Great Is Your Reward…

Matthew 5:11-12 (NIV)

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In our Verse of the Day, Jesus gives His followers some insight on what being a devout believer will entail. Our profession of faith in Jesus will come at a cost … it will require a sacrifice. But our Lord Jesus affirms our devotion to Him comes with a blessing … a great reward in heaven … salvation and eternal life!

Matthew 5:1-12 (NIV)

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:17-26 (NIV)

17 Jesus went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of His disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all. 20 Looking at His disciples, He said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

When we look at these two presentations of the Sermon on the Mount, we see unexpected teachings of how true relationship with God is defined. Luke, true to his literary form, provides additional contextual commentary along with the recording of some contrasts (woes) that were spoken by Jesus. What we get here is a radical picture of what discipleship means in addition to a glimpse of the blessedness that following Jesus will produce in our lives. And I will note that Jesus did not say: “Blessed are those who have great possessions or sufficient finances….”

Jesus teaches that to be truly blessed in this life, to have intimacy with Him, we need to be emptied of all the things that the world seeks. He calls us to see the depth of our spiritual need … to mourn over our sin and disobedience … to weep over our self-centeredness and lack of compassion … to hunger and thirst for righteousness … to be more gracious and forgiving of others … to advocate for unity and peace … to seek holiness and humility in our hearts and lives … and to be willing to suffer for His Name and the Gospel.

I believe that who you and I will become in Christ, as we abide in Him, will be the outcome of sacrifice and suffering. Jesus told His disciples: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Cf. Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24) John recorded a similar discourse: “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:25-26) And Luke records the following teaching of Jesus that affords us further detail on the matter:

Luke 14:26-30; 33 (NIV)

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

Jesus indicated that there would be a real cost to discipleship; and He admonished followers to consider that cost before they began to follow Him. My initial thought was: “Is there really any choice?” Jesus preached radical ideas that challenged the religious paradigms of His time. So, when He asked His disciples if they wanted to leave Him as others had done, Peter answered: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Cf. John 6:67-69) Indeed, no matter what we might “perceive” is the cost of believing and following Jesus, I think it is clear that we must give up everything for His sake! Yet Jesus has assured us of “great reward” for doing so. As the Apostle Paul expounded:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 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.

If we look at what is happening around the world, even within our own nation, the cost of being a believer and worshipper of Christ Jesus is becoming more apparent. And I believe the historical record of persecution serves witness to this precedent. From Stephen to present-day martyrs scattered across the globe, those who have died for their faith in Jesus testify of the ultimate sacrifice that could be required of any believer.  And I sense we are challenged to ask ourselves if we are willing to do the same. As Paul told the Philippians: “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) And Paul challenged Timothy: “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.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:8) All these thoughts call for introspection … as we consider the cost of allegiance, devotion, and faith. Jesus asks us to believe Him … to trust Him at His word … with everything.  And it is my prayer that we will do so….

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 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. ~ Jesus            (John 15:18-19)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Abounding In Love…

Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV)

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

In our Verse of the Day, I believe we encounter a different concept with regard to the impact that knowledge and discernment have upon our redemption. We typically think of wisdom, understanding, and depth of insight, as the role of the Holy Spirit for our walk as born-again creations. Indeed, He is our guide into all Truth. He is our Advocate … our Helper … our Comforter … who teaches us all things and reminds us of everything Jesus taught His disciples. (Cf. John 14:26; 15:26) Yet here, Paul appears to assert its impact on the growth and maturity of our love as followers of Christ. He prays for our love to abound … for the love within us to grow and mature and bear fruit … in response to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Why is this important?  Well, Paul states the purpose of his prayer is “so that we may be able to discern what is best and to live in a consecrated position for the soon return of our Lord Jesus. We know the primary goal of our life in Christ is to love God and to love one another. But love is not just a matter of the emotions; rather, to be effective and productive for the Lord, we must use our intelligence and exercise discernment. And so, I think Paul is praying not only that the Philippians continue in their outpouring of sincere love, but he is encouraging them to operate in love that exercises knowledge and moral discernment. Paul indicates that love directed by intelligent, moral decisions will manifest itself as the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ … as the completion of God’s love that brings Him glory, honor, and praise! (Cf. 1 John 4:11-17)

As I pondered the issue of moral discernment and how the Holy Spirit impacts our capacity to love more deeply, I recalled some passages where Paul discusses whether our interactions with others are beneficial or harmful.  I believe these selections represent practical applications of how our love for both God and others abounds (increases) with knowledge and depth of insight:

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (NIV)

12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” (Citing Genesis 2:2417 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in Spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 10:23-33 (NIV)

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. 25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” (Citing Psalm 24:1) 27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

As love abounds in our redeemed, transformed hearts … as it matures in outward expression to those around us, such love always seeks and endeavors to operate in the Spirit of Christ.  It requires us to “discern what is best.” As Paul asserted: “I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” I think this mindset is essential if we intend to share the truth in love. As Paul would later instruct the believers in Philippi:

Philippians 2:1-5 (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. 3Do 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….

My friends, when we love as Jesus loved us and gave Himself for us, we will be filled with the fruit of righteousness in our lives. Its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. (Cf. Isaiah 32:17) We will no longer be conformed to the pattern on this world; rather, we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Cf. Romans 12:2) And I think this is Paul’s ultimate desire – that when we stand before God in the judgment, our lives will have been filled with the spiritual fruit of righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ – produced by the Holy Spirit. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) And then, the Father will receive all the glory and praise! “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!

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!

Humility – The Right Attitude

Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

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

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

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Titus 3:1-8 (NIV)

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

One New Humanity…

Ephesians 2:19 (NIV)

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

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

Ephesians 2:1-22 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

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

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

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

Colossians 1:15-23 (NIV)

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds as demonstrated by your evil behavior. 22 But now God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Way of Love

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

In our verse today, we are told to follow God’s example for “the way of love.”  Let’s look at that for moment….

What did Paul reference as “the way of love” for us to follow? “Just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” We see this same admonishment in his letter to the Roman believers: “ Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Cf. Romans 12:1) And Jesus declared, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34) And He explained: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 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.” (Cf. John 15:9-10) And so we see that our love for Jesus is rooted in our obedience to Him … just as He was obedient to the Father.

 

Jesus is God’s example of love.  His love is merciful … it is gentle … it is kind and considerate … it is compassionate … it is forgiving.  Paul explained the excellence of agape love in this manner: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) Yes, we are to follow the example our Lord and Savior has given us … to walk in humility as our own act of obedience to Him:

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 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!

So I pray that today, we would think about the message of love … loving others the way God has demonstrated His love for us.  Romans 5:8 reminds us that God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Let that thought sink deep into your soul this morning. I pray we have made loving God and loving others our greatest resolve … our highest resolution for 2022!  I think it should be if we desire to be the people who want to minister healing and deliverance for those around us.  Let us be reminded that love is the most excellent way … no matter what goes on in our world … no matter who is elected to office … no matter what others have done or failed to do.  Simply follow God’s example, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Amen.

Have a Blessed Day!

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!