Suffering For Doing Good

1 Peter 3:18 (NIV)

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

In our Verse of the Day, Peter articulates some essential aspects of the Gospel – the message of Jesus Christ. But I think it is important for us to put this verse in its larger context in order to understand and appreciate why Peter mentions the suffering of Christ in this verse. Beginning at 1 Peter 3:8, Peter reviews the expected conduct of believers and how we should interact with one another … even to the point of “suffering” for doing what is good. Remember in 1 Peter 2:15, we studied that “it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” These may be the same people who consider us “foolish” when we “do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” On the contrary, Peter tells us that we are expected to “repay evil with blessing”.  Let’s check it out:

1 Peter 3:8-18 (NIV)

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (Citing Psalm 34:12-16) 13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear (or their threats); do not be frightened.” (Citing Isaiah 8:12) 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

I think what Peter is driving at here is that suffering for righteousness … suffering for our faith in Jesus Christ … is to be expected. As Jesus had already told His disciples: “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (Cf. John 15:20) Therefore, it is important that we revere Christ as Lord and follow His commands. We need to do what is right … even if it hurts or brings hardship or suffering to ourselves. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. And perhaps that is the point. Our “reserved” response to others who are “ignorant of the truth” might actually convict them of their own evil … it might actually “bring them to God” just as the “kindness of God in Christ led us to repentance.” (Cf. Romans 2:4)

Jesus taught these same principles in His “Sermon on the Mount”:

Matthew 5:9-12 (NIV)

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:22-23; 27-30 (NIV)

22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

And Paul affirms the same principles that we should follow in this regard:

Romans 12:14; 17-21

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Citing Deuteronomy 32:3520 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Citing Proverbs 25:21-22) 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In light of these additional passages, it is clear that Peter is leading us into what it means to exhibit Christ-like conduct. And in doing so, he entertains the probability that we also, in doing what is right, will be treated by the world as Christ was treated. I hope these insights will resonate and give us more thoughtful strategies on how to deal with those who do not know God … who have not been reconciled with Him through Christ Jesus … and who might be hostile toward you and me for our “good conduct.” As Jesus encouraged, we should rejoice and be glad. We will be blessed because our reward in heaven will be great! Let that be our hope when suffering comes our way for putting those things Jesus taught into practice … as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Competent and Confident

2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

As I read our Verse of the Day, my first thought was to ask myself a question: “Do I feel competent as a minister of the New Covenant?” And then I asked another question: “Do I feel confident as a minister of the New Covenant?” As believers, I think each question should be explored because we are parties to the New Covenant that was mediated through the blood of Jesus. (Cf. Luke 22:20) We are recipients of its promises. We are bound to its terms and conditions. And in it we are given authority to invite others to join the agreement (confession) through faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed, there is an expectation for us to live out and to share the Gospel of Christ so that others might become parties to the New Covenant as well….

The context for our verse is part of a larger defense that Paul makes to the Corinthian Church regarding his authority in preaching the Gospel … his apostleship as a minister of the New Covenant established through Jesus Christ. Paul has been dealing with “church discipline” matters, and it has ignited questions within the church regarding his leadership, teaching, and approach. Further, it has become a personal struggle for Paul to endure the pain of rejection after working so diligently to bring the brothers and sisters at Corinth to maturity in Christ. Therefore, I encourage you to read 2 Corinthians 1-4 to have a better understanding of what is happening as well as Paul’s response.

I think we need this context to understand the assertions Paul made to the Corinthians as he administered the truth to them. His confidence in doing so was not within himself or his own abilities. His confidence came from the trustworthiness of Christ Himself! Paul did not doubt the absolute certainty nor sufficiency of what Christ fulfilled through His death on the cross … the eternal atonement for our sin! In Him we received mercy and grace. Through Him we are raised to new life … we are born again! Faith in Jesus gives us the confidence we need to become ambassadors for Him and ministers of the New Covenant.

Likewise, we need to note that our competence or ability to minister to others comes through Jesus Christ. He alone is our sufficiency, qualification, and adequacy. There should be no question about “feeling” competent; rather, faith understands that the source of our abilities … our courage … our strength comes from Him who was victorious over death. Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes….” (Cf. Romans 1:16) And the power to proclaim the Gospel comes from the same source! As Paul affirmed, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Cf. Philippians 4:13) And, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)

With these thoughts in mind, let’s go back to discourse of Paul on evangelism:

2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (NIV)

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

2 Corinthians 3:1-6 (NIV)

1Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.4 Such confidence (trust, reliance, certainty, assurance) we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent (sufficient, qualified, adequate) in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence (sufficiency, qualification, adequacy) comes from God. 6 He has made us competent (sufficient, qualified, adequate) as ministers of a New Covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

I want us to focus on the Verse 6 a moment and ask some tough questions. Do you believe that you are a “competent” minister of the New Covenant? Do you believe the message of the New Covenant established by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should be shared with others? If you do not feel confident in your own understanding of the New Covenant, what would help you achieve more knowledge? If you do not feel confident in sharing the message of Jesus Christ, what would help you overcome your concerns?

As we have seen, Paul declared that his competence in preaching the Gospel “comes from God.” And He is our source as well! Paul states, “God has MADE us competent as ministers.” Any idea how God did so? If we look at the life of Paul, we see his zeal for the Law and study of the Scriptures as the foundation for His competence; however, Paul was not an “ambassador” of the New Covenant until his encounter with Jesus Christ. His experience with the risen Lord changed everything!

Acts 26:15-23 (NIV)

15 Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the Lord replied. 16 “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” 19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; thus, I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to His own people and to the Gentiles.”

And so, I encourage each of us to consider our own competence. As believers, each of us has had an encounter with Jesus Christ. It may not have been a blinding light from heaven … but it was the light of His presence and His Spirit that captured us nonetheless. And the glorious revelation of God’s love, mercy, and grace washed over us as the spiritual new birth produced in us our new life in Christ. And we have never been the same since Christ entered our hearts and sent His Spirit to indwell us. “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.” (Cf. 1 John 4:13)

So, what might be inhibiting our competence to be ministers of the New Covenant like those who came before us? If through the past couple of millennia there had been no one “competent” to preserve the Word and to proclaim the Gospel, would we have even come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Even in the first century, there was a sense of urgency to protect the light and truth of God revealed to us through His Son. Consider what Jude wrote: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” Perhaps there is hesitancy on our part because we still have questions about our own faith or what it is based upon. Maybe there is a lack of confidence in our knowledge that stems from a lack of spending time reading and meditating on God’s Word. Ultimately our faith is based on our confidence in the Word of God.

A Final Thought:

John 15:5-8 (NIV)

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Apart from Jesus … apart from the power of His indwelling Spirit … we can do nothing. That means we cannot be “competent” as ministers of the New Covenant if we do not have an intimate relationship with Him. We have to be empowered and equipped; and that comes from His Holy Spirit. I have observed in my own walk with Christ, that the more time I spend studying and meditating on the Word of God, the more time that I spend in prayer; the more confident I become with WHO I know. And, like Paul, I am coming to the place in my life … in my walk … where I consider everything else worthless compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus!” (Cf. Philippians 3:8) So, I cannot communicate or demonstrate with “competence” WHO Jesus is or WHAT Jesus accomplished without truly knowing Him and abiding in Him! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Carry The Load…

Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the Law of Christ!

As we examined our desire to “do” the will of God, we discovered that the will of God must be discerned, understood, and then put into practice through action. (Cf. James 2:14-17) In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle Paul gives us some practical instruction on “how” to fulfill our desire to do the will of God: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

What does it mean to “carry or bear each other’s burdens”? Well, let’s look at the immediate context:

Galatians 6:1-5 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.

Galatians 6:1-5 (NLT)

1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of ChristIf you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

As I examine the context, it appears that the “burden” we are called to bear is the action of restoring someone who has been caught in transgression (i.e., sin). The phrase implies both the responsibility we must take for our own sin as well as helping others through the temptations and weaknesses they endure as well. “You who are spiritual … you who live by the Spirit,” should not be misconstrued to mean “you who are sinless.” But those who live by the Spirit are equipped to know and understand “the root” of what is occurring in their lives and in the lives of those who have fallen, and to guard themselves from the same potential temptation or weakness. It is crucial for those who are mature in Christ to help all others in the Church to receive restoration and to move toward spiritual maturity.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NIV)

11 So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

When we speak about Five-Fold Ministry of the Church, this is “how” our Lord determined that we fulfill His Law. The work of restoration (healing what is broken); reconciliation (leading people to God); and deliverance (finding triumph through Christ Jesus) is accomplished through those who are spiritual … through those who have been appointed and equipped to serve the Lord and to make disciples. And we are blessed with the incredible opportunity to fulfill the Law of Christ within the local body (assembly) that we attend. You do not have to be in the office of Apostle to make a difference. You do not need to compare yourself to a Pastor or Evangelist. God has gifted you for service and to bear fruit as He has determined. So, I encourage you to fulfill what He has chosen for you to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-10)

Remember that regardless of whether you have an “office” within the Church, those who live by the Spirit have been gifted – for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. (Cf. Romans 11:29) You are the best one equipped to help others through the same things you have experienced in life and overcame through faith in Jesus Christ. That is how God will use you to bear the burden(s) of others:

1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 27-31 (NIV)

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way….

Paul will go on to share in 1 Corinthians 13 that the most excellent way to minister to one another is with sincere love. For we know that love covers a multitude of sins. (Cf. Proverbs 10:12; 17:9; 1 Peter 4:8) Our calling is to facilitate healing of the brokenness that sin has caused in the lives of people … and to point others to the deliverance, freedom, and reconciliation found in Jesus Christ our Lord. Our responsibility is not to judge or condemn; rather, it is to love. Love does not condone sin; but it is the power through which repentance is motivated. As Paul admonished:

Romans 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

My prayer is that we will answer the call to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, to fulfill the law of Christ.” And to do so, I encourage you to use the spiritual gifts that you have been graciously given … as the Spirit determined uniquely for you. You are able! You are equipped! You are called to make a difference in the Kingdom! Let’s start right here … right now where we have been placed to serve God. And let us do so in the most excellent way … to love others as we ourselves have been loved by the Lord. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Removing the Veil…

1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV)

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

Our Verse of the Day brings an important point to the table regarding our mission to share the Gospel with those who do not know the truth. Paul explains: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” In 1 Corinthians 1:18-19, Paul wrote: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Citing Isaiah 29:14) And Paul observed in another place, “Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3-5)

Therein lies the challenge that we also faced before we came to faith in Jesus; and it is the same issue for someone who is not ready to receive the message of hope and salvation. And so, we are to be servants to unbelievers for Jesus’ sake. That is our commission … our marching orders from the Lord. We are to love others as we have been loved. We are to speak the truth in love; and we are to be salt and light in this world … to be Jesus in this world. That is why I believe it is imperative that we work together with the Holy Spirit to prepare the soil of hearts God has called to salvation. What I mean is that we should be in fervent prayer for those who need salvation to be receptive to what the Spirit of God is prompting them to hear in their heart. We need to pray for spiritual ears to hear … for the spiritual eyes of hearts to be opened to see the Gospel. Indeed, the preparation of prayer is more important than our words in the beginning of leading someone to Christ….

So, this morning, I challenge each of us to be in prayer for someone who needs to see the light of the Gospel; the good news that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, within their heart. Pray that they will not seek the wisdom of this world … which is foolishness in God’s sight … and ask the Lord to unveil and reveal the truth to them. In other words, the Spirit must do the prompting and leading … for it is HE who guides us into all truth. Yes, “When He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.” (Cf. John 16:13) For you and I cannot enter the heart of a person, but we can let our light so shine before them, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16)

Father, You call our hearts in prayer this morning for the lost and the prodigal.  We ask and pray that You will remove the veil of darkness from their hearts so that the light of the Gospel will shine before them.  We ask You, Holy Spirit, to reveal the Truth to their hearts so that they would receive Jesus into their hearts and atonement for their sins … redemption and reconciliation … deliverance and healing … grace and peace … within their souls. Yes, we pray in the Mighty Name of Yeshua Hamashiach (Jesus the Messiah), Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Proclaiming Jesus!

Colossians 1:28 (NIV)

He is the One we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

As I think about the work of evangelism … our Kingdom assignments to share the Good News … to make disciples of all nations … to baptize believers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit … and to teach believers to obey everything that Jesus taught and commanded; let us make sure that our message is focused and clear. In our Verse of the Day, Paul is adamant that JESUS is the One we proclaim!  So, let’s look at the context and see the basis on which Jesus should be the only One we proclaim:

Colossians 1:15-29 (NIV)

15 The Son (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in Him (Jesus) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the Body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Jesus), 20 and through Him (Jesus) to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His (Jesus) blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds as reflected in your evil behavior. 22 But now God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the Gospel. This is the Gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. 24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His Body, which is the Church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the Word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the One we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end, I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Think about what Paul is saying regarding the Gospel message – that we are to “strenuously contend” to share the message about Jesus! HE is the ONE we proclaim! And in the larger passage, we see there is a lot about Jesus for us to proclaim! Indeed, what is most important to share with others is what the Word of God says about Him … not necessarily our own personal theologies. The focus is not to be on you or me; rather, the focus is to be on Him. It is WHO HE IS that has transformed you and I into believers … and that is who we have become.  Sharing the stories of our born-again experiences … our salvation … will place the emphasis on the One who saved us!

Being a believer is why you and I labor for the Gospel and serve in the Kingdom of God. Like Paul, our transformation from living in darkness to abiding in the glorious light of the Gospel is what drives us to proclaim Jesus. And Paul laid out a compelling argument to encourage us to share the Gospel:

Romans 10:9-15; 17 (NIV)

 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” (Citing Isaiah 28:1612 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Citing Joel 2:3214 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Citing Isaiah 52:717 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Faith comes from hearing … hearing the Word of God … renewing our minds to the truth about Jesus Christ and no longer being conformed to this world. (Cf. Romans 12:2) Jesus has called His followers (believers) out of the world; and He enjoins us to share His life changing, life giving teaching with others. If “hearing” is the operative word for coming to faith, then our “speaking” is imperative!  So, I pray we will be about the Father’s business as His ambassadors! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Delegated Authority…

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As I think about this familiar passage … the last words Jesus spoke as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew … I sometimes wonder if these words preceded those recorded for us in the Book of Acts.  Somehow I see the parting words of Jesus as a continuous narrative before His ascension into heaven; and His commandment to proclaim and share the Gospel so that others might come to faith (Cf. Romans 10:17) is quite clear:

Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Acts 1:4-11 (NIV)

And being assembled together with them, Jesus commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Jesus said ALL authority had been given to Him by the Father … both in heaven and on earth! And why is this important for us to understand? Because there is no higher authority in all of creation than the authority bestowed upon the Son by the Father. As Jesus declared, “I and My Father are one.” (Cf. John 10:30) This signifies His sovereignty over all creation. Nothing is allowed to happen except that it passes through His will.  And we should be comforted by that knowledge in as much as His incomprehensible love is manifested through His will! This is why the people who encountered Jesus during His life on earth perceived His authority when He spoke and taught. (Cf. Matthew 7:29; Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32). With authority, Jesus commanded unclean spirits to leave those oppressed and afflicted by them … and they obeyed Him. (Cf. Mark 1:27; Luke 4:36)

And we know that His authority was challenged and doubted by the religious leaders. Jesus was confronted and questioned by the chief priests and elders asking, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” (Cf. Matthew 21:23; Mark 11:27-28; Luke 20:1-2) Now Jesus responded to these questions with a question of His own … regarding the authority given to John the Baptist. Was it given from heaven or self-imagined? And when they would not answer, Jesus stated that He would not reveal the source of His authority either. So there is a lesson for all of us to learn as Jesus Himself reveals the authority given to Him by the Father:

John 12:48-50 (NKJV)

48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”

John 14:9-11 (NKJV)

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

John 17:1-3 (NKJV)

1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given HimAnd this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

John 19:7-11 (NKJV)

The Jews answered Pontius Pilate, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power (authority) to crucify You, and power (authority) to release You?” 11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power (authority) at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

When Jesus was questioned about His identity, Pontius Pilate asserted that he had the authority to crucify Him.  But Jesus responded that Pilate could have no authority except that it had been given to him by God. This assertion is true for us as well. We have no authority over anyone or anything except that it has been granted (given) by God! And now we see Jesus proclaim that ALL authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him by the Father. Yes, the authority of Almighty God … Creator of heaven and earth … has been delegated to the Son of God, Jesus. And what an incredible thing is should be for us to realize is that Jesus has delegated His authority to US … to those who love Him and keep His commands!  Let’s read about it:

Luke 9:1-6 (NKJV)

1Then Jesus called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseasesHe sent them to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece. “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the Gospel and healing everywhere.

Luke 10:1-9; 17-20 (NKJV)

1 After these things the Lord appointed seventy-two others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near to you.’

17 Then the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Wow! The One who has been given ALL authority has delegated authority to us … His Church! And I wonder … just as Pastor Steve did during his sermon this past weekend … who among the Church is exercising the authority we have been given by our Lord Jesus? Who is proclaiming the Kingdom of God is near?  Who is healing the sick? Who is casting out demons?  Who is exercising power over the enemy in these latter days?  These are questions each of us as believers need to ask of ourselves? When Jesus sent disciples out into the field He told them, “The harvest if plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (Luke 10:2) So He is asking us now: “Who is willing to go out into the harvest field now?  Who is sharing the Gospel and healing the sick and taking authority over demonic forces?” He has given us the authority! Are we going to exercise the authority we have been given … or stand on the fence and watch as the harvest field is plowed under into darkness?

Indeed, the Church needs to be awakened and exhorted! The harvest is our responsibility … and we have been given the authority to carry out our responsibilities! The question is whether we have the individual and collective will to fulfill His mandate to go and make disciples of all nations.  Perhaps we should begin with the nation in which we live … the state … the county … the town … the local community. Perhaps we should look within our own neighborhoods … maybe we should start with our own households and exercise authority over the one who wants to steal, kill, and destroy our families! The battles we need to fight are not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Cf. Ephesians 6:12) “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

So I pray we will be moved in our spirits to begin exercising the spiritual authority we have received from our Lord Jesus Christ. For we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works which the Father prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) God has not asked us to say or do anything that He has not equipped us to do through His Word or empowered us to do by His Spirit. As the Lord spoke to Joshua, so I believe He is speaking to us in our generation: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Cf. Joshua 1:9) Yes, let us put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand.  Let us stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waists, with the breastplates of righteousness in place, and with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, let us take up the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Let us take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And let us pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, let us be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Cf. Ephesians 6:13-18) I ask all these things in the powerful name of Jesus.  Amen….

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Week!

Do What He Says…

James 1:22 (NIV)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

We have read this verse many times I’m sure.  And as the Spirit has been encouraging us to be in the Word and studying it; this is the call to “do what it says”.  All the reading and studying in the world is not going to replace action and putting the Word into practice.  I am reminded (and convicted) by what Jesus said as He concluded His “Sermon on the Mount” recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:

Matthew 7:21-29 (NIV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, 29 because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

In the context, it is those who do the will of the Father that will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  And the words of Jesus have taught us what the will of the Father is: “To believe in the Son whom the Father has sent.”  When asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:28-29) This is the teaching we are to put into practice – the exercise of putting our complete trust and faith in Jesus. But then, in order to grow in our faith, there are disciplines that we will follow to bring us to maturity in Christ.  We take root in a local assembly in order to be equipped for ministry. We exercise our spiritual gifts through good works so that we are putting His teachings into practice. This is how faith becomes effective and productive!  As James would remind us:

James 2:14-18 (NIV)

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

So it is important for us to active in our faith and engaged with those around us. Jesus made it clear that when we serve others, we are serving Him.  For Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:26) So we need to be where Jesus is and serving as Jesus would. For we are His Body in the world.

Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV)

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.41 “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

This passage does not teach that salvation is based on our good works; rather, this expounds on the things that we are saved by grace to be doing for the glory of God! Remember, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-10) So we have been saved to serve.  That is the point!  We serve with grace as we proclaim the light of truth through the Gospel.  This is what I believe it means when James tells us to get busy and serve.  If our faith does not activate us to be serving others, it is essentially no faith at all and we deceive ourselves if we think otherwise.

So let’s be about the Father’s business!  There is a world around us that is broken and hurting … searching for the answer we have received by grace through faith. The opportunities are not hard to find. The question is whether we are looking for them. Maybe it is time for us to be more intentional. To be sure, we should always share Jesus with our words. But as we all know; actions will always speak louder than our words. So I pray we will “be” Jesus to those who need Him more than ever before.  And I hope that thought will challenge us in the days ahead….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Do Not Be Afraid…

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I always loved this verse of encouragement … how we can trust God … how God is there for us just as He was for His people Israel … how He will strengthen, help, and uphold us in times of adversity or suffering.

Isaiah 41:8-14 (NIV)

“But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. 10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 11 “All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. 12 Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. 13 For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. 14 Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

Look at the context for a moment.  Those who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced … those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish … those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all.  God said we are not to fear! “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” (Cf. Isaiah 54:17) And I think it is important for us to remember, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5) And this makes perfect sense to me because the only offensive weapon that we have in this spiritual battle is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. (Cf. Ephesians 6:17) “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Cf. Hebrews 4:12)

If we want to elevate faith and alleviate fear in our lives, then the Word of God must our resource! For it is the power of God to strengthen you and help you! His Word will uphold you, and through it the Holy Spirit will guide you into the truth. It is the truth you will need to refute every tongue that accuses you … to confound those who oppose you … to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.  You need to know the truth so that you can withstand those who want to suppress the truth by their wickedness. (Cf. Romans 1:18) Indeed, I sense that the human conflicts, chaos, and violence we see in our nation is not about the alleged issues of rights, equality, or justice.  If you look deeper into the agendas and ideologies that have emerged, you will see that the true battle is a spiritual one between those upholding truth and those suppressing truth … between obedience and disobedience of God’s commands … between His marvelous light and the veil of darkness.  Yes, the strife is a sin problem at the core. (Cf. Genesis 6:5) It is the movement and goal of those that want to worship the creature rather than submit to and worship the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. (Cf. Romans 1:25)

Romans 1:28-32 (NIV)

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

If you think about it, the list here addresses much of what we are seeing on our televisions and on social media.  It is understandable that what we have witnessed has caused concern and even fear. But I feel we need to have spiritual perspective on what is happening and the “real” source of the conflict that seems to be growing at exponential speed over the last several months. The issue is that those who want nothing to do with God or His righteousness have found a cover and a narrative to exploit for their own purposes.  And the danger is that these people want to impose their godless views on everyone else through whatever means at their disposal … including suppression of speech; opposition to authority; and violence when needed to eliminate anyone who disagrees with their world view.  I think that only through knowledge of the truth, and its proclamation through the Body of Christ, will we be able to shine as the light of the world …  a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. (Cf. Matthew 5:14) This is what we have been called (saved) to do: to let our light shine before others that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16)

Well, I hope through these reflections that we will all take pause and pray for discernment in these turbulent times. I mostly think we need to see the events of 2020 as a wake-up call to the Church … to the people of God.  The Body of Christ needs to repent of its “lukewarm” attitude and get back on the mission for which Christ Jesus is the Head! We need to understand that the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot “see the light” of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4) And this is why the culture war is so intense! We need to realize that true believers are the remnant light for this world, and while it is day we must be working. Night is coming when no one can work. (Cf. John 9:4) And really, what an exciting time it is for us to be living in these pivotal times for the Kingdom of God!  We should not fear the world; rather, we should all the more reverence our God and Creator who deemed us trustworthy to live in this hour upon the earth … and to serve Him during such a time as this!  Oh, we need to be faithful … not fearful … because He is with us. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Cf. Joshua 1:9)  Indeed, it is time to be about the Father’s business….

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? ~ Romans 8:31

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Every Knee Will Bow…

Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV)

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Our Verse of the Day is a solemn declaration of the supremacy of Jesus Christ and the exaltation due Him.  To surrender and submit ourselves to the authority and sovereignty of Jesus Christ is the will of God the Father because He is glorified through His Son…. I would like us to take a closer look at Jesus … the exalted Son of God … to whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given by the Father. (Cf. Matthew 28:18) We can start with the Gospel of John and his introduction of Jesus to the world:

John 1:1-4; 14 (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 14 The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

With this Scripture in mind, I want us to look at our verse in its context:

Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature (in the form of) God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature (the form) of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest placeand gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.

In this context, there is a focus on humility and submission to one another; and the purpose is to exhort us to be of the same mindset as Christ Jesus.  And then Paul introduces the surpassed example of Christ showing how genuine humility should be manifested among ourselves. For God the Creator to appear in the form of a Son of Man, made in human likeness, is an incomprehensible act of divine humility in itself.  As John articulated it – “the Word of God became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” It is because of this extreme humility that Christ Jesus willingly took upon Himself (even so far as to experience human death upon a cross) that God the Father exalted Him to the highest place and position of authority.  Perhaps, this is the part of the reason why Jesus taught: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Cf. Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14) The Apostle James admonished, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (Cf. James 4:10) And, Peter likewise taught, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that HE may lift you up in due time.” (Cf. 1 Peter 5:6) If God humbled Himself to reach us, then we should humble ourselves in our relationships with one another.

But the other lesson that I see is the exaltation of Christ Jesus.  Because of His death upon the cross … because His own blood was shed as an atoning sacrifice for the remission of our sins … Jesus is most assuredly worthy of our adoration, worship, and praise.  His name is above every other name! As Peter declared, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Cf. Acts 4:12) And so, God the Father has ordained that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, for His own glory.  And we have seen this same call for worship declared through the Prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 45:22-24 (ESV)

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23 By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance (shall confess to God).’ 24 “Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to Him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against Him.

Indeed, every soul ever created by God WILL bow before Him!  Every tongue WILL confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  Every person who has rejected God and the Son … who have rebelled and raged against Him … will come before Him and be ashamed. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10) There is no one who will be exempt. For He has said, “I am the Lord, that is my name; and my glory I will not give to another nor my praise to idols.” (Cf. Isaiah 42:8) Yes, God will be worshipped because He will not give His glory to anyone:

Isaiah 48:9-11 (NIV)

For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely. 10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.

It is clear to me that all people … of every tribe, of every language, of every nation … will one day bow before the throne of God and worship Him. The issue is whether we will do so now while we are alive through our own free will … or whether a person will be “required” to do so when they stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  It WILL happen because Father God has declared it, and He is sovereign over all things.  God desires everyone … whosoever will believe in Him … to declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light. (Cf. 1 Peter 2:9) His lovingkindness leads us to repentance and to a knowledge of the truth! Therefore, it is urgent for all people confess Jesus Christ as Lord now … while it is still called today. “For just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.” (Cf. Hebrews 9:26-28)

So I pray each soul will come to the knowledge of God and make their confession of faith. And I pray the church, the Body of Christ, will work as His ambassadors to lead others to the truth … so that repentance and reconciliation will come to those who respond to the Gospel. “For we must work the works of Him who sent Jesus while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” (Cf. John 9:4) And let us be humble and gracious as we encourage the lost to seek the only One who can save them.  Let us deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Jesus. (Cf. Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23) Jesus said, “ If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (Cf. John 12:26)

And so I will finish with this thought: Jesus declared that He was sent to seek and to save the lost. (Cf. Luke 19:10) So as His Body … His presence in the world … we must continue His mission.  Jesus has left the ninety-nine and is searching for the one that is lost.  That is where He is … and that is where His servant will be also.  Each of us who know Jesus as Savior and Lord were saved to serve … are sent to be workers in the harvest. We could double His harvest right now if each one of us would reach just one unbeliever.  So I challenge myself, and I encourage you to consider it as well, to set sight on just one person you know is not saved and get focused … get intentional … and be steadfast. Enter into devoted prayer and intercession for that one person and be patient. Yes, be present and available to them. Engage them when opportunities are presented. Let your conversation be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer them. (Cf. Colossians 4:6) Let your light shine before them so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16) This is how we humble ourselves with the same mindset of Christ; this how we serve in hope to prepare them for an authentic encounter with Christ Jesus. We prepare the soil and plant seed; we fertilize and water. But it is God who gives the increase for harvest. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:7) So let us be authentic witnesses of His love, grace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and faithfulness.  Let us demonstrate the joy of our salvation and the self-discipline we exert through the Spirit of God to be obedient to faith. Then, let us pray in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth. (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:25) I hope these ideas will encourage you in your pursuit of lost sheep.  “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Cf. Galatians 6:9)

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. ~ Colossians 2:9-10

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Eternal Word…

Matthew 24:35 (NIV)

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

This verse is probably familiar to us.  It is nestled in a larger narrative that records the words of Jesus to His disciples concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and signs of the End Times.  So in that context, Jesus told them, “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away.” Perhaps, we should take a closer look at what Jesus said because He, in essence, declares that His words have been established forever.  The Chapter is quite large, but I think it bears examining and noting what Jesus foretold would take place:

Matthew 24:1-35 (NIV)

1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when His disciples came up to Him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” He asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ (Cf. Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11) spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. 29 “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ (Cf. Isaiah 13:10; 34:4) 30 Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. (Cf. Daniel 7:13-14) 31 And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. 32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it (or He) is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you all, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Chapter 24 will continue, but I want to stop here a moment for us to grasp all that Jesus said, and then, to consider the gravity of Verse 35 in the context. As we read what Jesus told us ahead of time would happen upon the earth, we can see and understand what the end times will entail.  Heaven and earth will pass away.  What we see … what we know … what we experience here and now will disappear.  It will pass away.  So I will provide some Scriptures for you to ponder regarding this statement Jesus made.  I’ll start with Old Testament prophecy first.

Isaiah 65:17-25 (NIV)

17 “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. 20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

Isaiah 66:22-24 (NIV)

22 As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord. 24 “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

2 Peter 3:10-14 (NIV)

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.  That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.

Revelation 21:1-5 (NIV)

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” (Cf. Isaiah 65:17) for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ (Cf. Isaiah 25:8) or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Yes, we can be sure that the current heaven and earth will pass away; and a new heaven and a new earth will be created. But then Jesus said: “My words will never pass away.” His words remind me of several Scriptures which affirm this truth.  “Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in Heaven.” (Cf. Psalm 119:89) “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. (Cf. Psalm 119:160) The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Cf. Isaiah 40:8) And Peter shares the application of this truth: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from a pure heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God. (Cf. 1 Peter 1:22-23) And think about what the Apostle John declared: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” (Cf. John 1:1-3) Perhaps, it is more readily evident what Jesus was telling His disciples and those who followed and believed in Him.  His words will never pass away because Jesus will never pass away. Jesus declared,  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Cf. Revelation 1:8) And Jesus confirmed, “I AM HE who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen!” (Cf. Revelation 1:18) Yes, the Word of God is the beginning of all things, and He is eternal!

Jesus, the ever-living Word of God, has spoken. (Cf. Hebrews 1:2) He has told us ahead of time what will happen … what will take place in the latter days … so that we will know and believe Him.  But even more, Jesus wants us to trust Him at His Word. He knows what will come to pass.  He knows that heaven and earth will pass away.  But Jesus said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (Cf. John 14:3)  Indeed, Jesus is coming a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. (Cf. Hebrews 9:28) So, we must trust.  We must wait. We must persevere in faith. And, yes, we must serve.  So, let us go back to the remainder of Matthew Chapter 24:

Matthew 24:42-51 (NIV)

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him. 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in His household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when He returns. 47 Truly I tell you, He will put him in charge of all His possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect Him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Since Jesus has already told us ahead of time what “this generation” should expect to see unfold, we should not fear; rather, “When these things begin to take place, we should stand up and lift up our heads, because our redemption is drawing near.” (Cf. Luke 21:28) And we should be faithful and wise servants, whom the master has put in charge of His house while He is away.  We should be doing the good works prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Yes, we should be about sharing the truth of the Gospel and making disciples of all people … not making denominational converts. Religion is divisive. But leading people to an authentic encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ will bring unity and peace. For there is no division in Christ! Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. We abide in Him and He in us … for apart from Him we can do nothing. (Cf. John 15:5) Though many members, we form one body in Christ, and therefore, each member belongs to all the others. (Cf. Romans 12:5) Indeed, unity and assembling ourselves has become even more important as we see the Day approaching. Why? Because the purpose is to encourage each other to bear the fruit of love and good works. (Cf. Hebrews 10:24-25)

So what application do you see for yourself?  Knowing that the Word of God is settled forever … what impact does that have on your faith? To me, it has everything to do with faith! The Word of God is what saved us!  It is the light and revelation of God.  It removes the veil of darkness from those who are perishing! The Word … the Truth … is the most important thing we can receive or to declare to this world.  It is the ministry to which we have been called as believers.  We are those with “unveiled faces” … who see and have embraced the New Covenant which is through Christ Jesus!

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NIV)

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” (Cf. Genesis 1:3) made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Did you see it … in Verse 5?  Paul said, we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord … and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  Do you see any connection with the words of Jesus?  He asked, “Who is a faithful and wise servant whom the master has put in charge of the servants in His household to give them their food at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when He returns.”  That connection really caught my attention because I now have to answer that question He posed.  Am I a faithful and wise servant?  Am I a servant for Jesus’ sake? If the master, our Lord Jesus, returned in this hour, what would He find me doing?  Not the pastor … not the evangelist … not the missionary. No, what will He find ME doing? I think that is an important question for each of us to ask ourselves.  And so I will leave it there for us to spend some time before the Lord in introspection.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!