Called To Be Holy…

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV)

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Our Verse of the Day brings a solemn reminder that we are to be holy just as God is holy! This means we are set apart unto God. This means God is the center of our being. This means we seek intimacy with God in order to be like Him in holiness. There are several Scriptures that address this call to holiness … and the word sanctification comes to mind as I write.

When we think about the word HOLY, the idea is rooted in something dedicated or devoted to the service of God. As a concept, HOLY is a state of being … consecrated with the intent of not allowing itself to become corrupted or impure.  There is a deep sense of purity … like gold refined through intense heat to remove its dross.  It is how we describe the person and presence of God, our Creator. He is Holy. He is Perfection. He is Pure and Unapproachable Light. He is Spirit. Perhaps we could explore what Paul wrote on the subject:

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (NIV)

3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 (NIV)

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first-fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our sanctification, our walk toward holiness, is the expressed will of God. Paul connects that sanctification or holiness entails abstinence from sexual immorality; however, holiness goes far deeper into the inclinations and motives of our hearts. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but to holiness. And this is what we are drawn to pursue through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, God chose us for salvation and sanctification. And note how Paul articulates this process – the Holy Spirit works to separate us from the world unto God … and His work begins when we believe the truth. In fact, Jesus prayed for our sanctification! Look at this passage as Jesus prayed to the Father:

John 17:13-19 (NIV)

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the Truth; your Word is Truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

When we believe the Word of God … and put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ … this is only the beginning of our sanctification. It is the moment that holiness is birthed in our hearts. We are born-again – not of this world or of the flesh – but we are born of God through the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God … Truth. As Peter explained: “For you have been born-again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:23) And I think the Apostle Paul explains the underlying conflict in this process quite well:

Romans 8:5-11 (NIV)

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.

To become holy or sanctified is an intentional process. The Apostle John affirmed, “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.” (Cf. 1 John 2:6) I believe it is intentional on the part of Father God for us to be conformed to the image of His Son (Cf. Romans 8:29), and that is why He has given us His Spirit. Likewise, I believe it must be intentional on our part to submit ourselves to the obedience that comes from faith. John asserted, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” (Cf. 1 John 3:9) Indeed, obedience is what produces the outcomes of holiness within us.  It is what compels us to reverence God … to worship God … and to serve God! Obedience is how we demonstrate our love to God. (Cf. John 14:15, 21) We pursue sanctification because we want to please God out of our love for Him; and I believe submission and obedience is how we can attain it….

My friends, I pray we all will take the call for sanctification to heart. Let us deny ourselves as symbolized in fasting; and let us sanctify our hearts through prayer and intimacy with the Lord. This is what the Father desires for His children to be! The time has come for authentic relationship with God … and this requires our sanctification. For without holiness, no one will see the Lord. (Cf. Hebrews 12:14)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His child.” (Citing Proverbs 3:11-12) Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His Holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. ~ Hebrews 12:4-11

Learn To Do Right…

Isaiah 1:16-17 (NIV)

Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

The theme of repentance and righteous conduct continues with our Verse of the Day.  And it resonates with me this morning as I think about the message of Scripture – God revealing His plan of salvation for the world and His will for us to respond to Him. We see the desire of God to redeem His fallen creatures from the moment sin (disobedience) entered the heart of mankind. It is reflected in His judgment of the serpent (the deceiver):

Genesis 3:14-15 (NKJV)

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:

“Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field. On your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall crush your head, and you shall strike His heel.”

Moses instructed: “Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees He has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:17-19) And centuries later, King David observed: “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Cf. Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3)

David urged: Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Cf. Psalm 34:14) Isaiah lamented: “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? (Cf. Isaiah 5:4) And Jeremiah pondered: “If you ask yourself, ‘Why has this happened to me?’— it is because of your many sins that your skirts have been torn off and your body mistreated. Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil. (Cf. Jeremiah 13:22-23)

What does God require?  What has God always required of human beings since we attained the knowledge of good and evil? (Cf. Genesis 3:22) Perhaps Job articulated it best: “God looked at wisdom and appraised it; He confirmed it and tested it. And He said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” (Cf. Job 28:28) And King Solomon reiterated this same truth: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” (Cf. Proverbs 3:7)

The Old Testament instruction is clear that we are to stop doing wrong … that we are have deep reverence for God … that we are to choose good and to shun evil. But it is clear that mankind has failed to heed the wisdom of God revealed through His servants.  I want us to clearly see that the message from God has not changed. As Isaiah disclosed: “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Cf. Isaiah 30:15) And so, in these last days, God has spoken to us through His Son … our Lord Jesus. (Cf. Hebrews 1:2) And this is how Jesus began His ministry after His wilderness experience: “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” (Cf. Matthew 4:17)

His message was the same as His forerunner, John the Baptist, was sent to preach:

Matthew 3:1-8 (NIV)

1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.’” (Citing Isaiah 40:3) John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

Indeed, the fruit of repentance is what our response to God should be for His mercy, grace, and kindness! “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. (Cf. Titus 2:11-12) It instructs us to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God. (Cf. Micah 6:8) It admonishes us to take our evil deeds out of the sight of God; to stop doing wrong; to learn to do right; to seek justice; to defend the oppressed; to take up the cause of the fatherless; and to plead the case of the widow! Yes, we were saved to serve … to love our neighbor as ourself … to love one another as we have been loved by God in Christ Jesus.

In his Gospel, Mark noted that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  (Cf. Mark 1:4) After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the Good News of God. “The time has come,” He said, “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the Good News!” (Cf. Mark 1:14-15) My friends, if we want to receive reconciliation with God through Jesus, then we must begin with repentance! Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Cf. Luke 5:32) Indeed, God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8)

Acts 2:37-39 (NIV)

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

This was the message that Paul preached as well:

Acts 26:19-20 (NIV)

“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.

Do you see it?  Paul said that we are to demonstrate our repentance by our deeds!  And that is the application of our Verse of the Day.  Our deeds … our good works … do not save us or redeem us; rather, they demonstrate our repentance and faith! As James asserted: “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.” And then he adds, “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” (Cf. James 2:18, 24) So, let us keep produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Cf. Galatians 6:9-10) “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:15)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (Citing Proverbs 11:31) So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” ~ 1 Peter 4:17-19

The Day of the Lord…

2 Peter 3:10-11 (NIV)

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. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives….

We have entered the Season of Advent in commemoration of the first arrival of the Messiah … the Son of God … the Word become flesh … our Lord Jesus.  Although we primarily focus on the first coming or arrival of our Lord Jesus during the Season of Advent, there is an ever-present expectation in our consciences of the promise of His Second Coming! Both are realities that underpin our faith from beginning to end….

In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle Peter addresses the implications of the Second Coming of Christ, and exhorts us to be prepared for the event.  In fact, the entire chapter is devoted to “The Day of Lord” as it is prophetically known. And it aligns with what the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews affirmed: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. (Cf. Hebrews 9:27-28)

2 Peter 3:1-18 (NIV)

1 Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

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 wait eagerly for 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 Him15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Indeed, Peter presents a powerful, quite sobering warning and perspective on our preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus.  It is a reality!  It will happen! He encourages us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so that we can withstand the error of this lawless culture in which we live. Their scoffing and mocking of those who believe in the return of Jesus Christ is done in ignorance … not understanding the patience of God gives them an opportunity to come to repentance and a knowledge of the truth. In Verse 5, Peter states “they deliberately forget….”

In Matthew 24, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” Jesus explained to them, at great length, the unfolding of the timeline of events leading to His return.  And then Jesus exhorted them to be expectant and ready.  I will pick up His discourse here:

Matthew 24:30-44 (NIV)

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 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. 36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 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.

It is clear that Peter heard … that he understood … and that he believed the prophetic words of Jesus.  The question is whether you and I believe Jesus at His Word.  Has the “slowness” of His Coming lulled us to be doubtful or skeptical?  We have heard all of our lives that Jesus is coming soon; and yet, many say “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised?”  Do you think Jesus is coming someday but just not in your generation or lifetime?  Do we even think about His return anymore? Well, we have been warned to keep watch because we do not know on what day our Lord will come! That means at any moment He could arrive.  And as Peter observed, “we ought to be living holy and godly lives” in the light of this expectation.  Yes, the Second Advent approaches and we need to be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when we do not expect Him….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

How To Be Blessed…

Psalm 1:1-2 (NIV)

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law, day and night.

Our Verse of the Day affords us some advice on how to experience a blessed life. The state of blessedness or contentment in life is centered on delighting ourselves in our Creator … God the Father … and the reality of His being and nature. God is Spirit. God is Light. God is Love. Yes, God IS (I AM). And He has lovingly revealed Himself to His creation through creation itself … through the presence of His Spirit … and through His Word.  So, I want us to examine the full context of Psalm 1:

Psalm 1:1-6 (NIV)

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law, day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

BLESSED IS

I think we should understand this concept of being or feeling blessed. The definition here connotates the idea of happiness; bringing pleasure or contentment; well-being. We could render the text: HAPPY IS; CONTENT IS; FORTUNATE IS.  But BLESSED also signifies something or someone being made holy; sacred; consecrated; or sanctified. There is an idea of receiving God’s favor in response to faithfulness – a resolve to follow His commandments, laws, and statutes as an act of love and worship. You can compare the use here with those declarations Jesus made in His “Sermon on the Mount” (Cf. Matthew 5-7)

BLESSED IS the person who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly…

Happy, content, and consecrated is the person who does not live according to the world culture or its system. This draws attention to whom we associate … our peer group … our friends. Do we allow ourselves to blend into the “progressive” culture and to be morally influenced by it? “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:18-20) And, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Cf. Romans 12:2) Above all, we should seek the counsel of the LORD. (Cf. Job 12:13; Psalm 16:7; Psalm 32:8; Psalm 73:24; Psalm 119:24; Isaiah 11:2)

BLESSED IS the person who does not stand in the way of sinners…

Happy, content, and consecrated is the person who is not enticed with the lifestyle of sinners. The path of sinners leads them to destruction … and there are many who travel along this broad road. (Cf. Matthew 7:13) Those who follow Christ Jesus are called to live holy and godly lives – especially in light of His imminent return. (Cf. 2 Peter 3:11-12) As Paul affirmed, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” (Cf. Galatians 5:16-21)

BLESSED IS the person who does not sit in the seat of the scornful…

Someone who is scornful shows contempt, disdain, or derision toward another person. They openly express dislike, disrespect, or mockery – often filled with derision or indignation. Such people are known as “scoffers” and represent much of the irreverent, disrespectful, contemptuous behavior we witness within the “progressive” culture. And I believe much of the contempt and vitriol we witness is directed at people of faith, and in particular, those with Christian values. While we know that Jesus warned us persecution would be experienced by believers (Cf. John 15:20); I believe it will not be long before we will be voicing what even the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:86: “All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.”

Before we look at the resolve believers will need to not be deceived by the world or its demonic influences, I would like to point out the downward moral decline we can see unfolding in this passage. The downward path away from God begins with walking (being shaped and influenced by) or joining ourselves with ungodly people. Hanging out with the wrong crowd and trying to “belong” can set a person on course of trouble and self-destruction. As Paul warned, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14) And then standing (being still and stationary) with that same crowd and participating in their unrighteous lifestyle can take hold of that person; and they begin lose a moral conscience about their conduct or behavior. As Paul warned, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Cf. Romans 1:21) Finally, the descent into sin will culminate in a defiant, rebellious, unrepentant attitude. The person found sitting (committed and engaged) in the crowd of scoffers will become openly hostile and against God or anyone who expresses faith in Him. I think we see this demise of the culture happening right now and all across the world. As Paul warned: “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.” (Cf. Romans 1:32)

And Paul warned, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (Cf. 1 Timothy 4:1) Further, Paul affirmed: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:1-5) This looks like a prophetic description of what we are witnessing within a culture that is embracing those who walk, stand, and then sit in the depravity of sinful human nature….

BLESSED IS the person who makes their delight in the law of the Lord (Word of God) … who meditates on it day and night.

What can a person do to avoid the broad road that leads to destruction? The Psalmist indicates that we should delight” ourselves in the law of the Lord and “meditate” upon His Word daily. This is the key to the happiness and contentment of a life consecrated to God. As King David affirmed: “Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in His commands.” (Cf. Psalm 112:1) Yes, what we find in the Word of God is wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, strength, and reverence for His Holiness. We find the path to receive the fullness of His grace and favor … the blessings of reconciliation, salvation, and peace. Indeed, His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path. (Cf. Psalm 119:105)

And so, I pray that this Verse of the Day will continue to inspire us to read the Scriptures and the whole counsel of His Word. I pray that we will deeply ponder what the Word of God imparts and reveals to us about our sanctification; and I pray it will encourage us to walk by the Spirit so that we will not gratify the desires of our sinful human nature. Indeed, what a comfort and blessing it is to know that our Sovereign God … Father and Creator … wants to bless us and to have intimacy with us through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He watches over the way of the righteous … He is the One who sustains us! Let us give Him all the praise and thanksgiving … glory and honor.  In Jesus Name, I pray. Amen. 

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Do Not Love The World

1 John 2:15-16 (NIV)

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

Our Verse of the Day was cited in the commentary when we looked at the topic of the “idolatry of self” a few days ago. To me, this additional reminder is not coincidence; rather, I believe it confirms that the Holy Spirit wants us to address this spiritual concern in our lives. We need to take some time for introspection and let the light of the Spirit illuminate whatever lies in our hearts that is taking precedence over our relationship with God. Ask yourself, what do I prioritize above intimacy with God? As I have shared before, we cannot view God as simply a “part” of our lives … the “religious aspect” of our lives. No, God is either everything, or in essence, He is nothing….

I think our verse points out what is the primary deterrent to intimacy with God: we set our affections on the world or the things of the world. As John asserted, “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” This can be a difficult truth to recognize within ourselves, so it is necessary for us to guard our minds and hearts in order to discern when we are about to cross the line…. Although we live in this fallen and sinful world, we have been “called” out of the world – meaning we do not live in accordance with the world … its patterns of thought or its earthly wisdom. As John points out for us, everything in the world as it pertains to sinful human nature does not come from God. It comes from the world and from within our physical bodies.

One of the key precepts taught by Jesus related to this spiritual concern is that He calls believers out of the world.  Jesus told His disciples, “I have chosen you out of the world.” And so, once we are IN Him, we no longer belong to the world, its deception or darkness, its allures or enticements.  In fact, Jesus asserts that our calling out, our separation from the things of the world, will be the reason the “world will hate us.”

John 15:18-19 (NIV)

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

John 17:13-17 (NIV)

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them to live in accordance with the truth; your Word is Truth.”

The Apostles understood this separation from the world … our sanctification unto God … and its imperative to a life of faith. Consider these inspired instructions:

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.

1 Corinthians 2:11-12 (NIV)

11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV)

The god of this world (Satan) 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.

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

For our struggle is 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.

James 3:13-18 (NIV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

When John tells us not to love the world or anything in it, we need to consider the consequence he shares as well: “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is NOT in them.” The implication here is that we will love our lives IN this world more than we love the One who created it for our habitation. Peter wrote: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (Cf. 2 Peter 2:20) The Apostle James goes even further in his exhortation:

James 4:4-5 (NLT) – Italics are mine.

You adulterous people! You who are unfaithful to the covenant of God. Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit He has placed within us should be faithful to Him. His Holy Spirit within us opposes our envy of the world….

It is clear that we cannot prioritize the gratification of ourselves above the gratitude that is due our Creator! And I believe this shift of spiritual orientation and understanding begins at the moment of rebirth. When we are born of the Spirit, the things of this world become meaningless. Paul asserted, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) The “new” means we are no longer held captive to the things of this world. We are no longer prisoners to the darkness of sin. Light has come! We have been set free of those things in order for His love to dwell within us! In a sense, our separation from the world is the evidence of our new creation in Christ Jesus.

A person is not going to overcome world unless he or she is born of God; and a person cannot be born of the Spirit except through putting their faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. It is our faith in Him that empowers us to be victorious and to overcome the world. (Cf. 1 John 5:2-4) Yes, it is through the obedience that comes from faith that we will be set free from the things of this world! Jesus said, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” (Cf. Luke 9:23) If we will deny ourselves … if we deny our flesh and its sinful nature … we will not love or pursue the things of this world; rather, we will become devoted followers of our Lord Jesus and experience the love of the Father in all of its fullness…. I pray each of us will take up the cross of obedience each day as our act of worship … as a demonstration of our love for the Father. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. ~ Romans 1:25

So, don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and He will give you everything you need. ~ Matthew 6:31-33

You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. ~ James 4:2b-3

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!

The Calling of Hope…

1 Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people…

In our Verse of the Day, Paul makes an interesting request in his prayer for believers in Ephesus.  He asks that the “eyes of their hearts be enlightened” in order to “see” … in order to “know” the HOPE to which they have been called.  Paul indicates that this “hope” is “the riches of His glorious inheritance.”  Let’s look at the verse in its surrounding context because it is powerful!

Ephesians 1:3-23 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Jesus before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, God the Father made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In Jesus we were also chosen (made heirs) having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Jesus better18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people,19and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20the Father exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under Jesus’ feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.

The opening chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians affirms some incredible doctrines about Christ Jesus that we would be wise to assimilate into our theology.  After reading this chapter, my heart is filled with great joy again … my “hope” in the glorious inheritance received through faith is renewed! And what is this inheritance we are to receive?  Jesus indicated it is the “kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Cf. Matthew 25:34) It is an inheritance that we receive because we abide in Jesus, His Son. (Cf. Matthew 21:38; Mark 12:7; Luke 20:14) For Jesus is the mediator of a New Covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that He has died as a ransom to set us free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Cf. Hebrews 9:15) Yes, that promised inheritance is salvation and everlasting life!

In most of the epistles written by Paul, you will find intercessory prayers similar to this one in our Verse of the Day. Note that Verse 15 begins: “For this reason….” And then Paul expounds on the reason he is offering thanks to God and remembering the Ephesians in his prayers: “because of their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love towards all believers.” And I am captured by the powerful requests in this prayer: Paul is asking God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to do the following:

1.      Give us a Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

2.      Open the eyes of our hearts so that we can be enlightened in order to know:

a.   The hope to which God has called us

b.   The riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints

c.   The immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe

3.      Paul asks that all of these requests be fulfilled according to the working of God’s power that He demonstrated through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

4.      Paul then exalts the status and position of our Lord Jesus as head of the Church … which represents His Body (his continued physical presence) in the world.

What I find interesting is that Paul has acknowledged the faith and love of these people and stated these are the reasons for offering his prayer. So, I think the implication is that there is more for believers to discover in their walk of faith with the Lord Jesus. We are to continue growing in our knowledge of God the Father … which Paul attributes to the work of the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation. Paul prays for the hearts and minds of believers to be enlightened further so that we can know the purposes of God in uniting us with His Son – namely our hope and inheritance in Jesus through His death and resurrection. We are urged to grow in submission to His position of authority at the right hand of God the Father. Indeed, Jesus is not only Savior … He is Lord over heaven and earth!

What is the application? Paul wants to encourage those who believe in Jesus through faith to grow in spiritual maturity … to know the deeper things of God and His purposes … and to understand the lordship of Christ Jesus over all aspects of our lives as members of His body. This passage also brought to mind another text that encourages our growth in the Lord: “Therefore, let us leave the elementary teachings of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of instructions about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” (Cf. Hebrews 6:1-2) Yes, all of these doctrines of Christian faith are the foundation upon which we are equipped and prepared to move forward and to grow in our intimacy with Jesus.

Well, I pray that your day will be filled with the hope to which He has called you. I pray your heart has been enlightened to see this hope in your inner being. May it fill you with joy and patience! “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, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 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. (Cf. Titus 2:11-14)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

I Desire To Do Your Will

Psalm 40:8 (NIV)

I desire to do your will, my God; your Law is within my heart.

Our Verse of the Day comes from Psalm 40, and I encourage you to read the entire Psalm for its context. I find the meditation of King David regarding his personal struggle with sin to be honest and transparent. David sees his desire to do what is right as dependent upon his relationship with God. He writes: “Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help me.” (Verse 13) And, “You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.” (Verse 17) He observes the connection between desire and action as predicated upon the Word of God being embedded within his heart….

Indeed, if we desire to do the will of God, it follows that we must know and understand His will. I believe this is why the law … the commandments of God found in His Word … must be stored within our hearts. His Word must be treasured above all else! For the Word of God is necessary to change the human heart so that we are enabled to do His will. (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) The Prophet Jeremiah observed: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Cf. Jeremiah 17:9-10) And Jesus taught: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Cf. Matthew 15:19) Indeed, unless we engage ourselves in the Word of God so it will become active within us, we will struggle to submit to the will of God for our lives.

Surrendering to the will of God is what accomplishes our sanctification! (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3) And the sanctifying work of God within us is accomplished through His Word. Jesus declared as He prayed to the Father: “Sanctify them (disciples and future believers) by the Truth; Your Word is Truth.” (Cf John 17:17) The Word of God (His Will) has been sufficiently revealed to us through His Prophets … and in these last days through His Son. (Cf. John 1:1-2; Hebrews 1:1-2) Consider Psalm 119:11 which states: “Your Word I have hidden in my heart … so that I might not sin against You.” Indeed, His Word, hidden in the soil of a fertile heart, will germinate thoughts of righteousness and godliness to motivate whatever we say and do. Indeed, everything we do as humans (our fruit) is the outward expression of our thoughts … whether good or evil. So as we cultivate reverence for God in our inner beings, let us carefully plant His Word within our hearts to become a harvest of obedience to His Will….

The Apostle John brings us some additional insight on this matter of faith. He connects obedience with our love for God … our reverence for God expressed through obeying His commands. John recorded that Jesus told His disciples: “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15)

1 John 2:4-6 (NIV)

4 Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys His Word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.

1 John 5:2-3 (NIV)

2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands.

I think the question for us is this: “Do we truly desire to do God’s will?” Are we motivated by the love of God to please Him through obedience of His will? Are we chasing after the heart of God with reverence for Him? My solemn prayer is that we will spend more time reading and studying the Law (its commandments, statutes, and precepts) as well as the testimonies of the NT writers in order to comprehend the fullness of God’s Word and put it into practice. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is the spiritual tool through which He sanctifies us. God proclaimed through Moses: “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” (Cf. Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7; 20:26; 21:8; 22:32) In his epistle, Peter quoted Moses and confirmed its application: “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” And since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:15-17)

Yes, I believe the Lord is calling each of us to holiness … leading us with His Spirit to sanctify ourselves through His Holy Word. Our Heavenly Father desires us to live in reverent fear of Him and to do His will. So, may we have ears to hear what the Spirit of God is saying to His Church….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Journey into Holiness…

Hebrews 10:30-31 (NIV)

For we know Him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

After I read our Verse of the Day, I wanted to go back and read the full chapter to see the broader picture being painted by this inspired writer. I thought that I would reprint the relevant context here for us:

Hebrews 10:19-31 (NIV)

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” (Citing Deuteronomy 32:35-36; Psalm 135:14) 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I think the first observation we need to make is that the writer is addressing Christ followers … believers who have made their confessions of faith in Jesus … who have received His sacrifice of atonement for their sins … who understand His post-resurrection role as High Priest … the One who sits at the right hand of the throne of God. I sense his concern regards those who fall away from the faith … who do not abide in Jesus. And so, Verse 26 reminded me of the passage from the Book of Romans that I shared yesterday in my commentary:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Indeed, this is a powerful word for us to embrace because we should no longer be slaves to sin … we should no longer deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth. “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Cf. Romans 8:29) Yes, if our old self was crucified with Jesus, we should no longer be ruled by sin. It should not have power over us any longer. The question I believe each of us should ask is whether in truth we can join Paul in his declaration: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Cf. Galatians 2:20) Yes, we must ask ourselves if we have surrendered all … everything … to Him. Oh, my friends, we cannot hold onto sin in any form. Our redemption was purchased at a great price, and Jesus calls us into the sanctification … into the holiness … that He has purchased with His own blood.

The inspired writer of The Book of Hebrews reminds us of these things! The Lord will judge His people … and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. So, we are urged to make every effort to be holy; for without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Cf. Hebrews 12:14) The Apostle Peter echoed this same message when he wrote in 1 Peter 4:17-18: “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (Citing Proverbs 11:31) Indeed, it is imperative that we endeavor to walk our journey into holiness with great diligence. We need to be alert and vigilant because our enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:8)

I sincerely believe the Holy Spirit wants to impress this message upon us … this application of God’s Word to guide and direct our steps. “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) We are being called to utter surrender – to complete submission to His Will. We must put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to our earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Indeed, it is because of these things the wrath of God is coming.” (Cf. Colossians 3:5-6)

It is my prayer that we understand the Father has ordained for His children to be conformed to the image of His Son … to bear the holiness of Jesus. “Therefore, with minds that are alert and activated, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance and darkness. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”(1 Peter 1:13-16)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14

Teshuva – Time to Return!

1 John 2:1 (NIV)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

Our Verse of the Day deals with the issue of sin in our lives.  I find it interesting that this topic was presented today on Rosh Hashana … and the beginning of Teshuva (10 Days of Repentance) before Yom Kippur … the Day of Atonement.  I plan to observe these special days of reflection; and I think it would serve us well to look deeper into the context as well as other scriptures that lead us to confession, repentance, and obedience….

1 John 1:5-10 Through 1 John 2:1-6 (NIV)

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.

That is probably enough context for us to get the picture. All sin is unbelief or disobedience at its core. If we live in sin, we live in darkness. But if we live in God, we walk in the light. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. As John stated, we must “live as Jesus did” in order to have fellowship with Him. This is HOW we KNOW are in Him. The conviction of sin within us is the evidence that we have offended God … that we have displeased Him. And so, the call to holiness … to the consecration of ourselves to God is the goal. Therefore, confession of sin is necessary … it is required in order to be cleansed and purified by God. And John shares with us the great news that Jesus is our advocate with the Father in order that we might receive forgiveness and be reconciled for our offenses, but John will continue to admonish us with regard to habitual sin:

1 John 3:4-10 (NIV)

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that He (Jesus) appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

I believe we truly need to examine our attitudes toward sin. All too often, we excuse it … rationalize it … or justify it as “being human” or “God understands”. No one is perfect … I get that. But are we conscious of the offense and disgrace that sin brings to God? Do we grieve in our souls when we grieve the Holy Spirit … when we quench the Holy Spirit … when we offend and wound Father God? How often are Christians called “hypocrites” because of their conduct? I see bumper stickers that read: “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.” While the statement is true in a sense … the tone is quite misleading as though grace “excuses” sin. Just to be clear … the grace of God does not excuse sin! The grace of God covers its consequences (See Romans 6:23) … covers it with the precious blood of a perfect sacrificial lamb … atones for sin … and reveals the wrath God “feels” toward it. No, we cannot continue to sin nor be dismissive of the behaviors and habits we have allowed to become the strongholds in our lives. A person born of God … a believer … cannot go on sinning. It is quite unconscionable to treat God with such irreverence if indeed we have been born of the Spirit.

Romans 5:6-10 (NIV)

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 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!

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Being born of the Spirit is the reason we have the capacity to reign in the sinful human nature. As 2 Peter 1:3 declares: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” And godliness should be the desire of a heart that is wholly surrendered to God. Someone once said that we have to hate our sin more than we love God if we truly want to attain holiness. But we cannot attain it in our own strength or power. As Jesus shared with His disciples, “What is impossible with man is possible with God. (Cf. Luke 18:27) It is the Spirit of God who changes our hearts so that the inclinations of the thoughts of our hearts can be made righteous. That is why we are admonished to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:5)

As we meditate on these scriptures and the observance of Teshuvah … the “return” … to turn our hearts toward God, I pray we will see what today is all about for the people of God. The call of repentance is the sound of the shofar – calling an assembly of people united in fasting and prayer before God. Yes, I pray that we will surrender our hearts today and seek the face of God in repentance. For He has said: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:13-16)

Indeed, WE, the people of this nation, need to humble ourselves … we need to turn from our own wicked ways … and consecrate ourselves to the Lord. Then will He hear our prayers and supplications for our homes, for our children, for our communities, for our churches, and for this nation. Then He will forgive and heal our land. Our sins and the sins of this nation can be covered! We have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One. It is His blood … the blood of atonement that redeems and reconciles us with the Father! That is the message of The Return! So let us repent and return to our first love! “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (Cf. Psalm 95:6) Amen….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Links to Bible Gateway for Jewish Readings During Teshuva:

Hosea 14:1-9 (NIV)

Joel 2:15-27 (NIV)