152. Resources and Responsibilities

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

The first step in our ‘training for reigning’, as we saw last time, is to give up control of our own life and learn to be an obedient and willing servant.

Stewards

Beyond servanthood, there is training to be a steward. A steward has responsibilities – and access to resources – that a servant does not. Stewardship carries a higher level of authority and responsibility, and Jesus will train us to be stewards of all the resources He has made available to us for our lives and for the works He has prepared for us to do.

In Matthew 25 Jesus taught about responsibility in the kingdom:

Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them (Matt 25:1-3).

All ten were entrusted with a task, but only five of them took their responsibility seriously. Five did not, and Jesus’ response to them was ‘I do not know you’ (Matt 25:12). I do not believe He meant that they were not in relationship with Him, He meant that He did not recognise Himself in them. They were not operating in good stewardship.

Talents

For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability (Matt 25:14-15).

We have been entrusted with Jesus’ possessions while He has gone back into heaven. All of us have calls and destinies in God, which He will give us the resources to fulfil. A talent was an amount of money, and each of us needs a different level of resource to achieve our particular calling.

Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money (Matt 25:16-18).

Trading is taking something God gives us and putting it to work to achieve a desired result. Here, the two servants who traded with their master’s money acted responsibly, and doubled his money for him. The one who hid it in the ground was an irresponsible steward.

Whatever God has given, He has given for a purpose. We can hide it in many ways: ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I’m not worthy’, ‘I can’t do it because of my past’ and so on. We can come up with any number of excuses why it is too difficult or too risky to go after our destiny in God, but Jesus will not accept any of them. He knows what He has called us to do, and He has given us the means of achieving it. He expects us to use our gifts for His glory.

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master. (Matt 25:19-21).

All of us will have to settle the account of our life, before the judgment seat of God. I have been there, and I know it is not somewhere you want to go if you have messed up, and not used the resources God has given in the way He intended. God wants to train us to be faithful in using what he has given us. If we are faithful with a little, He will entrust us with more. That is a principle of good stewardship in the kingdom, and it applies both in this age and in the age to come.

As for the servant who did not act responsibly with His master’s resources:

But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy servant… you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless servant into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 25:26-30).

This is not ‘hell’, but the outer courts. The weeping and gnashing of teeth will come as people realise how they have failed to fulfil the call of God and squandered His resources. The good news is that we can go before that judgment seat now, repent and pursue our destiny, beginning to act as faithful stewards. Then we do not need to find ourselves in that situation.

Faithful

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much (Luke 16:10).

God tests us. He gives us opportunities to demonstrate whether we are going to be faithful with what he has given us. Those of us who are looking for something from God, whether it is anointing, finances, gifts or anything else, need to be faithful with the little things first. God will not give us a huge international healing ministry if we are not prepared to minister healing to the person next door. God’s training involves giving us opportunities to grow.

Authority comes as a result of learning to be a good steward:

And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities (Luke 19:17).

Trustworthy

And here is Paul, talking about the things that God revealed to him when he went to heaven and had a face to face encounter with Him. He sees himself as a steward, who would wisely use those resources to bring blessing to others:

Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy (1 Cor 4:1-2).

God wants to entrust us with all that He has for us, but He starts us off with a little, so that we can learn to be faithful, and acquire the wisdom to handle greater anointing, greater revelation, greater levels of finance, greater honour.

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10).

In our finances, if we are faithful with what we have, He will give us more. When we honour Him by faithfully administering a little, He is able to entrust us with everything. Are we faithfully using our gifts and abilities, whether spiritual or natural, for the purposes for which God has given them? How are we using our covenant relationships, with one another and with Him?

Heart attitude

Everything we have belongs to God, and He wants to train us to be good, faithful stewards. After all, we are only stewards of everything we have. Our money, homes, cars and possessions all belong to Him. When we make Jesus Lord, we make everything we have  available for His use. If it all belongs to him, then He has first claim on it, whatever and whenever He wants. When He asks us to give something away, it will reveal the attitude of our heart (particularly if He asks us to give something precious).

Are we willing to surrender everything to Him? An attitude which says ‘It all belongs to You’ – that is the hallmark of a good and faithful steward.

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151. Abdicate and Serve

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

When Jesus lived on earth, He had power over nature, power over sickness, power over demons, power over everything. He taught about speaking to the mountain and telling it to move. He operated in the power of the kingdom to bring everything into subjection to God’s will and purpose. He wants us to live the same way.

‘Training for reigning’

Those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ (Rom 5:17)

It is clear from this verse that we will reign. Reigning is what is done by a king, on a throne, over a territory or an area they govern (their kingdom). Notice that those who are to reign need to receive it as a gift. It is not achieved through our own strength, self-effort or self-worth. It is through receiving the gift of righteousness.

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth (Rev 5:10).

There is a period of training we have to go through for this. Many of us find ourselves in that place of training right now. If we try to remain in control, seated on the throne of our life (which contains the scroll of our destiny), there is no seat of rest or government for us. We have to abdicate the throne of our lives in favour of Jesus. We have to give up the throne, give up control of our lives.

When we make Jesus Lord, He can then train us to be lords. That training involves trials, troubles and tribulation, circumstances which teach us to overcome and to grow, situations in which we manifest His kingdom.

Servant

But the first thing He wants us to do is to learn to be servants.

We sing about ‘lifting Jesus higher’. The first way of lifting Him higher is for us to go lower. When we have abdicated the throne of our lives, when we are on our faces in obedience, He is higher. The servant does the works of God. This is part of our training to occupy the throne and the seat of government.

Jesus is our example of what it means to be a servant. Even though He was a king, he came to serve. Everything in the kingdom of God starts with having a servant heart:

“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant” (Matt 20:26).

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

“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 honour him” (John 12:26).

When Jesus talks about ‘where I am’ in this verse, He is referring to the relationship He has with the Father: He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. He says that we can be part of that relationship too.

Humility and obedience

When we humble ourselves, when we bow down in obedience to serve Him, the Father will raise us up. It is not for us to raise ourselves up, and try to get on a throne. We certainly do not try to lord it over other people, or seek to control or manipulate situations. We bow down in humility, and we surrender our lives to Him who will equip us to be on a throne. If we sit on a throne, and do not know how to use authority correctly, we will abuse that authority. The correct use of authority will bring blessing to ourselves and to others. And God will honour us.

Jesus was obedient to do the works that the Father directed Him to do. In absolute strength, He surrendered that strength to His Father. He learned to allow God to work through Him.

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19).

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works” (John 14:10).

Obedience is the training to know that we are a habitation of God’s presence; to know that God will work through us as a channel of His glory and power – if we surrender.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father” (John 14:12).

Doing greater works than Jesus may sound pretty impressive, but it is actually just being a servant.

Bond-servant

“For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:5).

In the Old Testament, when someone was sold into slavery, they could go free after seven years. Many chose not to go free, and became bond-servants. So a bond-servant is someone who could have gone free, but chose not to; someone who chose to surrender their freedom in order to serve their master. They wore a ring in their ear to show that was their status. This is how Paul describes both himself and Jesus:

…although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:5-8).

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered (Heb 5:8).

Through the things that Jesus went through in His life (and death), He learned obedience.
We learn to obey through exactly the same process, even through the difficult things that sometimes happen to us. Jesus totally humbled Himself and surrendered His authority and power so that the Father could use Him for His kingdom purposes.

Jesus was a bond-servant, and God is looking for those who are willing to become bond-servants, just like Him. Because they can be trained to be kings, and ultimately revealed as sons.

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149. Seat of Rest

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Come to Me, all you who are weary and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls (Matt 11:28-29 AMP).

One of my most significant encounters in the heavenly realms was face-to-face with Jesus as He talked me through this scripture. He sat me down and talked to me about living from a place of rest, a place of peace and wholeness. He gave me a revelation from this passage that I can live in, and that He wants all of us to live in.

Take My yoke

Jesus asks us to take His yoke upon us. We are to be joined to Him. We go where He goes. This means that we do not get to choose which field we go to plough in. Jesus sets the field, the path and the direction.

He wants to carry the weight of our burdens so that we can be at rest. But we also have to learn from Him. By looking at His life we can learn how to live at rest. In His relationship with the Father and how He operated, He modelled how to live in rest. Jesus wants to train us and disciple us in that.

He describes Himself as ‘gentle and humble in heart’. Being gentle is not being wishy-washy and allowing yourself to be treated as a doormat. The meaning of the Greek word used here is that of a wild stallion which has been broken and has a bit in its mouth. God wants us strong and powerful, but wholly submitted to His will and purposes.

It is the same with humility. Being humble is not saying ‘Oh, I am a worm and no man! I am nothing!’. Humility is acknowledging who you are as a child of God and accepting your royal identity, your destiny and calling. Jesus took on the form of a servant, even though He was the Lord of creation. But He knew who He was, and what He was called to be. He lived totally surrendered to the will of His Father: ‘I only do the things I see the Father doing’ (John 5:19). We must accept who we are as children of God, and live out of that knowledge.

Weary, heavy-laden

Most of us would say we want to live in ‘rest, relief, ease, refreshment, recreation and blessed quiet’, prospering in all we do, and not having to struggle and strive. But we will not be at rest if we are feeling weary, heavy-laden or overburdened.

So if I feel tired, I am going to ask Jesus to show me if I am:

  • trying to survive and cope with life myself. Or am I surrendered to Him?
  • trying to provide for myself. Or is God my provider?
  • trying to protect myself. Or do I trust in His protection for me?
  • trying to find significance in achievements.
  • trying to create my own self image.
  • trying to compare myself with others. Or am I content to be unique?
  • trying to be somebody else. It is OK to have role models, but I need to be me.
  • trying to meet others’ expectations. Maybe even the expectations my parents put on me as a child? It is God’s expectations I need to fulfil: that is my destiny.
  • trying to wear a mask of pretence. Keeping up appearances.
  • trying to maintain control. Or have I surrendered control to God?
  • trying to cover up my inadequacies. He knows all my faults and weaknesses, and loves me anyway. He loves me enough to accept me, but also enough to transform me and make me whole.
  • trying to be good and righteous with dead works. Jesus’ sacrifice provided all I need for salvation and for transformation.
  • trying to please God, others and myself. I cannot please everyone: I must choose to please God.
  • trying to make amends for my past. Or receiving forgiveness as a free gift?

If I feel burdened, am I carrying things I shouldn’t be?

  • burdened by false responsibilities for family, finances, or future?
  • burdened by sin, guilt, shame and condemnation? In Christ there is no condemnation. In Christ I am cleansed and made the righteousness of God.
  • burdened by the weight of expectations?
  • burdened by sorrows and grief? Jesus came to carry my griefs and sorrows. There is a grieving process, but I do not have to bear it on my own.
  • burdened by disappointments? Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prov 13:12).
  • burdened by unforgiveness? That would probably be the heaviest weight for me to carry. I have been forgiven completely and unreservedly: He wants me to be able to forgive everybody else.
  • burdened by worry, anxiety, fear?
  • burdened by debt?
  • burdened by carrying the responsibility for my own life?

If we will hand all these things over to Jesus, He will take the weight. How do we do that?

Covenant names of God

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

The compound names of God, the covenant names, are really important here.

  • The Lord my righteousness.
  • The Lord my sanctification
  • The Lord my peace
  • The Lord my provider
  • The Lord my healer
  • The Lord my shepherd
  • The Lord my banner of victory
  • The Lord is there

All are names God has revealed because He wants us to live and know Him in these ways.

Cast your care

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. (1 Peter 5:7 AMP). He has broad shoulders and can carry everything we would like to lay on Him. He longs for us to hand over the burdens of our lives to Him, our future, our present and our past.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt 6:33). Places to live, clothes to wear, food to eat: everything we need will be added to us when we seek first the kingdom. I cannot put myself first, and still seek the kingdom. If we insist on providing for ourselves, we cannot expect that God will provide for us. It is one or the other. God wants us to surrender.

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you (James 4:10).
God wants to raise us up and give us a position and a place of authority and rule to fulfil our destiny and call. Will we surrender and humble ourselves before Him?

Let us pray these things through, step into the presence of God and allow Him to change us and transform us. We can step into His presence, because the kingdom of God is as close as the hand in front of our face: we have a choice to turn into it or elsewhere.

So, if you really want to hand over to God all your cares, worries and burdens, everything that is making you tired and weary, here is an opportunity to do it.

I suggest you stand if you are able, and find a place where you can take a step forwards and backwards as by faith we engage our physical bodies with this process.

Father I thank You
that You have made a way
for me to come into Your presence

By faith [take a step forward]
I step into the realm of Your presence
and ask You to forgive me
for doing things in my own strength.
I repent of providing for and protecting myself;
I repent of finding significance in achievements
and trying to create my own self image;
I repent of comparing myself with others.

I repent of trying to be somebody else
and trying to meet others’ expectations;
I repent of wearing masks of pretence to cover up my inadequacies;
I repent of trying to be good and righteous
using dead works
to try to please You and others;
I repent for trying to make amends for my past.

I repent for trying to maintain control of my life.
Today Jesus I wilfully, with desire,
hand over responsibility for my life to You.
I cast all my burdens onto You
and hand over responsibility
for my family, finances and future.

I cast all my sin, guilt,
shame and condemnation onto You
I cast all my sorrows, grief,
disappointments, worry, anxiety and fear onto You.
I cast all my debts onto You;
I cast all the weight of expectation onto You;
I surrender control of my life to You.

I choose to be yoked to You Jesus:
Train me in gentleness and humility
to bring me to the place of maturity.

Now, Lord, I step back [take a step back]
into this earthly dimension,
bringing Your rest with me
to live in the eye of the storm.

I choose to live from the seat of rest.

Related articles from Freedom ARC

I Surrender – Hillsong (via YouTube)

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148. Be still and know

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

In seeking to build our spirit, we have seen how important it is to give God first love, first place, first priority in our lives, and also how praying and singing in tongues is a key. The third point, which we are going to consider in this post and the next one, is waiting on the Lord and being still.

Be still

Be still, and know that I am God (Psa 46:10).

What does it mean to be still? Firstly it means we do not move; that we stop whatever it is we are doing. And then we can know that He is God. If we are always ‘doing’, we are not allowing Him to be God in our life.

The NASB translates this phrase as ‘Cease striving’. God wants us to stop fighting (‘striving’ comes from the word ‘strife’), and surrender. We need to stop striving to do things in our own strength and submit to Him. We have to stop doing things in our way if God is to lead us in His way and into the destiny He has prepared for us.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
And do not lean on your own understanding
(Prov 3:5)

He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside quiet waters
He restores my soul
He guides me in paths of righteousness
(Ps 23:2-3)

Physical calm

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered his rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest (Heb 4:9-11).

This requires diligence: we have to actively pursue God’s rest, His peace. For every one of us, there is a place of rest that He wants us to find and enter into. God rested on the seventh day of creation, and He intends rest for us. We do not get just one day in seven: we get every day, because our rest is in Him. In relationship with Him, we allow Him to work through us and our destiny can be fulfilled.

Focused attention

relay

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:1-2).

Those witnesses are the men in white linen who are appearing in various places around the world, the saints of old who have gone before us. They are cheering us on. In a 4x400m relay race, the first three runners do not pack up and go home once they have completed their lap: they stand and cheer and encourage the last runner. I believe God is saying that we are on the last leg, and all those people are watching us and cheering us on. I have met some of them, and they want to be involved in our lives and help us.

‘Let us lay aside every encumbrance’: if you are running a marathon, you do not wear a suit of armour, unless you are foolish (or running for charity – people wear all kinds of strange things when they run for charity). No, you get prepared, you wear a running vest and shorts, and proper shoes. Maybe you even cover your body with Vaseline so that you won’t rub. You do not carry anything with you that is not essential. We have to get rid of everything that will hold us back and keep us from running effectively. God wants to set us free from the things that are holding us back so that we can run the race. We do not want a ball and chain around our leg.

‘For the joy set before Him’: The joy set before us is that of achieving our destiny, just as it was for Jesus. Each of us has a destiny prepared for us to fulfil, and there is a race to be run if we are to get there. It might be 100m or it might be 26 miles: every race is different and will require something different of us, but we all have a race that God has prepared and set before us. Are we going to run it? Are we going to allow God to prepare us for it, to train us and to equip us?

And how are we going to run? Fixing our eyes on Jesus. We take our eyes of all that surrounds us, we take our eyes off ourselves, and we fix our attention on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He authored our faith by dying for us on the cross, to set us free, to release our destiny to us, and He will also enable us to complete the race if we keep our eyes fixed on Him. He did all that for the joy that was set before Him – and the joy that was set before Him was us.

When He embraced the cross; when in the garden He looked into a cup and saw all of our sin  (yet still said ‘not my will but Yours be done’); when He took every sin, every sickness onto Himself, onto His own body on the cross; when He died our death which is the wages of sin; He went through all that because He loves us. He did it because He wants us to enter into our destiny and fulfil the joy; He wants His joy to be in us, and He wants our joy to be full and overflowing.

And then, when He had done all that, He sat down at the right hand of God, higher than every authority in heaven and earth, and He wants to raise us up to sit with Him in those realms of authority too.

Let be

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7).

‘Nothing’ and ‘everything’ do not leave much room for argument. We do not need to be anxious about anything at all if we are handing control of our life over to God and trusting Him to meet our need, to provide for us. If we are willing to surrender and stop trying to do it ourselves, He will do everything we need in our lives.

Be receptive

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

Abiding in Him speaks of a relationship. We cannot produce fruit of any eternal value unless we are connected to the source through the Vine (Jesus). We may be a branch of that Vine, but the branch does not provide the nutriment and supply of life in itself. If you cut the branch off, it dies. The life is drawn up through the roots and the plant to produce the fruit. Fruit in our lives comes from the flow of being receptive to the life of God flowing through us. If we want to fulfil our destiny, the call of God on our lives, we need to abide in Him.

Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident… (1 Cor 3:12-13).

When fire comes, gold, silver and precious stones survive. Wood, hay and straw do not. If we do anything outside of God and our relationship with Him, it will be burnt up and be worthless in eternity. We trust Him, we live in Him, we allow Him to live in us, and we produce the fruit that is lined up with our destiny.

Spontaneous Flow

Our spirit needs to flow in the life of God. We need the living flow of the life of God in us and flowing out of us to transform the world around us. It is His spirit and His power which will bring about that transformation, but He has chosen to flow through us to achieve it.

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:38)

We will look some more at what it means to ‘be still’ in the next post.

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144. Stepping Stones To Change

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

While we are building up our spirit by opening that first love gate inside us, praying continually, and waiting on the Lord, we also need to allow God to work on our soul so that it comes into proper submission to our spirit.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I (Christ in me) now live in the flesh, I (Christ in me) live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Gal 2:20).

The whole relationship changes when I recognise that I have been crucified, and when I die to self, because God is then able to join Himself to me in manifesting Himself to the world around me.

Search me, try me

Search me thoroughly, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
(Ps 139:23-24).

When we pray a prayer like that, God takes us at our word: He takes us up on what we have prayed. If we are willing to pray that prayer, He will search our heart. And He will also enable us to know what is going on in our heart. This is part of the process of change: we have to be prepared to allow God to search our hearts and show us what is there. We have to be willing to look at ourselves and see what is going on on the inside.

For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. (1 Cor 11:31 NKJV)

In judging ourselves, though, we do not compare ourselves to anyone but Jesus. God wants us to be transformed into the image of Jesus, and if we compare ourselves to Him we can see how far we have come, and how much more God still has to do in our hearts.

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil… (Matt 13:18-23)

The word of the kingdom gets sown into our heart. There are four kinds of soil mentioned here. Because of the past there may be areas in our hearts which are trampled down, compacted and hard, like a path, and the seed cannot grow there. Or it may be the rocks and stones in our heart, the things that have happened to us, that make it hard for the word to take root. We may get distracted by allowing our flesh to direct our thinking and our behaviour. Our hearts need to be changed, transformed into good soil, so that the word of the kingdom of God can grow in us and flourish, and bear fruit.

Consider it joy

But there is a process we need to go through in order to deal with the things that are in our hearts.

…strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, – this sounds really good so far – and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22).

How is that ‘encouraging’? Because when we are in the middle of the troubles, trials, or tribulations, we need to know that it is all part of the process of God bringing transformation. I am not talking about sickness or things like that (God does not bring any sickness on us) but about situations and circumstances in our lives that highlight for us the condition of our heart in a particular area.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

How many of us actually consider our trials as joy? But it is the attitude we have to the trials that will determine their outcome. And if we consider that God uses trials to transform us, then we will have a different approach to the situations we face. We can allow those trials to be stepping stones to change, transformation and growth; or we can resist those trials and then nothing in us will change. We have to welcome them with thanksgiving and joy. We can thank God for the trials He brings, because we know that we are being perfected, becoming complete, and will lack in nothing – just like Jesus.

If that is the outcome we are looking for, then we have to be willing to look within our lives so that we can learn, overcome, grow; so that we can see what is on the inside transformed.

Exult in tribulations

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom 5:3-5).

Exulting in tribulations is exactly the opposite of what our flesh wants to do. Gifts are given, but fruit grows. We want to grow in the fruit of the Spirit, and be more like Jesus. It is great to receive things as a gift; but we do not get character that way: it is a fruit of dealing with the trials and troubles in our lives. How we deal with them is what shapes our character and causes us to act like Jesus.

And everything operates through love. The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, and it enables us to deal with every situation, every trial, every trouble that we face. The love of God is in us.

It is not that He is disciplining us because He does not love us. Quite the opposite: He disciplines us because He does love us, He cares for us, and He wants us to be transformed and changed. Then He can reveal us on the earth as the manifest sons of God, shining with His light, displaying His character and the fruit that comes from a life transformed by the situations that we have faced.

He Won’t Relent

The process itself may not sound too pleasant. But it will be less painful if we surrender to the process rather than struggling against it. Jesus said:

And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder (Matt 21:44 NKJV).

Our soul can be broken, and then restored; or it can be crushed. Which would you rather? As I allow brokenness in my soul, the fragrance of God’s presence comes from me. The other way fragrance can be released from something is by grinding it to powder. God wants us to be changed. He won’t relent (as we have been singing again recently) until He has it all, all of us.

God loves us too much to let us go. Time and time again He will give us opportunities to grow and be transformed. We can give Him our heart, and surrender to the process, and be filled with joy, peace and love; or we can fight, struggle, and resist what He is wanting to do. Then all that happens is that we get to go around the mountain one more time, until He gives us another opportunity to deal with the same issue. I am sure there have been times when most of us have been around the same mountain more than once, until we learnt this truth.

He wants us to look at the mountain and say, ‘This is not going to stop me. I am going to deal with this and overcome it. I am going to climb this mountain’.

When we do, that mountain is going to elevate us higher into the purposes of God for our lives.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFdeOT3lzqc

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143. Beholding And Becoming

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

As Christians, we know that God lives on the inside of us (1 John 4:15). It is when we open up the gateway of first love, and allow Him to have first place in our lives, that He will begin to transform us from the inside out. Our spirit can take its proper place of authority over both our souls and our bodies.

Praying in tongues all the time allows our spirit to be in constant connection and communion with God, and to experience a flow of revelation from heaven.

The third thing which will help us to build a strong spirit is waiting on the Lord, and being still.

Be still

As I mentioned before, I went through a period in my times with God in which I could not see anything, and nothing seemed to be happening. I found it really hard. I did not think that I would, but I did. God effectively put me in a place where I needed to trust Him. I thought I did trust Him, but I found that in fact I needed to know what was going on. So I had to surrender that to Him, allow myself to rest in a place where I did nothing but wait in His presence. When I did that, after a few weeks he began to reveal Himself and show me things again.

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint
(Isaiah 40:31).

He becomes our source. We draw from Him all that we need in our lives to fulfil our destiny in Him.

Be still, and know that I am God 
(Psalm 46:10).

He wants us to know – not in our head, but by personal encounter with His presence. That is what the hebrew sense of the word ‘know’ is: it means ‘to encounter intimately’. We have to stop trying to do things in our own strength, even trying to change ourselves, and instead surrender to Him. If we read that same scripture in the Amplified Bible it says:

Cease striving,
Let be and be still and know that I am God
(Psalm 46:10 AMP).

He will give us everything we need and empower us to do all that He is calling us to do.

Beholding and becoming

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.(2 Cor 3:18)

As we behold Jesus, as we look at God, and wait in that place where our whole attention is fixed upon Him, we become like that which we behold. We know that the kingdom of God is as close to us as the hand in front of our face; we can turn into it at any time, we can behold what is in God’s kingdom, and we can become the image of Jesus. Or, we can look at what is around us, fix our eyes on our problems and difficulties, and become more like them.

It is a choice: what are we going to look at?

If we look into a mirror, we see a reflection of ourself. But this scripture says we can see the glory of the Lord. God wants us to see ourselves as He sees us, to see ourselves through His eyes, to see ourselves the way He created us to be: full of His presence and His glory.

As we focus on Him, and see ourselves as we are supposed to be, He changes us a little at a time, so that we become more like Him. So when we actually look into a mirror, we start to see what we are like in the kingdom of God.

Now when the enemy looks at us, depending how far along this transformation we have come in relationship with God, he sees the light that is in us, and it challenges the darkness he seeks to bring. What he might see is described in Revelation chapter 1: fire in our eyes and a flaming sword coming out of our mouth – this is the likeness of Jesus into which we are being transformed. As yet, perhaps he only sees a flickering candle, but the more we focus on God, the more we wait in His presence, the more we learn to behold Him, the more that light begins to shine on the inside of us, and the more visible it becomes on the outside too.

Fix our eyes on Jesus

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith (Heb 12:2).

As we do that, He is the One who will start to change us. Our part is to fix our eyes on Him, and not be distracted; to behold Him so that we can become like Him.

If we focus on the problems, the problems always look bigger, until all we can see is the problem, and we cannot see a way out. But if we focus on the solution (which is always God), the problems look smaller, until all we can see is the solution, and we change.

For nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37)

There is no situation, nothing which has happened to us in the past, nothing right now, and nothing in our future, that He cannot change if we look to Him. There is nothing He cannot transform. Nothing is impossible. There is nothing we cannot overcome; there is nothing that can stop us fulfilling our destiny, if we allow Him to strengthen us. He will make us strong, as we look to Him.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).

I encourage you to spend some time today (and every day), building your spirit up by just waiting in the presence of God, and looking at Him.

Many of the blue hyperlinks in the text of this post will also take you to other articles from Freedom ARC

Related articles from others

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142. Present A Living Sacrifice (2)

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect
(Romans 12:1-2).

Transformation is complete, thorough, radical change. It enables us to prove (to find out and be sure of) what is the perfect will of God for us (that is, what is our destiny), and then to outwork it.

Present ourselves daily

But it involves sacrifice.

Worship is surrender. Worship is obedience. So we come to Jesus, our High Priest, and we present ourselves at the altar as a living sacrifice. This is something we are to do every day. We present ourselves to God so that He can use us, He can transform us, He can change us. It is not the sacrifice who is responsible for the changing. We do not have to transform ourselves: we merely have to present ourselves and God will do the changing.

So by faith we enter the Holy Place, in the heavenly tabernacle, in the heavenly realms. There is an altar there. Not the bronze altar where Israel used to offer sacrifices: Jesus was offered on that altar once and for all. We come instead to the altar of incense. When we give ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, the fragrance of our submitted lives goes up before Him, and He loves it.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus… (Heb 10:19).

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice and death, we can come right into the Holy Place. We do not come on our own merit, we come by the blood of Jesus. The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:17).

Jesus is our High Priest, and He prepares the sacrifice that we give Him: our life. We have to present ourselves to Him and allow Him to deal with us. So we come by faith to surrender. We have looked before at the details of how the sacrificial lamb was prepared for sacrifice. It is really helpful for us to understand how those steps apply to us. If you are not familiar with this, please do take the time to read about it before moving on.

Click this link to read our earlier post (opens in a new window or tab): Present A Living Sacrifice (1) or copy and paste this line into your browser:
https://freedomarc.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/present-a-living-sacrifice/ 

Preparing the sacrifice

It is a picture of what we need to have done to us. The priest slit its throat, drained its blood, chopped off its head, skinned it, split it open, right down to the marrow of the backbone. Everything was opened up before God. All the inner organs were washed and  the legs cut off. Then the pieces were put on the altar.

We have to surrender our lives to Him, fully, for Him to do what He needs to do. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). We surrender our life to God, and exchange His life for ours. That is the meaning of sacrifice.

Dead, but alive

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
(Rom 6:11-13).

If the flesh has to die, how is it a living sacrifice? It is because the flesh dies, but we carry on living in the spirit. Then our flesh does not get in the way, and the members of our body can be presented as instruments of righteousness, so that God can use us for His kingdom purposes. ‘Not my will, but Yours be done’, as Jesus said.

For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart (Heb 4:12 AMP).

We are allowing God to open us up and reveal the deepest parts of our nature, to cleanse us, to purify us, and restore us; to expose, sift, analyse, and judge the very thoughts and purposes of our heart. And because he loves us, He will change us from the inside out, so that we are more like Him.

‘In like manner’

In our daily walk we are surrendered and obedient to what God wants to do in us. We walk by faith and not by sight; according to His will and not ours, only doing what we see the Father doing. And the Father in us is able to do all His works through us. That is how Jesus lived every day, and He wants us to live every day that way too.

We cannot do it in our own strength. We cannot do it by the flesh. We can only do it in the spirit. We have to surrender.

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19). If Jesus could do nothing of Himself, how much less can we?

Faith of the Son of God

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20 KJV).

When Jesus was on the cross, bearing our sin, we were crucified with Him. He is living in me, and that life is lived by faith of the Son of God (I have purposely quoted a translation that says ‘of’: it is not even my faith that I live by, but His). Jesus surrendered His life so that we could have full, abundant life. I want to encourage you, every day to present yourself as a living sacrifice before God. Surrender, and allow Him to prepare you, to change you, to transform you from the inside out, to deal with your soul so that your spirit can flow in the life of God.

We are going to pray, and I want to encourage you to be willing to daily deny yourself and allow the Spirit and the life of God to flow through you, out from you, and to change you.

Every day, present yourself. I do, every day; so that every day, God can use me.

Father, I thank You that You sent Jesus
to die on the cross for me
to take my sin, my sickness,
and everything about my flesh,
and to die in my place.

I choose to surrender myself as a living sacrifice to You,
and allow You to prepare my life
for the life of Jesus to flow from me.

Prepare my life as I surrender,
so that everything that has come through nature
can be transformed
everything that has come through nurture
can be transformed,
everything that has come through trauma

can be transformed,
so that I live a life flowing in the Spirit and in the power of God
bringing the kingdom of God from heaven to earth,
living as a manifestation of Your presence here on earth,
that Your light would shine through me.

I open up my life in surrender to You.
so that You can do Your work through me
and that I might bring glory to You.

Jesus, as You gave Your life for me,
I choose to give my life to You, daily,
as a living sacrifice,
in order to fulfil my destiny
and the purposes of God, here and now in this time,
so that in eternity I will be able to fulfil all You have for me to do there.

Father, I praise You,
Father, I bless You,
In Jesus’ Name

.Amen.

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