Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message on 1 Samuel 9-10 and Praising God; Date: 9 May 2010

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Into A Different Person

 

This week’s lesson in our Prayer School has once again been focusing on spiritual warfare. My question to you is: “Have you been enjoying the lesson?” Yes – maybe – (we appreciate good teaching points) – but – (on the other hand) – if you are like me – sometimes we begin to wonder whether there is not too much spiritual warfare and too much emphasis on fighting the devil all of the time. There seems to be one conflict after another (we say: mission work is taking ground from the enemy) which can make you rather tired and weary. What is going on here? Wasn’t the Christian life meant to be happy and joyful? Yet – here at Living Grace – (with all that is going on every week) – are we in a mood to celebrate God and our life in God or are we a burdened bunch of bleary-eyed Christians that are just hanging in there in spiritual warfare?

The bad news first: According to the Bible spiritual warfare is a normal part of the Christian life. The intensity of the conflict may vary but the pressure of sin and darkness is always there – 1 Peter 5:8-9: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers [and sisters – the other Christians] throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

This is how it is: The enemy is there – always – prowling around – and therefore – this side of eternity – we can never let down our guard. Living under constant danger – the Christian is always alert and watchful – always self-controlled (like a good soldier) so that no sin creeps into your life. This is the bad news which plenty of Bible passages back up – Ephesians 6:11-12: “ … take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is … against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 1 Timothy 6:12: “Fight the good fight of faith … ” 2 Timothy 2:1-7: “ … be strong … Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus … ” Luke 22:31-32: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:40: “ … Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” Luke 22:46: “ … Get up and pray that you will not fall into temptation

Constant warfare and watchful living are the bad news (or at least unpleasant news) – for today – but the good news is that we nevertheless experience constant victory. We fight the devil with joy. Right? Do you agree? Christians are happy and joyful in all circumstances. This is the good news – or is this not your experience? Maybe it is not always my experience. The devil doesn’t seem to get tired but I do and then I whinge: “Why can’t he prowl around somewhere else for a change?” And then I become discouraged. Do you ever get the feeling that God is asking too much of you? This morning – (I think) – we (all) need to hear the good news again. We need some practical instructions on victory living and joy.

Last week we talked about the person Saul in the Bible and how he descended into rebellion against God and witchcraft. However, before he got into trouble, Saul experienced what we can all experience. God changed him and thus a timid – a discouraged – young man turned into a bold king that rejoiced in victory over God’s enemies.

I read from the Bible – 1 Samuel 9:19-10:13: “ … Samuel replied. ‘ … As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you … ’ Saul answered, ‘But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?’ … Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the Lord anointed you leader … When you leave me today, you will meet two men … After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person … ’ As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying … ”

When Samuel first met the young man, Saul was insignificant in his own eyes (from the smallest clan of the smallest tribe) and he was worried about some lost donkeys. When it was time for him to be crowned as the first king of God’s people, he was shy and hiding among the luggage. He could not face people – could not face the responsibility. There was always something going on for him. His first experience as the king was rejection – 1 Samuel 10:27: “ … some troublemakers said, ‘How can this fellow save us?’ They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent

However, God then changed him and therefore Saul would from now on rise to any challenge with boldness – an absolute positive attitude – in the face of any threat – 1 Samuel 11:1-11: “Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead … When the messengers came … and reported … they all wept aloud. Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, ‘What is wrong with the people? Why are they weeping?’ Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said. When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he burned with anger … When Saul mustered [the people] … the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and the men of Judah thirty thousand … during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day … ”

Saul – the timid and troubled man – had become the bold conqueror with the Spirit upon him and burning with the anger of God. Everyone else was weeping but Saul was positive and ready for action. Let’s now investigate how precisely this happened. We need to go back to the previous reading and some core verses – 1 Samuel 9:19-10:13: “ … Then Samuel … kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the Lord anointed you leader … As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.’ … ”

The change in Saul came when he stepped in an atmosphere of praise where people were just returning from a worship service and on the way home were playing lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps. The praise atmosphere (generated by so many instruments) was already impacting the prophets among the group because – in the midst of everyone singing with joy – the Spirit of God moved upon them to declare the will of God in power. And this was not unusual. People always knew that music and singing to God released the work of the Holy Spirit – 1 Chronicles 25:1: “David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some … for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals … ” 1 Chronicles 25:3: “ … prophesied, using the harp in thanking and praising the Lord.” [Notice the warfare aspect of this ministry. David and the commanders of the army set aside people for praise and then prophesying.] Saul stepped into this kind of atmosphere – people singing high praises to God with many instruments – and then he also came to prophesy (with the other prophets) and God changed him.

Now – the same praise atmosphere that changed Saul can change us. This is practical. When the warfare gets too much for you, stop and come into a time of praising God. Listen to the experience of a more mature Christian. He writes:

 

“As a young pastor in Weaverville I had more than my share of ‘Blue Mondays.’ No matter what wonderful things had happened on Sunday, sometimes all I could remember was what had been lacking in the services. My slides into discouragement were fueled by the comparisons I made between my spiritual heroes and myself … John G. Lake, Charles Finney or Rees Howells … The focus on my limitations didn’t help me feel better especially when there were real problems to deal with as a pastor. Betrayal, abandonment, rejection, and accusation all seemed to come with the position. I often felt like there was huge black cloud over me. I had enough sense to know that encouragement and depression were not good things. Although I managed to get victory before the next Sunday … I didn’t know how to live that way. Yet” (Bill Johnson: Strengthen Yourself In The Lord, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2007, p65-66).

 

Then this man writes about the practice – the spiritual discipline – which changed his life:

 

“Praise was one of the primary tools that God had equipped me with as a young man to strengthen myself in the discouragement of my early years as a pastor. I could be questioning a million things about my life, but I never had to question whether I was in the right place when I was giving God praise. It became my default when I slid into a fog of confusion and depression. In Weaverville, our home was behind the church so I often went to the sanctuary late at night, put worship music on the sound system, and spent time praising and worshiping God. Sometimes I remained until early in the morning. I danced, shouted, and basically required myself to do whatever I didn’t feel like doing. The Psalmist David wrote, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul.’ He commands his own soul to come into order and give God glory. It’s important that we learn how to bring our soul, and even our bodies into submission to the purposes of God. Back then I would make sure that the intensity of my praise was in equal proportion to the size of the cloud over my head. Every time, there would come a point when something inside of me would shift, and I was no longer making an effort. My mind, will, emotions, and body were completely filled with conviction of what I was declaring to the Lord. I also noticed that the cloud over my head had disappeared and I was alive in God!

I came to understand that the cloud wasn’t just over my head; it was inside it. I mistakenly thought that focusing on my lack and comparing myself to others was a posture of humility. In fact, it was the opposite. Instead of focusing on God’s greatness in my life, I was focusing on myself. I was actually agreeing with the enemy by making my own problems bigger than God’s promises. And my agreement invited that cloud of oppression to hover over me.

The only way to break an agreement with a lie is repentance, which means to change the way you think. In that place of praise, I fed my mind on the truth of God’s nature until it created a new agreement with heavenly reality. When that agreement was established, the reality started to manifest in my emotions, mind, and body. But I also came to understand more deeply why my dad taught us to do what the Scripture said regarding praise. Making an agreement with Heaven actually requires more than repentance of the mind. You need physical proof to make repentance a legally binding reality. By lining my physical body up with what the Word said, I brought my whole being into agreement with the truth. In doing so, I experienced the principle that physical obedience brings spiritual breakthrough. This may seem a little backward to those of us who hate the idea of going through religious motions and desire to be ‘authentic’ in our worship. Physical obedience brings spiritual breakthrough. But the measure of authenticity is not what you’re feeling or thinking. Those things either line up with authentic reality or they don’t. And if they don’t, Scripture tells us that we get there by moving. Some say it’s hypocritical to do something you don’t feel like doing. I think it’s hypocritical to do only what I feel like doing and call myself a believing believer. Right actions release right emotions and right thinking.

But why is it right to sing, shout, dance and leap? Why does God seem to want these radical expressions more than silent, awed reverence? While there is certainly a time for the latter, acts of celebration get way more press in the psalmist’s descriptions of how we approach God. The reason – God is a God to celebrate. His every action and thought toward us are extravagant expressions of His love, kindness, goodness, and delight in us; and He gives it all not only to bless us for a moment, but to invite us into the deeper blessing of knowing Him. He delights in us, so He wants us to delight in Him. He rejoices over us with singing [Zeph. 3:17], so He wants us to rejoice in Him with singing. When we give to Him what He gives to us, we step further into relationship with Him, deepening our heart-connection with the source of life.

Not only that, but when we do what He is doing, aligning our bodies as well as our spirits and souls with what He has said, there is a release of His nature that flows to us in that place of intimacy. The Holy Spirit is the most joyful person in existence, and joy is one of the primary expressions of His kingdom in our lives (see Romans 14:17). His command to ‘rejoice always’ is really an expression of His desire for us to have joy! He is simply telling us how to receive it. We not only rejoice because we have joy – we rejoice in our pursuit of joy” (Bill Johnson: Strengthen Yourself In The Lord, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2007, p67-71).

 

I want to pick up a few points from this man’s testimony. Praise works because when we are praising God we are lining ourselves up with the truth. The truth is not always how you feel. The truth is not always what circumstances suggest to you. The truth is not always what makes “Blue Mondays” blue. The truth is that God reigns – also in your life – all of the time. No money problem – no relationship problem – no drug problem – is bigger than our God and he is for us – Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him … ” Romans 8:38-39: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers … will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 1:3: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ

The truth of God is always worth celebrating. He saved us and loves us and cares for us and – as we love him back – God works for the good of us – always. Therefore, when we are confused and depressed – when we are giving in to these negative emotions – we are giving in to what is not true – outright lies – which suggest that there is no hope and that there is no God.

When someone is going through a hard time and does become more and more dejected and disheartened, we are feeling sorry for our friend and – therefore – are reluctant to put any more pressure on the person but – on the other hand – this is from the testimony before – there is a need for someone to call this person into repentance. Show love – come with chocolate and a cup of tea – but also come with a wakeup call, saying: “You are wrong to pity yourself. You are wrong to see yourself as a helpless victim. Have faith in God and praise him. Repent

Do you need to repent? Praising God is lining ourselves up with the truth and positioning ourselves on the side of God and we are to do this by faith which means precisely that we are also to praise God on “Blue Mondays”. Nothing honours God more than faith and it is by faith that all of the gifts and favours of God come to us – Hebrews 11:6: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 4:1-3: “ … let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short … we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter [into all that God has promised] … ” Romans 5:1-5: “ … we have been justified through faith … we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us

On a practical level any sort of repentance requires some sort of action to demonstrate that you mean what you say. Even the Bible knows that words are sometimes cheap and therefore admonishes us – Luke 3:8: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance … ” In other words: “Do something. Show that you mean what you sayWhen it comes to praise, this means that we make our bodies line up with the truth. Even when we do not feel like it, we get up, raise our hands, leap for joy, dance and sing.

In faith – we act according to the Bible descriptions of praise and thus act according to how God designed human expressions of joy. (Just watch the crowd when the winning try is scored at a State of Origin match) – Psalm 26:6-7: “I … go … proclaiming aloud your praise … ” Psalm 150:1-6: “Praise the Lord! … Praise Him with trumpet sound … Praise him with tambourine and dance; Praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord … ” Even in heaven our praise of God will not be silent. There is not just going to be reverent awe but loud eruptions of joy. We will put our bodies on the line. Praise is the atmosphere of heaven – Revelations 19:1-8: “After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah! … ’ And again they shouted: ‘Hallelujah! … ’ They [original: twenty-four elders and the four living creatures] fell down and worshipped God, who was seated on the throne … And they cried: ‘Amen. Hallelujah!’ … Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! … ’”

Like the pastor in the testimony – do it. Repent by making yourself do what you don’t feel like doing: “Get up, raise your hands, clap, sing with a strong voice, dance and blow the trumpetYou may say that this is not for everybody but this may just be an excuse. The pastor also shared: “ … my problem was to stepping out of my ‘reserved personality’ box – that is until I realized that God commands us to do it, and that He wouldn’t command us to do something that He didn’t put in our new nature. That means my real personality in Christ includes the capacity to demonstrate my love for God through biblically mandated expressions … As a result, I began to dance before the Lord with joy in private long before I had seen anyone do it in a service” (Bill Johnson: Strengthen Yourself In The Lord, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2007, p67).

Then, the breakthrough will come. As with the pastor – there will come a point when something inside you will shift and you will receive from God by faith. As you line yourself up with the truth – repent of believing the lies of defeat – God will draw near to you and fill you up with his presence through the Holy Spirit – Romans 14:17: “ . the kingdom of God is . a matter … of joy in the Holy Spirit.” 1 Peter 1:3-9: “Praise be to . God … In his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you … In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that you faith … may be proved genuine … Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy … ”

The breakthrough will come. First, you praise God in faith – you obey with your body even when you don’t feel like it – but then – as you obey – the emotions of joy will come as well – inexpressible joy through the Holy Spirit. As you are praising God you step into the atmosphere of heaven itself and anything can happen in this kind of atmosphere. At this point I remind us again of what happened to Saul. The way God changed him is the way he changes us – 1 Samuel 9:19-10:13: “ … As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person … ”

Praising God is the key to your breakthrough and we can see this also in the way God reacts to the opposite of praise, that is: grumbling. The Bible warns us – Numbers 14:26-35: “The Lord said: ‘How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling people [original: Israelites]. So tell them: As surely as I live … I will do to you the very things I heard you say [what you declared in your grumbling]. In this desert your bodies will fall – every one of you … who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home … ” 1 Corinthians 10:10: “ . do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angelA grumbling Christian makes God out to be a liar that cannot be trusted. It is declaring that God has forsaken me. However, this is not true. It is praise that declares the truth about God. He is always good. There is always good news. Rejoice.

Three more practical points. So far we have heard: 1) [Powerpoint slide: Praising God works because you line yourself up with the truth.] Praising God works because when we are praising him we are lining ourselves up with the truth. We step into the atmosphere of heaven. 2) [Powerpoint slide: Praise God in faith because we receive from God by faith.] If you are in a place of discouragement, repent of believing a lie. No problem is bigger than God. Trust him again. Exercise faith because all of the gifts and favours of God come to us by faith. Let your praise be an expression of faith. 3) [Powerpoint slide: Repent of discouragement with acts of obedience. Let your body praise God until the breakthrough comes.] Line your body up with the truth. Sing and dance Repent of your discouragement by lining up your body with the truth. Get up, raise your hands, leap for joy, dance and sing. Let physical obedience bring a spiritual breakthrough.

Now the first new point: 4) Live in a healthy state of problem denial. One pastor writes: “I have decided to live in a healthy state of denial. When the devil puts a request for attention across my desk, I say, ‘REQUEST DENIED!’ I am aware that there are situations constantly around me that, if I’m not careful, can bring me into discouragement. Most of the time I’m living about 15 minutes away from discouragement if I make a series of wrong choices. But I also know that I never again have to live with discouragement like I used to. I have learned to ignore problems just enough so they don’t become a threat to the affections of my heart. I know I’m not being irresponsible because God has promised me over and over that if I’m faithful to be who He has called me to be, especially as a worshiper, He is more than happy to bring the solutions … ” (Bill Johnson: Strengthen Yourself In The Lord, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2007, p75).

Further: “I have purposed to try to live in such a way that nothing ever gets bigger than my consciousness of God’s presence. Sometimes conflict can be a simple as bad news on TV. If it starts to weigh on my heart and grow bigger than my awareness of God, I consciously turn my affection toward Him to become more aware of His presence. If that doesn’t work, I turn off the TV or leave the room to redirect my focus until my awareness of Him is bigger than that which weighs heavily on my heart. I can’t just know in my head that He’s bigger; I have to have my entire being in a position where I am aware of His presence and expect His world to invade my life and circumstances … ” (Bill Johnson: Strengthen Yourself In The Lord, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2007, p60).

I repeat: 4) Live in a healthy state of problem denial. Then, another simple point: 5) Make time for praising God. And my last point: 6) Praise God in tongues. I quote again the pastor from before:

 

“However, there are two specific verses that describe something that we do to build ourselves. Jude writes, ‘But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit’ (Jude 1:20). I believe that ‘praying in the Holy Spirit’ here specifically refers to praying in tongues, and that Jude is associating this particular activity with building ourselves up in our faith. The reason I believe this is because the same idea is expressed in First Corinthians 14:3: ‘He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself … ’ The word ‘edify’ means to build up. We get the word ‘edifice’ from the same root. As Lance Wallnau teaches, when we pray in tongues, we are constructing an internal edifice of faith from which the purposes of God become manifest.

How does praying in tongues build us up in our faith? To answer this we must first understand what we are doing when we pray in tongues. Paul explains, ‘For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries’ (1 Corinthians 14:2). When we speak in tongues, we are using our voices to give utterance to the expressions of our spirits as they commune with the Holy Spirit. This is powerful because our spirits pray in perfect agreement with God because they speak from the new nature we received when we were born again. By engaging our soul, along with our physical body in what our spirits are saying, we come more completely into agreement with the Holy Spirit. As we sustain this prayer, it leads to the same breakthrough we experience when we physically express praise – we become aware of the manifest presence of God. Or, you could say that our bodies and minds begin to experience an increased measure of the reality that our spirits already experience in the Lord’s presence” (Bill Johnson: Strengthen Yourself In The Lord, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2007, p83-84).

 

If you have the gift of tongues, make use of it. Spend time praying in tongues by speaking the words or you may even sing in tongues – 1 Corinthians 14:15-16: “So what shall I do? … I will sing with my spirit … praising God with your spirit … ” Praying in tongues is most frequently a declaration of praise to God and therefore – since the Holy Spirit himself is giving you the praise words – they are pure and powerful. In times of need the Spirit will help you to find words which cut through the feelings of discouragement. This is a wonderful gift.

If you do not have the gift of praying in tongues, you are not a second-class Christians but become hungry for this gift. Do not shy away from this unknown experience. The Bible encourages you – 1 Corinthians 14:1: “ … eagerly desire spiritual gifts … ”

I come to a close and tie everything back to the beginning. This week’s lesson in our Prayer School has once again been focusing on spiritual warfare and spiritual warfare is a normal part of the Christian life. The intensity of the conflict may vary but the pressure of sin and darkness is always there. Yet – at the same time – the good news is that we nevertheless experience constant victory. We fight the devil with joy. The life of a Christian is one of always praising God and breaking through to the joy of God.

I sum up the points that we covered: 1) Praising God works because you line yourself up with the truth. 2) Praise God in faith because we receive from God by faith. 3) Repent of discouragement with acts of obedience. Let your body praise God until the breakthrough comes. 4) Live in a healthy state of problem denial. 5) Make time for praising God. 6) Praise God in tongues.

Praising God is the atmosphere of heaven. This is where the truth is. This is where the Holy Spirit works. This is where lies get defeated. This is where your circumstances change. This is where you change. Praise God and be free from your problems. You can allow yourself to focus on God. What happened to Saul is going to happen to us (again and again) – 1 Samuel 9:19-10:13: “ … you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.’ … ”

This morning – praise God until you praise God. No matter how you feel at first, praise God in faith and obedience (repent of discouragement with your body – get up, raise your hands, dance) until God breaks through to your emotions and consumes you with joy. Praise him and you will be changed into a different person. Amen.