A Transformed Heart (4)

Article written by Dr. Christi Butler / Nov. 2015

This post today is part four in the series I have been writing about how to live before God with a transformed heart. If you have not had a chance to read the previous messages, I recommend going back and looking them over because today’s lesson is a continuation of what was previously taught.

Sometimes before change or transformation can occur in a person’s life, the person has to be able to see the need for change. Furthermore, when someone who is ill goes to the doctor, the first thing the doctor does is try to diagnose the problem so that the illness can be treated correctly. In much the same way, for spiritual change to occur, believers must first become aware of the areas in their lives that need to be changed. Transformation cannot occur if believers do not see the need for change and ask God for help. Therefore, in an effort to help people see the conditions of the heart that may need to be transformed, I would like to make an analogy between the condition of the physical heart and the condition of the spiritual heart.

In the natural physical body, the heart is an organ that is absolutely essential to life. If the heart is not beating correctly, if the blood is not flowing through it properly, if there is severe pain, or if the heart is misfiring in some way, the entire body will be affected. A person whose heart is malfunctioning will not be able to engage in the same active lifestyle as a healthy person. If the heart is sick, it will effect a persons ability to exercise, work, raise children, and so much more.

What believers must understand is that what is true in the natural is also true in the spirit. A spiritual heart that is “ill” in some way can impair one’s ability to live out the abundant Christian life that Jesus Christ died to make available to all who believe. In order to live the Christian life to the full, the believer must learn how to “keep their heart with all diligence” (see Prov. 4:23).

What does it mean to “keep” the heart? It means to tend to it, care for it, and watch over it. The believer is to watch over the state of their heart exactly like Adam was called to watch over and care for the state of the Garden of Eden. Believers must learn how to “keep” their hearts because Satan roams the earth like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8), but if people in the church become skilled at keeping their hearts, Satan will not have a door of access to bring defeat into their lives.

In an effort to explain in more detail how to “keep” the heart, allow me to continue making the analogy I began with. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the number one cause of death in the United States is heart disease. Natural heart disease is a killer, but so is spiritual heart disease. Many people are dying from heart disease in their physical bodies, but unfortunately, it seems that even more might be dying of spiritual heart disease.

In the natural, there are four stages of heart disease. The first stage has to do with having a simple genetic predisposition for heart disease based on one’s family of origin. In much the same way, all human beings on earth are born with a spiritual predisposition towards sin because of the Adamic nature. Thankfully, the Lord has prepared a way for people to overcome this tendency towards sin. God has made it possible to become “born again” through faith in Jesus Christ. When a person is “born again,” regeneration occurs and a new spiritual nature is received (2 Cor. 5:17; Heb. 10:16). Praise God.

However, even though the believer receives a new spiritual nature, he or she still has to contend with life in a physical body that continues to have certain desires that war against the new nature of the spiritual man. Secondly, even though a person becomes a “new creation” at the time of salvation, there will continue to be areas within the mind and soul that must be renewed to the knowledge of God’s Word. Therefore, even though the new birth creates a new heart within the believer, the believer must diligently work, on a daily basis, in cooperation with the Spirit of the Lord to “keep their heart” pure and undefiled before God.

This ongoing participation in daily crucifying the flesh, taking thoughts captive, repenting of sin, guarding the heart, and working out the sanctification process must become part of the Christians way of life. As Christians choose to live this way before the Lord, they will experience continuous growth and transformation.

In the second stage of physical heart disease, small structural changes begin to occur in the organ of the heart. The heart is not quite healthy, some plaque may exist in the arteries and the heart will not be getting the full abundance of the oxygen it needs. This stress on the heart will lead to problems like fatigue.

In the same way, I have noticed that when people are not being fed spiritually or when they are to busy and distracted by the cares of life, the Christian can become spiritually fatigued. In my own life I have been spiritually fatigued when I was trying to do to many things the Lord never called me to do in the first place. I have also met many Christians who have backslidden from the faith and they have told me that their trouble began by being overwhelmed and exhausted by all the demands of living in the modern world.

Beloved, we must all become consciously aware of the fact that we are in a spiritual war and one of the most effective strategies the enemy uses is the strategy of wearing out or exhausting the saints. This is even mentioned in the scriptures. Daniel 7:25 in the English Standard Version reads, He [talking about the anti-Christ] shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High.” With this in mind, Christians must become all the more diligent to study the word, pray, read their bible, worship, and participate in activities that will strengthen and encourage their spiritual heart.

Moving on, the third stage of physical heart disease begins to be evident when there is clear structural abnormalities and damage to the heart resulting in a marked limitation of all physical activities. At this stage, there will be some hardening of the arteries and a true lack of oxygen flowing through the veins.

Spiritually speaking, this stage of heart disease occurs when a person has a restricted relationship with the person of the Holy Spirit. For example, when a person resists God in some way, when they refuse to repent of known sin, when they are believing wrong doctrines that limit the way God can work in their life, etc.

In the scriptures, Jesus provides a perfect example of third stage spiritual heart disease. In Matt. 13:15 and in Acts 28:27 Jesus warns people about having hearts that become “dull.” Their hearts are not totally hardened. These people are not spiritually dead, but they do have a serious spiritual deficiency forming in their lives. Matthew 13:15 reads, For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’”

In this context, Jesus is talking about the Jewish people who were listening to him preach. These people should have been able to recognize the time of their visitation. They should have been able to discern that Jesus was  their Messiah because of the scriptures. They should have been able to recognize the anointing operating in Jesus’ life. These people should have known God was in the flesh and speaking to them through Jesus.

Instead, the people could not see and could not hear spiritually. Their spiritual senses where defective. Oxygen (or the Spirit of God) was not connecting with their hearts. This same thing can happen to believers today. This happens when Christians go to church religiously and just go through the motions, but have no true heart connection with Christ. This happens when God is trying to move in a church, but no one is able to discern it and follow His lead. This happens when God shows up to heal, save, and deliver, but no one is connected enough with God to realize it. Finally, this happens when people quench the Spirit on purpose because the Holy Spirit is interfering with their man made plans for how a church service ought to flow.

I pray the church would realize that Jesus Christ is still supposed to be the head of the church, and when believers will not allow Him to operate in and through the church, something is seriously wrong. Repentance and heart transformation is the required remedy. (If you are interested in reading a couple more stories that illustrate third stage heart disease, read Luke 5:17-25 and Mark 3:1-6).

Finally I have come to the end, the forth and final state of heart disease. In the natural this results in severe pain, restricted oxygen flow, heart attacks, and ultimately, death. Spiritually speaking this kind of heart condition occurs when a person willfully resists all of God’s attempts to bring conviction and to call a person to repentance. For example, the Bible talks about Pharaoh and how his heart was hardened because in spite of all the signs and wonders God did in Egypt, Pharaoh still would not believe in the Lord and let the Israelites go.

Actually, the Bible says God himself hardened Pharaoh’s heart. I believe this is because Pharaoh had so mistreated God’s people that judgment was determined against Him. Therefore, God allowed His heart to be hardened to fulfill His purpose of Judgment. There are stages of rebellion believers can go through and God will deal with them over and over again trying to bring them to repentance. However, if someone continues to resist God, fight against His purposes, and grieve the Holy Spirit without repentance, hardening of the spiritual heart can occur.

This truth is also illustrated in the New Testament in the book of Revelation. In that book, the Apostle John described the spiritual condition of many of the people who take the mark of the beast and serve the anti-Christ. John says that no matter how bad the circumstances get they will not repent. Instead, these people hate God so much they come to battle against Him literally and physically in the battle of Armageddon (see Rev. 9:20-21; 16:9, 11).

Forth stage spiritual heart disease occurs when a person is totally given over by God to a debased or reprobate mind. The person with this type of thinking will be absolutely convinced that right is wrong and wrong is right. This is why Jesus said that during the tribulation people will kill believers and think they are doing God a service. They will be totally convinced that persecuting and murdering the innocent servants of God is the right thing to do. This is spiritual depravity taken to the extreme and it leads to spiritual death.

I hope this Bible study has been helpful and thought provoking. Blessings, Christi Butler

The Alarm is Sounding Part II: Joel 2:1

The Alarm is Sounding Part II: Joel 2:1

Written by Dr. Christi Butler / Oct. 2015

Earlier I began to teach on Joel 2:1. If you did not read the first post (Oct. 13, 2015), I recommend starting with that message because it is the introduction for what I am continuing to speak on in this post.

The main idea from the earlier message is this: there is an alarm sounding in the realm of the spirit. God is urgently calling His people to repentance and prayer for America and for the world.

I do not know if anyone has been paying attention to the news lately, but there are amazing events unfolding in the Middle East every day. These events should be viewed as neon signposts that are loudly and dramatically declaring to the world that, “The Day of the Lord is at hand.” Jesus Christ is coming and He is coming soon.

We are closer to the return of Christ than we have ever been and God is calling Christians in the earth to be like the sons of Issachar. The sons of Issachar are described in scripture as being men who understood the times they were living in. Furthermore, they had wisdom in those times to know what to do (see 1 Chron. 12:32).

In much the same way, Christians today must understand the times they are living in. They must be skilled at taping into the wisdom of God so they will know how to respond to the times effectively. The foundation for receiving the wisdom of God in any time has to do with knowing the truth of God’s Word. The Bible teaches that in this earth, there are presently two kingdom systems at work and these two kingdom systems are diametrically opposed to one another.

The two kingdoms are referred to in scripture as the Kingdom of Darkness and the Kingdom of Light. Satan is the ruler over the Kingdom of Darkness and God (or Jesus) is the ruler over the Kingdom of Light. Furthermore, there are two groups of people who have citizenship in these two kingdoms. Anyone outside of fellowship with Christ has his/her citizenship in the Kingdom of Darkness (this is because of sin and the consequences of the Fall). However, anyone who is found to be “in Christ,” through faith, has his/her citizenship in God’s Kingdom or the Kingdom of Light (see Col. 1:13; Eph. 5:8).

These two kingdoms, composed of two groups of people, each have a plan and a vision for the earth. Light (Jesus) has a plan. He has a plan to restore all of humanity back into a right relationship with God. He has a plan to completely destroy the works of the devil and to bring the world back to the purpose that God had intended for the earth, and for humanity, before the fall.

Darkness (Satan), has a plan to keep the world lost in darkness and deception. The devil desires to have the whole world under his own evil dominion. Satan was never able to obtain the throne of God in heaven. Therefore, he wants the throne of God on this earth. Satan has every intention of leading the people on this earth to worship him as the only true god. Notice the following scriptures:

The book of Daniel 11:36 says, “Then the king [talking about the anti-Christ], shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done.”

In 2 Thes. 2:3-4, Paul writes,Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin[a] is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God[b] in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”

In Revelation 13:5-8 the Apostle John describes the Beast (who is the anti-Christ) saying, “And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue[a] for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe,[b] tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

 The conclusion is obvious, Satan has a vision and a goal of establishing a world system that will ultimately lead the world to worship him as god. The devil is doing this in phases so that hopefully the people of the world will be like frogs in a pot who do not realize they are being boiled in deception until it is to late, but God’s exhortation to believers is as follows: You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober (1 Thes. 5:5-6).”

 In conclusion, be like the sons of Issachar, discern the times, discern the kingdoms, operate according to the wisdom of God, and display the light of Jesus. Endure, persevere, and have a mind-set to overcome.

Note to reader: There was much more said in the audio version of this sermon. If you would like to listen to it, visit youtube and look up “The Day of the Lord Joel 2:1” and look for the “Living Flame” title page.

God Bless you.

A Transformed Heart (3)

Article written by Dr. Christi Butler / Nov. 2015

For the past couple of days I have been writing on the subject of how to live before the Lord with a transformed heart. In the first post I discussed the call of God on every Christian’s life to “be transformed” from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18). In the second post, I discussed the need to have a transformed mind (Rom. 12:2; Prov. 23:7), because what believers think about will affect their hearts. In today’s post I want to talk about God’s motive for desiring that people live with transformed hearts.

Transformation is part of the plan of God for every person. God desires that every person would be conformed into the image and likeness of God. God is working to change people individually, and by doing this, He is working to change the church and the world.

God is not without a plan for redeeming humanity. He is always working in the earth to bring humanity back into alignment with His original intention and purpose. The transformation process God is working out will begin within the hearts of individual believers. From there, God will build a glorious church that will work to transform the world, but if change is going to occur in the earth, it must begin with believers recognizing the need for change.

In an effort to help everyone see the need for change, I want to explain the vision that is in the heart of God for His people. In Ephesians 5:25-27, Paul writes, 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

From this verse it is evident that God desires to have a church that is “sanctified.” In plain English, this means that God wants a holy church that is set apart for His purposes. God wants a church body that is morally and ethically pure. Furthermore, Paul goes on to explain that God wants a church that is “glorious” and “without blemish.” God wants a church that radiates the light and life of God into the world. God wants a church that is so full of who He is, that the world will stand up and take notice. God wants the world to look at the church and see Jesus.

In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul expands on this vision for the church a bit more. He says,11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” 

So here again the Lord’s will is revealed. God desires to have a church that is built up, fully equipped, and fully mature. He wants a church that has grown up into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. If this is the clear will of God, as it has been revealed through the Word of God, then the obvious conclusion is this: the church has some work to do. The church is in desperate need to “transformation.”

For the believer, transformation begins at the moment of conversion and then continues throughout one’s life. Concerning the call to initial transformation through the new birth, Jesus taught about the need to be “born again.” In John chapter 3, Nicodemus approached the Lord and asked him how a person can gain access to the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Being born again is the first and initial step that every person must take if they wish to be transformed in their hearts.

The Apostle Paul goes on to explain that when a person is born again, he / she is spiritually reborn as a “new creation” in Christ. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” The Amplified Bible reads, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].”

What a tremendous description of transformation! Faith in Christ causes new birth in the spirit. The spirit becomes a “new creation,” and that new spiritual man has a new spiritual heart. Praise God!

However, being “born again” does not mean that continued growth is not required. All spiritual children are called by God to grow up. Every child has to grow. Therefore, change, growth, and transformation should continue throughout a Christian’s life.

I suppose I will end my blog post for today with this question, “Do you see that growth and change is continuing in your life and in your walk with God? Have you gone beyond the new birth experience and continued to allow the Lord to bring transformation in your life? How is the Lord presently changing you? What fruit is this change producing in your life? Selah. Pause and think on it. Blessings in the Lord and Happy Thanksgiving. This blog will be continued tomorrow.