Be Devoted to Others…

Romans 12:10 (NIV)

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Our Verse of the Day continues to examine the expectations and qualities of our personal relationships with others. These are always great reminders when we might feel otherwise in our attitudes with other people. The Apostles give us some practical ways to demonstrate love … to be devoted to one another in love and to honor others above ourselves:

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” (Citing Exodus 20:13-17; Deuteronomy 5:17-21) and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Citing Leviticus 19:18) Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Galatians 6:1-3 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 (NIV)

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more….

James 2:8-9 (NIV)

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show favoritism, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

1 Peter 1:22-23 (NIV)

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from a pure heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God.

1 John 3:11-18 (NIV)

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s actions were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Well, if you are struggling with loving other people as God sees them, especially those you consider the most unlovable, then I hope these Scriptures will give you some renewed encouragement to love as God in Christ has demonstrated His love for you. When it hurts to love because someone has hurt us … when it is not convenient to love because it takes of our time … when it is difficult to love because we have disagreements … when love requires financial sacrifice to provide for the needs of others … how do we put the unmerited, compassionate, agape love of God into action – in real terms?  I am reminded that Jesus addressed this issue for us:

Luke 6:27-36 (NIV)

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 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. 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 wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

As I mediated on all these scriptures, the word “kindness” came to mind. Jesus said that God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked – like many of us before we received the grace of repentance and came to a knowledge of the truth in Christ Jesus! Kindness is the greatest demonstration of the other fruit of the Spirit. Love, peace, goodness, gentleness, and self-control can all be expressed through our kindness. And kindness is inherent in longsuffering and faithfulness. Paul observed it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Cf. Romans 2:4). So, I think the kindness we extend to others should have this same intention. Indeed, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (Cf. James 2:13)

My friends, I think it is important for us to remember that God expressed His “unmerited” love through the riches of His kindness. As Paul wrote: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) There is nothing we did to earn it or deserve it. We are sinners saved by grace alone! (Cf. Ephesians 2:5) And so, I believe it follows that we are to love others without consideration of “merit”.  We are not to love others because they deserve our love, forgiveness, or compassion; rather, we are to love others and to be merciful to them fully for the sake of love itself … while they too are yet sinners. That is HOW God has loved us … without condition! Amen!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had toward you. ~ Philippians 2:3-5

Be Patient With Others…

Romans 15:2 (NIV)

Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.

Our Verse of the Day offers us more relational advice.  Again, the context regards our relationships with others … our neighbors … and how we can live for their good as well as our own. I think we should review the context again because of its importance to the application of our walk with Jesus:

Romans 15:1-7 (NIV)

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. (Refer to Romans 14 concerning those who have religious sensibilities.) Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please Himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Citing Psalm 69:9)  For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

What I see in the context here is that Paul is urging us as believers to be patient with and to help non-believers … non-Christians … in their walk with God. To be sure, Paul is focused on his fellow Jews and their need to receive Jesus as Lord and Messiah; but the principles apply to ALL non-believers. Paul emphasizes that the mercy shown to non-Jews (Gentiles) is evidence of the desire of God for ALL people to place their hope in Him and to glorify Him. And we who have received the light of Christ … we who have been born-again of the Spirit of God … are called to bear with the weaknesses of others who have not come to faith in Jesus.

With this goal in mind, I think we need to remember: “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) We see this every day in our culture … in our communities … among our neighbors. This is why we must persevere in prayer for those who are enslaved by their flesh (sinful nature) … for those imprisoned with addictions of all kinds … for those filled with unforgiveness, bitterness, and anger …  for those in need of deliverance and healing! And we must excel not only in prayer but in action as well. For even Christ did not live to please Himself!  This is why Paul admonishes us to accept people where they are … to find opportunities; to build relationships; and to be witnesses to the light and hope of the Gospel.

2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (NIV)

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

As we endeavor to live at peace with everyone (Cf. Romans 12:18), we need to realize that living at peace does not mean we should ignore relational engagement; rather, it means our conduct and conversation should be peaceable. It means in the process of pleasing our neighbor, we are called to patience and to be willing to suffer for doing good. (Cf. 1 Peter 3:17) Sometimes, I suppose, that just goes with the territory. But Peter affirmed, “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (Cf. 1 Peter 4:14)

My friends, I believe it is the desire of our Lord Jesus that we should be engaged with our neighbors and those around us.  It is our responsibility to seek their good and to build them up regardless of their response to our kindness or reaction to our message. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Cf. Colossians 4:5-6) For even Christ did not live to please Himself….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. ~ 1 Peter 3:13-18a

Seasoned With Salt…

Colossians 4:5-6 (NIV)

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Our Verse of the Day is probably familiar to most of us. Paul expresses his concerns about how we approach our responsibilities as believers to share the Gospel with others … to share the Good News about Jesus the Messiah (Christ) with those around us.  And I want us to note the context of his admonition:

Colossians 4:2-6 (NIV)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

To me, there are three points of consideration:

Prayer

Message

Delivery

I think Paul connects the imperative of prayer … the diligence of prayer … to the success of the Gospel message being proclaimed. Prayer is the power that supports evangelism and its effectiveness so that the revelation of Christ Jesus to the unbelievers around us will be clear and understandable. Prayer impacts the boldness and courage of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, preacher, or teacher to deliver the message about Christ. For this is the basis upon which faith is formed.  As Paul wrote in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the message about Christ.”

Note how Paul encourages us to be ready to share the message about Jesus whenever we have opportunity. Not only does what we say have impact, but how we act towards unbelievers is important as well. We should be gracious with the words we use … the tone in which we speak … and appealing in our delivery.  We are to speak the truth in love as mature members of His Body … the Church.  (Cf. Ephesians 4:15) And I believe that prayer is what prepares us to be witnesses.  It prepares and aligns our hearts with the desire of God to see all people repent and come to a knowledge of the truth. (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-4) Yes, prayer deepens our commitment to pursue righteousness and holiness within ourselves; and people are more likely to respond to the character presented in our actions more than just words alone.

2 Timothy 2:22-26 (NIV)

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

My friends, it is clear that we all need to be disciplined in our personal prayer lives. Prayer empowers us to impact our world for Christ Jesus and to fulfill what we have been commissioned to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Indeed, let us exercise the authority we have been given in our Lord to overcome all the power of the enemy. (Cf. Luke 10:19) But let us do so in gentleness and love. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

My Redeemer Lives…

Job 19:25 (NIV)

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth.

We have probably read or heard this verse from the oldest inspired text of the Bible … and I think it might be a word for us to revisit. We know the story of Job … the incredible losses that he suffered; the intense physical and emotional anguish inflicted upon him; and the deep lessons of faith that he learned as he persevered through the experience. In the midst of this time of great pain, we find these comments which expressed the hope Job found within his soul … the hope of vindication … the promise of redemption … the confident assurance of his resurrection … and the prophetic knowledge of a literal face-to-face meeting with the Lord at the end.

Job 19:23-27 (NIV)

“Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! I know that my redeemer (vindicator) lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. And after I awake, through this body has been destroyed, then in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

Job addresses not only the resurrection, but he declares we shall see God … with our own eyes! And I think, “How my heart yearns within me!” And, yet, is there not an element of “fear” that accompanies that thought? When He stands upon the earth, and I stand before Him, what happens next? I think about the Apostle John who personally witnessed the resurrection and the later ascension of Jesus … and while in exile on the island of Patmos He sees the Lord Jesus again and writes: “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead.” (Cf. Revelation 1:17a) I believe that is probably what will happen to most of us. There will be the undeniable reality (not faith) of what we have believed all these years standing right before us! Oh, I think many of us will be filled with awe and wonder … and gripped with a certain element of fear. There will be a long, hard gulp … a skip in our heartbeat … and intense reverence to worship Him.

I imagine there will be a wave of thoughts crashing and foaming in that moment. Perhaps, a common thought will be: “Did I accomplish what I was created in Christ to do?” “Did I miss His will … His call?” “Was I faithful at all times … in all circumstances during my life?” And yet, are these not questions we should be asking ourselves right now? If we lived with Jesus in full line of “sight” each moment, how would that change us now? Oh, how my heart longs to see Him as I ought to now…. Oh, how my ears need to hear His voice now …. Oh, how I need to do what I have been created in Christ to do now … what was prepared in advance for me to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) If we all lived as righteous Job, I believe there would be more confidence when we stand before God on that Day. Yes, we should be about the Father’s business right now. Like Jesus, we need to work the works of Him who sent us while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” (Cf. John 9:4) Indeed, the Father has equipped us to do so! “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)

My friends, we know that our redeemer lives! But do we live fully in this awareness? The Apostle John brings us this guidance for introspection: “We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:3-6) Perhaps, we should all ask ourselves: “Do I live as Jesus did?” “Do I love others as I have been loved?” “Do I forgive others as I have been forgiven?” “Do I see others as I am seen by the Father?”

Well, this short verse from the Book of Job brings a challenge and hope to faith. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) And so, I pray that we will always endeavor to apply the Word of God to our hearts … to change our thoughts and attitudes … so that we might have confidence and assurance when Jesus returns to the earth and we see Him as He is….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.” And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with His Spirit. This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.” ~ Isaiah 48:16-18

Crucified With Christ…

Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Our Verse of the Day comes to challenge us on this Good Friday! Whenever I read this passage, the weight of its message always challenges my heart. Too often, I believe, our thoughts are consumed with ourselves … our own plans and desires … and sometimes we lose focus on the purposes of God for our lives. Paul makes a very profound, experiential statement of faith; yet I wonder if we truly understand its significance for our own walk of faith.  We have talked about the purpose of the crucifixion and the blood atonement for our sin that Jesus suffered for us, but do we see and identify with the death of sin that took place the cross in our personal lives?

Paul gives us is a powerful thought to embrace for ourselves. We are to personally identify with the crucifixion as though we ourselves (along with Christ Jesus) were nailed to that cross and put to death our own sin. As Paul wrote: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Cf. Colossians 3:5) And, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” (Cf. Romans 8:13) Putting our sinful natures to death IS our personal identification with the cross of Christ!  Moreover, our identity remains forever in Christ Jesus!

Romans 6:3-5 (NIV)

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His.

My friends, not only do we need to identify with the death to sin (buried in baptism), we need to see our resurrection to new life IN Christ. Just as we identify with His death, we can identify with His resurrection. We have been raised to new life in Him. And as we abide in Him and He is us, it is no longer we ourselves who live but Christ in us.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation. The old has gone, the new is here!” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) That new person is one who surrenders to live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) Yes, the will of God is for our sanctification (Cf. John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:23); that is, we should be separate or set apart for service unto God.

Romans 8:29 reminds us that God predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son. If we want to be like Jesus, we have to be crucified with Him. We have to put to death our sinful nature on the cross. It requires the sacrifice of our own wills. It demands self-discipline and sanctification out of reverence for God. The Apostles have communicated what Jesus clearly taught them. And so, perhaps it would be best to see how Jesus challenged His disciples.  It still applies to us today:

Luke 9:18-25 (NIV)

And it happened, as Jesus was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” So, they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his crossdaily, and follow Me.For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?

This is the life of faith in Jesus that we are called to attain! And Paul has provided a practical perspective for me to apply to my life; namely, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” If I would but proclaim this one truth to my heart each morning when I awake, I would truly experience the sanctification God has made possible for my life. If I am dead to sin … if I no longer live but Christ lives in me (through His Holy Spirit) … then the desires of the flesh … my personal agendas … will all be nailed to the cross with Christ. I will no longer live for myself, but I will live in Christ and for Him. I cannot change who I was before I encountered Christ. I cannot undo the offenses, transgressions, and sins committed. I can only receive His gracious forgiveness … His merciful atonement for my rebellious spirit. Indeed, all those who belong to Christ Jesus have no other option.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

So, I say walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. ~ Galatians 5:16-25

The Wages of Sin…

Romans 6:23 (NIV)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Our Verse of the Day should be very familiar to us; and I see it as a reminder – a call for repentance and a prompt for all people to understand the gift of God we receive in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus prayed, ““Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” (Cf. John 17:1-4) Indeed, salvation and eternal life is given through in no other name under heaven except in Jesus Christ! No longer can the world hear just a message of grace without repentance. The “seeker sensitive” message without repentance is insufficient to bring a person to a knowledge of this Truth.

I just feel impressed that we need to focus ourselves on the fear of the Lord our God today! And this fear is defined as reverence … reverence as in awe and wonder of His mighty power, splendor, and holiness! Perhaps, we are witnessing what the prophet have foretold: God is shaking the earth once more. (Cf. Haggai 2:1-9) I believe God is stirring up His Church … His people … to show forth His glory in this present hour! “And the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house!” There is a message … a message of revival! And revival begins with repentance … and repentance begins with reverence … and reverence manifests as the fear of Lord!

Deuteronomy 10:12-22 (ESV)

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set His heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve Him and hold fast to Him, and by His name you shall take your oaths. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.

Psalm 33:6-15 (ESV)

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their starry host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; He puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world stand in awe (revere) of Him! For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm. The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage! The Lord looks down from heaven; He sees all the children of man; from where He sits enthroned He watches all who live on the earth – He who fashions the hearts of them all and observes everything that they do.

Psalm 36:1-4 (NIV)

I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin. The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good. Even on their beds they plot evil; they commit themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong.

Oh, I could continue with many more Scriptures, but I think the point has been made. Sin is fatal. The final outcome of transgression is death. But we have a merciful and gracious God who has made provision for us! God provided His own atoning sacrifice for us. In His great love for us, the Father sent His only begotten Son to bring us redemption … salvation … eternal life through Him. What God has done … His lovingkindness … is intended to lead every human soul to repentance! (Cf. Romans 2:4) As Paul affirmed: “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, completing holiness out of reverence for God.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:1) Yes, we should come as we are to the throne of mercy and grace … but repentance is integral to reverence! We must be broken and filled with godly sorrow. We must be buried with Jesus through baptism … born-again of the Spirit … and raised to a new life in Christ … and walk in the Spirit God gave us:

Romans 6:1-14 (ESV)

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So, you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Indeed, sin should not have dominion over us. We have been justified … we have been set free … by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! In all reverence and fear, we are to walk in newness of life. We are to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul, and to obey the commandments and statutes of the Lord. Holiness is not an option … it is a command.  And so I pray that we will hear what the Spirit is telling us … His guidance into these truths that we need to ponder and apply to our hearts. I am convinced that we need to look to God and what He is doing in these latter days we have entered….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

If 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. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us. ~ 1 John 1:8-10

Got Milk?

1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV)

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

In our Verse of the Day, Peter is encouraging us to “grow up in our salvation.”  What does that mean?  How do we “grow” in our salvation?  Well, our growth begins with our new birth in Christ (once we have experienced His goodness) and our need for spiritual nourishment (crave pure spiritual milk) to sustain us. Let’s read the larger context to better understand the metaphor he uses to illustrate.  The foundation is laid in the preceding chapter, 1 Peter 1, and continues in 1 Peter 2.  I reprinted the most relevant passages for us:

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:13-16 (NIV)

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Citing Leviticus 11:44-45)

1 Peter 1:22-25 (NIV)

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from a pure heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (Citing Isaiah 40:6-8) And this is the word that was preached to you.

1 Peter 2:1-3 (NIV)

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

I believe in this brief overview we see some key principles that Peter wants us to understand. When we first come to faith in Jesus, we do so as new creatures – born of the living and enduring Word of God … born again of the Spirit who wrote the Scriptures through holy men of God as He moved them. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:19-21) As Paul articulated it: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Cf. Romans 10:17) The Apostle John affirms that “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Cf. John 3:16; 3:36) So it follows that as “newborn babies in the Spirit” we are in need of “spiritual food” to sustain us.  Spiritual milk is a great metaphor to use! Just like babies, we should be “craving” this milk to satisfy our hunger and thirst for righteousness…. But we are exhorted to move on and to grow in our faith. Let’s me how this metaphor is used elsewhere is the NT scriptures:

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 

Hebrews 5:12-14 (NIV)

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

There is a pattern with these NT writers – urging us to grow up and to move on in spiritual maturity.  And I have noticed that milk appears to be associated with the initial phases of sanctification – bringing our sinful nature into submission, growing in holiness, and bearing the fruit of the Spirit in our relationships. Perhaps this is why both Peter and Paul prayed for believers to “grow in their knowledge of God and of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And growth will come as we spend time reading, studying, and meditating on the Word of God.  As we spend time in prayer and discipline ourselves with fasting, we will mature in our understanding and wisdom.  This is what growing in our salvation means. This is what adding to our faith means.  We move on from milk and begin eating solid food.  We move forward from our initial profession of faith into Kingdom service and ministry. Yes, as the Apostle James wrote: “We know the testing of our faith produces perseverance; and let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (Cf. James 1:3-4) Amen!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ 2 Peter 1:5-8

You Are Chosen…

Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Our Verse of the Day draws our attention to the types of conduct (virtues) we should exhibit as believers.  Since the verse begins with the word “therefore,” I would like us to review the preceding context to better understand what it is “there for”:

Colossians 3:1-14 (NIV)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming (on those who are disobedient). You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.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. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

From the context, we can readily see that our relationship with God the Father is predicated upon our identity in His Son – Christ Jesus. We were buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life – a resurrected life. (Cf. Romans 6:4) And Paul reiterates this metaphor in his letter to the Colossians as well. 

Colossians 2:11-14 (NLT)

When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with Him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.

Paul admonishes us to “put to death” whatever belongs to our sinful nature … the earthly ways in which we used to lived … and to put on the new self, made in the image of our Creator.  This new creation is who we are now … chosen people … holy and dearly loved. We have been resurrected with Christ into newness of life. He has forgiven us all our sins and commuted the penalty of sin against us.  That payment … that purchase of judicial pardon … was paid through His blood atonement upon the cross.  And so, our new life in Christ calls us to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Cf. Ephesians 4:24) … and which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Indeed, the new self … will clothe itself with the virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience … with an attitude of forbearance and forgiveness … with a mindset and disposition of love to activate and bind them all together in our inner being.

As another observation, I want us to see that this inspired message from Paul is quite consistent with the inspired teaching shared by Peter in our previous study:

2 Peter 1:3-11 (NIV)

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The new life that we receive through faith in Christ Jesus calls us to change and transformation. The process of sanctification begins at the new birth … and continues as we add to our faith and put on the garments of our new nature.  It is a spiritual process that engages us through the renewing of our minds so that we do not conform to the pattern of this world. (Cf. Romans 12:2) Yes, my friends, let us walk in step with the Spirit of God as chosen and dearly loved children. And in view of God’s mercy, let us offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—which is our true and spiritual worship….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. ~ 1 Peter 2:9-10

His Divine Power…

2 Peter 1:4 (NIV)

Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Our Verse of the Day seems to be missing something.  It begins with “through these.”  Perhaps we should ask: “through these what?” Let’s go back to the beginning of the passage and look at the context:

2 Peter 1:3-11 (NIV)

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I would like to outline this passage in order to better understand what Peter wants to communicate to us.  His assertion in Verse 3 is quite powerful, and it is a concept I believe we need to incorporate into our own theologies. Peter states that the divine power of God has given us EVERYTHING we need to live a godly life. We should probably stop right there and reflect on the sufficiency of His power to equip us to walk in righteousness and holiness. And Peter indicates that it is through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness, our Creator, that we have received this power to live in godliness. To me the key thought here is our KNOWLEDGE of God. It is our knowledge of Him that activates this divine power we need to live; and this knowledge is imparted through His Word – revealed in His Son and by His Spirit….  Yes, His power has been given through Christ Jesus. It is available to us who believe in Him!

Inn the context, I believe that “through these” is referring to His “glory and goodness.” Our call to salvation in Christ Jesus expresses both the glory and the goodness of God! The Father is glorified in the Son.  He is exalted with honor and praise for this gift of His grace in which we stand through faith. (Cf. Romans 5:2) And the eternal life we have received in Christ Jesus demonstrates the goodness and love of God. Peter continues, and he declares it is through the glory and goodness of God we have been given His very great and precious promises. Oh, can we even fathom what has been said here? The promises of God in His Word are too numerous for me to begin to recount here. Dr. David Jeremiah counted nearly 7,500 promises of God in the Bible! Indeed, it is because of His Being … His Glory … His Name … His Goodness that we even have His great and precious promises to trust!

Now, notice that Peter affirms that “through them” … His great and precious promises … we are invited to participate in the divine nature. Do we comprehend what this means? To participate in the divine nature … to live in godliness, God-likeness, holiness? Well, that is what happens when are born-again of the Spirit and become a new creation in Christ! We receive His divine power to overcome the darkness of our sinful nature. Peter articulates it: “we have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” Although we are IN the world … we are not OF the world any longer. We do not belong to the world because we have been called out of the world. (Cf. John 15:19)  And it is through this understanding that we begin to abide in our Lord Jesus.  Apart from Him and His divine power we can do nothing. (Cf. John 15:5)

My friends, as we abide in Christ and He in us, the process of sanctification begins its transformation within us. And I think that Peter does a great job describing how His divine power works within us … building upon our faith in Jesus (His greatest and most precious promise to us) so that we can participate in the divine nature of God. The Holy Spirit leads us to make every effort to add to our faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if we possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through abiding in Christ, our knowledge of Father God will be completed. Perhaps this is why Paul petitioned God to fill believers with the knowledge of His WILL through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. (Cf. Colossians 1:9) I believe it is vital in order for us to have an effective and productive life in the Kingdom of God.

Well, these are some thoughts on divine power and promises we have received through Jesus Christ. May they inspire and encourage you to “add to your faith.”

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:1-5

When He Has Tested Me…

Job 23:10-11 (NIV)

But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed His steps; I have kept to His way without turning aside.

Our Verse of the Day comes from the Book of Job.  As you know, this book is the oldest one in the compilation of the Holy Scriptures as some biblical scholars believe Job to be a contemporary of Abraham.  The story of Job provides us with some amazing insights into the relationship between God and man; and he delves into many questions each of us have probably already asked of God along the way of our own faith journeys.  We often wonder why “bad things happen to good people,” and here Job probes the purposes and will of God in afflictions and sufferings. I like this excerpt from Chapter 23 because it does raise some personal questions for us to examine our walk with God:

But He knows the way that I take.

Job asserts that God knows him … knows him intimately. Ask yourself: “Does God know the way that I take?”  The obvious answer is, “Yes.”  But what are the implications of His omniscience?  Does it impact the way we conduct ourselves – knowing that God sees us … that we are continually before Him even though we cannot see Him?  Does it mean that God already determined the course that Job or we would take in life?  How does “free will” interact in this process?  Fascinating to ponder … but we should take a serious look at this issue. Are we consciously desiring to please God with the decisions we make each day?

When He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

Job asserts that when God evaluates him (tests his faith) that he will pass the test!  How do you feel about that kind of boldness?  Would you consider it arrogant?  Yet Job appears to have complete confidence in his faith toward God.  Do you ever question the steadfastness of your own faith?  Why?  Note that Job is forward looking in his statement: “WHEN God has tested him.”  Job sees testing as a given.  He expects it!  So, I believe we should, too.  And the “coming forth as gold” does not necessarily mean that he passed every test that he endured.  We most likely have not and will not either. However, I believe it does mean that Job expected God to refine him in the processes of testing such that the final outcome of his life would be purity or holiness toward God.

My feet have closely followed His steps.

Job asserts that He has stayed in step with God and His will as revealed to him.  Remember, Job lived long before Moses gave the Ten Commandments, so the basis on which Job made this assertion is unclear.  However, we do know there would have been an oral tradition at a minimum from the time of Adam until Moses. There were customs and traditions of worship shaped by the faithful remnant of each generation. And there are non-canonized written documents and narratives from the period which were “morally instructive” and incorporated into the wisdom of holy men of God.  The Apostle Paul even wrote about the “natural” knowledge of God all people should possess in his Letter to the Romans:

Romans 1:18-20

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

If you think about it … there is a natural, innate knowing that God exists; that He created us; that He wants relationship with us; that He communicates and reveals He purposes and wills to man through His Spirit and His Word; and in these last days, God has spoken through His Son – our Lord Jesus  (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-2) I think, bottom line, we just need to listen!

I have kept to His way without turning aside.

Job asserts that He has not wavered in his faith or in his conduct based upon that faith in God.  Again, I find Job to be quite bold in his claim because I’d say few of us have been that “perfect” in our walk with God.  Maybe you have … but I have stumbled along the way and turned aside from time to time.  Yet, God in His grace has brought me to repentance and disciplined me as needed.  The writer of the Book of Hebrews gives us some insight (and comfort) along these lines:

Hebrews 12:4-11 (NIV)

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

Nevertheless; righteous Job … patient Job … remained obedient to the way of the Lord.  He turned neither to the right or the left but made his path straight. He was steadfast. And God was pleased with Job … and found delight in him.  So, I’m not sure the question is whether or not we have turned aside at any point in our walk with God (whether presumptuously or not); but rather, “Is your relationship with God like one would have with their father?” Do you receive the chastisement or discipline from God with the same respect or reverence you would from your earthly father?  Though imperfect, our earthly fathers did what they thought best to guide us in godly or acceptable behavior. But our Heavenly Father is perfect in His manner with us.  He is the most trustworthy person we can have in our lives.  And you can expect that He is going to discipline you out of His great love for you….

Job is an interesting case study of faith under the microscope.  We are able to witness his perspective on the circumstances of life far beyond our control. And it prompts the question: “Would we be able to process a similar situation of assault on our faith in God with the level of confidence and courage that Job exhibited? In the midst of great loss and feelings of injustice, would you or I keep our faith in God with such resilience?” I think of the vast number of believers who suffered great anguish, persecution, torture, and death over the millennia; and I admire their great faith under incomprehensible human distress. Indeed, I think on occasion we should as ourselves: “Is my faith courageous enough … unwavering enough … deep and abiding enough to withstand its testing?

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. ~ James 1:2-3, 12