Removing the Veil…

1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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

Keep The Faith!

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV)

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.

Our Verse of the Day is a call to persevere in faith. Though we see a world in tribulation on many fronts, we know there a great victory ahead of us! The inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews provides an encouraging word for us, the remnant Church, to keep moving forward as the Day of the Lord approaches. The righteous shall live by faith, for the Lord does not take pleasure in those who draw back in fear or hold to their confidence and trust in Him. We are to forge ahead and to be steadfast in faith. For there is great reward for patient endurance – the promise of salvation and eternal life!

Hebrews 10:23-39 (NIV)

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.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light (of the Gospel), when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But the righteous will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who draws back.” (Quoting from Habakkuk 2:3-4) 39 But we do not belong to those who draw back to destruction, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Philippians 3:12-21 (NIV)

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.

Jude 1:3-6; 17-21 (NIV)

3 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. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. 5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered His people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these He has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you persevere and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

It is my prayer that these scriptural views regarding perseverance of faith will resonate in our hearts. Spiritual warfare is being waged all around this world … across our nation … and within our own communities.  Through faith, we need to press forward and be engaged in the battle! As Paul affirmed: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Cf. Ephesians 6:12-13) And this is what the Lord says: “The Word of God (the sword of the Spirit) shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Cf. Joshua 1:8-9)

Indeed, both Moses, and later, Joshua had to confront the unbelief and unfaithfulness of the ancient Israelites along their journey with God. During the growing pains of the early Church in the First Century, the Apostles had to confront the onslaught of false teachers and prophets who twisted doctrine and denied the truths Jesus had implanted in His chosen disciples. These were the eyewitnesses of His life, death, and resurrection … and filled with the Holy Spirit who fell on the Day of Pentecost. So, it is imperative that we, in our generation, hold fast to the faith once for all entrusted to God’s holy people and not wander from it nor abandon it for a false Gospel.

So, I join with the Apostles and urge each of us to be diligent in these matters and to wholly devote ourselves to the building of our faith through the spiritual disciples we have been taught. We, too, need to persevere so that when we have done the will of God, we will receive what He has promised….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Links to Bible Gateway for Additional Study on Keeping the Faith:

1 Timothy 4:1-15 (NIV)

1 Timothy 6:11-16 (NIV)

2 Timothy 1:6-13 (NIV)

2 Timothy 4:1-8 (NIV)

From Suffering To Hope…

Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I find it interesting that our Verse of the Day is an excerpt from the passage that I posted yesterday for our study.  The topic Paul addresses here is “suffering” and its intended spiritual purpose in our lives. Paul shares his insight from the tremendous amount of personal suffering that he endured; especially after becoming a believer and follower of Christ. I thought we might put this passage in the larger context to see this purpose:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of GodNot only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hopeAnd hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodlyVery rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Notice the end goal of suffering is “hope”! And hope does not put us to shame. Why? Because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. It is our reconciliation with God through the death of His Son … through the atonement made by His blood … that produces the hope of eternal life within us! It is this reconciliation through the suffering of Christ that demonstrates the power and depth of God’s love for us! And I believe this is the context in which we should view our own suffering in life. Paul indicates that we should glory in any suffering that is encountered for our faith in and devotion to Jesus Christ….

Romans 8:18-25 (NIV)

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope. 21 For the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

There is a correlation, an intricate relationship between suffering and hope for us to evaluate and to embrace. For we know that Christ Jesus, Son though He was, He learned obedience from the things that He suffered. (Cf. Hebrews 5:8) And Peter reminds us that suffering for doing good will be inevitable. Just as Christ Jesus suffered for us, we as believers have been called to follow in the example of His steps.

1 Peter 2:19-23 (NIV)

19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. (See Isaiah 53 regarding the suffering of Christ)

So, Paul enjoins us to “glory in our sufferings” for the sake of Christ. For it produces perseverance of faith … Christ-like character … and affirms the hope for which we seek an intimate relationship with God. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:1) And so, I think it follows that without suffering in our lives, we will not develop confidence in our hope or assurance through our faith. In other words, suffering is part of a necessary process to attain a faith that pleases God. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) Faith is believing God and trusting Him even in the midst of our suffering….

2 Timothy 1:6-13 (NIV)

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. 11 And of this Gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

It is my prayer that we as believers will come to a place in our walk with God that we will embrace the trials of suffering that come with the journey of faith. As we have learned, suffering produces tremendous spiritual growth in us … deepens our faith and trust in God and His character … and ultimately produces the obedience that comes from faith. Indeed, those are the worthy goals that accompany suffering and affliction. “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Send Greetings!

2 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)

All God’s people here send their greetings.

Our Verse of the Day might seem mundane at first glance, but when I read the surrounding context, some inspirational thoughts emerged that blessed my quiet time this morning.

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings. 14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2 Corinthians 13:11-14 ~ Final Greetings

As I read the benediction of his last letter to the Corinthians, I felt the impact of Paul’s message and instructions – not only for believers in Corinth but in Ephesus, Macedonia, and all the other places where his evangelical passion helped establish new churches. His utmost desire to see the ordained purposes of the universal Church to produce the fruit of Gospel resonated with me.  Indeed, the reasons for assembling ourselves and joining our lives is evident in these last words:

  • Rejoicing in the Lord Jesus and in His redemption!
  • Striving for restoration of intimacy with God through abiding in the Lord Jesus!
  • Encouraging one another in the faith, and the good deeds that come through faith!
  • Being of one mind and one accord through the unity of the Spirit!
  • Living in peace with one another through compassion, humility, and forgiveness!
  • Experiencing the love and peace of God within the Church!

Paul follows with Verses 12-13 which speak to the affection among believers that should be demonstrated throughout the universal Church. He seems compelled to include: “All God’s people here (in Macedonia) send their greetings (their holy kisses) to all of you all there (in Corinth).” Yes, every local body of believers should express their love … their affection … to other believers everywhere! To me, Paul affirms what Jesus related to His disciples: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35) Indeed, the purpose of the Church is to be … and to share … and to spread … the love of God revealed in the life of Jesus, His Son! This is how His love is completed in us! (Cf. 1 John 4:12; 17)

Well, I hope that we see the importance of sending greetings of affection; expressing concern and providing support for needs; providing encouragement to build up the faith of others; and equipping believers for works of service. For these things are not only important for those within the local body, but also for believers all across the world who form the Body of Christ. The purpose is that we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Cf. Ephesians 4:11-16) Yes, this is my prayer for all who believe and abide in in the Lord Jesus. And I join with Paul in these words: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Eager To Do Good…

Titus 2:2 (NIV)

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

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

Titus 2 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Proclaiming Jesus!

Colossians 1:28 (NIV)

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

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

Colossians 1:15-29 (NIV)

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

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

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

Romans 10:9-15; 17 (NIV)

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Fanning the Flame…

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV)

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Our Verse of the Day is taken from 2 Timothy and I want to spend some time on the commentary this morning. For your convenience, I have reprinted the larger passage so that our verse can be understood in its context:

2 Timothy 1:1-14 (NIV)

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God.9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

This passage is full of theological material for us to ponder and pursue in our walk with Christ Jesus. Paul, in this letter to Timothy, is exhorting Timothy to “keep the faith” as he imparts his final words before execution in Rome. And so I think we would be wise to observe his instructions and to consider some applicable questions for self-examination. For example, Paul commends Timothy in Verse 5 for having “sincere faith” and being “Spirit-filled” (Cf. Verse 6). But notice with regard to the Holy Spirit, Paul “reminds” Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God.” What does this mean in practical terms? There is an implication that we have the capacity to “moderate” the work of the Holy Spirit. This verse reminds me of an alternate interaction with the Spirit of God found in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 where Paul in his instructions to the church exhorts: “Do not quench the Spirit.” So I see this “igniting” and “quenching” of the Holy Spirit as something intentional on our part; and I think we should be attuned to our relationship with the Spirit in this regard. According to Paul, we are to “be fired up in faith through the advocacy of the Holy Spirit and not quenching the power He produces within us.” Note what Paul says in Verse 7: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” And Verse 8, I believe, connects the power of the Holy Spirit to “the testimony about our Lord Jesus” or the sharing of the Gospel. Similar to Verse 12, Paul professes with boldness: “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.” (Cf. Romans 1:16)

As we look further at the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives (the power of God within us); notice that Paul invites Timothy, and implicitly all believers as well, to join him in suffering for the Gospel. (Cf. Verse 8) What does suffering for the Gospel mean? What does that entail in practical terms? How does the Holy Spirit empower us to do so? Well, I think we can look at a passage of Scripture where Paul describes his suffering in detail:

2 Corinthians 11:21b-29 (NIV)

Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Here Paul shares about the physical, emotional, and spiritual hardships he has suffered as an ambassador for Christ in sharing of the Gospel of salvation. And while the context is really intended to be a defense of his apostleship to the Church, it does speak volumes as to the Spirit-filled power Paul received and harnessed (fanned into flame) in order to endure “suffering for the Gospel”. Paul understood that suffering produces perseverance … perseverance produces character; and character produces hope. (Cf. Romans 5:3-4) Suffering for the Gospel was the experience of all the Apostles. Consider some of the record we have from the Book of Acts:

Acts 5:12-21; 25-28; 40-42 (NIV)

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” 21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.

25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. 27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

Although it might seem that I have wandered from our Verse of the Day, I do have a point connected with this discussion of the Holy Spirit … because we need divine power in order to be witnesses … in order to share our testimony of Jesus Christ. Why? Because believers will suffer disgrace and be persecuted … and in some parts of the world be killed … for professing faith in Jesus! Jesus Himself foretold that suffering for His Name would happen to His followers. (Cf. Matthew 5:11-12; Matthew 24:9; Luke 21:12; John 15:20)

So Paul focuses on two issues in his letter to Timothy: “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” As the Apostle 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.” (Cf. Jude 1:3) There can be no compromise … no adulteration of the Gospel or its message. And it will take the full power of the Holy Spirit to guard that deposit of faith within us … to defend it … and to proclaim it to the nations. Consider what Paul preached to the churches in Galatia:

Galatians 1:3-10 (NIV)

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

We need the power of the Holy Spirit within us to not only share the Gospel but to live it ourselves. The righteous shall live by their faith. (Cf. Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11) The Gospel includes the crucifixion – the death of Jesus Christ who bore the penalty for our sin – but it also speaks to our own crucifixion and death to the power of sin. (Cf. Romans 6:5-7) As Paul shared in Galatians 2:20, “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.” “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Cf. Galatians 5:24-25)

So our application question is this: “Are you fanning into flame or quenching the Holy Spirit within you?” Are you “suffering” through putting sin to death in your members in order to experience His sanctification of your body? (Cf. Romans 6:12-14) Are you suffering because you actively proclaim the Gospel and its truth? “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him….” (Cf. Philippians 1:29) You and I cannot afford to quench the very source of power we have been given to endure the suffering; and yet, if we do not “stoke the fire” of the Holy Spirit within us … we are in essence allowing Him to “smolder” and eventually become extinguished in our lives. There will be no power to remove the stronghold of sin in our lives; and there will be no desire or urgency to share the Gospel with others. The Spirit gives birth to our spirits. (Cf. John 3:6) The Spirit gives life (Cf. Romans 8:10); the Spirit gives wisdom and understanding (Cf. Colossians 1:9); and the Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control. (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)

John the Baptist gave this testimony about Jesus: “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loosen. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” A final question: “How do we fan into flame this “fire”? How do we ignite the power of the Holy Spirit within us? Well, first you have to receive the Holy Spirit – and only those who believe in Jesus … who place their faith in Him will ever receive this gift. However, to engage the Spirit in your life, I believe this is achieved through fasting, prayer, and reading the Word of God. Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” (Cf. John 6:63) So we have to humble ourselves and yield our wills to the Holy Spirit so that we do not “quench” His presence within us. And by exercising these spiritual disciplines and submitting ourselves to Him, we can experience the Spirit-filled life Jesus intends for us to live. So I hope you will meditate on all of this Scripture and determine if you are igniting or quenching the Holy Spirit in your own life. And here are some ways you can know:

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

2 Peter 1:3-8 (NIV)

3 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. 4 Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Discipling Children…

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.

Our Verse of the Day is quite familiar to most of us.  We have probably memorized it from the King James Version: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  The point here is that fathers and mothers have a responsibility for raising their children in godliness and righteousness.  It starts with reverence for God our Father and knowledge of His Word.  Moses was quite adamant about these principles of parenting:

Deuteronomy 4:5-10 (NKJV)

“Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren10 especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (NKJV)

1 “Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

We must be diligent to teach our children the Word of God. We spend hours reading to our children when they are toddlers and pre-school … giving them a head start in life and education. How many of those books are bible stories … planting seeds of faith in their hearts from the earliest age? As adults we know and understand that learning is life-long. It is so important to start our children with the knowledge of God while their minds are sponges and their hearts receptive. Even Jesus exhorted His disciples regarding children coming to Him:

Matthew 10:13-14 (NKJV)

13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Mark 9:36-37 (NKJV)

36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

There is a great connection between how we raise our children to be drawn to Jesus and how their lives will enter the Kingdom of Heaven … regardless of the bends and turns of life they experience along the way. It requires great patience. It requires intentionality. As the text reads: “Then little children were brought to Him….” My friends, we need to bring our children to the Lord Jesus. We need Him to put His hands on them and pray over them. There is nothing more precious than children … and it is clear they are greatly treasured by our Heavenly Father.

We did not have perfect parents. Those of us who have children are not perfect parents. Our children will not be perfect people nor will their children after them because of our sinful nature.  But there is perfect guidance, the commands of God our Creator, that has been revealed to us! It is the Word of God that must be imparted to each generation as it has been over the millennia.

It is the instruction of the Lord through His Spirit that will provide us with wisdom and knowledge to direct our paths through this life experience He has given us.  And so, it is imperative that we are diligent to share this instruction with our children and grandchildren for their successful development as well.  It is our parental responsibility; yes, it is our communal responsibility within the Body of Christ to do so….

I have found this Scripture to be true in my own life. I was raised in a Christian home like many of us. But in my teenage years and early adulthood, I went through a period of apathy and unconcern for the things of God. I knew He was there, and I prayed on occasion, but I did not have a personal relationship with Him. To be honest, I did not know how to have that kind of abiding relationship. Yet, God in His kindness, led me to repentance and granted me salvation at the age of 29. And my life has never been the same since that night I knelt at an altar and gave my life to Christ…. He redeemed my life and directed my steps to the path of life … the path taught to me as a child before I truly understood it.

“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)

So Now You Know …

Have a Blessed Day!

Diversity In Unity

Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

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

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

Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV).

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

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

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

Acts 17:24-28 (NIV)

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

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

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

A Final Thought:

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

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!