Grace Bible Church
Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries
The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life from the week ending 02/15/09
Spiritual growth takes time.
Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus. (John 12:20-22)
This is a few days before Jesus’ death on the Cross. Many would have seen this request as an opportunity to expand our ministry to a foreign country. However, Jesus did not see it that way, and He gave a very unusual answer:
And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:23-26)
The Lord will achieve His goal by dying. Jesus was clear about His ultimate purpose, and how to achieve it: Glory is the end; death is the means. He would reach the Greeks, but it would be by losing his life the very next day, rather than entertaining their adulation for a day. Jesus glorified the Father by sacrificing His own life and body. His body was a seed, and seeds do not grow until they go into the ground and die. The entire two thousand plus year history of the Church is one seed dying and becoming five hundred, five hundred dying to become ten thousand, ten thousand dying to become one million, and so on.
“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” (JOH 15:8-9)
The Church is called to imitate Christ in His purpose, glorifying the Father, and in His means, dying to self. There is no other way to glorify Him. Obedience to the Lord involves death, and death always produces the life that glorifies God. The good news is that death ultimately ends in joy. The spiritual life involves the Holy Spirit breaking down the outer man, the old sin nature, so that the inner man, the new spiritual species, can be unleashed. God the Holy Spirit leads the old sin nature to the Cross. A seed is buried once, but then after gradually disintegrating, it sets free a new life. God does the same with our old sin nature by delivering it to death with Christ once and for all on the Cross, and then bringing about its disgrace in detail through the circumstances of life. This is what allows the new life to be released.
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (ROM 6:3-7)
That I may come to know Him, and the power of [behind] His resurrection and the participation of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; if, in some way, I may attain to the resurrection away from the dead ones.
Identification with our Lord’s death, and participation in His sufferings, is not a one-time process, but rather continual. Paul tells us that our inward man (the new creature) is renewed day by day: Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2CO 4:16-17). When the breaking down of the indwelling old nature occurs in our life, it produces a tremendous change in us. However, we still have to learn about all that God is working within us.
There is a tendency to become filled with guilt as the Holy Spirit reveals things about us that are not comforting to realize. The Holy Spirit’s administration of the Cross to the old man is preparing you for the truth. That same Cross is central in the resurrection life of the new man! The Cross not only crucified the old life, but paved the way for the life beyond the Cross! The mature believer wears the mantle of continual satanic opposition. As long as you stick with the plan of God for your life, there will be continual pressure and opposition from satanic forces of evil. It is the highest honor God could give to any believer in time, and it is called here participation in His sufferings, a reference to undeserved suffering. It is the highest mantle or award in time for the mature believer.
The third phrase in PHI 3:10 has a very rich meaning. The first one: that I may come to know Him. The second one: that I may come to know the power of [behind] His resurrection. The third one: and the participation of His sufferings. This of course has nothing to do with the law of volitional responsibility, or divine discipline, but undeserved suffering. Therefore, there is the very simple principle that God has provided in eternity past everything we will ever need for the subject of suffering:
And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses [this was the beginning of Moses' suffering], so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected as regards the faith or the doctrine of the Christian faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly [or lack of sense] will be obvious to all, as also that of those two [Jannes and Jambres] came to be. But you followed my doctrine, self-discipline, purpose, faithfulness, patience, love, perseverance or endurance. (2TI 3:8-10)
This was Paul's power to bear opposition without giving up, or becoming discouraged and succumbing to self-pity.
Persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra [these were three towns where the Judaizers followed Paul and organized a conspiracy against him, and at Lystra, they stoned him to death]; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me! And indeed, all who desire to live godly or the spiritual life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2TI 3:11-12)
Under equal privilege and equal opportunity in the PPOG for your life, there are divine solutions to the problems of undeserved suffering. When we stick with doctrine in the PPOG for a long period of time, we come to the point where we have perfect happiness no matter what. Therefore, whether we are in some form of adversity, or some form of prosperity, it makes no difference. As a matter of fact, some of the greatest blessings that will ever come to you will come during times of participation in His sufferings.
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, each one of us is going to spend eternity in Heaven, our real home. Therefore, we should live our life in the light of eternity. Our time on this earth is very short, even if you live to be a hundred; it's like a drop of water in the ocean compared to eternity. When you live your life in the light of eternity, including participation in His sufferings, you realize that those sufferings cannot compare with the eternal weight of glory which is far beyond all comparison. For all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2CO 4:15-18).
You will also realize that the pain involved with participation in His sufferings is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us (ROM 8:18). Certainly you have problems, and things that are painful in your life. The whole point is to advance to spiritual adulthood, so that those problems, adversities, tragedies, difficulties of life become a blessing because of participation in His sufferings. Strangely enough, the greatest blessings in life come to the believer who goes through undeserved suffering and reaches spiritual adulthood.
The principle in PHI 3:10 is the privilege of participation in our Lord's sufferings. One of the reasons for this is because we are able to learn greater obedience to God through our suffering. In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered (HEB 5:7-8). The problem that most believers have is that they want immediate results. The question is, will we respond to the situation in a way that is pleasing to God and be willing to participate in His sufferings? This is why the apostle said, for we walk by faith, not by sight we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him (2CO 5:7-9). Our ambition is to be pleasing to Him, not to people, but most individuals today want to be pleasing to men (JOH 12:43).This acceptability to Him is our reward in time, and in the eternal state. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2CO 5:10).
The only part in the believer's life that crumbles is that which has to go anyway! The new life can never be harmed or affected. This disintegration or decreasing of the old man, the old self, is something the believer cannot enter into nor engineer on his own. Self will never cast out self, he has to be led into it by means of the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2CO 4:8-11)
The phrase “are constantly being delivered” is the Greek word “paradidomi” which means to be delivered up, given over, put in prison, be judged, condemned, punished, or put to death. The means utilized by God the Holy Spirit can be an unsaved mate, or even a saved one! It could be poor health; or even good health! In fact, He uses almost everything. That is why people and circumstances are never the cause of failure, reaction to them is. God's method for true spiritual growth involves pain as well as joy, suffering as well as happiness, failure as well as success, inactivity as well as service, death as well as life. We must go back to this very simplistic principle: For I am confident of this very thing, that He who has begun in you an absolute good work will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (PHI 1:6). It will help us to bear in mind that the principle of time underlies all of God's dealings with us. Growth takes time! Again, many times God works by paradox or in seemingly contradictory statements such as success coming by means of failure; joy coming out of pain, happiness coming out of suffering. Therefore if we are going to participate in our Lord's sufferings, we need to have the patience as God works within our lives. For it is God [the Holy Spirit] who is at work in you, both to will [give you motivation] and to work [He gives you the ability to execute] above and beyond His good pleasure (PHI 2:13). Peter put it like this, After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you (1PE 5:10).
Notice the phrase, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. He does this through our main passage:That I may come to know Him, and the power of [behind] His resurrection and the participation of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (PHI 3:10). While the four statements of this verse encompass a tight-knit unit, the last two have a special oneness. In fact, this verse brings out the importance of understanding the principle of continuity which will provide a proper perspective on the last two phrases. For example, our present spiritual growth, and the resultant training by God, always determines the next phase of God's development in our spiritual life. The way that God leads us and guides us depends upon where we are in our spiritual life. The guidance can come through pain, joy, suffering, happiness, failure, success, life, or even death.
It is even a greater blessing to us, and much more glory to God the Father, if we accept His Word, learn to walk in the power behind His resurrection and don't rely upon sight and experiences. This is the attitude that God is looking for. Strong faith consists of a believing and trusting attitude toward the character and natureof God (REV 4:11). This is why Job said, “Though He slay me, I will trust in Him” (JOB 13:15). This perspective involves having no doubts toward the promises and the doctrines of God, and it also involves a continual refusal to rely upon appearances or feelings, even though they come in great abundance.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete (2CO 10:3-6).
Here's a new principle or a new way of teaching something that is important if we are going to enter into participation in His sufferings. No longer is the faith issue limited to the positives of the Christian faith, such as our acceptance and life with God; now there are negatives requiring faith, such as rejection and death. Here is where the Cross truly enters into our life in the experiential realm. Here is where the special care and patience of God the Holy Spirit increases. On the basis of thinking in the realm of faith, in which God has trained us from the beginning of our spiritual life, He now leads us into this more difficult realm of considering ourselves to be dead to the sin nature. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to the sin nature, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (ROM 6:11).
This reckoning ourselves to be dead unto the sin nature and alive unto God is a slow process. Slowly and persistently, He guides you along in the process of this type of calculation or thinking. This is not seeking an experience; we are simply ministered to, and led by God the Holy Spirit into this realm of thinking. God the Holy Spirit works within us as He breaks down our pride and arrogance and stubbornness, and enables us to be willing to go forward in God's plan in spite of the problems and difficulties we face.
There is in all of us pride, ignorance and prejudice to deal with. There is self-confidence to destroy. There is mistrust to combat, before He takes over the control of our body, soul, and spirit, in order to use us to the glory of God the Father as He sees fit. It is the body, soul and spirit that He is after. The result will be a life like this:
See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men. [live in +H] always pray without ceasing [continually]; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; [We can do that when we rely upon our human power and resources and not the divine power and resources] do not despise prophetic utterances or literally inspired messages. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. [notice what God is after] Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. [then the most comforting part] Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. (1TH 5:15-24)