The Greatest Lessons Series—Change Takes Place In the Presence of God

            Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines metamorphosis:  “to change into a different physical form, esp. by supernatural means; a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances.”  The Greek word metamorphoo occurs only four times in the New Testament.  Twice the verb is used with reference to Christ being “transfigured”  (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2).  When Christ was transfigured, his face and garments shined brightly like the sun.  The glory of God in the body of Christ was shining through him. 

            Most of us are familiar with the term “metamorphosis” from our science class in school.  We learned that the caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly through this amazing process of metamorphosis.  There is also a metamorphosis that must happen in our lives to be conformed to the image of Christ.

            The Bible states that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:23).  God showed His love for us by sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins (Romans 5:8).  When we put our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-13), the Holy Spirit comes to indwell our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  The beauty of Christ is in us in the person of the Holy Spirit.  God wants us to change from within by His Spirit.  This spiritual metamorphosis is found in Romans 12:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18.

            Remember the Greek word metamorphoo is only found four times in the New Testament.  Twice we find the word with reference to Christ’s transfiguration.  The only other times are in 2 Corinthians 3:18 and Romans 12:2.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:18 “But we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  This verse is about our being in the presence of God with an “open heart.”  We come before God with openness and honesty.  We come before Him with brokenness and submission.  We behold His glory and He changes us into the same image by His Spirit.  This is amazing and wonderful.  The word “change” in 2 Corinthians 3:18 and the word “transformed” in Romans 12:2 are both present tense continuous action verbs.  We are to “keep on being changed” by the Spirit of God.

In Romans 12:1-2 Paul wrote that we are to present our bodies a living sacrifice to God.  This speaks of surrender, honesty, openness—holding nothing back.  We are to stop being conformed to this world, but “keep on being transformed (changed)” that we might know and do His will.

The picture of a Christian who is constantly being changed is one who is surrendered in the presence of God with an open heart and an open Bible.  How is your prayer life?  Is your heart open to God?

©2014, Dr. Robert Franklin

The Greatest Lessons Series—Jesus loves me!

            Love is powerful!  Jesus said, “This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).  Paul wrote, “now abides faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).  Our greatest emotional need is to be  loved by someone.  We all want to be loved and to love.  My life has never been the same since I realized how much Jesus loves me.

One of my favorite passages is Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21.  Here is the passage: 

“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

In this passage we find Paul praying for the believers at Ephesus.  He was praying that they would be able to comprehend “the love of Christ.”  By comprehending the love of Christ they would be filled with all the fullness of God.  Think about what you just read….  Being filled with all the fullness of God happens in my life as I comprehend how much Christ loves me.

            I encourage you to memorize and meditate on this passage.  Ask God to show you how much He loves you—how much Christ loves you.  Pray that God would strengthen you in your inner person, that Christ would be at home in every area of your heart, that you would be more rooted and grounded in His love, that you would comprehend His love.  His love for us—His children—is broad, long, deep, and high.  Christ’s love for us passes knowledge—only God can reveal it to us.

            Knowing the love of Christ begins by putting your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Bible says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  The good news is that God sent His Son to pay for our sin (Romans 6:23; 5:8).  Each of us must receive Christ as our Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9, 10, 13).  I put my faith and trust in Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was seven years of age—fifty-three years ago.  If you have never committed your life to Christ, I pray that you will today.

            Thank you God for loving me!  Thank you Christ for the love the passes knowledge!  Thank you for filling me with all of Your fullness!

Do you know how much Christ loves you?

©2014, Dr. Robert Franklin

The Greatest Lessons Series: Lesson One—Who I Am in Christ

            God impressed on my heart to share a series of blogs concerning the greatest spiritual lessons I have learned so far in my life.  I will begin with the lesson of “who we are in Christ.”  Someone has suggested that the book of Ephesians could be divided into three sections:  1. Sit in your position in Christ; 2. Walk worthy of your calling; and 3. Stand against the wiles of the devil—Sit, Walk, and Stand.  In other words we must learn who we are in Christ before we can effectively walk worthy of our calling and walk in love with each other.  Further, as we sit in our position of who we are in Christ and walk worthy of our calling, we will be able to stand strong in the Lord against the wiles of the devil.

            I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior at the age of seven.  When I was fifteen, I surrendered my life to the gospel ministry.  I preached my first sermon at fifteen years of age.  I loved the Lord and wanted to please Him and serve Him with all my heart.  I preached in churches and witnessed on the streets.  What I didn’t realize, at that time, was that I had a drive in my life to “earn God’s love.”  I did not understand that God loved me and accepted me because of the redemptive work of Christ.  I knew that Jesus died for my sins, but I did not understand the full implication of Christ’s sacrifice for me.

            I rose early in the morning to spend time with God.  I was memorizing chapters and serving God with what I thought was all my heart.  I strove to do more and more to please my heavenly Father.  As I studied and sought the face of God, He began to gently show me how much He loved me.  He helped me to understand that I am His beloved—that I am accepted in the Beloved—that I am the righteousness of God in Christ—that I am His holy one.  I am none of these things in myself, but because I am “in Christ.”  Through God’s help the “scales fell from my eyes.”  God set me free from vainly striving to earn His love.  He opened my eyes to who I am in Christ.

            I have many of the same disciplines today that I had in my youth.  The difference today is I no longer serve God to earn His love—I serve Him because of His love!

Are you resting in God’s love for you or are you striving to earn something God has already given you through His Son?

©2014, Dr. Robert Franklin

Come to a Deliberate Judgment

From the Life of George Mueller

George Mueller’s final principle states:  “Thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of your ability and knowledge and if your mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, proceed accordingly.”  Mueller opens this statement by summarizing his first five principles.  Critical to his first principles are prayer and the study of the Word.  Our reflection on circumstances and having no will of our own should be in this context—prayer and the Word.  Mueller’s point of coming to deliberate judgment keeps us from “putting off” making a decision.

Let’s consider why we might “put off” coming to a deliberate judgment.  One reason might be that we are waiting for God to write it down, speak audibly, or send an angel to tell us what to do.  God could certainly do this, but we need to realize that there is some subjectivity in hearing God and knowing His will.  Once we have done everything that Mueller has suggested through his first five principles, it is time to make a decision.  You say, “what if I get it wrong?”  Well, God is bigger than our mistakes.  Hearing God and making decisions, as we seek Him and His will, is not just about getting all of our decisions right, another outcome might be growing in our knowledge and love of God. 

Fear of failure is another possible reason for not making a decision.  You could be thinking, “If I am wrong, I will fail.”  Someone has said that we are not a failure when we fail, but we are a failure when we are afraid to try.  Remember, God loves you.  Nothing can separate you from God’s love (Romans 8:35-39).  Making the best decision you can while seeking to do God’s will and getting it wrong will not separate you from God’s love.  I love what Mueller said after the statement “come to a deliberate decision”—“according to the best of your ability and knowledge.”  God wants you and me to make the best decision we can based on our ability and knowledge.  Don’t be paralyzed with fear that you might get it wrong.

Mueller next emphasizes the importance of having peace as you come before God on two or three occasions with this deliberate judgment.  The apostle Paul encouraged us to “let the peace of God rule” in our hearts (Colossians 3:15).  The Holy Spirit can either bear witness to our spirit and we can have “peace” in a given matter, or we can have unrest in our spirit.  I have found over the years of knowing God and seeking His direction that having this “peace” in our heart is essential.  We wrote in an earlier blog that Paul had an open door, but had “no rest in his spirit” (2 Corinthians 2:13).  Having “rest in his spirit” was important to Paul.  Having peace in our heart should be important to us.

Once you have made this deliberate judgment and have peace in your heart, “proceed accordingly.  In other words, there is a time for everything.  There is a time to seek God’s face in a given matter and there is a time to make a deliberate judgment and proceed in life.  Seek God, make the decision and proceed.

Have you ever experienced paralysis in decision-making?  Has the fear of failure held you back from making a deliberate decision?

©2014, Dr. Robert C. Franklin

Ask God to Reveal His Will to You

From the life of George Mueller

            The fifth principle that George Mueller suggested in discerning God’s will is so basic, yet profound:  “Ask God in prayer to reveal His will to you aright.”  Matthew stated:  “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).  A couple of verses later Matthew wrote:  “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11).  The apostle Paul prayed and desired (asked) that the Colossian believers would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will (Colossians 1:11).  James exhorted that if we lack wisdom we should ask God who gives liberally (James 1:5).  Later James stated that “we have not, because we ask not” (James 4:2).  Discerning God’s will in a given matter should of necessity bring us before God.  Remember, God created us to be in relationship with Him.  Don’t miss the obvious truth that we need to come before God in prayer and ask Him to reveal His will to us.

            As we are in God’s presence in prayer, God can show us anything in our heart that hinders us from knowing His will.  Jesus stated, “Not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42).  Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). 

            Let’s be sure we are “asking God in prayer to reveal His will to us aright” as we seek to know His will.

Have you ever been so busy trying to figure out God’s will that you forgot to pray?

©2014, Dr. Robert Franklin

Take into Account Providential Circumstances when Discerning God’s Will

From the life of George Mueller

 The fourth principle followed by George Mueller in discerning God’s will is to:  “Take into account providential circumstances.  These often plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit.” 

God is involved in the lives of His children.  Jesus gave John instruction about opened and closed doors in his message to the church of Philadelphia.  Jesus stated:  “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (Revelation 3:7-8).  God can open and close doors of opportunity in our lives.  Mueller is encouraging us to pay attention to these providential circumstances.  But, it is important to consider them always “in connection with His Word and Spirit.” 

The apostle Paul had an open door that he did not enter.  If Paul had only considered circumstances in discerning God’s will he might have walked through the door.  In 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 Paul stated that when he came to Troas to preach the gospel, he had a door opened unto him of the Lord.  He went on to say that Titus was not there and he had no rest in his spirit.  As a result, Paul left Troas and proceeded to Macedonia. 

As believers, we are to “be led by the Spirit” (Romans 8:14) and “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16).  Paul stated in Romans 8:16 that the “Spirit bears witness to our spirit.”  Paul had circumstances in Troas—an open door, but he did not have rest in his spirit.  God’s Spirit was not bearing witness to his spirit about this opportunity.  Why would God place a door in front of us without the intent of our walking through it?  Perhaps God wants us to learn how to hear Him and discern His will.  Sometimes circumstances alone could be a test of obedience to God’s Word and Spirit.  When the circumstance is considered in connection to God’s Word and His Spirit the right decision might be “to go on to Macedonia.”

On another occasion Paul had an open door with “many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9).  In this situation, some may think, “this can’t be God, because of the adversity.”  However, when the circumstance is considered in light of the Word and the Spirit one would find that adversity in doing God’s will is normal and even to be expected.

The important point to grasp here is that circumstances—open doors—can help us know God’s will, but should be considered in connection to the other principles outlined by Mueller.

Have you ever had an open door, but no rest in your spirit—no peace in your heart?  What did you do?  Have you had an open door with adversity, but through the Word and God’s Spirit you walked through the open door?  How did it turn out?

©2014, Dr. Robert Franklin

Seek the Will of God through the Word of God

From the life of George Mueller

            The third principle in George Mueller’s approach to discerning God’s will is to “seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God.”  Once we have come to a place of “having no will of our own” and we are not depending on “feeling or simple impression,” we are ready to seek the will of the Spirit of God.

            The believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”  God has placed His Spirit within us as the “earnest” (guarantee) of our inheritance as His children (Ephesians 1:14).  The Spirit of God guides us into all truth (John 16:13) and reveals the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10).  God tells us to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16) and “be led by the Spirit” (Romans 8:14).  God reveals His will to us through His Holy Spirit who indwells us.

            According to Mueller, we are to seek the will of the Spirit of God through or in connection with the Word of God.  David wrote that God’s Word is a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path” (Psalm 119:105).  The apostle Paul exhorted to stop being conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).  Critical to renewing our minds is reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Word of God.  The result of renewing our minds is being able to discern God’s will.

            God is faithful to help us know His will.  We must be faithful to seek His will as we walk in the Spirit and are led by the Spirit in connection to His Word.

Is the Word of God a priority in your life?

©2014, Dr. Robert Franklin

Do Not Depend on Feeling or Simple Impression When Discerning God’s Will

Principle two from the life of George Mueller

The second principle in George Mueller’s approach to discerning God’s will is:  “Do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression.  If so, you make yourself liable to great delusion.”  In this situation, a person is looking only to himself or herself in making a decision.  Proverbs 21:2 tells us that “Every way of a man [is] right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.”  Rather than looking to our own heart, we need God to show us the true condition of our heart as we seek His face and His will.  “The fining pot [is] for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts” (Proverbs 17:3).

God wants us to love the truth more than our feelings and impressions.  Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians that God will send strong delusion to people who do not receive the love of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).  In Mueller’s later principles he encourages prayer, the Word of God, and the leading of the Spirit.  All of these put us in the position of looking to God and not to ourselves in seeking His will.

            Discerning God’s will in a given situation is not easy.  God could have made it easy, but He chose not to.  Why?  God is conforming us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  God uses struggles in life to accomplish this purpose.  The struggle to hear God, to know His will, breaks us and brings us to the end of ourselves. 

Have you ever depended on feeling alone or simple impression in decision making?  How did it turn out?

©2014, Dr. Robert Franklin

Having No Will of Your Own in Discerning God’s Will

First Principle of George Mueller’s Approach

            The first principle of George Mueller’s approach to discerning God’s will was to get your heart to such a state as having no will of your own in a given matter.  Jesus is our greatest example concerning this principle.  Jesus said, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).  Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane before his trial and crucifixion.  He agonized in the garden in prayer.  During this prayer Jesus cried out the words, “not my will but thine be done.”  On another occasion Jesus said he sought not his own will, but the will of His Father who sent him (John 5:30).  This should be the cry of our heart especially when we are trying to discern the will of God, as Mueller states, “in a given matter.”

            When the disciples came to Jesus and asked him to teach them to pray, one of the elements of prayer is “thy will be done” (Luke 11:2).  Simply put, we should desire to do the will of the Father as we follow the example of Christ.  This should be the desire of our heart and our constant prayer.  Ultimately, we were created by God for this purpose—“to do His will” (Revelation 4:11).

            In coming to a place of having no will of your own, I suggest first submitting yourself to God in prayer (James 4:7).  In discerning God’s will and having no will of your own, you need the grace of God.  God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).  By this I mean actually praying a prayer that states, “Heavenly Father, I am seeking Your will in (state the situation).  I submit my will to You in this matter.  I pray that You would bring to the place of having no will of my own as I seek Your direction.”

            The second step I would suggest is a very practical project.  List the pros and cons regarding the decision.  I heard this suggestion when I was in my early twenties and it has proved very helpful.  I simply take a sheet of paper (or your laptop) and create two columns.  In one column list all the pros connected to the decision.  In the other column list all the cons.  Having the same number of pros and cons helps you see that regardless of which way you go you can rejoice in God’s direction.  Remember, ultimately we need to hear God’s Spirit speak to us through His Word, but having no will of our own is important.  We are in a better position to have unbiased listening.

Do you have any practical tips to coming to a place of having no will of your own?

©2014, Dr. Robert Franklin

How to Ascertain the Will of God

 Have you had the experience of agonizing over a decision?  We all make decisions everyday.  Some decisions are more important than others, but regardless of the magnitude of the decision we would like to make the right decision. 

George Mueller was the director of an orphanage in the 1800s in Bristol, England.  Mueller cared for over 10,000 orphans in his life.  He was known as a godly man and a man of prayer. 

When I was a seminary student back in the mid 1970s, I found six principles about discerning God’s will from George Mueller’s life.  These were discovered while reading a biography on George Mueller.  Regarding these principles, Mueller said, “In trivial matters and in transactions involving most important issues, I have found this method always effective.”

  1. Get your heart to such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter.
  2. Do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression.  If so, you make yourself liable to great delusion.
  3. Seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God.
  4. Take into account providential circumstances.  These often plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit.
  5. Ask God in prayer to reveal His will to you aright.
  6. Thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of your ability and knowledge and if your mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, proceed accordingly.

What do you think of George Mueller’s approach to discerning God’s will for his life?  What approach do you use?

©2014, Dr. Robert Franklin