Spiritual Wisdom

Spiritual Disclosure

February 27, 2014 – Spiritual Disclosure

The Holy Spirit empowers us to live the Christian life, but that is not His only work. We are never instructed to pursue power, because we already have it (see Ephesians 1:18-19). The Holy Spirit is the divine impetus behind our spiritual gifts, but that is probably not the primary work of the Holy Spirit. The church at Corinth seemed to have all the gifts, but they were very immature. We are never instructed to seek spiritual gifts for ourselves, but we are instructed to seek the Giver and allow Him to gift us anyway He chooses. The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to communicate God’s presence with us.

Jesus was physically present with the disciples, but it is better that His physical presence left this earth so He could spiritually indwell believers. Jesus said, “When he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). Sin is rebellion against God that reached its climax in the crucifixion of Christ. The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin so they would turn to Christ. The Holy Spirit will bring glory to Jesus by making known within us His resurrection and ascension (John 16:14). Finally, the Holy Spirit will also bear witness to the judgment of Satan. “The prince of the world now stands condemned” (vs. 11). Satan knows that his future is doomed and will do all that he can to deceive as many as he can.

Jesus promised that when the Holy Spirit came, He would guide us into all truth. He would not speak on His own initiative, but would teach only that which comes from the Father. Jesus said, “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (vs. 14). The Holy Spirit is bearing witness with our Spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). We have become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). This is the great work of the Holy Spirit; to glorify the work of Jesus and make all this known to us in the inner person. We should begin every day by acknowledging that the presence of God is within us. Then practice His presence throughout the day.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Listening to God

February 26, 2014 – Listening to God

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). The eternal security that we have in Christ is not based on our ability to hang on to the hand of God. It is based on God’s ability to hold on to us and protect us against the spiritual wolves that would try to snatch us out of His hand. Jesus is the great shepherd and we are the sheep of His pasture. He calls every one of us by name and we listen to His voice (vs. 3). On His own authority, Jesus has laid down His life for us. He is not a hired hand who works for wages. He is the Great Shepherd who loves us.

God has spoken through His prophets and apostles who faithfully proclaimed His word and wrote it down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We listen to the voice of God when we read His word, and when we hear it proclaimed by faithful servants who are called as evangelists, pastors and teachers. We also listened to His voice when Jesus opened the gate and invited us in. It may have been in response to a gospel tract or an evangelistic meeting, or an invitation at church, or someone who simply shared their faith. You may have heard the Gospel proclaimed or saw it in print, but there was an inner “voice” that persuaded you to come. You felt convicted of your sin, but at the same time you saw the open door because your eyes were opened and you knew that somebody was calling you. It probably wasn’t audible, but you heard it in your spirit and you responded. Somehow you knew the truth in a way you have never known before.

The Friends Book of Discipline says. “Our power to perceive the light of God is, of all our powers, the one which we need most to cultivate and develop. As exercise strengthens the body and education enlarges the mind, so the spiritual faculty within us grows as we use it in seeing and doing God’s will.” We don’t always hear with our ears the voice of God, nor do we see with our eyes. The spiritual world does not operate through the same medium of our natural senses and therefore is not received through the normal channels of perception. Coupled with the written Word, which is hidden in our hearts, this inner voice nudges us in the right direction, or gives us a check in our spirit against that which is wrong. We start thinking thoughts that are wise, insightful, and in accordance with Scripture. Somehow we know what we are supposed to do or say with a sense of confidence that is not natural. He is leading you and you are following Him.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Discerning Good and Evil

February 25, 2014 – Discerning Good and Evil

Sound doctrine is like a skeleton in the body. It is absolutely essential for stability and structure. But a skeleton by itself is dead and so is orthodox teaching without the life of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:14). The “elementary teaching” that the writer of Hebrews mentions is what we would call good theology (see 5:12-6:3), which is essential, but learning to walk with God is more than an intellectual exercise. Those who put their faith into practice have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Paul wanted to give the Church at Corinth solid food, but he could only give them milk. They were not able to receive it (1 Corinthians 3:1-3), because of the jealousy and quarrels among them. They were acting like mere men instead of children of God. There are people sitting in our churches who cannot receive solid teaching, because they have never put into practice what they have already learned, and because they have unresolved personal and spiritual conflicts.

In church matters, immature saints proceed without caution. They conduct business as usual when the spiritual atmosphere is clouded and members are operating in the flesh. The mature saint can sense the oppression and would alert the others while calling for prayer. Spiritually immature parents see no visible signs that their children are in trouble. Discerning parents know something is wrong and petition God on their behalf and share their discernment lovingly with their children without judgment. They let their children know that they are aware something is wrong, but they don’t try to guess what is wrong if they don’t know. They let the Holy Spirit bring that conviction and keep the communication lines open while remaining available to their children.

Those who are spiritually discerning can sense a false prophet before their false doctrine is exposed. They can sense a compatible spirit in another believer and discern an incompatible spirit in others. They know during and after an event whether it was their idea or God’s idea. They know when they are living by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, and can sense when they aren’t.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Spiritual Discernment

February 24, 2014 – Spiritual Discernment

In a world saturated with deceiving spirits, false prophets, and false teachers, the need to exercise discernment cannot be overstated. As believers, we think with our minds, but we discern with our spirits. Mentally we can know whether something is right or wrong in the natural realm by observation and inquiry. Theologically we can agree or disagree with a verbal or written statements based on our education, experience, and understanding of God’s word. However, the spiritual world is not always discernible by our natural senses. To chart our way in the spiritual world requires the presence of God. When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives, he bears witness with our spirit and enables us to know right from wrong in the spiritual realm. This God-given ability to discern is like a sixth sense that enables us to know that something is right or wrong even though we may not know intellectually what is right or what is wrong.

The interaction between God and Solomon is helpful in understanding spiritual discernment (1 Kings 3:5-15). David had died, and Solomon had taken his place as king of Israel. Solomon loved the Lord, but by his own admission, he was too young and inexperienced to be the king (vs. 7). The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night, and God said, "Ask for whatever you want Me to give you” (vs. 5). Solomon asked and the Lord gave him a discerning heart to govern His “people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (vs. 9).

This passage reveals two key concepts about discernment. First, God gave Solomon the ability to discern because his motives were pure. Solomon wasn’t asking for a wise and discerning heart for his own personal profit, not even to gain an advantage over his enemies. He wanted discernment in order to administer justice and know good from evil. Motive is crucial since the power to discern can be misused in the Church. It is a powerful advantage to know something no one else knows.

Second, spiritual discernment is always on the plane of good and evil. The Holy Spirit gives us a check in our spirit when something is wrong. It is our first line of defense when our natural senses aren’t able to register any danger or direction. However, the ability to discern spiritually does not negate the necessity of knowing God’s word.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Disciplining Children

February 21, 2014 – Disciplining Children

Proverbs 29:17 says, “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” Discipline is a proof of our love and there are many ways to discipline, but every child does not respond the same way to the same discipline. To know which of the following forms of discipline is appropriate for each child requires an understanding of your children and seldom is it appropriate to apply the same discipline to each child all the time.

1.      Communication: Communication is the most common form of discipline. Parents should make a clear statement of their expectations and the consequences for disobedience. A rule should be definable, defensible, and enforceable. Verbal communication after disobedience is a powerful form of discipline. Even parental silence communicates volumes. Knowing they have disappointed their parents can be more painful than a spanking.

2.      Natural Consequences: Allowing children to experience the natural consequences of their disobedience and irresponsible behavior is very effective, especially for strong-willed children. Some children just have to learn the hard way. Rescuing the child from their own mistakes can seriously impede their growth. They need to understand the connection between cause and effect.

3.      Logical consequences: Assigning chores or restricting privileges that are logically connected to the sin or disobedience effectively teaches them to be responsible.

4.      Reinforcement: Reinforcement is catching your children doing something right and rewarding their good behavior. Good behavior that is rewarded is more likely to be repeated.

5.      Extinction: Crying or throwing a temper tantrum can be a way of getting attention. If you just let them have their tantrum; they begin to realize that it isn’t working. The child is training the parent when it works. The wise parent doesn’t honor such manipulative techniques by paying attention to it.

6.      Spanking: The Bible does teach that spanking can be used to distinguish negative behavior. Spanking should not be used for punishment, but for the purpose of shaping future behavior. You don’t spank children to get even; you spank them so they don’t do it again and it should always be done in love using an instrument other than your hand.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Training Up a Child

February 20, 2014 – Training Up a Child

All the nurture in the world cannot make a rose out of tulip. A parent has to train up a child in the way the child should go (Prov. 22:6), not the way the parent wants them to go. Consequently, parents need to be students of their own children and assist them in being what God intended them to be. To accomplish this, the parent has to adapt the right parenting style. The following diagram depicts four different styles:

The two most powerful influences in parenting are control and support. Parental control is defined as the ability to manage a child’s behavior. Parental support is the ability to make a child feel loved. By definition, authoritative parents have the ability to make their children feel loved and the ability to control their behavior. Permissive parents love their children, but fail to control their behavior. Neglectful parents do neither. Authoritarian parents try to control their children’s behavior but fail to make them feel loved.

Research has shown that children of authoritative parents have the highest sense of worth, conform most easily to authority, are most likely to accept their parent’s religion, and are least likely to rebel against society. Permissive parents produce children who rank second in all four categories just mentioned and authoritarian parents produce children who rank the worst. Obviously it is more important to make a child feel loved than it is to control their behavior. You may not always be able to control your child’s behavior, but you can always love them because your ability to love is not dependent upon the child. Research reinforces what Paul wrote: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Children ask two questions. “Do you love me and can I get my own way?” The permissive parent answers yes to both questions and potentially spoils the child. The child of a neglectful parent doesn’t feel loved and gets his own way. The neglected child has the greatest potential of being a juvenile delinquent. The authoritarian parent answers no to both questions. Tragically, many parents resort to authoritarianism when problems surface in the home, which is the worst thing they can do. The overly controlled and under loved child is either riddled with guilt and shame and/or rebels against authority. Authoritative parents set boundaries and maintain discipline while demonstrating genuine love. They will have the most well-adjusted children.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Divorce and Remarriage

February 19, 2014 – Divorce and Remarriage

Paul shared two concerns about those who are considering marriage. First, believers should not marry unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-16). He argues that the righteous have nothing in common with the unrighteous. They would be unequally yoked with different values, standards and direction in life. Spiritually, they are incompatible. Second, “It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each women her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2).

Once a Christian couple is married, they are not to withhold themselves from each other sexually (1 Cor. 7:3f). Their bodies not only belong to themselves but also to each other for the purpose of mutual satisfaction. On the other hand, no spouse can satisfy the other person’s lust. That can only be resolved in their relationship with God. Neither spouse has the right to violate the other person’s conscience or defile them physically in any way since their bodies are the temples of God. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4). Sexual intimacy and fulfillment in marriage can only happen in the context of mutually shared love and trust.

Paul advises Christian couples not to separate, but if they do, they must remain unmarried and work toward reconciliation. There are times when a relationship can be so strained that separation may be necessary for the good of the family. Ideally, they should stay together and work it out, but if one spouse becomes physically or mentally abusive, it may be advisable to separate, but not divorce. Scripture teaches that wives and children should be submissive, but Scripture also teaches that governing authorities have the right to punish wrongdoers (Romans 13:4). Husbands have no right to abuse their wives, and parents have no right to abuse their children. To do so is a double offense. Those who are in authority have the responsibility to provide and protect. When they become the abusers, their subjects not only suffer from the abuse but also lose their protection. The state has the responsibility to enforce laws that protect battered wives and abused children and the authority to prosecute the offenders.

Should a couple be unequally yoked, the believer must stay committed to the marriage for the purpose of their spouse’s salvation. The unbeliever can leave and if they do, the believer is no longer bound to the marriage (vs. 15). There are only two grounds for divorce and remarriage. The first is abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. The second is adultery. Under the Law, the adulterer would have been stoned to death, so obviously the remaining spouse would be free to remarry due to death. Under grace, forgiveness and reconciliation should be attempted, but if not successful, the faithful spouse has the right to divorce and remarry.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Dr. Neil Anderson’s Blog – February 2014

2/3/14 – Seduced
2/4/14 – Foolish Thinking
2/5/14 – Revival
2/6/14 – Freedom From Adultery
2/7/14 – Sin Dwelling in You
2/10/14 – Understanding Chemical Addiction
2/11/14 – Overcoming Addiction
2/12/14 – The Overcomer’s Covenant
2/13/14 – Discipline Yourself for Godliness
2/14/14 – Accountability
2/17/14 – Growing Through Committed Relationships
2/18/14 – Marriage, A Covenant Relationship
2/19/14 – Divorce and Remarriage
2/20/14 – Training Up a Child
2/21/14 – Disciplining Children
2/24/14 – Spiritual Discernment
2/25/14 – Discerning Good and Evil
2/26/14 – Listening to God
2/28/14 – Spiritual Wisdom

Marriage, A Covenant Relationship

February 18, 2014 – Marriage, A Covenant Relationship

The Lord wasn’t pleased with the false worship of his covenant people in the Old Testament and He explains why: “You ask ‘Why?’ It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. ‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD God of Israel” (Malachi 2:14-16).

Divorcees hate divorce as well. Nobody feels good when they fail to keep their commitments. Marriage is like gluing two pieces of paper together. Any attempt to separate them leaves both sheets damaged as well as the children of divorce. Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with their offspring. God is seeking godly offspring that comes from a marriage between a man and woman who honor Him.

There are only two covenant relationships in this present age. Both are based on God’s Word and rooted in His character. The first and foremost is our New Covenant relationship with God. The second is the marriage between a man and a woman. All other meaningful relationships are contractual or mutually convenient. Two people can have a covenant relationship with God, and consequently have fellowship or spiritual kinship one with the other. But they don’t have a covenant relationship with each other unless they are married. Contracts are drafted to protect all parties in case one should default. Innocent parties can seek legal action for a breach of contract. Marriage is not a contract that permits one to leave when the other doesn’t fulfill their expectations.

A covenant is a promise to fulfill irrespective of the other person and made to last regardless of circumstances. Wedding vows are a covenant commitment to stay faithful as a husband or wife, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death separates the two. What makes a marriage relationship unique is commitment. What makes a marriage relationship great is love, understanding, and forgiveness. In marriage, a man and wife become one in Christ and together they help each other conform to His image.

In Matthew 19:3-12 the Lord admonishes the Pharisees who had lost their commitment to stay married. They didn’t want to commit adultery since that was a capital offense under the law, so they were divorcing their wives for any little reason (See also Matthew 5:31-32). They were actually proliferating adultery since they had no biblical grounds for divorce. Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery” (vs. 9).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog