A Study Guide written by Bishop Dr. Samuel C. Scott. Explore what it means to live under an open heaven and be in the perfect will of God. Learn some of the minimum expectations of Christian living.
Upon first inspection of the title of this study guide, it is easy for one to assume that it contains all the necessary techniques and strategies needed for God to grant us all the things we desire to obtain in this world. On the contrary, living under an open heaven refers to us being in the perfect will of God. It means that we, as sons of God, are in total obedience and submission to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. When we are, we have complete and unhindered access to the throne of God. No good thing that is within the will of the Father will be withheld from us. And neither would a true son of God desire anything outside of the will of God.
In this study, we will learn how to align our lives with the will of God and live under an open heaven. We will also examine some of the things in our lives that can cause heaven to shut up.
CHAPTER ONE: BE WITH HIM
It has always been God’s purpose to use our bodies to continue reconciling men unto Himself from the moment He recreated us at salvation. He wanted to be able to commune with His people in the same way He walked with Adam in the garden while he was yet innocent. From the beginning, He wanted to dwell among His people. The Father’s heart has never changed concerning this but sin separated Him from us. Living under an open heaven begins with us being with Him.
Most of us can remember that after our salvation experience, we wanted to immediately begin “working” for the Lord, often before we even knew our true calling. But remember what Jesus told His disciples when they asked about the works of God:
Joh 6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
Joh 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
Jesus’ response was simple and direct. The work of God is to believe in Me. This is profound because to God, belief is not just mental assent. To believe is to obey. To live under an open heaven, one must be so confident in God that obedience naturally follows. This belief had to be developed in the Apostles and it must be developed in each of us.
Mar 3:13 And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him.
Mar 3:14 And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,
Mar 3:15 And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:
After preaching to the multitude, Jesus called a smaller group to go with Him up into a mountain. Out of that group, He ordained His twelve apostles. But here is where the body of Christ often misses it. We think that after we have been ordained, we are given a license to begin working ministry. But this scripture is clear. Jesus ordained twelve to be with Him. The apostles spent 3 ½ years with Jesus before embarking upon any ministry of their own. He would periodically send them out to practice what they had been taught and seen Him do, but they did not begin any type of ministry of their own until Christ ascended back into heaven. They were constantly with Him.
Jesus clearly instructed us:
Mat_11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;
We must first be with Him to learn of Him. The story of Mary and Martha is an excellent demonstration of the importance of being with Jesus.
Luk 10:38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
Luk 10:39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
Luk 10:40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
Luk 10:41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
Luk 10:42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
The good part chosen by Mary was to be with Him, sit at His feet and learn from the Master. The scriptures give us a glimpse of the result of being with the Master in Malachi 3:3:
3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
When we are with Him, He is refining and purifying us from the effects of being in this sinful world. Once we are purified, which ultimately ends in us receiving the Holy Ghost, we are now equipped to make a righteous offering unto the Lord. But even after receiving the Holy Ghost, we must still learn the ways of God.
There is no life or ministry apart from Jesus. And there are basic things that we must first understand before beginning our “service” to the Lord. If I am to be a servant, I must first learn the ways of my master. What does He like? What doesn’t he like? What is his routine? How does He like things done? Before I can serve him, I must get to know him. And who better to teach us those things than the master himself. Well it is the same with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We cannot possibly know “what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2) without first being with Him and allowing Him to teach and train us. Even Jesus Himself was led of the Holy Ghost into the wilderness. He spent 40 days with God fasting and praying before God allowed Satan to tempt Him. We can only imagine what God was teaching Jesus before Satan came to tempt Him. But there is definitely a pattern that is worth examining here.
- Jesus was publicly ordained for His earthly ministry by God when baptized by John the Baptist
- Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days fasting (alone with God) prior to the tempter coming
- Jesus was tempted by the enemy and passes
- Jesus was released to begin His earthly ministry
- Jesus often stole away to be with the Father
Starting to work our ministry is next to the last on the list.
Let us examine a few of the benefits of first being with Him.
- Safety and Preservation – In I Samuel 22:23, we find the type. We see Saul in pursuit of David. He comes into the city of the priests where they allowed David to eat the showbread. Saul is infuriated at the priests’ support of David and commences to slaughter them all. One priest, Abiathar, the last priest in the lineage of Eli, escapes to David. David tells Abiathar,
1Sa 22:23 Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard.
Now we know David is a type of Christ in the Old Testament. Saul is a type of Satan (enemy). Abiathar represents man escaping from the enemy (Satan). David tells Abiathar, we have a common enemy. You are not yet equipped to fight him on your own, so abide (remain fixed and submit to my will) for your own safety. When we as sons of God enter into salvation, we are escaping the enemy, the corruption of the world. Without being with Him, we are not equipped or even qualified to work ministry. Just like Satan sought to kill Jesus as an infant, he also seeks to devour and kill a newborn in Christ. And keep in mind, when we don’t know His word or His ways after salvation, we remain newborn.
1Pe_2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
- Character Development – It is only by being with Him that we develop His character in us. In order to be released into His ministry, we must first become the express image of Jesus Christ. Many saints find this a hard pill to swallow and prefer to place Jesus in a separate and special category from ourselves. But consider the following:
1Jn_4:17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
We are able to walk even as Christ walked, right now in this world. Even John the Baptist immediately recognized that he himself was not the standard, and told his disciples that he must decrease that Christ may increase and stated that it is Christ that his disciples must now follow. (John 3:30) He understood that it was Christ’s character that needed to be impressed upon them and developed in them and not his own. And it is only by being with Him that we understand that the character of our old man must diminish. It is Christ that the world must see in us and not our fleshy character.
Php_2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
When we have been with Him, we shall bear His character and we shall be marked by the things that mark Him. Remember, Jesus was the firstborn of many brethren (Romans 8:29), and we, the sons of God, are those brethren.
- Boldness – Without being with Him, we will not have the courage to contend for the faith. After Peter and John were imprisoned, they spoke boldly to the rulers concerning Jesus Christ and did not hesitate to state that they would rather obey God than men.
Act 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
Boldness to be willing to place your flesh in harm’s way only comes from spending time with the Master. And even after being threatened and released, the apostles immediately came before God and requested boldness to speak the truth.
Act 4:29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
- Expression of Love – Jesus chose the twelve apostles to be with Him because He wanted to express His love for them. God is love. Love cannot be fulfilled or satisfied without the company of those He loves. Can a wife experience the love of her husband if he is never with her? Of course not. Being in the presence of God exceeds all of the service or works we could ever possibly render. Consider the Bridegroom’s words to the Bride in Song of Solomon:
Song of Solomon 8:13 Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause me to hear it.
The Bridegroom is Christ. The Bride is the church (sons of God).
“Thou that dwellest in the gardens” – Those of you who live under or have been transformed by my grace
“the companions hearken to thy voice” – You talk to others and each other about Me (Christ)
“cause me to hear it” – Let me hear you talk to Me.
God desires to talk to us. He desires for us to be with Him!
So now we see the importance of being with Jesus prior to embarking on any ministry. Remember, the work of the ministry is to believe on Him the way the scriptures have said. And once He releases us into the harvest to labor, we are to allow Him to lead, guide, direct and to tell us where to go, what to do, and what to say when we get there.
Let’s consider one final point.
Mar 3:19 …. and they went into an house.
After ordaining the twelve, Jesus went with them into a house. Prior to going into the world to minister, we must first manifest Christ in our domestic environments. Until we manifest Christ in our homes, all outside ministry is vanity and heaven will remain shut.
CHAPTER TWO: SELF DENIAL
24 Then Jesus said unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Our salvation must be proven, and it must be read. When Jesus said that the way to follow him was to take up our cross, he meant at least this:
- Be willing (without murmuring, or God-criticism, or cowardice) to be opposed, to be shamed, to suffer, and to die; All for your allegiance to him.
- Always treasure Jesus more than we treasure human approval, honor, comfort, and life.
Our suffering is not a tribute to Jesus unless we endure it because we cherish Him. “Taking up our cross” means Jesus has become more precious to us then approval, honor, comfort, and life. A denied self believes that there is more to gain in following Jesus, even with suffering, than there is in walking away from him, even with 10,000 earthly benefits. The stereotype is that logic and love doesn’t mix. When we are told that we are being summoned to risk our lives, we are not being summoned to reason.
The new man finds life in Jesus and his Gospel. The old man finds life in maximizing this world’s affirmation, honor, comfort, and safety. The new man pursues the fullness of life by losing his life. By saving your life on this earth, you lose it forever, forsaking eternal life.
Most people are fine with the Jesus who is willing the save them from their sins, but they struggle with the Jesus who demands their full submission and total commitment. Jesus is abundantly clear that we don’t have a choice in the matter. Our salvation hinges on two important things; something we need to put down and something we need to take up.
13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.
This scripture tells us that we are to surrender our immediate material gratifications because we believe that God’s spiritual blessings are more valuable. We deny ourselves the pursuit of good in this world because we believe the good of the next world is better and we cannot have both. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus said:
19 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal:
21 “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
To deny yourself means to renounce yourself as the most important part of your life. It means to replace your love of yourself with a love for God. His interests come before yours.
- What does self-denial mean to you?
Denying yourself means dropping your selfish desires and picking up God’s desires for you. It means letting go of earthly security and trusting God’s plan, even if it means discomfort, danger, and uncertainty. It is no longer your money; it’s God’s money, and he can do whatever he wants with it. Your body is no longer your body; it’s Jesus’ body and he gets to tell you what to do with it. You no longer plan your life; Jesus gets to plan it for you. There are Christians who blend in with the world and avoid the cost of standing up for Christ. They refuse to deny themselves. They want the best of both worlds; salvation and worldly living. They want to follow Jesus to a point, but be their own Lord when it suits them.
Why is it that we crave entertainment of such degradation and moral decay? Many of us preach fervently against such things, but on the other hand, will stay up all night watching the same entertainment. The answer is simple. We haven’t accepted the life of self-denial as our lifestyle. We must come to the realization that we are not our own and that our body is strictly for the Lord. We have not agreed with the Life of Christ living inside us.
Many ministers and men and women of God don’t allow themselves to commit outwardly visible sins. Those acts may destroy their ministry or their livelihood. However, we must also make sure that we don’t take pleasure in watching those types of things either. This is just as much sin as committing the acts.
Gal 6:8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
Gal 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
In this information age, we depend heavily on technology (computers, YouTube, Google, Facebook, etc.) We must be careful not to replace bible study with getting split second answers from technology. A bible that is used and falling apart belongs to someone who isn’t falling apart. When we relax, we must relax in the power of the spirit. To enter the dark world of unsavory movies, entertainment, smart phones, etc. isn’t relaxation at all. It is merely a filling station where you go to get rid of the light of God and take in the darkness of this world.
You know this to be the truth because once you have filled your soul with the iniquities of the world, you feel all the depression and weight of the sin you’ve entertained. More than that, you feel the condemnation of it as well. This is manifested when we attempt to pray or read the word of God. We find it difficult to enter into the presence of God. We must live a life of self-denial and sow into the spirit.
When you begin to use Satan’s tools to relax, you destroy your ability to have any possible communication or fellowship with the Father. He must be more important than
- Your dreams,
- Your goals,
- Your aspirations,
- Your financial stability,
- Your wife, husband, and children,
- Your worldly reputation,
- And your fleshy likes or dislikes.
Live a life of self-denial because your disobedience will be a great cost to others. In the story of Jonah, he was out of the will of God and others suffered.
11 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.
12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.
13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.
14 Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.
15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.
16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.
17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
When Jonah chose to obey the will of God, a whole city was saved, and disaster was averted (Jonah Chapter 3). Let us not be the problem in our churches, schools, or various ministries.
The people attempted to lighten the ship (getting rid of natural things) and drove hard towards land (natural exertion). Jonah knew that his disobedience caused others to be in danger.
As ministers, leaders, and saints of God; living a life of self-denial and submission will benefit many.
CHAPTER THREE: FORGIVENESS
The Lord plainly tells us in Luke 17:1 that offenses will come. It is impossible for you to be saved and no one perpetrates an offense against you. However, the woe will come from the lord, not from us. We are not charged to bring the woe to our offenders. God has taken the responsibility to deal with our offenders. There will be those who sin against us maliciously but the Lord instructs us to forgive each offense.
When Jesus insisted that the apostles were to forgive as many as seventy times seven offenses in the same day, the apostles began to question their ability to do such a thing. Consequently, they asked the Lord to increase their faith. Many times we think of having “great faith” as being able to perform great healing or miracles. The first work of faith, however, is to prepare the heart to love the way that God loves.
It is in the nature of an unsaved person to not forgive. And if we are honest, even born again Christians do not adhere to all of the scriptures and struggle with forgiveness. Many people equate any wrong that is happening to them as “the enemy” whether it be fleshy or spiritual. However, we must remember that God is not limited to our understanding of things.
Isaiah_55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
Isaiah 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
We tend to rejoice when something happens negatively to those who are perceived as our enemies. Many times, we attribute it to God fighting our battles. We may also believe that God has answered our prayer to destroy our enemy. But I submit to you that God’s thinking is completely different. God has plainly instructed us on how to deal with our enemies. When we have a vision of God vanquishing our enemy, we are placing ourselves as the judge and jury in that person’s life. Only God knows the future of a man and whether or not he will change his sentiments and repent from his wrongdoing.
Luke_6:27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Therefore, we should never put ourselves in the place of God to become the executioner of retribution. When we do so, we become the enemy of God.
Prov 24:17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:
Prov 24:18 Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.
Prov 24:29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.
God wants us to entrust Him with determining what happens to those that oppose Him. That’s right! Someone who wrongly comes against a son is coming against God. When the Jews and the Romans came up against Jesus, He did not retaliate because there was purpose in His suffering. God had a larger plan. Instead, Jesus looked upon those crucifying Him and asked the Father to forgive them in their ignorance. Remember, God knows all and He knows what is best for us. Sometimes we are appointed to suffer for His sake. And we must allow the mind of Christ to reign in all situations, circumstances and relationships.
Mat 5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Mat 5:12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
There is a reward from the God of the universe for forgiving your enemies and being kind to them. What is better than that! But as stated earlier, this concept is difficult for many sons of God to grasp. But keep in mind that after salvation, it is our nature to love and forgive. We literally have to go against our nature to walk in un-forgiveness. Walking in un-forgiveness towards anyone, especially our enemies, displeases the Lord. We are not to rejoice when our enemy falls or stumbles. We are to extend our hands to help. Consider the following scripture:
Exo 23:4 If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.
Exo 23:5 If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.
God expected carnal men who wished to serve him to help their enemies before salvation. How much more is required of us after salvation! This scripture clearly tells us to be pitiful towards our enemies and to help them if necessary. After salvation, it is the Holy Spirit that enables us to forgive.
Mat 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Mat 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Mat 5:46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
Mat 5:47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Often those in the body of Christ believe that God will answer their prayers regardless of the un-forgiveness they may harbor in their hearts. But the scripture is clear concerning this matter:
Psa 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
Forgiveness is a prerequisite to answered prayer as well as to our own forgiveness. The unforgiven will not enter heaven. But many in the body of Christ see forgiveness as an option and not a commandment from God. As a result, born again Christians truly believe that they can have access to all of the promises of God on earth and eventually enter into heaven without forgiving those who have offended them. This is deception and will cause the windows of heaven to close.
Mar 11:25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
Mar 11:26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
If we are unable to spend time with the Lord, deny ourselves and forgive, we cannot live under an open heaven. Don’t allow the enemy to deceive you into believing that you are pleasing to God if you are unwilling to do at a minimum these things. .
Additional Reference Scriptures
Eph 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Col 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
1Pe 3:9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.