, but the one attribute, the one title, that encompasses them all, is The Shepherd. The Lord is your Shepherd, you shall not be in want. You shall not lack for anything. (Psalm 23). Whatever it is you need, He already purposed Himself to be the fulfillment of the need He created inside you. He is our sufficient Grace, our all-supplying loving Shepherd.
“… it is through him [Jesus] that we become joined with God.”
So back to the zipper. The zipper slider that joins the two sides together is Jesus because it is through him that we become joined with God. The other verse that comes to me that supports this is John 14:20 where Jesus says to His disciples “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” When the zipper is completely fastened together, you can’t pull it apart. It’s one solid piece of fabric! It is the perfect union of Love.
Now consider this, without God, we still have the same needs. How do we meet them without Him? By striving and struggling and searching and grabbing for people and the things in the world to satisfy us, constantly in search of a fix. It may work for a little while, but it never lasts. The need is always there wanting to be filled. But when God is the satisfier of our needs, it’s like the need doesn’t exist at all. That feeling of wanting goes away. It is perfectly satisfied…”I shall not want! (Psa 23)”
“The more we receive from Him, the more we start to be like Him in every part of our lives.”
And the more we behold and receive the revelation of Jesus and His Finished work at the cross, we experience the fulfillment of the needs God created in us according to the likeness of His image. AND we are also continuously transformed into the likeness and image of Christ. The more we receive from Him, the more we start to be like Him in every part of our lives. As we receive, we take on His attributes, God’s attributes. What earthly father doesn’t find joy in seeing his kids take on his good traits? So if we humans feel this way about our own kids, imagine that our perfect Heavenly Dad enjoys seeing His own attributes in His kids as well, and even better, enjoys being the supplier, the provider and the fulfillment of His own attributes that HE placed in us. He is the fulfillment of the demands He placed inside of us.
God is Love, and it pains love not to give. He wants to share and impart His perfect love into us because it gives Him great joy!
This summer I took the kids to Topsail Beach for a day trip. It was a perfect day for playing in the ocean and digging in the sand and just taking in all the sunbeams. I am always taken back by the ocean as if I forget what it looks like after being away so long. It’s just so big and we’re so small as we wade into this massive body of water, hopping up as we go through the waves. And finally, we get past the shock of the cold water – you how it feels so cold around your mid-section? And then you know you just have to take the full plunge to stop the torture. But then, what was cold moments ago, finally seems warm and comfortable and refreshing.
“This is how big my love is for you.”
While we were out in the water, I just allowed my body to float with the waves, rising up and down, not trying to control anything, just taking it all in – the water, the sky, the wind and sun, and the sounds of the ocean. It was a lovely place to be. And as I floated in the ocean water, I felt the Lord impress on me “This is how big my love is for you.” He was referring to the ocean water. In that moment, I noticed every part of me was in contact with the water, His Love. It was a tangible feeling of being wrapped up in Him. And as I continued to meditate on His words, I realized the expanse of this Love was so big I couldn’t comprehend it. God’s love is just like the ocean. We can only see as far as the horizon, but we know the ocean extends beyond what our eyes can see. We know the ocean is deep, but we can only see the surface and can’t fully comprehend its depth. And to even try to wrap our minds around the amount of water that’s in the ocean, we truly cannot comprehend it’s volume. And here I was completely encased in His massive love.
As I pondered His words and took in all the sensations of this enveloping love, I remembered the Apostle Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19:
“14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom [l]every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the [m]saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
This has become the prayer of my heart lately: to be rooted and grounded in the Love of Christ, and to know in my heart a Love that surpasses my knowledge and to be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Every time God reveals Himself to me in some way, be it His favor, healing, deliverance, provision, protection, or receiving revelation of Him in His Word, my heart knowledge of His Love becomes greater and greater, and I find myself being more fortified in His Love. But I believe there is no end to that revelation of His Love for us. He has truly given us a Love relationship that has no limits. It’s breadth and length and height and depth are so great, just as the ocean surpasses the horizon and the depths go where man can’t, we can always continue growing in His love if we want to and never reach the end. His Love causes us to respond by wanting more intimacy with Him, which may cause us to wade a little deeper in those waters, going further away from the land where we can have a footing in our mental understanding of love, the human kind. The kind of love we feel and that appeals to our senses. But God’s love is not that way. It takes heart revelation to be able to abandon our senses, and know a love that is far beyond what we feel. And it’s not just one revelation, it’s a life-long series of revelations that build upon each other. And it’s not based on what’s happening TO us, but rather who is living IN us.
Here a Little, There a Little
Even the Apostles preached the love of God beyond what they themselves had experienced or had revelation. In Philippians 3:12-13, Paul says “Not that I have already obtained it [10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection] or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He preached the fullness and Love of God not because he already had the full revelation of it, but because God promised it, and so Paul knew there was more awaiting him beyond the horizon; he was just a heart revelation away from going deeper and wider in God’s Love.
He also says in 2 Corinthians 3:18 “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.” Even in Isaiah 28, God expresses our process of learning about Him as precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little. If He gave us the entire ocean to drink all at once, we couldn’t handle it, so He feeds us a little here and little there, building in us a greater revelation of His love, teaching us to trust Him and know Him as a partner to walk through life with. And it’s this love relationship that inevitably results in our supernatural transformation into His likeness, which then causes us to be able to love like Him.
So while God blessed me with this lovely experience in the ocean, that’s just what it was – an experience. I love experiences! Experiences are great and God wants you to experience Him. Experiences can propel us forward in our faith or just be a sweet reminder that God is near, but we can’t expect to walk with God solely depending on experiences. Experiences come and go and it’s at those times in between when we don’t feel anything, or maybe God just feels so far away, that we must choose to simply walk by faith, without all our senses being appealed to just knowing (believing) that we are loved by God by faith alone. In order to believe we’re loved though, we must be fully convinced He loves us without any doubt, and without any conditions.
“The only way to measure God’s love for you is to look at the Finished work of the Cross.”
So How Do We Know We’re Loved By God?
The answer is the Cross. The only way to measure God’s love for you is to look at the Finished work of the Cross.
“For God so loved the world [you], that He gave His only begotten Son [just for you].” (John 3:16) “… God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Rom 5:8-10)
Think about this. How much do you love your child? You’d do anything to save his life and protect him, wouldn’t you? Would you give up his life so that someone else you love could live? What about a great hero? Or Mother Teresa? Probably not. If you wouldn’t give up your child’s life for someone you love or deem worthy and deserving, you surely wouldn’t give his life up for an old boss you hated working for, or that relative that always creates turmoil in the family, or the bully in 8th grade, let alone the Hitlers and Castros of the world, even ISIS. But God did! He gave His only begotten son, His beloved son, so “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus died for people that would choose to never know him, with the hope that they would. That’s a love worth knowing and experiencing. That’s a love we as humans cannot comprehend. And it doesn’t stop there….
We Need Heart Revelation!
The more heart revelation of the Cross we have, the deeper our heart knowledge of the Love of God, and so the fullness of God fills us up. We move from a mental knowledge of God’s love, to believing He loves us just as He loves His son Jesus (John 17:23). When we know we have peace with God, we ourselves are filled with peace and no longer fear (1 John 4:18). When we know how much we’re forgiven and that there’s no condemnation in Christ Jesus, and God is not keeping a list of our wrong-doings (Mark 3:28, Rom 8:1, 1 Cor 13:5), we are filled with forgiveness for others. When we know our only source of righteousness is Christ and not our works, we are filled with the ability to not judge others or be easily offended by them (Rom 1:17). When we know we’ve been resurrected IN Christ and that as Christ is so are we in this world (1 John 4:17), we are filled up with all the attributes of God and the same power and authority Jesus has at the right hand of God’s throne (John 14:12-14, Heb 8:1). When you know He counts every hair on your head and he cares about the smallest of things having to do with you, you are filled with the intimate love of a Father (Psa 139:17, Luke 12:7). When you know that through faith in Christ, you went from servant to son and were adopted into His family, you are filled with a sense of belonging (Rom 8:15). When we see God as our Shepherd, we will be filled with the security of His provision and no longer be in want, but be in His rest (Psa 23). When we realize the value and worth of God’s son is the price He paid in exchange for us, we are ourselves are filled with worth and value. And the list goes on….. This is the revelatory precept upon precept, glory to glory, love relationship that builds over time with our Father, our Papa, our Abba, our Daddy. And the more we abide in and behold Jesus, this person of Grace, His Love changes us, transforming us into His image! You become who you focus on!
We Must BELIEVE We Are Loved!
1 John 4:16-18 says “We have come to know [a knowledge grounded on personal experience] and have believed [to think to be true, to be persuaded of, place confidence in] the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides [remains or dwells] in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
It’s not enough to just know that God loves you, but you must believe it too! You come to believe through practice, through renewing your mind (Rom 12:2). You have to practice being loved by reminding yourself and being conscious that God loves you even when you don’t feel lovable. John did this by calling himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” You can do that too! And because God promises He’ll never leave you nor forsake you, His love never stops being directed at you. Ever!
At the very moment we place our faith in Jesus, the place where we abide, our dwelling place, changes from “in the world” to “In Christ”, but this fact has to become real to you. God is Love. To abide in Christ, is to abide in Love. So a big part of abiding in Christ, is practicing God’s love for you and believing it in your heart. So you must train your heart in His love for you.
Abiding in God’s love is much like basking in those ocean waters. It’s being there on purpose. It’s feeding on Jesus, meditating on Him and allowing His identity to become yours. It’s allowing yourself to be held and loved by your Father and resting in His strength and good intentions toward you. It’s being conscious of how massively big His love is just for you, experiencing and savoring it, and being changed by it. It’s having your whole identity wrapped up in His love for you, and knowing that both will never change. And it’s knowing that God has an endless supply of His love for you and not only desires to give it to you, but He already did give it to you… at the cross.
So, now I’d like to share with you a testimony of healing in my own life. A beautiful miracle, an encounter with God that changed my life. While there are lots of healing testimonies I can give, this particular one stands out for me. And I think it really showcases God’s grace when we take hold of Psalm 139 and just believe in God’s character. Believe God is who He says He is! He is faithful to His Word.
I was 36 when I finally began to let God into my messy life, which upon giving Him the green light, He went right to work! God began a major healing process in me. He set me free from self-hatred, depression and suicidal and destructive thoughts. He gave me a revelation of His forgiveness which released me from the shame and guilt caused by my past. He gave me a revelation that I wasn’t a mistake or evolved from a monkey, but that He created me on purpose for a purpose. “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” (Psa 139:13-14) I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God Himself. God began establishing me in a new identity as His own, completely different than the one the world and life circumstances and my worthless opinion of myself had given me. He began replacing the lies I had believed all my life about myself with who HE said I was, and I found Jesus’s words to be true – the Truth DOES set us free! (John 8:32)
In the midst of this healing process though, I noticed I was still struggling with overwhelming feelings of jealousy that seemed to just come out of nowhere without any warning at all. It would come about as an intense physical and emotional reaction, like a powerful wave that would rise up on the inside of me, and I’d feel so out of control, unable to stop it. I couldn’t figure out why this was happening, and I wanted to be free from it, but didn’t know what to do about it. So, I took it to the Lord and prayed these words, “God, I don’t know why, but you do. You know me better than I know myself. You know all the whys behind the whats. I ask you to show me why I experience this jealousy and I choose to trust that you will reveal it to me in Your perfect timing”.
That night and over the next few days, I started getting flashbacks. Memories kept coming up where I had experienced this same jealous reaction. I saw situations that rose up throughout my entire life involving my relationships with roommates, people at work, family members, and friendships from my teen years up through adulthood. I could for the first time see there was a common thread in every single situation – I feared beingreplaced. The Lord showed me my intense reaction to the news that my brother-in-law was getting married, and realizing that the security I had found in my husband’s parents who had taken me in like their own daughter was crumbling, because now they were going to have a second daughter. I saw myself once again as being replaced which caused intense and uncontrollable feelings of jealousy that lasted for two years. It was horrible.
Finally, the Lord showed me where it all began. It was when my father started a second family. I was 13. Without mentally processing this or verbalizing it, my heart which was already wounded from my parents’ divorce, perceived this new family as my replacement. And so the lie was born. The Lord also showed me my wedding day and how I didn’t invite my father or even tell him I was getting married, but instead gave my stepfather the honor of walking me down the aisle to give me away. I had replaced my father. Hurt people hurt people. Replaced people replace people. I had unknowingly done to my father what I had perceived he had done to me. It all made sense! I could see it all so clearly now!
So even though God was revealing all this to me, I didn’t know what to do with it. But I felt a great need to just be alone with the Him. So I started praying out loud and sharing with God all that He had revealed to me (as if He didn’t know) and then said “I don’t know what to do with all this.” And I just sat there.
Suddenly, I heard the Lord speak so clearly, it was almost audible. He said in the most comforting voice, “Praise me for you.” I knew that wasn’t my own thought because everything inside of me rejected those words – it totally went against my grain. How could I praise God for me?!?! I felt frozen in my chair unable to budge, a deer in the headlights. A command like that was hard to obey – it was uncomfortable. But God said to do it. So I got down on my knees and began praising Him … for me. It was hard at first, but eventually my praises flowed into thankfulness and recognition for the beauty that was in me, the special details He created in me that made me unique and special to Him. I praised Him for the wonderful creation He made when He made me. When I was all done and couldn’t think of anything more to say, I just continued to sit there on the floor drying my tears.
And then the Lord spoke again! And I will never forget it! He said, “You cannot be replaced.” The God of the universe, the creator of all things, the One who made me out of His own imagination and love, just told me Himself I couldn’t be replaced! My heavenly Father spoke to this lie I believed by telling me His opinion of me, which couldn’t be argued. God got the final say and what He says is TRUE! I just fell into a puddle of tears, crying out of me all those years of pain, as His words washed over me.
Not long after this encounter with the Lord, I realized I needed to forgive my father. While he didn’t intentionally try to hurt me, I still needed to forgive him so I could be free. I forgave him for causing me to believe I was replaceable. I forgave him for causing me to believe that I was less than what God said I was. I began speaking the Truth about who God says I am and taking claim to it! And as I forgave my dad, I could feel the wounds melt away, I was released from their power – I was healed. And as time continued on I could see the fruit. I was free from jealousy, free from those dreadful episodes, free from that insecurity I had in my all relationships. And even my relationship with my father began to heal too. And now years later, having put these things behind us, we can finally be a father and daughter.
As I have grown in my walk with God, I can now look back on this experience and really see the true character of our heavenly Father in the person of Jesus.
Jesus healed them all! (Luke 6:19; Matt 12:15) And it was after He healed them that they repented. He healed them into repentance. He forgave them into forgiveness of others. He loved them first so that they could love others. He blessed them into blessing others. God healed and loved and forgave and accepted me first, and my response to that love was to forgive and love much those who wounded me (Luke 7:47). God’s healing love that day lead me to “repentance”, to come into agreement with what He says about me, and to forgive my dad! Romans 2:4 even says that the kindness of God leads you to repentance.
Remember this: God’s Grace is never dependent on what you do; it’s solely dependent on what Jesus did. You don’t need to qualify yourself to receive from God because Jesus is your qualification. Don’t wait until you get your act together and think you’ve been good enough long enough. He is the answer to your messiness. His Grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9) Go to Him in your weakness and you’ll find His strength.
I will end this now with a prayer for you, that hopefully, possibly, the Lord is wooing you now to trust Him with your most protected treasure – your heart. I promise you – He can be trusted.
I pray you will see the burden is too heavy to carry any longer, and just believe Jesus’s words, that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt 11:30). I pray that you can find rest in your Heavenly Dad (Heb 4:10), who promises He will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb 13:5). I pray you will discover the expanse of His love for you (Eph 3:18-19) and come to see yourself as He sees you and be changed forever. I pray your heart is softened and willing to invite Him into your broken parts and that you allow Him to search you, and to know your heart; to Try you and know your anxious thoughts. And see if there be any hurtful way in you, And lead you in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24) Amen
I was reading Psalm 139 today, a psalm that has been so healing to me over the years. “Oh Lord, You have searched me and know me”, a beautiful opening to the living words that follow. “You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.” Oh how the Lord knows everything we do, and He knows all our thoughts! “You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.” And He not only knows what we’ve done, what we’re doing, and we’re going to do, but He fully understands our heart’s reasons why we do it! “For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.” Even when we can’t articulate the heaviness in our hearts, or we can’t produce the question that we need answered, He knows it. He knows it all! But somehow in our limited understanding of our own inner workings, we fear being vulnerable, we fear being exposed because in our minds, if we let the monster out of its cage we won’t be able to get it back in there. We will be face to face with the very thing we’ve shoved deeper and deeper into the abyss of our heart, relying on time as our healer. But really, this feeling of being vulnerable before God is really just a lie we buy into, as though He will reject us when He finds out what we’re hiding beneath all our protective layers. How can you be vulnerable with a God who already knows everything about you? The very One who can help you, is the One you avoid.
To come into the realization that you don’t have to fix yourself, you don’t have to figure it all out, that you don’t need years upon years of psychotherapy, but instead, can find everything you need in THE Counselor Himself who knows us in the most intimate way is completely life changing. Even when our self-constructed fortress of coping mechanisms is in place to protect ourselves, even when we keep God at a distance and deny Jesus access into our mess, God still knows the inner workings of our soul. Even when we choose everything else besides Him to be the answer, He knows. He knows our stories, He knows our thoughts and all the whys behind the whats, and even if it takes a lifetime, He will continue to woo us into His goodness and loving-kindness so that we can be touched by Him. We can be healed and changed once and for all. To be whole. It is His great pleasure and desire to hide you inside the safest place in existence – His love. As I was reading along, I came upon Psalm 139:11-12:
“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelmme, And the light around me will be night, Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.’”
That word “overwhelm” translates in the Hebrew as “bruised”. So many of us walk through life with a bruised heart that was caused by the darkness we’ve experienced in our lives. These bruises can ache so intensely or just maintain a dull existence with an occasional outburst to remind you it’s still there. They can bother you to the point of needing relief, even forcing desperate measures, which many times come in the form of antidepressants, alcohol and drugs, toxic relationships, busyness, you name it. And you may find a quick fix in some of these vices, but somehow the pain always manages to rise back up to the surface. It becomes a repeating theme in life, the very thing about ourselves we don’t like but can’t seem to change. But what seems like darkness that’s overwhelming you, or bruising you, is never too dark for God. Be it light or dark, He has searched you and knows you and He can see it all. Nothing is hidden from Him! And as the psalmist says “Darkness is not dark to Him”, because He is bigger and more powerful than any of our brokenness, yet so loving and tender and patient and comforting that when invited in, He will come right into our pain and deliver us, as if the wound never existed in the first place. He doesn’t just take it away, but He replaces it with something so much greater – His Love.
The hope that we have for this healing of our bruised hearts is found in the prophetic words about the anticipated Messiah, Jesus, in Isaiah 53:5:
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.”
And then again in Luke 4:18-19 as Jesus reveals himself as the fulfillment of this promise that had been given hundreds of years earlier in Isaiah 61:1:
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
This very promise Jesus proclaims is fulfilled at the Cross where He took OUR bruises and broken hearts and oppression, so that we could be free and be made whole. The Cross is God’s ultimate show of His love for us, in that He judged every sin, every curse, every sickness and death in the body of Jesus. Jesus took the judgement we deserved, the punishment we should’ve had, so that those who put their faith in Him and His finished work, receive ALL that Jesus deserves being counted as righteous and forgiven, fully blessed and treated by God as though we are Jesus himself. Because as Christ is, so are we in this world (1 John 4:17). It is not something we keep trying to get, but it’s something we already have. Just receive it freely knowing that Jesus did it all for you and there’s nothing more for you to do except to see it is finished – just believe and receive!
As I meditated on this next topic to write about, I asked the Lord for a picture because I wanted to have artwork to include with the writing. And He replied with an image of His Bride running in a three-legged race with Jesus.
The topic is Unbelief, and so I thought how perfect a way to show how right believing keeps us in step with Jesus. When our stride is in sync with Him, we are sure to win the race. When we fall out of sync, mainly by doing things in our own effort, we fall and the rewards at the finish line take longer to get to. We get frustrated! The distance is the same, but the timing becomes longer. Trying to get back up again is harder than just remaining in stride with Jesus.
Think about all the training you’ve had all your life to believe a certain way, be it according to the way the world believes, political views, your family values, or as religion has taught us, etc. We are called to “not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. In order to run this three-legged race with Jesus, one’s mind must be renewed by training it to come into agreement with him and his finished work. We need to intentionally renew our minds, and then the heart will follow. It is my prayer and my hope that this message touches you and challenges you in a way that will stretch your heart to a bigger capacity to receive from God whatever it is you need in order to run the three-legged race with Jesus.
I Do Believe! Help My Unbelief!
We’re all probably familiar with these words of the helpless father from Mark 9:24 “I do believe. Help my unbelief!” I used to think that what this was saying is this: “I do have faith! But not enough faith for________! So help me have more faith Jesus!” I would hear people say “I’m believing for __________“ as if they are having faith for it, so naturally, I assumed the two were the same. But I have found differently. Belief and faith are not necessarily one in the same. Let’s look at the story more closely.
In Mark 9:22-24, when the father of the possessed son came to Jesus he desperately begged and said “But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” and Jesus responded “If You can? All things are possible to him who believes.” Then in verse 24 the father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” How does this man say two contradicting statements in one breath? To answer that, we need to define this word: unbelief.
Thayer’s defines Unbelief as this: Withholding belief in a Divine Power; or in the power and promises of God; in the divine mission of Jesus; by opposition to the Gospel; with the added notion of obstinacy; weakness of faith. Strong’s definition uses the word unfaithfulness and also disobedience, which I will also expand on in a little bit.
Unbelief is pretty serious. Unbelief is false belief, or simply put, LIES, and lies do not line up with the True Word of God. It is possible to have right beliefs at the same time you have false beliefs. The problem with false beliefs, or unbelief, when it comes to the walk of a Christian, is that they reflect a false image of what we are believing about God, and this impacts the way we approach Him, the way we see ourselves, and the way we live out life. Unbelief makes it difficult to have faith in God’s promises or to approach Him in Truth, not as webelieve He is, but as Hesays He is. Unbelief causes us to put our trust in ourselves, while Faith causes us to put our trust in God. It doesn’t matter what our belief is. If it doesn’t line up with God’s Word, God will never change so that we can find comfort in our wrong believing, which means you will continue to struggle and be frustrated until YOU change to be in agreement with God. You will fall in the three-legged race. It’s very frustrating living this way. But as they say, the first step to fixing a problem is identifying that there is one!
So in this story of the father with the possessed son, he probably had a false belief that sometimes God heals, sometimes He doesn’t, or no one really knows the mysteries of God because He’s so unpredictable! Maybe He only heals if you’ve been good enough, or have proven that you take good care of your body by eating all the right foods and exercising, or maybe you haven’t prayed enough or begged enough. I’m guessing the father had seen the miracles Jesus had done for other people which would explain why he says to Jesus “I do believe!” He believed with his mind because he saw with his eyes, but his heart responded differently. Have you ever finished the father’s sentence in your own mind, or even dare to speak it out loud – “I do believe you CAN heal, Jesus” but then like the father, finish with “BUT WILL YOU HEAL ME?” This Jesus who is God right in front of his eyes, in the flesh, does not match the image of God he has in his heart. Like many Christians, he may view God as a condemning God, or that God caused this demonic possession because of generational sin or to teach him a lesson, or God is holding judgment against him, or he’s not worthy, not good enough or acceptable enough. Maybe when he gets his act together, God will bless him then. We have so many erroneous ideas about God, mainly because of what we’ve been exposed to in our youth, and what we’ve been taught according to other peoples’ wrong belief systems, not excluding church. We lack the true knowledge of God and therefore we perish. We remain sick, we fear God and stand at a distance and never really get to know that we are loved, accepted, and are everything that Jesus is because we are in Him. We miss out on the experience of a true relationship with God and don’t get to know Him for who He really is.
Unbelief and the Hardened Heart
False beliefs can be hard to change because they are guarded and protected by a hardened heart. We may have a false belief that is so ingrained in us that we can’t even consider anything new. Take a look at the disciples. Immediately after they finished feeding the 5000, they got in a boat and landed in a storm. They see Jesus walking on the water, approaching the boat he gets in, speaks to the storm and the winds stop! They are “utterly astonished, amazed” and the scripture says in Mark 6:52 that “they had not gained any insight [or they considered not] from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” How, after seeing Jesus feed 5000 people from so little food, they can’t believe the same Jesus can calm a storm or walk on water. This no different than the father with the possessed son.
When our hearts are hardened, we are unable to receive or consider new information, even if it’s scripturally proven, because it doesn’t match what we believe and so we reject it. Our false belief trumps Truth in many cases. Our belief system is the filter we experience life through. And if our hearts are hardened and unwilling to consider that possibly what we are believing is false, we will hold tightly to that false belief and suffer because it causes us to lack intimacy with our heavenly Father. And it also causes us to live less than victorious lives.
Unbelief Produces Disobedience and Unrest
In Hebrews 3:18, regarding the Israelites in the wilderness, scripture says “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” While the Israelites didn’t have Jesus, we do! And our rest is immediately available at the very moment we put our faith in Jesus. But it’s possible to believe in Jesus, be saved for eternity, and at the same time have a distorted version of Jesus, or a distorted version of God, rooted in false beliefs or lies that keeps us from entering the rest that has been promised to us. We stay wandering in the wilderness. We strive and struggle and live in our own strength and abilities, putting our trust in ourselves. Did you know that one of the definitions of the word “disobedient” is “unbelief”? When we have wrong believing about God, it produces disobedience by default. How can you obey the One you can’t trust? So when you find yourself unable to obey, you need to stop and ask “What am I believing about God that keeps me from obeying Him?”
Something else that I think is quite interesting is in 2 Cor 10:4-5: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” Even here, we are instructed to pull down STRONGHOLDS – LIES, FALSE BELIEFS – because they exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. And what do we do with those lies? We take them captive, which is basically actively thinking about what you’re thinking about, and then bring those thoughts to the cross. Jesus was obedient to death on a cross …. And for what? So you could be free. It is important to know all that he died for, what he accomplished at the cross, what was actually “finished”, so that you can compare your thoughts and beliefs to that work and see if you are in agreement with God or not. We must replace the lies we believe with Truth. (I have every intention of discussing this in more detail, but first I must lay this ground work.)
Anytime I have read this scripture, I would always leave off verse 6 because I didn’t understand it…until now. It says “and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” I thought this was referring to behavior. But now, because I just defined “disobedience”, I see it’s talking about Unbelief, or again, false belief. Once you believe correctly, you can discern good and evil, and punish every false belief, and every false doctrine that negates the finished work of the cross. Your obedience is fulfilled when you believe right. Think about it: when you believe right, you can trust God. When you can trust God, you have no trouble obeying Him.
Unbelief Produces Double-Mindedness and Doubt
A false belief also attributes to doubt. Jas 1:6-8 says “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” To doubt is to be double minded. It invokes fear, question, and hesitation and causes us to waver in opinion, to choose between two things, to be uncertain and of two minds. It also means dubious, which means vacillating, moving two ways, fluctuating, wavering in opinion and undecided between two things:our false belief and God’s Word. Not a good recipe for a three-legged race, is it?
If the foundation is built on false beliefs, the materials we use to build the building do not hold up. If you believe God gives sickness and disease, then you cannot build upwards saying “By His stripes I am healed”. That is what double-mindedness looks like. How can you speak words of prosperity over your life and believe for financial breakthroughs when your foundation is set up for you to be on welfare or that the only way to get ahead is to work really hard or to marry someone to take care of you?
Unbelief can be so subtle…and sooooo familiar. You may be certain that what you’re believing is true, but as soon as you notice doubt creeping in, that is a tell-tale sign that unbelief is hiding in the shadows. Don’t ignore it, or you could continue living a life of subtraction instead of addition! Or a life of sickness instead wellness! Poverty instead of prosperity! Fear instead of peace of mind! Curse instead of blessing
Unbelief is Spiritual Adultery
When I was researching the word Unbelief, I was surprised to find another word that also has Unbelief listed in its definitions. That word is Infidelity. Such a profound finding! And so true!
Infidelity is a strong word, but watch this: Infidelity is disloyalty to a lover or spouse. Sound familiar? Infidelity comes from the root word infidel, which means “not to be trusted.” In my own words, it also means “not evenly yoked or walking in step with the one you are married to.” If we are married to Jesus, and can’t trust him, or believe falsely about his character and promises, or are unwilling to allow our hardened hearts to be softened and changed in order to come into agreement with Him, we commit spiritual adultery! We find a lover in the Law, man’s works, or self-reliance. If Jesus isn’t our answer, then the only thing left is our own works.
So when Jesus says “ALL things are possible to him who BELIEVES.” Or when he says “But he must ask in faith without any doubting,” or “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him,” He really means that you can get what you ask for!!! But it’s our wrong beliefs about him that keep us from trusting our Husband and send us searching elsewhere in our own abilities to get the job done. We don’t trust, because we have a false-belief foundation!
Have a B-Attitude!
So how do you uncover your false beliefs? I find the answer to this in the Beatitudes (read Matt 5:3-11). Have humility. Be humble. Be teachable. Be willing to be wrong. Seek God’s righteousness, not your own. Be lowly. Don’t say what the prideful Pharisees would say: “I know”, but instead, trust in the Lord with all your heart; Don’t rely on your own understanding – you’re mind! And position your heart to receive.
God has good intentions toward you. He loves you! He desires closeness with you. Eradicating the false beliefs we have about Him only brings us closer to Him, so of course He will not hold back when you ask Him for His Truth. He is waiting and longing for you. He has rest for your soul. If you are willing, He will give you everything you need in order to know Him intimately and in Truth. If you are willing. Come to him with a Spirit of Sonship – He is your Father who wants to teach you. Picture Him as the Dad who is running alongside you as you learn to ride a bike without training wheels. Come to Him with a teachable heart. Trust Him. Allow Him to challenge your beliefs, whatever that might look like, however much it hurts, and know that God has only good things for you! Be willing to be undone so you can be built up with an unbreakable, unmovable, sound foundation so you will stand firmly and not stumble and fall as life happens. You will find yourself running that three-legged race with ease.
When I look where I started compared to where I am now, I am amazed at how much God has changed me. But I still have a ways to go. I’m still learning and being changed into the likeness of Jesus. And the more I know about his character, and what his death on the cross means for me, and the more clearly I see myself in Him, the easier it is to run in agreement with him and receive from Him all the promises of God. His way is much better!
There are so many lessons from the early church that we can learn from and apply to ministry today. Nothing is new under the sun as far as the ways of man, the ways of the devil, and then of course most importantly, God was, is and always will be the same. Knowing that is helpful, because we are guaranteed to at some point be tripped up by or at least faced with the same pitfalls the original church, and even the Apostles faced. So it is vital to look at the mistakes of the past in order to prevent them from repeating in the future. It is also important to remember, that although culture and civilization have evolved, the Gospel is still the same today as it was 2000 years ago and we need to always stay true to it if we want God’s anointing and blessing on our ministries, and to be able to affect peoples’ lives and effectively build into the Kingdom of God.
Here I want to discuss the foundation of ministry which is presented 1 Corinthians 3:9-17. The Apostle Paul, “the expert builder”, is addressing the church in Corinth regarding its deviation away from its original foundation Paul had laid when he first established the church there. He emphasizes that no other foundation but the one of Jesus, the finished work of the Cross, can be laid down, and that what is built atop this foundation must also be in alignment with the finished work.
As ministers (be it parents, Sunday school teachers, missionaries or mega church pastors), we must be careful what materials we build with because a day of trial and testing, or fire as Paul puts it, will come and it will reveal if a person’s ministry is sound and lined up with the Gospel of Grace. And those that are not, will burn up. We should be glad the fire comes, so that we can continually grow in our walks with God and get rid of any wrong believing that hinders us and the people we minister to. Hebrews 12:6 says “For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” Be willing to be corrected and as Paul says in verse 18, that we should become fools so that we can be wise.
The Building Materials
In verse 12, Paul lists the building materials that are used in ministry. He begins with materials that can withstand fire. One being costly stones, which is referring to the gems on the breastplate that Aaron, the High Priest wore over his heart. (Exo 28:15-21, 29). Aaron was a type of Jesus in the Old testament, and today Jesus is our High Priest. These stones in the Old Testament represent the tribes of Israel and today represent God’s people as well (Isa 54:11-12), because that is where He keeps us, positioned close to His heart. Seeing God’s people the way God sees them, as valuable, precious stones affects the way the builder builds. How does God see us? When He looks at us He sees His son Jesus, and that’s how we need to see God’s people as well. This minister will build his ministry with silver (redemption in Christ) and gold (God’s divine righteousness). When fire is applied to these materials, they maintain their value and never change – gold will still be gold, silver will still be silver. These are an absolute, without a doubt, MUST when building into God’s Kingdom and His people.
On the contrary, Paul also lists combustible materials. Wood being one which represents man as corruptible flesh (Psa 1:3, Jer 5:15). When a minister builds a ministry while viewing God’s people as wood, they are most likely to chase after sin in the church. And this translates to building with hay and straw, which are man’s dead works, self-effort and selfish motivations – these building materials will burn up in the fire. Jesus is also called the Cornerstone. If you build with any cornerstone other than Jesus, the building will eventually fall.
Building Upon the Finished Work of Christ
So what does this sound foundation and building look like in real life? First we must look at the Cross and see what was actually finished there, because that is what God’s final say is about every aspect of our lives. All our sin, sickness, disease, and curses were all judged in Jesus’s body AND in exchange for Him taking the judgement for those things, we, by faith in Christ alone, freely receive God’s righteousness, justification and forgiveness, acceptance, protection, prosperity, provision, health, healing, long life, favor, wisdom, adoption with a spirit of sonship, a royal priesthood, all the promises of God, and the ability and freedom to approach our Father with boldness. As Christ is, we as believers are too (1 John 4:17). This is the ministry of silver, gold and costly stones – establishing people in their identity in Christ and God’s righteousness.
These ministries are Christ focused and Jesus takes center stage. He is magnified as the main topic, and not just the bookends of a sermon. They teach that receiving from God is not based on what man does, but on what Jesus did, and fortifies his flock in their identity in Christ and the gift of righteousness. They see God’s people as righteous and forgiven and accepted and that’s how they treat the flock, and the flock will see themselves in this way. These ministries multiply.
You will see their flock experiencing healing, miracles and victories and are on fire for God. And their perception of God is “He is always with me, He will never leave or forsake me”. They can stake their lives on His promises and His character. They grow spiritually by leaps and bounds because they operate in God’s supernatural Grace, being changed from the inside out. They experience a victorious and peaceful life (no matter the circumstances) and wholeness in every area – a Grace filled life, securely without vacillating, walking in the promises of God, expecting to be blessed. They experience Jesus as a light burden and his yoke is easy. They rest in the finished work of the Cross, the sufficiency of His Grace, the very revelation the Apostle Paul had, and no longer strive and struggle at the Christian life. They no longer beat themselves up over sin or even struggle with sin, because they are more righteousness conscious than sin conscious. Holiness is the fruit and not something to achieve. They are firmly established in their new identity and authority in Christ, knowing full well what Jesus afforded them, and they stand IN Christ at the right hand of the throne, the place of victory, with full assurance they can stake their lives on God’s promises through Christ. This is what it means to abide in Christ. Receiving the promises of God through Christ’s finished work and not through man’s dead works.
Burnable ministries on the other hand, put the main focus on man. When man takes center stage, everyone becomes focused on sin, and will apply the Law as the remedy, which the Apostle Paul addresses adamantly in Galatians, calling it “another gospel”. And because keeping the Law becomes the source of man’s righteousness, ministries like this are legalistic and condemnation is the poisonous result. They preach abiding in the Law and dead works more than abiding in the finished work of Christ, where sin has been conquered. This results in man cleaning himself up before approaching God. It creates a sense of insecurity as to whether you’re acceptable to God or even loved by Him. You’ll hear statements such as “I must pick up my cross daily” (a misused scripture) as if Jesus didn’t do enough for you, or “The Holy Spirit convicts me of sin” which there is no scripture to support this and is completely contrary to the finished work of forgiveness of sins. These beliefs make God feel distant, legalistic and ready to punish, as though He is maintaining a list of your wrongdoings (read 1 Cor 13:4-7 on love). Being sin conscious also manifests outwardly as judgement not just toward people in the church, but also with the world, unbelievers. Does the Starbucks red cup debacle sound like a fitting example?
Burnable ministries will cause uncertainty and double-mindedness. You’ll hear statements such as“If it is God’s will that I be healed, then He will heal me” or “sometimes God allows you to struggle with sin in order to make you rely on Him more” or “God allowed this bad thing to happen in order to glorify Himself.” You’ll hear things like “God gave me this disease in order to teach me a lesson” ….. or “God gave you that baby and He can take it away.” God is made out to be a child abuser, because anyone who bases God’s goodness toward them on their good deeds, they will always fall short, feeling guilty and expecting to be punished for it. God is viewed as a condemner, a judge with a long stiff arm that says “stay away”.
These ministries will burden people with 10 step lists and programs that focus on sin, to support you as you change your behaviors to be more Christ-like. I once read about a ministry for women who were addicted to pornography named “Dirty Girls”. While the intention of the ministry is good, it is a perfect example of how a minister views the flock as wood and is also chasing after sin – this truly is no different than labeling lepers as “unclean”. God doesn’t label us as alcoholics or drug addicts either! God sees His people as sinless, white as snow, as if they are Jesus Himself. And most Christians who are suffering in habitual sin (one study estimated 50% of Christians are addicted to pornography), truly have no revelation they are forgiven, and in right standing with God – that they are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. They are buried in condemnation and shame instead.
Ministries that teach you’re not forgiven, that you’re only saved by Grace and then you have to work at maintaining it, or that you can lose your salvation, or that your standing before God is dependent on you, are all negating the Cross. Ministers in this pulpit are condemning, legalistic, controlling by nature, and fear driven. Anyone who ministers this way believes God is also this way. Anything and everything that negates the finished work of the cross – It’s all burnable!
Additionally, the flock will be full of struggles and unable to withstand the storms of life. People who were considered “pillars” or “strong in the Lord” or a “great man of faith” will crumble and burn when faced with bad news, and no one will understand how this could be. Think about all the pastors who take their own life. People will look and say “well if she, a strong woman of God, can crash, what could happen to me?” And this leads to trying to explain away God in an effort to defend Him or even reconcile God to our own erroneous beliefs, which really is just an effort to defend and maintain an unsound foundation, a foundation not built on the finished work.
The flock will also be tossed to and fro at every wind of doctrine, never truly knowing what to trust about God, and it is evident in the way they live out life. There is doctrinal confusion and conflicting ideas about what is Truth. They mix Old Testament doctrine with the New, putting new wine in old wine skin. Keeping the Law is their source of righteousness with some Jesus sprinkled on top. And because this recipe of self and divine righteousness doesn’t work together, like oil and water, self-condemnation is the result. And condemnation is the source of so many problems in the church and here is the evidence: sickness, disease, depression, divorce, adultery, suicide and suicidal thoughts, habitual sins such as pornography and drug addiction, legalism, judgement, guilt, shame, condemnation and hypocrisy. The fruit is the evidence of what building materials were used. And even if the ministry doesn’t die, the people within it will….spiritually, and sadly, sometimes physically. Condemnation kills. Period.
Think about how many people you know who grew up in church, may even be saved and believe in God but “want to take a break from Him.” And then there are those who once believed in Jesus and now no longer believe, or Christians who became atheists, teenagers who become wayward and rebellious, or adults who become backsliders. These people were fed with combustible materials. Something bad happened, and because there was no establishment of gold, silver and precious stones, everything burned, and that person found they could no longer maintain a belief in a “God that would allow these things to happen” or they just gave up “trying to be a good Christian”, and the only thing to do is just dismiss Him.
Have you noticed that the section on burnable ministries is so much longer than the section on ministries built on the finished work of Christ? That’s because the Cross is not complicated – it is simple and perfect. Leave it to man to turn the Cross into a bureaucracy with lots of red tape and hoops to jump through! Burnable!
Destroying the Destoyer
Verse 17 says in the amplified “17 If anyone destroys the temple of God [corrupting it with false doctrine], God will destroy the destroyer; for the temple of God is holy (sacred), and that is what you are.” God, in His Grace, will shut down false ministries, shut doors of opportunity, shrink congregations, decrease funding, etc, as a way to preserve His Church, His people. Anything that negates the finished work that Jesus accomplished at the Cross is false doctrine. The fire mentioned in verse 13, will come in the form of trials and testing, and it WILL “test the quality of each man’s work”, so make sure what you’re building with lines up with the finished work of Christ, the Gospel of Grace and Peace. Fire is discipline, and Hebrews 12:11 says “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” See? “The peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Gold!! Be trained by this discipline and don’t allow pride to be your fall. Welcome to the process of sanctification!
Now, because ministers, or any imperfect person for that matter (everyone!), can only give what has been given to them, they may truly be innocent and completely unaware that they are feeding wood, hay and straw to you. They may think they are doing the right thing. And remember that God knows the motives of man’s hearts and He is a just God to correct in love – He knows our ignorance and what we are blind to. But if correction and repentance are refused, there are serious consequences that may lead to being removed from a position of leadership or even worse, negatively affecting other people’s lives.
As a student Christian, which is ALL of us, you should always research what you’re being taught and not just passively accept whatever doctrine is fed to you. Don’t rely on doctrine just because your family has passed it down to you, or a close friend told you, or the pastor told you on Sunday, or you read it here. This is so incredibly important! It is irresponsible and dangerous to just eat whatever is given to you without testing it. Test everything and filter it through the Cross. If God says it’s finished, then it is most definitely without any doubt, finished. If God says your forgiven and He’ll remember your sins no more, and you choose to believe that, a block of silver was laid down! If God says you’re the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, and you believe it, a block of gold was laid down!
Test doctrine by doing the following:
read scripture in its full context (consider audience, speaker, reason for speaking, cultural significance, uses of symbolism, time frame in relation to the Cross)
compare it to other scripture because God is consistent in His Word and character.
ALWAYS view it in relation to the Cross and what was accomplished there. (i.e. a curse is now a blessing)
And always look to God to teach you through His Living Word.
So take responsibility for yourself and make sure you not only see yourself as a precious stone, but you are treated like one too, and that your heart and beliefs about God are fortified in God’s divine righteousness and the redemptive power of the Cross. Be a Barean who “with great eagerness, examin[ed] the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)” So be sure to examine the scriptures! I find when I am studying scripture, God will send confirmations and fill in gaps of missing information, that help me know I’m on the right track, so just know God is with you when you study.
The Blood Covenant of Salvation
One last thing that is very important to note: Paul says in verse 15 that “if it (ministry) is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through flames.” Loss could be a child who falls away from the Lord, or a life of struggle and defeat, with no peace or joy, or it could be as drastic as a ministry being shut down. Even if your ministry or components of your life are burned up, (which I would hope that would be an eye opener that something just ain’t right) it doesn’t change the fact that you are still saved. Not just saved, but loved by a good Dad, and a Dad who redeems our failures and loss. By faith in Christ alone, you are saved. And Jesus even says, that no one (not even yourself) can pluck you from His hand (John 10:28). That’s our God – He won’t break His blood covenant of salvation! “It is Finished!”
Building up the body of Christ "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." Ephesians 4:13