devos from the hill


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What is an Authentic Christian?

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

In our last two devotionals, we discussed the importance of honest and authentic communication in the body of Christ. Along the way, we touched briefly on the question of what it means to be an “authentic Christian.” Today, we’ll dig a little deeper into that subject.

As was noted in our discussion, there are thousands of books and sermons addressing what it means to be an authentic Christian, even though the term never actually appears in the Bible. Most writers and expositors define an authentic Christian in terms of performance (what a person does, or how he/she behaves.)  However looking at the primary definition of “authentic”; of undisputed origin, we concluded that authenticity as a Christian has more to do with nature than performance. As we discussed, just as an authentic apple tree will ultimately bear apples, so also, an authentic Christian will ultimately be inclined to walk in a manner that is consistent with his/her nature.

What then is an “authentic Christian?” Ontology is the study of the nature of being. An ontologist would tell us there is a significant relationship between the nature of a being and the life of a being. So, in order to understand the nature, and hopefully the definition, of an “authentic Christian,” let’s look at a word that does appear in Scripture; “life.”

In the New Testament, three Greek words are translated as the word, life.

  1. Bios (used over 10 times in the New Testament) is the life of the physical body. It is where we get the word biology.
  2. Psuche or Psyche (used over 100 times in the New Testament) is the life of the human soul, that is, the mind, emotion, and will. It is where we get the word psychology.
  3. Zoe (used over 130 times in the New Testament) is the divine life uniquely possessed by God. It is real life in all its fullness. “I have come that they may have life (zoe) and may have (zoe) abundantly.” – John 10:10

In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explains the significant difference between Bios and Zoe.

“In reality, the difference between Biological life and Spiritual life is so important that I am going to give them two distinct names. The Biological sort which come to us through Nature, and which (like everything else in Nature) is always tending to run down and decay so that it can only be kept up by incessant subsidies from Nature in the form of air, water, food, etc. is Bios. The Spiritual life which is in God from all eternity, and which made the whole natural universe is Zoe. Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to Zoe: but only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and a place, or statue and a man. A man who changed from having Bios to having Zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man. And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumor going around that some of us are some day going to come to life.”

In this excerpt, C.S. Lewis deals with the difference between Zoe and Bios. However, the difference between Zoe and Psuche is just as significant. Whether a person is “born again” (John 3:3–7) and has Zoe, or not, the soul is eternal. The difference that Zoe makes has to do with the eternal destiny and quality of the life of the soul.

I came to faith in Christ at the age of 22. Prior to that time, I was involved in Eastern mysticism. I had a very active Psuche (Soul), but I did not have Zoe (His Life). When Jesus flooded my life (Psuche) with His Life (Zoe), I immediately sensed a change. The blinders were lifted from the eyes of my soul. The world seemed brighter and more vivid. Time seemed to move slower. It was as if the whole universe has suddenly come into focus. That was His life in me. That was Zoe!

I’ve talked with many others about their “born again” experience; what theologians call regeneration.  Not everyone has such a dramatic experience, particularly those who came to faith in Christ at an early age. Coming to Christ as a young child doesn’t allow much time for the world to shape a soul. So then, I would not propose that the dramatic change I experienced is the only defining, or even the main, evidence of Zoe in a person.

I would propose that the main evidence of Zoe has to do with our disposition toward God, and toward sin.  And by sin, I not only refer to actions that offend God, I also refer to the power of sin that dwells in the flesh of every person. I have talked with people who struggle with a habit they know is harmful and does not honor God, even to the point of questioning their salvation. Their behavior and struggle may be chronic, but they are not “OK” with it. They never stop wanting to live in a way that pleases God. I believe that it is the Zoe in them that gives them the motivation to get back up and continue seeking God, no matter how many times they fall.

Dear friend, please to do not miss the significance of what I am trying to communicate. Some people would say that the sign of an authentic Christian is how well he/she walks the walk. While there is some truth in that statement, I would strongly insist it is not the main sign. Anyone can fake the Christian walk for short periods of time. In my opinion, it is the person who never stops struggling, who never gives up the fight, who is never “OK” with sin, who gets up when he/she falls and keeps going. It is the Zoe (His Life) in a person that makes this possible.

Simply stated, an authentic Christian is a person who has Zoe.  How’s the Zoe in you today?

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. – John 6:35

 


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Let’s Get Real

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

Part 1 on The Importance of Honesty and Authenticity in Team Communication

I have always been amazed at the way a flock of birds or a school of fish can move together in perfect unison. This synchronized movement is called murmuration. And while scientists are getting closer to understanding what kind communication makes this possible, there is still much that is unknown about murmuration.

I believe that this natural phenomenon is a picture of the way the Body of Christ should move in this world. I pray that this is how the team at Mars Hill would move, under the divine orchestration of the Holy Spirit, as we pursue the mission to which our Father has called us.

Honest and authentic communication is key to this kind of Spirit-led, coordinated movement. This is the first of two devotionals on this subject.

29 It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. – Exodus 34:29-30 

34 But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, 35 the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him. – Exodus 34:34-35

12  Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 13  and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14  But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted because it is removed in Christ. – 2 Corinthians 3:12-14

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. – 2 Corinthians 3:17

In 1980, Mars Hill released a short film called Face Value. That film was inspired by the example of Moses as recorded in Exodus 34 and 2 Corinthians 3. When Moses personally spent time in the presence of God, his face actually began to shine with the glory of God. Because of this, Moses hid his face behind a veil when he returned to be with the people. He did this for two reasons.

Reading the Old Testament account, we learn that Moses did not want to cause fear in the people when they saw his shining face. Reading the New Testament account we discover the second reason. Moses did not want the people to witness the fading of this glory.

Like a veil, a mask is used to cover one’s face. In the movie, Face Value, the characters wore masks to hide what they were really thinking and feeling; their fears, insecurities, and sense of unworthiness. Such feelings are common to all people, but for fear of rejection, few are able to be honest about them and reveal them to others.

Living our lives behind masks creates distance between us. And in that space, the enemy has room to move, fostering mistrust and indifference. It is certainly not the kind of relationship that creates the unity a team of people needs in order to move in Spirit-led unison to pursue their mission.

The accounts in Exodus 34 and 2 Corinthians 3 illustrate the difference between the temporary glory of the Old Covenant and permanent glory of the New Covenant. Paul likens the veil over Moses’ face to the spiritual veil that covers the hearts of those who are under the Old Covenant of law.  And in verse 14, Paul writes that this veil is removed in Christ.

Moving down to verse 17 we read, “. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” That is the key to transparent and honest communication! Because Jesus has purchased our forgiveness with His blood on the cross, we have a basis by which we can be forgiven by God, we can forgive each other, and we can even forgive ourselves. From Romans 8:1 we read, “. . . there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  We don’t have to fear rejection. Now you may be thinking, “I believe that to be true, so why don’t I feel that I have that freedom?”

Unpacking verse 17, a little further, consider the phrase, “. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is. . .”

Now any astute student of the Bible will tell you that God is omnipresent, He is everywhere. And in Colossians 1:16-20 we read of the pre-imminence of Christ. He is before all and He holds everything together. So, is Paul just being rhetorical when he uses this phrase, “. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is. . .”? No, he is not.

God is everywhere, but we must allow Him to have His way in us and among us. He does not bypass our will to receive His forgiveness, nor does He bypass our will in forgiving others, or ourselves. In Paul’s terms, the Spirit of the Lord is where the Spirit of the Lord is welcomed.

What can we do as a team to foster the kind of unison that is modeled for us in the natural world of birds and fish? Trust the Spirit. Drop the masks. Get real. Pursue transparent and honest communication. Create a culture of forgiveness. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32.

Read Part 2 on The Importance of Honesty and Authenticity in Team Communication.


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The Safest Place on Earth

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a safe place? This is a story about the safest place on earth.

In 1985 Mars Hill was working on a film called Angel of Light. It dealt with the “New Age” movement and spiritual deception. One evening while in production, my wife, Nancy, and children were on the set. I could see that filming was going well past midnight, so I suggested to Nancy that she take the children home. She was driving our van, and on the way home, while stopped at an intersection, several men approached the van and started banging on the doors, trying to turn the handles and open them.

With the men pulling at the doors, Nancy hit the accelerator and sped off. Arriving home, she got out and went to open the side passenger door to let the children out. The van door was a little ajar and slid open easily at her touch. What kept those men from doing the same?

Nancy was still awake when I got home and related the whole story. We prayed together and thanked God for keeping them from harm, then settled down and went to sleep. Later that morning, while it was still dark, something woke me up. I felt as though someone was watching us. I sat up and saw two figures just beyond the sliding glass door from our bedroom to our patio.

One figure was clearly in focus and the other was behind and somewhat translucent. Both were imposing in stature and cast in bright light. I pinched myself to make sure I was really awake. Could it be? Angels! They did not speak, but a great sense of awe and then peace came over me. Like a flash of light on an unexposed piece of film, their image was etched in my mind. And then, they vanished. Continue reading


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Have You Discovered the Christian Life is Not Difficult … It’s Impossible?!

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

A Verse That Will Change Your Life
from Fred Carpenter

If I had to name a handful of Bible verses that have most changed my life and work with Mars Hill, Galatians 2:20 would definitely be one of them.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20 NASB

Giving it All and Hitting the Wall – How this Came to be Such an Important Verse to Me

In 1983, I had just completed our most difficult film project to that date. Although the project was highly successful, I was totally spent from all the pressures of making it happen. I hit the wall hard and found myself wondering if I could keep this up and do it all over again. Not only had the stress drained me mentally, but I wound up in the hospital with some physical issues caused by the way I had pushed myself. I remember my Dad saying, “Fred, you have to quit trying to save the world in your own strength.”

It was at this time that I was introduced to a book by Dr. Bill and Annabel Gillham called “Lifetime Guarantee.” Their teaching in this book expanded on the truths we find in Galatians 2:20. It set me free. I discovered that the life God has for us is not really about what we do for Christ, but rather, what He does through us.

The Exchanged Life – His New Life for Our Old One

Hudson Taylor said that Galatians 2:20 taught what he referred to as “The Exchanged Life” (Consider investing a few hours and read his short but powerful story of the exchanged life in Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret). Taylor understood that none of us can live the Christian life in our own strength or resist temptation by our own will power. He came to realize that only Christ can successfully live the victorious Christian life for it is, after all, His resurrection life which reflects His victory over the power of sin and death. Continue reading


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A Tale of Three Kings – Chapter 5

The Mars Hill staff is in a series of devotionals drawn from the book, A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. We share highlights from the book each week, but we invite you to get a copy and read along with us. The drama is a multi-act play telling the stories of three kings. It is a portrait of submission and authority within the Kingdom of God; offering hope and healing to the spiritually wounded.

Chapter Five

From the time we are born, our most basic goal is to grow, learn, and mature. This happens on a physical level, an emotional level, a mental and intellectual level, and a spiritual level. While much of our learning is concrete and can be easily acquired through parents and education, there are other aspects of becoming the people God means for us to be that require a different kind of schooling.

In our devotional today, the author suggests that God has a sacred school of submission and brokenness. It is not a school that many sign up for willingly because being broken can be a painful process. What does it mean to be broken? The kind of brokenness we are talking about here is similar to the breaking of a horse. As a wild animal, a horse has much potential and power, but no discipline or true direction. And if you think about it, a wild horse has the “appearance” of freedom, but it is only the freedom to be wild and live for self. Continue reading


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Man’s Thoughts – God’s Thoughts

The following is a list of thoughts and attitudes, common to us all. But, each and every discouraging statement is countered by a glorious truth from God and His Word. If you are struggling or downhearted, read His words; let His declarations wash over you and renew your perspective.

 

“It’s impossible”
All things are possible with Me.
“The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” – Luke 18:27

“I’m too tired”
 I will give you rest.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

“I feel unloved”
I love you.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“I can’t go on”
My grace is sufficient.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, So that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” –2Corinthians 12:9

“I can’t figure this out”
 I will direct your steps.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5,6
“Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21

“I can’t do it”
You can do all things.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

“I’m not able”
I am able.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” – 2Corinthians 9:8

“It’s not worth it”
It will be worth it.
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” – Galatians 6:9

“I can’t forgive myself”
I forgive you.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” –1John 1:9
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

“I can’t resist this temptation”
I have provided a way.
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” – 1Corinthians 10:13
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7

“I don’t have enough to make it”
 I will supply all your needs.
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

“I’m afraid”
 You do not have to be afraid. I am here and I’ve got this.
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. – 2Timothy 1:7
“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

“I am anxious and stressed”
You can cast all your cares on Me.
“. . . humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. – 1Peter 5:7

“I don’t have enough faith”
I have given you all the faith you need.
“God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” – Romans 12:3

“I’m not smart enough”
 I give you wisdom and the mind of Christ.
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – James – 1:5
“Who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 2:16

“I feel alone”
I am with you.
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20
“I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU” – Hebrews 13:5

“I feel inadequate”
You are complete.
“. . . in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority” – Colossians 2:10


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Who are You?

In Adam vs. In Christ

The Lord sees the spiritual condition of mankind in two ways…we are either “in Adam” or “in Christ.” In today’s devotional,  we examined the following scriptures which reveal to us the characteristics of one who is “in Adam,” that is one who has not yet accepted the substitutionary death of Christ on their behalf vs. the realities of one who is “in Christ.” If you are in Christ, you have recognized your need to be freed from the sin which indwells your flesh. You acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God, made flesh, and is the only one, ever, capable of paying your debt and providing the way for you to be restored to a relationship with our creator.

As you read these verses, let them remind you who you were…but more importantly, meditate on the verses that declare who you are…now…in Christ! Let them change you and free you to let Christ live His life through you.

In Adam You Were:

  • Alienated from God. – Col 1:21 >  . . .  you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,
  • Condemned to death. – Rom 6:23 >  For the wages of sin is death . . .
  • Separated from God without hope. – Eph 2:12 >  remember that you were at that time separate from Chris . . . hope and without God in the world.
  • A slave of sin. – Rom 6:17 >  . . . you were slaves of sin . . .
  • Spiritually dead. – Eph 2:1>  And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,  Rom 5:12 >  Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men
  • An enemy of God. – Rom 5:10 >  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
  • Spiritually deaf and blind. – Eze 12:2 >  Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear;  2Co 4:4 >  in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
  • By nature a child of wrath. – Eph 2:3 >  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath . . .
  • Darkened in your understanding, excluded from the Life of God and hardened in heart. – Eph 4:17 >  So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,  Eph 4:18 >  being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;
  • Patterned after your spiritual father, Satan. – Joh 8:44 >  “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

In Christ You Are Now:

  • Washed, sanctified, justified. – 1Co 6:11 >  . . .  you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.  Rom 3:24 >  being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
  • Indemnified (Though God rejects your sinful performance, He does not reject you!). – Rom 8:1 >  Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  • Alive (formerly dead). – 1Co 15:22 >  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  Eph 2:4 >  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,      Eph 2:5 >  even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
  • A new creation. – 2Co 5:17 >  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come
  • Seated in heaven (present tense). – Eph 2:6 >  and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
  • Complete. – Col 2:10 >  and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

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