The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Missing the Fullness

“And they did not drive out the Canaanites . . . .” – Joshua 16:10

God has given us “exceedingly great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4). But it is possible to miss out on the fullness of those promises. God had promised to give His people the Land of Canaan (Joshua 1). In the New Testament Jesus promises abundant life (John 10:10). Why is it then that our life as a Christian so often feels less than abundant? In Joshua 15 through 19 we are given insight into some of the causes of Missing the Fullness of God’s promises.

People miss out on the fullness of God’s promises because of ingrained enemies. In Joshua 15 we are reminded of the good example of Caleb who did experience the fullness of the promise of God’s blessing in the conquest of the territory allotted to him by God (Joshua 15:13-15). “Caleb drove out” the giant impediments to the promise of God. But in verse 63 we are introduced by way of contrast to the first reason why God’s people sometimes miss out on the fullness of His promises. It states, “As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.”  An ingrained enemy is one reason people don’t’ live in the fullness of God’s blessing. Here we see one of the reasons people don’t live in the fullness of God’s blessings. We are told that the children of Judah were unable to drive out the Jebusites. The Jebusites inhabited Jerusalem. It was historically a well-fortified city. The Jebusites were able to withstand efforts to besiege the city because they had built a water shaft that kept the city from dying of thirst. It wasn’t until the reign of David that the Jebusites were defeated (2 Sam. 5).

There are strongholds in our life that sometimes take a prolonged period of time and effort to defeat. Victory is assured (e.g. Rom. 8:37-39). But victory may not come instantaneously. This is one reason for people not experiencing the fullness of God’s promises. Like Jerusalem under the Jebusites there may be a tunnel that this enemy is using to funnel and feed itself so that it remains in place. Like David we need to identify the source that the enemy is using to feed itself and cut it off. Is there an enemy in your life? Are you allowing a tunnel of some kind to feed it? The way to victory is to cut off the source of feeding for your entrenched enemy.

People miss out on the fullness of God’s blessing due to incomplete efforts. In Joshua chapters 16 and 17 we are given the boundaries of the Land of Promise apportioned to the two tribes of Joseph. And in Joshua 16:10 it states, “And they did not drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites to this day and have become forced laborers.” An incomplete work keeps us from the fullness of God’s blessing. In verse 10 we are told the tribe of Ephraim did not follow God’s commandment to completely remove the inhabitants of Canaan (Deut. 7). They allowed pockets of enemy presence to remain in the land. We are not told this was because of a particularly strong enemy resistance. We are simply told they did not drive out these Canaanites. They settled to making them forced labor.

There are times when we think we know better than the Lord. There are times when we think we can take and use those things God has forbidden for us. That always leads to problems and less than God’s best. It results in living in less than the fullness of God’s blessing. It’s important to pay attention to and carry out God’s word in detail; in its fullness. Fully keeping the word of God is the way to experience the fullness of His blessing. God doesn’t bless short cuts, half-hearted, and incomplete sloppy efforts.

People miss out on the fullness of God’s promises because of an eye-for-more. In Joshua 17:1-13 give us the boundaries of the half tribe of Manasseh who did enter the Promised Land. (Remember that half of the tribe of Manasseh decided to take their portion outside the Promised Land – Numbers 32:15). The half tribe of Manasseh who did enter the Land and receive an allotment came to Joshua with a complaint: “Then the children of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given us only one lot and one share to inherit, since we are a great people, inasmuch as the Lord has blessed us until now?” 15 So Joshua answered them, “If you are a great people, then go up to the forest country and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and the giants, since the mountains of Ephraim are too confined for you.” 16 But the children of Joseph said, “The mountain country is not enough for us; and all the Canaanites who dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both those who are of Beth Shean and its towns and those who are of the Valley of Jezreel.” 17 And Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh—saying, “You are a great people and have great power; you shall not have only one lot, 18 but the mountain country shall be yours. Although it is wooded, you shall cut it down, and its farthest extent shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots and are strong.” (Joshua 17:14-18). These verses show us that, an eye for more can keep one from experiencing the fullness of God’s blessing.

There are times when we miss out on God’s blessing because we mistakenly seek more outside our lot before we take what is ours in the land in which God has placed us. God had given the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh their lot. They were dissatisfied with what God gave them. They felt they deserved more. Therefore they went to Joshua and complained and asked for a greater inheritance. Joshua’s response was to acknowledge they were indeed a great people and that they would indeed be given more land, but that the land they would be given was not elsewhere but right where they were.

Sometimes we miss the trees for the forest. Sometimes we fail to see what God is giving us right where we are because we are looking (lusting) for more elsewhere. This is a version of the-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side mentality. There are times when we are looking for more land before we have completely taken and experienced the fullness of what God has for us where we presently are situated. There are numerous example of this in life. Like the child with two fists full of cookies who cries for “More cookies! More!” There is the person who cries for a promotion before they have proved themselves in their present position. There is the person who church hops to find a spouse when God may have provided their mate right where they are in their local church. There is the person who feels called to be a missionary to the world when they have failed to win their local neighbors. This more-mindset that keeps us from the fullness of God’s blessing is rooted in pride, presumption, a pressure to achieve or get more, a spirit of entitlement, and a general dissatisfaction with what God has given them.

This hindrance to the fullness of God’s blessing also involves a subtle laziness or lack of passion to take the land God has given you. Ephraim and Manasseh didn’t want to put in the effort to take land that would require a battle against giants. They had to be reminded by Joshua that, “You are a great people, and have great power; you shall not have only one lot, but the mountain country shall be yours” (Joshua 17:17). In other words Joshua said, “You are great and you will receive more, but you will have to work for it in the power the Lord has provided.”

It is also rooted in a misunderstanding about how greatness is defined. Alan Redpath correctly comments:

“Greatness . . . has everything to do with faithfulness to the Lord and constant, persistent endeavor after holiness of life. . . . Are you constantly discontented with your present lot? Do you often pine for greater opportunity to serve the Lord? Is your heart set on some mission field? For it may be that the searchlight of God’s Word will disclose that the enemy is still deeply entrenched in your soul. May the Spirit of God point out to you that perhaps you have not really possessed the lot which God has given you. . . .

 As God speaks to you today, do you not see that the real trouble in your life may be, not that you have not enough scope for your gifts, but that you are not living to capacity where you are? Satan is still sharing the land with you. You may want to leave him behind and move on to greater things, but that is never God’s way. You can strain at the leash just as long as you like, but God’s Spirit will hold you back and focus the searchlight of the Word on your life. He will keep you where you are until you have occupied and lived to capacity just there, and until – in the place in which you are serving, in the lot that He has given you, up to the capacity of your heart for Christ - the enemy has been vanquished. [1]

Have you been seeking greater land from the Lord, different land? Seeking an escape from what God has given you? Perhaps He has work for you to do right where you are.

People miss the fullness of God’s promises because of neglecting to apply those promises. In Joshua 18 it states, “Now the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them. 2 But there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes which had not yet received their inheritance. 3 Then Joshua said to the children of Israel: “How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers has given you?) Joshua 18:1-3). The tribes assembled to worship at the tabernacle of the Lord. But Joshua said there was something wrong; something was left out. They came to worship but they neglected to apply what God had told them. It is good and very important to attend church, worship the Lord, and take in the teaching of His word. But if what is taught is never applied it becomes worthless! Joshua identifies this lapse and problem and exhorts the seven tribes who hadn’t yet taken possession of their allotted land to do so.

We can attend church and study the word of God regularly, but if we never apply in the Spirit what the Spirit has shown us, it is worthless. Without applying what the Spirit teaches and what God promises in His word, we are rendered impotent; a gelding; we become spiritually constipated and bloated. We have to apply in life what is learned in the sanctuary or in our quiet times with the Lord and His word. Failing to apply God’s word in life will result in missing the fullness of the promises of God in life.

Joshua countered the neglect of the seven tribes by sending out three men from each of the seven neglectful tribes to survey the land (Joshua 18:4-7). When we fail to apply or take hold of the promises of God we need to survey the land; restudy what God has promised; and be re-inspired by remembering just what God has promised us.

Joshua sent out the surveyors and they “wrote the survey in a book” (Joshua 18:8-10).  It’s a good thing to write down and record God’s allotted land and promises of God. That helps us know just where we are to apply those promises.

Joshua 19 provides the boundaries for the remaining tribes. Joshua’s personal boundaries for his allotment of land are given in the last part of Joshua 19 (verses 49-51). Notice that Joshua took his allotment last; after the other tribes had received their allotment from the LORD. Joshua was a servant leader. He led by serving God’s people. He was not out to fleece the flock of God but to feed them the promises of God. That is the way of a godly leader. When the Spirit is leading through a leader, that leader will be driven to serve and sacrifice for those God calls them to lead. That is the way a leader leads his people into the fullness of God’s blessing. And that is the way we will experience the fullness of God’s promises and blessing.

More often than not we miss out on what God has for us because of self-centeredness, greed, pride, the flesh. It’s fitting that Joshua received his portion last. He becomes a beautiful Christ-type here as he fulfills the New Testament exhortation to, “Let nothing be one through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil. 2:3). This is the Christlike mindset we should have (cf. Phil. 2:5-11). Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” (Luke 9:23-25). God has more than Land for you to possess. His purposes are more than temporal; they are eternal. Ask yourself, “What are God’s eternal purposes for me?” Seek His will and ask that question, and you’ll experience the fullness of His blessing.


[1] Alan Redpath, Victorious Christian Living, (Calvary Chapel Pub. Santa Ana, CA 2007)   pgs. 181f.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Giant Breakfast!

“Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread” - Numbers 14:9a

Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there,” -  Joshua 14:12a

Do you live in defeat? Do you cower and tremble in the shadow of giant problems in your life? Do you live in fear? There is an antidote to defeat and fear. God calls us to “Walk by faith and, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Fear is the giant foe of faith. Fear is the consequence of walking in our flesh by sight rather than by faith in God. God wants you to grow in your faith and surprisingly allows giants, giant problems in our life to feed our faith. Giant obstacles are really giant opportunities to grow in our faith.
Let’s get some context about a historical character named Caleb. The first time Moses brought the people to the precipice of the Promised Land, he sent twelve spies into the Land. After scoping out the territory they returned with a mixed report. They all admitted the Land was prosperous and fruitful; just what God had told them. But ten spies, (who remained nameless)  focused on giants that were also in the Land. The sight of these giants struck fear in their heart as though they would be squashed like grasshoppers.  Their hearts melted (Joshua 14:8). Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, acknowledged the giants but had faith in God. In the flesh or self-reliant world majority rules and so the people fearfully rebelled against God and refused to enter the Land. This faithless faltering was a huge affront to God. He showed that they hadn’t learned a thing from all the provisions and protections of God to that point. God had delivered them from the giant world power of Egypt (Exodus). God had provided manna and meat and water from a rock for them (Num. 11; Exodus 17). But they chose to fear instead of have faith in God. As a consequence God judged them unworthy to enter the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb were spared this discipline and would one day enter the Land (Num. 14).

Fast forward forty five years and the next generation of people, led by Joshua, had made a triumphal crossing of the Jordan and conquest of the Land. It was time for the people to be  apportioned the Land (Joshua 14:1-5). “Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal.” (Joshua 14:6). Gilgal, the place of rolling, is where God’s people were circumcised; where they threw off the flesh and rolled away self-effort and committed themselves to follow the Lord and depend on His strength. It was here that Caleb came to claim his allotment of the Land.

The faith we see in Caleb as he comes to Joshua to take his portion is the kind of faith we should emulate. He shows us how to make minced meat out of the giants in our land. In Joshua 14 Caleb tells his old partner Joshua, “You know the word which the Lord said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. 8 Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the Lord my God. 9 So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ 10 And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. 12 Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.” Then it states, “And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as an inheritance. 14 Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel. 15 And the name of Hebron formerly was Kirjath Arba (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim). Then the land had rest from war.” (Joshua 14:6-15).  

Caleb was 85 years old and yet he testified, “I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me” to spy out the land from Kadesh Barnea 45 years before. At 85 Caleb wasn’t worn out, he was raring to go. When you walk in faith in the Lord it results in a spiritual vitality that is lasting.

Joshua had been assessed by God to be “old and advanced in years “ (13:1). A much different description is given of Caleb. Hebron was where the giants lived! At age 85 Caleb was willing to take on the hardest most challenging part of the land; giant infested Hebron! Forty-five years before he was ready to go get those giants. He’s waited forty-five years and never lost his passion to go after the giants. That speaks volumes about his walk with the Lord and his faith in God. Do you have that kind of faith that trusts in the Lord even though there may be giants lurking nearby? 

  The name “Caleb” means bold; impetuous, a dog, whole-hearted, hearty. He was loyal to the Lord like a faithful sheep dog is to its Shepherd. He went where His master told him to go. That required faith. When we look at these verses about Caleb we learn some valuable truths about how to gain victory over the giants in life.  

First, Caleb didn’t rest on past victories; he pursued with passion God’s Promised Land (14:6-9).  Caleb could have said, “Hey, I was one of only two guys that got it right the first time we approached this land. You need to compensate me and let me sit back and enjoy my retirement.” He could have said, “I’ve been faithful all these years. Don’t I deserve a part of the Land that’s trouble free?” Instead he had a passion for God’s purposes. He wasn’t intimidated by giant obstacles; he sought them out! We should pray that God keep our passion for His purposes strong. Are you pursuing the giants God has allowed in your life?

Second, Caleb trusted in God who he knew loved him (14:8). Caleb “wholly followed the LORD my God” (14:8b). His heart didn’t “melt” like those who had no faith but only fear (14:8a). He loved the Lord and that love made him secure in whatever lot the Lord gave him. He knew that because God did love him, that He had his best interests at heart. He could trust God because he knew God loved him. Because God loved him, and by faith he received that, he could rest his will in the will of His loving LORD. Do you love God like that?

Third, Caleb didn’t see age as a limitation. Caleb knew “The LORD has kept me alive” (14:10). If that was the case, Caleb felt God must have a purpose for him. He boasted that at 85 he was as strong and ready for battle as he was when he was 40. That’s supernatural God given strength. But that’s also a supernatural eternal perspective on life. Are you letting your age quench what the Spirit might want to do in and through you? We shouldn’t let age and cultural mores limit how God wants to use us. As long as God gives us breath we should seek how He wants to use us. And when our strength is in the Lord, it will not wane; keep being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

Fourth, Caleb’s faith rested in God (14:10-11).  Caleb believed God was just as able to work through him at 85 as He was at 40. That’s because Caleb rested in the fact that the battle belongs to the Lord not an 85 year old (cf. Joshua 10). If the battle belongs to the Lord, then we can boast in our weakness and know when we are weak, He is strong in and though us (cf. 2 Cor. 12:8-10). It’s about God, not us.

Fifth, Caleb accepted God’s lot for him (14:12a). Caleb didn’t rebel in dissatisfaction at God’s lot or portion of Hebron. He didn’t run from God’s call. He wasn’t afflicted with the grass is greener on the other side syndrome. He didn’t flee in dissatisfaction or fear. He accepted God’s lot for him with gusto. If God gives us a portion, He will bless and bring victory in that area. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. So often people rebel against God’s lot in life for them. Discontent can be a great barrier to God’s blessing. Learn to joyfully and passionately accept God’s lot for you and attack it with everything you’ve got. Are you accepting God’s lot in life?

Sixth, Caleb relied on God’s word (14:12b). Caleb expressed his faith in God’s word saying, “It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said” (14:12). “As the LORD said,” was good enough for Caleb. If God said it, that settled it for Caleb. Do you have the same trust and confidence in God’s word? Do you rely on God’s word? Soes God’s word settle it for you?

Seventh, Caleb knew that going after giants would bring him closer to God (14:13). Hebron means fellowship. Hebron was a land filled with giants. Is there a connection between fellowship with God and giants in the land? Taking the land filled with giants was no easy venture in faith. But Caleb new (and probably the secret to his vitality) was that tackling the giants in life causes us to depend on the Lord; fellowship with Him. Giants bring us closer to God!

The first time Caleb had faced the giants he returned to Kadesh Barnea from spying out the Land. 10 of the twelve spies gave a fearful report concerning the giants in the Land. But Joshua and Caleb said, “Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them” (Num. 14:9). 45 years later Caleb is just as courageous and zealous to tackle these giants.

“They are our bread.” What does that mean? It means that in some way these giants were nourishing; facing giants nourishes. How? Facing giants nourishes our faith and fosters deeper fellowship with God because it causes us to call out to Him, depend on Him; rely on His strength. Giants in life, giant problems, are what bring us into a deeper fellowship with God. That is why we are told to count trials a joy (James 1:2). That is why we are told that God causes all things, including giant problems, to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). Giant trials serve as spiritual nourishment. It helps us chew on the reality that, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). With God, giants are inconsequential. Giant issues build our faith as we learn to depend on God and experience His faithfulness. Giant problems are giant opportunities to make giant strides in our fellowship with the Lord. “He who did not spare His own Son, but  delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).

This was Caleb’s secret. He had an attitude that helped him soar to higher altitudes with the LORD. His faith enabled him to boldly assert, “Give me the mountain with the giants! They’ll be my spiritual bread. I’ll eat ‘em alive!” When Caleb saw the Anakim he thought Let me at ‘em! The secret to spiritual vitality is giant activity. Don’t run from giants in your life, attack them in the power of His might (Eph. 6:10). Step out in faith and fight the giants in the might of the Lord and you’ll find a deeper, stronger, lasting fellowship with the Lord. You’ll find victory!

Eighth, Caleb wholly rested his lot with the Lord and therefore found God’s rest (14:14-15). Caleb “wholly followed the Lord” (14:14). Even though Hebron was infested with giant Anakim, he tackled the foes in the strength of the Lord and took that land for the Lord and His glory. He did his best and entrusted the LORD with the rest. And in the end, “Then the land had rest from war” (14:15). The rest of satisfaction and accomplishment, the rest of freedom and securing faith, comes when we take on the giants and lay them to rest.

Are you living in the shadow of a giant or giants; big ugly intimidating giant problems? When you see them do you make a fast break in the opposite direction? When a giant stands in your path, do you brace to break fast under his attack or do you think breakfast? When you’re  opposed do ready for defeat or do you seek the God of peace to crush Satan under your feet? (Rom. 16:20). Are you a meal for your giants or are they a meal for you? Are you a coward in the face of calamity or are you courageous like Caleb? I pray we all have the courage of a Caleb. I pray we have the same confidence in God’s love that enables us to know and live in light of the certainty that God loves us and has our best interests at heart. I pray that like Caleb we trust the Lord and go after the giants in our life in the strength of His might. Time for breakfast; I’m hungry, are you? I could eat a giant! A giant breakfast!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Listen Online to WGSS 89.3 FM God Still Speaks

“To Him who rides on the heaven of heavens,  which were of old! Indeed, He sends out His voice, a mighty voice.” – Psalm 68:33

You are invited to listen to WGSS 89.3 FM – God Still Speaks – a ministry devoted to the Spirit of God using the Word and Worship of God to encourage and build people of God to the glory of God. This is a 24/7 all the time venture in faith to reach out to our world with the gospel as well as to edify the body of Christ.

To listen to WGSS 89.3 FM God Still Speaks programming online with your computor, IPhone, IPad, or other device go to and click on the WGSS button. Then choose from one of four options to listen.

For those of you in different time zones or who can’t get out to your own churches for some reason, or who are interested in the ministry of Pastor Claude and Calvary Chapel of Hope, you’re invited to listen online to our live WGSS 89.3 FM broadcast of services at Calvary Chapel of Hope. We broadcast live our Wednesday midweek service from 7:30 – 9:00 pm EST and our Sunday morning service from 10:30 am to Noon EST.

Again, to listen to WGSS 89.3 FM programming online with your computor, IPhone, or IPad go to and click on the WGSS button. Then choose from one of four options to listen.

We pray you are edified, encouraged, and blessed by the ministry of these services as well as the programming on WGSS 89.3 FM. We’d love to hear your feedback. Send us your comments, questions or suggestions to or . And of course you are always welcome to visit us face to face at Calvary Chapel of Hope located at 803 County Line Road, Amityville, NY 11701 / 631-224-1761 or 631-789-4837.

Please pray for us and this ministry. God bless you all! May the love of Christ compel you as you live for His glory.

In His service, by His grace, for His glory,

Pastor Claude

Pastor Claude T. Stauffer

Calvary Chapel of Hope

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Complete Sanctification!

“Now may God Himself sanctify you completely” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23a


Do you feel empty? Feel as though something is missing? Maybe you’ve accumulated a lot of stuff. Maybe you’ve pretty much reached your life goals and still, unexpectedly, there’s an emptiness. Why is that? Are you a Christian? You’ve turned your life over to Jesus as Savior and Lord but still, persistently, there seems to be an ongoing battle within. Do you feel weak spiritually? Are you wondering what next? What does the Lord want to do in my life?  The answer to these questions can be summed up with the words Complete Sanctification! God wants to do a deep and complete work in you. He takes the willing surrendered heart and works a miracle in it.

The last chapter of 1 Thessalonians is filled with a series of exhortations on how to be ready for the Lord’s return. This series of exhortations are a rallying cry for all believers. They crescendo in verses 23 and 24. In these two verses Paul punctuates his list of exhortations with some affirming encouraging words: “23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.This is Paul’s benediction and prayer. It is his expression of what he hopes to happen in the lives of the Thessalonians. He expresses this hope with the words, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely . . . .” The term “sanctify” (Greek hagiadzo) means to consecrate, set apart for God’s use, purify, or sanctify. The term “sanctify” interestingly, is grammatically in what is called the optative mood. The optative mood is used to express a very strong desire for something to come to pass. This is a rare grammatical form used to incorporate a possibility for something to come to pass but with doubt that it will.

In Romans 6 Paul uses the optative mood when considering the possibility that the Christians at the church in Rome would indulge in sin and abuse the grace of God. His response “Certainly not!” is in the optative mood and addresses his hope and desire that no one would entertain and indulge in such an abuse of God’s grace. Grace is not license to sin. We are not free to sin, but are made free from having to sin.

Furthermore, Paul uses the optative in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 to express  a situation in which a decision needs to be made, one in which it was possible to not be sanctified entirely by God or to surrender to God to be sanctified through and through. The word “complete” (Greek holoteles) means complete to the end, entirely, perfectly, absolutely perfect, or wholly. Paul’s desire is for a complete and total sanctification. This is God’s will for us as well.

Paul elaborates on the idea of complete or entire sanctification by adding the particulars of, “and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Human beings are a trichotomy; a threefold or three part being. In order to be whole, each segment of this threefold human makeup must be brought under the lordship of the Lord. Otherwise, no matter what human effort is made to complete and fulfill one or all of these three segments will only end in frustration and emptiness. To illustrate this it’s helpful to picture our human makeup as consisting of three compartments.

Compartment #1 – the spirit. The word “spirit” (Greek pnuema) refers to that part of us that is eternal and suited for spiritual life; eternal life. We are born dead in spirit (c.f. Eph. 2:1ff). We are born with our spirit empty. Sin has locked the door of this compartment of the human spirit. With this compartment closed off by sin, the human being will yearningly search for fulfillment of this are of their life. It is the nature of the spirit to worship. Therefore many search out worship oriented experiences to fill this void. Without the Spirit, humanity gropes around in darkness for fulfillment of the spirit part of their being. People almost subconsciously attend arenas where there is unity of worship-like responses. Sporting events, concerts, movies, where crowds join in cheers. I believe are oftentimes the product of the unsaved seeking subconsciously to fulfill their empty spirits.

God is merciful and is always seeking to get through to the unsaved spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts the empty spirit of humanity of their sin, unrighteousness, and pending judgment (John 16-11). By God’s gracious conviction of sin and drawing us to Himself we can receive forgiveness for our sin which lead to physical and eternal death (Rom. 6:23). All we need do is receive Jesus as Savior by faith; request and receive forgiveness of our sins from God through faith in Jesus (Acts 13:38-39; 26:18). When we trust in Jesus as Savior believing in God’s just and holy plan of redemption for sin through the atoning death of Christ on the cross, and then ask God’s forgiveness based on Christ’s redemptive cross work, God not only forgives our sin, but regenerates us giving us spiritual life through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus referred to as being “born again” (John 3). Without this spiritual second birth we remain empty and incapable of having an eternal saving personal spiritual relationship with God (Romans 8:9-10). But with this regeneration and indwelling by the Spirit, the Lord gives us an incredible eye-opening worldview of His eternal purposes (1 Cor. 2:9-14).

Once you’ve been born again and have the Holy Spirit indwelling you, there is a holy work He desires to do in and through you. For some it takes time to recognize the distinction between following and serving the Lord in mere human effort as opposed to following and serving the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. The disciples had walked with Jesus for three full years; seen Him feed thousands on mere morsels; seen Him walk on water, still storms, heal the lame, even raise the dead; and still Jesus instructed them that they weren’t ready to go out to spread the gospel. Jesus had breathed on them telling them to “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). The disciples had been born again and indwelled by the Spirit. But Jesus said they still required one thing before they were suited to go out in His name. They needed the Promise of the Father; the baptism with the Holy Spirit. It was only then that they would be ready to minister effectively (Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2). The same is true for us. Sanctification will lead us to the baptism with the Holy Spirit; empowerment for service. This is essential for ministry.

Complete sanctification involves making us aware of and cleansing us from the crutches of self that we try to rely on in ministry. Sanctification is God’s cleansing us from self-reliance and illuminating us concerning our need to rely on His power to serve. Sanctification in our spirit will lead to fulfilling us in His love (Rom. 5:5). It will lead to an overflowing love that will compel our every move (2 Cor. 5:14). And this will lead to victorious love since “love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:8).

Compartment #2 – the soul. The “soul” (Greek pseuche) is synonymous with the mind. This is where we think and reason. The soul is closely tied to the “heart.” Our heart and conscience are spoken of nearly synonymously – “who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them” (Rom. 2:15). The “heart” (Greek kardia) is the place of decision. Decision is the product of going through our mind, reasoning to some degree, and then choosing to accept or reject the overtures of the Lord, His word, His gospel. The heart is prone to wickedness from birth (Gen. 8:21). While it is difficult to discern the contents of a person’s heart, and we can only hope to know a very small tip of the unsaved iceberg of a heart, Jesus said that the heart’s condition is exposed by our words (Mat. 12:34; 15:18). That is why what we say is so important and that we will give account for what we say one day (cf. also James 3:2-12).

Our mind is bent on selfishness and sin. When we receive Jesus as Savior and are born again the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit begins the sanctifying work of transforming and renewing our mind (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23). There is a right way and a wrong way to think. We are to think like Jesus with a holy influence (cf. Phil. 2:1f.; 4:8-9). This leads to inner peace. This is part of the sanctifying work of God in us. We will only come to the palace of clarity of purpose and meaning when we come to God for compete sanctification.

We are born with a sinful deceitfully inclined heart or mind (Jer. 17:9-10). God alone knows our heart and mind. We can be deceived by our own heart or mind (1 John 1:8, 10). The devil deceives and blinds us by shooting fiery arrows of wrong thoughts and deceit (2 Cor. 4:4). God’s word is the Spirit’s means to help us get our minds aligned right (Hebrews 4:12). The word of God is a mirror that helps us know the truth about ourselves, others and the world around us (cf. James 1:22-25). The salvation decision introduces us to a sanctifying process which involves a life in which the Holy Spirit uses God’s word to transform our thinking from a worldly sinful rebellion against God kind of world view to a loving fully surrendered and sanctified by God and scripture oriented world view.

Compartment #3 – the body. Lastly Paul mentions the sanctification of our “body” (Greek soma).  When we run the flag of surrender up and receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, we give up our rights. We are no longer our own, we have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus. This involves understanding our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit who indwells us (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19-20). As stewards of these physical bodies, with God as the Owner, we should be seeking His will in what we do with them. There are some questions that we should ask that maybe we have taken for granted or overlooked in regard to our body: “Lord, what would you have me put into my body?” Steroids? Hallucinogens? Anti-depressants? Junk food? “Lord, is it Your will for me to pierce my body?” “Lord, what do You think about me indelibly marking my body? It is Your body. You indwell me with Your holy presence. I want to honor You with this temple.” Do you ask such questions? If I were to come to your house tonight and paint in bright yellow the words, “Pastor Claude loves you!” Those would be very loving words and meant to communicate a sincere message, but would they be welcomed by you? I doubt it. Similarly, there are many things we do with our body that perhaps wouldn’t please God. Perhaps we’ve acted presumptuously.

Some people make their body a god. They worship their body. They are meticulous about what they put into it and how it looks. But they never ask God what His will with their body. Some disregard any care at all for their body as though this was a sign of their spiritual maturity. They say, “God doesn’t care about my body.” Not so! He wants to sanctify your body! Ask Him how He wants to fulfill His sanctifying process with your body. As we learned earlier in 1 Thessalonians 4, we need to not use our physical bodies to gratify fleshly immoral and sinful pleasures, but use our bodies for the glory of God. This is the objective of God with our body.

And all this we should do to “be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “preserved” (Greek tayreo) means to guard from loss or injury by vigilance, to  watch so as to keep something from escaping, to maintain, to fulfill a command, to hold fast, keep, watch or preserve. Again Paul expresses his wishful desire through the use of the optative mood in the grammar. The term “blameless” (Greek amemptoce) means faultlessly, without blame, unblameable, blameless.

Paul’s desire is that the Thessalonians guard all the blessed spiritual treasure with which God has blessed them so that when Jesus returns, they will not be ashamed because of the guilt of sin such as the issue of not loving enemies or immorality mentioned earlier in his letter. Paul hopes for a deep, complete, and thorough sanctifying work of God in the lives of the Thessalonians. This should not be taken to imply a sinless perfection. John speaks of a sin not leading to death (1 John 5:16-17). There are situation where deep rooted or particularly difficult sins to overcome are only sanctified through a progressive struggle and battle in the power of the Spirit.

There is an initial sanctification that occurs when we first accept Jesus as Savior and are born again. Then there is an ongoing sanctifying process that continues through our lives as God works in our heart and mind to renew us. Finally, upon passing from this life to the next there is a glorification perfection of sanctification when we will be given new eternal bodies that are perfectly suited for an eternal environment in heaven.  

Lastly, the term “preserved” is in what is called the passive mood. In the grammar of the Greek this means that such a preservation is a work done on a person from outside forces. In other words, it is God who does this work (e.g. Phil. 2:12-13). That is why Paul follows this benediction with the encouraging reminder, “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” Sanctification is not something we do; it is something we trust God to do in us. Let’s not forget that the beginning of this benediction is, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely.” Sanctification is a work of God in us. Our part is simply to surrender to Him, obey and trust Him to work.

Notice too that it is the “God of peace.” The word “peace” (Greek eiraynay) means to set at one again, rest, prosperity, or peace. God, the One who completes us, gives us rest, prosperity and peace, is the One who is our Sanctifier. And truly, God’s peace is indispensably linked to God’s sanctifying work in us. It is only when we are wholly set apart for Him that we are fully at peace. Our peace, rest and prosperity are in direct proportion to the depth and breadth of our sanctification. It is God Himself who does this in us.

It is the God of peace who Himself does a thorough and complete work of sanctification in us that brings us comfort, a unity of mind, love and peace (2 Cor. 13:11). It is the God of peace who crushes Satan under our feet blowing away all of his tactics to disrupt and disorder our lives (Rom. 16:20). Peace comes from applying God’s word and the example of His ministers in our lives (Phil. 4:9). It is this God of peace who is with us as we walk the sanctified life (Rom. 15:33).

Sanctification is something done by God’s grace through “faith” (e.g. Acts 15:8-9; 26:18; Rom. 1:17). God calls us to a new life of holiness (Romans 6). But if we try to live that holy life out in our own strength we will be enslaved to the law and a frustrating bondage (Romans 7). We need to surrender to the Holy Spirit by faith to work in and through us this sanctifying work (Romans 8). That is what Paul is speaking of in these verses. Sanctification depends on GOD’S FAITHFULNESS more than it does ours. We trust and surrender to Him. He does the heavy lifting. We trust in Him to make us all we need to be to do all He calls us to do, for His glory, until He returns.

Are you seeking and receiving by faith this entire and complete sanctification of God in your life?



Friday, August 2, 2013

Rest in Him

“Then the land rested from war” - Joshua 11:23

Are you exhausted? Do you feel like a loser in the race of life? Do you feel bitten in the dog-eat-dog rat race of the world? Are you a worldly war casualty? Are you striving for more and more always seems just beyond your grasp? Do you feel beaten down by the circumstances of life? Do you feel like the weight of the world is bowing out your legs and they're at a breaking point? Do the storms of life have you shaken and rattled? Do you fear the storm? Jesus is able to calm the storm and give you rest. He says, “Peace be still!” (Mark 4:39). “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). There is rest for your soul.

First off, the New Testament “rest” is a rest in the completed work of Jesus Christ. On the cross He cried “It is finished!” (John 19:30; Hebrews 10:12). Our righteousness, legal justification, and forgiveness for sin is complete in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 5:1f.; Eph. 1:7; Acts 26:18). By faith we rest in His work for our redemption. “Every spiritual blessing” comes in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Our victory is secure in Christ (Romans 1 Cor. 15:57; 1 John 5:4). We rest in the fact that our salvation and eternal life is secure in Him. We need not fear eternity.

But the reality of life is that while our victory is secure in Christ there are still battles to be won in this life. Our final resurrection glorification victory is still a ways off. So what is the “rest” God speaks of that we can enter into now? The conquest of the Promised Land by Joshua exemplifies aspects of the rest of the Lord. It states, “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had said to Moses; and Joshua gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Then the land rested from war” (11:23; cf. also 14:15). Similarly, Jesus gained the victory of redemption for sin on the cross; He bore our sins on the cross. Then He sat down at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19; Heb. 1:3; 10:12; 12:2). That is our reality in Christ. But there is also a very practical rest in Christ. It is possible to rest in Jesus even in the storms of life.

The Promised Land is typical of the conquest of our own heart. God calls us to take our heart for Him; to defeat enemy rulers in our heart that challenge His lordship. He promises victory in this endeavor. He states, “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3-4). Upheaval comes when we try to do this on our own apart from the Spirit. Then we struggle and strive and live a wretched way (Rom. 7:24). There is rest from that; rest in the Lord.

What is this rest of the Lord? Alan Redpath explains:

What kind of rest is it? It is certainly not the rest of exhaustion. . . . His is surely a rest of satisfaction. . . . The rest of the Savior is the rest of calm, the rest of poise, the rest of assurance, the rest of satisfaction, the rest from work that has been completed; all that need be done for the salvation of every soul has been accomplished, and therefore He has sat down. . . .

What is the effect of that rest in the Christian life today? . . . The work of God can never be done efectively until we learn to rest in His strength that He may mold us, until we learn to let the fever, the rush, the worry, and the excitement subside into the rest of Jesus. . . . It is the purpose of God in Jesus Christ to lift us every day of our lives above the grime and fog and conflict of daily living into the clear blue sky of the love of heaven and of the rest of Jesus. . . . .

The restful Christian is he who lives his life above the storm with Jesus. Oh, he is sensitive to sorrow and to the troubles of other people, but he is able always to discern the wisdom of God. He is willing to trust the loving heart of God and therefore is able in the conflict to await the unfolding of God’s plan. He is able to keep silent while he waits on the Word of God. . . . resting in Jesus. He is also the busiest man of all, going at such a speed you wonder that he doesn’t’ break down. The only answer he can give you is that as he has waited on the Lord he has exchanged his puny strength for the almighty energy of the Holy Spirit. The resting Christian – are you like that? I didn’t say the lazy Christian, I said the resting Christian: busy, keen, always at the work of the Master, while deep in his heart is peace that no storm, however unexpected, and no sorrow however miserable and hard to bear, can ever disturb. . . . [It is a] rest of assured forgiveness. . . . He has heard the cry, ‘It is finished!’ He listens to the Word of God – ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?’ (Rom. 8:33). [It is also] the rest of victory. . . . The child of God begins to see that Christ has done everything and to understand that Satan is a conquered foe, he finds rest and victory. He begins to realize that the devil cannot touch the life of the child of God who is resting in Jesus, for his life is hid with Christ in God. . .  

There is nothing – no circumstance, no trouble, no testing – that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment; but as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift my eyes up to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret, for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is. That is the rest of victory. . . . The Christian who is resting in the Lord is calm in every situation. . . . because the power of God is there in place of his own puny strength. . . . because he has surrendered his will to the will of God. [1]

Do you have that rest? It comes when we by faith rest in full surrender of our will and circumstance to the Lord. We do our best, but trust Him with the rest. “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:8-10). Stop striving. Stop fighting against the lot in life God has ordained for you. Serve Him where you are. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). God knows what He’s doing. Trust Him. Rest in Him.

If God wants to move you to different territory, He is able to move you. If He chooses to do so, cooperate with His will. If He keeps you where you are, cooperate with His will. Rest in the Lord. He has your back. He knows what He’s doing. Listen to the LORD, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” He’s got the hairs on your head numbered (Mat. 10:30). He thinks about you all the time (Psalm 139:17-18). He won’t forget your loving efforts on His behalf (Heb. 6:10). Just seek Him wherever you are and whatever storm you are in; He will be found by you. “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:12-13). Stop fighting God. End this war. Rest in Him.

[1] Alan Redpath, Victorious Christian Living, (Calvary Chapel Pub. Santa Ana, CA 2007)  pgs. 144, 145, 146, 147