The Ministry of Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:19-20 (NIV)

God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God!

Our Verse of the Day speaks not only to the mission of Christ Jesus, but it addresses the mission we ourselves are called to carry out as well – helping people become reconciled with God through a relationship with Jesus!  As always, I encourage you to read the entire chapter to better understand the passage provided for study in its context:

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (New International Version)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation. The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made Him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (New Living Translation)

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Just think for a moment what is being communicated here.  Reconciliation with God is a work of God toward us!  He determined to reconcile sinners to Himself; and He DID so through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son.  So, I think it is quite important to recognize that reconciliation with man was initiated by God. And HOW did God reconcile us to Himself? According to Verse 19 – by not holding our sins against us!  God offered forgiveness as His act of reconciliation.  But consider the implication of that forgiveness since our Holy God, Father and Creator, cannot tolerate sin in any form.  What did He do? He held the judgement for our sins against His Sinless Son.  His Son, our Lord Jesus, paid the ultimate price for our sins.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ.” (Cf. Romans 6:23)

You might ask yourself, “Why would God do such a thing?  Why would He freely pardon the guilty and place a death sentence on an innocent man … His own Son?  The answer is “LOVE”.  God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) And the Apostle John affirms this message of hope as well: “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (Cf. 1 John 4:9-10) This is the Good News! This is the message of reconciliation!  And we who believe in Jesus have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.

So, how do people become reconciled? Simply, we share the message about Christ Jesus with people who do not know the reconciliation of God.  We urge them to believe in the One that God sent into the world to reconcile the world to Himself.  We tell them about Jesus and His sacrificial death for us. We ask them to be reconciled by receiving the gift of forgiveness through the sin offering appropriated through Jesus. As Paul concluded: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Cf. Romans 10:17)

As I read the last verse of our passage, the thought kept coming to my mind: “Today is the day of salvation!” In 2 Corinthians 6:1-3, Paul wrote: “As God’s co-workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For He says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ (Citing Isaiah 49:8) I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” There is a sense of urgency in Paul’s words. We have been commissioned to implore those who are lost to be reconciled with the Father. God is appealing, and that through us, to a world that has been ravaged by darkness and rebellion and unbelief. And though people may have hardened their hearts because of the abuse, pain, rejection, bitterness, and brokenness they have experienced in this fallen and sinful world, God is still crying out to them … speaking to their inner hearts … and prompting them to listen and to hear His voice. And He says, “Do not harden your heart!”

Hebrews 3:7-19 (NIV)

7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear His voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (Cf. Psalm 95:7-11) 12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

This is the appeal God is making through us because He committed to us the message of reconciliation. Indeed, it is our responsibility to proclaim the message … the word about Christ! Further, it is His command to us. (Cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 1:8) And so, through prayer and fasting, God is preparing and engaging us for this ministry of reconciliation. Yes, I believe He is giving His Church a second chance to be who He has called us to be! Oh, how I pray that each one of us will be faithful and obedient to His call upon His remnant church in these latter days … for all this is from God! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. ~ Romans 5:10-11 (NIV)

A Child of God…

Galatians 3:26-28 (NIV)

So, 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.

Our Verse of the Day has some theological implications that should not be ignored … nor is the text ambiguous. Simply stated, for a person to be a child of God, he or she must be in Christ Jesus through faith in Him. Compare this assertion from Paul with the declaration of John:

John 1:10-13 (NIV)

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right (authority or power) to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God.

Our “right” to become children of God was GIVEN by Jesus Christ through receiving and believing in Him! We do not have the right to claim that we are children of God except that it has been given us through the authority of the Son. In addition, John records of the teachings of Jesus regarding how those who reject Him are not “legitimate” children:

John 8:31-47 (NIV)

31 To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” 39 Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God Himself.42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Wow! Being physical children of Abraham does not in itself confer the right to become children of God. Jesus said, IF you were Abraham’s children, then you would do what Abraham did. So, what did Abraham do? What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Cf. Romans 4:3) A person has to believe God at His Word to become His child through the adoption of sonship (as we have seen in previous studies). Even John the Baptist said to some in the crowds coming out to be baptized by him: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Cf. Luke 3:7-9)

It follows that a true child of Abraham is one who believes God. And to believe God means to believe in the Son that He has sent – Jesus! As the Apostle John wrote:

1 John 5:1-5 (NIV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

What we see in these passages of Scripture is the understanding that humans have the opportunity or capacity to become “children of God” through the “transformation” that comes from receiving Jesus … from believing in His name and through abiding in Him. When we are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; there is a spiritual birth or transformation (rebirth process) that occurs within our inner beings that produces a “child of God”.  Thus, we are born-again through the Spirit of God when we receive Jesus and believe in Him! Indeed, a child of God is something that we become through Christ alone! We are “adopted” by the Father because we abide in His Son. There is no alternative … no other “process” offered in Scripture for us to become “children” of God. Paul was given the ability to articulate this theological concept in practical terms for us:

Romans 8:14-17 (NIV)

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory….

My friends, I pray that as you begin your day, you will be encouraged to better understand your relationship with God the Father as His child.  No one will ever love you with the depth or passion of love that God has for you through Jesus Christ. Receive His love this morning! Believe in His love for you this morning! It will change your thoughts about who you are in Him.  You are His beloved child … and there is no greater feeling than knowing you are loved by God.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure. ~ 1 John 3:1-3

Set Your Hope on Jesus…

1 Peter 1:13 (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.

Our Verse of the Day comes from quite an interesting passage. Let’s put it in the context:

1 Peter 1:3-16 (NIV)

3 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, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 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. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 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. 8 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, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 13 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. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Citing Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2)

What a profound statement of theology that Peter has presented here. I see several key points in this passage; and I think the best approach is to simply outline those points for us to consider:

1.         First of all, praise is to be given to God the Father! Indeed, we should always come before the Father in reverence and honor and adoration – to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth! (Cf. John 4:24)

2.         His mercy has afforded us a new birth. (Cf. John 3:3)

3.         The result of this new birth is a living hope … brought into existence through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (Cf. 1 Timothy 4:9-10)

4.         This new birth provides us access to an inheritance that is everlasting and reserved in heaven for believers. (Cf. Ephesians 1:13-14, 18-19)

5.         Our faith in Jesus Christ is protected by the power of God until that salvation is ultimately revealed. (Cf. Colossians 1:11-12; Ephesians 4:30)

6.         This is cause for great rejoicing even though we are afflicted with the trials and tribulations of the world. (Cf. James 1:2-3)

7.         But God allows challenges and hardships to shape us … to prove the authenticity of our faith toward Him. (Cf. James 1:12; Hebrews 10:22-23)

8.         Your genuine faith will be rewarded at the time of His revelation. (Cf. Hebrews 10:35)

9.         Though we have not physically seen Jesus, the Son of Man, we are convinced of His Being and presence in the Spirit. (Cf. John 16:28)

10.       This “knowing” Jesus through faith … abiding in His Presence … fills us with a joy unspeakable that is filled by His glory. (Cf. John 16:19-22; John 17:13)

11.       You experience this joy because faith in Jesus Christ will be rewarded with the salvation of your soul. (Cf. Isaiah 25:9; 61:10)

12.       This salvation through the Messiah was prophesied by holy men of old … prophets who foretold the sufferings of the Messiah and His resurrection. (Cf. Hebrews 1:1; 2 Peter 1:21)

13.       They prophesied by the Spirit of God for the benefit of those who would live after them.

14.       The prophesies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ … of which the Apostles (anointed by the Holy Spirit) have fully preached to us. (Cf. Acts 8:40; Acts 14:6-7, 20-21; Acts 26:19-20; Romans 15:19-20; 2 Timothy 4:17)

15.       In this context, we are admonished to pay attention to the Word of God … to respond to it … and to set our hope on it. (Cf. Colossians 1:3-6)

16.       Therefore, faith in Jesus Christ will give birth to a new creation. The old has gone, the new is here. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17)

17.       The new creation … the new being … will no longer continue in the evil desires and old behaviors of a sinful person. (Cf. Romans 6:12; Colossians 3:5; 2 Timothy 2:22; 2 Peter 1:4)

18.       And such were all of us at one point in our lives. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23; 1 Corinthians 6:11: Ephesians 4:24)

19.       Since we have been created in Christ Jesus (Cf. Ephesians 2:10), we are called to be holy people … set apart for the work of God.

20.       Holiness, or sanctification by the Spirit, is a process … that will lead us into greater intimacy with Christ. (Cf. John 15:1-12)

Well, I hope this little breakdown of the passage will help you think through all that Peter is sharing with us. His theology and admonition are wonderful; and his message is corroborated by the writings of other apostles as the references (links) were provided to show. In light of the prayer and fasting we have undertaken to focus on and exercise self-discipline, I think this call to holiness is quite timely. I pray that each of us will seek greater intimacy with Christ with minds that are prepared for action and exercise self-control; setting our hope fully on the gracious salvation we will receive when Christ Jesus is revealed at His Coming. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in Him. And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming. ~ 1 John 2:27-28

A New Year … A New Creation…

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

As I read our Verse of the Day, I thought, “Wow!” What a great message to share with anyone who does not know Christ Jesus! It is a New Year! What a great time to become a New Creation! The old has gone … the new is here! It is a great time for Second Chance Church … to be a light to those in live in darkness … to be the Body of Christ we were called to be. It is a great time to affirm that 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) And the ministry we have been called to do is bring the message of hope … of healing … of deliverance and freedom to those who are in the captivity of sin. Indeed, Jesus is the light we need for this dark and deceived world….

But then I thought, this New Year will be a great opportunity for each of us to examine our own devotion to the Lord Jesus … to renew our hearts in Him. This thought led me to the Letter to the Church in Ephesus:

Revelation 2:1-7 (NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Christ Jesus commended the believers at this church for their hard work, perseverance, and enduring hardships for His Name. Still, He said, “I hold this against you … you have left your first love.” If nothing else, I challenge myself and each of us to consider whether we have drifted or left the love for Jesus that we had at first … when we were first born-again of the Spirit. Have we too become wearied, burdened, or heavy laden such that we have lost our passion … our direction … our genuine love for God? Have we begun to settle for less than what Jesus has called us to do for His Kingdom? Jesus said, “Repent and do the things you did at first.” He said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Cf. Matthew 11:28) The Year of the Healing and Deliverance is not just for those outside of the Church … it is for those within the Church as well. We all need to self-examine and turn our hearts to the Lord Jesus as we did at first! We need to read Psalm 139 and let it penetrate our quiet time in prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me to the way everlasting.”

I believe this is what the call to participate in the “Daniel Fast” is about! It is a focused time of deep reflection … a time of self-denial … a time of repentance … a time for us to return to our first love. This is what the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart for the next 21 days. How I pray we will all spend intentional time before the Lord during our corporate fast to find out what He desires for each of us as His servants … so that we might fulfill the Great Commission … so that we might love others as Jesus has loved us … so that we might worship Him in Spirit and in Truth … so that we might reach those who are in the captivity of sin and shine as a light in the midst of darkness.

I am excited about the call on Second Chance Church to be a “deliverance” church … to be a spiritual hospital for the sick … to minister to those who need healing of the brokenness they are suffering. This vision … this mission … is something that has been resonating in my heart for the past few weeks. It can mean many things, of course; but the context for me is to reach those in bondage with the life-giving truth of the Word of God. This is nothing new for sure; but if we are going to be the church that we have been called by God to be in these latter days, then we are going to have to be intentional in our approach. This is the purpose of this blog … to be a constant reminder to return to our first love….

Our generation has been given a “second chance” to become the church Jesus first commissioned His followers to form. So, I believe we need to revisit the lives of the first Apostles … their transformations … their teachings … their courage … and their approach to ministry and discipleship. There is a call to renewal … to reformation … within the Universal Church itself to rediscover how to function and to be effective. We need to return to the organizational structures developed to minister to the lost. We need to afford believers freedom to exercise the spiritual gifts Christ has given each of them for the benefit of the church. Yes, we need to embrace and embody the apostolic example we have been given in Scripture.

The message of the Gospel is powerful and rests upon the teaching of Jesus Himself when He explained to a man named Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (from above) he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” As Nicodemus questioned Jesus about this teaching, Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Cf. John 3:1-8)

When we are born-again of the Spirit, we become new creations through the Spirit! And I believe this is the foundation of New Covenant … when the Lord puts His law within our minds, and write His law on our hearts. (Cf. Jeremiah 31:31-33). Jesus once shared a metaphor that I think is quite relevant to this point:

Luke 5:36-38 (NIV)

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

We are called into the “new” through Jesus!  He wants us to have a new faith … a new perspective … a new purpose … and a new anointing to enter the Kingdom of God that He establishes within us!  Perhaps His parable was even prophetic when His disciples were gathered on the Day of Pentecost, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. In response to this outpouring, the text states: “And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Cf. Acts 2:1-13)

My friends, as we begin a new year with a renewed resolve to be more disciplined in our walk with the Lord Jesus, I pray that we will keep in mind how our born-again experience has transformed us into new creations … being conformed to the image of Christ. I think the Apostle Paul does an excellent job giving us insight into this process:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 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 (justified) from sin.

Romans 7:4-6 (NIV)

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Ephesians 4:17-24 (NIV)

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:5-10 (NIV)

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 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

And so, I pray that we will begin this New Year with the convictions of faith deeply rooted in our hearts.  May we find within us the discipline to stay in prayer … to study the Word … to fast for healing and deliverance … and to labor with boldness in the harvest field this year. The new creation has come! The old has gone, the new is here! This speaks not only to each of us as individuals … it speaks to the Body of Christ itself. Yes, let us return to our first love … let passion and compassion overtake us in our mission.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. And, write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” ~ Revelation 21:5-6

The Set Time…

Galatians 4:4-5 (NIV)

But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

Our Verse of the Day is connected with the Advent because it affirms for us the “waiting” for the Messiah was over! The set time for God to send His Son to the earth had arrived under the circumstances and for the purpose that God had already ordained from the beginning. And that purpose was for us to “receive adoption” in order to become “children of God.” The Apostle John affirmed this purpose when he wrote:

John 1:9-13 (NIV)

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. 11 He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. 12 Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Our right to become children of God … our right to receive adoption … comes only through faith in the life and finished work of Jesus Christ. Jesus purchased our adoption with His own blood. And the Apostle Paul speaks to this theological concept in further detail:

Romans 8:14-16 (NIV)

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:22-23 (NIV)

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

Ephesians 1:3-8a (NIV)

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For He (God) chose us in Him (Jesus) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5 God predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will6 to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. 7 In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that He lavished on us.

The concept of “adoption to sonship” – from the Greek word used here – is a legal term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture. Thus, the additional theological concepts of “heirs” and “inheritance” stem from this “adoption to sonship” as Paul has conveyed it to us. Paul wrote, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” (Cf. Romans 8:17) And, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Cf. Galatians 3:29) And if we continued reading through the opening chapter of his Letter to the Ephesians, we will find this assertion from Paul:

Ephesians 1:11-14 (NIV)

11 In Him (Jesus) we were also made heirs, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.

So, I pray that we will understand that our right to become children of God, our adoption and inheritance, is through faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone. And we could not have come to faith in Jesus if He had not been sent to this world. God the Father chose for His Son to be born … born of a woman … born under the law … to redeem those under the law … so that we might receive adoption to sonship. Praise God for His kindness and lavish grace! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Do Not Love The World

1 John 2:15-16 (NIV)

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

Our Verse of the Day was cited in the commentary when we looked at the topic of the “idolatry of self” a few days ago. To me, this additional reminder is not coincidence; rather, I believe it confirms that the Holy Spirit wants us to address this spiritual concern in our lives. We need to take some time for introspection and let the light of the Spirit illuminate whatever lies in our hearts that is taking precedence over our relationship with God. Ask yourself, what do I prioritize above intimacy with God? As I have shared before, we cannot view God as simply a “part” of our lives … the “religious aspect” of our lives. No, God is either everything, or in essence, He is nothing….

I think our verse points out what is the primary deterrent to intimacy with God: we set our affections on the world or the things of the world. As John asserted, “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” This can be a difficult truth to recognize within ourselves, so it is necessary for us to guard our minds and hearts in order to discern when we are about to cross the line…. Although we live in this fallen and sinful world, we have been “called” out of the world – meaning we do not live in accordance with the world … its patterns of thought or its earthly wisdom. As John points out for us, everything in the world as it pertains to sinful human nature does not come from God. It comes from the world and from within our physical bodies.

One of the key precepts taught by Jesus related to this spiritual concern is that He calls believers out of the world.  Jesus told His disciples, “I have chosen you out of the world.” And so, once we are IN Him, we no longer belong to the world, its deception or darkness, its allures or enticements.  In fact, Jesus asserts that our calling out, our separation from the things of the world, will be the reason the “world will hate us.”

John 15:18-19 (NIV)

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

John 17:13-17 (NIV)

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them to live in accordance with the truth; your Word is Truth.”

The Apostles understood this separation from the world … our sanctification unto God … and its imperative to a life of faith. Consider these inspired instructions:

Romans 12:1-2 (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. 2 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.

1 Corinthians 2:11-12 (NIV)

11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV)

The god of this world (Satan) 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.

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

James 3:13-18 (NIV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

When John tells us not to love the world or anything in it, we need to consider the consequence he shares as well: “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is NOT in them.” The implication here is that we will love our lives IN this world more than we love the One who created it for our habitation. Peter wrote: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (Cf. 2 Peter 2:20) The Apostle James goes even further in his exhortation:

James 4:4-5 (NLT) – Italics are mine.

You adulterous people! You who are unfaithful to the covenant of God. Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit He has placed within us should be faithful to Him. His Holy Spirit within us opposes our envy of the world….

It is clear that we cannot prioritize the gratification of ourselves above the gratitude that is due our Creator! And I believe this shift of spiritual orientation and understanding begins at the moment of rebirth. When we are born of the Spirit, the things of this world become meaningless. Paul asserted, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) The “new” means we are no longer held captive to the things of this world. We are no longer prisoners to the darkness of sin. Light has come! We have been set free of those things in order for His love to dwell within us! In a sense, our separation from the world is the evidence of our new creation in Christ Jesus.

A person is not going to overcome world unless he or she is born of God; and a person cannot be born of the Spirit except through putting their faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. It is our faith in Him that empowers us to be victorious and to overcome the world. (Cf. 1 John 5:2-4) Yes, it is through the obedience that comes from faith that we will be set free from the things of this world! Jesus said, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” (Cf. Luke 9:23) If we will deny ourselves … if we deny our flesh and its sinful nature … we will not love or pursue the things of this world; rather, we will become devoted followers of our Lord Jesus and experience the love of the Father in all of its fullness…. I pray each of us will take up the cross of obedience each day as our act of worship … as a demonstration of our love for the Father. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. ~ Romans 1:25

So, don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and He will give you everything you need. ~ Matthew 6:31-33

You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. ~ James 4:2b-3

His Word Endures Forever…

1 Peter 1:24-25 (NIV)

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.” And this is the Word that was preached to you.

Our Verse of the Day has a great observation and commentary from the Apostle Peter concerning the eternal and unchanging nature of God’s Word. To me, it provides an interesting contrast that Peter uses here to support his point, and I would like to explore it further….

1 Peter 1:22-25 (NIV)

22 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. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God. 24 For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (Citing Isaiah 40:6-8) And this is the Word that was preached to you.

I believe the context of our passage is anchored by Verse 23. Here we find reference to the born-again experience that Jesus discussed with Nicodemus. The Apostle John records this conversation, and I will reprint it here:

John 3:5-15 (NIV)

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.”

With this in mind (being born of the Spirit), I believe we can infer from the premise made by Peter that the Word of God is what the Spirit uses to “effectuate” the new birth experience. He asserts that “we have been born again … through the living and enduring Word of God. And this “word” is unchanging … it is eternal. And this is the word that was preached to you. And this is consistent with what Paul asserted when he penned: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Word of God.” (Cf. Romans 10:17) I cannot explain how this happens; I only know from personal experience that it does. When we allow the “thoughts” of God to penetrate and indwell our hearts, we WILL come to faith in Jesus Christ … which IS the born-again experience being presented here. Jesus said, “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Cf. Luke 22:20), and it was declared through the Prophet Jeremiah when he prophesied:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NIV)

31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

(You will see the new covenant declaration quoted in the Hebrews 8 as well. And in Hebrews 9, you will find its theological development and the requirement for the sacrificial blood of Jesus to “seal” or “enforce” the covenant. So, I encourage you to read those fascinating chapters.)

Now for emphasis, Peter quotes the Prophet Isaiah regarding the temporal nature of man in contrast to the eternal nature of God’s Word. The Word of God is “living” and its truth endures forever in comparison to the brevity of our own lives. Perhaps Peter wanted to assure believers that the Word living in them affirms the Lord’s promise of our resurrection and eternal life with God. As we noted in Hebrews 4:12, “The Word of God is alive and active!” So, when we are born-again of the Spirit through the imperishable, living, and enduring Word of God, our physical lives may end but our souls will live forever. Jesus affirmed, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live … even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Cf. John 11:25-26)

It is certain each of us will face physical death. The statistics have remained unchanged at 100% since humans have been on the earth. Even Jesus died a physical death…. But Jesus taught us that faith in Him would overcome the power of death. When we are alive in Jesus … when we abide in Him … our physical death here will not be final. And this is why Jesus said, “You must be born again – born of water (the Word) and the Spirit – in order to enter the Kingdom of God.

As I meditate on these passages, I think I will conclude with this passage from the Gospel of John because Jesus can explain this better than anyone else:

John 6:63-69 (ESV)

60 Many of His disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” 61 Jesus was aware that His disciples were complaining, so He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? 63 The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are full of the Spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and He knew who would betray Him.) 65 Then He said, “That is why I said to you that no one can come to me unless it has been granted to them by the Father.” 66 At this point many of His disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” 68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Look at how much I love your precepts. Preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your faithful love. All of Your Word is truth, and all Your righteous judgments endure forever. ~ Psalm 119:159-160

A Call To Praise!

1 Peter 1:3 (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…

In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle Peter leads us into a call of praise to God our Father for the gift of His Son … our Lord Jesus Christ. And look at the reason we are called to give Him praise: “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.” A new birth … to be “born again” … means we experience an authentic encounter with Jesus Christ that produces a “living hope” of resurrection and “inheritance” of eternal life.  Let’s look at the larger passage for context:

1 Peter 1:3-16 (NIV)

3 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, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 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. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 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. 8 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, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He (Holy Spirit) foretold the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 13 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. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

This is a powerful passage of Scripture from the Apostle Peter, and I want to think about the power of praise in our lives. Indeed, praise and worship produces power upon and within the believer. Praise and worship are what will get us through the difficult times and trials in our lives because God supernaturally uses it to fill us with the power we need to build our faith and to overcome. Notice in Verses 6 and 7 what Peter shares about suffering due to the obedience that comes from faith: “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.” Perhaps, Peter reflected back on when Jesus taught about the trials believers would face for putting their faith in Him. Jesus had likewise encouraged steadfastness in faith. Jesus encouraged His followers to rejoice and be glad when you encounter hostility for your faith in Him. As we discussed, Jesus taught: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me (or my name). Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Cf. Matthew 5:11-12)

Have you ever wondered why the new birth … being born again of the Spirit of God must come first? The Apostle John records what Jesus taught about this experience:

John 3:1-8 (NIV)

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely, they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water (the Word) and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

We see from this passage that the “born again” experience is spiritual – conceived in the Word of God and brought forth by the Spirit of God. Our spiritual birth in Christ Jesus is the beginning of new life … real life … true life … which is what God has purposed for us since before the foundation of the world. Jesus declared: “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent. (Cf. John 6:29) So, when faith in Jesus Christ is formed … when we receive Him and believe in Him, we then receive the right (the authority) to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor a human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (Cf. John 1:12-13)

Without this new birth – we do not have the indwelling Spirit of God. No one can declare “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3) It follows that we must be born again before we can be filled with the “living hope” accomplished through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we must be born again before we can become a child of God … a child who is “eligible” to receive an inheritance … the inheritance of eternal life. Eternal life is His gift to those who are His own; and I will note what Peter shared about this new birth – it is given to us because of the “great mercy” of the Father. Without His mercy … without His grace … we are unable to believe in the One He has sent. Our faith in Jesus Christ is truly a merciful gift!

Ephesians 2:1-9 (NIV)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 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. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 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. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

So what shall we conclude? What is the application for us?

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

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. 2 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.

It is my prayer that our Verse of the Day has conveyed something much deeper for us to meditate upon. I hope we can earnestly declare: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Oh, how I pray that we will “joyfully give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of Light. For He has rescued (saved) us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption – the forgiveness of sins.” (Cf. Colossians 1:12-14)

Yes! Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Diversity In Unity

Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

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

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

Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV).

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

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

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

Acts 17:24-28 (NIV)

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

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

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

A Final Thought:

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

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

New Year … New Creation

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Our first Verse of the Day for 2022 is a great reminder that all things are “new” for those who come to faith in Christ Jesus….

This message of the Gospel is powerful and rests upon the teaching of Jesus Himself when He explained to a member of the Pharisees named Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (from above) he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” As Nicodemus questioned Jesus about this teaching, Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Cf. John 3:1-8)

When we are born-again of the Spirit, we become new creations through Him! And I believe this is the foundation of the New Covenant … when the Lord puts His law within our minds, and write His law on our hearts. (Cf. Jeremiah 31:31-33). Jesus once shared a metaphor that I think is quite relevant to this point:

Luke 5:36-38 (NIV)

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

We are called into the “new” through Jesus! He wants us to have a new faith … a new perspective … a new purpose … and a new anointing to enter the Kingdom of God that He establishes within us!  Perhaps His parable was even prophetic when His disciples were gathered on the Day of Pentecost, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. In response to this outpouring, the text states: “And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Cf. Acts 2:1-13)

As we begin a new year with a renewed resolve to be more disciplined in our walk with the Lord Jesus, I pray that we will keep in mind how our born-again experience has transformed us into new creations … being conformed to the image of Christ. I think the Apostle Paul does an excellent job giving us insight into this process:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 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 (justified) from sin.

Romans 7:4-6 (NIV)

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Ephesians 4:17-24 (NIV)

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:1-10 (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 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

And so, I pray that we will begin this New Year with the convictions of faith deeply rooted in our hearts.  May we find within us the discipline to stay in prayer … to study the Word … to fast for healing and deliverance … and to labor with courage and commitment in the harvest field this year.  Indeed, 2022 is the year to be devoted in praise and prayer … spiritual priorities if we truly intend to abide in Him and He is us. 

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!