Looking For Acceptance…

Romans 15:7 (NIV)

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

As I contemplated our Verse of the Day, a thought began to form on the application of it.  Let’s look at the verse in its surrounding context:

Romans 15:1-8 (NIV)

1We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please Himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Citing Psalm 69:9For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.

As I studied the message being developed here by Paul, I remembered his inspired affirmations in Romans 5 that I believe are applicable to our study as well:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but let us also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

I think if believers would humble themselves under the truth of Roman 5:8; recognize His passionate love for all people (John 3:16); and understand that we were accepted while still in our state of sin and hopelessness; then we should be able to accept one another just as Christ accepted us … in order to bring praise to God. Through faith in Jesus and the atonement for our sin accomplished through His shed blood, new believers have received the love of God and the assurance of His acceptance into their hearts. They are accepted by God just as we were accepted when we first believed and came to faith. And so, all believers should be accepted, embraced, and loved by one another. Yes, we need to deeply consider this admonishment and remember that each individual who responds to the Gospel and comes to faith in Christ Jesus, will move along their journey toward complete healing, deliverance, and freedom at a different pace. Indeed, the process of sanctification does not begin until His reconciliation has been received in the heart of a sinner transformed into a believer.

I am convinced that until a person can accept the forgiveness of God through His Son and embrace the truth of His love and reconciliation, they will not be able to experience the power of His resurrection to heal, deliver, or set them free from every bondage that hinders them from wholeness and fullness in life.  Paul wrote: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Cf. Galatians 5:1) But, I also believe that when members of the Body fail to accept one another as Christ accepted us, we can create obstacles to the victory and freedom found in Jesus. I am sure that is why Paul advised the believers in Rome: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please Himself….”

To the believers in Ephesus Paul wrote: “As a prisoner for the Lord, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Cf. Ephesians 4:1-3) To those in Thessalonica Paul admonished: “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15) And to the Colossians Paul emphasized: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

It is clear from Scripture that we are to make every effort to accept one another … bear with one another … forgive one another … and love one another as Christ Jesus demonstrated His acceptance, forgiveness, patience, and love for each one of us.  This requires a humble and obedience spirit. As Paul advised: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Cf. Romans 12:3) So I pray that we will listen to what the Lord Jesus would have us to hear from His Word this morning.  I pray we will learn to serve one another in love … to build each other up … and to accept one another as Christ has accepted each of us. And let us offer Him thanksgiving and praise for His great love. In Jesus Name, Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Humility – The Right Attitude

Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

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.

We have read and discussed our Verse of the Day before. It ties well to the theme that we have been studying the past week; and it challenges us to view the command to love one another through the lens of humility. To be humble in our interpersonal actions with others is another way we emulate and facilitate the love of God. Again, we have Jesus as our role model. And it is actually His example that Paul will reference as the spiritual standard for humility. He urges us to have the same mindset (attitude) as Christ Jesus. Here is the larger context for us to consider:

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

1Therefore 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, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; 7 rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!

I always love reading from the Book of Philippians and the instructions that the Apostle Paul laid out for the body of believers there. His practical advice on what conduct and how it should be manifested in a Spirit-filled believer was needed … and it is certainly applicable to the Church in these latter days. I see these key points in the text:

1.      Our mindset is to be the same as Christ Jesus. Our motivation … our drive … our passion is to be like Him.

2.      Though God is Spirit, we understand His nature as God through Jesus in a physical form … made in human likeness.

3.      We, made in the image of God and also in human form, are to take on the nature of a servant just as Jesus did.

4.      We have been “saved to serve,” and it is this humble nature that equips us to do so with love.

5.      Obedience is the mechanism through which we achieve this humble nature to walk in love.

The application is for us to develop an attitude … a mindset … a servant’s heart and nature … that will value others above ourselves. We should not only consider our own interests, but focus on the interests and needs of others. And I love the exhortation Paul wrote to Titus in this regard:

Titus 3:1-8 (NIV)

1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. 3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ~ Colossians 3:12-13

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

God IS Love…

1 John 4:16 (NIV)

And so, we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

Our Verse of the Day gives us a glimpse into the purpose for which “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son….” (Cf. John 3:16)

Sometimes I think most people today just really have a hard time understanding and accepting an eternal truth that God has been speaking into His creation – HIS LOVE! There are folks who give little thought to our Creator much less His Being or His Nature. But the Apostle John, an eyewitness and beloved disciple of Jesus, shares with us his encounter and experience with the love of God through His Son. So, let’s read this familiar verse within the surrounding context:

1 John 4:7-21 (NIV)

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because He first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

So, what we learn from John is the foundation on which love itself rests: GOD. We cannot see love any more than we can see God, but we see the purpose of love and how that is manifested in our human experience. We cannot see love any more than we can see the wind, yet we can observe its effect and know that it is just as real as something we can see. The Word of God declares to us both truths about the nature of God: God is Spirit (John 4:24) and God is Love (Cf. 1 John 4:8,16). These qualities or attributes define the core of His Being, and the Father has chosen to reveal them to us.  My thought is that we need to understand love both as a spiritual force recognizable through its physical manifestation.

But the message here runs deeper.  John tells us that we can KNOW and RELY upon the love God has for us.  Its spiritual truth is SEEN in Jesus Christ!  Indeed, His love is trustworthy and undeniable; and it moves us to live like Jesus in this world.  God intends that love is to become the core of our own being in Christ … in order that His love will be completed … yes, be perfected in those who become the visible love of God in this world.

As the Body of Christ in this world, we are called to abide in Jesus like branches in a vine. We are appointed to be like Jesus and conformed to His image through the power of His love for us. As Verse 19 above asserts: “We love because He first loved us.” So, it follows that until we encounter the love of God through Christ Jesus, we cannot complete His love in the world. Without faith in the finished work of atonement Jesus accomplished on the cross, we will not come to know or embrace what He taught us: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34) Indeed, I believe we will only come to know true love when we come to know Jesus … both as Lord and Savior.

So, I will pray over us this morning as Paul did for the Ephesians.  I pray that the love of God sent to abide in us through His Spirit will bring us to the fullness of love that He desires to be completed in each believer:

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Have The Same Mindset…

Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV)

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.

Our Verse of the Day continues to exhort us regarding our relationships with one another … as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and representing the Body of Christ in this world. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is speaking to us and reminding us of the imperative to be Christ-like in all that we say and do.  I have always loved the teaching of the larger passage written by Paul to the Philippians, so I will reprint it for our meditation today:

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, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; 7 rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and 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.

As I think about this passage and its message to conform to the image of Christ Jesus, I cannot help but remember what the Apostle John exhorted regarding this same theological theme.  I have reprinted his words for your convenience as well:

1 John 2:3-11 (NIV)

We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

Father God, by your Spirit you are prompting us to examine our hearts and our mindsets … to consider the thoughts of our hearts once again. What we claim about ourselves and what is manifested by our conduct MUST be consistent if we claim to walk in the light of truth.  Without sincere love for one another, we continue to walk in darkness. Indeed, whoever claims to live in Him MUST live as Jesus did. And so, I pray the confessions of our hearts today are sincere before You. As You determine, renew our minds and transform us to no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world (Cf. Romans 12:2); rather, create in us pure hearts, O God, and renew steadfast spirits within us! (Cf. Psalm 51:10) For it is the desire of our hearts to be conformed to the image of Your Son; and we repent of any conduct that is self-centered, unloving, unkind, unfaithful, inconsiderate, disgraceful, or unworthy of You. We look to the abiding grace of Jesus to help us love one another as He has loved us.  In the name of Jesus … the Name above every other name … we pray. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Be Like-Minded…

1 Peter 3:8 (NIV)

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

Our Verse of the Day addresses the behaviors and personal conduct that should be inherent in our relationships with one another in the Church … the Body of Christ. Perhaps, the Holy Spirit wants to remind us of these apostolic exhortations this morning – which are abundant throughout the New Testament scriptures.

1 Peter 3:8-12 (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.” (Peter is citing Psalm 34:12-16)

Romans 12:9-18 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.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.

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NIV)

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1 John 4:7-12 (NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.

As you can see, these are practical instructions we can follow in order to fulfill the command of our Lord Jesus: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35) And so, I think this is the message we have been called to consider this morning … to evaluate the inclinations of the thoughts of our hearts, and to guide them in the direction of greater, more sincere love for one another.  This is important as we see the latter days coming to a conclusion … perhaps within our generation. (Cf. Hebrews 10:24-25) When we love one another, the love of God revealed through His Son lives in us and is made complete in us.  This is the most powerful testimony we can present to the world around us! And so, I pray that our lives will reflect the light of His love in all that we say and do.  As Paul asserted: “Love must be sincere!”  Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Eager To Do Good…

Titus 2:2 (NIV)

Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Our Verse of the Day seems especially applicable to someone like me … an older man.  I have this mental image of the elder Paul speaking to the much younger Titus in a mentoring conversation – Paul encouraging Titus in his responsibilities as a young church leader, overseer, and preacher.  And we can see this “conversation” unfold within the full chapter:

Titus 2 (NIV)

1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the Word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good. 15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

There is a lot of teaching presented here; and I see the following points for our consideration:

  • Paul begins with contrasting the work of Titus with that of the false teachers (See Titus 1); admonishing him to preach “sound doctrine.”
  • Sound doctrine will direct righteous conduct of all believers, regardless of age, sex, or position, so that our actions help rather than hinder the spread of the Gospel.
  • Older men, as leaders, are to be moral and spiritual examples through reverence, faith, self-control, temperance, patience, and love. Think about the fruit of the Spirit as a guide.
  • Likewise, older women are expected to adhere to the same standards of conduct – to be reverent in their behavior as becomes holiness.
  • Note that older men are to be mentors of the younger men, and older women are charged to be mentors to the younger women with regard to conduct that pleases God.
  • Those who are bondservants should be submitted to their owners in everything. Again, their conduct is to be respectful as well. Slavery was a basic element in Roman culture during that period of history. I think in Paul’s mind, slaves who were Christian could give a unique and powerful testimony to the gospel by demonstrating their willing faithfulness and obedience to their masters. Paul considered himself a “slave” to Christ….
  • In our generation, the same type of conduct would be applicable to the employer-employee relationship. As employees, we are expected to exhibit the type of conduct as would become a Christian who follows the patterns of sound doctrine … the teachings of Christ.
  • Regardless of whether we are Jew or Gentile; male or female; free or slave; Paul is concerned that our conduct aligns with our confession of faith in Jesus. As he stipulated in Verses 11 and 12: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
  • Paul reminds us in Verse 14 that Christ Jesus gave Himself for us … He was crucified to redeem us from all sin and wickedness … to purify for Himself a people that are His very own … a people eager to do what is good.
  • These, then, are the things Titus was admonished to teach … the sound doctrines that lead people to holiness … with preparation for His Second Coming in mind … in expectation of the glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior.  Yes, these are the things Christians are to learn and teach … to pursue, live, and share with others with eagerness.

So, in light of this teaching, I think there is a question we should ask ourselves: “Am I eager to do what is good?” Per the NKJV: “Am I zealous for good works?”  Paul urged: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Cf. Romans 12:11) I believe if we want to spread the Gospel message as we have been commissioned to do, then we need to be mindful of our conduct so that the Word of God may not be maligned or blasphemed. Christian hypocrisy must end if we are to be effective and productive to win souls to the Kingdom of God. People will judge the sincerity of our faith (and its message) more by our conduct than our words.  We should be eager to walk in holiness and love … for these are the outcomes of the sound doctrine we have been taught by Jesus and His Apostles.  As the Apostle John admonished: “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.” (Cf. 1 John 2:6)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Workers Are Few…

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.”

Our Verse of the Day contains the last words Jesus spoke as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew; and I sometimes wonder if these words preceded those recorded for us in the Book of Acts. Somehow, I see these parting words of Jesus as a continuous narrative before His ascension into heaven. Indeed, 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 (NKJV)

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 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 1:6-9 (NIV)

6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 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.” 9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

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 by the God Himself. As Jesus declared, “I and My Father are one.” (Cf. John 10:30) This, too, signifies His sovereignty over all creation. I think 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)

Now 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) And can read further along in these accounts how Jesus refused to give them a response because of their unbelief. But Jesus does reveal the source of His authority in other settings recorded in the Gospel of John, and I will share a few of those to emphasize this point:

John 12:48-49 (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 speak.

John 14:9-11 (NKJV)

9 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 works. 11 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, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

When Jesus was questioned about His identity but refused to give an answer, 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. (Cf. John 19:7-11) His assertion is true for us as well. We have no authority except what we are granted. To think otherwise is quite misguided. And this is what amazes me: Almighty God delegated His authority to His Son, Jesus; and Jesus has delegated His authority to US … to those He called to abide in Him … to those He ordained to be members of His Body … to those He appointed to work together with one accord in the Holy Spirit to go and make disciples of all the nations of people, tongues, and tribes!

Luke 9:1-2 (NKJV)

1Then Jesus called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. 2 He sent them to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

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. 2 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. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. 4 Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. 5 But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. 7 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. 8 Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. 9 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 you. 20 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 who among the Church is exercising the authority we have been given by our Lord Jesus? Who is proclaiming the Kingdom of God is at hand? 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 should 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.” (Cf. Luke 10:2) And I believe He is asking us in this generation: “Who among you is willing to go out into the harvest field? Who is sharing the Gospel and healing the sick and taking authority over demonic spirits?” Jesus has given us authority! The question is whether we are going to exercise the authority we have been given … or are we going to 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 in our generation is our responsibility … and Christ Jesus has given us power and authority to carry out our duties! So, I pray we will be moved in our spirits to begin exercising the spiritual authority we have received. 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! Yes, 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) My friends, it is time for us to return to the fields the Father has sent us to harvest; and I pray we will be obedient….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Fill The Earth … With Love

Psalm 119:64 (NIV)

The earth is filled with your love, Lord; teach me your decrees.

Our Verse of the Day is a great reminder and builder of faith. When we see what is happening in our nation and the world, it is difficult to see how the earth is filled with love of God. A Psalmist once asked: “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation. (Cf. Psalm 85:6-7)

Indeed, in Christ Jesus, God HAS shown us His unfailing love. This is the work of God … this is His decree: “To believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Indeed, His great love is ever-present if we would but open our spiritual eyes to see and comprehend it!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Cf. John 3:16)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8)

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  (Cf. 1 John 4:10)

These are just a few of the vast number of scripture verses that declare the love of God for us. Yes, the earth is filled with His love, and we have received this passionate love through Christ Jesus. And so, as servants of Jesus, we are to abide and remain in His love:

John 15:9-17 (NIV)

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

I am hopeful we will see a relevant application of this Old Testament verse. As the Body of Christ in this world … His love should fill the earth through us! What a great challenge and responsibility for us to fulfill! Yet, we are able. We are equipped! “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) So I pray we will embrace this opportunity for the Church to fill this world with the love of God … to accomplish the work set before us with confidence and zeal! Yes, I believe that God brought us into the world and saved us to serve for such a time as this! Let us be faithful to the call. Let us be aligned with His will! And I pray you and I will be looking for our divine assignments each day to reveal the love of God with every person we encounter….

These are my thoughts and prayers this morning.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

One New Humanity…

Ephesians 2:19 (NIV)

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household…

Our Verse of the Day addresses a theological concept that uses metaphorical language to explain how our relationship with God as non-Jewish followers of Christ is “equivalent” to the natural born relationship of God with His chosen people … His treasured possession.  Let’ look at the context:

Ephesians 2:1-22 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 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. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.

I think Paul gives us a brilliant explanation of how Christ Jesus has joined together both Jew and Gentile believers into one body … one temple … one dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.  This is how He established a unity of the faith handed down from Abraham through His descendants.  The hostilities between Jewish and Gentile believers have ceased in Christ. Our diversity has been transformed into unity within the Body of Christ … for Jesus accomplished reconciliation and peace with God for both peoples through the cross. Paul presents a similar narrative in his Letter to the Colossians:  

Colossians 1:15-23 (NIV)

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in Him 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, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds as demonstrated by 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.

I encourage you today to meditate on what Christ Jesus has done … the unity of faith He has established to bring peace and reconciliation to all peoples. Remember, “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Cf. Galatians 3:26-29)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Diversity In Unity

Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

A couple of weeks ago (August 13th), I cited our Verse of the Day in the commentary regarding our identities as new creations in Christ Jesus. So perhaps we are called again to reflect on this topic further. In a world that appears to be fixated on the differences in our human and physical characteristics, I find it disheartening how our “diversity” can be used to create divisions between cultures and nations rather than to facilitate and encourage the unity God desires for people. To me, our Verse of the Day looks to “unity within diversity” because our “oneness” is the desire of God for those who abide in Christ Jesus. Let’s look at the surrounding context:

Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV).

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Faith in Jesus Christ changes everything … because to be in Christ means we have been born-again of the Spirit of God. This new birth makes us children of God; and as new creations in Christ, we no longer conform to the patterns of this world. (Cf. John 1:12-13; 3:3-8; 2 Corinthians 5:17-19; Galatians 6:12-15) Yes, in Christ we are spiritual creations … the workmanship of God the Father … and He has ordained for our identities in Him to be formed apart from our physical characteristics … our ethnicities … our biological determinants … or our social status. And collectively, the new creation God has formed through His Spirit is the Church … the Body of Christ … and we are members of His Body and belong to one another. (Cf. Romans 12:4-5) It is this connectedness that unifies us in Christ Jesus. Our diversity is neutralized through our interdependent function within the Body. Indeed, what should distinguish believers IS our unity!

Paul gave an insightful speech in the Areopagus at Athens, Greece. His discourse is captured for us in Acts 17:22-34. What led me there in my study was his commentary on the common origin of mankind and the sovereignty of God over human life:

Acts 17:24-28 (NIV)

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, God Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one blood He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.28 ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’

What I want to focus on a moment is Verse 27 and its implications. We know from Genesis 1:27 that “God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” (Cf. Genesis 5:2) And I think we can reasonably infer that our gender distinctiveness was designed for reproductive purposes along with its spiritual applications for intimate relationship with God. Likewise, we know that from the original union (one blood) all the physical diversity of mankind has developed over the millennia. Our physical characteristics are quite diverse; and yet, we are genetically and reproductively compatible as a unique form of life God designed us to be. As mankind has reproduced and migrated over the earth, distinct peoples and cultures formed and settled into diverse geographic regions and nations. And what Paul helps us to see and understand is that God planned and purposed this phenomenon. Speaking of the course of human history, Paul asserts that God “determined their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” Thus, the diversity of mankind that we observe has been sovereignly designed by God! But what we may not have realized is the reason for it: “So that people would seek God and reach out to Him and find Him.”

I find that statement quite powerful … the assertion that the purpose of human diversity is to draw us closer to God. Somehow, through our ethnic and cultural differences, God planned to inspire people to “seek Him”. Fascinating! The very richness of human biological expression that has so often divided us is actually the very mechanism God has purposed to unite us! And when a person finds Jesus, the One whom God sent, he or she finds God! As Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” (Cf. John 14:6-7) Yes, in Christ, all of our differences and identities are set aside through the unity of faith. So let us make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Cf. Ephesians 4:3-6)

A Final Thought:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” ~ Revelation 7:9-10

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!