BIBLE STUDY LESSON # 22...March, 7 , 2010
“Recapturing the Power – Getting Back to the Basics"
In the February 21 lesson (Jesus I know, Paul I know, But who are you?), Tim looked at the early church and the power possessed by the early followers of Christ and asked where had all the power gone.
Just what has happened to us? Why do we not wield the power Christ promised? Why do we not see miracles being performed daily as with the early church? Why are we so easily swayed from the truth? Are we seeking the true kingdom of God or one that fits our lifestyle? Have we become so morally corrupt that we no longer have any virtues left to guide us? Can we turn the tide and recapture what we have lost?
Looking deep into these questions, we find that we have drifted far from the truths God has entrusted to us. In essence, we have rearranged the concepts of right and wrong thus relinquishing the powers granted to us by God. Essentially, we have gotten away from the very foundation of our faith. Fortunately, we can still regain the vision; we can recapture the power Christ promised us. But, it will require us to look deep into ourselves and realize that we must return to the basics of Christ’s teachings and love. Once we have returned to the fundamentals then we will again see miracles happening and God’s power being revealed through us. For us to succeed, we must allow ourselves to become so immersed in Christ that we will be able to overcome any obstacles that get in our way.
But, what are the basics that should be governing our walk with God? With help from the song The Basics of Life by 4Him, I have found four that I feel are the most fundamental as we follow in Christ’s footsteps. Although released in 1992, this song still provides a firm basis to help us recapture our faith. Quite simply these basics of Christian life are: a heart that is pure; a love that is blind; a faith fervently grounded in Christ; and, a hope that endures forever. Once these four tenets become so engrained in our lives, then, and only then, will we be able to regain our true passion.
4 HIM...BASICS OF LIFE
A Heart That is Pure
Now the purpose of the command is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith. --- I Timothy 1:5
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. --- Matthew 5: 8
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin…….. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me……. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart – these, O God you will not despise. --- Psalm 51:2, 10, 17
For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment. --- Psalm 66:10-12
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. --- James 4:8
What exactly is a pure heart? Contrary to popular belief, it is not one that has no stains. It is one that has been tested and found in need of refining. In Psalm 51, David provides for us the true definition of a pure heart. However, before we can grasp David’s interpretation of a pure heart, we must look at what has happened to lead him to this conclusion.
Most of us know the story of David and Bathsheba as told in II Samuel 11. And we see how David allowed one sin to add to another until it reached the point of murder – all in the name of lust. However, many stop at that point in the story and miss the prophet Nathan’s relating of God’s response to David’s sin in II Samuel 12. Beginning with the story of a man who had taken his neighbor’s prized lamb, Nathan played on David’s emotions forcing David to pass judgment upon the transgressor. Then, catching David by surprise, Nathan revealed that David was the man in the story. Realizing that his sins were known, David fell at Nathan’s feet repenting of his sin and asking forgiveness from God. This led to David’s well known song of repentance we find in Psalm 51.
Knowing what led David to his interpretation, we can now look at his definition of a pure heart. In Psalm 51:17, David says that a pure heart is one that is broken and contrite. In other words, David is telling us that we must first become broken-hearted over the sins we have committed and be crushed by our guilt. Only then, will God refine us and cleanse our hearts, renewing a steadfast spirit within us. Likewise, James tells us that once our hearts are purified we can draw nearer to God and He will, in turn, draw nearer to us.
Jesus said those who are pure in heart are blessed since they will see God. He understood that one’s heart had to be broken and refined before it could be cleansed. Unlike David, He realized that water could not cleanse the heart – only His blood could wash away the impurities of the heart. Jesus knows that the only way we can even begin to grasp His love and power is for us to purify our hearts.
Do you have a heart that is pure? I must confess that I sometimes struggle with this very concept myself. But, that is why I write this; because I need this lesson just as much as the next guy. So, let us make a pact that we will allow God to break us and make us pure.
A Love That is Blind
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. --- I John 4:10-11
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”--- Matthew 5:43-48
As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” --- Matthew 9:9-13
Too often, we perceive ourselves to be much more than who we really are. We tend to see love only on our terms and conditions. Losing sight of Christ’s model of true love, we have become as judgmental as the Pharisees. Deeming only ourselves worthy of God’s love, we reject and despise those different from ourselves. Having become so caught up in our self-righteousness, we fail to see that Jesus spent much more time with the supposed riffraff, the sinners and tax collectors, than He did with the religious leaders. The very ones Jesus considered to be worthy of His love we have turned our backs on, despising them for their sins while forgetting we are no better than them.
If we are to have pure hearts, we also must love blindly. While we are called to hate sin, we are still commanded by Christ to love the sinner. Truthfully, if we hate others for their sins then it only stands to reason that we should hate ourselves also because of our sins. Thankfully, Christ came to provide us a model of true love. Because He so loved us we ought to love everyone whatever their sin. While despising their sins, we are to love the prostitute, the homosexual, the murderer, the liar, and the cheat as much as we love ourselves. Only by accepting these people as God’s children, can we start to regain the kingdom vision. As our love of Christ and others grows, we find ourselves growing more graceful and, in kind, more powerful.
As our hearts are purified and we develop a love that is blind, our faith and hope begins to grow.
A Faith Fervently Grounded in Christ
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. --- Romans 3:21-26
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. --- Jude 20-21
So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move and nothing will be impossible for you.” --- Matthew 17:20
Of the four basic fundamentals we will cover, faith holds the key to the very essence of our beliefs. Without faith, our hearts remain unrefined and our ability to love is hindered. Without faith we are powerless; unable to do even the simplest of tasks.
In Matthew 17, we learn of the disciples’ inability to cast a demon out of a man’s son. When they ask Jesus why, He tells them it is because of their unbelief. He further tells them that all they need is faith like a mustard seed to accomplish many wonders – that nothing would be impossible for them. Just as a mustard seed does not remain tiny but grows to the size of a tree, our faith should be ever increasing. If our faith in Christ is never growing, then our ability to love and do great works in His name is never growing.
Through a fervent, or zealous, faith we can accomplish much. In Hebrews 11, the Faithful Hall of Fame, we are presented a list of men and women who were changed because they dared to exercise their faith in God. Wouldn’t it be great if people would know us by our faith and count it to our righteousness? Imagine the impact we could have if our faith is ever growing stronger. By our ardent faith hearts and lives can be changed forever.
A Hope That Endures Forever
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. --- Romans 5:1-2
For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope, for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.--- Romans 8:24-25
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. --- Colossians 1:27
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. --- Titus 2:11-14
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. --- I Peter 1:3-5
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is within you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. --- I Peter 3:13-17
Hope is the very thing that keeps us going. But, what do we hope for? Is it something we desire like a new car, a fur coat, or a new love interest? Or, is it a yearning for that heavenly home that we can’t see or even describe?
Paul accurately describes our hope as something we can rejoice in. Calling it a blessed hope, he directs us to the glorious return of Jesus Christ to gather His people home. He also tells us that we are saved by this hope. Through seeing this hope in our lives, Paul also tells us that others will be saved. Finally, Paul says that through this hope we should zealously pursue faith and good works.
Additionally, Peter tells us that it is a living hope that cannot be tainted and cannot fade away. Secondly, he tells us that it is reserved for us in heaven through Jesus Christ and His saving grace. Finally, Peter tells us that it is something we should never be ashamed to tell others about, saying it is better to suffer because of our hope than to suffer because we have no hope.
In essence hope is what makes our faith and love real and purifies our hearts.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.--- I Corinthians 13:13
A heart that is pure, a love that is blind, a faith that is fervently grounded in Christ and a hope that endures forever are the foundation on which our beliefs are based. Within these four basics are found the keys to the power of the Christian church. If any of these are lacking, then the church is unable to work the wonders seen in the early church and in a few of the churches today (those who are living the basics).
Just imagine what the world would be like if every believer returned to the basics. The sick would be healed, the lame would walk, the blind would see, demons would flee at our command, and the dead would be raised. A great awakening would occur and revival would spread throughout the world. Many would come to know Christ because they would see our faith, hope, and love – especially our love.
Recapturing the power may seem like an impossible task. But, we must remember that with God nothing is impossible. What it means is that our lives must be totally and sincerely committed to God; that our faith be firmly planted in Jesus; that our faith inspires and strengthens our hope; and that our faith and hope are sustained by our love.
We can recapture the power of the early church. But, it takes our serious commitment to return to the basics of the Christian lifestyle for it to happen. I make this commitment before you today. Will you join me?
Let us pray, “Dear Father in heaven, thank You for loving us so much that You would give Your only Son, Jesus, to die upon that cruel cross so that we might be saved. We ask You now to forgive us for our lack of faith, hope, and love. As David so earnestly prayed, cleanse our hearts and make them pure. Restore our faith in Jesus, Your Son, and our hope in You. Return us to the life You so want us to lead. Strengthen us for the tough times ahead as we devote ourselves wholly to Your will. In Jesus’ blessed name we pray. Amen and amen.”
Perhaps you are reading this lesson seeking peace with yourself and with God and have decided that you want to share in this blessed hope and love in Christ Jesus. If so, I ask you to say this prayer right now asking Jesus to save you and wrap His loving arms around you.
“Dear Heavenly Father, I admit that I am a sinner in need of Your love and protection. Please forgive me of my sins and wash me with the atoning blood of Jesus. Create in me a pure heart and assure me of that blessed hope that is found only in You. In the holy name of Jesus, I pray. Amen”
Now, if you have said this prayer or you want to join with me in getting back to the basics and recapturing the power of the early church, I would urge you to go to the discussion board for the Bible Study and post your commitment. May God bless each and every one of you. And, may He always find you doing His will.
Your Brother In Christ,
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