We need to hear what God is saying in every circumstance.  There have been tragic times in history when God didn’t speak.   After King Saul sinned and lost the anointing, the scripture says that Saul could not hear from God either by prophet or by a dream from the Lord or by the Urim. (I Samuel 28:6)  There was a three-week period when Daniel prayed and cried out before God, but heard nothing back. (Daniel 10:10-13)  Then, there were four hundred years between the Old and New Testaments when God remained silent because there were no prophets in the land.

 It wasn’t that God didn’t speak, it was that men just weren’t hearing.  It wasn’t that God was not speaking; it was just that God was not speaking to Saul.  It wasn’t that God was not speaking to Daniel, but there was interference between God and Daniel so that the message was just not getting through.  It isn’t that God didn’t say anything between the Old and New Testaments, it is just that no one was in the position to listen.

 Many times, God’s speaking is like radio and television waves.  There are radio and television waves blaring all around us but, without the proper receiver tuned into the correct frequency, we cannot hear the broadcast.  If we tune in the receiver, we will receive it.  The radio waves are going into our ears, but they are at frequencies that our eardrums cannot pick up.  The radio waves must be transformed into frequencies that are audible to us.  The same is the case with God’s speaking.  We need to learn how to tune in and hear.  When we learn to hear Him, we will begin to mature into His likeness.


Faith, the scripture tells us, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)  Faith is like a receipt for merchandise that has not yet been delivered.  Faith is not the actual item; it is the paid receipt that says that it’s a done deal, even if the manifestation is still on the way.

 I had a roommate in college who wore such thick glasses that the lenses looked like the bottoms of pop bottles.  When we took his glasses off, his eyes were so crossed that we couldn’t tell which of us he was talking to.  When we had prayer with all the guys in our house every night, he would ask everyone to pray that his eyes would be healed.  One night during our prayer, the Holy Spirit just dropped inside of me, “Bill’s eyes are healed!”  From that moment on, I knew that I no longer needed to pray for Bill’s healing; instead, I just needed to thank God for Bill’s healed eyes.  About two weeks later, his eyes were totally healed, and he has never had to put those glasses on again.  There was an entirely different dimension that came into me when I got that “paid receipt” for one set of healed eyes.

 We enter into the fourth dimension by faith.  In this dimension of faith, there is substance and evidence.  It doesn’t match with the reality of the three dimensional world, but there is a substance – the faith substance that we have received by believing God’s promise.  “Confidence” is another term that John uses to define this same experience.

 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. (I John 5:14-15)

 Faith is substance; faith is evidence; faith is confidence.  To be confident, we must know the will of God.  If we don’t know the will of God, we could be asking for things outside His will.  However, it is possible to know and be sure of the will of God through the Word of God.

 Faith is also trust.

 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. (Hebrews 11:11)

 There is a trust that enters in and goes beyond the three-dimensional world.  Even though Sara had not physically felt or seen that child, and she was beyond childbearing years, she counted God faithful to His word.

 The promises of God are “yea and amen.” (II Corinthians 1:20)  His promises are doubly confirmed.  God didn’t say, “Maybe”; He said, “Yes.”  Then He added to his affirmation a second assurance with “Amen”!  How does the fourth-dimensional reality of that “Yes” and “Amen” get into us to the point that we have confidence, substance, evidence, and assurance?  Paul tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  When he says the “Word of God,” he uses the word rhema – the specific spoken word of God.  Faith comes by hearing the specific word of God – not just a generic word – but a specific word from God.

 During World War II, there was a message given to the Army Air Corps in Pestwich, Scotland.  President Franklin Roosevelt was to make a visit at any time and a coded message was used to alert the air tower of such top-secret arrivals.  One night the tower received a message, “Big dogs arriving at 0600.”  So the next morning as the plane arrived on the runway, the entire base awaited the President and his officials.  The cargo door opened, and the band began playing as the commanding officers led the salute; but everybody’s jaws dropped in amazement as out on the red carpet walked ten large, furry Huskies that were to be used for military reconnaissance.  The air tower heard a word, but it wasn’t “the” word.  One cola advertisement says, “Don’t accept any substitutes.”  Amen to that!  We have to get to the point where we won’t receive any other message than a word from God.  Some things are just irreplaceable.

 When I was raising my three boys, there were some other children in the neighborhood who were better behaved and more polite.  Even though it might have been easier to get them to do their chores and obey the directions of the house, I would not have traded any one of my boys for any of the other neighborhood kids.  I wouldn’t trade my wife for another woman.  Some things just can’t be replaced.

 According to Matthew 4:4, a man lives by every irreplaceable, rhema word that comes from the mouth of God.  We can’t just live by any general word or even by someone else’s rhema.  We have to live by the rhema that God has given us.  Samson the Nazarite had a vow.  He couldn’t take anyone else’s vow and he couldn’t give his vow to another.  His vow to never cut his hair worked for him; it would not have worked for someone else.


There is a difference between logos and rhemaLogos is general preaching; it is the general principle of the Word of God that is for everybody.  The scripture says that logos can bring peace, hope, and rest.  But it is the rhema that brings us faith.  In Mark chapter four, Jesus gave us the illustration of the sower sowing the seed.  He called the logos “seed.”  When the Word is sown, it is logos; but when we hear it, it is rhema.  A minister can preach logos as general information; but when it is quickened to us as individuals, it is rhema.  The rhema is the Word of God that is awakened by faith; it is the specific, personal, internal Word of God that comes to us.

 When God speaks, logos turns into rhema.  This transformation comes by preaching, reading, or meditating on the Word.  It comes by hearing, reading it, studying it, digging into it, doing exegetical study on it, and meditating on it, until it comes alive on the inside of us.

 One summer between college semesters, I worked in a cardboard box factory.  I spent eight hours every day standing at a machine, folding big pieces of corrugated board and shoving them into a stapler.  Before work, during the morning and afternoon breaks, and on my lunch hour, I would pick a Bible verse to meditate on for the next couple hours while I ran that staple machine.  I would repeat the verse over and over inside of my spirit, asking God to give me revelation of the verse.  I would pray over the verse and thank God for the understanding.  By the end of the day, I would come out of the box factory full of rhema.

 When God speaks, it is rhema.  When the prophet writes it down, it becomes logos, general seed for everyone.  But when the Holy Spirit quickens it to us personally, it becomes rhema again. We can see a parallel in the physical realm when an announcer goes into the radio studio and stands in front of the microphone.  He speaks words or sound waves.  Those sound waves go into the microphone and come out as radio waves.  Next, those radio waves go into a receiver and come out again as sound waves.  Sound waves become radio waves only to become sound waves again.  We have already noted that unless we have a receiver and have it turned on and tuned to the correct frequency, no one will ever hear the announcer’s message.  The same is true in the spiritual realm, God’s Word goes from rhema to logos and back to rhema if we are tuned in to receive it; otherwise, it will forever remain logos, which will not produce fruit in our lives.

 Blessed is he that readeth (the Greek word means “read aloud”) and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein. (Revelation 1:3)

 Reading the Word of God aloud helps to get our receivers in operation so the Word can become alive to us.  When we read the Word aloud, we hear it twice – once with our outer ears and once again with our inner ears.  The message doesn’t just go into our minds.  When it is vocalized, it goes through our ears (our physical man), through our mind (part of our soulical man), and into our heart (our spiritual man).  In this process, it changes from logos to rhema and it affects the total personality – eventually resulting in our maturing into the full stature of Jesus Christ.

 The Voice of God

The first way God speaks to us is that he takes the logos, which is the general principle and turns it into rhema in our own individual spirits.  However, there are many times when God will speak to us individually without relationship to the scripture.  He gives us ideas or speaks to us in our own inner voice.  That’s the way the Bible came into being.  God spoke to those men individually, and they sat down under His inspiration and wrote.  The inner voice spoke to holy men of old as the Holy Spirit moved them. (II Peter 1:21)  They received the rhema and wrote it down, and it became logos.  For example, God gave Paul a spiritual message.  He wrote it down in the epistles, and that became much of the New Testament.

 Many times, the Spirit of God speaks to us to give us spiritual direction, but He will also speak to us through our inner voice (or inner witness) about things that are related to our physical lives.  He is interested in every part of our lives, not just the spiritual things.  God not only speaks in the inner voice; there have been occasions when God has spoken in an audible voice.  On Mount Sinai, God spoke to Moses and the entire Israelite nation in an audible voice.  God spoke to Elijah in an audible voice on what is called the Mountain of God.  At Jesus’ baptism and at His transfiguration, God spoke audibly from the heavens.  In John chapter twelve, just after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, God spoke to Him in an audible voice.  He spoke to Samuel concerning his calling into the ministry when the lad was trying to sleep on his bed.

 God still speaks in an audible voice today.  I was more than a little concerned about going on my first mission to Japan.  It was the first time I had been abroad on a mission trip; and I was questioning God and telling Him that there were people who were much more qualified than I, who could do a much better job.  Then God spoke to me!  It was more than an inner witness, I felt as if there was someone in the room talking to me.  He said, “I know you’re not adequate; that’s the reason I’m sending you!”  One sentence was enough to make me understand that through Him was the adequacy and that I needed to trust in Him.  The beautiful thing about it was that when I did get to Japan, I was supposed to speak at a conference.  My interpreter’s wife got sick and had to be taken back to Tokyo to the hospital.  I was at the conference for a week and was only able to speak on the last night of the conference when my interpreter came back to pick me up.  The people didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Japanese, so I just smiled at them for the whole week.  At the end of the week, the leader of the conference said to me, “We’ve learned so much from you this week.  Even though we couldn’t communicate, we learned from your spirit.”

 God also speaks to us through supernatural means such as dreams, visions, and angels.  I took my wife to India and Sri Lanka on her first mission, and we spent six weeks in the Indian subcontinent.  On her birthday – instead of having a nice dinner, we had to kick snakes out of the room where we were to sleep that night.  On Mothers’ Day – instead of being at home with her children, we visited an orphanage in Calcutta.  To try to make up for missing these two special days, I bought her a sapphire necklace and ring from Sri Lanka where these gems are plentiful.  When we got home, she discovered that her ring and necklace were missing.  We looked under every piece of furniture we had touched and unpacked every bit of clothes.  She had to leave and run some errands, but I kept looking for the jewelry.  I unrolled every diaper in the diaper pail just to make sure her ring hadn’t fallen off while she was changing a diaper.  I went through every piece of garbage in the bin.  Finally, the jet lag took over, and I fell exhausted across the sofa.  Almost as soon as I had shut my eyes, I had a dream.  In the dream, God showed me exactly where the necklace and ring were.  When my wife returned from the store, I didn’t take time to explain.  I just grabbed her purse and dumped its contents out on the table and started pulling the lining out of the purse.  She looked on, dumbfounded, as I ripped her purse apart.  There were her ring and necklace between the bag and the inside lining.  On the way home on the airplane, she had taken them off and dropped them into a zipper pocket in her purse, and they had fallen through a small hole.

 God can give us messages through human messengers – people who speak a word from God especially for us.  Several times, God has spoken prophetic words for me through other individuals.  Once, God directed a man to give me a Bible verse.  I was at a turning point in my life where I could go in two different directions.  It was just before my last semester in seminary, and I had a chance to go directly into the ministry in a place I would have loved to be.  It was a wonderful opportunity, but I would have had to complete my seminary education through correspondence.  The scripture the man gave me was Isaiah 30:20, And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers.  It was so clear that I could not do my studies through the mail since I had to have the instructor in visual sight.  So I went back to college and finished my seminary degree, which is exactly what qualified me to have the position I held for the next quarter of a century – dean of a Bible college.  If that man had not spoken to me, my life could have taken an entirely different turn.

 Many times, there are people who prophesy to us and don’t even realize that they are prophesying.  Caiaphas prophesied about Jesus’ death.  God specifically said that he prophesied, not because he was a righteous man, but because he was in a position or an office. (John 11:51)  He did not even know that he was speaking the Word of the Lord.  Many times, we say things, and we don’t realize that God is speaking through us.  That’s why we must always position ourselves to be sensitive to the voice of God in every area of our lives.

 Another way that God speaks is through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit can speak directly to us.  There are several instances where Paul’s ministry was directed by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit said, “Don’t preach in Asia but, instead, go over into Europe and preach.”  Sometimes the Holy Spirit tells us to “do this” and “don’t do that.”  As a young man, I had the opportunity to become an associate with an international evangelist.  It was a great opportunity, but the Holy Spirit told me to tell the man to wait two weeks.  During those two weeks, the man was caught in adultery, and his whole ministry flopped overnight.  I could have lost not only my reputation but also my future career in the ministry by starting off with someone like that.

 In Psalm 37:4, we learn that the Lord gives us the desires of our hearts.  Although we often think this means He will give us the manifestation of the things we are wishing for, this verse can also be read to mean that God will place certain desires into our hearts.  In other words, the Holy Spirit is working in our hearts to cause us to desire the things that God wants us to have.  Since the Holy Spirit is putting godly desires in our hearts and since whatever we are thinking in our hearts is what we are going to become (Proverbs 23:7), we can know that our inner longings are really a way that God is speaking to us.

 God may also speak to us through our circumstances.  Although He may not speak to us directly, we can see His hand at work setting up the situation.  You may wind up sitting next to a man on a plane.  God may not specifically say, “I am going to launch you into the mission field of the airplane ministry; I am going to seat you next to a man who needs to know about Jesus.”  But when you sit down, the man starts to talk to you out of his heart, telling you about his great need.  The circumstances have spoken to you and you see that it is God’s will for you to witness to this man about the Lord.

 Additionally, we can live by our understanding of the very nature of God.  By understanding who He is and how He intends to relate to His children, we can have positive faith.  Romans 8:32 teaches us that, if He was willing to give His own Son so that we could be saved, how much more willing He must be to give us anything else we need.  Second Chronicles 16:9 tells us that the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the whole earth seeking to show Himself strong on behalf of those who have perfect hearts toward Him.  From these verses, we can understand the nature of God – that He wants to give us good and generous blessings.  If He went to the expense to provide healing, salvation, etc., for sure, He will do it.

 The book of Hebrews tells us of Abraham’s faith.  He was willing to sacrifice Isaac because he believed that God would raise him from the dead if necessary. (verse 11:17)  The point of the story is that Abraham knew the nature of God well enough to know that He would not take the boy away after He had finally fulfilled His covenant promise.  That’s why he was able to say to his servants, “The lad and I will return.” (Genesis 22:5)


I think that God speaks more to a baby Christian than He does to the mature.  In our natural lives, we talk to babies more than we talk to children, and we talk to children more than we talk to the teenagers.  We are training the infant to hear and to listen and to communicate back.  We talk to the young children to instill in them principle and character.  We give teenagers instruction and direction.  We have already laid in them the basic foundation, so we only need to instruct them with one or two sentences.  With an adult, we don’t have to give him the step-by-step of what we want him to do; we simply tell him what we want and let him figure out the step-by-step.  I think the same thing is true for us in our relationship to the Lord.  When we are in our early infant stage with the Lord, perhaps there is a lot more intimate “goo-goo” fellowship that goes on between God and us.  Remember the elephant seals!  God is speaking to us more in that foundational period, getting us established in relationship with Him.  As we mature, He is able to simply say, “Go,” and we are able to do it.  It doesn’t take a lot of “goo-goo” back-and-forth talking.

 In John chapter ten, Jesus tells us that it is the sheep – not the lambs – who hear the shepherd’s voice and do not follow any other person.  When we are mature in the Lord, He can give us one direction and since we know His voice, we can follow it.  Remember the lesson we learned from the life of the prophet Samuel – as a young child, God had to speak to him three times before he realized that it was not Eli calling him and, even then, it was only after Eli’s prompting that the lad was able to recognize the voice of God; yet, as a mature prophet, he received incredible revelations from the very whisperings of the Lord.

 Some people only want to hear big dramatic messages from God.  I think that this may be a wrong perspective.  If you are close to me, I just whisper to you, and you can hear me and follow me.  It is when you are across the room doing something else that I have to yell or shout to get your attention.  When people want to hear these dramatic things, to have visions, to converse with angels, or see burning bushes, it may suggest that they are so far away from God that He has to do something spectacular just to get their attention.  Saul of Tarsus was really far away from God, so God had to send a blinding light to get his attention.  But after his conversion, it only took a gentle nudge for God to get His message across to the apostle.  One of my Bible college students was a drug dealer before he was saved.  One night, when he was driving across the flat plains of Texas, a lightning bolt hit the ground right next to his car.  A few minutes later, another lightning bolt hit the ground on the other side of his car.  A few minutes later, a third lightning bolt struck the ground right in front of his car.  When he got home, his mother told him that the reason those three lightning bolts missed him was that God wanted to warn him that there was one more lightning bolt that would have hit him.  That night, he accepted Jesus as his Savior and began a walk with Him that didn’t need further lightning bolts or thunderclaps.  Even a man like Dr. Lester Sumrall only had three visions in his life; the rest of the time he was directed by the still, small voice of the Lord. (I Kings 19:12)  We can be great men and women for God without loud booming voices from God on a regular basis.

 I have discovered that God speaks to men when men speak to Him.  God wants us to talk freely with Him.  We talk, He hears, we listen, and He responds.  We hear from God when He is hearing from us.  The prophet Elijah, in challenging the prophets of Baal, told them that they had better yell louder, because perhaps their god was asleep or gone on a trip. (I Kings 18:27)  Our God is never asleep and He is ready to talk to us anytime we come to Him. (Psalm 121:4)  In Jeremiah 33:3, He left us an open-ended invitation with an open-ended promise: Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.  He is always ready to talk to us when we are ready to talk to Him.

 God can indeed interrupt our schedule if He has to.  He can interrupt us anytime, but usually He waits to speak to us when we are wanting to talk to Him.  He will speak when we are quiet enough to listen.  There are three times that God usually speaks to me.  Sometimes, He speaks in the middle of the night; I will just wake up with direction from the Lord.  Sometimes, He speaks early in the morning during my quiet time with Him.  He also might speak to me when I am quiet during a worship service.

 Some people are so busy striving to get God’s direction for their lives that they can’t hear a thing.  But if we settle down enough and sit in His presence quietly, He will speak to us.  There are some people who don’t get the message until they become sick in bed because it is only on their sickbeds that they will get quiet enough to hear God speak.  Some don’t hear until they have a great catastrophe in their lives and they finally slow down long enough to actually be attentive. It is not because God hasn’t wanted to speak to them all along; it is because they have been too busy to listen.  God would have spoken to them in church if they had been listening.  God would have spoken to them in their private prayer time if they had been there listening.

 It is important to be able to recognize God’s voice when He speaks.  If we have a close relationship with Him, we will know His voice.  It is really hard to camouflage the voice of a close friend.  We can immediately recognize his voice on the phone, even if there is a poor connection.  We must recognize God’s voice even more readily than our closest earthly friend.  Remember that it is not the lambs who can discern the voice of the shepherd; it is the tutored sheep who know their master’s voice and will follow none other.  When you hear something from God, you must check out the message as well as the voice.  Does the message agree with God’s personality?  God is reasonable; He is not irrational.  God is the founder of the whole order of the universe.  He does not violate the laws and principles that He has set into action, nor does He contradict what is in His Word.  He does all things well.

 God will speak to those who will listen and obey.  Some people always want to hear from God, but they haven’t followed the things He has already told them.  Some of these things are words He has given to us in the scripture as logos.  If we can’t follow logos, He probably will not give us rhema.

 The gifts of the Spirit have to do with helping us hear God.  Prophecy, tongues, and interpretation are for edification, exhortation, and comfort.  These gifts are like the mother talking to a baby; they come easily and often.  The word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, and discerning of spirits are like the adult child in a discussion with a parent; they are directional and instructional.  They may not come so often, but they are stern and very meaningful.  They are not just to make us feel good, but they are to direct our lives.  Through these gifts, God attempts to bring us to the point where we can hear His voice, know His voice and receive His rhema.  This will put us into the fourth dimension of fellowship with Him where His Word becomes alive to us and we advance in our maturing into His full stature.

 The baptism in the Holy Spirit helps us step into the fourth dimension where we have the infinite living in our hearts.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit impacts and empowers every part of our total personality.  It brings supernatural restoration and revitalization to our physical bodies.  In Isaiah 28:11-12, we read, For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.  To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.  Romans 8:11 promises, But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.  This spiritual encounter also benefits the soul.  According to Romans 8:26-28, it will help us to come to the place where we know that our prayers are in alignment with the will of God and will, therefore, be answered.  With this kind of promise, we can live our lives free from worry or anxiety.  Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  I Corinthians 14:4 tells us, He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.  Couple that with the story we learn from I Samuel 30:6, And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God, and we can see what a radical difference the presence of the Holy Spirit can make.  No matter how desperate the circumstances may be, it can be changed through the edification that we can receive by allowing the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself.  Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the Christian who was reaching out from inside a manhole, trying to witness to passersby by offering them gospel tracts with the explanation that they could also share in the victorious, overcoming, joy-filled life that he was experiencing.  Perhaps, he should have done some praying in the Spirit to edify himself before he went out to share.  Of course, the baptism in the Holy Spirit also has a powerful impact upon our spirit man.  In I Corinthians 14:16-18, Paul explained that, even though there has to be a proper context in which to practice speaking in tongues, it is a God-given expression of beneficial thanksgiving, Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?  For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.  I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all.  In verse two of the same chapter, the apostle made it clear that an individual who speaks in an unknown tongue is not speaking to men but unto God, and in verse twenty-eight, he explains how such a message can be interpreted so that it blesses not only the speaker, but also the whole congregation.  Unfortunately, we sometimes get so involved in trying to figure out the guidelines for the public use of speaking in tongues that we may forget the personal benefits it brings.  The point is that this is a gift from God through which we can strengthen our spirit man’s authority over the rest of our personality.  It will lift us out of the manhole!  The scriptures confirm that even Jesus used this inner spiritual renewal to strengthen Himself. (Luke 10:21; John 11:33, 13:21)  If it was important to Jesus, it is vital for us!

 Our Thoughts about God

A while back, Minister Potato Head gave us a lesson concerning the significance of the holes in our heads.  Since that point, we have been discussing the transforming power of renewing our minds through godly knowledge.  Now, let’s focus on three specific areas in which we need to make sure that our minds are renewed.  The first thing that we need to get through these holes in our heads is how we should think about God.  The Apostle Paul declared that it is the knowledge of the Son of God that brings us into that mature man we are called to be. (Ephesians 4:13)  The Apostle Peter opened his second epistle with a dramatic contrast – offering us two radically different options: knowledge of God or lust. (II Peter 1:2-4)  If we choose to pursue the knowledge of God, we are promised an end result of becoming partakers of the divine nature.  In other words, the very DNA of God will be evident in our lives.  If we chose to pursue lust, it will end in corruption (putrefied ruination).  Interestingly, the apostle adds the special Greek prefix epi to both “knowledge” and “lust” making both words intensive so that they should be read “all-encompassing knowledge” and “all-encompassing lust.”  Think about how your epidermis, or skin, covers your whole body.  In the same way that no part of your body is left without a covering of skin (epidermis), no part of our lives should be left without a covering of the knowledge of God (epignosis).  Essentially, the apostle leaves us with no middle ground – either we whole-heartedly seek God, or we will be overwhelmingly swallowed up with lust, greed, and an ever-spiraling desire for more and more material possessions.  An insightful glimpse into this scenario of never-ending escalation of self-centeredness came when a reporter asked a billionaire how much would be enough.  With a little twinkle in his eye, the financier responded, “Just a little more.”  In similar fashion, we as Christians must become possessed with an insatiable desire for the knowledge of God rather than a self-centered desire for the things of this world.  In the immediately following verses, Peter admonishes us to diligently pursue maturity by adding layer upon layer to our spiritual lives, ending with a warning that to fail to do so would result in becoming barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ.  Paul presented the identical options in Galatians 6:7-8 when he said that we will reap everlasting life if we sow to the spirit, but corruption if we sow to the flesh.  This all-encompassing knowledge of God is more about how we think about God, not what we think about Him.  For example, the issue is not just a matter of knowing that He is all-powerful, but of understanding that He is using this unlimited power to bring blessing and benefit into our lives.

 The way we think about God will radically determine the way we live our lives.  When I was working in a campus ministry in the 1970s, I traveled – almost like a circuit-riding preacher – from campus to campus, leading Bible study groups.  In one of the groups I visited every couple of weeks, there was a young man who was confined to a wheelchair.  When I challenged him to believe God for his healing, he said that he felt that God had put him in the wheelchair to keep him humble.  I responded, “Keeping us humble is the work of the Holy Spirit, not a wheelchair.”  That idea was too radical for him to take all at once, so I admonished him to think and pray about it until my next visit.  Upon my return trip two weeks later, we picked up the conversation where we left off.  This time, he was ready to believe for his healing.  He had taken the time to reconsider his view of God and now believed that God was a healer, not one who made His subjects sick.  With this new insight and revelation, he agreed with me as I laid my hands on him.  Instantly, strength came into his legs, and he was able to stand, then walk, and finally abandon the wheelchair altogether!  Because he had held a wrong concept of God, he was as much – if not more – crippled in his mind as in his legs.  When he began to believe the truth about Jehovah Rapha, he was set free from that bondage.

 Another story would be humorous if it weren’t so tragic.  In one of my classes on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I ended the semester by asking the students if they felt that God was calling them to operate in any of the giftings.  When one young man responded that he felt that he was to operate in healing, I asked if anyone was sick so that he could begin to minister in his calling.  One lady had suffered a back injury a number of years before, but was expecting to be healed at a certain evangelist’s meeting.  Her problem was that she was having faith in God’s man rather than in God Himself.  I told her that she could wait if she wanted to, but the same God who works in the evangelist’s crusades is just as powerful in our little classroom.  When she agreed to have her fellow student lay hands on her, she was instantly healed.

 There are a number of truths we can understand about God from looking at His names and titles in the scripture.  Each of these names and titles reveals important truths about the nature of God, the way He wants to deal with us, and how we should relate to Him.

 Jehovah Rapha (God is our healer) – And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee. (Exodus 15:26)

Jehovah Jireh (God is our provider) – And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah Jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. (Genesis 22:14)

Jehovah Shalom (God is our peace) – Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. (Judges 6:24)

Jehovah Tsidkenu (God is our righteousness) – In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.  (Jeremiah 23:6)

Jehovah Shammah (God is ever present) – It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there. (Ezekiel 48:35)

Jehovah Nissi (God is our victory) – And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi. (Exodus 17:15)

Jehovah (The Lord is God and He has total authority) – And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. (Genesis 3:14)

El Shaddai (The Lord is all sufficient) – And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. (Genesis 17:1)

Adoni (God is lord of all) – And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes. (Genesis 18:27)

El Elyon (God is the almighty exalted one) – And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. (Genesis 14:20)

Elohim (God is the many-faceted deity) – And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:26)

Shepherd (The Lord is our guide and protector) – T=he LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)

Father (God is in personal relationship with us) – And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:6)

Judge (God holds men accountable) – And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Revelation 20:11-12)

Creator (God is the primary source of everything) – Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3)

Savior (God sacrifices Himself to redeem us) – And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. (Revelation 5:9)

Seven-fold Holy Spirit (The Holy Spirit expresses the presence of God) – And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:2)

 For many years, I interpreted II Corinthians 10:3-4 to mean that God had given us spiritual weapons to pull down the strongholds established in our lives by thoughts that exalted themselves against the knowledge that God existed – in other words: questions about other religions being equally valid as Christianity, agnostic thoughts, and atheistic doctrines.  However, the Ford “Better Idea” Light Bulb” came on one day when I realized that the serpent in the Garden of Eden did not challenge God’s existence; he simply coerced Eve to accept an inferior view of Him.  Before the conversation with the devil in snakeskin, Eve knew God as totally benevolent; after allowing the insinuations of the enemy to infiltrate her thinking, she began to suspect that God had a hidden agenda.  She allowed a thought that exalted itself against the true knowledge of God to take a toehold in her mind.  Before the conversation was over, it had established a stronghold in her heart, and she was ready to betray Him.  The same is true with each of us, if we allow thoughts that are contrary to the biblical revelation – that God is our healer, our provider, our righteousness, our victory banner, and our all-in-all – to take root in our minds, we will soon believe that distortion and lose our faith and our relationship with Him.  Psalm 78:41 says that the people of Israel limited the Holy One of Israel by not remembering how He had delivered them from Egypt.  They allowed thoughts that minimized their God to dominate their minds.  If we want to think about God properly, we must always be careful to magnify (Psalm 69:30) rather than to minimize Him and His love for His children.  Before anyone has a chance to misunderstand this concept, allow me to quickly define “magnify.”  When we put a specimen under a microscope or examine it with a magnifying glass, we don’t actually change its size; all we do is alter our ability to see it.  Magnifying has nothing to do with the reality; it only has to do with correcting our inability to see what already exists.  Therefore, when we magnify the Lord, all we are doing is adjusting our view of God.

 One Sunday evening, one of my young sons reached under the church pew and picked up a loose gemstone he saw on the carpet.  He whispered to his mother, “I’m a rich man!  I have a diamond!”  She, of course, thought that it was just a rhinestone that had fallen out of someone’s costume jewelry and tossed it into her coin purse.  The next day at work, I looked up from my desk to notice a lady from the congregation walking around the church with a flashlight.  I jokingly told her that when Jesus said we should be the light of the world, He didn’t mean for us to walk around carrying flashlights.  When she explained that she was looking for the diamond that had fallen out of her wedding ring, I told her that my son had found it and invited her to stop by the house after school so he could return it to her.  Then I called my wife and asked her to find the diamond and have it ready for the lady to pick up.  When I stopped by the house during my lunch break, my wife had the diamond on a bed of satin in a little jewel box.  When she thought it was a rhinestone, being tossed into a coin purse was fine; but as soon as she realized it was a real diamond worth a couple of thousand dollars, it suddenly deserved a special little box.  That’s the way we need to be about our God – we must realize who He really is and enthrone Him appropriately in our lives!

 All the truths we can learn about God are based on the central reality of the cross.  Nothing that God does is a reaction to our needs, either physical or fiscal.  Rather, they are all based on the extravagant price that Christ paid on the cross.  If God spared not giving His own Son to die on the cross, certainly He is not going to suddenly become too stingy to give us a healing or to bless us with a few dollars. (Romans 8:32)  If I were to buy you a packet of French fries but you didn’t finish them, I would not be very concerned because I had only invested a few cents in the food.  However, if I buy you a very expensive steak dinner that you leave uneaten on the plate, I would not be very happy about the money I wasted.  All of us who have seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ will have a sense of the awful price Jesus paid for our healing by taking the stripes on His back.  When I see believers who allow sickness to remain in their bodies because they have failed to “cash in” on the benefits Christ purchased for them, I actually respond with disappointment, remorse, and almost anger.

 I’m sure that you’ve heard someone say, concerning himself or another believer, that there was a possibility he might backslide if he were to suddenly be financially blessed.  To me, this is a very strange philosophy since it suggests that God can preserve His people through adversity but not through prosperity.  There is some sort of unspoken connection between poverty and righteousness and prosperity and sinfulness.  Actually, the scriptural; principle isn’t that abundance could bring downfall.  On the contrary, the scriptures teach that if we can be faithful over a little, God will make us master over much. (Matthew 25:21)  In other words, abundance will not be our master, but we will be its master.  My observation has been that there seem to be more poor sinners than rich ones, disproving the whole idea that wealth would precipitate backsliding.  Dr. Lester Sumrall used to counter such ideas with the contention that if you are going to sin, you will do it just as readily over twenty-five cents as over a million dollars.

 Many – if not most – people believe that they must sin a little every day.  This sort of theology is in direct contradiction to the revelation that God is our Jehovah Tsidkenu.  They may be basing their teachings on their observations and experiences, but they are certainly not using the Word of God as their foundation.  When John, the beloved disciple, wrote to us, My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.  And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (I John 2:1), he used the preciseness of the Greek language to communicate the idea that, although God’s ultimate standard is that we live totally sin-free, we may occasionally miss the mark that God has set for us.  He goes on to say that if we are born again of God, the DNA of God (the God of Righteousness) remains in us so that we are no longer the sinners we once were. (I John 3:9)  We should not see ourselves as “sinners saved by grace.”  Instead, we are totally new creatures in Christ who have been reborn after His nature, in which no unrighteousness can dwell (I John 1:5).  To those who think they must sin a little every day, I would suggest that they remember the words of Jesus in Luke 16:10.

 If we will determine to control the little things which we can manage, God will also give us authority to control the bigger, seemingly uncontrollable desires and impulses.  Of course, we must remember that in the same breath, He reminded us that, if we are not faithful over the little things, that we will also fail “big time” in the larger challenges of life.  If we can live one hour without sin, we can live the rest of our lives transgression-free; we need only to keep adding one spirit-controlled hour to the next until we have a fully spirit-led life!

 Jehovah Nissi is the victory banner that the Spirit raises up over our lives.  When the enemy tries to come in like a flood (Isaiah 59:19), the Spirit announces that we are more than conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:37) and that we can do all things through Him (Philippians 4:13).  That banner declares that Christ is always causing us to triumph over our enemies (II Corinthians 2:14), there is no weapon that can prosper against us, and every tongue that would try to accuse us will be condemned (Isaiah 54:17).  Because that insignia is fluttering above our heads, we can rest assured that nothing – neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation – can overcome us. (Romans 8:38)  Rather than being overcome, we are overcomers. (I John 5:4-5; Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:26; 3:5, 3:12, 3:21, 21:7)  With that banner unfurled as we charge, we can victoriously run through any enemy troop and leap over every obstacle placed before us. (Psalm 18:29, II Samuel 22:30)

 The important thing isn’t what we think about God; it is how we think about Him.  In Romans 8:31, Paul expresses a rhetorical question that he hopes we will not answer academically, but out of a renewed mentality.  What shall we then say to these things?  If God be for us, who can be against us?  It is Paul’s hope that we will not just say, “Nothing can prevail against us,” rather, he is hoping that we are so convinced inside ourselves that absolutely nothing can successfully challenge us.  Paul wants our answer to be an adamant and resounding battle cry of victory.  He wants us to think about God in such a personal way that we immediately respond: He is on my side!  He will not let anything hurt me!

 If we were to ask most Christians if they believe that God can heal, prosper, deliver, or bless them, they would immediately respond in the affirmative.  However, when a real-life scenario presents itself in which they need healing, prosperity, deliverance, or blessing, they react with uncertainty as to whether He will act on their behalf.  In reality, it would be a lot more complimentary to the Lord to say that we are unsure if He can do these things, but are certain that He would if He could.  That position is more respectful than a lifestyle that says we believe that He can, but are unsure if He will.  Let’s bring it down to the physical level.  Suppose you trip over a curb and fall to the pavement.  What an awful person I would be if, all the while, I was standing nearby, totally capable of picking you up but refusing to do so.  If, on the other hand, some sort of physical handicap prevented me from helping, my lack of assistance would be excusable.  Tragically, most Christians see God as the one standing on the curb ignoring the fallen pedestrian, even though He has the total capacity to pick him up.

 We must be like the three Hebrew children when they were about to go into the fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:17-18)  We must be like the prophet Daniel as he was about to be thrown into the den of lions. (Daniel 6:10)  We must think and act like Abraham as he was ready to ascend the mountain to sacrifice his son.  As he went up with his son but without a sacrifice, the last words he called back to his servants were, I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. (Genesis 22:5)  Although he was unsure exactly how the scenario was to finally be played out, he went up the mountain with full assurance in his God that the boy would return – even if God had to raise him from the dead. (Hebrews 11:19)  These men could face the most severe tests without flinching because of how they thought about God.  They thought of Him as so personally involved in their lives that the possibility of harm, loss, or danger was totally foreign to them.

 The problem most of us face is that we believe God can do wonderful and mighty things, but doubt that He will do them for us.  We must refocus the way we think about God until we are unquestionably convinced that He is not only able, but also willing and ready to provide for and protect us.  When I was a college dean, I used to address the students concerning being willing, ready, and able in relationship to their tuition payments.  Many students were willing to pay, but had no money in their bank accounts; they were not able.  Others had money in their accounts, but wanted to use it for other things; they were able but not willing.  Still others had the money and were willing to pay, but for one reason or another were not motivated to pay right then; they were willing and able, but not ready.  Our God is not only willing, able, and ready; He is actually looking for an opportunity to help!

 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars. (II Chronicles 16:9)

 Unlike the unjust judge in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:1-8, our God does not delight in making us grovel in order to get His attention.  He is constantly attuned to our cries and is continually ready to answer those who seek Him in faith.  Unfortunately, we too often substitute vehement intercession for simple trust.  In doing so, we become much like the prophets of Baal who cried out so vigorously to their god but got no answer (I Kings 18:27) or like the gentiles whom Jesus mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount who thought that they would be heard because of their voluminous prayers. (Matthew 6:7)  We forget that Elijah called fire from heaven with a prayer of a single paragraph (I Kings 18:37) and that Jesus healed the sick and cleansed lepers with one sentence (Matthew 8:3) and raised a dead man with three words (John 11:43).  We misunderstand fasting, perceiving it as a hunger strike to get God’s attention.

 Knowing that we would fall susceptible to such misguided attempts at having faith, Jesus concluded His discourse on prayer in Luke chapter eighteen with the question as to whether the Son of Man would find faith on the earth at His coming – apparently anticipating that the majority of His followers would fall into the trap of substituting their human efforts for simple faith.  But when we mature in our understanding of God, we will develop true faith and begin to manifest the full stature of His Son.

 Our Thoughts about Others

I will always remember a couple situations that graphically illustrated how we can make some truly unjustified evaluations of others.  I was once involved in a skit in which I was planted in the audience dressed like a bum.  I got to the assembly hall early to take my place so that I wouldn’t be conspicuous coming in later and trying to find a seat.  I noticed that as the auditorium began to fill up, there was a rather wide radius of empty seats on all sides of me although the rest of the room was filled to capacity.  One lady actually got up and moved after she glanced around and noticed the “bum” in the nearby seat.  On another occasion, Peggy and I were boarding a plane for a transatlantic flight when she noticed the man in the seat next to the one assigned to her.  He was unshaven and looked rather disheveled in a baseball cap and an extremely wrinkled shirt.  She turned to me quietly and said, “You’re sitting in the middle today!”  As we got to know one another, I asked the gentleman where he lived.  He said that he lived between Detroit and Washington, DC.  Well, that’s quite a distance, so I asked him exactly what he meant.  His reply was that he had two homes, one in each city because he was on the faculty at a major university isneach of the cities.  When he mentioned the neighborhoods where they were located, I realized that these were some of the really upscale sections of the cities.  It turned out that he was one of the leading radiologists in the world, in that he was both a medical doctor and a professor of radiation physics, equipping him to understand both the medical and physical factors of radiology.  I never did figure out exactly why he was so unkempt when he boarded the plane, but I did learn that he was on his way to Europe to address a convention of radiologists.

 But even if I had been a real bum and the man on the plane had been some sort of pervert, the biblical injunction would have been to love and respect them anyway.  One of my students encountered a “lady boy,” a special variety of transvestite that is common in Bangkok and other large cities in Thailand.  His first reaction was repulsion, but then he remembered that he was there on a mission to show the love of God to all the people of Thailand.  The Lord spoke to him through this encounter, and God brought him to a rather rude awakening that actually changed the rest of his life: he only loved those who only slightly needed God’s love.  From that moment on, my student was aware that Jesus loves all humans simply because they are loved, not because they are lovely – and so must we!  It’s interesting that Jesus gave us two different commandments about love: to love our neighbors (Matthew 19:19) and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44).  The message behind these two directives is that they (the neighbor and enemy) are probably the same person.  Jesus gave us the Golden Rule for life, that we love others as we love ourselves.  Other religions have what might be called the Silver Rule for living, the negative version of what Jesus stated in a positive light.  Whereas all the other world religions direct their followers to refrain from doing unto others anything that they would not want to be done to them, Jesus told us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  Herein, Jesus showed us the true essence of life.  It is active – even aggressive – in reaching out to others.

 The story is told of a young girl who was working in a leper colony.  When a visitor saw her cleaning the putrid wounds of an infected patient, he gasped, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars!”  The young nurse overheard his uncontrolled outburst of amazement and replied, “Neither would I, but I would do it for Jesus.”  In all our ministries, we must look at each person as if that individual were Jesus Himself.  Jesus taught us that any act of kindness we show to even the least, last, or lost individual is like doing it directly to Him. (Matthew 25:40)  On the other end of the social spectrum, there is a story of a Washington, DC, pastor who ministered in a church that was frequented by the President of the United States.  Once, an interviewer asked him how it felt to know that his sermons were sometimes heard by our nations Chief Executive.  His response was that God has always heard his sermons.  His philosophy in life was based on Colossians 3:23, doing everything as unto the Lord; therefore, it didn’t matter to him whether his audience was the President or a homeless man.

 How we think about others plays another major role in what will happen in our personal development.  I once heard a humorous story that illustrates the point.  A shoe salesman was sent to a remote island to pander his wares; however, when he arrived at the distant shore, he saw that all the people were barefoot.  At this, he headed back up the gangplank, sent a telegram to the corporate office stating that he was sailing back home because there was no market for shoes on the island since everyone went barefoot.  When the next boat arrived, another shoe salesman disembarked and looked around at all the barefoot people.  He, too, headed back up the gangplank and sent a telegram back to headquarters.  His message read, “Send more shoes.  No one here has shoes.  It’s the biggest market imaginable.”  It is amazing how two different people can look at the same situation and come to such radically different conclusions.  Let’s look at an inner-city ghetto for example: we may look at it and see only a poverty area.  The prostitutes and drug lords, on the other hand, know that they can make exceptionally good livings there.  What we see all depends on how we look.  We’re all familiar with the saying that a pessimist sees the glass as half empty, while the optimist sees the glass as half full.  Assuming that the glass contains something delicious and worthwhile, we all want to correct our vantage point to that of the optimist.  However, even when we have the most optimistic worldview around, we are still falling short of the point of view that God wishes to develop within us.  He dictates that we see the glass as full and running over. (Psalm 23:5)

 Of course, we are talking about how we see other people – not glasses of water.  So, let’s take a look at a couple examples in scripture to illustrate the point.  Let’s begin in the Old Testament with Jonah’s visit to Nineveh.  At first, the prophet allowed his personal prejudice against the Assyrians to override his divine mandate to go preach to them.  Because the Assyrians had so heartlessly and mercilessly ravaged the land of Israel, the prophet was unwilling to humble himself to go minister to them.  Finally, after his encounter with the violent storm at sea as he fled in the opposite direction and his entrance into the annals of history as the first man to take a submarine ride, he reluctantly headed to the Assyrian capital to prophesy.  The fact that he was commissioned to prophesy their doom likely took the edge off of his sensitivity against his assignment; however, the bitterness flooded back in when God decided to pardon the people as they repented in sackcloth and ashes.  God had to visit the pouting prophet and totally revamp his thinking about the Ninevites.

 Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle? (Jonah 4:10-11)

 Jonah saw only bloodthirsty barbarians who had raped his land – men who deserved everything that could be dished out to them.  God, on the other hand, saw a massive city full of people who were in such spiritual darkness that they couldn’t even tell their right hand from their left.  Just as Jesus would cry out centuries later, He saw them as people who deserved to be forgiven because they simply didn’t know what they were doing. (Luke 23:34)  By his own testimony, Paul was ignorant of what he was doing prior to his Damascus Road experience. (I Timothy 1:13)  He wrote of the unsaved as being blinded by the god of this world so that they cannot see what is right or wrong (II Corinthians 4:4), and he described them as being enslaved in the vanity of their minds, having their understanding darkened, and being ignorant. (Ephesians 4:17-18)  Perhaps this is the reason he never ceased to pray for the believers that they would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation and that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened. (Ephesians 1:16-18)

 In the New Testament, we read a similar story concerning a woman who came to draw water from Jacob’s well at Sychar.  Because it was the hottest part of the day in this semi-desert region, Jesus had done what any other reasonable person would do – He stopped to rest.  A well was the life source of any community in semi-arid terrain and it was the usual gathering spot for the women of the city to congregate to collect water and the latest gossip.  But it was highly unusual for anyone to frequent the spot during the middle of the day.  Perhaps this is why one particular woman chose to come at this specific time – she was interested only in getting water, not gossip.  In fact, she was trying to avoid the gossip because it would likely have been about her!  She was a woman who, with five divorces and an illicit common-law relationship, had fallen dramatically short of the accepted standards for their community.  When the disciples returned to the scene, they were shocked to see that Jesus had engaged her in a conversation and had shown her acceptance, offering her a future without regard to her past or present. (John 4:27)  The disciples, totally like the local villagers, could only see the woman’s tainted reputation.   Only Jesus could look inside and see the heart that so desperately cried out for love and acceptance that she was willing to keep trying over and over, no matter how many times she failed at marriage.  Only Jesus could see her heart – a heart so desperate that she was willing to forgo all her pride and take all the humiliation for just one more chance at loving and being loved.  Jesus saw her as one who deserved God’s grace as much as anyone else; He saw her as worthy of the blessings of God which were passing through Him, as would be the most noble member of the human race.

 Until we are able to see others through the eyes of God, we will never be able to understand them, love them, or minister to them.  Joseph’s brothers didn’t know how to interact with him because they did not know who he was.  Had they known, they would certainly have treated him differently. (Genesis 42:8)  David’s father didn’t call him to the interviews with the prophet because he couldn’t see what was inside the lad (I Samuel 16:7).  Had he been able to discern his spirit, Jesse would have called this little shepherd to the front of the line from the beginning.  As Christians, we are commanded to no longer see one another according to our outward appearance – by gender, color, race, creed, or ethnic origin – but as the new men we are in Christ. (Colossians 3:9-11)

 How does God want us to see the people around us?  As the sick who should be healed (Matthew 10:8), as the cursed who should be blessed (Genesis 12:3), as the ignorant who must be taught (Matthew 28:19), and as the lost who must be saved (Mark 16:15-16).  In other words, we should see them as just as desperate as we were before we were saved and as just as worthy of being saved as we were!  We must realize that God is the original equal opportunity employer; He does not favor rich, white, English-speaking males.  In fact, He has declared that He targets the unlikely: the poor, the maimed, the halt, the blind, the publicans, and the harlots. (Luke 14:21, Matthew 21:31)

 We must think of others as our reason to live.  Jesus saw the woman at the well as His opportunity to let the living water inside Him flow out.  He actually gained strength through ministering to her.  His meat was to do the work of the Father and finish it. (John 4:34)  Our ministry to others is not just for the ones we touch; it is also for the purpose of keeping us from becoming a Dead Sea, which only receives and never gives out, thus becoming increasingly salty and sterile.

 Our Thoughts about Ourselves

The third area of thinking has to do with how we think about ourselves.  As born-again believers, we are personalities consisting of a body, a soul, and a spirit.  In Greek, these divisions are signified as soma, psuche, pneuma. (I Thessalonians 5:23)  Each of these divisions has a unique quality of life associated with it.  The soma is characterized by bios life, which is the physical life we learn about in biology class.   The psuche is associated with a level of living, which bears the very name of the soul.  This is the level of living we learn about in psychology class.  The spirit of man, which has the highest level of living, is known as zoe life.  Though it is the Greek term from which we get the word; this is not the kind of life we learn about in zoology class.  Rather, it is the kind of life we learn about in the New Testament.

 God has given us the power to choose whether we will live in the flesh, soul, or spirit and whether we will manifest bios, psuche, and zoe life.  We need not be limited to mere physical existence when we can abound in the zoe spiritual life.  We need not be motivated by and dominated by the natural when we can reap the rewards of the divine life that God wishes to breathe into us.  Which of these dimensions we will experience is determined by the way we think!

 I hope that no one who is involved with any twelve-step recovery program will be offended by this analogy, but we must learn not to have what I call the “Alcoholics Anonymous” mentality.  I use this term because the approach used in this sort of addiction and dependency recovery program is to keep the individual constantly aware of his potential of falling back into the trap from which he has been freed.  Individuals within this kind of program are taught to say that they are alcoholics even though they may have been sober for thirty years.  There is certainly some merit in such a mentality in that it helps the subjects avoid compromising situations that could hurl them back into the snare of their addictions.  The problem with this mindset is that it fails to allow the individual to see himself the way God sees him – as a new creature in Christ, whose old man has passed away and in whom all things have become new. (II Corinthians 5:17)  Let’s look at just a few biblical examples and see how this “Alcoholics Anonymous” mentality tried to sabotage their destinies.

 Gideon had this mental attitude concerning his family background.  In Judges 6:15, we read his evaluation of his heritage, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.  Until Gideon was able to renew his thinking to come into alignment with how God saw him – as a mighty man of valor – he was bound by the fact that he didn’t come from the right family stock.  Had Gideon not been able to change his opinion of himself as having come from the “wrong side of the tracks,” he would have short-circuited his future and the mighty work he was called to do.  God is not interested in where you came from; he is interested in where you are going.  Jeremiah 29:11 confirms that God’s attention is focused on our end, not our beginning.  Isaiah 46:10 tells us that He even declares our end from the beginning.  So, don’t let your past destroy your present and future.

 When God called Jeremiah, he responded that he couldn’t do anything significant because he was too young, Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. (Jeremiah 1:6)  While Jeremiah was looking at his youth and seeing it as a disqualifier, God was looking at his youthfulness as the ticket to a long and profitable ministry.  To God, the younger the prophet could start, the better; that meant that there would be that many more years for him to minister.  Had the prophet not broken out of the “Alcoholics Anonymous” mentality, he could have wasted the best years of his life – and maybe all of his life.  For certain, he would have missed the most significant of his appointments with destiny.

 Isaiah had an “Alcoholics Anonymous” mentality about his spirituality – or lack thereof.   When the Lord appeared to him and called him into the ministry, he tried to back out of the picture, citing his sinfulness, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. (Isaiah 6:5)  We have no idea what kind of language Isaiah might have been using up to this point, but his encounter with the thrice-holy God made him uncomfortably aware of how damnable it really was.  Had God not sent an angel to touch his lips with a coal from the altar, the prophet would never have begun to see himself as acceptable before such a radically holy God – and he, therefore, would have been cheated out of the privilege of serving as one of God’s most outstanding spokesmen.

 Even Moses was enslaved by this “Alcoholics Anonymous” mentality in regard to his natural abilities.  When arrested by the call of God issuing from a burning bush, he argued back, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. (Exodus 4:10)  It was only after God began to perform miracles through him that Moses learned that when you can turn sticks into snakes, it doesn’t matter if you stutter.

 We have already cited the story of the ten spies who had a poor self-image when they compared themselves to their enemies.  Though God saw them as leaders and princes among their tribes (Numbers 13:2), these spies saw themselves as grasshoppers.  As a result, they became as grasshoppers before the sons of Anak, And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. (Numbers 13:33)

 The tragic reality about the way they saw themselves was that it not only determined their own personal destinies, it also doomed millions of people to defeat in the desert and deterred the plans of God for forty years.

 The prodigal son came back to the father’s house but was afraid to accept the father’s grace because he could not see himself as worthy of being forgiven and accepted.  Even though he overcame his “Alcoholics Anonymous” mentality enough to come home, that “stinking thinking” tried to keep him in slavery even in the father’s house. (Luke 15:19)  Tragically, we all too often mirror this same fate when, even after coming to Christ for salvation, we fail to get the full revelation of exactly who God is and wants to be in our lives.  When the prodigal son’s father gave him a grand reception and established him in a place of honor, it was not so much a statement of the son’s worthiness but a demonstration of the graciousness of the father.  In our lives, God wants to manifest His goodness to and through us because He wants us to be established as testimonies to His goodness and demonstrations of His blessing. (Deuteronomy 7:6)

 Nathanael had an “Alcoholics Anonymous” mentality about the small town that Jesus came from, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46)  Yet, it was precisely the Jesus of Nazareth who changed the world. (Acts 2:22, 4:10, 10:38)

 We must not look back at our origins and our past.  God is not interested in where we are coming from, but where we are going.  In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord affirms that He is interested in bringing us to an expected end with an established future – regardless of where we began or how shaky our pasts might have been.

 To overcome the “Alcoholics Anonymous” mentality, we must develop the II Corinthians 5:17 mentality that proclaims that we are new creatures in Christ and that old things are passed away while all things are now new.  We must also cultivate the Romans 8:37 mentality, which declares that we are more than conquerors through Christ.  We must counter the “Alcoholic Anonymous” mentality with the Philippians 4:13 mindset that boasts that we can do all things through Christ.  We can tear down the stronghold of the “Alcoholics Anonymous” mentality by renewing our minds to the realities of Romans 5:10 through confessing that God will do anything for us now that we are His sons, because He loved us enough to die for us even while we were still His enemies.  We must openly confront the negativism of the “Alcoholics Anonymous” mentality by clinging tenaciously to the John 14:12 mentality that declares that we can do even greater works than Jesus did.

 When asked what it means to be more than a conqueror, one Bible teacher explained it with the analogy of a prizefighter and his wife.  The boxer went into the ring with a vicious antagonist.  After suffering blows, lacerations, contusions, and bruises, he finally landed the winning punch, which sent his opponent to the mat.  He then crawled out of the ring as the champion – a conqueror – and was handed a sizable check for having won the bout.  As soon as he arrived at home, his wife happily took the check and started spending it.  She did not have to go into the ring and take any blows or lose any blood, but she got the cash – she was more than a conqueror.  In the spirit realm, we are just like that wife; we get all the rewards even though it was Christ who faced the enemy and defeated him at the cross.  We do not have to do the battling – in fact, we couldn’t even if it were up to us to do so.  We must learn, as did Jehoshaphat, to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. (II Chronicles 20:17)  No matter how much we think we might be able to accomplish with our travailing intercession, languishing fasts, or vehement spiritual warring, we must be cautious to not go back to “conqueror mentality” when we can have a “more than a conqueror mentality.”

 We must renew our minds by seeing ourselves as the Bible describes us – testimonies to God’s blessings (Deuteronomy 7:6); those who walk in the spirit, not after the flesh (Romans 8:1); ones who have God’s total involvement in their lives (Matthew 28:20); those whose lives are to be made perfect, entire, and wanting nothing by their walk of faith even through trials (James 1:2-4); those who cannot be separated from God’s love (Romans 8:39); those against whom no weapon can prosper (Isaiah 54:17); and those who can run through a troop and leap over a wall (Psalm 18:29).

 One side note of caution must be added here: At the same time that we are learning not to think too lowly of ourselves, we must not get too cocky and begin to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.  (Romans 12:3)  Judas thought too much of himself and believed that he could handle gold without letting it take hold of him.  Wrong! (John 12:6, Matthew 27:5)  Samson thought that he could play with the girls without getting into trouble.  Wrong, again! (Judges 14:3, 16:18-19)  Nadab and Abihu found that trying to take God’s glory was like playing with fire – which cannot be done without getting burned! (Leviticus 10:1-2)

 We must constantly live our lives in the tension between striving to make sure that we don’t fail to take advantage of all that Jesus has provided for us (Hebrews 4:11) and thinking that we can do it ourselves.  The key is to remember with the Apostle Paul that we are crucified with Christ and that the life, which we now live in the flesh, is only through the faith of the Son of God. (Galatians 2:20)  We must remember that the Holy Spirit has come into our lives to give us power to be witnesses, not necessarily to do witnessing. (Acts 1:8)

 When we come to that place, then Christ’s image will truly begin to be manifest through us and we will have genuinely begun to mature into the full stature of Jesus Christ.  The truth of the matter is that – because it is Christ who is living through us – we are actually manifesting His maturity as it shines through our lives.  The excellence of the treasure that is inside us has begun to be visible, even through the earthen vessel that holds it.  Who you know is your status; WHO you know is your stature.

 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (II Corinthians 4:6-7)


 As I have been meditating on how we can renew our thinking about God, ourselves, and our ministries to others, I have been reminded of a little lesson that I learned as a child, that defines the relationship of these three to one another:

 Jesus, Others, Yourself  = JOY

 As we focus on getting our thinking corrected in regard to these primary areas, we set ourselves in position to move into the joy of the Lord which, according to Romans 14:17, is the very essence of the kingdom of God – the reward of those who have taken on the full image of the heavenly.

 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly…Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. (I Corinthians 15:49-50)

 Though this passage refers to the transformation that occurs when we are resurrected in our eternal form and our inheritance of the literal heavenly abode, we can become partakers of the kingdom in this lifetime if we follow God’s Word and pursue this maturing into the full stature of Christ! (Hebrews 6:1)