The Pursuit of Humility…

Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

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

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

1Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature 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!

Here are where my thoughts go when I read this passage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Titus 3:1-8 (NIV)

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

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

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Be Like-Minded…

Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV)

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Although Jesus has called us out of the world … believers are authorized and commissioned to be in the world as His Body.  We, the Church, are saved to serve … to be the eyes and ears, hands and feet, heart and mind of Christ in this world.  In order to fulfill our role, Paul admonishes us to not be conformed to the pattern of this world; but rather, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Cf. Romans 12:2) And so, our verse today reminds us that being united as believers in Christ changes us and how we relate to one another. What we have received from Him is to be shared in a spirit of unity through the bonds of love and peace. (Cf. Ephesians 4:3) The Apostle Peter urges believers to be like minded … to be sympathetic … to love another and to be compassionate and humble just as our Lord Jesus. (Cf. 1 Peter 3:8) Whatever blessings we receive through abiding in Christ Jesus, we are to share those same blessings with others.  Unity is a testimony to our faith, and God the Father is glorified through the fruit we bear. (Cf. John 15:8)

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~ Galatians 3:28

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Light Has Come…

1 John 1:7 (NIV)

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.

Good Afternoon!

Earlier this week, we looked at how believers are called to be light in the world.  The Apostle John spent considerable time on this theological issue in his gospel as well as the epistles that he wrote.  In 1 John, we find this declaration that God is Light … as another attribute of His nature.  Let’s look at it in context:

1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

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

I find this passage deep … and quite convicting. Verse 6 is very direct about how our relationship with the Father is dependent upon His light.  You and I cannot be wavering in our practice of faith when it comes to abiding in God.  We either live in the light of truth under its full conviction; or in essence, we have no relationship with God.  John asserts we cannot walk in the darkness and still claim that we have fellowship with God.  It is an “all light” or “no light” proposition as I read it….  But here is the wonderful outcome:  If we walk in the light of truth; we not only have fellowship with God but also with one another.  Just think of how much better our nation and world would be if each person lived in the light of truth.  There would be fellowship instead of division, conflict, and strife, among us.  As I shared in our last lesson, our country is not divided upon political lines; rather, it is divided between light and darkness.  But if we walk in the light … we will have fellowship with one another.  Think about it….

What is so interesting about light is that it is necessary for sight.  We cannot see anything in darkness. There must be light to illuminate darkness for our physical eyes to have the benefit of vision. The same is true for our spiritual eyes. As we studied, Paul affirmed, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4) And why is spiritual light so important?  It exposes the darkness of sin!  John addressed this issue as well because it is at the heart of why God sent His Son into the world … the core message of the Gospel:

John 3:19-20 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

With this in mind, we can better understand when Jesus declared: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Cf. John 8:12) And later Jesus would state, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (Cf. John 9:5) The connection we need to make here is that Jesus is still in the world … right now!  You might ask, “How?” Well, He lives in each believer and abides in them through His Spirit to form the Body of Christ … the Church. It is the purpose and mission of the Church to be the light of the world.  (Cf. Matthew 5:14) But here is the problem we can face with unbelievers: “If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” We cannot be light if we ourselves walk in darkness. It is hypocrisy! We just deceive ourselves! Light is going to expose all sin! Light is going to expose darkness! As Paul exhorted, “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?” (Cf. Romans 6:1-2)

Now what is the application? When we share the Gospel with others, I believe a major point to share is the liberation that comes with light.  The knowledge of the truth is what sets a person free. (Cf. John 8:32) Sin and darkness holds a person captive, but Jesus was sent to be the light of life:

Isaiah 42:6-8 (NIV)

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.

Isaiah 61:1(NIV)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (the blind).

Jesus declared that these prophetic words were fulfilled in Him. (Cf. Luke 4:16-20) He is the Good News!  He is the Healer of brokenness!  He is the liberator of those held captive in darkness and sin! In Him is life, and that life is the light of all mankind! (Cf. John 1:4) This is what we need to be sharing with the prodigals and unbelievers! Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” (Cf. Romans 1:16) And before his death, Paul reflected on the necessity of sharing the Gospel in his parting instructions to Timothy … which has been preserved for our admonition as well:

2 Timothy 1:6-14 (NIV)

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. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline8 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. 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.

Like Timothy, and all of the earliest disciples and apostles of Christ, we are to join with them in proclaiming, and yes, suffering for the Gospel. For it is Christ Jesus who has destroyed the death that comes from darkness. He is the One who has brought life and immortality to light through His sacrificial love and life. It is this Gospel … this Good News … we are to manifest to the world.  And if we should suffer for sharing the light of the truth, then we simply join our Lord Jesus, the Apostles, Paul, and all those who have devoted their lives to the making the love God known in this world. Jesus said, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (Cf. John 15:20) Peter addressed this issue as well:

1 Peter 4:12-19 (ESV)

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory (power) and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or even as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a follower of Jesus, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (Here Peter is quoting Proverbs 11:31) 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

So, here is the conclusion.  Let us walk in the light as He is in the light!  We must abide in His light in order to have fellowship with God and one another.  If we walk in darkness, we will not have fellowship with God nor one another. That is why we must receive and share the light of life which has been given to us in Christ Jesus. The light of God will bring us to the unity of faith and knowledge of the truth.  And it is the truth that we must guard with our hearts…. Let us not be ashamed of the Gospel; rather, let us convey it in truth.

Mark 8:34-38 (NIV)

34 Then He (Jesus) called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the Gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Love of Another Kind…

Romans 12:3 (NIV)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Our verse is a reminder to be humble as we exercise our spiritual gifts for the benefit of the Church.  I would like to reprint the surrounding context (entire chapter) for us because it clearly articulates what Christian behavior should look like.  This is so important if we are to have a relevant and credible voice within the current cultural struggles going on in our nation and around the world.  Although we are not OF the world, we are certainly IN the world … and with great purpose: to be light in the midst of darkness! So, yes, we are to be engaged in building the Church … the Body of Christ in this world … to be a refuge of truth and grace!

Romans 12:1-21 (NIV)

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 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. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of youFor just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with the faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in loveHonor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Quoting Deuteronomy 32:3520 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Quoting Proverbs 25:21-22) 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

To me, Verse 21 is a great summary of how we are to respond to the spiritual battles taking place right before our eyes.  Do not be overcome by evil!  If we (believers) respond with hate, we are vulnerable to being overcome by the evil confronting us. But if we respond with truth and grace, we are empowered to overcome evil with good.  For all the hate and evil that Jesus endured, He never responded with hate.  Even on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Cf. Luke 23:34) Yes, Jesus challenges us to be radical … to do the unexpected … to be merciful:

Luke 6:32-36 (NIV)

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most-High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

So I think Romans 12 can be a wonderful guide for us … a template for self-checks on our behavior and conduct not only for our relationships with fellow believers, but also for our relationships with non-believers.  Let us not think more highly of ourselves because we belong to Christ; rather, let us give thanks that by grace He has saved us through faith to know the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And He has empowered us with His Spirit to be salt and light in this world … to engage with those who live in darkness that they too might receive the gift of repentance and come to the knowledge of God. How I pray that we will not be overcome by the prevalence of evil … but that we will overcome evil with good.  “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-control.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Not Of This World

Philippians 3:20 (NIV)

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ….

I love our verse today because it relates a truth that we need to remember in our walk of faith – this world is not our home….  As always, let’s look at the surrounding context:

Philippians 3:7-21 (ESV)

But whatever gain I had (in the devoted practice of Judaism), I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ21 who will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.

Here, Paul explains how his devoted practice of Judaism established upon the Law of God (as He revealed it through Moses) had an incorrect understanding of how God wants His people to enter into relationship with Him.  RELIGIOUS practice and rituals had become a “works based” approach to fellowship with God until Christ Jesus was sent to the world to bring the light of love and spiritual intimacy as the “way” to abide and rest in the Father.  Paul shared, “Indeed I count EVERYTHING as loss because the surpassing worth of KNOWING Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Verse 8) The word “knowing” used here connotes a deep, intimate relationship and the idea of being devoted, faithful to that relationship. And from that relationship, the concept of “work” changes.  Work becomes “servant oriented” as in “to serve” the one to whom you have aligned your devotion.  I think of John 15:5 where Jesus asserted, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  This is the essence of “knowing” Jesus … abiding in Him.

And I think this is the context in which we should examine our Verse of the Day.  When our relationship to Christ Jesus deepens … as our devotion to Him matures with understanding … we will come to a realization that the world is not our home.  Yes, it is where we dwell … but it is not where we abide.  Our citizenship … our place of domicile is Heaven!  We are just temporarily “out of the country” in which we were born.  I love how Jesus articulated this for us in His priestly prayer recorded in John 17:

John 17:6-21 (ESV)

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 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 ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

What a powerful prayer offered by our Savior and High Priest.  And within His prayer we see what Paul, the Apostles, and other disciples learned: “Our citizenship is in heaven.” When we are born-again of the Spirit of God, our citizenship is transferred from earth to heaven.  And from there we await the return of our Savior … our King … our Lord Jesus Christ.  So if you have the opportunity, I encourage you to read the Parable of the Talents recorded in Matthew 25:14-30 or the Parable of the Ten Minas recorded in Luke 19:11-26.  Though we have become sons and daughters of the Father, Ephesians 2:10 explains what God has purposed for each of us:  “ For we are God’s handiwork (workmanship), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” So I believe these parables afford us greater insight into the purpose for this relationship we have received IN Christ Jesus.  We are created to do good works … to serve in the Body of Christ (His Church … the called-out ones) with the spiritual gifts and talents that the Holy Spirit has distributed to each one just as HE determines. (1 Corinthians 12:11)

Indeed, when we abide in Jesus Christ … we WILL bear much fruit – the end result of our good works of service.  In John 15:6-9, Jesus said, “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” And, so, as I read ahead … the rest of John 15 … I realized how Jesus opened the eyes of His disciples (and our eyes as well) as to what this “abiding relationship” with Him entails.  Notice how Jesus shifts the relationship from “servant” to “friend” on the basis of His love.  Let’s read it:

John 15:9-17 (NIV)

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

What Jesus has made known to us is this: God is Love! (Cf. 1 John 4:8-20) God demonstrated His love to us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) We demonstrate our love for God in this: We keep (obey) His commands. (Cf. John 14:15) And He said, “This is my command: Love each other.” (Verse 17) But the love Jesus speaks of is not a facade of love … or the distorted love of the world. No, Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.” (Verse 12) His definition and expectation for our obedience set the bar extremely high!  Why would He do that?  Why would Jesus challenge His “friends” to “lay down their lives” as He did?  I am reminded of what the Apostle John wrote: “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.” (Cf. 1 John 2:6) Yes, you and I have a cross to bear as well.  And, perhaps, this brings more insight into this teaching: “When He had called the people to Himself, along with His disciples, Jesus said to them, “Whoever wants to be my disciple, must deny themselves, and take up their cross daily, and follow Me.” (Cf. Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; and Luke 9:23)

So I will finish with the remainder of John Chapter 15 because I think it is quite connected to all the message of love and the events we see unfolding in our nation:

John 15:18-27 (NIV)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ (Cf. John 13:16) If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (Cf. Psalm 35:19; 69:4) 26 “When the Advocate (Holy Spirit) comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father—He will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

A Gentle Answer

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Our verse is another exhortation from Paul … and guidance regarding our relationships with one another. 

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 (NIV)

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Implicit with encouraging one another is how we speak to one another.  King Solomon gave this advice:

Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

In looking at the events that continue to ensnare our nation, I pray that we will continue as believers to find ways to speak words of encourage … words that reflect the command our Lord Jesus gave us: “Love one another as I have loved you.”  (Cf. John 13:34) And, “Forgive one another as the Lord forgave you.” (Cf. Colossians 3:13)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Work of Your Hands…

Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

I find Psalm 139 one of the most insightful meditations on the nature of God. I thought it would be useful for us to discuss our verse in the broader context of the full Psalm. David considers the sovereignty of God: His omniscience … His omnipresence … His omnificence … His omnipotence.  David captures the essence of each attribute and personalizes it; meaning, he brings perspective on how we as created beings can relate to our Creator in personal terms. So I have reprinted it here:

Psalm 139 For the director of music. Of David. A Psalm.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful – I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
17 How amazing are your thoughts concerning me, God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Wow!  Such a powerful meditation … filled with humbled emotion.  When I read this Psalm, I feel overwhelmed with the divine power and presence of our Creator … a God who expresses deep concern and love for a mere speck of dust on a speck of solar dust traversing through one of billions of interstellar spirals within the infinite expanse of what we call the universe…. Yes, like David, I find such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Yet, this infinite God is an intimate being.  He knows each of us … every detail from conception through all the days ordained for each one. The gift of life each one of us receives is wholly an experience of grace … which is why we should feel nothing less than deep reverence for Him.  Our lives are 100% in His hands from beginning to end whether we desire to accept this truth or not. There are no surprises for God. Nothing has ever happened or will happen in your life that He is not aware.   He is unmoved, unshaken by anything within His created order.  Stars are formed … and they are scattered in supernova fashion.  Galaxies spin and collide to produce new formations. This brings to mind another Psalm in which David shares additional perspective on our purpose with the created order.  Again, the emphasis becomes focused on our relationship with God:

Psalm 8

1 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

David appeals to that inner knowing we can experience when we are at a loss for words … when only our spirits can express with groans what our hearts feel.  It is in that quiet contemplative moment we ponder: “Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” (Cf. Psalm 144:3-4) King Solomon, David’s son and successor, often contemplated the observance of creation and its profound mystery as the manifestation of a personal, relational Creator. God enables human beings to see the handiwork of His Word in all of its majesty; yet, we cannot find out the work that God does from beginning to end. (Cf. Ecclesiastes 3:11) And Solomon wrote: “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the spirit enters the body being formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. (Cf. Ecclesiastes 11:5) I think the mysteries of God and His Creation are designed to intrigue us and to activate our faith in Him. 

But for all the awe-inspiring mystery and visual splendor of creation we can observe, there is a greater work of God in our inner being that should rapture our hearts like nothing else: “To believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Jesus implored people to believe in Him! He said to know Him is to know the Father! To abide in Him is to abide in the Father! Indeed, Jesus embodies the eternal love and passionate concern of God for all who are created in His image. Jesus answered the question David asked: “What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You visit him? Jesus asserted, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me.” (Cf. John 6:38) Jesus shared, “I have come that people may have life, and have it to the full.” (Cf. John 10:10) And Jesus declared, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (Cf. John 12:46) I have to emphasize here that Paul explained how those who believe in Jesus are the handiwork or workmanship of God: “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).  Indeed, all of creation exists for the pleasure of God.  As the Apostle John recorded in the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 4:8b – 11 (NIV)

Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ (Cf. Isaiah 6:3) who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will (for your pleasure) they were created and have their being.”

Oh, how I pray that every heart would receive and respond to the manifold revelations of God … through His creation … through His Word … and through His Son!  For His creation reveals His eternal power and divine nature. (Cf. Romans 1:20) His Word reveals His will and purpose. (Cf. Isaiah 46:10) And His Son reveals the exact representation of His being. (Cf. Hebrews 1:3) In addition, we are surrounded by such a great cloud of faithful witnesses! “Therefore,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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  (Cf. Hebrews 12:1-2a)  I have long felt convicted that the “sin that so easily entangles” is the sin of unbelief or a lack of faith. Why? “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Cf. Romans 14:23) And while I realize the context of Romans 14 explores the matter of conscience concerning food, the spiritual principle is there nonetheless.  Evaluate any specific sin, and you will discover its origins in darkness. As the Apostle John wrote: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (Cf. John 3:19)

So what is the application here?  What is the conclusion?

First, God has revealed Himself through His Creation.  He has manifested His incredible attributes:

His Omniscience                    He is the Knower of all things                   Psalm 139:1-6

His Omnipresence                  He is the Being of all things                      Psalm 139:7-12

His Omnificence                     He is the Creator of all things                   Psalm 139:13-18                                

His Omnipotence.                   He is the Authority of all things.              Psalm 139:19-24

Second, God has revealed Himself through His Word.  He has manifested His desire for relationship with us from Genesis through Revelation.

Third, God has revealed Himself through His Son.  He manifested His everlasting, immutable love for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Yes, there is a multitude of mysteries we will never understand in this life. The mysteries of God will forever remain in our quest for understanding because there is knowledge too high for us to attain. But Moses attested: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 29:29) Yes, it is clear that our Father wants us to know Him through what He has revealed through His creation … His Word … and His Son.  To me, it is no mystery that God exists … that I AM is Spirit … and that He cannot be seen with human eyes. Yet, the Father has ordained for us to see Him through the eyes of faith alone … with spiritual eyes and ears to discern and know Him.  And the greatest visual image we will ever have of the Father is His One and Only Son … Jesus.  Jesus embodied the Word of God. Indeed, He is the living Word of God! (Cf. John 1:1-5) Jesus declared, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Cf. Matthew 5:17)

If people would consider these truths in their hearts, what can be known of God should move their hearts to repentance and reverence.  God has made known His covenant of love … His compassion … and His desire for fellowship with those He created in His image. Yes, God has visited us and even borne the judgment for our sin of unbelief upon the cross. The purpose of all His works is this: God wants us to believe in the One He sent.  It is only through faith in Jesus that we will come to perfect faith in God the Father.  It is only through Jesus that we will understand the unsurpassed love of God … the riches of His grace … and the desire of His heart for our sanctification and holiness.  Through faith in Christ, we become new creatures!  The old is gone.  The new has come. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) We become the handiwork of God! And this is the message we need to share with the prodigal, the wayward, and the lost: “Consider all that God has made known, and believe in the One He sent!” The Lord God declares: “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no Savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am He. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” (Cf. Isaiah 43:10-13)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!