Bible Faith Fellowship: Substance Over Form

How Different is the Spirit Within You

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Barry Johnson

How Different is the Spirit Within You How Different is the Spirit Within You

Date 2012-01-08
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Document (PDF) BFF-20120108-HowDifferentIsTheSpiritWithinYou.pdf

Call to Worship

II Corinthians 13:14, For though (Christ) was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.

Message

Do you know the Biblical personalities named Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi and Geuel? There are important reasons for us to know these names. These names are listed in Numbers 13. They are the men chosen as leaders from ten of the twelve tribes of Israel, while they were in the wilderness, to go and spy out, to investigate, the Promised Land. The other two men, also tribal leaders were Caleb and Joshua (who was also known as Hoshea). All of these twelve men must have been known as men of outstanding discernment and skill, men of exceptional reputation, power and authority. Yet, we remember two and not all twelve. Why?

We remember Caleb and Joshua because they were men whose faith and decisions were not controlled by fear, but by their trust in God. Out of all twelve men, these two, Caleb and Joshua, were the only ones to return from the spy mission with a “good report”. Caleb and Joshua urged Israel to move forward in faith and to invade the Promised Land trusting in God, not denying God’s promise because of the fears of their flesh.

The other ten men have become obscured in history, and in our memories, because their faith and decisions were controlled by fear. But g uess which group of leaders the Israelites chose to follow. It was the ten. Those ten and the Israelites were all afraid to execute God’s plan to invade the Promised Land. Those ten and the Israelites chose not to trust God enough to place their lives, and the lives of their children, into harm’s way in order to receive the reality of God’s promise in their lives.

God was not pleased. In Numbers 14:25, here was God’s response to the ten and their followers: . . . Tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea. Then, in Verses 28-29, God, speaking to Moses, continued with this consequence from their decisions, their choices, as follows: Say to them, “As I live,” says the Lord, “just as you have spoken in My hearing, so will I do to you. The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in the wilderness, all of you who were numbered (remember the census of the people), according to your entire number from twenty years old and above. Then, in Verse 34, God explained His judgment in response to the choices of almost all of the Israelites, “According to the number of days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.”

In this response, God, was saying that, with their mouths expressing their consuming fear of fleshly things and their simultaneous lack of trust in God and His promises, that these ten and their followers had made a choice, that they had chosen to go back into the wilderness and had declined to inherit the land God had promised them, and there they would die. Look at the consequences of those choices, individually and corporately on the people of Israel.

But God made some exceptions. First of all, as to Caleb and Joshua, God said to Moses, in Verse 30, to tell the people: Except for Caleb . . . and Joshua . . . you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. And then God made another exception, as to the children of all these Israelites of fear-based choices: God spared those children (and set the circumstances for the fulfillment of His promise in the Promised Land), in Verses 31-32, But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised . . .and your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness . . . . (Remember about generational curses and visitations of sin upon following generations!)

It is fairly easy to see why God made exceptions for the Israelite children, to let them make their own “adult” choices. but what about for Caleb and Joshua? Yes, these two, Caleb and Joshua, were men of uncommon courage and strength, but there was something else, something that they chose to bring up from within them, that made them men of such uncommon courage and strength: that something else is faith and spirit. Look at Verse 24, in which God spoke of something different in Caleb; God called it a different spirit in him and that Caleb has followed Me fully. These two attributes of Caleb pleased God. We believe that God found the same in Joshua, because in Verse 30, as discussed, God excepted both Caleb and Joshua from the judgment God brought upon the rest of them, and because God raised up Joshua to replace Moses.

We live in an age of compromised faith, and that is nothing new — indeed, most of the Israelites did, too, in their journey to the Promised Land. Some observers have called this a “moderated faith”. God has demonstrated in His response, His judgment, upon the Israelites in the desert that compromise of faith in favor of fear is treason in His kingdom.

Today, many, many Christians — maybe even most Christians, as it was then with most Israelites in Numbers 14 &md are not only content to drift through life with choices and decisions made on a fear-based faith, but they actually prefer it, they actually prefer the low-risk, low-reward lifestyle of faith, being ignorant and oblivious to God’s displeasure with such luke-warmness, such spiritual compromise and failure. Today, many, many Christians just want to blend in — both in church and society — rather than to stand out! Many, many Christians regard true faith as radical Christianity, just too radical for them. What God was saying in Numbers 14 is this: If He has promised us something, He will provide a way for us to receive it. Then, it is up to us as to whether we will choose to trust God in His way for us to receive His promises, and by our choices we will, therefore, either refuse or accept God. God told those Israelites that in their choices they had chosen to reject Him and that, therefore, they would never inherit His promises and were destined to wander out their lives in the wilderness that they had chosen for themselves. There is a clear, Scriptural message from God to all the lukewarm Christians of “moderated faith”; God is not pleased with it or them.

What was, and what was not, that different spirit in Caleb and Joshua, and what is that different spirit in us today, as true believers?

First, it is essential to realize that such a different spirit is not born of the flesh; it is not a person’s emotional or mental or physical strength or courage. Most probably, these ten of Israel had all those qualities, and were probably well-regarded and chosen as leaders and spies precisely because of that. Yet, that is not what impressed God; He was looking for something else. God is no respecter if persons. He is not overly concerned about your circumstances; rather, He is concerned about your reactions to your circumstances. He is not particularly concerned about your background, your past, but, rather, He is concerned about your attitudes. You may have a drug, sex, alcohol, or a financial, problem in your past. You may still fight one or more of those problems today. You may fight depression and anxiety and lack of self-esteem, but you are God’s child and He is eager for His spirit — His different spirit — to be allowed by you, by choice to receive, to fall fully upon you and to change and fill you for His eternal purposes. No matter what excuse you present, God is still looking at you and for you!

Let’s look at a few examples from Scripture.

First, Samson. Samson was what we today may call a Type A personality. He was larger than life in all of himself and in all of his ways. He chose to follow the ways of the Nazarite sect, strictly religious in their orders. So, Samson refused to cut his hair or to drink wine. He devoted all of his strength to serving God and zealously fighting the enemies of Israel. However, Samson gave himself permission to live a fleshly life and he chose ungodly activities and habits, and, thereby, clearly displeased God. Samson had a thing for prostitutes, if you read his story carefully; he enjoyed and frequented their company. Here at BFF+, we speak of form over substance. Samson had a form of a different spirit, but the substance of his heart was not fully given over, and conformed, to the will of God. He was quite content, even preferred, to drift away from the will of God, and we find no evidence in Scripture that Samson had any remorse about it. Maybe it was a blind spot, but I don’t think so. His dalliances seemed to be clear, conscious choices that compromised His faith, choices not based on fear but on lust. Samson chose to be in the category described in I Corinthians 3:3, For you are still carnal . . . behaving like mere men.

Now, let’s look at Paul, Barnabas and Mark. Mark was younger, a student sort of, for Paul, and Paul became very frustrated that Mark had left their ministry in the midst of a crucial missions trip. Then, Mark wanted to rejoin the team and Paul refused, obviously thinking that the gospel had been, unfortunately, ministered less effectively without the missing member of the missions team when Mark left. But Barnabas, not at all a Type A personality but a peacemaker, tried to bring peace and restoration to the relationship of Paul and Mark. Barnabas was saying to Paul that Mark, a young man, needed a second chance, and that he needed kindness and forgiveness, and that the mission trip was not about their success, but about training Mark into becoming a faithful servant, if you will, into becoming a man of a truly different spirit. Paul, obstinate and truly a Type-A personality, refused to budge from his decision, so Barnabas took Mark under his wing, and the two of them made a missions team.

Nothing on the outside of Barnabas indicated he was a man of a different spirit; but rather he seemed so gentle, so caring, that he could not have had the same spirit as Caleb and Joshua. Indeed, the name of Barnabas means “encouragement” not “spiritual warrior”. And, something else about Barnabas: He went to Paul right after Paul’s conversion, at a time when many believers, many Christians, would have been still afraid of Paul, so recently the great persecutor of Christians. Yet, in his humility, Barnabas had a different spirit; he had the boldness of spirit to trust God when others would not have he had the boldness to trust that God was already using Paul in a mighty way, even when others did not. In so doing, from the standpoint of earthly perception, Barnabas put his own life at risk.

Barnabas shows us that you don’t have to be a Type-A spiritual warrior, that you can be a Type-B personality, and still have what both Caleb and Joshua had, that different spirit.

Every type of personality and person that God created is eligible to have and live that different spirit, and God wants each one to have it. How do you get it, if you don’t already have it?

The answer lies neatly and succinctly in Matthew 6:32-33, For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. The immediate context of this passage is food, drink and clothing, which everyone, even the Gentiles, and maybe especially the Gentiles, sought and seek. The larger context of this passage is that God knows what we need, and He wants to provide it, but we have to make some choices, primarily to have our top priority in life being to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. If and when we do that, God is ready to step in and build up our faith into a different spirit, so that it is indeed a faith, Hebrews 11:1, which “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” If we will, following II Timothy 1:6, stir up the gift of that measure of faith, Romans 12:3, that has been given to each one of us, it will be sufficient for us to stand like, and with, Caleb, Joshua, Paul and Barnabas and then, like Caleb in Numbers 13:30, demand, “Let us go up at once and take possession for we are able to overcome it.”

Moving from the carnal life, even as a believing Christian, to that life, like Caleb’s and others, with a different spirit is a movement, a process of maturing, from being a spiritual babe to being a spiritually-mature Christian. It is a movement into the consecrated, or set-apart, life, in which we are tuned in to heaven as well as the world around us, so that we do not compromise, our moderate, our faith in God’s promises, that we do not compromise our desire and obligation to make choices to please God. That is the life of the different spirit.

Ask yourself if you have that different spirit within you, that activates your faith into full conformity to the word and will of God. If you are not there, ask yourself why you are not there; ask yourself what is keeping you back; ask yourself what choices you need to make differently from here forward.

You and I are today encouraged, as, by the grace of God, we can get there, living that life of a different spirit, an overcoming life!

God bless you and amen+