Suffering For The Gospel…

Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

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

I wanted to share this verse from the other day, but I have held up because of time constraints and I wanted to add some context and comment.  The topic Paul addresses here is “suffering” and its intended spiritual purpose in our lives.  Paul shares his insight from the tremendous amount of personal suffering that he endured; especially after becoming a believer and follower of Christ. I thought we might put this passage in the larger context to better understand this purpose:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, let us 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 let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but let us 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. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

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

Romans 8:18-25 (NIV)

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

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

1 Peter 2:19-23 (NIV)

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

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

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

2 Timothy 1:6-13 (NIV)

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

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Persevere In Faith…

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV)

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

Our verse this morning is a call to persevere in faith.  Though we see a world in tribulation on many fronts, we know there a great victory ahead of us!  The inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews provides an encouraging word for us, the remnant Church, to keep moving forward as the Day of the Lord approaches.  The righteous shall live by faith, for the Lord does not take pleasure in those who draw back in fear or lose their confidence and trust in Him.  In faith, we are to forge ahead….

Hebrews 10:19-39 (NIV)

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light (of the Gospel), when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised37 For, “In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But the righteous will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who draws back.” (Quoting from Habakkuk 2:3-4) 39 But we do not belong to those who draw back to destruction, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Philippians 3:12-21 (NIV)

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ21 who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.

So I pray that we will take such a view of things.  Spiritual warfare is being waged all around this world – not just here in our own nation.  By faith, we need to press forward and be engaged. As Paul declared: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12) And this is what the Lord says: “The Word of God (the sword of the Spirit) shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Cf. Joshua 1:8-9)

Some final thoughts and exhortations from the Apostle Paul:

1 Timothy 6:11-16 (NIV)

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in His own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To Him be honor and might forever. Amen.

2 Timothy 1:6-10 (NIV)

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-disciplineSo do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.

2 Timothy 4:1-8 (NIV)

1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Do Not Take Revenge

Psalm 94:18-19 (NIV)

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

If you become dismayed or disillusioned about the events going on in our nation … in our world … this Psalm provides some comfort to us.  God will execute judgment with righteousness.  God will avenge His righteous ones. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

Psalm 94

The Lord is a God who avenges. O God who avenges, shine forth.
Rise up, Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve.
How long, Lord, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant?

They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting.
They crush your people, Lord; they oppress your inheritance.
They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless.
They say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.”

Take notice, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise?
Does He who fashioned the ear not hear? Does He who formed the eye not see?
10 Does He who disciplines nations not punish? Does He who teaches mankind lack knowledge?
11 The Lord knows all human plans; He knows that they are futile.

12 Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord, the one you teach from your law;
13 you grant them relief from days of trouble, till a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the Lord will not reject His people; He will never forsake His inheritance.
15 Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it.

16 Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
17 Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

20 Can a corrupt throne be allied with you— a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?
21 The wicked band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.
22 But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.
23 He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the Lord our God will destroy them.

And in light of these days, I am reminded of what the Apostle John recorded in Revelation as the seals were opened:

Revelation 6:9-11 (NIV)

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

The message here is that God is fully aware of what is taking place within His creation. God is wholly sovereign over His works, and His will is immutable in heaven and on earth.  We are not to fear the wicked or what is happening in the world; rather, we are to worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth! We have been saved to serve, and we should be about the Father’s business. “When the harvest time approached, He sent His servants to the tenants to collect His fruit.” (Cf. Matthew 21:34) And, “He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (Cf. Luke 10:2) This is how the Body of Christ should be engaged in these latter days regardless of the resistance, persecution, and vilification that will come upon the workers. Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Cf. Matthew 28:19-20)

It has already been written in Scripture that God will allow martyrdom to happen … and permit the testing of our faith to refine us as with fire.  So, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” (Cf. 1 Peter 4:12-13) Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (Cf. John 15:18) And, “You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” (Cf. Matthew 24:9) And, “See I have told you ahead of time.” (Cf. Matthew 24:25) “So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.” (Cf. Mark 13:23) But I remind you that victory will be accomplished. Jesus encouraged His disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Cf. John 16:33) And the Apostle John affirms that “everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world … even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Cf. 1 John 5:4-5)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~ Romans 12:21

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Whoever Has Ears…

Revelation 3:14 (NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God.

We have a timely word for us this morning, and I want us to really consider all that has been said in this prophetic message to the Church in Laodicea.  Before we begin, I think it might be interesting to have some geographical and historical information on Laodicea:

Laodicea was an ancient city located on the Lychus River in the Hellenistic regions of Caria and Lydia in Asia Minor (now modern-day Turkey). It was one of three cities in the Lychus River Valley (the other cities were Colossae and Hierapolis); and we know that churches were founded in each of these three cities, probably by Paul’s convert named Epaphras (Cf. Colossians 1:17; 4:12-13). It was founded by the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus II, who named it after his wife, Laodice, in 250 BC. In 188 BC, the city passed to the Kingdom of Pergamon.  After 133 BC, it fell under the Roman Empire and later became the Roman Province of Phrygia. It was located on a major east/west trade route and noted as a banking center. The surrounding area was a fertile agricultural and pastoral region, especially suited for raising a special black sheep for which it became famous worldwide. It was Antiochus III who transported 2,000 Jewish families to Phrygia from Babylonia, so Laodicea had a very large Jewish population. It, like Pergamum, was a center for the worship of the healing god Asclepios. The city was the site of a medical school which was noted for its ear and eye salve.

With its large Jewish community, very early Laodicea became a seat of Christianity and a bishopric The Epistle to the Colossians mentions Laodicea as one of the communities of concern for the Apostle Paul. It sends greetings from a certain Epaphras from Colossae, who worked hard for the Christians of the three Phrygian cities of Colossae, Laodicea, and Hieropolis. Asking for greetings to be sent to the Laodicean Christians, Paul requests that his letter be read publicly at Laodicea (Cf. Colossians 4:16) and that another letter addressed to the Laodiceans (a lost epistle of Paul) be given a public reading at Colossae. Some Greek manuscripts of the First Epistle to Timothy end with the words: “Written at Laodicea, metropolis of Phrygia Pacatiana”.  So the historical and scriptural manuscript records confirm the existence of Laodicea, the church that was founded there, and give us additional context for the prophetic message to this church community found in the Revelation 3.

I do not pretend to be an eschatologist or a trained scholar of church history; but what I do contend is that the words in this passage from Revelation 3 reveal truth for us to consider in the light and context it has been presented to us by the Apostle John.  As he instructed in another epistle: “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 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.” (Cf. 1 John 2:26-27) And so I pray the anointing of the Holy Spirit will fill us with wisdom, discernment, truth, and understanding of what John has recorded in this revelation.

Revelation 3:14-22 (NIV)

14 “To the Angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 

We have already learned about the historical church founded in Laodicea.  What I simply wish to draw our attention to is the author of this passage: “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

These are the words of Christ Jesus who IS the “Amen.”

The word “Amen” is derived from the Hebrew word which means “certainty,” “truth,” and “verily”.  “Amen” is often used at the end of a prayer to mean “so it is” or “so be it”. It is a declaration or affirmation of what has been spoken. So, I believe in this context the word can be understood as “truth”.  These are the words of “The Truth”.  Jesus claimed, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6)

These are the words of Christ Jesus who IS “The Faithful and True Witness”.  This is understood and supported by the “testimony” Jesus gave of Himself:

John 5:36-38 (NIV)

36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has Himself testified concerning me. You have never heard His voice nor seen His form, 38 nor does His word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one He sent.

John 8:12-19 (NIV)

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 The Pharisees challenged Him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” 19 Then they asked Him, “Where is your father”? “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

John 10:35-37 (NIV)

35 If He called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the One whom the Father set apart (sanctified) as His very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.

John 12:48-50 (NIV)

48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV)

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

These are the words of Christ Jesus who IS “the Ruler of God’s Creation”.  The NKJV translates this sentence: “the Beginning of the Creation of God”.

Genesis 1:1 (NIV)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

John 1:1-3 (NIV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

So we find in this list of “attributes” a clear description of the Lord Jesus Christ as the author of the words and the message being communicated through the Apostle John to the Seven Churches – and specifically to the church at Laodicea.  He is the Truth … He is the Faithful Witness … and He has power and authority over all creation. This means Jesus is sovereign over us! So now, let’s look deeper into the message:  

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Here we understand the omniscience of Christ … “I know your deeds.” And Jesus describes their state of ministry as neither cold nor hot … but lukewarm. It is probable that there is no “love one another as I have loved you” going on with the people in this church. To me, it is clear that Jesus is referring to their works … their ministry; and His displeasure with them is quite evident from the tone. The language used is the Jesus would “vomit” them out of His mouth.  The metaphor indicates that lukewarm, apathetic, indifferent followers make Jesus sick to His stomach.  If you and I are not “on fire” for Christ and being witnesses of the Gospel in both word and deed, this warning of “rejection” should catch our attention for sure….

17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

As we discovered in our background above, this could be an allusion to Laodicea as a center of banking; a center for black wool; and a medical center for eye salve.  The tragedy of their prosperity was that they thought they had so much when, in reality, they had so little in terms of the true riches of Christ (Cf. Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:27; Colossians 2:2). The same judgment was made of the Church in Sardis when Jesus admonished: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.” (Cf. Revelation 3:1-2) Again, the issue is dead or nonexistent works (deeds); works that are unfinished and should be fulfilled.

18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

This is an interesting statement: “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire….”  The metaphor may be an allusion to Isaiah 55:1-3, and it brings to mind another passage as well:  

Isaiah 55:1-3 (NIV)

1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.

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 (all kinds of trials) 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.

Perhaps, the gold refined in fire is FAITH….  And to possess faith in Jesus Christ is to possess the true riches.  I am reminded of the counsel Jesus had already given through His teachings:

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 13:22 (NIV) – From the Parable of the Sower

22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

Luke 16:10-12 (NIV)

10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

James 2:5 (NIV)

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?

Jesus counseled them to “buy from me white clothes to wear so you can cover your shameful wickedness”.

Revelation 19:6-8 (NIV)

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride (the Church) has made herself ready.Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

Revelation 19:11-8 (NIV)

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his Head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God14 The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of His mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” (Cf. Psalm 2:9) He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Jesus counseled them to “buy from me salve to put on your eyes, so you can see”.

Psalm 146:6-8 (NIV)

He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— He remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.

Isaiah 42:16 (NIV)

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Mark 10:51-52 (NIV)

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

John 9:24-25 (NIV)

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “Whether He is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

John 9:39-41 (NIV)

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” 40 Some Pharisees who were with Him heard Him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” 41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

Jesus counseled His Church to examine themselves and to consider their lack of fruitfulness. Though members of His Body, deception of their true spiritual condition had drawn them into idleness, indifference, and attachments of darkness.  The shame of nakedness (the sinful human nature) refers to our spiritual poverty and defeat. But Jesus wants His people to be victorious over our sinful nature. He wants us to come and obtained from Him the true riches of faithfulness and steadfastness; perseverance in love and care for one another; and the joy of His salvation. There is no other source for what we truly need to live effective and productive lives in Him. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3)

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. (Cf. Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:6)

Jesus declares His affection for the Church.  He has rebuked them in righteousness and judgment.  He has spiritually disciplined them.  So He is expectant of prompt repentance from the people!  The members of His Body there need to receive what Jesus revealed and give full consideration to what Jesus has exposed in the condition of their hearts. While this message was for the Church in Laodicea, I think it could be directed at the modern church of our generation … especially the Western Church … the American Church … which has said, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But we do not fully realize how this spiritual attitude has rendered us wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked….  Indeed, in this present hour, we are being called to humble ourselves and to repent … to turn from our wicked ways and to seek His face … and then Jesus would restore and heal us.

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Jesus said to the Church: “Here I am!”  I am available to you … even standing at the door of your heart and knocking. The implication is potential but not certain action.  The person or the church must respond! So, we need to hear His voice … as the voice of a Shepherd.  We need to open our hearts to His rebuke and disciple.  For Jesus does so because He loves us and wants us to stay the course of faith and to do the good works which God prepared for us in advance to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) If we open our hearts to Him, He will enter and initiate fellowship with us. Eating a meal together has long been a sign of covenant, friendship, and fellowship. Yes, we will experience the intimate relationship with Jesus that He desires for us to have with Him but we must respond to His invitation….

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on His throne.

This concept of being victorious is repeated through the messages to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation.

Church in Ephesus:

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.” (Cf. Revelation 2:7)

Church in Smyrna:

The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the Second Death.” (Cf. Revelation 2:11)

Church in Pergamum:

To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Cf. Revelation 2:17)

Church in Thyatira:

To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nation – that one will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery” – just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star. (Cf. Revelation 2:26-28)

Church in Sardis:

The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the Book of Life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and His angels. (Cf. Revelation 3:5)

Church in Philadelphia:

The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. (Cf. Revelation 3:12)

Church in Laodicea:

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Cf. Revelation 3:31)

When I look at this list, those who are victorious are those who have kept their first love; those who have endured hardships; those who have overcome afflictions and poverty; those who have persevered in suffering and persecution; those who have not denounced the faith or followed false apostles; those who have served God and others. These will receive the rewards Jesus has promised to them in these messages to the churches, and there is great reward in faithfulness with God, and Jesus wants us to know so….

1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (NIV)

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:3-5 (NIV)

In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

This phrase is repeated within the message delivered to each church as well. It is an invitation to take note and to heed the rebukes and disciplines administered.  It is a call for repentance and the renewal of faith … even in 2020 as we observe the signs of the times.  He knows our deeds … our works … any many of us are found “deficient” because faith without works is dead faith.  It is through our deeds that we profess and live out our faith in Jesus. There are warnings against idolatry and sexual immorality … to which we will be held accountable. So Jesus wants us to wake up … pay attention … and listen to the Spirit of Truth.  He is our Advocate:

John 16:13-15 (NIV)

13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what He will make known to you.”

Well, I know this has been quite lengthy, but I just felt led to expound on this message … to this particular church.  I believe in some ways the lukewarm church in Laodicea reflects the modern church of our generation. We need to heed the rebukes Jesus spoke to this church and to repent if we individually and communally want to be effective witnesses in these latter days.  I hope this study will prompt us to dive deeper into the Word of God and allow it to penetrate even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and to judge the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) We should not be deceived, but be reminded that God will not be mocked. A person will reap what they sow. (Cf. Galatians 6:7) Because as we have seen, there is nothing in all creation hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Cf. Hebrews 4:13) And as Paul wrote: “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5)

So let us be earnest and repent! Let us get on fire and make a difference in these days that God has granted us to live! Let us each complete the works God prepared in advance for us to do! Let us be faithful and true witnesses ourselves! Let us open the doors of our hearts and invite Him into the intimate place of our souls.  Let us persevere and be victorious in our confession and practice of faith! And let us hear what the Spirit says to the churches!  In Jesus Name I pray, Amen!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Perseverance…

Philippians 3:14 (NIV)

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Perseverance.  Pressing on. This appears to be the theme for us this week … and with good reason.  The forces of evil have garnered quite a stronghold on our nation, and the battle rages on…. So we need to keep perspective.  God is on the throne. And Paul shares with us his example to follow:

Philippians 3:12-21 (NIV)

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

Oh, indeed, there is a greater hope that we possess despite all the tribulation we see. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Cf. John 16:33) And Paul shared a similar perspective when he wrote: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Though we see what is coming upon the earth, we should not lose heart.  On the contrary, Jesus said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (Cf. Luke 21:28) This makes perseverance in faith even more important! We need to press on and do the work of evangelism in the midst of tribulation.  Let us look at the opportunities rather than the obstacles. And, most of all, let us continue in prayer before the altar of God … interceding for our governing and civil authorities to make righteous decisions and judgments for all people. It is the will of God for us to do so!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Lord Is Faithful

2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV)

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.

I found our verse this morning to be a timely word for those who believe … a confirmation of the trust we must place in the Lord our God.  Either we believe the Lord is faithful, as He has wholly demonstrated through His great mercy and love, or we in essence do not believe He has spoken with truth.  The Apostle John cautioned about the theological implication of unbelief: “We make God to be a liar.”

1 John 5:9-11 (NIV)

We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

God has not been ambiguous in the revelation of His will or His love. “But God demonstrates HIS OWN LOVE FOR US in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) “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 4:10)

Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV)

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

If we accept the testimony of God … if we believe in His Son, Jesus Christ … then we can trust Him at His Word! The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.  And now, let’s read the verse in the context:

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 (NIV)

1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with youAnd pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Again, our mission … the task of the Church … is to share the testimony of God and to spread the message of Jesus Christ – His Son.  This is why we pray … pray for strength and pray for protection from the evil one. And this is His faithful promise to those who are at work and not idle in these times.  It is necessary for each of us to “release” whatever hinders us or binds us in unbelief.  Yes, right now, I pray in name of Jesus, for “RELEASE” of whatever stronghold, whatever attachment, whatever sin, whatever doubt or fear, that abide in our hearts and keep us from TOTAL TRUST in our Lord and Savior.  I declare, “RELEASE!”

Why?  “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (Cf. 1 Peter 4:17)

1 Peter 4:12-19 (NIV)

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (Quoting Proverbs 11:31) 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Wait Upon The Lord

Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

I have always loved this verse from Isaiah 40.  There is a “old” praise and worship chorus we used to sing at the church where I was saved that was based on this passage:

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.

They shall mount up with wings as eagles.

They shall run and not be weary – they shall walk and not faint.

Teach me Lord … Teach me Lord to wait.

Let me put the larger passage in here:

Isaiah 40:27-31 (NKJV)

27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah concludes his message with an exhortation to completely trust in God for all things … even when we feel weary of life or when we feel God does not hear us or intervene in the circumstances we feel are beyond our control.  Isaiah wants the people of God (in all generations) to KNOW the Lord, the Creator, our Father God is eternal.  He neither sleeps nor slumbers. He neither faints nor is weary. So we are moved by this knowledge to simply trust that God knows everything going on in the world and in our lives collectively and individually. Indeed, His understanding is unsearchable!

But I think to fully understand the “conclusion” of trust, we need to see the larger context of why trust is encouraged … why faith in God is necessary for our well-being.  So I strongly urge you to read the entire Chapter 40 and discover what God moves Isaiah to declare about His “working” in the lives of His people; how God WILL comfort His people! Indeed, the desire of God has been to comfort His people.  As Paul shared: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4) So, Isaiah opens this message with, “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”

The prophetic word Isaiah was given to declare is so uplifting as you read it through the lens of history and fulfillment.  Verse 3: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” And then we see John the Baptist, the man God sent to preach the work of repentance for us. Verse 10: “Behold, the Lord God shall come in strength, and His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His recompense accompanies Him.”  And then we see Jesus, the One whom God sent to complete the work of salvation for us.  And, oh, how Verses 12-26 serve to afford us greater perspective on the power and majesty … the divine nature and character of the God who comforts … and how we should understand our total dependence upon Him for everything because of who He is!  God has been faithful to His people … to His creation in all things!  And Isaiah enjoins us to trust our Heavenly Father….

So I pray this morning that you and I will receive this word and let it inspire our faith today and always.  God the Father has already comforted us with the gift of eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ.  He has already prepared a place for us.  He is coming again to receive us.  So do not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap a harvest if we do not lose heart. (Cf. Galatians 6:9) Yes, do not grow weary in doing good and what is right. (Cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:13) Rather, wait upon the Lord!  Rest in Him!  Renew your strength through the knowledge of what He has already done for you! For we have a work to do in these latter days … the work of comforting others as we ourselves have been comforted by God.  We have the work of reconciliation to complete. So let us run and not be weary … let us walk and not faint. Yes, let us keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus … the author and finisher of our faith.  Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

His Watchful Eye….

Psalm 121:7-8 (NIV)

The Lord will keep you from all harm— He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

I am glad this verse came up this morning as the events of this world unfold and fear continues to be a dominate influence over our lives.  Perhaps our collective perspective should shift from what we see to what we do not see.  For this is the essence of our faith … the assurance of our faith … what the Spirit enables us to see through Christ Jesus our Lord:

Hebrews 11:1

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (NKJV; KJV)

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (NRSV; ESV; NASB)

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (NIV)

It is not with physical eyes only that we can see what is happening in our world. Through faith, we are able to see with spiritual eyes … the eyes of our hearts having been enlightened with the Word of God … that we might see what God has revealed to us.  And God appointed Paul to expose and articulate the ongoing mysterious and deceptive work of Satan (even within the Church) since its inception during Pentecost:

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (NIV)

1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness (Sin) is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt Himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that He sets Himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming Himself to be God.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper timeFor the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth and destroy by the splendor of His coming.

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing.  They perish because they refused to love the Truth and so be saved11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Powerful words for us to consider!  Powerful revelation as to what lies ahead … as physical, natural forces merge with spiritual forces of darkness to rusher in the coming of the lawless one!  Even now there are public displays and satanic marches in our cities to promote and hasten this coming “One World Order” that has been prophesied.  Is it true?  Did they actually occur yesterday with the solar eclipse? Are these stories just made up? Well, in the context of what has been happening already this year, you will have to determine for yourself what is real … if you can with so much deception being purveyed in the mainstream and social media outlets….  Where is TRUTH when you need it most?

When Jesus prayed for His disciples and for those who would believe in Him through their testimony, the Gospel of John recorded these words:

John 17:13-21 (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. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Yes, we have been sanctified … set apart for service to God.  We have been equipped with the Truth of God’s Word and His indwelling Spirit.  This is “how” we are no longer OF the world … and this is also “why” we have not been taken out of the world. Jesus empowers His people and sends them to be the light of the world … HIS Light! And did you notice that He prayed for the Father to “protect us from the evil one.”  And does His prayer not align with the prophetic word of King David who wrote the Psalm 121 that we are receiving today? Even now, I am reminded again, and I encourage you to read the entire Psalm 91: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most-High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Verses 1-2)

When we dwell in the shelter of the Most-High God … when we abide in Jesus Christ and He in us … we have a refuge and a place of rest! We do not have to be or feel distressed.  We have a strong tower and a fortress.  Indeed, Father God is our Protector, our Provider, and our High Priest! He is protecting us from the evil one … the lawless one who is coming … so that we will not be deceived or receive powerful delusion to believe the lies of Satan!  We have been sanctified by the Truth!  And God has not given us a Spirit of fear but a Spirit of power and love and self-control! (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) And I emphasize “self-control” because if we reactively engage with those who are blinded to the truth … those who manifest themselves with malicious, riotous, and destructive behaviors after the pattern of Satan … we will not shine as light in the darkness if we fail to exercise self-control over our own emotions. “Instead, let us be speaking the Truth in love … so that we will grow into become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Jesus Christ.  From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Cf. Ephesians 4:15-16)

Romans 2:6-11 (NIV)

God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” (Cf. Psalm 62:12; Proverbs 24:12To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

Romans 12:16-18 (NIV)

16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Ephesians 6:11-13 (NIV)

11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Remember, Jesus has already declared, “I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.” ~ Matthew 16:18

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

FAITHFUL IN PRAYER

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. ~ Romans 12:12

Perhaps our verse is a timely word … as events continue to unfold that bring us ever closer to our day of full redemption … complete salvation.  Paul urges us to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. I cannot think of any greater advice for believers in these days of disorder and darkness.  For what we sense in our spirits is very real; and Paul explains these feelings in some detail … that we might understand and find comfort in the love of God who will work all things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose:

Romans 8:18-28 (NIV)

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope. 21 For the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, with those who have been called according to His purpose.

While all three of these exhortations are important to practice, I especially want to encourage all of us to be faithful in prayer.  Yes, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to pray for you when you are not sure what to pray or how to pray.  For the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans … but God understands what is being said and what is in your heart so that your prayer will be in accordance with His will.  And His will is to cause all things to work for our good. What has been meant for evil … God Himself will work for good in your life and mine.  Yes, the Lord Jesus will bring us through this present darkness and fulfill His promise.  He will come! He will return for us! At the right time … when all hope might seem lost … Jesus will appear and we will meet Him in the air. Those who have died will be resurrected … and those who are alive will be changed.

John 14:1-6 (NIV)

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I amYou know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.”

John 11:21-27 (NIV)

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV)

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Luke 21:25-36 (NIV)

25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Yes, Jesus told us to ALWAYS be on the watch … and to pray two petitions:

1.         That we may be able to escape all that is about to happen

2.         That we may be able to stand before the Son of Man

Jesus also taught us to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Cf. Matthew 26:41) And Paul urge believers to: “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….” Yes, we need to be faithful in prayer for those who preach the Gospel … for those who will be persecuted and imprisoned for preaching the truth in love … for those who will be sharing the light of God with others … that each will articulate and proclaim it clearly!  And we should be wise in the way we act towards non-believers and make the most of every opportunity we have to share the love of God.  Our conversation should always be full of grace and seasoned with salt so that we may know how to answer everyone.  (Cf. Colossians 4:2-6)

Indeed, the day is approaching.  It is a time for faith to triumph over fear.  It is a time for us to be faithful in prayer for the prodigals … for the wayward and the lost.  It is a time for harvest … for the Word of God to be preached … for the message of Christ to accomplish faith unto salvation. “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (Cf. 1 Peter 4:17) So let us heed these words of Jesus:

Luke 12:35-40 (NIV)

35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when He comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for Him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when He comes. Truly I tell you, He will dress Himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if He comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Romans 12

Living Sacrifices to God

12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Serve God with Spiritual Gifts

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Behave Like a Christian

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation,  continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance  is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Lord. 20 Therefore, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Suffering For Christ

Philippians 1:29

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him…

There are some powerful theological considerations for us in our verse today.  Let’s put our verse in some additional context:

Philippians 1:22-30 (NIV)

22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

In this chapter, Paul has been recounting the struggles and suffering he has endured on his missionary journeys in the preaching of the Gospel.  As a prisoner, most likely in Rome at the time this letter was written, Paul shared his thoughts about all that had happened to him; and he wanted to encourage the believers at Philippi to have courage as they faced the same tests of their faith.  Uncertain of his future physical survival (as we all are), Paul contrasted his potential demise with the hope of restoration from the current isolation and suffering imposed on him.  So Paul instructs the believers to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ … no matter what happens.  And then he makes an interesting statement:  “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.”

God “grants” … God gives you and I two things: the hearing of faith and the suffering of faith.  And both have been granted to us on “behalf of Christ.”  In English, this translation has a profound application.  It does not say “in behalf of Christ” … which would mean “helping for the benefit of” or “acting in the interest of” Christ; rather, it states “on behalf of Christ” … meaning “in place of” or “as the agent of” or “as representing” Christ.  It follows that our faith and suffering is not meant to “manifest” in the interest of Jesus Christ; rather, I believe the implication is that our faith in God and the suffering that accompanies faith is now “in place of” or “a continuation of” the sufferings of Christ. We are enduring the struggles of faith and suffering now as Christ in the world … as His Body … as His Church.  I think Paul is saying that both faith and suffering should be viewed as a “privilege” given to us by God! In His sovereignty, God granted us the privilege (the grace) not only to believe in Him through Jesus Christ … but also the privilege (the grace) to suffer as Christ did in order to refine and mature our faith.  As Hebrews 5:8 points out: “Though Christ was the Son of God, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”  Likewise, the obedience of faith will be formed in us through hardship and suffering….

Did not Jesus Himself explain this would happen? You can find context for the suffering that comes with faith in Matthew 10:16-26 when Jesus sent out His disciples and followers into the towns of Judea to proclaim the Gospel.  In Matthew 24:3-14, we can see the suffering that comes with faith in the latter days should be expected as well. In John Chapters 15-17, when Jesus speaks about His imminent departure from the earth, He prays not only for the disciples to remain steadfast in faith, but also for those who will come to faith based on their testimony,

Matthew 10:21-22 (NIV)

21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Matthew 24:9-13 (NIV)

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

John 15:18-21 (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. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ (Reference John 13:16) If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.

John 16:1-4 (NIV)

1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.

John 17:14-18 (NIV)

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 by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

What these passages indicate is that suffering for our faith in Jesus Christ is inevitable.  And I believe the suffering we will experience “on behalf of Christ” is the suffering that He said we would endure in the world.  We are in His place now … in the world.  We are His Body … the Church.  We are His agents … His ambassadors.  And like Jesus, we will suffer ridicule, persecution, hate, violence, and even death for our faith in Him. So, I think it is important to note that as believers, we have the Holy Spirit living within us so that we can persevere in faith and hope.  Through Scripture, we are exhorted to persevere:

Hebrews 10:32-39 (NIV)

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.” (Cf. Isaiah 26:20) 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” (Cf. Habakkuk 2:3-4) 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

James 1:12-18 (NIV)

12 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. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose (granted) to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all He created.

Verse 17 states that “Every good and perfect gift is from above….”  You see, God has granted those He chose in Christ Jesus to believe in Him for salvation. And He granted the gift of suffering as well … to test our faith and to produce perseverance.  We need to recognize that “the cross comes before the crown”.  Both faith and suffering work in tandem to produce in us the kind of faith that God desires … a sincere faith that will remain steadfast when tried and tested.  Why?  Because that kind of faith will grow to the size of a mustard seed.  It will be empowered to move mountains!  Nothing will be impossible for us! (Cf. Matthew 17:19:20) Indeed, God wants us to be effective and productive through an ever-increasing faith. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:1-9) God wants our faith to grow so that we can accomplish the works He prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And a faith that endures all things is necessary for us to accomplish the will of God!  Truly, it is His divine power at work to heal the sick, to mend broken hearts, to free those who are captives, to release people from darkness, and to proclaim the Gospel! But most often, the Holy Spirit works through us … through those who believe in Him and suffer for His Name sake!  That is our purpose … our role as the Church!

David reflected: “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress; I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:5-8) So, my prayer is that we will see and understand the “privileges” we have received from God.  Let Him be praised for His grace … for His gifts!  May these truths from His Word penetrate our hearts and equip us … empower us … to be His Church in these latter days! For it has been granted to us, on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him….  Amen.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!