Worth More Than Sparrows

Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

At first glance, our Verse of the Day provides us encouragement as Jesus shares how the Father values each one of us.  The idiom or metaphor of numbering the hairs on our heads indicates that the Father knows us intimately.  He is aware of our every problem, every need, every situation … and is concerned about every aspect of our lives. As David noted, “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. (Cf. Psalm 55:22) And Peter recounted this truth when he wrote: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7)

But what I found challenging is the surrounding context in which our passage is found.  I’ll reprint it here for us:

Luke 12:1-12 (NIV)

1 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to His disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.  11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

This larger context creates some theological tension for us. First, we are warned about the deception of hypocrisy in our lives. Jesus indicates it will be exposed. Then He shifts to “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more; rather, fear the One who has authority over your eternal destiny.  Yes, fear Him!”  Then we are assured that God knows us intimately and we are valued, and He encouraged, “Do not be afraid.”  Then we are admonished regarding our profession of faith and its determination of our forgiveness. I mean, there is a lot to consider here. The question is whether each one of these “teachings” are connected to the other, or if they are simply being presented by Luke as a “list” of teachings that Jesus was communicating to those who gathered to hear Him … similar to how we see various Proverbs being presented.

When I read some other commentaries on Luke 12, I could not find a consensus on the issue I posed.  Some commentators broke out each “discourse” within Luke 12:1-12 as I have outlined them here into separate “small sermons.” The idea is that each topic has its own application as we allow these teachings of Jesus to impact us. Notice how Jesus begins each “topic” with the words: “I tell you.” To me this indicates a separation of thoughts or messages; however, I find here an overall theme of how our relationship with God is to be viewed, understood, and expressed. And, perhaps, that is what our application should be … understanding that our fellowship with God through the Lord Jesus must be based on truth and sincere faith. We do not have to be afraid of our future if we reverence God and place our complete trust in Christ Jesus His Son … whom He sent to reconcile us to Himself.  To me, this is the core message being taught by Jesus.  Jesus is affirming that we can trust Him, but we must be humble and honest in our willingness to confess Him as Lord! When tested, and we will be tested, the evidence of sincere faith will be manifested to all.  Our true faith will be exposed and will be seen by those around us … as it is already known to God.

So this is an important lesson for us to embrace.  The truth will always be exposed in the light.  There is no place for hypocrisy with God.  We deceive ourselves if we think our hidden sins are not known.  We might fool people, but we will never fool God.  He knows and sees all things done.  And so, perhaps, that is the warning for us to fear God … the One who has authority over our eternity after our physical death here on earth.  Our faith is being tested each day … each situation … each choice or decision we make for ourselves.  So we must view our relationship with God in this context of truth and light.  God knows each of us intimately; and He desires us to know Him intimately as well.  So honesty is the place to start.  If repentance is indicated, then follow through.  As John advised: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make God out to be a liar and His word is not in us.” (Cf. 1 John 1:8-10)

Lord Jesus, your words challenge us today.  As we consider what you are teaching, I pray that each of us will self-examine our hearts and see the truth you have brought to light.  I pray we will follow the prayer of David when he confessed the sin that he tried to hide. David was exposed, but he determined to repent and restore His fellowship with you.  I pray each of us will find the same honesty and courage to return to you and be reconciled when your Spirit convicts us of hypocrisy and dishonesty.  Against you and you alone we sin, and nothing is hidden from your sight.  Teach us to fear you, O Lord.  Let obedience be our reverence.   

Psalm 51:1-12 (NIV)

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

May our hearts embrace the teachings of Jesus. May our hearts repeat these words of David. Yes, may our hearts be sincere so that we will walk in the truth.  In Jesus Name I pray, Amen….

I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. ~ Psalm 119:14

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Cloud of Witnesses…

Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…

Sometimes we can struggle with our faith … wondering if God is listening or even cares about our situations and circumstances.  We face difficulties and challenges with illnesses, finances, relationships, etc.  How do we keep things in perspective and trust God to be with us during these times? 

Our verse today reminds us that we are surrounded by a great number of witnesses.  Hebrews 11 is filled with the stories of people who persevered in faith despite the hardships and sufferings that they faced in life. And so, we can be encouraged by their examples.  “All these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise. God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”  (Cf. Hebrews 11:39-40) The promise is received in Jesus Christ.  The promise is eternal life with Him….

The inspired writer urges us to put aside anything that hinders us … and the sin which so easily ensnares us.  What could that be?  Well, it could be strongholds of sin, attachments of darkness, etc.  But I think the sin of “unbelief” is what so easily ensnares us in our journey of faith.  We simply begin to doubt or fail to trust God at His Word.  Our adversary, Satan, is a liar and a deceiver.  And if he can lure you into questioning the truth of the Word of God, he will do whatever it takes to make you question God, His love, and His promises….

So we are admonished to stay the course … to persevere and finish the race of faith. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. (Cf. Hebrews 10:36)

As the Apostle James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” And,  “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (Cf. James 1:3-4; 12)

And remember, we should always be looking to Jesus … fixing our eyes upon Him who is the author and finisher of our faith. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) For we know and are confident that He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Cf. Philippians 1:6)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Powerful Word of God…

Romans 1:16 (NIV)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

When I read this familiar passage, so many thoughts come to mind about the importance of sharing the Gospel … the Good News about Jesus Christ … to whosoever will listen and believe.  Why is this so important? Well, Paul answers that question: “Because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”  There are two key points here regarding the Gospel: Power of God and Salvation! The power of God is His Word. He spoke creation into existence! (Cf. Genesis 1) And so, in order for a person to come to faith and receive salvation, the Word of God (the message about Jesus) must be heard and understood. I think of salvation in this context: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) So, this is how are we created in Christ Jesus – it is through the Word of God … spoken through the prophets and in these last days through His Son.  (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-3)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.(John 1:14)

For the One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. (John 3:34)

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life. (John 6:63)

Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death. (John 8:51)

There are a multitude of Scriptures that emphasize the creative power of the Word of God; but we can begin to see with just these few I have shared that true life is received in Christ Jesus.  Life … eternal life is formed in us as we hear His words, listen to them, and apply them to our hearts.  And I love this pronouncement from God through the Prophet Isaiah: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Cf. Isaiah 55:11) Indeed, God has ordained that His Word … His Son … shall bring forth salvation.  As Jesus affirmed: “I know that His command leads to eternal life.  So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me say.” (Cf. John 12:50) So the issue is believing and trusting the Word of God … coming to a knowledge of the truth … and placing our faith in Jesus Christ.  And faith comes from hearing the message as Paul shares in Romans 10:

Romans 10:9-17 (NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him (Jesus) will never be put to shame.” (Quoting Isaiah 28:1612 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Quoting Joel 2:3214 How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Quoting Isaiah 52:7) 16 But not all the Israelites accepted the Good News. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (Quoting Isaiah 53:117 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Oh, I hope that I am carefully articulating this train of thought for someone here who has been trying to connect the dots. I pray a veil is being lifted right now for you to comprehend that it is the Word of God that creates you in Christ Jesus. “For you will be born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:23) You become a new creation in Him!  The old has gone and the new is come! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) This is how Jesus will encounter you and reveal Himself to you because you believe the Gospel and come to Him in faith!  Oh, I pray that you will believe this report … that you will experience His light piercing through the veil so that you “see Jesus” … that you experience His zealous love for you …  that an intimate relationship is forged! Yes, and know that today a multitude of prayers are being offered up for you … that intercession is being made for you. And I decree these words over you: “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Cf. Zephaniah 3:17) Even so, Amen!

Lord Jesus, you have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68) You are the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through you. (John 14:6) So, I pray your Word will go forth and accomplish the thing for which you have sent it.  I pray that your Word will speak new life into the one here who is diligently seeking you with their heart.  Reveal yourself to them.  Encounter them as only You can do, and set them free. Let doubt and desperation turn into peace and joy.  Let your presence and your love overwhelm them.  Let them hear you singing over them.  Let your Spirit bring assurance to their heart.  Let them know that they are saved! In Your Mighty Name, I pray.  Amen….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

A Wise Son

Proverbs 23:24 (NIV)

The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.

Several of you had responded to my email that I sent on Saturday … sending prayers and well wishes about the spiritual battle(s) that I have been facing.  First of all, I send my heartfelt gratitude to those who have been praying and interceding … regardless of whether you let me know. I am blessed to be surrounded with your love and concern.  So I wanted to let you know one of the battles that I have been fighting in the Spirit … and to share the praise report that I alluded to in my email.  The victory of prayer and spiritual warfare that I received from the Lord is found in our Verse of the Day….

“The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.”

You see, I received news late Friday night that my son, Eric, and his wife, Shelby, had a life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ!  Yes, both have been born-again of the Spirit of God – and their names are now written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!  Yes, Hallelujah! Yes, Amen!  Yes, I give thanks to God that He removed the veil of darkness from their eyes that they might see the Light of God in Jesus Christ!  They are no longer of this world or live in the wisdom of this world.  These Scriptures come to mind:

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (NIV)

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Cf. Isaiah 29:14) 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (NIV)

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

Ephesians 2:1-10 (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.

“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Cf. Luke 15:10) So, like the father of the Prodigal Son (Cf. Luke 15:11-32), I invite you to rejoice with me … “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So we are celebrating and grateful to God!  And I encourage every one who is praying for their prodigal … for their children who have wandered from the faith … to persevere in prayer before the Father.  For those the spiritual battle is intense … the battle belongs to Lord! Ask for the “veil” to be removed from their eyes … that they too might become wise and see the light of God in Christ Jesus.  Yes, continue to watch and pray!  And I pray that I will be celebrating your victories with you soon…. 

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Dual Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:20-22

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Our verse (last Sunday) presented some incredible theology regarding the resurrection of Christ … and I believe it prompts further examination for us.  I have taken some time to let it penetrate my own heart and renew my thinking. I hope it will resonate in same way with you – to more deeply examine the implications of the resurrection both in the present and in the future. Let’s break down 1 Corinthians 15 and let it be the outline for some study:

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (NIV)

1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

Here Paul begins with the affirmation of the Gospel and its salvific message.  He then reviews the three pillars on which the Christian faith rests (Christ died, was buried, and was resurrected) – which is the core of the Gospel message and the creed of our faith. And then Paul recounts those who were witnesses to the fact of the resurrection … lastly including himself during his “encounter” with Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Paul will contend it is the literal, bodily resurrection of Christ that supersedes the entire Gospel narrative as he continues to reason:

1 Corinthians 15:12-19 (NIV)

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Paul is quite adamant that the resurrection of Christ has indeed occurred:

1 Corinthians 15:20-26 (NIV)

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have died. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the first-fruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. 24 Then the end will come, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Indeed, in Verse 22, we see the theological implications of the resurrection from Genesis to Revelation.  In one sentence, Paul contrasts Adam with his Seed who will strike (crush) the head of Satan under His foot. (Cf. Genesis 3:15) Paul explains this victory in further detail through his letter to the Romans:

Romans 5:12-21 (NIV)

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— 13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! 18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. 20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:30-34 (NIV)

30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (Cf. Isaiah 22:13) 33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (Here Paul quotes the Greek Poet Menander34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.

I believe the point Paul intends to make here is that the preaching of the resurrection has brought extreme hardship and death threats to him.  So if the resurrection did not happen, why would he put himself in such peril?  If the resurrection of Christ did not occur, then there is no atonement … our faith is in vain … we are still in our sins and salvation is just some sort of myth.  We might as well just eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we will die….  But Paul warns against such thinking; and he advises us to be careful not to listen to people who have no understanding or faith in the truth of the resurrection.  In a sense, unbelief in the resurrection is tantamount to unbelief in the Gospel – the testimony or word of God….

Paul goes on to surmise that someone will ask, ““How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” (Verse 35) And while it seems that Paul finds these questions somewhat “silly,” he proceeds to explain the process of our own resurrections using “natural” examples to teach “spiritual” truths.

1 Corinthians 15:35-49 (NIV)

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

(Note: this quote is found in Genesis 2:7) Then the Lord God formed a man (Adam in Hebrew) from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Paul uses this contrast between the “first” Adam with the “last” Adam to highlight his following thought process:

46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

To me, the pertinent question here is: “What seed is it that we sow?”  “What seed is it that we bury … to die … so that it will emerge in a new form … as God determines?” I believe that seed to be buried is our life … the life we now live in our body.  And this brings to mind what Jesus taught:

Matthew 16:24-26 (NIV) (See also Mark 8:34-36; Luke 9:23-25)

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

It is clear that we are to die to our sinful nature; and I believe this is the seed we sow!  Our former life (our natural life) is to be buried with Christ Jesus through baptism into death in order that we too may live a new life … a resurrected life now (our spiritual life).  Just as Christ Jesus was raised from the dead after His crucifixion, so we are raised to new life … a new creation … that does not bear the image of what was sown; rather, it bears the image that God has determined.  Yes, He conforms us to the image of His Son!  (Cf. Romans 8:29)

Romans 6:1-11 (NIV)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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. 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. 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— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with HimFor we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. 10 The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

What I think we need to understand is that there is a spiritual resurrection that occurs now when we die to self, repent, and place our faith in Jesus. And there will be a resurrection of our bodies after our physical deaths that occurs later when Jesus returns for the day of judgement and His rule. But Paul goes on to assure us that the image we will bear in our resurrected bodies will be the same as the resurrected body of Jesus Christ. Oh how I pray that we get the importance of this revelation … because it sets the foundation for what Paul declares next:

1 Corinthians 15:50-55 (NIV)

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all die, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (Read Isaiah 25:6-8) Where, O death, is your sting?” (Cf. Hosea 13:14) 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Before He was sentenced to be crucified, Jesus told Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not from here.” (Cf. John 18:36) This is an interesting statement Christ made; but it does confirm that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God?  It is similar to what Jesus disclosed in His prayer for believers:

John 17:14-18 (NIV)

14 I have given them Your Word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.

Although we are not of this world, we are still in this world. Even though we serve the Kingdom of God within our physical flesh and blood, its realm will not be of this world! As Jesus explained to the Pharisees, “The Kingdom of God does not come with observation; rather, the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Cf. Luke 17:20-21) Indeed, at the new birth (after we have died to ourselves and been resurrected in newness of life), the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us and we submit to His authority over us. Our citizenship is transferred into heaven – from which we await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf. Philippians 3:20) So even though the Kingdom of God is not of this world … our service to God IS within this world, and we are exhorted to continue the work of sanctification; that is, to set ourselves apart unto God and to lead others out of this world and into the Kingdom of Light. As Paul concluded in Verse 58: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

The concept of the Kingdom of God has its roots in the Old Testament – when YHWH (God) was thought of as the King of Israel … the ruler of His people. But with the birth of Jesus, the Kingdom of God entered with new power and redemption (i.e. the New Covenant – when God will put His law into our minds and write it on our hearts. See Jeremiah 31:31-34)   Jesus clearly taught that the “Kingdom” is present through His life and through His Word; yet, we must enter it of our own free will. So how do we reconcile the tension of these two views? Well, my thought, is that we must recognize that the Kingdom of God “embodies” a spiritual dimension.  Just as salvation has already been effectuated through the cross and we receive it in faith; the Kingdom of God was effectuated through the resurrection of Christ Jesus and we enter it through the Spirit! Both are available to us now. Both are realities in the future.

Death has reigned because of sin … from Adam until Jesus Christ. But we have been given victory over the sting of death and the power of sin. Sin no longer reigns; rather, Christ reigns in our hearts! Death from sin is being destroyed now by the preaching of the Gospel … it has been nailed to the cross! And when the Gospel has been fully preached to the ends of the earth, then the end will come. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” And the Apostle John tells us that when believers are resurrected (the first resurrection), we will reign with Christ Jesus in His Kingdom! (Cf. Revelation 20:4-6) Perhaps this is the Kingdom that Paul indicated would not be inherited by flesh and blood. Perhaps the Kingdom we enter now is not the same as the Kingdom we will enter after death. This is a mystery…. But we do know that Jesus Christ is the King Eternal … Immortal … Invisible. (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:17)

Jesus told us to pray: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your Kingdom come … your will be done … on earth as it is in heaven.” (Cf. Matthew 6:10) What does this mean in the context of our study? Well, understanding that the will of God is for all people to come to a knowledge of the truth (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:3), there is a Kingdom where God Himself has sworn by His own mouth, and His Word will not be revoked: “Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear.” (Cf. Isaiah 45:22-25) Paul quotes this passage in his discourse regarding our individual spiritual journeys in Romans 14. And in Philippians, Paul asserts sovereignty of God is fulfilled in our Lord Jesus.

Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage;
rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest placeand gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.

Yes, in the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ rules in our hearts … and we bow to Him and acknowledge Him as Lord! And God invites all people to enter His Kingdom through His Son because Scripture tells us that submission to Jesus as Lord is required. Jesus declared, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Cf. John 14:6) This is what God has ordained for His plan of redemption before the creation of the earth! So even though the Kingdom of God to come will not be experienced by flesh and blood, it will be experienced by our souls … which are ever present within us even now. And it appears that our souls will indwell our resurrected bodies … which will be like the resurrected body of Christ.  This should make us even more introspective of the question Jesus posed: “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

As we think through the issues of faith, I think it is important to note that this tension between the present and the future should not be viewed as a hindrance to our understanding of Scripture; rather, I believe the “dualism” flows from the truth we encounter each day. As Paul explained, “there is a natural body and a spiritual body. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.” But we should recognize that the spiritual is readily manifested in the natural even now. Perhaps this experience should be considered an “integration” because each one impacts the other without reference to time.  There is a salvation now … and a salvation later.  There is a resurrection now … and a resurrection later. There is a Kingdom of God now … and a Kingdom of God later.  There is eternal life now … and eternal life later.  Yet, for God, it is the eternal present.  There is no time … and that is the mystery for us to reconcile. 

So, I hope that we will see these patterns and relationships between the physical (natural) and the spiritual (supernatural) presented here.  I pray that we will come to understand that what we do and how we respond to God impacts not only our spiritual birth and maturity within the physical reality of life we experience now, but I hope that we will come to understand how this impacts our inheritance of what God has prepared and declared for the new heavens and new earth to come. (Yes, even the heavens will experience a resurrection to come!) So while there is a reality of physical and spiritual integration in the present; there is a similar reality to be experienced in the age to come.  This is the hope of our salvation to come! And I believe the challenge is this: To enter the kingdom of God now … to deny ourselves and the attachments of darkness now … in order to inherit the kingdom of God to come – when Jesus returns in glory to take us to the place He has prepared for us. Yes, the body of sin must be put to death so that a spirit of holiness will prevail in us. Perhaps, this is why we are admonished: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  (Cf. Luke 9:23) Yes, for the Christian, death to sin is a daily decision. But the promises of God and our inheritance through Christ Jesus is worth it all – both now and in the age to come.

I realize this has been quite lengthy; and I appreciate your patience with me if you made it through…. I may not have articulated the points very well; but I hope you have been intrigued enough to examine these Scriptures for yourself and to consider how they should engage deeper thought on key theological issues of the faith.  I pray you and I will continue to grow in our knowledge of God through His Word and be changed by its truths….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Just The Right Time

Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

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.

This passage from Romans 5 is still as powerful today as it was when the Apostle Paul penned it for the Church.  Verse 8 is quite profound, and it gives us a clear understanding of the depth of God’s love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us … the ungodly … those without hope of salvation! Indeed, Jesus was crucified because we are all sinners! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23)

Psalm 14:2-3; Psalm 53:2-3; Romans 3:11-12

The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside. They have together become corrupt; there is none who does good … No, not one.

God saw our condition … our state of darkness … our need for salvation! But we are assured: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Cf. John 3:16) “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:9-10) And as Paul concluded: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Cf. Romans 8:38-39)

God has manifested, demonstrated, and confirmed His love for us!  The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us! (Cf. Romans 5:5) How could anyone ever doubt the love of God? The love of God provided His own Passover Lamb as a sin offering for us! You can readily see this presented and prophetically revealed in Genesis 22 which tells the story of when God tested Abraham with the sin offering (sacrifice) of Isaac (his first-born and only son of Sarah) on Mount Moriah. The narrative reveals the intense faith Abraham had in God … a faith demonstrated by a sincere love and trust in God such that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son in obedience to the command he had received:

Genesis 22:6-13 (NIV)

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram (behind him) caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

But unlike Isaac, who was bound by his father and then placed on the altar for sacrifice, Jesus was willing to die.  Indeed, it was for this purpose that He was sent by His Father. And Jesus was not bound and then placed on the cross of sacrifice; He was nailed to it after He had been violently abused, brutalized, and humiliated.  And here is the explanation that Jesus gave before the betrayal and trial and execution ever occurred:

John 10:14-18 (NIV)

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

A thought just came to mind.  There is a song by a band named Foreigner entitled: I Want to Know What Love Is. The chorus goes: “I want to know what love is, I want you to show me. I want to feel what love is, I know you can show me.” If a person made this his/her prayer to God, I believe God would respond: “I have shown you what love is.  You can know what love is.  You can feel what love is.  I have demonstrated my passionate, everlasting love to you and for you.  I have made known my love for you. His name is Jesus!”  The Apostle Paul prayed that believers would know this love:

Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He (God) 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.

Yes, we can know the depth of His love … even though it surpasses our comprehension….  The Apostle John affirms this same knowledge:

1 John 4:10-16 (NIV)

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. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

Indeed, “God has delivered us from the power (dominion) of darkness and transferred (brought) us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love,  in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He (Jesus, the Son) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Cf. Colossians 1:13-15) And this is the reason for the cross. Jesus is the revelation of the heart of God: of rescue … of redemption … of resurrection … of reconciliation. God sent His Son to accomplish ALL of these things because He loves us! Yes, the cross of Christ was ordained! It was commanded by the Father.  It was His will. The Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the world. (Cf. Revelation 13:8) And what does He require?  A Response. Repentance. Reformation.  He says to us: “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) And, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when He is revealed. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. Instead, just as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct;for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:13-16)

We remember the cross because it is an eternal symbol of God’s love for His creation.  We remember the cross because it is where Jesus was sent by the Father to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins … even the sins of the whole world. (Cf. 1 John 2:2) We remember the cross because there is, therefore, now no condemnation for our sins. (Cf. Romans 8:1) But I pray we are reminded: “Jesus Himself bore our sins in HIS Body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:24) As Paul asked: “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Cf. Romans 6:2) And Paul exhorted: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Cf. Colossians 3:2-4)

I truly want us to remember the purpose of the cross … the crucifixion … that God would send His Son to die for us. I believe the purpose is evoke a response; and I think Paul articulates the response that God desires from each of us quite well:

Romans 6:1-14 (NRSV)

1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sinFor whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 The death He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

So, I will close with this passage:

Luke 9:23-24 (NIV)

Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

No Eye Has Seen

1 Corinthians 2:9

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love Him—

I have always leaped for joy when I read this passage.  My imagination affords a wide range of the possibilities for heaven.  I think about the vivid descriptions of the Apostle John recorded in the Book of The Revelation … the emerald majesty of God’s throne … the illuminate Holy City of New Jerusalem … the foundations of precious gem stones and streets of gold as pure as transparent glass….  Heaven really is inconceivable even with the panoramic view we have been given.

But then I looked at the passage in its immediate context, and I thought there is more to what Paul is trying to convey here.  I began to see this verse from a different perspective … one that I had not considered before.  So I have reprinted the entire chapter for us to examine, because I think there is some broader truth to observe in this regard.

1 Corinthians 2 (NIV)

1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” (Cf. Isaiah 64:4) — the things God has prepared for those who love Him— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

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. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” (Cf. Isaiah 40:13) But we have the mind of Christ.

Contemplating this passage within the context has shifted my focus from the eternal to the present. The Lord Jesus shared that He was would go to prepare a place for us in heaven and return to take us to be with Him there. (Cf. John 14:2-3) And I believe John has given us a vivid description of that place.  But to me, in the context, this passage appears to be addressing the mystery of the Gospel itself … the wisdom of God and His plan of salvation to be accomplished through His Son … Jesus, the Messiah.  Indeed, no human mind could have conceived that God the Father, the Creator of the Universe, would in essence sacrifice Himself for His own creation as an act of atonement for the sin and corruption that had entered into it.  For God sent His Son, Jesus, to be the Lamb of God … who was slain from the creation of the world. (Cf. Revelation 13:8) Indeed, our salvation is truly unimaginable; and yet, this is the eternal life that God has prepared for those who love Him. And this great salvation has been revealed to us by His Spirit.  Yes, The Spirit has revealed even the deep things of God … so that we might know them!

We do not have to look beyond the Word of God … written by the Holy Spirit upon the minds and hearts of holy men of God (2 Peter 1:21) … to see and understand what God has revealed regarding His plan of salvation.  Until the revelation of the Old Testament was fulfilled in Christ Jesus, no eye had truly seen … no ear had truly heard … no human mind had ever conceived the plan of salvation that God had prepared for those who love Him.  As Hebrews 1:1-3 explains, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” Wow! Just think about that a moment! How incredible is it – that the Creator of the universe would have the care or concern to afford His creation insight into the thoughts of His own mind … the love of His own heart … His deep desire to make Himself known to us!  It was accomplished through the Messiah … the Son of God … Jesus! He brought complete reality to all that had been spoken … to all that had been revealed!  The thoughts of God … the deep things of God … were revealed by His Spirit and witnessed in His Son.

And this is the message: God loves us … His children … so deeply that He died for us!  God sacrificed of Himself as a testimony of His indescribable, inconceivable, inseparable love! Paul would describe His passionate love with these words: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Cf. Romans 8:38-39) Indeed, the Word of God is HIS testimony which He has given about His Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about His Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (Cf. 1 John 5:9-11)

Luke 24:44 (NIV)

Jesus said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

1 Peter 1:10-12 (NIV)

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

So, I hope this discussion has stirred your own thoughts about the Gospel … its hidden wisdom that has been revealed to those who love God through the Spirit.  As the Apostle John affirmed for us: “12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  (Cf. 1 John 5:12-13) And so I share this word with you that the Gospel may be applied to your hearts in the present … and so that you will know for certain the eternal life that awaits you in that truly inconceivable place Jesus has gone to prepare for us!  And the greatest news is that He will soon return …  so that we might be with Him where He is!

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Coming to Bring Salvation

Hebrews 9:28

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.

Our verse today brings an interesting perspective on the Second Coming of Christ and His purpose.  Here in the Book of Hebrews we find some weighty theology that should perk our attention, so let’s put our verse into additional context:

Hebrews 9:23-28 (NIV)

23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did He enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But He has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 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.

What we find here is a comparison and explanation of the Old Testament sacrificial system to the New Testament reality in Jesus Christ.  The writer brings theological emphasis that Jesus gave Himself “once” – in as much as people are destined to die once (Christ died once as well), and after that to face judgment – so we find in Jesus, by the sacrifice of Himself, a superior sacrifice that does not need to be nor will it ever be repeated.  We can reference Hebrews 1:3-4 in this regard: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So He became as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to theirs.”

When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (The First Advent of Jesus), He was sent by God the Father to be a sacrificial lamb – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (Cf. John 1:29).  “So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many” is probably an allusion to Isaiah 53:12 (Cf. 1 Peter 2:24); however, the most prominent issue of this verse for me now is that “He will appear a second time!”  The Writer indicates that the purpose of this “second” coming is not to bear the sins of the world, but to bring salvation (eternal life) to those who are “eagerly” awaiting His return…. One commentator felt this may be another allusion to the ceremony of the Day of Atonement, where the Israelites eagerly waited for the High Priest to come out of the Holy of Holies alive, which symbolized YHWH’s acceptance of his intercessory ministry. But I believe for us, in this context, it probably refers to the return of Christ to gather His own.

John 14:1-6 (NIV)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I amYou know the way to the place where I am going.”Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me

I pray each of us find comfort and joy in the hope of His soon return.  He is coming! He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen. (Cf. Revelation 22:20-21

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

I AM REDEEMED

1 Peter 1:18-19

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

We have been redeemed! But not with physical, perishable things of monetary value such as silver or gold.  No. Peter proclaims, our redemption from a sinful nature (the empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors) was purchased with something of far greater value … the highest possible value … the imperishable life of God! In Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, God shed His own blood as the “purchase” price required for the payment of our sin debt.  That such an extreme price was necessary to redeem us indicates just how fatal sin of any form or magnitude should be view and understood. The only price acceptable (propitiation) was for God Himself to die on our behalf!  What greater price could there ever be? That is how God views sin….  That is how we should view sin….  As Paul explained:  

Romans 7:5-14 (NKJV)

For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13 Has then what is good become death to me? 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

Perhaps Paul drew his inspiration and understanding in this regard from the Prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 50:1-3 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? Or to which of my creditors did I sell you? Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away. When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to deliver you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst. I clothe the heavens with darkness and make sackcloth its covering.”

We were sold under sin!  And through the commandments of God, we have discovered the exceedingly sinful nature of our beings.  Iniquity has been found in each one of us. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) And it is clear that God determined the price of redemption … the price to reclaim us from the death of sin … was exceedingly beyond the capacity of any human to afford.  It cost Jesus His life to pay the required price.  Yes, sin is that costly!  Jeff Bezos is worth over $100 Billion and that would represent the most microscopic Nano-fraction of what had to be paid.  Jesus asked: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26) We simply cannot underestimate or dismiss the fatal cost of sin over our lives.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Not only do we need to realize the infinite cost of our redemption … purchased by the Son of God … we need to understand that is was the mercy and grace of the Father that afforded this salvation to us.  This is the epitome of kindness displayed by a Holy God toward His unholy creatures.  Father God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ Jesus. And His incomprehensible kindness toward us is intended to lead us to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) This is the heart of the Gospel! “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) He died to redeem us from the empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors.  And through His resurrection, we are raised together with Him into new lives! As Paul affirmed in Colossians 1:13-14, “For He has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

Ephesians 2:1-9 (NKJV)

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 

Redemption … Salvation … Eternal Life.  These are gifts from God our Father.  We have received them through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ … who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:4-5) May we never take His great love or grace for granted … and may we always strive for holiness in our lives as an act of worship for the redemption we have received.  As Paul admonished: “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.” (Cf. Romans 12:1)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

I AM the Resurrection

Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

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.

It’s hard to believe we are already a week into April.  Easter is just two weeks away … and I am excited about the celebration to come.  I will address the Verse of the Day above in a moment, but first I would like to explore the topic of the resurrection itself because Paul addresses how we should live and walk under the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. During His time of ministry, Jesus Himself affirmed that the resurrection of our own bodies will occur:

Matthew 22:23; 29-32 (NIV)

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question.

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? (Cf. Exodus 3:6) He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Jesus confirmed to the Sadducees that the resurrection is not some foolish hope or religious myth. God has revealed to us the truth of the resurrection through His Word.  And later, Jesus shared with His disciples regarding His own power and authority to grant eternal life to those who believe in Him….

John 11:21-27 (NIV)

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Again, from this conversation between Jesus and Martha, Martha professes her belief in the resurrection and Jesus assures her that Lazarus will “rise again”.  But Jesus goes on the reveal something much greater than her belief in a theological concept.  Jesus claims to be the agency and reality of her faith! “I AM the resurrection and the life.” And then He asks her (and us) a very pointed question: “Do You believe this?” His question was not about whether she believed in the possibility of physical resurrection.  His question concerned whether she believed that HE is the resurrection and the life?  And her response was indeed the correct one!  Jesus IS the Messiah, the Son of God, who came into the world as testified through the Word of God spoken through the Holy Prophets and now revealed to us through His life.  (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-3)

But in our Verse of the Day, Paul challenges us to living a “resurrected life” now! Since Jesus has already died to take away the sin of the world, Paul indicates that His death became our own death to sin.  Likewise, the resurrected Jesus became the new life that we can live through faith in Him who loves us and gave Himself for us.  This is an incredible theological construct for us to embrace.  And Paul goes on to explain the application for us. In Verse 21 Paul continued, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. (Romans 3:20) For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. (Romans 3:28) Salvation and eternal life are not earned, gained, or otherwise merited upon human effort. No human has ever been 100% obedient to the commandments of God except Christ Jesus alone.  A blood sacrifice for atonement was required … and God sent His Son to be the propitiation for the sin of the world.  Jesus, our Redeemer, was the Lamb of God … without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-20)

So what I believe Paul is teaching in this passage is that the efficacy of His sacrifice should become immediate in the life of a believer.  That is, we should individually identify with His sacrifice – specifically to the death of our sinful, human nature and to the resurrection (spiritual rebirth) of our lives through faith in Jesus, the Son of God.  The lives we now live in our redeemed bodies, we live by faith in the One who loves us and gave Himself for us…. Look at these incredible words of longing Paul wrote as He contemplated living in light of the resurrection:

Philippians 3:7-11 (NIV)

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and the power of participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

No, Jesus did not die in vain. He accomplished all the Father sent Him to do. “It is finished!” And through His resurrection, we have full assurance of and confidence in His promise to grant us eternal life! We receive this assurance through the Holy Spirit. And as Paul asserted with Timothy, ” For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:17) Yes, we can live in the power of His resurrection now and become vessels of His righteousness in us. So I pray that we will all give deeper thought and consideration to these truths for our lives….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!