DISTANCE LEARNING II
Today’s message is the second in a series of revelation and discovery in our relationship with Jesus. Relationship is a living hope that must be fed and nurtured as believers. There is never a time in our walk with Christ that we can say that we have arrived and have all knowledge and revelation in Christ and possess total faith to do all things. Truth is, when we were forgiven of our trespasses, and washed in the blood, received peace with God, translated into the kingdom of His dear Son, made new creatures in Christ Jesus, we began a life long pursuit of faith and power with God. In his book God Chasers, Tommy Lenney informed believers that the hope of the church is a revival that will ignite a holy fire of fervent prayer and an attitude of intensity in seeking after our GOD.
Last Sunday we learned that before conversion, the Bible called our condition depraved, that is we were lost and helpless in our own strength to have a relationship with God. We also learned that we were estranged from God, enemies even(Rom. 5:10) now reconciled to God by the death of His cross.
Paul, who has been called the “Aristotle of the Early Church”, described the Gentile spiritual identity as “far off”. But Jesus changed that!
I. The Excluded Become Included
12. That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world
13. But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15. Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16. And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17, And came and preached peace to you which were afar off and to them that were nigh.
18. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
What tremendous benefit and blessing is accrued to us who “have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” That means that through faith in the shed blood of Christ our peace calling has been made and election sure! (The invitation to accept His peace has been acted upon and secured.) We have been included in the plan of redemption by grace through faith in His sacrificial offering.
II. GROWING IN THE FAITH
Thus began our journey of walking by faith, walking in the light, and walking in the Spirit. It is a path of ever increasing faith. Our walk with God, ordered steps, is a growth oriented pursuit. God’s design is that we GROW:
A. In the knowledge of Him
B. In grace and love
C. In the power of the Holy Spirit
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love unto all the saints,
16.Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
17. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
18. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know:
1. What is the hope of his calling, and
2. What the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
3. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
20. Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
The hope of His calling is that He will be faithful to keep His promises. The riches of the glory of his inheritance is the eternal life of joy and peace with God. The greatness of His power is the ability residing in me to do all things, fight every battle, survive every attack, go through the darkness, win the race, keep the faith, and make it to the finish line and take my place in that group that has overcome through the word of my testimony.
III. THE PERILS OF THE WAY
Over the years I’ve preached many messages about this journey of faith, and the encounters that occur along the way. There are times of exhilarating joy and celebration, but there are also times of sorrow and pain. In my weaknesses, I am made strong. For my tribulations produce experience, and my experience produces patience, and patience produces hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
The Christian life is one of constant dependence upon the grace and power of God making it necessary to stay close to our GOD through prayer and meditation, and worshiping with other believers. In community we draw strength from one another, bearing witness that Christ is Lord of the Church, and is present with us in the midst of our struggle with the world, the flesh and the devil.
To be honest, there are times when we walk at a distance from God. Selfish Pride and the “cares of this life”, cause us to put distance between ourselves and the Savior! We like Peter “followed from afar.” That distance interrupts the learning, and as we shrink from the close walk we once enjoyed, the eyes of understanding are blinded, and the ears of our hearts become attuned to another voice. We BLOCK God! I must tell you, pride and arrogance will block HIM, and you will pick up habits of your former life. Following from a distance is dangerous, for God cannot bless a prideful spirit.
All of us are aggravated with those obnoxious calls on our cell phones. Debbie told me just last week, “There’s an app that you can get that will block those calls”. Blocking has become a common term in our high tech world. Blocking empowers us! It gives us authority! If I don’t like what someone says or posts, I can just BLOCK them!
I’m afraid that the ability to block what we don’t want to hear occurs in the spiritual world also. And its with a prideful spirit that we block portions of the Word of God that we just don’t want to hear! As with an obnoxious caller, we can filter the WORD so that we only hear what we want to hear. If the preacher gets a little “up in our grill” we just block him and find us another preacher.
You see, blocking and blaming go together! When you blame everybody and everything for your following from afar, you are playing right into the devil’s plan. All resemblance of living the life of faith and power with God becomes blurred. It becomes a form of pride that we refuse to see ourselves as anything more than a victim of an evil deed, or some set of circumstances that somehow justify our spiritual decline. And as we slip away, further and further from GOD, we become more and more dependent on carnal things, and less dependent on spiritual things. From such minded people the Lord stands “afar off.”
Psalms 138:6 Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.
What a tragedy to be known by the LORD afar off. There were times when the entire people of God were afar from God. He said, “My people serve me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.”
But this “afar off” distance presents a chasm that must be spanned by eyes of faith; understanding which produces humility. Now we see through a darkened lens, and cannot understand the mystery of God’s dealing with us. O praise God, through the lens of faith and hope in the promises, we are able to remain focused and committed to things which now are afar off. By faith we can follow after the things of the spirit to give life while combating the things of the flesh that destroy faith and hope in Christ.
Yes there was a time when the disciple Peter followed the Lord “afar off”. Yes in Exodus 20 when God wanted to meet with His people, they stood “afar off” But God would have you know that He gives grace to the humble. The publican while standing afar off, said, “Lord Have Mercy upon me, a sinner. ” Luke 18:13
I believe that the blessing of God has been trying to let you know that grace is available to you, but you keep blocking Him. Power to overcome is available, but you keep blocking it. You blame others, including yourself and your own ability to cope and endure.
It’s frustrating to be blocked! As a pastor, I know the power of the Word of God. I know the heart of God is to bless and heal, and deliver. My frustration comes in the fact that I cannot get through to you because you ‘ve got me blocked. You hear the noise that I make. You can hear from afar off, but you make no effort to get closer, so you can hear and understand better. You see, distance is a factor in seeing the light of the WORD of God.
In second Peter the Bible gives a great list of virtues that should identify every Christian. But through everyday life if not careful, we will become distant and away from God. The result is spiritual blindness, and no recollection of what God has done for you.
2 Peter 1:9
But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
If not living in a state of watching and waiting in readiness for the coming of the Lord, we may at some time find ourselves suffering from a spiritual blindness. We can see perfectly in the here and now, but unable to see “afar off”. All of our information is about this world, and this present time. We cannot see by faith into another dimension, and by this inability to see spiritually, we lose our appreciation for our salvation by grace through faith.
The Corinthian church was a work in progress for Paul. They had been blessed, but could not see that God’s will was for them to be a blessing. Abraham was blessed, so that he could bless! That church could not see beyond their own walls. Paul wrote to them in
2 Cor. 10:15:
“Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly,”
Paul was saying, when you folks at Corinth get it, the church is gonna grow! When your faith increases, our goal and influence will also increase, your influence will increase, and the number of disciples will increase. All is dependent upon this one thing, drawing nigh unto God.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.