When we read Scripture, we are reading an eternal book, and as regenerate beings (saved by grace through faith in Jesus), we too are eternal. When we approach God and his word, we do so in faith. God gives us faith to believe and we express our faith through words and actions. God speaks to us in a myriad of ways, but none more clearly than through his eternal words, codified in the sixty-six books of the Bible. Scripture is our authoritative user manual on life, and through it we can better see the character of God and learn from his ways of righteousness, justice, faithfulness and love. When we approach the Bible, we are able to learn from God and listen to his Spirit reveal insight and meaning. In this article, I want to take a survey of Scripture, cursory as it may be, to better understand how thinking about God’s word and meditating on his commandments is revealed and discover how it remains relevant to our lives today.
WE ARE TRANSFORMERS, SLOWLY MORPHING FROM FLESH TO GLORY
God wants to conform our lives to his image, that is, he wants us to be transformed to look more like his Son, in order that we might worship him, enjoy his presence and rule and reign with him forever.
When we become more like Jesus, we are able to act truthfully and are better equipped to think in terms of reality. What is reality? An interesting way to think about reality is to relate reality to what happens after death. This can be applied to you personally or to humanity as a whole, but it can also be applied to Christ because what happened after Christ died on the cross and was buried is firmly rooted in reality.
WHEN WE SIN AND DOUBT GOD'S PURPOSE
When we sin and doubt God’s purpose or plan in relation to our existence on earth, we are not thinking the same way as Christ. In fact, when our thoughts focus on the flesh - however that may manifest - we are not living in the power of the Holy Spirit, instead, we are living out the principles of the flesh. The principles of the flesh are temporal and fleeting, they are also physical in nature and not spiritually defined. The fruit of the flesh is death but the fruit of the Spirit is life and peace. Romans chapter 8
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6 ESV
Click here to read the article, "Faith and Scripture Memory".
PEACE THAT SURPASSES UNDERSTANDING
As we pursue a life bound together in Christ, we begin to experience peace that surpasses our natural, physical understanding of life. We can especially experience this existential peace when our lives are no longer defined by a conglomeration of human experiences. When we are free to experience the transformative work of Christ in us (our hope of glory), we stop defining ourselves in terms of what we have or haven’t done in life, or by what happened to us in the past. Instead, when we experience the transformative work of Christ in us, we are living more firmly rooted in the reality of physical death and eternal life in the spirit. Acts chapter 17
for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Acts 17:28 ESV
DESCRIBING THE MENTAL ACTIVITY OF LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
Meditating on God’s word and memorizing Scripture are terms we use to describe the mental activity of life in the Spirit. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our thoughts are more like the thoughts of Christ and less like our own. That doesn’t mean we don’t have our own uniqueness and individual ideas but it does mean that our uniqueness and those individual ideas are not from the flesh and in a way, they become even more unique because they are spiritual and they are separate and they are holy.
THE OLD COVENANT
Thousands of years ago, God made a covenant with the patriarch Abraham and with this son Isaac and grandson Jacob. God chose a people for his own possession, to be holy and separate from the violence and rebellion of the world. God made this covenant with the people of Israel, and they became his people and God blessed his people and led them on the way. However, the children of Abraham broke God’s covenant and did not obey his laws and rules and commandments. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 31:33 that God would make a new covenant with his people, with the house of Israel, a covenant not like the old covenant which they broke.
THE NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL
How is the new covenant in Jesus’ blood, which God made with he house of Israel, different than the old covenant? Firstly, it would be helpful to quickly define and review the new covenant. God consistently deals with his chosen people through covenants, and in these last days he has given us his own son to be the mediator of a new relationship. The Son of God now mediates the new covenant with the children of God, which he wrought in his blood. The children of God constitute both his chosen people of Israel and his adopted family, chosen from all nations and peoples throughout the world. To better understand the new covenant, let us look at its foretelling by Jeremiah the prophet.
"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Jeremiah 31:31-34 ESV
Speaking of the new covenant, Jeremiah says in verse 32 that it would not be like the old covenant in several ways. The new covenant is different from the old covenant, which was broken by the people of Israel, because this time God put his laws on our heart on in our mind, instead of writing them on stone tablets. God affirms that he would be our God, and in turn, we would be his chosen people. God reveals himself to his chosen people, in order to make himself known to them in a personal, coherent and life-saving way. From the least of God’s people to the greatest, they will all know him and most importantly, God declared that he would forgive our transgressions and remember our sins no more. The work of total and complete forgiveness was accomplished through the blood of the perfect lamb of God, Jesus Christ our Savior, who died and rose again to justify us and give us life in his name.
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 2 Timothy 1:7-9 ESV
A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE NEW & OLD COVENANT
To sum, the new covenant is different than the old in its effectual power to hold the beneficiary in obedience to the new terms. How is this accomplished? It is accomplished by God’s will and by his power to draw us to himself in repentance and keep us in faith. Because we are called and chosen, we believe in Jesus, God’s Messiah, who is the promised and blameless sacrificial lamb of God. God calls us to believe and we believe with the faith he supplies. God then puts his law on our heart and his commandments in our mind, so that we may know Christ and the power of his resurrected life and live in obedience to his commandments by the Spirit of holiness, the Spirit of God. Click here to read more about memorizing Scripture and the new covenant.
God puts his law on our heart and his commandments in our mind, so that we may know Christ and the power of his resurrected life and live in obedience to his commandments by the Spirit of holiness, the Spirit of God.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34 ESV
I see that meditating on God's word and remembering it later is part of the spiritual life to which we have been called, before the foundation of the world. God chose us in Christ, to be heirs with him of his glorious creation. Look up at the early morning or late night sky and imagine zooming through the galaxies, imagine being among the stars... and then dream of being among the angles and among the others of God's chosen people and then before the throne of God and of Jesus Christ the righteous. If we live with this end in mind, we would do well to dedicate our talents to the kingdom of heaven and not to this earth which is perishing.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matthew 25:31-34 ESV
If this is true, how ought we to live in lives of holiness and godliness? We will live according to the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the flesh. If by living according to the Spirit of God we put to death the deeds of the flesh, we will set our mind on the things of the Spirit. How can we set our minds on the things of the Spirit? We must abide in Christ and allow his words to abide in us. By meditating on God's word and on his Christ, we can set our mind on the things of his Spirit. Therefore, I see that it is not just relevant to store up or treasure God's word in our heart but it is our very life.
And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, "Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess." Deuteronomy 32:45-47 ESV
HOW DOES GOD PUT HIS LAW ON OUR HEART AND IN OUR MIND?
How, you may ask, does God put his law on our hearts and in our minds? Again, God accomplishes this by his power, according to his will through his Holy Spirit, which he has made to dwell in us. The children of God - whether from the nation and bloodline of Israel or from his adopted family - all share in one unifying spirit, the Spirit of the living God. The Spirit intercedes for us and testifies to us that we are children of God.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:16-17 ESV
THE INAUGURATION OF THE NEW COVENANT
Jesus inaugurated the new covenant of God when he meet with his disciples in the upper room, the night before he was betrayed and crucified and died. Jesus looked around at his chosen disciples and said in Luke chapter 22:
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:19-20 ESV
As God’s children, we are brothers of Christ and partake in his death that we may also partake in his life. The communion of believers is a Christian covenant sacrament which symbolizes our identification with Christ and our dependence on him for the sustenance of eternal life.
Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. John 6:49-59 ESV
Later in John chapter 6, Jesus helps us better understand the meaning and essence of this words when he said:
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63 ESV
Now, because we know him who is true, and we have his laws on our heart and in our mind and we live under such a new and better covenant, let us cast aside every sin that so easily entangles and run the race with endurance.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1 ESV
HOW SHOULD WE ACT IN OBEDIENCE?
In light of the new covenant, how should we act in obedience to God’s word? First, we should actively pursue a life of godliness which produces the abiding fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In order to live such a super-natural life, producing super-natural fruit, we must be connected to the spiritual vine from which our entire being gathers strength and finds sustenance. Jesus is the true vine and we are the branches. Until we find our life-giving energy in the vine of God, we will not produce a bountiful harvest of fruit from the Spirit.
Jesus taught his disciples in John chapter 15 that unless we abide in him and his words abide in us, we can not produce the rich, fruitful life that brings glory to God.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:7-11 ESV
When we approach the Bible, our heart and mind resonate with God’s truth because we have the Spirit of his law on our hearts and in our minds. When we decide to study the law of the LORD and remember his precepts, we are acting in congruence with the new covenant and in congruence with our new heart and new spirit. Click here to meditate on the law of the LORD.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV
THE WORD OF GOD ON OUR HEARTS AND IN OUR MINDS
The patriarchs and prophets of the old covenant, or Old Testament, knew the importance of literally storing up God’s word in our heart. From the beginning, Moses and Joshua were committed to reading God’s law, thinking about it (or in other words, meditating on it) and teaching it to their posterity.
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:7-9 ESV
We see the injunction to read and repeat and words of God. We see the importance of remembering God’s truth and we also see the blessing that comes from a life dedicated to practicing the ways of God. To learn more, read the article "The Big Picture: why a web-app for Scripture memory?".
WHY DO WE NEED TO KNOW THE TRUTH?
The precise answer to that question is found in the second verse of this passage, verse nine. The people of Israel were facing tremendous odds, and they needed to be strong and courageous. We the people of YAHWAY God, today, are facing tremendous odds and we need to be strong and courageous. I’ll say it again: WE THE PEOPLE OF GOD, TODAY, ARE FACING TREMENDOUS ODDS AND WE NEED TO BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS.
If you are weak, God is strong. Rejoice in your weakness because God’s strength is perfected in your weakness. If you are tired, God is able by his Spirit to encourage you and to raise your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees. If you are sad and sorrowful, let the joy of the LORD be your strength! If you are worried, cast your care on him, for he cares for you. If you are tempted, cry out to God for he is able to save you in your distress and Jesus can sympathize with your weakness because he was tempted in every way, yet without sin. If you’ve been defeated, your victory is in the name of the LORD, who is a strong tower for all who seek refuge.
The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. Nahum 1:7 ESV
HOW CAN YOU BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS IF YOU’RE NOT CONNECTED TO THE VINE?
How can you be strong and courageous if you’re not connected to the vine of strength and sustenance and life? How can you be joyful, robust, loving, forgiving, kind, peaceable, and full of self-control if you are not abiding in the word of God. Jesus is the WORD of God made manifest in the flesh. He is the way the truth and the life. We can abide in Jesus by obeying him and by allowing his words to abide in us. That’s not just a metaphor, we can literally allow God’s word to abide in us by listening to Joshua and meditating on God’s book of the law day and night. God’s book of the law is the word of God, both in a physical sense the Bible and spiritually as a title of Jesus Christ.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5 ESV
Wherever you are - whatever you need - go to God in prayer and don’t forget to listen to his word. Do not forget his word! Bind it on your heart always, tie it around your neck.
My son, keep your father's commandment,
and forsake not your mother's teaching.
Bind them on your heart always;
tie them around your neck.
When you walk, they will lead you;
when you lie down, they will watch over you;
and when you awake, they will talk with you. Proverbs 6:20-22 ESV
JESUS IS OUR SAVIOR, OUR HIGH PRIEST, OUR EXAMPLE AND OUR BROTHER
There’s a joke that went around from a Sunday school class where the teacher described something and asked the children to guess what it was. One of the little children raised their hand and said, “I know it sounds like a squirrel but is it JESUS!?” The right answer is almost always Jesus! Click here to read, "Is memorizing God's Word worth it?".
THE LAW OF GOD WAS IN JESUS’ HEART
Here, I’d like to take some time to point out that our Lord and Savior practiced abiding in the presence and strength of God moment by moment, day by day during his life and ministry on earth. There are prophetic Psalms that speak of Jesus and Psalm 40 is one of them. In Psalm 40:8 the text reads,
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart." Psalm 40:8 ESV
Indeed, we know that the law of God was in Jesus’ heart. He studied it, he knew it, he memorized it and he lived it. We can see on numerous occasions how Jesus quoted Scripture to combat temptation and lies. Jesus knew exactly where to read from the scroll of Isaiah to fulfill prophecy amidst of the sons of Abraham. He knew not only the letter of the law of Moses, but he knew the Spirit of the words he was reading, studying and memorizing. Jesus deftly and succinctly, with perspicacity, taught from the law of God, amazing his hearers and silencing his critics.
Jesus was the embodiment of the law, and he fulfilled its commandments by living according to his spirit, the Holy Spirit. In John 13, Jesus introduced a new law to his disciples, one that would be written on their hearts and captured in their minds.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35 ESV
When his disciples asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, he answered in Matthew chapter 22:
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22:35-40 ESV
Our love and devotion to God, the creator of the ends of the earth, must be our first allegiance and our second must be similar: that we love one another.
IN THE PSALMS
Other noteworthy Psalms exhorting us to keep the words of God close to our heart and fresh in our mind.
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1: 1-2 ESV
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, Psalm 119:1-2 ESV
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9-11 ESV
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Psalm 119:15-16 ESV
Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Psalm 119:36 ESV
I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. Psalm 119:48 ESV
I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. Psalm 119:93 ESV
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Psalm 119:97 ESV
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 ESV
The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130 ESV
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. Psalm 119: 147-148 ESV
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments. Psalm 119:176 ESV
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. Psalm 138:1-2 ESV
SPIRITUAL WARFARE AND THE APOSTLE PAUL
As Christians, we are not strangers to the reality of spiritual life and warfare. On one hand, we are alive in the Spirit but on the other hand, we have crucified the flesh and its evil desires. Although we are alive in the Spirit and dead in the flesh, God has not forsaken our mortal bodies.
St. Paul speaks of this dichotomy in Romans chapter 8 saying,
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:9-11 ESV
Although the spiritual dimension of life in Christ can not be understated, there is another aspect of the spiritual realm that threatens our spiritual life, namely, warfare in the heavenly places and in our heart and mind. When we ignore this other reality of spiritual life, we are in danger of falling prey to the deceitfulness of the devil and to his schemes. All throughout the Scriptures we see evidence of the reality and effects of evil spiritual influence throughout the world. In Genesis, Satan deceived Eve and Adam sinned by disobeying God.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:1-7 ESV
Later in Genesis chapter 6, we see that the “sons of God” (transliterated from ancient Hebrew: ben ‘elohiym) were infatuated with the daughters of men and took wives among whomever they chose and bore children who were the mighty men of renown. The text says that in those days there were Nephilim in the land, or as the King James translates, “giants” in the land. The same Hebrew word for sons of God (ben ‘elohiym) is used in Job to name the spiritual beings who appeared before the LORD God during a “roll call” of some sort. Satan was also among them on that occasion, as recorded in Job chapter one. It is possible to conjecture that the “happenings” in Genesis 6 between the “sons of God” and the daughters of man were unnatural and nefarious in nature, somehow mixing the heavenly realm with the earthly.
In Daniel chapter 10, we see a glimpse into a spiritual reality that is beyond our physical world. While Daniel was fasting, he was confronted by an angle from God who was sent to deliver a vision. The vision was a prophecy of what was to come for the people of God in the latter days. The angle of God explained told Daniel that he meant to deliver the message earlier but the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood him in warfare in the heavens. The archangel Michael - one of the chief princes of God - came to his aid and overpowered the opposing price of Persia.
BEFORE GOD IN THE CHAMBERS OF HEAVEN
In the book of Job, we see a day where the “sons of God” (same Hebrew word as in Genesis 6, “ben ‘elohiym) presented themselves before God and Satan was among them. We read from a distance how the story unfolds but the ordeal is quite real and quite stressful for God’s servant Job.
MOVING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT ACCOUNT
Moving on to the New Testament, the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all express the pervasive nature of spiritual beings to penetrate our earthly existence. We see demons and Satan himself interacting with people.
WHAT THE APOSTLE PAUL TEACHES
The reality of evil spiritual beings penetrating our earthy existence is corroborated numerous times throughout the biblical text. What the apostle Paul teaches is congruous with this reality of spiritual warfare. He teaches his fellow followers of Christ to not sit idly by and be affected by the lies and attacks of the evil one. Instead, we are encouraged and instructed to resist the devil by engaging in the battle with the divine power of God with weapons of righteousness for the right and and the left. The battle is real and oftentimes its greatest victories and defeats mark their course on the battlefield of the mind!
Brother Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5,
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV
Furthermore, Paul teaches the churches in Ephesus not to be drunk with wine, but to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Here, Paul is making a contrast between the wine and spirits that control a man who is drunk and the Holy Spirit of God that controls a man when he has put to death the deeds of the body and is living according to the Spirit of God.
Finally, when we are consumed and filled with the Holy Spirit of God, we are protected from the evil one and are able to successfully and victoriously engage in the spiritual warfare of mind and heart. Furthermore, when we are abiding in Christ (by keeping his commandments) and allowing his word to abide in us, we are connected to the Vine of God and able to produce much good fruit. Today, you can allow God’s word to abide in you by reading the truth and remembering it later! Scripture memory and meditation is a real thing … check it out here.
THE MIND OF CHRIST
As we grown in maturity and in grace, our minds will become more and more like Christ. Our thinking and daily thought patters will be conformed more to those of Jesus. The changing of our mind will not only affect our thoughts, but it will pervade our speech and change our interactions with others. The affections of the heart will become more like those of Christ, who was humble, sincere, loving, truthful, kind, obedient to his Father and perfect in all his ways. There is nothing more noble for men and women than to be conformed into the image of Christ. We are God’s children, created in his image but our own rebellion and sin have dulled our reflection of that divine image.
The apostle Paul lays out a veritable treatise on salvation and Christian doctrine in the first 11 chapters of Romans. In chapter 12, he begins by saying “therefore”, and leans into the practical effects of doctrinal truths. In the twelfth chapter of Romans, Paul answers how we ought to live and what we ought to do.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:1-3 ESV
Another practical, albeit convicting, example of how the mind of Christ transforms our attitude and behavior can be found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians in chapter two. He says that we should do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Philippians 2:3-5 ESV
The mind of Christ is a mind of love. We are called to love our God and love one another. When we have the mind of Christ - we are interested in the interests of others and concerned with the concerns of others. This posture of the mind is only possible by the power of God working in us.
BUT WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHIRST…
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV
THE INHERITANCE OF THE SAINTS
It is not unspiritual or unholy or unrighteous to think about our inheritance as a reward for what we have done in the body while on earth. Jesus talks about harvesting eternal rewards and teaches in Matthew chapter six, that we should prepare for ourselves treasures in heaven, for by so doing, we will prepare a place for our heart and for our future with God. It is altogether right, therefore, and inspiring to think about and act toward our inheritance with the saints in heaven.
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20 ESV
FARMER, SOLDIER, ATHLETE FOR GOD
Jesus spoke about rewards and our inheritance in the saints by using the example of a farmer, soldier and athlete. Each profession or endeavor requires work, planning, sacrifice and delayed gratification in order to reap the rewards of a bountiful harvest, or faithful military service or victory in the sporting arena.
In our lives, regardless of profession, we have talents in terms of resources that are at our disposal, which we can allocate in a variety of ways. Jesus was pointing his followers’ attention to the spiritual reality of life with God and his kingdom after death. Jesus explained that there will be a harvest, both of souls and of good works done on earth. The first harvest is a harvest of souls, where God will go through the field of human history and receive those into his heavenly kingdom, who have been saved and called to a holy calling. The second harvest is a harvest of good works, done for the glory of God, in which we will be rewarded for what we have done on earth.
Heaven should motivate us to live for Christ in personal holiness and in his service, toward his plan for the ages. One of the purposes of God is to reconcile his human creation into relationship with him, in order that we may rule and reign with Christ over his creation! What a purpose!
OUR CHIEF AIM IN LIFE
Our chief aim in life should be to know God and become more like his Son Jesus Christ the righteous, in order to enjoy life with him and with others forever. Because there will be others of the called and chosen and faithful, we must also make it our aim to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with our family, friends and preverbal neighbors.
In this perspective, we can see more clearly how God is using our challenges and failures and sicknesses and pain to shape and teach us to be more godly and holy and happy. I don’t mean happy like, “I feel good”… but happy in the sense that I’m a child of God, a brother of Christ, that I’ve been set free from the bondages of sin and slavery to serve the living God. From this godly, eternally minded perspective, we can be content as well as joyful throughout our life in the body while sojourning on earth.
A DESCRIPTION OF HEAVEN
When I think of heaven, usually not much comes to mind… not because I don’t have a good imagination, but because I don’t even know where to start. I don’t have a good concept of what heaven will be like, because if for no other reason, there are so many dimensions that will be different from my current experience of life that I just don’t know where to start. For example, what will heaven look like or feel like? What will we eat in heaven (ref. marriage supper of the Lamb). What will our glorified bodies be like? How will we relate to each other? Paul says that we won’t marry or be given in marriage but we’ll be like the angles… but what are the angles like? What will it sound like in heaven… and the questions keep coming.
THERE ARE ACCOUNTS OF HEAVEN FROM PEOPLE ON EARTH
There are accounts of heaven from people who have had medical incidents that skirt the boundaries between life and death, but I can’t be sure, I’ve never had such an incident, nor do I seek one, however, we do know a fair amount from Scripture. God, through his immutable word, has given us many interesting hints at what life in the kingdom of God will be like. Let’s go through a few, for the purposes of instruction, training and inspiration in righteousness.
THERE WILL BE A DIVERSITY OF POSITIONS AND JOBS AND RESPONSIBILITIES IN HEAVEN
We know there will be a diversity of positions and responsibilities in heaven, or even degrees of authority! Some people will judge the tribes of Israel, others will rule with authority over cities, some will rule over angles and it’s clear that we will inherit portions of God’s creation and kingdom to manage.
"And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book." Revelation 22:7
IS THERE A DEFINITE PURPOSE FOR YOUR EXISTENCE ON EARTH?
How can we make sense of our current existence on earth? In other words, what is the purpose of our lives, especially, in light of eternity? God created Adam and Eve, and all their subsequent descendants in order to give them life and then to share his life with them.
then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2:7 ESV
But a significant problem arose when Adam chose to disobey God and transgress the one commandment he had given. Thus, sin was born and it gave birth to physical and spiritual death which spread to all mankind born after the likeness of Adam. God planned a “rescue mission” of salvation and redemption, through Jesus Christ, to restore fellowship with the sons of mankind. The grander plan of restoring fellowship with man was to allow him to live forever with God and enjoy his presence forever.
Our new life in Christ is a blessing, by the grace of God, which gives us eternal life! The purpose of life, therefore, is to live with God forever and serve him and also reign with him as part of his creation. Salvation and repentance, therefore, are necessary pre-requisites to making peace with God, in order that we may live with him in his presence forever.
SUPPOSE A CHILD IS KIDNAPPED
To better explain God’s purpose in creating man, let’s take a human example. Suppose a child is kidnapped and the child’s parents pay a large ransom to receive their offspring back. The ransom operation could be compared to God’s salvation mission, it was necessary because of the dire circumstances. However, to say that the purpose of the child’s life was to be ransomed misses the larger picture of what’s going on. The purpose of the child’s life is to live with their family and with others in a large range of good experiences and periods. In a similar way, we were created to share life with God in his presence and with other aspects of his creation.
IF A CHILD PLAYS IN THE MUD AND GETS DIRTY
Another example. If a child plays in the mud and gets dirty, their mother will take them home and clean them in the tub. But the mother does not stop there, she does not leave the child at the foot of the tub to sit there forever. Rather, she has cleaned her child in order to allow them to experience the fullness of life in the family. A clean child can play with others, sit at the dining table and eat comfortably, rest at night between clean sheets and on and on. The same is true between us and God, we are by nature dirty sinners, and we need to be washed by the blood of Jesus in order to experience the full range of life in the family of God.
WHEN YOU SEE YOUR LIFE ON THESE TERMS - SOMETHING WILL CHANGE
When you see your life on these terms, it becomes easier to image what heaven will be like. When we combine this idea of ultimate purpose with what God says in his word about life after death, we can more properly align our expectations on earth with God’s purpose in eternity. Here is a more heavenly perspective on God’s purpose for mankind, both as it relates to life on earth and more significantly as it relates to life eternal. To learn more, read the article "Why should we care about living victoriously in Christ?".
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 ESV
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet, Psalm 8:3-6 ESV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28-29 ESV
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:1-2 ESV
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:20-21 ESV
"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. Matthew 24:45-47 ESV
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful-
for he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:12-13 ESV
The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:21 ESV
Then Peter said in reply, "See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?" 28 Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19:27-28 ESV
Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 ESV
The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Revelation 2:26-29 ESV
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19 ESV
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:16-17 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Colossians 3:23-25 ESV
WHAT HAS GOD UNTRUSTED TO YOU?
God has first entrusted to us our families, our talents and our possessions. God expects us to act responsibly as stewards of the gracious gifts he's given us and day we will all stand before the judgement seat of Christ.
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:9 ESV
CONCLUSION: RULING AND REIGNING WITH CHRIST IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES
If we are washed clean of our filthy sins - by the sacrificial blood of Jesus - and saved by God’s grace through faith, then we are born again by water and the Spirit, and we are sons and daughters of God and heirs of his kingdom. If we are faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to us on earth, we will inherit much responsibility in heaven. A significant part of our responsibility will be to serve God and then reign with him over creation! What a marvelous privilege and gift.
HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO BIBLE ENGAGEMENT, CHRISTIAN MEDITATION AND SCRIPTURE MEMORIZATION?
Since we have such a noble task before us (to rule and reign with Christ and serve him forever), we need to train ourselves to distinguish between good and evil, and we should polish our shields and sharpen our swords. Remember, we have divine power to destroy spiritual strongholds (in our mind, but not limited to), but we need to grow in strength and patient endurance of faith. We need to love like Christ and forgive our enemies.
These are elements of the character of God, in whose image we are made, and thus elements that must be shaped more and more in us who believe - in order that we may be more like our Savior and better equipped to rule and reign with Christ and serve and worship him forever. We know that bodily exercise is of some value, but spiritual disciple in righteousness has value both now and in eternity. So, to conclude this section, I exhort you to engage in the struggle and live according to the Spirit, putting to death all the deeds of the body. Live as children who are free and learn what God has said through his special revelation of holy Scripture. Read it and remember it later, that you might live victoriously and be a conqueror in Christ, worthy of the upward calling in Christ Jesus.
A CONQUEROR IN CHRIST
There is victory through our Lord Jesus. We have every resource necessary to live a supernatural, inspired, unique and holy life if we abide in Jesus by obeying him and allow his words to abide in us.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:1-11 ESV
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 ESV
The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Revelation 3:5-6 ESV
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:11-16 ESV