Cultivate Spirituality as a Couple

One thing that we will regularly learn throughout this book is, there are a few things that will build us up spiritually and maintain our strength in these last days. Our relationship with fellow Christians, our regular attendance at Christian meetings, and our sharing our faith with others, will strengthen us, make us steadfast. These are provisions from God that will help us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” (Eph. 6:10) Max Anders comments, saying, “Paul introduces his final subject by urging the Ephesian believers to be strong in the Lord. When it comes to spiritual warfare, we cannot be sufficiently strong by ourselves. If we are going to have adequate strength for the spiritual battles of life, it must be the Lord’s strength. Only he has the mighty power sufficient to win spiritual battles against the demonic enemy.”[1] As we grow in knowledge and understanding, our chief desire will be to share our faith.

While Jesus was referring to our giving to the poor, we learn an important message from his words, “your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6:4) He is well aware of any difficult times that befall us. Even though God’s “throne is in heaven; his own eyes see, his watchful eyes examine the sons of men.” (Ps. 11:4) We know that God never has to sleep, so he is ever watchful, having loving interest in the welfare of his people. God “will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands, they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. (Ps. 91:11-12) Steven Lawson writes, “In part, this sovereign guardianship will be carried out by his angels whom the Lord will command and commission to guard you in all your ways. Satan quoted these verses to Christ in his temptation and shrewdly omitted this last phrase, “in all your ways” (Matt. 4:6; Luke 4:10–11). This divine protection extends only to the place of trusting and obeying God. The angels will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone (Ps. 34:7).”[2]

Remember the precious promise that God’s eyes “run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is complete toward him.” (2 Chron. 16:9) God is “is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the tired one, and full might to those lacking strength. (Isa. 40:28-29) Isaiah then promises that those who place their hope in God, they “will regain power; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not tire out. (Isa. 40:31) Contentment and peace belong to those, who accept that the Father’s power is always available to them, knowing that God is always interested in their best interests. We need to believe that “we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.” –Romans 8:28.

FEARLESSWe need to understand Roman’s 8:28 better as it is often misused. Many read into Paul’s words that God causes everything to happen both good or bad. This is certainly one reason that the subject of suffering and evil is often misunderstood. It is true that nothing happens outside of God’s plan for our good. God is responsible for everything, but not always directly. If he started the human race, and we end up with what we now have, in essence, he is responsible. Just as parents, who have a child are similarly responsible for the child committing murder 21 years into his life because they procreated and gave birth to the child. The mother and father are indirectly responsible. King David commits adultery with Bathsheba and has her husband Uriah killed to cover things up, and impregnates Bathsheba, but the adulterine child, who remains nameless, died. Is God responsible for the death of that child? We can answer yes and no to that question. He is responsible in two ways: (1) He created humankind so there would have been no affair, murder, adulterine child if he had not. (2) He did not step in and save the child when he had the power to do so. However, he is not directly responsible, because he did not make King David and Bathsheba commit the acts that led to the child being born, nor did he bring an illness on the adulterine child, he just did not move in to protect the child, in a time that had a high rate of infant deaths.

God is INDIRECTLY responsible for ALL things and DIRECTLY responsible for SOME things. When we attribute things to God we need to qualify (i.e., explain) them. Without explaining the directly or indirectly part of God being responsible, we would be saying God brought about Vlad Dracula, Joseph Stalin, and Adolf Hitler for our good. God is indirectly responsible for all even in human history because he allowed sin to enter the world, as opposed to just destroying Satan, Adam, and Eve and starting over. God is directly responsible for many human events because he directly stepped in miraculously and used a group, person, organization, or country to carry out his will and purposes. God is indirectly responsible for Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. God is directly responsible for Babylon conquering Jerusalem. God is directly responsible for helping William Tyndale bring us the first printed English translation of the Bible. E can only know afterward (sometimes) if God is directly or indirectly responsible, and then, it is still an educated guess. Overly attributing everything to God without explaining whether he is directly or indirectly responsible is why unbelievers sometimes see Christians as illogical and irrational. A four-year-old child was rescued from a surging river by a priest in 1894. If the child were rescued in the same manner today, the media would quote Christian leaders as saying God used the priest to save the child. However, only afterward do we know that this is not true. Why? Because that four-year-old child, who nearly drowned in that river in 1894 was Adolf Hitler. Hitler being saved by the priest can be indirectly attributed to God not directly.

The reason people think that God does not care about us is the words of some religious leaders, which have made them, feel this way. When tragedy strikes, what do some pastors and Bible scholars often say? When 9/11 took place, with thousands dying in the twin towers of New York, many ministers said: “It was God’s will. God must have had some good reason for doing this.” When religious leaders make such comments or similar ones, they are actually blaming God for the bad things that happened. Yet, the disciple James wrote, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13) God never directly causes what is bad. Indeed, “far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong.” (Job 34:10 God has allowed sin, old age, wickedness, suffering, and death to enter humanity after the rebellion by Satan, Adam, and Eve. He did not cause Satan to rebel, Eve to eat of the forbidden tree, or Adam to join that rebellion but God had allowed them to exercise the free will that he gave them.

God allowed these things as an object lesson for his creation. What has this object lesson proven? God does not cause evil and suffering. (Rom. 9:14) The fact that God has allowed evil, pain, and suffering have shown that independence from God has not brought about a better world. (Jer. 8:5-6, 9) God’s permission of evil, pain, and suffering has also proved that Satan has not been able to turn all humans away from God. (Ex. 9:16; 1 Sam. 12:22; Heb. 12:1) The fact that God has permitted evil, pain, and suffering to continue has provided proof that only God, the Creator, has the capability and the right to rule over humankind for their eternal blessing and happiness. (Eccl. 8:9) Satan has been the god of this world since the sin in Eden (over 6,000 years), and how has that worked out for man, and what has been the result of man’s course of independence from God and his rule? – Matthew 4:8-9; John 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; 1 John 5:19; Psalm 127:1.

One might ask if God is watching us in everything that we do and is looking out for us, why should a Christian be fearful of anything. We can be assured of the above texts but there are other parts of the Bible too, and God does not step in and miraculously solve every difficult time we encounter. At times, it is more about endurance. Difficult times befall us all. Yes, wise King Solomon observed, “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and unexpected events happen to them all.” (Eccles. 9:11) Nevertheless, if we study the Bible, talk about it, and obey it, because we accept it is God’s Word, we will be in such a happy life, for we will know the truth and it will make us free. (John 8:32) The Psalmist writes, “that this is God, our God forever and ever. He himself will guide us until death.” (Ps. 48:14) Yes, God guides us but he does so primarily through the inspired, fully inerrant, authoritative Word of God.

One of the primary ways to remain fearless in these last days is to grow in our understanding of God’s Word. As we better understand how he has dealt Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites for the 1,600 years, and the first-century Christians, we can better understand his will and purposes for us. We can appreciate that God is the Eternal God (Ps. 90:1), the Almighty (Ps. 91:1), the Most High (Ps. 91:1), who always was, is and is to be (Ps. 90:2); without beginning, without end (Rev. 1:8), who knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10), the source of goodness and life. (Matt. 19:16-17) As we study God’s Word, we will be taught of a level of righteousness and its blessings that was part of man before the fall, the level of human unrighteousness after the fall and the six-thousand years of depravity that has followed, the level of righteousness and its blessings that God’s people can still retain, and the level of righteousness and its blessings that will be restored after Jesus’ second coming. Blessed are those who walk with God (Ps. 89:15), that is follow the life course outlined in his Word, which will make us pleasing in his eyes. (Isa. 41:13) Knowing these things will bring us comfort and console us during the most difficult times.

Christians must learn these things and far more, as we need to have an accurate understanding of why God created us, what issues were raised in the Garden of Eden and at the beginning of the book of Job, why God then allowed sin, wickedness, sickness, old age, and death to enter humanity, as well as what he has done on our behalf to set things straight. If we are not fully informed of these things, we cannot totally value the promises of how we are to be protected that we find from Genesis 3:15 to Revelation 22:21. All Christians who are seeking a righteous standard before God become targets of Satan. King David, speaking prophetically of Jesus, said, “For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.” (Ps. 69:9) The apostle Paul wrote, “For even the Christ did not please himself, but just as it is written: “The reproaches of those reproaching you have fallen upon me.”[3] – Romans 15:3.

The Effects of Knowing God’s Word

When we accept the truths found in God’s Word, it influences us and our disposition and the pathway along which they walk with God. It becomes noticeable to our family, friends, and coworkers that we have a new perspective on things, a new biblical worldview, and that we have made a course correction in our life. Of course, those in the world of humankind that is alienated from God, they will likely find our changes amusing, believing that we have lost all reason. We need to trust in God “with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6) The better we know and understand the Father, the easier it will be to trust in him in times of difficulty.

It is much more than acquiring knowledge, wisdom, insight, and understand. Yes, those things are very important. Yet, to possess these truths and not share them with others is to sidestep Jesus command to proclaim the Word, teach others, and make disciples. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Ac 1;8) We must become champions of God’s Word, soldiers of the truths that we learn, taking the battle to Satan’s fallen world. If we are fearful, we will shy away from this Christian responsibility. Those who are fearful are in a constant condition of anxiety and worry about many things that might never happen. The Lord Jesus instructed, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own wickedness.” “And who of you by being anxious can add one cubit[4] to his life span?” (Matt. 6:34, 27) Sadly, many do not fully trust Jesus’ words and fail to cast all their worries upon him. Therefore, they live a life of perpetual fear over something that might never happen. The apostle Paul described this as “those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (Heb. 2:15) What did Paul mean?

2:15. Jesus has destroyed our archenemy, but he has also liberated us from our chief fear. Death still occurs. We need no longer be afraid of it. Like Satan, death has a limited sovereignty. Its presence will conclude at the return of Christ with the resurrection of believers (1 Cor. 15:54). This hope sets us free from the nagging fear of death which can enslave us. Death cannot separate God’s people from the love of God (Rom. 8:35–39). Satan no longer can use the fear of death to intimidate us or frighten us.

Notice that Christ has not yet abolished death. He has defeated the devil who had the power of death (Col. 2:15). We still face natural death. The removal of sin by the death of Jesus withdraws the sting of sin (1 Cor. 15:55–57). One day Jesus will completely destroy death (1 Cor. 15:54). For Christians the fear of death is already gone.

Although this verse does not precisely mention the resurrection, we realize that the original readers would have understood the importance of the resurrection. Whenever we describe Jesus’ death as a victory (Heb. 2:14), we point to his resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is the cornerstone of the victory over the fear of death which we have as believers.[5]

We have a Deliverer, who is Christ Jesus, and he has set us free from self-bondage, that is, bondage to our human weaknesses (Rom. 3:23-24), as well as bondage to our mental bent toward wickedness (Gen. 6:5; 8:21), not to mention bondage to our inner heart that is treacherous. (Jer. 17:9) We are also set free form Satan and his world that is alienated from God, and the present condition of this world. – John 8:32.

Examine Yourselves to See Whether You Are In the Faith

2 Corinthians 13:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Keep testing yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Keep examining yourselves! Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you fail to meet the test?

When was the last time that we truly took a good look at ourselves? How did we feel about what we saw? When we ponder over our personality, what are we actually projecting to others? Most of us are very complex people when it comes to our thoughts, feelings and beliefs, so it might be difficult to lock down what kind of personality that we have. As a man, are we faithful like Abraham one moment and then blown back and forth like doubting Thomas the next? As a female, are we submissive like Sarah when we are in public and then like domineering Jezebel in private? As a Christian, are we devoted and energetic for the truth on Christian meeting days and then loving the world like Demas[6] the other days out of the week? As a Christian, have we entirely taken off the old person with its practices and clothed ourselves with the new person? – Colossians 3:9-10; Ephesians 4:20-24.

Some women are known to spend much time every morning, ‘putting on their face,’ as it is commonly expressed. So much so, it has been commonly joked about, and men know not to interfere until the project is over. However, truth be told, men are very much concerned with how they look when going out into public. Thus, all of us are conscious of whether our hair is out of place, if we have a pimple or a cold sore, or if there is something about us that is unkempt, ruffled, scruffy, or messy. We want to look our best. What we may not have considered is, our personality is always showing as well. The deeper question though is “are we putting on our personality to cover over before we go out in public while our real personality is on display in private?” Is what the public sees, who we really are? Does our real personality bring honor to God?

A man walking the roads of the countryside in a small European country comes to a fork in the road. He is uncertain as to which way he should go. Therefore, he asks several who are passing by for directions, but some told him to take the left fork, and others said to make the right. After receiving contradictory information, he simply did not know what to do, how was he to go on, without knowing for certain which path led to the destination. He was unable to move on until he knew what the right path was. Having doubts about our faith, our walk with God, his Word can influence us similarly. It can actually cause severe emotional turmoil as we go about our Christian life.

There was a similar situation on the first-century Corinthian congregation. Some known as “super-apostles” were actually taking the apostle Paul to task, as to Paul’s walk with God, saying, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” (2 Cor. 10:7-12; 11:5-6, ESV) Certainly, we can see how a Christian in that congregation could wonder if they were truly walking with God when the apostle Paul himself was being called into question.

Paul founded the Corinthian congregation in about 50 C.E.[7] on his second missionary journey. “When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.’ And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” (Acts 18:5-11, ESV) The apostle Paul was deeply interested in the spiritual wellbeing of the brothers and sisters in Corinth. Moreover, the Corinthian Christians were interested in their spiritual welfare as well, so they wrote Paul for his counsel on certain matters. (1 Cor. 7:1-40) Therefore, Paul, under inspiration offered them inspired counsel in what would be his second letter to them.

“Keep testing yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Keep examining yourselves! Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you fail to meet the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5) If these brothers in the days of having Paul found their congregation, who spent sixteen months under the guidance of the greatest, inspired Christian, needed to self-examine themselves, how much more should we need to do so, as we are 2,000-years removed? If these brothers followed this advice to examine themselves, it would have offered them direction on how to walk with God and let them know if they were on the right path.

Remember, Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 7:21, ESV) In other words, not every Christian was going to enter into the kingdom, even though they felt that they were walking with God. Jesus spoke of their mindset in the next verse, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’” (Matt. 7:22, ESV) Yes, these ones, who felt that they were walking with God, on that day they were supposing that they were truly Christian, were in for a rude awakening. What is Jesus going to say to these ones, “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matt. 7:23) What were and are these ones lacking?

Jesus said they were not doing the will of the Father, even though they believed they were. Notice that in 98 C.E., the apostle John, the last surviving apostle, in one of his letters offered that same warning too. He wrote, “The world is passing away, and its lusts; but the one who does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Thus, we can see the wisdom of the apostle Paul’s counsel to ‘Keep testing ourselves to see if you are in the faith. Keep examining ourselves!’ Thus, the next question is, what do we need to do to follow this advice? How does one test whether or not they are in the faith? In addition, what does it mean to ‘keep examining ourselves after we have tested ourselves?

Keep Testing Yourselves

In a test, there is an examination of a person or an object to find something out, e.g., whether it is functioning properly or not. In this test, there must be a standard by which the person or object is measured. For example, the “normal” human body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C). Therefore, if we were testing our temperature, it would be measured against the normal body temperature. Anything above or below that would be considered high or low. Another example is the normal resting heart rate for adults, which ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute. However, our test in this publication is to see if we are truly Christian. However, what we are looking for when we ‘test ourselves, to see if we are in the faith,’ is not the faith, that is the basic Bible doctrines. In our test, we are the subject. What we are testing is, if we are truly walking with God. If we are to test our walk as a Christian, we need to have a perfect standard. Our perfect standard by which to measure ourselves is,

Psalm 19:7-8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

The law of Jehovah is perfect,
restoring the soul;
the testimony of Jehovah is sure,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of Jehovah are right,
rejoicing the heart;

Yes, the Word of God, the Bible is the standard by which we can measure our walk with God. On this, the author of Hebrews wrote, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) Thus, we must test our walk with God by examining our life course as outlined by Scripture, to find his favor, to be in an approved standing, to be declared righteous before him. Herein, each of the twenty chapters will have a text that they will be built around, a text that defines what we should be in the eyes of God. For example, several times Jesus says ‘if we are doing __________, we are truly his disciples.’ Well, the objective would be to discover what all is involved in doing __________.

Keep Examining Yourselves

The phrase keep examining yourselves is self-explanatory, but it involves a self-examination. We may have been a Christian for a number of years, but how many times have we had a spiritual checkup. Every six months we are to go in for a dental cleaning and unless there is a problem, we should get a health screening once a year. The problem with our spirituality is it is far more susceptible to injury than we are physically. The author of Hebrews warns us, “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (2:1) One chapter later, we are told, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (3:12-13) This same author warns us about falling away (6:6), becoming sluggish (6:12), and growing weary or fainthearted (12:25).

Why would this be the case? If we are saved, why is it necessary that we keep examining ourselves? Why would we still be susceptible to bad behaviors to the point of drifting away, to the point of having an unbelieving heart, falling away, becoming sluggish, growing weary or fainthearted?

There are four reasons. (1) First and foremost, we have inherited sin, which means that we are missing the mark of perfection. (2) In addition, our environment can condition us into the bad thinking and behavior. (3) We have our human weaknesses, which include inborn tendencies that we naturally lean toward evil, leading us into bad behaviors. (4) Moreover, there is the world of Satan and his demons that caters to these human weaknesses, which also leads us down the path of bad thinking and behaviors. After our self-examination, what is needed if we are to overcome any bad thinking or behaviors and how are we to avoid developing them in the future? We will offer more on this in each chapter as well as two appendices at the end, but we offer this for now. It is paramount that we fully understand what all is involved in our human imperfection and never believe that we are so strong spiritually that we would never fall away, slow down, or becoming sluggish in our walk with God.

Obviously, this should be of the greatest concern to each one of us. We may be a person of good character, and believe that in any situation, we will make the right decisions. However, the moment that innocent appearing situation arises, we are plagued with the inner desire toward wrong. We need to address more than what our friends, or our workmates or our spouse may see. We need to look into our inner self, in the hopes of determining, who we really are, and what do we need to do to have a good heart (i.e., inner person).

As we know, we could not function with half a heart. However, we can function, albeit dysfunctional, with a heart that is divided. Yes, we have things outside of us that can contribute to bad thinking, which id left unchecked will lead to bad behavior, but we also have some things within. The apostle Paul bewailed about himself, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:19-20) This is because all of us are mentally bent toward the doing of wrong, instead of the doing of good. (Gen 6:5; 8:21; Rom 5:12; Eph. 4:20-24; Col 3:5-11) Jeremiah the prophet informs us of the condition of our heart (our inner person), “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” These factors contribute to our being more vulnerable to the worldly desires and the weak human flesh than we may have thought. One needs to understand just how bad human imperfection is before they can fully implement the right Christian Living Skills.

Returning to the book of Hebrews, we are told, “solid food belongs to the mature, to those who through practice have their discernment trained to distinguish between good and evil.” (5:14) We will have evidence that we are one of the mature ones by training ourselves to distinguish between good and evil. We likely believe that we are already spiritually mature, which may very well be the case. Nevertheless, we are told by Paul to carry out this self-examination and to keep on examining ourselves, to remain that way, and even to improve upon what we currently have by way of maturity. Just as a man or woman in a marathon must continually train their muscles to surpass others in the sport, our discernment (perception) needs to be trained through regularly and rightly applying the Word of God. Throughout this publication, we will apply the inspired words of James, Jesus’ half-brother.

James 1:22-25 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face[8] in a mirror.

24 for he looks at himself and goes away, and immediately forgets what sort of man he was. 25 But he that looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, being no hearer who forgets but a doer of a work, he will be blessed in his doing.

 When we are inundated in the Word of God, it serves as the voice of God, telling us the way in which to walk.

[1] Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 190.

[2] Steven Lawson. Holman Old Testament Commentary – Psalms 76-150 (Kindle Locations 2561-2564). B&H Publishing Group.

[3] A quotation from Ps 69:9

[4] I.e., a single hour

[5] Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, vol. 10, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 29–30.

[6] A “fellow worker” with Paul at Rome (Col. 4:14; Philem. 24), who eventually, “in love with this present world,” forsook the apostle and left for Thessalonica (2 Tim. 4:10). No other particulars are given concerning him. (ISBE, Volume 1, Page 918)

[7] B.C.E. means “before the Common Era,” which is more accurate than B.C. (“before Christ”). C.E. denotes “Common Era,” often called A.D., for anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord.”

[8] Lit the face of his birth