Paul’s testimony: how he uses the mind of Christ

2 Corinthians 6:4

Today we learn how effectively Paul use both his mind and spirit: aligned with the mind of Christ and the Spirit of Christ.

His challenge list reads like a horror movie, far worse than any nightmare: five times whipped with 39 stripes each, three times beaten by rod, once stoned, three times shipwrecked, one night and one day in the deep, in journeys often, in perils of waters, robbers, own countrymen, gentiles, city, wilderness, sea, false brethren, weariness, toil, sleeplessness often, hunger, thirst, fasting often, cold, nakedness, deep concern for all churches, threat of imminent arrest (his life) from city authority. He was in constant physical and mind challenges: in much patience, tribulations, needs, distresses, stripes, imprisonments, tumults, and labors. (2 Corinthians 11:24-26; 6:4-5)

Imagine a human always being hounded, on the look-out, on the run, slandered, taunted, intimidated, verbally and physically abused, violently assaulted, falsely accused, brutally arrested, beaten, condemned as guilty without evidence, imprisoned without a just trial, and always overhung with the death sentence.

But what did Paul say about his conditions? How did he deal with such an overload of injustice and schemes of torments after his life? His letters showed how he looked at things both sides. He lived in both the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man, the spiritual and the physical realms, the temporary and the eternal, the external and the internal, the seen and the unseen. To Paul, both were real. He really experienced them, the natural and the supernatural. By knowing the two parallel realities Paul was able to handle the challenges confidently and overcome them successfully. Because his focus and priority are always on the side of the real victor, Christ.

He explained this plainly in his letters (2 Corinthians 6:6-10). There are two sides in everything: the view of the enemy and the view of a Spirit-filled Christian (reflecting God’s view). The evil and the good. The good will always overpower the evil one. Paul effectively and fearlessly exercised his spiritual power and authority over his unseen foe who worked through other human and natural elements. I append below self-explanatory Bible verses on this awesome revelation!

2 Corinthians 6:4-10 (NKJV)

But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much [a]patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by [b]sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Corinthians 6:4 endurance
  2. 2 Corinthians 6:6 Lit. unhypocritical

Acts 26:24-26 The Passion Translation (TPT)

24 Festus interrupted Paul’s defense,[a] blurting out, “You’re out of your mind! All this great learning of yours is driving you crazy.”[b]

25 Paul replied, “No, Your Excellency Festus, I am not crazy. I speak the words of truth and reason.[c] 26 King Agrippa, I know I can speak frankly and freely with you, for you understand these matters well, and none of these things have escaped your notice. After all, it’s not like it was a secret!

Footnotes:

  1. Acts 26:24 The Aramaic can be translated “As the Holy Spirit spoke through Paul, Festus interrupted.”
  2. Acts 26:24 Or “So much Scripture has made you senseless!”
  3. Acts 26:25 Or “words of sober truth.”
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today we run the race of Christian faith

2016 lakeThe Race of Faith
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Discipline of God
3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”[a]
7 If[b] you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Renew Your Spiritual Vitality
12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

The Glorious Company
18 For you have not come to the mountain that[c] may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness[d] and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned[e] or shot with an arrow.”[f] 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”[g])

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

Hear the Heavenly Voice
25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake[h] not only the earth, but also heaven.”[i] 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may[j] serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

Footnotes:

Hebrews 12:6 Proverbs 3:11, 12
Hebrews 12:7 NU-Text and M-Text read It is for discipline that you endure; God . . . .
Hebrews 12:18 NU-Text reads to that which.
Hebrews 12:18 NU-Text reads gloom.
Hebrews 12:20 NU-Text and M-Text omit the rest of this verse.
Hebrews 12:20 Exodus 19:12, 13
Hebrews 12:21 Deuteronomy 9:19
Hebrews 12:26 NU-Text reads will shake.
Hebrews 12:26 Haggai 2:6
Hebrews 12:28 M-Text omits may.

(The Holy Scripture is quoted from the Holy Bible: Hebrews 12 New King James Version (NKJV))

Behold! The Kingdom of God has come!

2Co1.20

The Kingdom of God has come and Christians can live in the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, just as the prayer that Jesus has taught His believers pray daily. What does it mean? It means we live in the presence of God and we live a life different from that of the unbelievers. When they believe in Jesus they can live inside this Kingdom too. While in the Kingdom we enjoy the abundant life and supernatural protection and undeserved favor of God, a supernatural living over the natural world——under the grace and mercy of God.

Is there a proof of this in the Bible? Yes. We read Acts 27 afresh today to see the proof.

God will tell us what he has planned for Christians to accomplish in this world. He will guide us to make the right decision at the right time in the right manner. This includes all aspects of our daily living. There are two things He will tell us: What His believers should do, and what the unbelieving world will encounter. The same physical natural storm comes upon both believers and unbelievers. The outcome will be different when Christians live the Kingdom of God life.

Here is a brief summary of the difference between those living in the Kingdom of God (people of God) and those living outside (people of the world): THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS REAL WHERE CHRISTIANS LIVE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD AND LIVE IN THE SPIRITUAL REALITY OF THE UNSEEN REALM OF GOD.

1. What the world saw was merely physical and not the unseen: In the eyes of the world at the beginning of the journey, Paul was a mere prisoner just like any other prisoners. And he had no control over the journey. (Acts 27:1-8)

2. Paul gave his advice even when no one listened: but the world chose to listen to the wisdom of the physical man and not to God through a spiritual man. (Acts 27:9-13)

3. The storm event confirmed God’s words: the prediction of Paul, a spiritual man who lived in the Kingdom of God. (Acts 27:14-20)

4. God showed His favor for His own people: that even though the unbelievers chose to go their destructive way, because of the presence of His people (Paul and his fellow Christians) on board, His supernatural protection would also include those who happened to be on board with His people. An angel told Paul this, “God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” Just imagine, God favored Paul so much that the presence of Paul on board had saved the lives of all other on board as long as they stayed with Paul. (Acts 27:21-36) Why? Because Paul lived in the Kingdom of God, with the mighty presence of the living God!

5. When the unbelievers believed and obeyed God’s advice through Paul (a Kingdom of God citizen), continued to stay with Paul and even took steps to stop wanting to kill or harm him, the unbelievers were all saved and reached shore safely. (Acts 27:37-44)

This is how the Kingdom of God works.

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Acts 27

21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

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42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

Three perfect storms (3): “Prepared”!

Tropical-like_cyclone1
Mediterranean Sea tropical-like-cyclone November 2014

“Prepared” is the only word today to counter the unexpected. This seems paradoxical. How can one be prepared if what will come is unexpected? In the three perfect storm scenarios we study, one key common denominator is the preparedness of the three protagonists involved: Jesus, Apostle Paul and Prophet Jonah. Today we read Paul’s experience at sea, encountering a hurricane and shipwreck.**

HOW DID APOSTLE PAUL RIDE THE STORM? Like the other two examples we have read, he was well prepared in the Word of God and in the Spirit, remained calm, with the peace of Jesus in him, and even offered authoritative and accurate prophetic advice to the Roman Imperial centurion who was in charge. He did not have to worry or respond to the threatening storm. He continued his usual normal life of staying in the presence of God, praying and listening to the Lord’s instructions.

Take note of the change of attitude of the centurion. Paul was proven correct on his earlier prediction of the danger at sea. The centurion decided to listen to him after Paul was proven right -the life threatening storm arrived and hit them with the disastrous impact just as Paul had predicted. Finally, the whole ship-load of 276 men on board reached land safely despite the loss of the ship and the life boats too. Where did Paul acquire such accurate discernment and ability to do (say) the right thing at the right time?

Paul himself gave this answer:And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of powerthat your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5) “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10)

~~~~~~~~~~~~Acts 27 (NIV) (Quoted in parts; boldness added)
When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over 5 When we had sailed across the open sea …, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course

Paul gave his first warning but the leader would not listen

9 Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement*. So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship… the majority decided that we should sail on, …

Paul’s warning came true: the dangerous storm came and hit them

14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster (Euroclydon), swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm … 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

Paul’s second advice and testimony: prophecy and assurance it will come true

21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said:Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

Paul’s third advice and warning: This time they listened and believed

27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, … 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea… 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.

Paul’s fourth advice and act of faith: This time they followed

33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board…

Paul’s prediction came true: Everyone reached land safely, not one perished.

39 When daylight came, …But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. 42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

*DAY OF ATONEMENT: Occurs in the fall, the tenth day of Tishri. In A.D. 59 this would have been October 5 (Marshall 1980:406).

**The ancients divided the navigational year on the Mediterranean into four periods. Sea travel on the Mediterranean ceased between November 11 and March 10. The dangers of “winter sailing” are: scant daylight, long nights, dense cloud cover, poor visibility and the double raging of winds, showers and snows. Paul, some other prisoners and Paul’s companions (including Luke) were put on a cargo ship sailing to Italy. The ship sailed at this dangerous time and encountered with Euroclydon, a cyclonic tempestuous northeast wind which blows in the Mediterranean, mostly in autumn and winter. The winds may or may not have rain mixed with them and come from the northeast often with a cyclonic circulation. They usually come up quickly, unexpectedly, and intensely. This was the great storm that wrecked their ship around AD 59.

Three perfect storms in Bible (1) The Overcomers

Jonah's storm
Jonah’s storm

What are the three storms recorded in the Bible that still impact our lives today?  What are the common key(s) of overcoming the storms? Reading afresh the respective story of the storms encountered by Jonah, Jesus, and the apostle Paul (in chronological order), we shall find the amazing answers to overcoming the storm of FEAR. We shall read in three parts (in three days in chronological sequence). The first story is about the supernatural encounter of prophet Jonah.

JONAH’S STORM (quoted in parts from Jonah chapters 1-2; boldness of some verses added by this watchman; my notes are in italics).

THE WORD OF THE LORD CAME: in all three instances the Word of God is a significant deciding factor. In the case of Jonah and Paul they could hear God’s word (speaking to them in their spirit). God wants the ones who can hear Him to pay attention, believe and take action.  In the case of Jonah he chose not to listen even when he had heard clearly and specifically. He knew the consequences of his own decision against God’s decision about the lives of others at stake. He braved his own little body and soul (‘rightly’ constrained by his love and loyalty to his own nation, which had suffered thousands of years due to jealousy, hate, persecutions and oppression through recurring cruel conquests by enemy nations which surrounded her) against the foreseeable great personal storm to no avail. Why? Because God’s Word has spoken. God speaks of His mercy and wants to forgive and He gives an appointed time for them to repent, turn away from their wickedness and believe in the holy God, so that they may also be included in His Kingdom reserved for the Redeemed. God shows to even those who hate Him that He is a gracious and merciful God. But He has set a time frame for their repentance as shown in the case of the city of Nineveh.

ON THE QUESTION OF OVERCOMING FEAR: Jonah slept during the storm which threatened the lives of others as well as his on-board the same ship. Why? Was he oblivious of the big problem? From his conversation with others and with God, there was no question that he knew God. Knowing God is a key to overcoming fear. He was angry but fearless. The ship did not sink. God had not finished with him yet. Jonah knew it was a matter of time before he had to face God and not hide. From beginning to end of this episode Jonah was in the presence of a living God. And he knew this. 

KEY TO OVERCOME STORM: He prayed. And God heard his prayer.

After Jonah obeyed and preached to the city of Nineveh (modern-day Mosul, Iraq), because of the repentance of the king and all his people, it was given a respite from destruction. The Book of Jonah depicted events from the reign of the Hebrew King Jeroboam II (786-746 BC). While, in The Book of Jonah, the city is spared the wrath of God, other references to Nineveh in the Bible (The Books of Nahum and Zephaniah, among them) predict the destruction of the city by God’s will because they reverted to their wickedness against God’s people. In 612 BC the city of Nineveh was sacked and burned by the allied forces of the Persians, Medes, Babylonians, and others who then divided the region between them. The area was sparsely populated thereafter and, slowly, the ancient ruins became buried in earth.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Bible verses from Jonah chapters 1-2 (in parts)

1:1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah …, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He …found a ship going to Tarshish; …to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, [a]But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep. So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; …” So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.

10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” …What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous. 12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; …” 15 .. and the sea ceased from its raging. ..

17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. 2:1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. And he said: “I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, And He answered me…Salvation is of the Lord.” 10 So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Jesus said: Who are the overcomers?

revelation12_11_01Who are the overcomers? We read what the Bible says.

Psalm 112:5-7 New King James Version (NKJV) He will never be shaken because his heart is steadfast and trusts in God

A good man deals graciously and lends;
He will guide his affairs with discretion.
Surely he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.
He will not be afraid of evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

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Psalm 119:133 God’s words overcome evil.

Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil.
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Mark 9:23-24 Turn to Jesus and you will overcome your unbelief

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

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Jesus told His disciples He has overcome the world (ruled by Satan)
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
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Jesus’ disciples overcame too! So can Jesus’ followers today -those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus. (Revelation 12:17)
Revelation 12:11 end time overcomers against “the great dragon, the serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9)
“And thy overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and thy did not love their lives to the death.”
James 4:7
Therefor submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.