Suffering # 3
IN SPIRITUAL ADULTHOOD, the believer’s Spiritual momentum follows a definite pattern:.
1. Consistent perception and metabolism of Truth inside the Spiritual life result in the believer’s giant step into Personal love for God and SPIRITUAL SELF-ESTEEM.
2. When tested under providential preventive suffering, Spiritual self-esteem becomes SPIRITUAL AUTONOMY.
3. By successfully passing the momentum tests, Spiritual autonomy becomes SPIRITUAL MATURITY. (Matt 13:8)
4. When Spiritual maturity stands up under evidence testing, GOD IS GLORIFIED TO THE MAXIMUM in the historic angelic conflict. (John 15:8; John 17:3-4)
Paul describes this pattern of momentum in his second epistle to the Corinthians.
And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power [The Spiritual life] is perfected in weakness. [Testing] Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, [Sin nature Testing] with insults, [People testing] with distresses, [Thought testing] with persecutions, [System testing — Job, family, social life, Etc.] with difficulties, [Disaster testing] for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, [Under testing] then I am strong. [We grow by staying in fellowship and Thinking with the Mind of Christ!] (1Co 2:16) (2Co 12:9-10)
We will examine this passage more thoroughly when we focus on providential preventive suffering. Here we need to note only the pattern of the adult believer’s continued progress.
“Power is achieved with weakness” states that suffering is necessary for Spiritual advance. The Greek noun, (Dunamis) “power, or strength” refers to God’s omnipotence as utilized by the believer in the advance through Spiritual adulthood: Spiritual self-esteem, Spiritual autonomy, and Spiritual maturity. The adult believer has power because he consistently lives in the Spiritual life! The verb, (Teleo) which is translated “made perfect” in the King James Version, means “to finish, to accomplish, to fulfill, to achieve,” the latter best agreeing with the context in verse 9. How is power achieved? How does the believer advance through the final gates of his palace? The Greek preposition (En) plus (Astheneia) — in the instrumental case of manner — indicates the manner in which the action of the verb is carried out: “with weakness.” “Weakness” refers to the progressive phases of suffering for blessing. Weakness here is not failure or sin but helplessness. Suffering for blessing puts the Spiritually adult believer in a situation he cannot resolve with human resources. (Php 3:3; (1Pe 4:1-2) He is helpless and must totally depend on Divine assets (The will of God the Father, the Mind of Christ and the fruit of God the Holy Spirit) that he has acquired by metabolizing Truth in his soul. (Jer 15:16) The suffering itself does not advance the believer; his utilization of God’s power in suffering is what advances him. (Jer 15:19-21) Power and weakness exist together at the same time: The adult believer uses the strength of Spiritual self-esteem to move through his weakness in providential preventive suffering. He uses the strength of Spiritual autonomy to go through his weakness in momentum testing. And he uses the strength of Spiritual maturity to move through his weakness in evidence testing. He not only exercises the power inherent in each stage of Spiritual adulthood to meet the test, but when he succeeds in passing each test, he achieves the power of the next stage of Spiritual adulthood. With each test he passes, he moves up! (2Co 3:18) What degree of strength is required to endure providential preventive suffering? Spiritual self-esteem. What power is required to pass momentum testing? Spiritual autonomy. And what is needed to pass evidence testing Spiritual maturity. As a result of dealing with the undeserved suffering that God sends, the believer’s strength increases so that he is able to cope with the next increment of suffering when it comes. In His perfect wisdom God gives each believer the unique sequence of blessing and suffering, of prosperity and adversity necessary to bring him to maximum glorification of God! (Psa 23:4)
THE FLAW IN HUMAN SELF-ESTEEM
BEFORE GOD ADMINISTERS SUFFERING FOR BLESSING, the believer must have the inner strength necessary to endure and profit from the test. In other words, the believer must have Spiritual self-esteem. God will not send suffering for blessing until first the believer is confident in his relationship with God and in his own Spiritual ability to use the assets that God has given him. He must be inculcated with Truth so that he loves God, and lives by God's Thinking! (Matt 10:20; John 3:34; John 7:16-18; (1Pe 4:11) For believer and unbeliever alike, a person’s attitude toward self affects his entire outlook on life. An important branch of psychology emphasizes the key rule of self-esteem.
Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is as important as the one we pass on ourselves; for that judgment touches the very center of our existence. We stand in the midst of an almost infinite network of relationships: to other people, to things, to the universe. And yet, at three o’clock in the morning, when we are alone with ourselves, we are aware that the most intimate and powerful of all relationships and the one we can never escape is the relationship to ourselves. No significant aspect of our thinking, motivation, feelings, or behavior is unaffected by our self-evaluation.
In this, psychology has made an accurate observation. It recognizes man’s genuine need to regard himself in a positive light. Although self-esteem solves many problems in life, human self-esteem ultimately has a fatal flaw.
Thus says the LORD, Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind [For Salvation, help, blessing, Etc.] And makes flesh [The Old sin nature self] his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD. (Jer 17:5)
The heart [Old sin nature of man] is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9)
The problem is that man is not worthy of his own esteem. Since the fall of Adam, the human race has been inherently depraved. Man is born Spiritually dead, utterly isolated from his Creator, totally incapable of a relationship with God. (Eph 2:1) Man proves his depravity by the personal sins he commits; (Strip club crowd, lust of the flesh; crowds) and by the human old sin nature good; (Glen Beck crowd lust of the eyes; tax collectors) and evil he practices. (Obama crowd; pride of life; soldiers) (Luk 3:10-14) Man is commonly arrogant, greedy, self-centered, superficial, cowardly, petty, devious, self-righteous, cruel and violent. Only by a concerted effort of the will can he even partly control his old sin nature.
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, [Spiritual life] but I see a different law in the members of my body, [Sin Nature] waging war against the Law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, [The Mind of Christ] but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. [The demon influenced sin nature in US] (Rom 7:21-25)
Regard for self is always some form of arrogance. (2Co 3:4-5) Most people deceive themselves with intellectual rationalizations or psychological delusions concerning their own importance. Man feels the need for a positive self-image, yet he falls short of his own relative standards, to say nothing of totally failing by God’s absolute standards. The very self which man desires to esteem is weak and prone to evil. Man’s best intentions and greatest achievements are undercut by ignorance, handicaps, distractions, and temptations. Human self-esteem is an elusive and flimsy substitute for what man really needs, and what God in His grace has provided: Spiritual self-esteem — Spiritual self-esteem is based on Who and What God IS, not on who and what we are. It stands on God’s absolute integrity, (Gal 5:22-23) not on man’s unstable old sin nature. (Matt 15:18-20)
THE SUPERIORITY OF SPIRITUAL SELF-ESTEEM
Spiritual self-esteem belongs to the protocol plan of God. The Christian achieves Spiritual self-esteem by faithfully learning and Thinking with Truth, by advancing step by step within God’s protocol system until he reaches Gate 5, Personal love for God. Spiritual self-esteem is an inevitable result of Personal love for God. The believer’s self-confidence is not derived from self but from the confidence that he has a unique relationship with the God of the universe. Believers of the royal family of God have greater cause for Spiritual self-esteem than do believers of any other dispensation. God displays His glory in the Church as never before in human history. His objective is to show “...the riches of His grace which He has lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight.” (Eph 1:7-8) and to demonstrate “what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe...” (Eph 1:19) Even a partial list of the advantages granted to every Church Age believer will demonstrate the superiority of Spiritual self-esteem over human self-esteem. As Church Age believers we are a “new [Spiritual] species” in union with Christ. (2Co 5:17) By the baptism of God the Holy Spirit at the moment of Salvation, we are “created in Christ Jesus” for the purpose of utilizing Divine power, not human power. (Php 3:3) God has made available to us the exercise of Divine omnipotence for the execution of His plan. (Acts 1:8; (1Co 2:4; (2Co 4:7; Eph 1:19-20; Col 1:19-12; (2Ti 1:7) Never before the Church Age did God extend this privilege to every believer. Only partial utilization of God’s omnipotence was made available to a few believers of previous dispensations. We are instructed to “walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4; Eph 2:10; Eph 4:24) because the new Spiritual species is designed to utilize total availability of the omnipotence of all three members of the Trinity. The omnipotence of God the Father created for every Church Age believer a portfolio of invisible assets which includes the Spiritual life. (Eph 1:3) The omnipotence of God the Son sustains the universe and perpetuates human history. (Heb 1:3) The omnipotence of God the Holy Spirit provides the function of the Spiritual life. (Acts 1:8) Furthermore, our bodies are indwelt by all three members of the Trinity.
God the Father indwells us for the glorification of His protocol plan which He designed in eternity past for each Church Age believer. (John 14:23; Eph 1:3-12; Eph 4:6; (2Jn 1:9)
God the Holy Spirit indwells us to create a temple for the indwelling of Christ as the Shekinah Glory, to be a down-payment of our royal inheritance, and to empower us in the execution of the Father’s plan. (Rom 8:11; (1Co 3:16; (1Co 6:19-20; (2Co 6:16, Eph 1:14)
God the Son in-dwells us for a number of reasons:
1. To reign as King in His Temple, in the body of every believer! (Matt 21:5; Luk 19:38-40; Rom 15:12; (1Ti 1:17; (1Ti 6:15-16)
2. For Christ to be formed in us by reception, retention, and recall of His Thinking. (Rom 8:10; (1Co 2:16; (2Co 13:3-6; Gal 2:20; Gal 4:19; Col 1:27)
3. As the depositary of special blessings for time and eternity (Eph 1:3) and as the escrow officer who will deliver these blessings to the believer when he reaches Spiritual adulthood by using Divine Thinking, (Prov 3:13-15; (1Co 3:11-14) and when he appears before the Judgment Seat of Christ. (2Co 5:10)
4. As motivation for continued momentum when facing the three categories of suffering for blessing: providential preventive suffering, momentum testing, and evidence testing. (John 15:13; (1Jn 3:16; (1Co 9:19; (2Co 5:15)
5. As the basis for assigning highest priority to relationship with God over relationships with people! (2Co 13:14; (1Jn 1:3; (1Jn 2:24)
6. The use of Divine power, over the exercise of human power! (Luk 4:14; Acts 1:8; Rom 1:16; (1Co 2:4; (1Co 2:5; (1Co 4:20; (2Co 4:7)
7. As the basis for the glorification of Christ, the Shekinah Glory, in the unique life of the New Covenant Church Age believer. (John 17:22-23; John 17:26)
Every Church Age believer is permanently indwelt by the entire Trinity. As a consequence, many other advantages also belong to us. For worship and privacy in our unique relationship with God, we have been inducted into the highest of all priestly orders. Every Church Age believer belongs to the royal priesthood of our great high priest, Jesus Christ. (Heb 4:14; Rev 1:6) In addition, each of us has been granted a royal warrant from God to be Christ’s ambassador in Satan’s kingdom. (2Co 5:20) We represent Christ on earth and have an invisible impact on history. Furthermore, each Church Age believer possesses his own royal palace, the prototype of which was tested and proven by the humanity of Christ. (John 15:10) We are heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ. (Rom 8:17) Even this partial outline of our royal assets shows that our status is unique. There are no ordinary Christians. Each ‘ordinary’ Christian has a position and a function far superior to anything available to the greatest believers of previous dispensations. Our extraordinary status is revealed to us through our consistent, faithful, lifelong intake of Truth! Doctrine teaches us who we are in the plan of God. Truth orients us to God’s will, plan, and purpose for our lives and emphasizes the attainment of Spiritual self-esteem, Spiritual autonomy and Spiritual maturity. Advance in the protocol plan of God manifests the Spiritual royalty to which God has elevated us. God has given us a basis for Spiritual self-esteem totally related to grace, unspoiled by human weaknesses of any kind. (John 12:24-25)
THE SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL SELF-ESTEEM
Personal love for God precedes Spiritual self-esteem and becomes the source of this initial stage of Spiritual adulthood. Who is this infinite and eternal Person who has granted us so exalted a position in Christ? What is the character of our majestic God? God reveals Himself to us in His Word. He has “exalted [His] Word above [His] name.” (Psa 138:2) His essence is reflected on every page of Scripture: in every Doctrinal dissertation, in every Biblical illustration and application, in every passage of historical narrative, in every line of Biblical poetry.
To be “transformed by the renewing of [His] mind” (Rom 12:2) the believer must learn every Biblical Doctrine his pastor teaches. Even if its relevance is not obvious at the moment, every Doctrine contributes a vital facet to the Christian’s understanding of God’s essence and personality. The Bible was not designed merely to provide solutions for a believer’s current problems; the Bible’s purpose is to reveal the magnificent and multifaceted nature of God. (John 17:3)
How precious also are Your Thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You. (Psa 139:17)
To learn God’s essence is a marvelous, lifelong endeavor for which we have been given powerful assets related to the Spiritual life. This greatest of all enterprises demands right priorities and the self-discipline, for the daily faithful intake, metabolism and application of Truth! To understand God’s attributes is to love Him. This constitutes the very purpose of our lives! In Spiritual childhood the believer does not have the capacity or capability to love God. Much sincerity, emotionalism, and sentimentality is misconstrued as love for God. In Reality, to love God the believer must know God. This requires cognition of Truth. God is invisible. The incarnate Lord Jesus Christ is the visible “exact representation of His [Invisible] essence” (Heb 1:3) but the resurrected humanity of Christ is now absent from the earth. How does the believer love someone whom he has never seen? (1Pe 1:8) Love is based on perception. We come to know and love God through His Word. In fact, Truth is the Mind of Christ. (1Co 2:16) His Word reveals to us God’s attributes, His Wisdom, (Spiritual Thinking) His love for us, His brilliant system of protocol. (Exact procedure) We love God when our souls are inculcated with Truth so that we Think His Thoughts, share His Viewpoint, and appreciate His perfect Integrity and matchless Grace. Learning Truth takes time; love for God does not come overnight. But after years of faithfully learning the Word of God every day! The day will come when the believer will wake up and realize that Jesus Christ is his best friend. That will be the giant step from Spiritual childhood into Spiritual adulthood. That will also be the beginning of Spiritual self-esteem.
THE PATTERN FOR SPIRITUAL SELF-ESTEEM
The believer’s Spiritual self-esteem is patterned after two precedents:
1. DIVINE SELF-ESTEEM and
2. The SPIRITUAL SELF-ESTEEM OF THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST residing in the prototype Spiritual life.
God can Personally love only that which is perfect. Because He is absolute righteousness, God loves Himself. He is totally worthy of His own demanding, uncompromising love. Within the essence of God, therefore, we discover the ultimate pattern for Spiritual self-esteem: His perfect love is directed toward His own perfect righteousness. God has total Self-esteem and has found a way to make Spiritual self-esteem available to the Church Age believer. The humanity of Christ is the pattern for Spiritual self-esteem for the royal family of God. The Spiritual life was originally designed for our Lord’s humanity, a gift from God the Father given on the first Christmas. Throughout His first advent the humanity of Jesus Christ resided and functioned constantly inside the prototype Spiritual life. Though tempted far beyond anything we have ever known, He never departed from the Father’s plan; He never stepped out of the Spiritual life. From early childhood, the humanity of Jesus Christ learned Truth and lived by the Truth in His soul. From His youth He “kept increasing in wisdom [Spiritual Thinking] and stature, [Respect; Virtue] and in favor with God and man.” (Luk 2:52) This pattern continued throughout our Lord’s first advent. Truth was first priority in His life. (Matt 4:4; Luk 11:28; John 7:15-16) His final Words on the cross were not only a quotation of Scripture, but the Scripture He quoted was a tribute to the Father as the, “God of Truth.” (Luk 23:46) cf. (Psa 31:5) In the humanity of Christ, Truth produced Personal love for God, which inevitably resulted in Spiritual self-esteem. When we study evidence testing, we will examine our Lord’s Spiritual self-esteem as it developed through Spiritual autonomy into Spiritual maturity. We will see that He set the precedent for our Spiritual self-esteem.
KNOWING HOW TO LIVE AND HOW TO DIE
The believer with Spiritual self-esteem is dependent on God but not dependent on other people. The independence in his soul contributes to his capacity for meaningful personal relationships. Every Christian lives in a world of people. A few people will like him, others will tolerate him, some will despise him. (Psa 55:12-14; Mic 7:5-6; Matt 10:34-39; Luk 21:16-19) The Only One who will not lie to you is God! (Heb 6:18) If we are honest with our thoughts, we have deceived everyone we have known, and they have lied to us! (Unless we have reached Spiritual maturity) (Rom 3:4; Rom 3:10-18) The only person we can really trust is God! And if we don't; we lose! (Prov 8:36) Although surrounded by people, each believer must do many things for himself. He must Think with God's Thoughts, establish and live with God's Priorities, makes his own decisions to obey Truth, and suffer his own pain, (Matt 10:38) and eventually do his own dying. (2Co 5:8) The critical importance of Spiritual self-esteem is dramatically seen in the fact that no one can die another person’s death. Friends may stand by and perhaps lend comfort, but when the time for death comes, each one goes it alone! Nor can anyone bear another’s pain, feel another’s emotions, or think another’s thoughts. Always there is a place for sensitivity, compassion, and encouragement from one person to another, but ultimately the most basic activities of life require Spiritual self-esteem of each individual believer. One of the greatest achievements in life is the ability to equate living and dying. Life on earth includes the period in which an individual knows that he is dying; dying is part of life. Only by facing the Reality of death with Truth can any believer face life from the Divine Viewpoint. (Php 1:20-21) And only through suffering for blessing and attaining the stages of Spiritual adulthood can the believer equate living and dying and thereby benefit from suffering. Every believer must not only learn how to live but also learn how to die. Being alive does not imply that a person has the slightest idea of how to live, of how to fulfill the potential that human life affords. Nor does being a member of the royal family of God, mean that a believer knows how to conduct himself as a Spiritual aristocrat. A Christian does not necessarily know the first thing about the Christian way of life and the mechanics of executing God’s will, purpose, and plan for the Church Age. Certainly possessing eternal life does not guarantee that he knows how to pass from time into eternity with confidence and poise. After Salvation we must learn Truth to know how to live and die in prosperity or adversity; in pleasure or pain, in the company of others or alone. (Php 4:11-12) Even learning Truth is something each believer must do for himself — under the teaching ministry of his pastor-teacher. Every Christian must make his own decisions to give Truth first priority in his life, to assemble where the Word of God is taught, to be filled with God the Holy Spirit while he listens, to concentrate on the pastor’s message, to believe the Truth and to properly apply the Doctrine he understands. This is what the Bible means when admonishing us to “cherish [Guard, or keep] understanding.”
He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; [Intake of Truth] He who cherishes understanding [Stays in fellowship] will prosper. (Prov 19:8)
To “get wisdom” and to “cherish understanding” describe the believer’s faithfulness in consistently learning and applying Truth over a long period of time At all stages of Spiritual growth, he requires daily nourishment from Truth. To love “his own soul” is a description of Spiritual self-esteem. This is legitimate love for self. Combined with “prosperity,” reveals the pattern of growth in Spiritual adulthood. The believer grows Spiritually by “getting wisdom” and enters Spiritual adulthood when he attains Spiritual self-esteem. (He understands) (Col 2:2) As Spiritual self-esteem is stabilized, strengthened, and tested under the pressure of suffering for blessing, he advances stage by stage to Spiritual maturity. He “prospers” all along the way. This is how the Christian learns to live and die for himself. When the Mind of Christ has been inculcated and metabolized into the soul of the believer that individual acquires Spiritual self-esteem. Inside the Spiritual life the Virtues of the humanity of Jesus Christ are formed in him, (Rom 13:14; Gal 4:19; (1Pe 2:9; (2Pe 1:4) including our Lord’s great Personal love for the Father. (John 14:31) From his own love for God and Divine Thinking, the believer then has the contentment, stability, composure and all the other characteristics of Spiritual self-esteem with which to face the challenges of living and dying.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [Suffering for blessing] and Your staff, [Blessing] they comfort me. (Psa 23:4)
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF SPIRITUAL SELF-ESTEEM: Spiritual self-esteem can be explained categorically as having fourteen characteristics.
1. THE BEGINNING OF CONTENTMENT. Contentment, or capacity for happiness in one’s present circumstances, begins in Spiritual self-esteem, grows stronger in Spiritual autonomy, and reaches a peak in Spiritual maturity. (2Co 12:10; (1Ti 6:6-8; Heb 13:5) In Spiritual adulthood, sharing the happiness of God is the Christian’s greatest and most effective problem-solving device. (Php 4:11)
2. MENTAL STABILITY. A stabilized mentality comes from the consistent and accurate application of Truth in adversity and in prosperity. (Php 4:12-13)
3. COMPOSURE MARKED BY SELF-ASSURANCE. Self-assurance is characteristic of the believer who can consistently and accurately apply Divine Thinking to life and who has experienced the efficacy of Truth in his own life. (Jas 1:22-25)
4. GRACE ORIENTATION TO LIFE. The believer with Spiritual self-esteem appreciates the extension of God’s grace toward him without distorting that grace policy into antinomian license. (Rom 6:1) Furthermore, he demonstrates a gracious attitude toward other people without distorting toleration into compromise of integrity. (Rom 12:10)
5. DOCTRINAL ORIENTATION TO REALITY. Spiritual self-esteem orients the believer to Reality by maintaining his humility, by avoiding inordinate ambition and competition (Jas 3:14-15) by developing Spiritual common sense, Spiritual independence, and a sense of humor. (Rom 12:3; (2Co 12:13)
6. GOOD DECISIONS FROM A POSITION OF STRENGTH. The Spiritual life is the position of strength in which good decisions are possible, based on Divine Thinking — in Gate 4 — and motivation from Personal love for God — in Gate 5. (Eph 6:10; Php 2:2; Col 1:11)
7. THE BEGINNING OF PERSONAL CONTROL OF ONE’S LIFE. Spiritual independence is based on maximum use of one’s royal priesthood, by which the believer represents himself before God. His perspective in life is focused on God rather than on people. (John 5:43-44; Col 2:7; Heb 12:2-3)
8. THE USE OF SPIRITUAL SELF-ESTEEM AS A PROBLEM-SOLVING DEVICE. Spiritual self-esteem solves the problems of inadequacy, fear, emotional disturbance, lack of personal identity, and uncertainty concerning one’s niche in life. (2Ti 1:7) Furthermore, the believer with Spiritual self-esteem solves his own problems from the Truth he knows rather than running here and there to find the book a certain Doctrine is in, or for Spiritual advice. He views difficulties as opportunities to utilize the Truth in his soul. (2Ti 2:3-4)
9. THE BEGINNING OF A PERSONAL SENSE OF DESTINY. The believer’s Personal sense of destiny becomes stronger as he progresses through the three stages of Spiritual adulthood. The meaning, purpose, and definition of his life become clear as he resolves his relationships with God, self, and people. (Luk 14:26-35)
10. POSTSALVATION EPISTEMOLOGICAL REHABILITATION. Epistemology is the study of knowledge itself, addressing the question of how man knows what he knows. After Salvation the believer must concentrate on a new source of Truth, under the teaching ministry of a Spiritually mature pastor filled with the Spirit. (John 4:23) The believer must acquire a new Doctrinal frame of reference through learning and metabolizing the Word of God; by faith, for “the righteous [A believer with imputed Divine righteousness] shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:17) Post-salvation epistemological rehabilitation is a term that encompasses all the Truth the believer has learned between Salvation and Spiritual adulthood. This renovation of Thought includes everything from understanding Spirituality how to execute the protocol plan of God, to appreciating one’s portfolio of invisible assets, to mastering the subject of this book; Christian suffering. Metabolized Truth has “transformed [The Spiritually adult believer] by the renewing of [His] mind.” (Rom 12:2)
11. COMMAND OF SELF. Fulfilling the responsibilities that accompany independence, the believer exercises self-control, self-restraint, poise, and self-regulation. (Prov 19:11; (1Co 9:19; (1Co 9:27; (2Ti 2:10) Command of self, facilitates good communication with other people, which is mandatory in all successful relationships.
12. A NEW ATTITUDE TOWARD LIFE. Personal love for God gives the believer a dynamic attitude, Viewpoint, and perspective on life. His Thoughts and priorities change as his focus on Christ motivates him in everything he Thinks and does. (John 15:10-17)
13. QUALIFICATION FOR PROVIDENTIAL PREVENTIVE SUFFERING. Spiritual self-esteem gives the believer the ability to handle suffering for blessing. The characteristics of Spiritual self-esteem qualifies him to pass the test of providential preventive suffering and advance him into the next stage of Spiritual adulthood, which is Spiritual autonomy. (1Pe 4:12-19)
14. ATAINMENT OF THE FIRST PHASE OF THE UNIQUE SPIRITUAL LIFE. God has designed a unique life for the Church Age believer, part of which is experienced and part of which is not. The non-experiential aspect of the unique life includes the indwelling of all three members of the Trinity. This is the Church Age believer’s permanent status, not his progressive experience. The experiential aspect of the unique life is the glorification of Christ in the body of the believer. (Eph 5:1; (1Co 6:20) A distinction must be made between the permanent, unchanging, unfelt indwelling of Christ as the Shekinah Glory and the Christian experience of Christ being glorified in our bodies. (Php 1:20-21) A distinction also must be made between the permanent, unchanging, unfelt indwelling of the Holy Spirit and His invisible, behind-the-scenes function in the Spiritual life through which He glorifies Christ in our bodies. (John 16:13-14) Each stage of Spiritual adulthood brings a new experiential glorification of Christ. This progressive experience begins with Spiritual self-esteem, which is described by the phrase “Christ is formed in you.” (Gal 4:19) In Spiritual autonomy, which is the next stage of Christian growth, the glorification of Christ in the unique life of the royal family will be described as “Christ [Being] at home in your heart.” (Eph 3:16-17) In Spiritual maturity, the final stage of Spiritual adulthood, the unique life will be expressed as “Christ [Being] glorified in [Your] body.” (Php 1:20-21)
And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold. (Mark 4:20)
The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. (Mark 4:28-29)
These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful. (Rev 17:14)
DESCRIPTION OF SPIRITUAL SELF-ESTEEM
Spiritual self-esteem is the declaration of Truth resident in the soul; it is living by one’s own Spiritual Thinking from that Truth; it is making application of metabolized Truth under all circumstances, including suffering for blessing!
The Christian who gains Spiritual self-esteem has crossed the dividing line between Spiritual childhood and Spiritual adulthood, between Spiritual dependence and Spiritual independence, between punitive suffering and suffering for blessing. Spiritual self-esteem is the giant step in the believer’s life, the first stage of Spiritual adulthood. The believer with Spiritual self-esteem thinks and applies Truth to life, motivated by his Personal love for God. He understands enough Truth to Think independently, having the courage of his own perceptions and Doctrinal applications. Furthermore, instead of arrogantly exaggerating his strengths or his weaknesses, he orients to the Biblical Reality of who and what he is as a member of the royal family of God and at the same time never loses sight of Who and What God IS. He accepts his human limitations while emphasizing the unlimited privileges and opportunities that God gives to every Church Age believer. He exploits his options. When a believer has attained Spiritual self-esteem, he does not feel threatened by others. He refuses to be manipulated through guilt or fear. If he is guilty of sin, human good, or evil, he assumes the responsibility for his own decisions, good or bad, and resolves his problems according to (1Jn 1:9). He understands his right as a member of the royal family of God to live his life as unto the Lord in the privacy of his own priesthood. His life does not belong to other people but to God. God’s logistical grace sustains him, so he can adhere to Divine Commands in the protocol plan of God. Spiritual self-esteem enables the believer to exploit all the problem-solving devices in the Spiritual life. With Spiritual self-esteem he can begin to enjoy happiness and tranquility of mind in every category of suffering for blessing. The Christian with Spiritual self-esteem knows he belongs to a winning plan. He understands what God accomplished for him in eternity past. He knows at the present time how to thrive in God’s protocol system. He has learned that a fabulous eternal future awaits him after death. God’s protocol plan gives his life meaning, purpose, and definition. He advances in the certainty that logistical grace will support his life and empower his indomitable will to triumph over any handicaps or weaknesses he may possess. Spiritual adulthood and continuing Spiritual growth are the believer’s triumph over his handicaps, genetic and acquired.
With Spiritual self-esteem the believer persists in learning and applying Truth because he loves God and believes His Promised blessings for time, and eternity. (Heb 6:18) Personal love for God is the highest motivation in life. The believer with Spiritual self-esteem confidently persists in the plan of God without needing flattery or fanfare, without relying on recognition, encouragement, counsel, or inspiration! He leans on no one but God. Rather than borrow motivation and fortitude from the soul of someone else, he uses the Truth in his own soul! He has nothing to prove to anyone. He fears no one. He does not crave the approval of people or overreact to their indifference, disapproval, or rejection! Nor does he slavishly imitate the personality or demeanor of others. He is content with his own personality; he has identified his own niche in life. Spiritual self-esteem makes the believer intellectually independent, but it does not make him a boor. Many positive Christians go through the awkward, sophomoric stage of being overconfident religious zealots, bursting with answers, eagerly imposing their ideas on other people. Such arrogance is not Spiritual self-esteem. Spiritual self-esteem makes the believer a good listener; his genuine humility in Gate 3 of the Spiritual life makes him teachable. He appreciates the graciousness of other people and recognizes legitimate authorities, including the authority of the pastor who teaches Truth. Spiritual independence means the believer flourishes within God’s structures of human and Spiritual authority, (Rom 13:1-2) not outside His protocol system as a rebel, a crusader, or a self-styled free spirit. Although modern psychology cannot provide Spiritual self-esteem, it can accurately describe the lack of Spiritual and human self-esteem.
The two most striking characteristics of men and women who seek psychotherapy are a deficiency of self-esteem and a condition of self-alienation. In some crucial ways they do not feel appropriate to life and its requirements, and they lack adequate contact with the world within, with their needs, wants, feelings, thoughts, values and potentialities. Thus diminished in consciousness, they are estranged from their proper human estate. Large areas of self, lie undiscovered, unexpressed and unlived. They are sleepwalkers through their own existence.
The believer wakes up to Reality by learning Truth in the power of the Spiritual life. In studying the two punitive categories of Christian suffering, we noted that if a member of the royal family of God fails to wake up through perception and application of Truth, he will be shaken by self-induced misery and Divine discipline.
PROVIDENTIAL PREVENTIVE SUFFERING
PAUL’S THORN IN THE FLESH
As THE FIRST CATEGORY of suffering for blessing, providential preventive suffering performs a dual function. Its offensive role is to accelerate the believer’s Spiritual momentum beyond Spiritual self-esteem into Spiritual autonomy; its defensive role is to prevent him from falling victim to arrogance.
Spiritual self-esteem is probably the most vulnerable stage of the Christian life! As the believer begins to Think for himself with the help of God the Holy Spirit and live by the Truth in his own soul, he may distort his newfound independence. He may assume that his strength comes from self, rather than from God’s Word and the Spiritual life. As he flexes his new Spiritual muscles and enjoys the results of Spiritual growth, he may forget that God is the source of his growth. God in His grace does not wait for the believer to fail. Rather than picking up the pieces, God provides the means of keeping the believer from falling apart. In grace God takes preventive action by sending suffering for blessing. Providential preventive suffering reminds the believer of his dependence on the protocol plan of God, and leads him to use Divine assets under circumstances that human ability cannot resolve. As an unbeliever, Paul was aware of his own genius. With concentration and self-discipline he exploited his tremendous human assets. As a young man he excelled academically in a rigorous education. He then channeled his unusual nervous energy and extraordinary intellectual powers to rise within the religious and political establishment in Judea. Human dynamics enabled him to advance rapidly within an evil system. Paul was a man of action who was also at home in the realm of ideas. He was a master of both Jewish theology and Greek philosophy. The application of his human genius was the zealous persecution of Christians. He had the success that his human abilities had achieved; he was ambitious for further promotion. After believing in Christ, Paul had to learn dependence on Divine rather than human power. Hence, when he reached Spiritual self-esteem, he was in danger of corrupting his own Spiritual advance. He might have assumed that his own mental prowess enabled him to comprehend the deep things of Truth, when in fact metabolized Doctrine resided in his soul only because of God the Holy Spirit. (1Co 2:14) To protect Paul from his natural vulnerability to arrogance, God sent providential preventive suffering, which Paul called his “thorn in the flesh.”
Because of the surpassing greatness of the Revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! (2Co 12:7)
Paul was chosen by God to serve as the apostle to the Gentiles, the Principal spokesman for the Doctrines of the royal family of God. Because of God’s sovereign decision to use him in this special way, Paul had a unique ministry, and the Divine Revelations given to him exceeded those of any other apostle. Peter acknowledged Paul’s superior comprehension of Truth, recognizing that Paul’s “epistles contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort.” (2Pe 3:15-16) God gave Paul the unparalleled blessing of teaching and recording Church Age Truth, but Paul was also given another blessing called a “Thorn in the flesh.” Truth orients the believer to Reality; arrogance divorces him from Reality. Arrogance must be prevented because it neutralizes the effectiveness of Truth in the believer’s life. Truth provides Spiritual self-esteem; arrogance is self-alienation. Arrogance is the insidious enemy of the Spiritual life, the very attitude that corrupted Lucifer, who was originally the greatest of all the angels. (Isa 14:13-14) Paul’s ministry might have been destroyed by arrogance, but the thorn in the flesh was given to him to preserve him in a period of grave danger. Bible scholars have speculated on the nature of Paul’s thorn in the flesh, but Paul deliberately omits the details to emphasize the Principle of providential preventive suffering. Paul says only that God permitted Satan to dispatch a demon to constantly torment him. The work of this “thorn demon” provided Paul with an illustration of God’s total ability to care for His own. God’s provisions are far superior to any possible challenge. He is able to make even our enemies benefit us. (Psa 76:10)
...God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)
There is a fine irony in Paul’s suffering. The thorn demon wanted to destroy Paul but could only force him to rely on God’s superior provisions. God used Satan’s attack to keep Paul from falling into the same pattern of arrogance that originally caused the fall of Satan. God has a wonderful sense of humor; with marvelous finesse! Only omnipotent God has the power to turn suffering into blessing, and this power has been made available to us, through residence and function in the Spiritual life. God can and does use adversity to our advantage, even pressures our foes designed to harm us. (Rom 8:28) While Paul was suffering intensely and wondering why God did not relieve the pain, God was masterfully demonstrating His grace to Paul. The apostle was hurting and sought relief, but “underneath [Were] the everlasting arms.” (Deut 33:27) Through this experience Paul’s personal love for God increased! But before he reaped the benefits of providential preventive suffering, Paul applied a false solution and made a wrong application of Truth.
A FALSE SOLUTION AND WRONG APPLICATION
As the first stage of Spiritual adulthood, Spiritual self-esteem is still an awkward phase in which the believer has not yet developed the true instincts of Spiritual maturity. That is why Paul reacted emotionally to the pain of providential preventive suffering. In an understandable human reaction, he was momentarily affected by the discomfort before regaining his composure and passing the test.
Concerning this [Thorn in the flesh] I appealed to the Lord three times that it might depart from me. (2Co 12:8)
Paul’s use of prayer was a false solution to suffering for blessing; his request that the suffering be removed was a wrong application of Truth. Providential preventive suffering is essential to the adult believer’s Spiritual advance. We should never ask God to remove the means of our growth. We should never pray for the removal of suffering for blessing by which the protocol plan of God is fulfilled. We think we know when we have had enough suffering, but God knows us better than we know ourselves. He never sends more pressure than we can bear, (1Co 10:13) but on the other hand He sends enough pressure to accelerate our growth. Only when He sees that we have passed the test or that we have flunked so badly that we need time to regroup does He remove or reduce the suffering. What God does not remove He intends for us to bear. God has a unique plan for each believer. His timing is perfect for every individual. He makes the sovereign decision to nurture the positive Christian’s growth with the right kind, the right intensity, and the right duration of suffering or prosperity. Too much or too little adversity, too much or too little prosperity, the wrong combination, or the wrong timing would retard the believer’s Spiritual progress. A believer who tells God how and when to administer suffering for blessing claims to have greater wisdom, and a better plan than God. This is blasphemy. We do not dictate to God! We are told to “come boldly before the throne of grace” (Heb 4:16) but we have no right to question the sovereignty of God, much less to ask for the cancellation of Divine wisdom. Paul made a false application of Doctrine by entreating God to remove providential preventive suffering. Worse yet, he made an even more basic error by employing prayer to accomplish what it was never designed to do. Prayer is a powerful tool that has many effective applications, but the Spiritually adult believer should not pray for strength or for relief under suffering for blessing. Why not? Such a prayer would violate Divine protocol. Billions of years ago God established the system for giving strength to the royal family. That system is the Spiritual life. The believer does not need to ask for what has already been provided. The utilization of Divine assets is a matter of learning and applying Truth daily, not a matter of prayer. Too often the believer does not understand his suffering because he has neglected or resisted Truth. He remains ignorant of the powerful problem-solving devices that belong to the royal family. If you need more strength, than you need more intake, (Rom 10:17) and application. (Matt 7:24-25; John 15:14; Jas 1:25) Frequently, believers under pressure entreat God for a miracle, but miracles are no solution to suffering for blessing. By performing a miracle involving the sudden removal of pressure, God would be canceling his own system for accelerating the believer’s Spiritual advance. For sovereign, omnipotent God, nothing is easier than a miracle! Miracles express only His sovereign decision; they do not require man’s positive volition or any function of human free will. Blessing is far more difficult for God to bestow when the Christian’s volition is involved, yet that is precisely what God has achieved by creating the protocol plan. The believer must freely choose to reside in the palace. There he must learn and metabolize (Ingest and digest) Truth. He also must consistently apply this metabolized Doctrine throughout suffering for blessing. God will terminate the test in His own perfect time. (1Co 10:13) That is a Divine Promise, so that the believer’s natural desire for relief from pressure becomes a matter of confidence in God. The believer with positive volition gains strength by using Truth, by exercising his own mind which is inculcated with the Thinking of God. False solutions to one’s own suffering include miracles and the misuse of prayer; all true solutions are integral parts of the Spiritual life. We have already discussed these problem-solving devices for Spiritual childhood and Spiritual adulthood in chapter 1. They include rebound, the faith-rest drill, hope, Virtue-love and sharing the happiness of God.
DIVINE COUNSELING FOR PAUL
Obviously God did not answer Paul’s prayers. He did not remove the thorn in the flesh, nor did He respond in any way except to perpetuate Paul’s suffering. Finally, after Paul had repeated his urgent request on three occasions, God reminded the great apostle of a Truth he already knew.
And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. [Testing] Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, [People, thought, organization and disaster testing] so that the power of Christ [The Spiritual life may be perfected and] may dwell in me. (2Co 12:9)
We have already noted the pattern of achievement in this verse. What is the “power” in this context, and what is the “weakness?” The power is Divine omnipotence as it becomes available to the believer with each stage of Spiritual adulthood through residence, function, and momentum in the Spiritual life. Omnipotence operates in the adult believer, in the form of Spiritual self-esteem, Spiritual autonomy and Spiritual maturity. The weakness is the suffering for blessing which God applies to the believer in each of these stages of Spiritual achievement. God sends the weakness of providential preventive suffering, momentum testing and evidence testing, so man experiences the weakness in suffering that is beyond human solution! God provides the power in the Spiritual life which is employed by man in his helplessness and produces accelerated Spiritual growth. This is boasting not in the sense of glorifying self, but as a manifestation of esprit de corps. (Being enthusiastic about a group's thoughts and plan) Paul’s boasting expresses his delight in belonging to God’s protocol plan. Such boasting indicates submission to God’s system, and is the antithesis of arrogance. Thus Paul demonstrates that providential preventive suffering has been effective in his life. Divine protection against arrogance succeeded because of his positive volition in the application of metabolized Truth in his soul. Because he believed the Truth and Thought with it, in the place of his own thoughts, will and personal desires; and this applied to every Divine Thought in the Bible! Rather than being preoccupied with himself, and his problems. Paul’s suffering had not changed. His human weakness had not changed. His old sin nature had not changed. The Spiritual life had not changed. What had changed were Paul’s Thoughts. He had begun to apply the Truth he knew, to the circumstances in which he found himself. He remembered Truth, (John 14:26) and began to think objectively, utilized his problem-solving devices, and regained control of his life! THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO REACH SPIRITUAL MATURITY!
If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, [Human priorities] he cannot be My disciple. [Reach Spiritual maturity; God's priority] (Rev 2:4) (Luk 14:26)
When one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God! But He said to him, A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, Come; for everything is ready now. But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; [The lust of the eyes] please consider me excused. Another one said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; [The lust of the flesh] please consider me excused. Another one said, I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come. [The Pride of life, God is our first love] And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the [Spiritually] poor and crippled and blind and lame. And the slave said, Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room. And the master said to the slave, Go out into the highways and along the hedges, [The sinners] and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men, who were invited, shall taste of my dinner. [These are all believers, who will not go to the wedding feast, or live in the New Jerusalem] Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, If anyone comes to Me, [Is a believer] and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross [Own plans, thoughts and sin nature] and come after Me [Use God's Thoughts and plan] cannot be My disciple. [Reach Spiritual maturity] For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? [Build the Spiritual life] Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation (1Co 3:11) and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish. (1Co 3:12-16) Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. [God has only one way for us to reach Spiritual maturity, and if we do not sign the peace treaty and obey, we will lose!] (1Sa 15:23) So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. [Preoccupation with self and others; lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life; desires, thoughts, and will] (Matt 26:39) Therefore, salt is good; [Staying in fellowship and Thinking by the Mind of Christ, holds off sin and evil in a person, and in a nation] but if even salt has become tasteless, [A believer living out of fellowship] with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it [Or he] is thrown out. [And no reward] He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Luk 14:15-35)
To fulfill this, is impossible in the energy of the sin nature. (Rom 8:12-13) But as a Spiritually mature believer who has made first priority, the daily habit, over many years; of rebounding, reception, retention, recall of Truth, resisting temptations to sin and his own will; can! (2Ti 2:4; Heb 12:1-4; Rev 3:10-13)
Suffering in itself has no Virtue. The meaning and blessing in suffering lie in the demonstration of Divine grace and power in the believer’s life. Omnipotence operates through God’s Word resident in the believer’s soul. From Truth comes Personal love for God resulting in Spiritual self-esteem; and that inner strength furnishes yet greater capacity to love God. Suffering for blessing illuminates God’s grace. Suffering converts self-glorification, into glorifying God which is worship, Virtue love, and appreciation of God. (Psa 119:67; Psa 119:71) Paul’s boasting was not the loud, overt bravado we normally associate with braggarts. Instead, he was confident and sure, not of himself, but of God and His Words! (John 17:8) He celebrated the essence of God, His protocol plan, and the fabulous assets available to every Church Age believer. Boasting, here, is an attitude of the soul that is the epitome of Spiritual self-esteem. Having been reminded of God’s grace provisions, Paul expressed his total confidence in God’s policy of suffering for blessing. Now that he was Thinking Truth, he recalled a further point of Doctrine that motivated him to endure his thorn in the flesh. He remembered that the prototype of the Spiritual life sustained the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ during His first advent. Paul refers to the prototype Spiritual life as “the power of Christ.” In the prototype Christ attained Spiritual self-esteem, Spiritual autonomy and Spiritual maturity. (Luk 3:22; Luk 4:1; Luk 4:18-21) He perfectly fulfilled the Father’s plan, which included suffering for blessing, for “although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” (Heb 5:7-8) The same policy of suffering for blessing that Paul was enduring is the same we endure today, and had been the means of accelerating the Spiritual growth of the humanity of Christ.
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2Co 12:10)
“Contentment” is capacity for happiness; it is the believer’s satisfaction with the blessings God gives him. The Spiritually adult believer can share the happiness of God in all circumstances, just as the humanity of Christ in the Spiritual life, possessed inner happiness on the cross while being judged for the sins of mankind. (Heb 12:2) If God the Holy Spirit could sustain Jesus through the excruciating pain of being judged for our sins, certainly the ministry of the Spirit can sustain us in any hopeless situation in which we may find ourselves! Some Divine blessings involve prosperity; others come in the guise of adversity. The believer can be grateful for whatever he has in whatever state he finds himself. (Php 4:11-12) This tranquility of soul is derived from his Personal love for God, for when a Christian loves the One who gives, he appreciates His gifts. “Contentment,” or sharing the happiness of God, is the problem-solving device directed toward self. This inner happiness characterizes all three stages of Spiritual adulthood, increasing in strength with the attainment of each successive stage.
WARM-UP EXERCISES FOR MOMENTUM TESTING
Several types of providential preventive suffering are listed in, (2Co 12:10) setting up a distinct pattern. As Paul has already stated, each category of suffering for blessing creates a situation of helplessness. The believer cannot use his human intelligence, experience, ingenuity, talent or influence to resolve human reality problems or prosperity! He must rely on Divine Reality, Thoughts, Promises and assets! The word “weaknesses,” therefore, expresses this helplessness and represents the overall Concept of providential preventive suffering and sin nature testing. (2Co 4:10-11) The believer with Spiritual self-esteem has the capacity to “find contentment” whenever suffering enters his life. The next five categories of testing in, (2Co 12:10) are precursors of the four momentum tests which we will study in connection with Spiritual autonomy. Providential preventive suffering familiarizes the growing believer with these momentum tests — in advance and at reduced intensity. God carefully prepares the believer for the future, when more intense suffering will be needed to perpetuate his Spiritual growth. Here we discover again the Truth that God will not test the positive believer “beyond what [He is] able [To bear].” (1Co 10:13) Providential preventive suffering not only suppresses arrogance and moves the believer into Spiritual autonomy, but it also serves as a warm-up for the testing’s that will accelerate him beyond Spiritual autonomy into Spiritual maturity. “With insults” corresponds to people testing. “With distresses” anticipates thought testing. “With persecutions” corresponds to system testing. And “with difficulties” prepares the believer for disaster testing.
This entire system of Spiritual advancement is said to be “for Christ's sake.” The Principle that suffering is a key element in the glorification of Christ is also stated in Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians.
For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake. (Php 1:29)
How does our suffering benefit Christ? By fulfilling the protocol plan of God we glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. He is exalted in our lives as we attain Spiritual adulthood and proceed toward Spiritual maturity so that we are qualified to receive maximum blessing. Christ is glorified by delivering special, tailor-made blessings to the Spiritually mature believer. We “suffer for His sake” in the sense that periodic suffering is essential to our advance. The emphasis is on Spiritual growth and on Christ’s glorification, not on suffering itself.
Personal love for the Lord Jesus Christ motivates us to desire His glorification. Our application of Truth during providential preventive suffering accelerates Spiritual growth, which contributes to the demonstration of His glory. Therefore, as Paul states in, (2Co 12:9) we suffer for His sake “all the more gladly.” Our purpose in life is to utilize the assets of the Spiritual life so that we advance to Spiritual maturity! (John 15:8) Much of this advance is spurred by suffering for blessing. Concluding his discussion of providential preventive suffering, Paul reiterates that when we pursue our destiny, moving step by step toward the goal, “then [We are] strong.” (2Co 12:10) The omnipotence of God sustains and empowers us at each stage as we move forward in His protocol plan. Because (2Co 12:7-10) describes providential preventive suffering, the final word “strong” in this passage refers to the next stage of advance after Spiritual self-esteem. Paul has passed the test of providential preventive suffering and has attained new power. “Strong” in this context becomes a synonym for Spiritual autonomy.
PHYSICAL EXERCISE DEVELOPS STRENGTH, coordination, and stamina and is essential for good health. In the same way, adversity gives the believer the vital Spiritual exercise that builds Spiritual autonomy. According to this athletic analogy, Spiritual autonomy is Spiritual self-esteem with muscle. The experience of using Divine assets under providential preventive suffering strengthens all the characteristics of Spiritual self-esteem. Success in handling pressure dramatically increases the believer’s confidence in God! (By trusting Him more and more) As a result, legitimate self-confidence also grows. The believer becomes keenly aware of belonging to God’s protocol plan and of possessing tremendous Divine assets that work in time of crisis or tranquility! Occupation with Christ, (Constant awareness of Christ) (Heb 11:27) and sharing the happiness of God, (John 17:13) cause the believer with Spiritual autonomy to conduct himself with confidence, graciousness, and unshakable poise. (Acts 7:59-60) Derived from the classical Greek noun, (Autonomia) the word “autonomy” originally meant to live under one’s own laws, to live in a state of being independent. In modern usage autonomy expresses independence, self-determination and self-direction. In the Christian way of life, Spiritual autonomy is the freedom of exercising royal prerogatives within one’s own palace, the Spiritual life. (He has enough Truth in his soul to Think Spiritually, consistently) Spiritual autonomy is the dynamic state of Spiritual self-esteem. The Spiritually autonomous Christian knows that God has equipped him to meet the demands of life. Through his pastor’s teaching and his own experience of Doctrinal application, he has learned to utilize invisible Divine assets in his daily life. Furthermore, suffering for blessing has given him a new attitude toward other people. Spiritual autonomy gives the believer strength to love others consistently with impersonal love.
IMPERSONAL LOVE MANDATED BY GOD
Impersonal love is defined in contrast to Personal esprit de corps love. Personal esprit de corps love comes in two categories:
1. ROMANCE is Personal love for a member of the opposite sex; and is defined as esprit de corps love if they are in fellowship
2. FAMILY AND FRIENDS is personal admiration for a member of the human race; and is defined as esprit de corps love if they are in fellowship
Personal esprit de corps love is attraction or admiration for someone else based on one’s own standards. By falling in love or making a friend, however, a person creates a problem. The object of his love is imperfect, and sooner or later, for one reason or another, that person will become a source of suffering and testing. Because no one is perfect, the object of Personal esprit de corps love will cause disappointment, frustration, and hurt. The problem is that no one is perfect, neither the subject nor the object. Both contribute their flaws to the relationship.
When God commands us to love all believers, (John 15:12) our neighbors, (Matt 19:19; Rom 13:9) and all mankind, (Luk 6:27-28) obviously He cannot mean Personal love. God is Commanding us to resolve problems, not to create problems. In fact, the only Personal love with inherent Virtue is Personal love for God. God is the only perfect object of love. (Deut 30:6) What category of love fulfills the Divine Command? Impersonal love directed toward all mankind has inherent Virtue and problem-solving characteristics. Impersonal love is unconditional with regard to its object. This means that no merit is assigned to the object of love; the motivation for Impersonal love is not attractiveness, rapport, or worthiness. Motivated by the believer’s own Virtue, Impersonal love is, therefore, tolerant, unprejudiced, courteous, and objective in the face of hostility and antagonism. Impersonal love is the attitude of the Spiritually adult Christian resulting from the filling of God the Holy Spirit and the perception, metabolism, and application of Truth inside the palace of the Spiritual life. (1Co 13:4-8; Gal 5:22-23; (1Jn 4:16-17)
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