Take off your Grave Clothes | Transformation: A Personal Journey | Mission Trip Recap
THE SOWER The quarterly magazine of Spirit & Truth Fellowship International速
Jul/Aug/Sep 2011 | STFonline.org
The Transformed Life
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The Transformed Life Trying to love the world is like trying to help a struggling toddler who has been playing in the mud—you just cannot do it without getting some mud on you.
his issue of The Sower focuses on transformation. Change is a part of life. Everyone changes, and in fact we cannot escape it. Sadly, however, many people change for the worse. Life in this world can be so full of headaches, heartbreaks, disappointments, and failures, that many lighthearted and fun young men and women turn out to be angry and bitter people. Even people whose lives are not dominated by a pessimistic or bitter outlook can have enough anger stored up within them that it causes problems for them or others. Thankfully, no one has to be so badly affected by the world that he or she is miserable, and miserable to others. That does not mean that some people can figure out how to get the world to treat them nicely—that never happens. And withdrawing from the world is not the answer either. Who has ever heard of an overly friendly, socially well-adjusted hermit? Isolation does not heal the heart. Some people try to avoid being hurt by strictly controlling their lives and setting up firm boundaries, but that ends up limiting their ability to give to the world in a loving manner. The world is a very needy and messy place, with no respect for personal boundaries. Trying to love the world is like trying to help a struggling toddler who has been playing in the mud—you just cannot do it without getting some mud on you.
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The change, actually complete transformation that the Bible speaks of is available for every Christian, and it is the kind of transformation that we should all desire. After all, who does not want to be peaceful, joyful, and loving? And we’re not talking about “plastic face” joy either, the kind some people conjure up before meeting with others and which quickly vanishes when they are back in the normal circumstances of their lives. We are speaking of a true transformation, so that we are people full of wonderful qualities such as love, peace, and joy. Of course that takes some work on our part. It does not just happen by accident. Neither does it happen if we are not willing to obey God and put Him first in our lives. It is the prayer of all of the staff here at Spirit & Truth Fellowship that this issue of The Sower would help you see what God is making available to every Christian, and if your cry is the cry of David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God…” (Ps. 51:10 KJV), that God would answer your prayer in a powerful way that is obvious to you and everyone around you. Being Transformed,
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Volume 13 - Issue 3 - Jul/Aug/Sep 2011
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Executive Editors John W. Schoenheit Dan Gallagher Editors Rachel Darr Janet Speakes Renee Speakes
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Take off Your Grave Clothes
Transformation: A Personal Journey
The Sparks Family
Page 4 The choice is really quite simple: Are we going to offer ourselves to sin or be instruments of righteousness and holiness?
by John W. Schoenheit
Page 20 Chris & Samantha Sparks explain why they are partners with Spirit & Truth Fellowship.
Fuel for the Fire
Practicing “The Great Exchange” in Marriage
God’s Security Plan
Magazine Designer Ryan Maher Staff Writers John W. Schoenheit Dan Gallagher Production Coordinator Rachel Darr
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Home Office 180 Robert Curry Drive Martinsville, IN 46151 888.255.6189 or 765.349.2330 M-F 9 to 5 (ET) Fax: 765.342.8430 STF@STFonline.org STFonline.org You may view the electronic version of this magazine at STFonline.org/sower View back issues at STFonline.org/backissues All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. References taken from other translations or versions will be noted, e.g., King James Version=(KJV). In verses or quotations from other authors, the author has emphasized words by placing them in bold print. Words inside [brackets] have been added by the author. Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
by Dan Gallagher
by Tara Dugan Page 22 Most of the world is still not aware of the Book in which we live, and that we write it a little more each day.
Page 10 Every Christian should be seeking to understand what he or she believes.
by Gary and Karen Theisen Page 24 Godly marriages require daily prayer. The old adage is true, the family that prays together stays together.
by Chris & Samantha Sparks
by Dan Gallagher Page 28 When faced with dangers of the world, good parents need to provide their children with safety so they can feel secure.
Jul/Aug/Sep 2011 The Sower 3
â€œLike Lazarus, in a figurative manner we too need to take off our grave clothes so we can walk in the newness of our resurrection reality.â€?
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od’s Word tells us that aside from accepting Jesus Christ, everyone is dead because of his or her sin. It may be hard to accept this as reality, especially since the unsaved people are clearly walking about, eating, drinking, and doing all the things that living people do. Nevertheless, the spiritual reality from God’s perspective is that without Christ, we are all as good as dead. This is because all mankind has sinned, and the spiritual law that God established when He set up the universe is that the consequence of sin is death. What a frightening sight it would be if we saw people from this spiritual perspective. I imagine it would look like a zombie horror movie, dead people ambling about with vacant stares, covered in rotten clothes as they do their mischievous deeds. How amazing it is that when
we accept Christ we go from the inevitable state of everlasting death to our new reality of everlasting life.1 1 John 3:14a We know that we have passed from death to life… Regrettably, just because we are now raised to life does not mean that we automatically shed our rotten grave clothes. God did His part when he gave us a new life. Now it is our responsibility to take off the putrid rags of our old ways and do the hard work of transforming ourselves to comply with the new holy nature that lives inside us. Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism
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Take Off the Grave Clothes
into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. This new life is not just something we live and enjoy at a future time, rather, we have an obligation right now to live in a manner that is consistent with it (Rom. 8:12).
and troubled” (John 11:33) when confronted with the grief of the dead man’s sisters and others as they led him to the tomb. Twice we are told how he was “deeply moved,” and that he wept. It was four days earlier when they had prepared Lazarus’ body for burial in the typical Hebraic fashion of wrapping it with spices in linen strips.2 Then they laid the body in a stone grave
Death is the worst weapon the devil has in his arsenal against mankind (Heb. 2:14), and one of the most emotionally painful things anyone can endure is the death of a loved one. Raised from the dead
Death is the worst weapon the devil has in his arsenal against mankind (Heb. 2:14), and one of the most emotionally painful things anyone can endure is the death of a loved one. In the Gospel of John there is a very powerful record that tells about the death of Lazarus, one of Jesus’ close friends. When Jesus came to Lazarus’ village he was “deeply moved in spirit
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carved out of the hillside and sealed the entrance with a large stone. Now many in the crowd let out a gasp while others shook their heads in dismay as they heard Jesus command, “Take away the stone” (John 11:38). Martha, Lazarus’ sister, spoke her concern when she said, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39 NASB). This crowd
was very familiar with the stench of death and the bloating of a body that quickly occurs in the heat of the Middle East. Nevertheless, obedient to his command, some men stepped forward and rolled the stone away. The crowd convulsed back, some placing their hands over their noses and mouths as a pungent odor of putrification and death began to fill the air. Jesus, never one to be fazed by the critics or unbelief in a crowd, loudly commanded with a voice of heavenly authority, “Lazarus come out!” (John 11:43). Silence fell on the crowd as they waited anxiously, everyone staring into the inky blackness of the cave. The questions on everyone’s mind: “Is he really going to rise?” and, “What will he look like after four days of death?” The critics and unbelievers, ready to unleash another salvo of venomous judgment upon this man from Galilee, were in shock as they saw something move inside the tomb. Like a scene taken right out of a Hollywood horror movie, the dead man shuffled forward, his hands and feet wrapped, and his head covered with a grave cloth. Mouths agape, no one knew what to do as they all stared in shock and awe. Jesus shook them back to reality when he commanded confidently, “Take off
the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:44).
Let’s take off the grave clothes Like Lazarus, in Christ we too have been miraculously raised from the dead. The first thing Lazarus needed to do after being raised from the dead was to “take off the grave clothes.” Standing at the entrance to the grave, Lazarus did not hesitate one bit in getting his fetid death garb off. Also like Lazarus, in a figurative manner we too need to take off our grave clothes so we can walk in the newness of our resurrection reality. Unfortunately, unlike Lazarus, shedding our coffin attire—the sinful ways of our old self (“old man,” KJV)—requires a lot more effort than merely stepping out of some rancid grave rags. Ephesians 4:22 and 24 (22)You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self… (24) and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Without any hesitation, we should be ripping off the sinful ways of our past when we understand that we have been given new glorious attire. God has given us a new holy spirit nature and we have clothed ourselves with Christ (Gal. 3:27). It now becomes our responsibility to live in a way that conforms to our new wardrobe, our new inner holiness.
Transformation is hard work Transforming ourselves to be like Christ demands of us discipline, hard work, and persistence. Where we once lived according to the ways of this world, with worldly passions, lust, greed, pride, jealousies, and every kind of evil thought and desire; now we are to live with holiness and righteousness.
Like motorcycle riding, if I stare at the potholes and hazards ahead in my life, I will have a tendency to steer into them. Titus 2:12 … say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live selfcontrolled, upright and godly lives in this present age, Living this way is hard work and does not come “naturally.” Rather than being passive travelers on the broad roadway of this world, we must actively place our steps on the narrow pathway of above. Transforming ourselves into the image of our new nature requires a constant effort. We must learn to recognize when we are deviating from the path, and then we must work to get our thinking back on track. The Apostle Paul compared upgrading our thinking to the ways of heaven to be like offering ourselves as “living sacrifices” (Rom. 12:1). Nowadays, most of us who live in the western world have little concept of the costliness of what a “sacrifice” really entailed. In the ancient world, a sacrifice represented giving up something that cost you a lot of time, money, or effort. The cost of sacrifice really hit home as people stood watching their offering turn into ash as it burned up on the altar. Similarly, becoming a “living sacrifice” by taking off the grave clothes
of the sinful nature is hard work and it too costs us much time and effort.
The battle rages within
Having both an old and a new nature means that a battle rages inside us as our two natures come into conflict with each other. Galatians 5:17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. On the one hand, we are pulled to serve our fleshly desires, our sinful ways, and ourselves. At the same time, our new spiritual nature nudges and prods us to conform ourselves to the new image of Christ inside. Every wise general knows that winning a war demands great effort and sacrifice, but it also requires the use of wise strategies and tactics. Ephesians 5:15 Be very careful, then, how you live— not as unwise but as wise. Jul/Aug/Sep 2011 The Sower 7
Take Off the Grave Clothes
Like the caterpillar transforming itself into the butterfly, we need to shed the chrysalis of our selfish, self-centered, egocentric old man nature.
Where you look is where you go
One of the strategies we can employ is thinking about our thinking and watching what we watch. When I was fourteen years old I became drawn to motorcycling. After riding a friend’s motorcycle one time up and down a backcountry river road, I became hooked on this newfound freedom. The wind whistling in my ears and the feeling of two-wheeled flight gave me a type of euphoria like I had never enjoyed before. I soon learned the lesson that every cyclist eventually understands, that “where you look is where you will go.” Staring at the hazard in the road ahead caused me to steer directly into it, and that in turn caused me to go down. That day I experienced the hard lesson of the motorcyclist saying, “there are only two types of bikers, those who have gone down, and those who will go down.” Like motorcycle riding, if I stare at the potholes and hazards ahead in my life, I will have a tendency to steer into them. Focusing on sinful behavior seems to produce a greater propensity in me to sin. In our efforts to live the transformed life, instead of focusing on where we do not want to go, it proves much more effective to keep our eyes fixed on the One we want to be like. 8 The Sower Jul/Aug/Sep 2011
Commit your ways to the LORD
Throughout the ages God has provided a goal that His people should focus on. Beginning with Adam and Eve, God promised that He would send a savior that would crush the serpent’s head.3 Hebrews chapter 11 is a wonderful synopsis of many of the “greats” of the Bible, whose faith was undaunted in the face of great adversity because of their great focus on gaining a “better resurrection.” Another way of saying, “Focus on the things of God,” is that we should “commit our way to the LORD…” (Psalm 37:5a). The English word “commit” in the Old Testament is translated from the Hebrew word “galal.” One of the difficulties in understanding the true meaning of “galal” is that in Hebrew it has a very concrete meaning, whereas the English word “commit” is somewhat abstract. The Hebrew word “galal” meant to be “rolled up” in the sense of a twisting together. We are to “commit” our ways to the Lord in the sense that we become twisted together with God (Prov. 16:3). The tangible example of the peppermint candy cane, with its white and red parts twisted together, serves as a wonderful illustration of what it means to be “committed’ (galal)
to God. Although the red and white parts are still two separate ingredients, they have become one and cannot be broken apart. To be committed to God is to be twisted up with Him, so that although we are separate from Him, we are one with Him in purpose and action. When our ways are completely aligned with His ways, our thoughts and deeds matching His desires, then we can truly say we are “committed” to God. Jesus was so fully rolled up in God that he could say to Philip, “Don’t you know me, Philip…? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Christ’s ways were inseparable from God’s ways, which is why he also said, “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine” (John 17:10a). That’s the kind of “commitment” God wants us to have, and that is what our focus should be on.
Losing our focus
We sin whenever we choose, intentionally or not, to part ways with God. Electing to walk the path of potholes instead of his roadway of righteousness, we unwrap ourselves from Him. It is as if we prefer to put the grave clothes back on instead of wearing our garments of grace and holiness. The choice is really quite simple: are we going to offer
TruthOrTradition.com/GraveClothes ourselves to sin or be instruments of righteousness and holiness? Romans 6:13a Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God… When we sin, if we retrace our footsteps we will find that it always begins with the mindset, “my way, not yours God.” From a very early age every child demonstrates some degree of self-centeredness. Experienced parents are familiar with the selfish refrain of “Noooooooo,” often times followed by the mantra of “MINE! MINE!” Our little dears think little of selfishly yanking a toy out of the hands of a playmate. Unfortunately, merely growing taller and older does not eliminate our inner inclination to “take care of ourselves.” Selfishness lives in us all and while some may have an easier time overcoming it, at times we all hear the whispers in our head saying, “But what about meeeee?” Our drive to take care of ourselves, “old number one,” actually harms and hinders us more than it does us any good. Selfish people are miserable, empty, and unhappy people. We must always be on guard to give more than we receive. Clean, fresh, and healthy water must be flowing. A body of water that is only receiving soon becomes stagnant and foul, suitable only for producing sickness and even death. Instead of putting on more soiled death rags, we should be concentrating our efforts to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14).
Following the nudges of the spirit
Like the caterpillar transforming itself into the butterfly, we need to shed the chrysalis of our selfish, selfcentered, egocentric old man nature. We can do this when we obey God, doing what He says to do by serving and loving others. Thankfully the gift of holy spirit provides the spiritual nudges and prodding to help us “get off ourselves” and to get on board with the ways of Christ.
Galatians 5:24 and 25 (24) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (25) Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Jesus promised that he was going to send his followers a “helper” that would teach and remind us of everything he said.
The choice is really quite simple: Are we going to offer ourselves to sin or be instruments of righteousness or holiness? John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. The word “counselor” is translated from the Greek word “parakaleo,” which literally means to summon or to call to one’s side. What actually happened when a person was “called to one’s side” depended on what was needed at that time. This is why “parakaleo” has been translated as “counselor,” because the type of counsel would vary depending on what was needed. The gift of holy spirit provides what we need, whether it be encouragement, correction, or reproof as it works to teach and to remind us where our focus should be. The more we obey, the more we become sensitive to its guidance and the easier it is to listen to its soft voice. We must be careful not to ignore or disobey it; otherwise we can become calloused and deaf to its whispers. Simply put, the more we
obey, the more we hear.
Be prepared to roll your sleeves up and go to work
The Bible tells us to discipline ourselves to be godly (1 Cor. 9:24-27; 1 Tim. 4:7). Temptation often precedes sin, and we can take comfort in knowing that God has promised that there is no temptation that we will ever be confronted with that we cannot overcome. 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. The above verse gives us no excuse or wiggle room when we choose to sin. Putting off the former ways of the world is going to be both hard work and very uncomfortable. Jesus compared the dedication required to do this to the cutting off of your hand or foot, or plucking out your eye if it causes you to sin (Matt. 5:29 and 30). There is nothing easy or pleasurable about that. Likewise, God never promised that the transformed life would be easy, but He does promise that we will be rewarded greatly for doing it. We can bear up and there is always a way out, but only if we choose to take off the grave clothes. Notes: 1. Being saved from death is a matter of confession. “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9 and 10). 2. We know from the record in John 19:3840 that it was the Jewish burial custom to wrap a body “with spices, in strips of linen,” which is what they did with Jesus’ body. 3. God said, speaking to the Serpent of the coming Messiah, “…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
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“...I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3)
Extended version available online at TruthOrTradition.com/transformation2
Transformation A Personal Journey BY JOHN W. SCHOENHEIT
“...I initially believed that knowing right doctrine was more important than living a godly life.”
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The Balance of Doctrine and Practice
The older I get and the more I read the Bible, the more clearly I see that we Christians must pay serious attention to how we think and act. This is a shift in my understanding from a couple of decades ago, when I thought that the doctrine I believed was of supreme importance, and how I behaved came in a distant second in God’s eyes.
My Changing Perspective
Over the years my beliefs about what the Bible says have changed. I believe it may be helpful to some others if I give some perspective on why my beliefs changed and also why I initially believed that knowing right doctrine was more important than living a godly life. The Bible is a large and complicated book, and it takes a lot to understand it. As my knowledge of history, archaeology, manners and customs, and the ancient languages has grown, my theology has changed. I have modified, and sometimes
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completely shifted, my belief about quite a few things, including faith, the operation of the manifestations of holy spirit, my future Hope as a part of the Millennial and Eternal Kingdoms of Christ, and the importance of Christian character. Do I believe that I am more approved before God now than I was when I first got saved just because, in my opinion, I have more truth now than I did then? No, I do not. In fact, my shift from believing that doctrine was more important than character to believing that they are both very important was due in part to a shift in my understanding of a verse about being approved by God. The King James Version was the only Bible I read for years, and it said, “Study to shew [show]
thyself approved unto God” (2 Tim. 2:15). As a young Christian, I read this verse and took it at face value. The way to be approved before God was to study. That worked for me because I am a good student. Fifteen years later I read the NIV and the following translation: 2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. There is a world of difference between “studying” to be approved in the sight of God and “doing my best” to be approved, which would mean doing my best in every area of my life. I later discovered that when the King James Version was written in 1611 AD, only about ten percent of the population could read, so the word “study” generally meant a “deliberate effort” (Oxford English Dictionary). Given the English of the times they were written, both the
KJV and the NIV said being approved before God was not about what I knew, but the effort I put forth in my life for Him. Doing our best for God involves doing our best in both doctrine and practice. Doctrinal error can cause serious problems in a person’s life. Jesus said that if we continued in the truth that we would be set free (John 8:32). So if our Christianity is a burden, or confusing, then our doctrine is likely not correct. We have an obligation to understand the doctrine by which we live. Do we know why we believe the doctrines we believe? God said He wants everyone to be saved and “to perceive and recognize and discern and know precisely and correctly the [divine] Truth” (1 Tim. 2:4, Amplified Version). Since God said that, we should make a diligent effort to do it. Every Christian should be seeking to understand what he or she believes. Sadly, some forms of Christianity keep people in ignorance, teaching and re-teaching that God is unknowable and His ways are mysterious. God says Jul/Aug/Sep 2011 The Sower 11
even though we are now “holy” children of God, we still have a body of flesh. What do we do about that? In light of the New Birth and guaranteed salvation, what I did in the flesh did not seem to matter much. For example, in the book, The Two Natures in the Child of God (by E. W. Bullinger), I had read lines such as: “If the flesh of itself ‘profiteth nothing,’ then it is clear that we cannot worship God with any of the senses (which all pertain to the flesh).” Bullinger stated: “The first thing we learn is: It cannot be changed...Men are never weary in their efforts to improve it; but they are constantly receiving bitter disappointments...” Concerning the heart, Bullinger asserted that the old, fleshly heart “cannot be cleansed,” while the new spiritual heart “needs no cleansing.” Bullinger went on to say: “All efforts to improve the flesh, all provision made for the flesh, all ordinances connected with the flesh, all end in corruption and death: all ‘perish with the using’ (Col. 2:22 KJV). ...If we believe His [Jesus’] estimate of it [the flesh], Every Christian should be seeking to understand what we shall never seek to make it, or force it, he or she believes. Sadly, some forms of Christianity keep to do anything for God, either in the way of people in ignorance, teaching and re-teaching that God worship or service; we shall never try to get is unknowable and His ways are mysterious. God says it to do anything by way of meeting God’s otherwise. demand for righteousness.” “All the so-called ‘good’ works done by the old nature are ‘dead works.’”1 otherwise. He says we can know Him and calls us fools when Teachings such as that, which I received we do not: “My people are fools; they do not know me. They early on as a Christian (both doctrinally and as a part of the are senseless children; they have no understanding” (Jer. 4:22). general culture I participated in) colored my understanding of God says He wants us to know Him, and He says He wants us to how to please God more than I realized. Often a person who is know truth, so we should take the time to learn it. taught that one pair of each kind of animal got on Noah’s Ark is then almost never able to see that Genesis actually says that What About Our Old Nature? seven pairs of clean animals and birds got on (Gen. 7:2 and 3). I uncovered another reason that I had not placed much In that same way, the teaching that what I did in the flesh did emphasis on godly character. I had been taught that “the flesh not matter caused me to not “see” the many verses on subduing profiteth nothing” (John 6:63 KJV); in other words, there was my flesh and forcing my body and mind to obey God. not much we could do in the physical body to please God. That seemed to make sense from what I understood about the New Rewards in the Kingdom Birth. I had been a Christian for more than twenty years before The great news about the New Birth is that the Christian I understood that the Bible said Jesus Christ would ride literally acquires a new, holy nature, a righteous standing in the down from heaven with his armies, conquer it, restore it to a sight of God, and is guaranteed everlasting life, all by faith in wonderful condition, and rule it from Jerusalem.2 I found that Christ. What God has done for Christians is so glorious that He the picture I had in my mind (a fuzzy picture at that) about tells us that what He did for Israel under the Law “has no glory living in heaven forever obscured the many clear verses stating now in comparison with the surpassing glory” (2 Cor. 3:10). In saved people would actually live on earth forever. There are this verse, the “surpassing glory” is what God has done for us literally dozens of verses in the Bible that made it clear that Christians. saved people would not be “in heaven,” but on earth. Jesus There is no way that the Church deserves a glory that is will come from heaven, fight the Battle of Armageddon and so great it makes the glory of Israel “no glory,” but God gave conquer the earth (Rev. 19:11-21), set up his palace in the newly us that “surpassing glory” for His reasons and to fulfill His rebuilt Jerusalem, and for 1,000 years reign over all the earth purposes. God deserves all of our thanks and praise. However, with a “rod of iron” (Ps. 2:9; Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15 KJV).3 Scholars
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“...I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3)
“WHEN CHRIST SETS UP HIS MILLENNIAL KINGDOM AND RULES FROM JERUSALEM, IT WILL BE A “KINGDOM” IN THE TRUE SENSE OF THE WORD, WITH EVERY KIND OF JOB THAT IS DONE IN ANY
refer to this 1,000 year kingdom as the “Millennial Kingdom.” After it there will be a great war (Rev. 20:7-10), the second resurrection, and the Eternal City will come from heaven to earth, in which the saved will live forever (Rev. 21:1-4). When Christ sets up his Millennial Kingdom and rules from Jerusalem, it will be a “kingdom” in the true sense of the word, with every kind of job that is done in any kingdom. Thus, for one thing, there will be people assigned to rule and administer with Christ (Isa. 1:26, 32:1; Jer. 3:15, 23:4; Ezek. 44:24; Matt. 19:28; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26). James and John understood this, and asked Jesus if one of them could sit on his right side, and one on his left, in his kingdom. They wanted to be Jesus’ second and third in command, a bold request and one that made the other apostles angry, no doubt at the possibility of them getting a lesser position in the Kingdom. Jesus told them that the positions of authority would be given by God (Mark 10:35-41). The Bible specifically mentions many jobs in Christ’s world-kingdom, some having more honor, some having less. These include:
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• Builders (Isa. 54:12, 60:10, 61:4; Jer. 30:18; Ezek. 36:10, 33; Amos 9:14). • Farmers (Isa. 30:23 and 24, 32:20, 61:5, 62:9; Ezek. 36:9 and 34, 48:19; Amos 9:13). • Herdsmen (Isa. 30:23 and 24, 60:6 and 7, 61:5; Jer. 31:12).
• Vinedressers and vintners (Isa. 25:6, 62:8; Jer. 31:5; Amos 9:13). • Metalworkers (Isa. 2:4, 60:17; Mic. 4:3). • Fishermen (Ezek. 47:10). • Landscapers (Isa. 60:13). • Servants (Isa. 14:2). • Cleanup duties and gravediggers (Isa. 9:5; Ezek. 39:14 and 15).4 The Bible does not name every job in the future kingdom of Christ. Enough are named to show us that the kingdom will be similar in diversity and needs to earthly kingdoms and nations of today.
What We Do in the Flesh Matters
As my understanding of the future kingdom of Christ grew, so did my understanding of how important it was to live for Jesus now. I came to realize that what I did in my flesh mattered; in fact, it mattered a lot. Verses that had been “cloudy” to me in years past now took on new meaning. One of those verses is in 2 Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Before understanding the Millennial Kingdom, and the rewards and jobs that were associated with it, I could not really fit this verse and others like it into my theology. I was happy to know that I would somehow receive for the “good” I did even if I did not know exactly how that would happen, but I could not figure out how I would receive for the “bad” I did. As I studied that in more depth, I began to pay attention to the fact that there are a lot of verses about receiving good or bad for what we have done in this life. Colossians 3:25 says people will be repaid for the wrong they have done. 1 Thessalonians 4:6 says the Lord will punish people for sexual immorality. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 says if we build on Christ in our lives we will be rewarded, but if we do not, we will enter the kingdom like someone who has gone through a fire—with nothing. 2 Timothy 2:12 says that if we deny him he will deny us. 2 John 1:8 says we can lose what we have worked for. 1 John 2:28 shows that it is possible to be “ashamed” when Christ comes. I was now looking at my flesh in a totally new light. While I could not earn salvation by my flesh, God expected me to use my body and mind to
Extended version available online at TruthOrTradition.com/transformation2
serve Him in ways I had not understood before. It was my choice to serve God wholeheartedly, halfheartedly, or not at all, and thus it was ultimately my choice whether I would rule with Christ or be a laborer in his Kingdom.
Changing the Mind and Body
I started paying great attention to verses about what our minds and bodies were supposed to do, and there are lots of them. 1 Corinthians 9:27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. Paul made his body his slave so he could win the prize, which was not salvation, but rewards in the Kingdom. Our bodies are to be our slaves, not run our lives. We are not ever to be satisfied with thinking, “Well, that is just the way I am,” which loosely interpreted, just means, “This is the way my body and mind have always been and I do not feel like making the effort to change.” Scripture is clear that I am not my own anymore; I have been bought and paid for by Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:20). Now I am to live for him, and if I do, I will be rewarded for it. I came to realize I had placed too much emphasis on the “grace” that I had been given as a Christian. Many times I ignored God’s rules or gave in to the desires of my flesh rather than diligently fighting against them, because I felt I could live by grace. I now realize I was misunderstanding grace, and that while salvation is by grace, our rewards in the Kingdom are not. No wonder the Bible says, “do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature” (Gal. 5:13). God says many times that we will
be repaid for our efforts in the flesh, because there is a lot to work on. Our flesh is ungodly and relentless, so we have to be decisive and steadfast to “win,” so to speak. Just in the Church Epistles of Paul, a very partial list of the things of the flesh we are to get rid of includes: bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, every form of malice, and filthy language. We are not to be proud or conceited, and not to repay
done to us, be zealous in building up the Church, and should share of our finances. We are to purify ourselves from everything that contaminates our bodies and spirits. We should be joyful, peaceful, longsuffering, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled, forgiving and thankful. The kinds of things we are to hold in our minds and think about are to be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.
As I studied that in more depth, I began to pay attention to the fact that there are a lot of verses about receiving good or bad for what we have done in this life. Colossians 3:25 says people will be repaid for the wrong they have done. anyone evil for evil. We are to have no involvement with sexual immorality. We are not to be envious, boastful, rude, or self-seeking. We are not to act in secret and shameful ways, deceive people, or distort the Word of God. We are not to be involved in impurity, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, jealousy, selfish ambition, or drunkenness. We are not to lie or steal, or use language that does not benefit others. We should not use obscenity or tell course jokes.5 Along with the things we are not to do, there are many things we are to do. We must have sincere love, hate what is evil; cling to what is good, be devoted to one another and honor one another above ourselves. We must always have zeal, be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. We are to share with God’s people who are in need, practice hospitality, bless those who persecute us, and have equal care for every Christian. We are to be patient, kind, keep no record of wrongs
We are to ask for God’s forgiveness when we fall short.6 Wow, how are we going to do all that? How are we going to be that good? The answer is we need to be transformed. Thankfully the Bible tells us how to do that.
Romans 12:2 shows that the “how” of transformation is renewing our minds. Unfortunately, the English phrase “renewing of your mind” is not very helpful. It does not communicate the meaning of the Greek text, which tells us to bring our minds up to a new quality. We do that by what we allow ourselves to think, because what we allow ourselves to think, and the thoughts we allow ourselves to act on, profoundly affect us and slowly form our character. Also, what we hold in our minds gradually seeps into our hearts, and becomes part of the belief system that orients our lives. The Bible has many
Jul/Aug/Sep 2011 The Sower 15
“...I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3)
verses about people who thought and acted in such a way that their hearts became dark. For example, Romans 1:21 speaks of people who became futile in their thinking and their hearts became dark as a result. Ephesians 4:18 speaks of people whose hearts became hard. Matthew 13:15 speaks of people whose hearts became calloused, and 1 Timothy 4:2 speaks of people whose consciences have been seared as if with a hot iron. In contrast to the downward spiral we experience if we indulge our flesh, David prayed for a clean heart (Ps. 51:10), and we are told to purify our hearts (James 4:8). It can be done. The Bible promises that transformation will occur if we will bring our minds up to a new quality and act on our godly thoughts. That is not easy to do. Satan has made sure that our society is packed with ungodliness, and so we are bombarded with things that work to short-circuit any transformation process. Furthermore, our sin nature is constantly trying to pull us down into the muck of life. But complaining about the difficulty of the battle will not change things; it is what it is, and that is why God will give wonderful rewards and crowns to those people who work to strive for godliness, good character and obedience. Let’s make up our minds to be knowledgeable in our doctrine and sterling in our character. The world needs that, and God deserves it. (Note: This article has been shortened to fit the space allowed.
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If you wish to read this article in its entirety, please visit our website at TruthOrTradition.com/ transformation2). Notes: 1. These quotations are from the Kindle version of The Two Natures, which has no page numbers. E. W. Bullinger was a godly man and a scholar of the first rank. He would never countenance ungodly living, or say there was no profit in obeying God’s rules and regulations. He was trying to point out that without salvation, no amount of good works were valuable. In his defense, without meaning to, I had pulled his statements out of their broader and more historical context. In my defense, Bullinger did not clearly understand the Millennial and Eternal Kingdoms of Christ, nor the rewards in those kingdoms that saved people earn by their good works. Thus, to some degree he misunderstood and misapplied the Scripture he quoted about the flesh profiting nothing. 2. See John Schoenheit, The Christian’s Hope: The Anchor of the Soul and the audio teaching of the month: “The Kingdom of God, Paradise Regained” (March/April 1992) at TruthOrTradition.com/audio 3. There is a description and diagram of the layout of the future Jerusalem in relation to the Temple in The Christian’s Hope: The Anchor of the Soul, chapter 4, “The Two Future Kingdoms on Earth.” 4. There will be death in the Millennial Kingdom because “natural people” will live there, people who survived the Tribulation and Armageddon and whom Christ will have allowed into the Kingdom (Matt. 25:31-46; Isa. 65:20). 5. These directives come from: Romans 12:16 and 17; 1 Corinthians 6:18, 13:4-6; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:25-29 and 31; and Colossians 3:8. 6. These directives come from Romans 12:914; 1 Corinthians 12:25, 13:4-6, 14:12, 16:2; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 5:22 and 23; Ephesians 4:32, 5:4; Philippians 4:8; and 1 John 1:9.
A jar of change on a nightstand
can change someone’s life. FOREVER. Would you like to be a part of sowing God’s Word all over the globe? If so, consider sowing into our ministry. We are reaching people all over the World who are searching the internet for biblical answers.
Mission Trip Recap
2011 Mission Trip Recap by Tiffany McBee
he inaugural Spirit and Truth Fellowship (STF) domestic mission trip was a success! For the past three years we have offered mission opportunities in conjunction with another organization that has been conducting missions for over 50 years. The plan was to eventually take what we learned from this seasoned missionary organization and create a missions â€œarmâ€? for our ministry. In April 2011, that is exactly what we did! With this being our first independent missions trip, we thought it wise to stick close to home and the resources available here. Working this way had the added benefit of our being able to demonstrate what we have learned in past years and to solidify the validity of our dream of STF missions work. The first two work days we spent at Camp Vision repairing significant water
damage in the bathroom and a closet in Cabin #8. In addition to our desire to be close to home and to have better access to resources during our first STF mission, working at Camp Vision allowed us to directly give back to this ministry. Those who visit Camp Vision for upcoming events will be able to see what our small group of missionaries was able to accomplish in just two days. We hope to continue to give back to STF as we continue to build STF Missions. During the final two work days we helped a local couple who host an STF church in Indianapolis to begin the process of converting the basement of their building into a suitable space for church/fellowship meetings. The rest of the building consists of rooms and apartments for people with limited means. Many of the people who live in the building also have limited access to vehicles and therefore being able to
attend church/fellowship meetings in the same building in which they live is a true blessing. While the outward focus of our mission project was construction, demolition, and clean up, these tasks did not overshadow the higher goals of sharing the love of Christ, and ministering to the emotional and spiritual needs of those we served. We made the most of every opportunity to share a kind or encouraging word, or to offer a reassuring or comforting touch, or just to listen with an open and understanding heart. Our desire is to put into practice the idea of being the hands and feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 9:12 (ESV) For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.
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The ABC’s of God Lessons from my children
by Cara Hanson
The Golden Calf & a Cracker with Legs
n my house, I have a strict policy about keeping food at the table. Of course, my children ensure that most of the food actually ends up under the table, but at this point I can’t be too picky about my prepositions. With three young kids, I should be happy when their food stays within the general vicinity of our time zone. One day I was surprised to see a cracker at the top of the stairs. It was just sitting there staring back at me, as if to say, “How’s that policy workin’ for ya?” That’s right, the cracker was sassing me, and I was not going to tolerate it for one minute. The attitude was unbecoming, even for a Ritz. “Where did this cracker come from?” Silly me, thinking someone would actually answer that question. That’s sort of like expecting an answer to “Who broke this vase?” or “Who wants more broccoli?” I switched tactics. “Who cut down my cherry tree?” I growled, trying to sound like George Washington’s father. Even though I sounded like Mickey Mouse trying to imitate Barry White, the kids were lassoed with the noose of guilt. I had repeatedly told them about how virtuous little George was when his father expected a truthful answer. A lone voice squeaked from the back of the house. “I did it, Mommy, and I’m sorry.” My four year old son appeared with a scowl.
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“So let me get this straight... You were sitting at the table eating like a good little boy, and all of a sudden your cracker just grew legs and jumped over to the stairs?” “How did this cracker get over to the stairs if you were eating it at the table like you were supposed to?” “It jumped?” “So let me get this straight,” I answered. “You were sitting at the table eating like a good little boy, and all of a sudden your cracker just grew legs and jumped over to the stairs?” “Yes.” “Did it do a little dance, too?” I broke into a wild hip-hop number, which looked something like a penguin on Quaaludes. We all had a good laugh, and the
kids realized how ridiculous it is to tell whoppers and try to get away with it. They never tried to lie again, and we all lived happily ever after. And if you believe that, I also have some magic beans to sell you. Humans have been making lame excuses ever since Adam and Eve played the blame game in the Garden. Perhaps the greatest example comes from the record of Aaron and the Golden Calf (Exodus 32). Once upon a time a man named Moses was called by God to climb Mt. Sinai. He was eighty years old, but he was able to go up and down the mountain with no problem. The “Jack LaLanne” of his times. When he was gone for too
Humans have been making lame excuses ever since Adam and Eve played the blame game in the Garden.
had to pay the price for sin. Moses burned the calf into a powder and made them drink it. (Maybe Jack LaLanne got his protein drink and juicer ideas from this.) Just when they were thinking, Hey, this drink isn’t too bad and it’s half the calories of milk…God struck them with a plague.
long, his brother Aaron and the Israelites decided to worship a golden calf. Moses returned to a scene of moral dissipation, and he was not too happy.
I am so thankful to be living in the Age of Grace. We all make outlandish excuses—our own version of a cracker with legs. Even though sometimes we deserve a disgusting drink and a plague, Jesus took the punishment for us by dying on the cross. He deserves better than our lame and childish excuses. But somehow he rolls them up with our sins and removes them as far as the east is from the west.
What followed was one of the worst excuses ever recorded. I’m not sure how Aaron said it with a straight face. “So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave
me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and OUT CAME THIS CALF!” (Exod. 32:24). Moses was a dad, so he had probably heard outrageous excuses before. I hope he really milked this one. Oh, so it just magically formed itself into a calf, came to life and walked right out of the fire? Did it do a little dance, too? In Old Testament times, they really
Jul/Aug/Sep 2011 The Sower 19
Partner Profile Chris & Samantha Sparks
“We attribute much of our spiritual growth and knowledge of the Word of God to this ministry. They have certainly sown much into our lives.”
e have been involved with Spirit & Truth Fellowship since the Live Out Loud Conference in December of 2001, long before we got married. For us the Conference was a life-changing event. Not only did we feel God’s power moving mightily through those ministering to us, we learned things we had never heard before. From there we attended every event we could possibly make it to. There is just not enough space in this profile to describe the growth and transformations God has worked in both of us through events and other resources this ministry provides. We eventually got married, which brings us to the present day. We have two amazing little girls, who are now ages 2 ½ and 1. While we haven’t been to any events in a few years, we were very blessed by the privilege of having a baby dedication for our first daughter by Spirit and Truth Fellowship. We also still feel a strong connection to fellow members of this ministry. Even today, this ministry has affected how we are
PARTNER Sign up online at STFonline.org/partnership Go to STFonline.org/partnership or call 888.255.6189 M-F 9 to 5 (ET). 20 The Sower Jul/Aug/Sep 2011
raising our children. Having said this, we feel it is important to give financially to them. Galatians 6:6 (ESV) says “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.” In 1 Corinthians 9:1-11, the apostle Paul speaks of the right for those ministering and sowing God’s word to reap material things from those receiving the word and ministering. Again, in Philippians 4:15-20, Paul speaks of this partnership of giving and receiving, and how acceptable and pleasing this is to God. We attribute much of our spiritual growth and knowledge of the Word of God to this ministry. They have certainly sown much into our lives. We believe God’s Word and want to do what it says. This is why we give to Spirit and Truth Fellowship International. Chris and Samantha Sparks Fayetteville, AR
with Spirit & Truth Fellowship International
Do You Like A Good Deal?
o you like a great bargain? Most people the world over love to find a good deal. Every savvy business owner recognizes this, which is why having a special “sale” can be a very effective way to increase sales and generate more income. There are many people who have the money to pay full price for something, yet they wait until the item “goes on sale” at a reduced price before they will buy it. People’s desire to find a bargain is what drives the use of coupons, garage sales, flea markets, consignment shops, and the wide variety of discount stores. The fantastic news is that God has provided mankind the greatest deal of all time. The bargain is that everyone can have everlasting life and the best part is that it is a free gift from God. The only thing a person has to do to receive this gift is to accept Jesus as his or her Lord and believe that God has raised Jesus from the dead. When we believe this in our hearts and confess him as Lord with our mouths we unconditionally receive the free gift of holy spirit, and God guarantees us life everlasting. Now is the time to make sure you get in on this great deal!
Video: Becoming a Christian Watch a quick 10-minute video on how and why to get saved. This video goes in-depth to answer common questions. TruthOrTradition.com/becoming Check out our booklet, Becoming a Christian: Why? What? How? TruthOrTradition.com/salvation
calendar of events
Women’s Conference September 8 - 11, 2011 Bloomington, IN Men’s Camp October 20 - 23, 2011 Bloomington, IN Silent Retreat October 26 - 30, 2011 Bloomington, IN Live Out Loud Dec. 29 - Jan. 1, 2012 Martinsville, IN Register online at STFonline.org/register or call us toll free at 888.255.6189 or 765.349.2330 Fax: 765.342.8430 M-F 9 to 5 (ET)
Jul/Aug/Sep 2011 The Sower 21
Fuel for the Fire is written by the Teens and Twenties of Spirit & Truth Fellowship International.
by Tara Dugan
love a good book. I love to read them, and I love to try my hand at writing them. Every aspect of a good book is fascinating—from the basics of word choice to such mysteries as believable characters, strong conflict, and a perfect ending to top it off. I find that my desire to read novels and to create them is natural, an imitation of humanity’s Father: God. The ending of a good book is a subject all its own: how the author ties all those intricate details, characters and conflicts into a single thought, one that is a good conclusion and interprets something in light of man’s existence. When a critic discloses the ending of a story before the reader reaches it himself, a “spoiler alert” is often issued to protect the reader from hearing the resolution of the puzzle too soon. This is not a disappointment when considering the greatest book of all. The Bible is called “the word of life” in Philippians 2:16 and 1 John 1:1. It is authoritative on diverse subjects ranging from history to biology. Yet more than being informative, it states the actual course of human existence: how it began (Genesis); how it is currently going (the Epistles); and how it will end (Revelation). It is, in itself, the ultimate Book—and, as any book, it has a plot, setting, and characters. This is God’s story. And our story. The beauty of being a servant of God is that we, as characters in a novel, have access to the very book in which we are living. Yet unlike unknowing, fictional people battling against fate at the hands of a human author, we are much more self-aware—we are, in fact, in relationship with our Author, and
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Most of the world is still not aware of the Book in which we live, and that we write it a little more each day. we talk and commune with Him. While we do not know all of the secrets in our story, the plot is very clear, starting with, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). When Adam and Eve sinned, the conflict of our story was set—a continual battle between good and evil had begun. On from there, we see the rising action: God choosing a nation to call His own, the Israelites; the wars and strife that often separated the people from their God, and the prophets and kings who repaired the damage done between sinful man and sinless God. There are constant ups and downs: conquests, diabolical kings, attempts to sever the lineage that led to Christ. There was Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. And then, an amazing
plot twist: the Age of Grace and the Sacred Secret (1 Cor. 2:8). The rising action continues with us, leading up to the climax of events in Revelation. The falling action will follow: the heavenly kingdom is established. And then, there’s the dénouement, or resolution: we enter God’s peaceful eternity that He had intended for us since the beginning. The story we’re living in can be stated in a simplified paragraph like the above. But there is much more to our Book than we can ever understand, just like any good classic worth studying. As opposed to most characters, we have come into the action after it’s been at work for a long time, with the Bible to give us a view of the past. Yet we clearly understand our role in the story:
Ecclesiastes 12:13b Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. We’d have to laugh if we read a book where the main character knew where the story was going. If the hero was wounded, bleeding and surrounded by grave-faced companions, he’d be able to smile and say, “Don’t worry, I know the ending—I survive, vanquish the enemy, and we all live happily ever after!” While that would not make a good novel, it seems ironic that it is the case for us, and makes life more bearable and the Bible more enjoyable. Death now is just a formality—Jesus Christ has already fulfilled our legal obligation for death; we are promised eternal life. Romans 6:22 and 23 (22) But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (23) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Yet with this powerful knowledge— this freedom to be able to know that death is truly just “sleep” for us and that we will have the ultimate victory in the end—why is it that we struggle through life as if we don’t know the plot? There are two broad categories of characters in books: determining characters and incidental characters. The first group are those who have important roles and affect where the plot goes; the others just pop in and out of sight with no valid consequence. We are, altogether, characters, and that fact is unavoidable. Opposed to a novel where the author characterizes his fictitious people however he chooses, our Author has given us personality, but He lets us develop ourselves. We choose what we are and what we do to move the story forward. Will we be protagonists? Will we choose to be static characters—those who do not change? Will we be flat characters— those who aren’t detailed?
How we develop our roles will be taken into account at the climax: the Judgment. 2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. We are constantly reminded by our Author to remember that our actions now—how we develop our character— will determine our outcome later. Several of these verses are emphasized by the phrase “do not be deceived.” 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 10 (9) Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders (10) nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. It is easy to be deceived. We lose sight of what we are when we are living in this world. Our view of spirituality becomes muddled in thoughts of finance, relationships, and politics, and we can begin to grow cynical as we see “the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:3). We need to remember our role in this story. The Book is not over, by any means—we know what the final scene will be, but how we get there is still up to us. We are Christ’s ambassadors on earth. We also help with the number of determining characters there will be. Most of the world is still not aware of the Book in which we live, and that we write it a little more each day. We have the joyous privilege to help to turn those many incidental characters into characters who live in power as we witness to others and bring them to Christ.
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. We have peeked to the back of our book, so we know what is going to happen. Colossians 3:1-4 (1) Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (2) Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (3) For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (4) When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Seeing the ending—a glorious life with Christ—is a gift no great literary figure in history has ever had, and we should be thankful for it. This spoiler gives us hope; gives us wisdom; and gives us courage. What can we fear will happen if we know the ending? We should never settle for being incidental characters; it will be to the benefit of God, ourselves, and others if we make up our minds to be determining characters and make things happen for God.
Back Issues of The Sower You can now read back issues of The Sower online in a high quality PDF or in our NEW Flash Version. In the Flash Version, you can actually flip through The Sower like a real magazine. We think it’s pretty cool! Check it out at STFonline.org/backissues
Jul/Aug/Sep 2011 The Sower 23
Featured Ar ticle
Practicing “The Great Exchange” in Marriage By Gary and Karen Theisen *Editor’s Note: The following article was written with the intent of being included in the previous issue of The Sower. Due to space constraints, we were unable to include it. However, we feel it is important enough that it needed to be included in this current issue.
n considering the concept of “the Exchanged Life,” we are mindful that Jesus chose the marriage union as an analogy of how he is in relationship with his church. Ephesians 5:31 and 32 (31) “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (32) This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. The “one flesh” that a man and woman become is also part of what Christ says about his Church, for when we become saved, we become part of “the Body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27, Eph. 5:23). That’s intimacy! Those who choose to enter the covenant of marriage agree to leave behind the freedoms found in singlehood and exchange them for a relationship where the needs of the other will supersede the needs of self. Jesus reminds us that in marriage, two are to become one. This was God’s plan for marriage from the beginning. After making Eve from Adam, He said they were to become “one flesh.”
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Genesis 2:23 and 24 (23) The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” (24) For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” The Hebrew terms for “man” and “woman” are ish and ishah, and ishah is just the Hebrew word “man” with the feminine ending added. In light of that fact, ishah has been interpreted by some scholars as, “my other self.” When Adam sees Eve for the first time, he recognizes her as “my other self,” saying, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 1:23).
Marriage: A training ground for learning the art of Christlike love
Inherent in one flesh couplehood is the concept that we are to train ourselves to see our spouses as an extension of ourselves. Covenant marriage is to be a training ground for learning the art of Christ-like love, which involves choosing to die to self for the greater goal of one flesh unity. This takes a lot of work, and the Bible warns us that those who choose to marry will experience challenges. 1 Corinthians 7:28b But those who marry will face many troubles in this life… The word “troubles” is translated
from the Greek word thlipsis, and refers to pressure, trouble, suffering, and distress. In Greek literature, one of the uses of thlipsis is for the pressure a woman undergoes in childbirth. Jesus understands that even a marriage of two godly people will have pressures, and it is our choice whether we let that pressure mold and shape us into better people, or whether we just use it as an excuse to end the relationship. He understands that Christians have a sin nature and can be carnally minded. Learning to love another with Christ’s love will stretch us outside of our natural comfort zone. We will have to regularly practice forgiveness for ourselves and our “other self.” Christ understood that this discipline of giving for the other person would lead to a practical understanding of love, mercy, grace, and holiness.
holy and blameless. God intended for there to be covenant marriage for believers, two individuals who have already submitted their lives to Christ and are indwelt with
Notice the primary motivator in submission to each other is reverence to Christ. In marriage, one has the awesome privilege of putting one’s own desires aside for the good of the couplehood.
Covenant marriage is to be a training ground for learning the art of Christ-like love, which involves choosing to die to self for the greater goal of one flesh unity.
Ephesians 5:25-27 (25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (26) to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, (27) and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but
the gift of holy spirit. The decision to submit to Christ as Lord and Savior is necessary for salvation, and requires that one set aside any pride and take on a heart of humility to ask Jesus Christ to assume his rightful position as Lord and Savior. In making Christ “Lord”, we stop being the lord of our lives and allow Jesus to be the Lord. Humbly submitting to Christ and the Word of God is a daily decision. Similarly, humble submission for the benefit of the one flesh couplehood is also a daily decision. Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.
Wives are to submit to their husbands
For the wife, submitting to her husband is compared to how the Church submits to Christ (Eph. 5:24). It was not scary or distasteful for me (Karen) to submit to Christ when I got born again. I saw the mess I had already made of my own life and I thankfully gave up the reins to Jesus, grateful for all he had suffered and accomplished on my behalf. Similarly, a wife should be able to rest in complete safety when she submits to her husband as the head of the marriage, confident that because he is also in submission to Jesus Christ, he will not “lord over her” in a carnal way, but will love her as Christ loved the church. Wives are reminded that God’s plan of submission is not new but part of God’s pattern from the very beginning. 1 Peter 3:1 and 2 (1) Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the Jul/Aug/Sep 2011 The Sower 25
word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, (2) when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Women, we are called to boldly move into submission, trusting Jesus as head of the Body to work in our husbands. This requires women to have faith and to be prayer warriors for our spouses and children.
Husbands loving their wives like their own bodies Husbands are commanded to not act carnally, but in true Christlike love.
Christ-like husband, however, must have love and discipline to care for the needs of his spouse. Jesus came the first time as a sacrifice, the suffering servant, not as the conquering king. Likewise, husbands are to love their spouses with a sacrifice like Christ’s.
Godly marriages require daily prayer. The old adage is true, the family that prays together stays together. Your loved one WILL irritate you, disappoint you, and challenge you. Biblical love is a decision of the will, not a whimsical feeling that comes and goes. Prayer makes all the difference. It is difficult to stay mad at someone with whom you are regularly praying.
Godly marriages require daily prayer. The old adage is true, the family that prays together stays together.
Ephesians 5:28-30 (28) In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (29) After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church– (30) for we are all members of his body. It strikes us as ironic that our Heavenly Father does not instruct women to love their spouses as their own bodies. Most women are dissatisfied with some aspect of their body so God knew this mandate would not communicate well to females! A
I (Gary) recall readily taking on more housework when Karen was nursing our babies. This not only ensured the home stayed orderly, which blessed Karen, but allowed her to have the energy to enjoy the physical blessings of one flesh unity once the little ones were finally asleep. Both of us enjoyed the blessings of sacrifice! Notice the husband’s self-sacrifice lays the foundation for accomplishing Christ’s spiritual goals for the couple.
Marriage: practicing disciplines of the Exchanged Life There is nothing like answered prayers to ensure a couple’s unity and purpose in the spiritual battle!
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1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker [“delicate”] partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Early in our marriage, we would sometimes get into arguments about my (Gary’s) wardrobe choices. I was convinced white soccer socks were the perfect match to any outfit, formal or not. We became convicted about the silliness of our petty arguments when we read about God’s “dress” code, which is outlined in Colossians. Colossians 3:12 and 13 (12) Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
(13) Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Notice that we are to forgive as the Lord forgave us. This means we are humbly aware of our own sins and carnal nature. Staying connected to the Living Word, Jesus, by keeping our heads in the written Word is essential!
What a joy to not only birth children, but to lead them into the new birth! Like our heavenly Father, we have the privilege of displaying His heart of evangelism as we practice one flesh unity and teach our children to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Evangelism is a natural outgrowth of
reveals that the priests had practiced “spiritual adultery,” which is “stepping out” on God and worshipping idol gods (often that worship actually involved physical sex). What is true in the spiritual realm is true in the physical realm. Adultery is a common reason for divorce today. We need to be aware of the link between idolatry (worshipping anything other than God, which is usually worshipping self ) and the resulting physical adultery! God says he hates divorce, not divorced people. He reminds us divorce is to be avoided because he desires godly offspring. He understands divorce can put children at risk for depression, anxiety, and more. Also, statistically, children of divorce are more prone to divorce in their own marriages.
Notice that we are to forgive as the Lord forgave us. This means we are humbly aware of our own sins and carnal nature.
Another reason Jesus chose marriage as an example of how he is with his Body, the Church, is because marriages produce fruit— children. The propagation of the Christian faith is furthered by children who eventually become born again themselves. This also prophetically fulfills God’s promise to Jesus, the Messiah. Isaiah 53:8 and 10 (8) By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. (10) Yet it was the LORD’S will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
Jesus did not have physical offspring, but as Isaiah said, he has spiritual “offspring” each time someone gets saved by believing in him (Heb. 2:13).1 God intended the Christian family to be the starting base for spiritual nurture and education. Never underestimate the power of prayers of thanksgiving offered at mealtimes and nighttime prayers as little ones are tucked into bed. Father God’s heart toward the family is revealed in the way He blesses His people. Isaiah 44:3b I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.
the marriage and a part of the family, because godly couples practice the privilege of teaching their children about God and Jesus Christ.
God wants strong marriages
God wants us to have strong marriages, and says He “hates divorce,” in part because of the impact divorce has on children. The book of Malachi tells us God did not accept the offerings of the people because of the way they were behaving in their marriages. This should serve as an important lesson for us—taking the time to build strong marriages is very important to God. Malachi 2:14–16a (14) You ask, “Why?” [Why does God not respect or accept the offerings? (v.13)]. 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. (15) 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. (16a) “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel... The greater context of Malachi 2
Our marriages can model what God intended
Those people who agree to enter into a marriage covenant agree to leave behind the blessings specifically associated with being single and exchange them for the blessings associated with marriage, covenanting that the needs of the other will supersede the needs of self. In considering “the Exchanged Life,” let’s be mindful that Jesus calls us to understand our one flesh marriage covenant, get everything that God intended for us in it, and protect it from the many assaults the world has against it. As we put on the mind of Christ and follow in his footsteps to present ourselves as living sacrifices, our marriages become the blessing that God intended, and a picture and representation of the loving Christ and his faithful Church. Note: 1. The Hebrew word for “offspring” is zera (Strong’s #2233), and its primary meaning is “seed,” that which is sown. However, it also refers to the crop which is grown or the offspring that are produced. People who believe in the Messiah and are thereby saved are his “offspring,” his “crop,” if you will, and that included the saved people both before and after the Day of Pentecost. Jul/Aug/Sep 2011 The Sower 27
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God’s Security Plan BY DAN GALLAGHER
n the summer of 2004 my wife Lori and I moved from California to the beautiful state of Indiana. Having spent a number of decades on the west coast, we learned to live with the always present possibility of an earthquake, at times even joking that if one occurred, California might slide into the ocean leaving Nevada with “beachfront” property. Soon after arriving in the Midwest we learned first hand that we had traded the potential earthquakes for monstrous thunderstorms that bring the threat of tornados. There have been a number of times that we have had to gather the children and descend into the bowels of the basement of our home to wait out the passing threat overhead. Recently in the middle of the night I had to lie down next to my five year old to comfort him as he trembled with fear from the thunderous booms and lightning strikes outside. When faced with dangers of the world, good parents need to provide their children with safety so they can feel secure. Lying next to my boy, I was able to reassure him that he was safe and that the storm would not hurt him. I also prayed with him and reminded him that God loved us and we would be safe when we placed our trust in Him. The next day during my prayer time I realized that deep within all of us there is a need to feel safe and secure. God provided for every one of Adam and Eve’s needs when He placed them in the Garden. He did not put them on an earth that was a toxic waste dump filled with dangers and hazards. The air and
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When faced with dangers of the world, good parents need to provide their children with safety so they can feel secure. water were pure, the food nutritious, and the world reflected His love for mankind. Man was secure because of God’s love, and mankind became insecure by rejecting His provision, thereby rejecting God’s love. To this present day all of mankind seeks to restore the security that is missing from deep within the heart. People tend to fill the hole of insecurity in a variety of ways. Some seek security by acquiring material possessions, while others pursue it through education and degrees, or by a certain position or job title. And then there are some who try to obtain it through their appearance or who they
“know.” Sadly, none of these things will ever produce true security and they often lead to greater anxiety and fear, which in turn results in even more insecurity. Adam and Eve’s insecurity resulted in shame and hiding. It also caused them to rationalize their sin and to shift blame. Insecurity always leads to shame, envy, competition, divisions, resentments, bitterness, and unforgiveness. It was the rejection of God’s love that produced insecurity in the first place, and likewise, my real sense of security only happens when I “know” deep in my being that God really loves ME. Most Christians “understand” that God loves them, but this is not the same as really
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It was the rejection of God’s love that produced insecurity in the first place, and likewise, my real sense of security only happens when I “know” deep in my being that God really loves ME. experiencing His love in such a way that they are fully convinced of it. We must remind ourselves continually that God’s love is complete and unconditional. We cannot earn it or buy it, nor can we forfeit or lose it, because GOD IS LOVE! (1 John 4:16). There is nothing more powerful than knowing deep in my heart that God loves me. For far too long I wore myself out doing seemingly spiritual activities, thinking I needed to earn His favor. This always happens when we think that God’s love is conditional. I was raised in a denomination that taught that my salvation was based upon my good works, and for someone like me who tended to sin a lot, I never really felt that God was happy with me or that He really loved me. My mind would tell me, “I know God loves everyone, but He can’t really love ME.” It was not until I told myself repeatedly, oftentimes
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even saying it out loud, that I finally believed in the core of my being that He completely loves me. There is a lot of truth in the old adage, “There is safety in numbers.” A wonderful benefit of being with God’s people is being able to both share and receive His love. When we understand that His love is unconditional we respond with a desire to please Him and to become like Him. As in any family, we may not always agree with each other but we can always love each other and try to draw the best out of each other. Don’t deny yourself the awesome security that comes from knowing God’s love, and experiencing it through others. We have great joy and peace when we genuinely believe in our hearts that God loves us because then we know we are secure.
May 2011 Audio Teaching
by John Schoenheit In Christ - Our Union with Christ Most Christians gladly accept that the Bible is the source of Christian doctrine and practice, and because of that it is vital that Christians are able to read it and understand what it is saying. Yet the Bible uses language that can be confusing to Christians. The language was not confusing to the Greeks, who spoke the language of the New Testament and knew its idioms. One of the idioms of the Greek New Testament that confuses Christians is the use of the word “in” (sometimes translated “into” in our English Bibles) to describe relationships. In this teaching, John Schoenheit covers the meaning of New Testament phrases that use “in” (or “into”), and gives very helpful explanations and translations of what some of the important verses that use these phrases mean. Listen to this audio teaching for free at STFonline.org/podcast or TruthOrTradition.com/audio
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Dear Sower Sower Feedback Thank you for the issue “Love: The More Excellent Way.” It has been really tough for me to love some of my family members and friends due to their reaction to a recent decision I made; the article “Freedom from Heart Disease” was a gentle and needful reminder to me that I NEED to love them anyway-and not necessarily phileo love, but agape love. Loving the “unlovable” is for both my and their good.
Website Feedback Hi! My name is Catherine and I am from Montreal Canada. I have found your website during the time when I was so down spiritually. Hearing your audio and video everyday, I find myself changing and becoming more Godly. I now have hope in God’s word and in the coming of His son Jesus Christ who is our saviour and our redemeer. I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for sharing your knowledge about the truth of God and for your dedication to spread the word of God. May God bless you all. Editor’s Note: To check out our latest articles, visit TruthOrTradition.com
Thank You Thank you, thank you all for keeping the true Word moving, sharing the knowledge of the One True God and His son Jesus the Christ. God lead you always! Much love and gratitude, Louise L. Cave Creek, AZ
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Kerlene T. Berrien Springs, MI Editor’s Note: Visit STFonline.org/backissues to check out all of our Sower back issues.
20 Year Old Student Just want to take the time out of my homework and studying to tell you guys what an awesome thing God is doing through you all. I am a twenty year old college student from North Carolina and you have changed my life completely. I grew up in the church, but had been having some intense doubt issues ever since the death of my cousin, who was raised up as my brother. Things are still tough on my end, but because of what God is doing through YOU wonderful people, I am beginning to better understand and get a handle on my life and what God’s part is in it. So, since it is 1:52 a.m. that’ll be all for now. I could say so much more, but I’ll end it with a “THANK YOU for giving to the Lord, I am a life that was changed.” Love, Jessica K.
Editor’s Note: See our book on God’s goodness called “Don’t Blame God” at TruthOrTradition.com/dbg
Love Sower Feedback Thanks for all you do for God and His children. I enjoyed the articles on Love in The Sower. It’s easy sometimes to forget how much He loves us even when we are not living up to our full potential as believers. My prayers are with you. Love, Marilyn H. Greensboro, NC
Women in Ministry I actually stumbled upon Mr. Schoenheit’s teachings while researching the topic of women in ministry… It was absolutely refreshing to hear a brother of the faith take such a bold stand against teachings that prohibit women to basically be used by the spirit of God! I am so thankful. Towela M. Charlotte, NC
Send us your Feedback Do you have questions about the Bible? Comments about our articles, audio teachings & videos? We would love to hear from you! Email us at STF@STFonline.org
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