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 New Year … A New Thing…

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

This is what the Lord says— He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Happy New Year! Our Verse of the Day is a great one to start not only the New Year … but the new vision of ministry for our community. Look at what the Lord declares through His prophet, Isaiah, to us:

Speaking to the descendants of Israel (and to us as well), the Almighty God who worked miraculous signs and wonders among the people to free them from slavery in Egypt, declares: “Forget about those former things … and do not dwell upon the past.” What? God … the Great Deliverer … who saved His chosen people is telling their descendants to give those incredible deeds no further thought? But, why? The “stories” of God’s power … His presence … His protection … His provision … should be remembered, right? They should be “seared” into our collective memory. They should be revisited and recounted as a memorial. God spoke through Moses and said to the people: “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:9) And He spoke through King David to admonish the people: “My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old — things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done.” (Cf. Psalm 78:1-4)

Yet, centuries later, God spoke through Isaiah and said, “Forget the former things and do not dwell upon the past.” I said to myself, “There has to be something I’m missing here. So, I decided to look at the passage in its surrounding context….”

Isaiah 43:1-21 (NIV)

1 But now, this is what the Lord says— He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Sheba in your stead. 4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” 8 Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf. 9 All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble. Which of their gods foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, “It is true.” 10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I Am He. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. 11 I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. 12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God. 13 Yes, and from ancient days I am He. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” 14 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “For your sake I will send to Babylon and bring down as fugitives all the Babylonians, in the ships in which they took pride. 15 I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.” 16 This is what the Lord says—He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

Oh, I see the broader lesson now … because the context is the Babylonian Captivity that God brought upon His people because of their rebellion, sin, and disobedience! They had broken His covenant with them; and so, they were taken from the land of their inheritance … from the city of Jerusalem … from the temple of God’s presence. The people knew God! They knew His power! They knew His holiness! They knew His statutes and ordinances! They knew His great love and outstretched arm bidding them to return to Him! Yet, despite the faithfulness of God, they refused to worship Him and keep covenant with Him. God allowed them to go into captivity for their sin and judgment for their unbelief. Still, God, in His unfailing love, announces that His former covenant … manifested through the Law and commandments and sacrificial practices … would soon fade away. Behold, He is doing a new thing! He is forming a new covenant … manifested through His Spirit! And this announcement was affirmed through the Prophet Jeremiah as well:

Jeremiah 31:23-34 (NIV)

23 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity, the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: ‘The Lord bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.’ 24 People will live together in Judah and all its towns—farmers and those who move about with their flocks. 25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” 26 At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me. 27 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord. 29 “In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ 30 Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge. 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.”

What are the former things to forget? What is past that we should not dwell upon? I think, perhaps, it is the captivity that sin brought into our lives. And I think the captivity experience served a greater spiritual purpose to bring us closer to God. It warned of judgment and consequences. It revealed our need for deliverance and freedom from the darkness and oppression of sin. Jeremiah 31:3 recalls, “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” And Paul affirms this same truth in Romans 2:2-4: “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So, when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on others and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

Yes, the lovingkindness of God brings us to the realization that He does not want our sin, rebellion, or disobedience to rule over us or to imprison us so that we are separated from His presence. We were powerless to escape our captivity! Why? Because we remembered the former things … our worthless deeds … our trespasses … our rebellion and ungodliness. In self-condemnation, under the Law, we were powerless to be judged righteous before a Holy God! We were imprisoned by the thoughts of wrath held in reserve for those oppose God. But God said, “I will reveal a better plan … and unfold My plan of redemption!” It is His love … His mercies … His kindness … His New Covenant … that will prevail:

Romans 5:6-11 (NIV)

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 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.

Romans 8:1-10 (NIV)

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh (sinful nature), God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

Please forgive my long-windedness! If you have read this far, “God Bless You!” I felt like I needed to establish a foundation for the application … an application for such a time as this … for the year of Healing and Deliverance! To me, this passage is really about those who have left God … who have wandered … who have left home … who have squandered their inheritance. God is NOT telling the wayward or the lost to forget about His power … His presence … His protection … His provision over their life … or the lovingkindness that He has shown them; on the contrary, He is saying forget the former things that sent you into captivity. Understand that the Old Covenant was powerless because it was weakened by your flesh. “See, I am doing a new thing,” declares the Lord. I am making a way for you through the wilderness you have traveled! I am bringing you water in a dry and thirsty land! Come to Me all you who are burdened with your past … your guilt and shame. Forget it! I will give you rest for your soul. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Cf. Hosea 6:6) Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (Cf. John 8:36) And Paul affirmed: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!”

O Lord, how I pray that your servants will diligently go out into the streets, alleys, roads, and country lanes to share Your word of hope and encouragement … your forgiveness and reconciliation … your power of healing and deliverance … the freedom of your everlasting covenant of love. Only through you, Jesus, can we receive the Holy Spirit that does not make us slaves to fear again … the Spirit that brings about our adoption to sonship so that we can in truth become children of God who cry out, “Abba!” “Father!” Oh, I pray Lord Jesus, that your people would be vessels of your kindness … leading others to repentance … so that whosoever is captive will come to You and find rest for their souls. Lord, may they hear Your voice saying: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Changed Faith…

Luke 1:68-70 (NIV)

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to His people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David (as He said through His holy prophets of long ago)

As part of the Christmas story … we have the parallel narrative surrounding the birth of John the Baptist, who would be the forerunner to announce the coming of the Messiah to Israel. He would be known as the herald, a prophet of the Most-High God; the one who would announce Jesus as the Messiah … the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world … at the appointed time. So, I think we need to review the birth of John the Baptist, and the prophetic word spoken over him by his father, Zechariah.  Our Verse of the Day is the beginning excerpt of that longer “Song of Zechariah.”

Luke 1:57-80 (NIV)

57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

Zechariah’s Song

67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to His people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn (symbolizes a strong king) of salvation for us in the house of His servant David 70 (as He said through His holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— 72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember His holy covenant, 73 the oath He swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve Him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, 77 to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” 80 And the child grew and became strong in the Spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

This is an incredible prophetic word from the father of John the Baptist at the time of his birth.  Not only did Zechariah declare the role of his son to be the forerunner to announce the coming Messiah (Anointed One) and His role to effectuate salvation for the Jewish people, he proclaimed the covenantal prophesies that would be fulfilled in the Messiah. This is a portion of New Testament scripture that we do not want to miss or overlook. The Christmas narrative as well as the foundations of the message of Christ (how we come to faith) are being laid here in the Gospel record. It is important for us to see the covenant promises of God as they advance between Abraham and King David and the coming Messiah. The role of John the Baptist is to “prepare the way (for the coming) of the Lord” – as prophesied in Isaiah 40.  Remember, there is a multitude of prophesies converging on the Advent of Jesus Christ; and John the Baptist was ordained by God to open of hearts of people to the coming reality. John initiated a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and told the people to believe in the One coming after him, that is, in Jesus. (Cf. Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; and Acts 19:4)

What is our takeaway? I see the application in this: There is a Second Advent foretold … the Second Coming of Jesus!  Daniel prophesied: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Cf. Daniel 7:13-14) And the Gospel writers affirmed that when Jesus spoke about the “end times,” He declared: “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Cf. Matthew 24:30-31; Mark 13:26-27; Luke 21:27-28) In the Gospel of John, Jesus said He would go and prepare a place for us; and He promised to come back and take us to be with Him so that we might be where He is. (Cf. John 13:2-3) And Peter asserts: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise (to return), as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (Cf. 2 Peter 3:9)

And therein lies the application. The time is growing short and the final curtain call is being drawn.  The Lord Jesus wants everyone to come to repentance! Yes, whosoever will must ready themselves for the coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory!  And so, we the Church, have a role to play just as John the Baptist did at the First Advent.  Our role is to “prepare the way (for the coming) of the Lord!” We must urge those who do not know Jesus that the hour of repentance is now! He Is Coming Soon! It is time for the Prodigal to repent and return to the Lord. It is time for the Remnant Church to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people! (Cf. Jude 1:5) The TRUTH has drawn a line in the sand. It divides and separates light from darkness! The LIGHT has already come! His name is Jesus! Yes, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Cf. John 1:3) 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.” (Cf. John 8:12) And, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (Cf. John 12:46)

As believers, we have a mandate to enter the time of harvest. (Cf. Luke 10:2) And just as Paul testified before King Agrippa, so we must fulfill our role as the Church … as servants who follow Jesus … to go where Jesus is. (Cf. John 12:25-26) Even now, I hear these same words resonate in my spirit: “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to themto open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Cf. Acts 26:16-18)

O Church, do you not know that we have been given a SECOND CHANCE to be HIS Church? Indeed, this is our assignment for this time … for this generation … to prepare this people for His coming … to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. How I pray we will use every opportunity we have been given to “prepare the way of the Lord” for His Coming! Let us, our generation, now be the voice of one crying out in the wilderness of this culture. Yes, I pray that we will not fear but will be bold and courageous for such a time as this….  Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Day of the Lord…

2 Peter 3:10-11 (NIV)

But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives….

We have entered the Season of Advent in commemoration of the first arrival of the Messiah … the Son of God … the Word become flesh … our Lord Jesus.  Although we primarily focus on the first coming or arrival of our Lord Jesus during the Season of Advent, there is an ever-present expectation in our consciences of the promise of His Second Coming! Both are realities that underpin our faith from beginning to end….

In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle Peter addresses the implications of the Second Coming of Christ, and exhorts us to be prepared for the event.  In fact, the entire chapter is devoted to “The Day of Lord” as it is prophetically known. And it aligns with what the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews affirmed: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. (Cf. Hebrews 9:27-28)

2 Peter 3:1-18 (NIV)

1 Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and wait eagerly for its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Indeed, Peter presents a powerful, quite sobering warning and perspective on our preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus.  It is a reality!  It will happen! He encourages us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so that we can withstand the error of this lawless culture in which we live. Their scoffing and mocking of those who believe in the return of Jesus Christ is done in ignorance … not understanding the patience of God gives them an opportunity to come to repentance and a knowledge of the truth. In Verse 5, Peter states “they deliberately forget….”

In Matthew 24, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” Jesus explained to them, at great length, the unfolding of the timeline of events leading to His return.  And then Jesus exhorted them to be expectant and ready.  I will pick up His discourse here:

Matthew 24:30-44 (NIV)

30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. (Cf. Daniel 7:13-14) 31 And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. 32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that He is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you all, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.

It is clear that Peter heard … that he understood … and that he believed the prophetic words of Jesus.  The question is whether you and I believe Jesus at His Word.  Has the “slowness” of His Coming lulled us to be doubtful or skeptical?  We have heard all of our lives that Jesus is coming soon; and yet, many say “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised?”  Do you think Jesus is coming someday but just not in your generation or lifetime?  Do we even think about His return anymore? Well, we have been warned to keep watch because we do not know on what day our Lord will come! That means at any moment He could arrive.  And as Peter observed, “we ought to be living holy and godly lives” in the light of this expectation.  Yes, the Second Advent approaches and we need to be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when we do not expect Him….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Will of God…

1 Peter 2:15-16 (NIV)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

Yesterday, we studied a prayer that asked for being filled with the knowledge of God’s will. And I thought, after reading our Verse of the Day, that we can simply look in the Word of God to find specific revelations of His will for our lives. Our verse is an example of several unequivocal declarations of God’s will found in scripture; and I will share some others for your reference:

1 Peter 2:15 (NIV)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 (NIV)

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like unbelievers, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister….

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)

16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 1:3-5 (ESV)

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luke 7:29-30 (NKJV)

29 And when all the people heard Jesus, even the tax collectors declared the righteousness of God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by John.

These passages tell us that the will of God for us is to do good; to be sanctified; to rejoice always; to pray without ceasing; to give thanks to God; to fulfill the calling of God on our lives; and to receive the baptism of repentance. Paul declared that his calling to be an apostle of Christ Jesus was by the will of God. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1) So even though we might not always have complete knowledge of God’s will, we CAN still act and operate on what we do know. The least we can do is respond to the knowledge of God’s will we already have available to us. Yes, I think that just doing the few things revealed here will position us to have greater intimacy with God as we continue “to be filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Often, I have heard people express concern about “missing” the will of God. When I reflected on my own attempts to discern and fulfill the will of God for my own life; what I discovered is that I was chasing after my own hopes and dreams at times. I was not giving consideration to what had already been revealed to me in His Word. Then it occurred to me, that perhaps I should focus on and pursue the things that I do know already; rather than be worried or idled while waiting for some new revelation from God.

I remember sharing my anxieties with a former pastor about the decision to move my family to a different state for a new job. He told me, not to agonize over whether to go or to have ultimate certainty of the “rightness” of the decision. Pastor Sam shared, “Sometimes the Holy Spirit simply moves us to take a new step of faith. He shared, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:8) Then he said, “Where you go … what you do … is not always the most important aspect of your decision; rather, wherever you go – just take root and bear fruit. That is always the will of God for our lives.” His wisdom has stuck with me through the years … perhaps it will speak to you when those type of decisions come to your life.

God’s will for us is to do the good works for which we were created in Christ Jesus to do before the foundation of the world. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) God’s will for us is to be baptized and sanctified – set part for service to Him. God’s will for us is to rejoice, pray, and to give Him thanks all the time. God’s will for each of us is to exercise our spiritual gifts and fulfill our role within the Body of Christ. (Cf. Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12) When I look at these things, none of them have anything to do with where I live; what occupation I have; who I should marry; or those types of decisions because His will and purpose for me will always be for me to be obedient in any of those contexts….

So rather than looking for the will of God in a specific context … perhaps becoming paralyzed with indecision about whether to move or change a job or develop new relationship; I think we would do better to base our decisions and choices on what God has revealed in Scripture. Maybe we should ask, “How will this decision affect my ability to ‘take root and bear fruit?’ How will this decision enhance my desire to walk in the revealed will of God?” This means we need to read God’s Word to know His will. This means that we do not look for answers from the world; rather, our transformation to obedience comes from a renewal of our minds … a reset of our mindset. Paul exhorts us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Cf. Romans 12:2)

In Matthew 6:25-34, when Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you,” I believe He was speaking about the pursuit of God’s will for our lives. The kingdom of God is based in His sovereign authority (His will); and it follows that seeking to do His will (obedience) must come first … regardless of the context or circumstances we have been given in life. But then, God promises to grant all us the things which pertain to our needs. So, I think we need to realize there is a difference between His will and our needs (desires). I believe the obedience of faith in Jesus must come first! But as you do the will of God, watch as He unfolds and reveals His specific will in your situation and circumstances. (Cf. Psalm 37:3-6) When you seek the will of God, watch as He causes “all things to work for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Cf. Romans 8:28) And remember, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose (will) that prevails.” (Cf. Proverbs 19:21)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Hebrews 10:36

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

1 Peter 4:19

Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

1 John 2:16-17

16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

I Desire To Do Your Will

Psalm 40:8 (NIV)

I desire to do your will, my God; your Law is within my heart.

Our Verse of the Day comes from Psalm 40, and I encourage you to read the entire Psalm for its context. I find the meditation of King David regarding his personal struggle with sin to be honest and transparent. David sees his desire to do what is right as dependent upon his relationship with God. He writes: “Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help me.” (Verse 13) And, “You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.” (Verse 17) He observes the connection between desire and action as predicated upon the Word of God being embedded within his heart….

Indeed, if we desire to do the will of God, it follows that we must know and understand His will. I believe this is why the law … the commandments of God found in His Word … must be stored within our hearts. His Word must be treasured above all else! For the Word of God is necessary to change the human heart so that we are enabled to do His will. (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) The Prophet Jeremiah observed: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Cf. Jeremiah 17:9-10) And Jesus taught: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Cf. Matthew 15:19) Indeed, unless we engage ourselves in the Word of God so it will become active within us, we will struggle to submit to the will of God for our lives.

Surrendering to the will of God is what accomplishes our sanctification! (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3) And the sanctifying work of God within us is accomplished through His Word. Jesus declared as He prayed to the Father: “Sanctify them (disciples and future believers) by the Truth; Your Word is Truth.” (Cf John 17:17) The Word of God (His Will) has been sufficiently revealed to us through His Prophets … and in these last days through His Son. (Cf. John 1:1-2; Hebrews 1:1-2) Consider Psalm 119:11 which states: “Your Word I have hidden in my heart … so that I might not sin against You.” Indeed, His Word, hidden in the soil of a fertile heart, will germinate thoughts of righteousness and godliness to motivate whatever we say and do. Indeed, everything we do as humans (our fruit) is the outward expression of our thoughts … whether good or evil. So as we cultivate reverence for God in our inner beings, let us carefully plant His Word within our hearts to become a harvest of obedience to His Will….

The Apostle John brings us some additional insight on this matter of faith. He connects obedience with our love for God … our reverence for God expressed through obeying His commands. John recorded that Jesus told His disciples: “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15)

1 John 2:4-6 (NIV)

4 Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys His Word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.

1 John 5:2-3 (NIV)

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.

I think the question for us is this: “Do we truly desire to do God’s will?” Are we motivated by the love of God to please Him through obedience of His will? Are we chasing after the heart of God with reverence for Him? My solemn prayer is that we will spend more time reading and studying the Law (its commandments, statutes, and precepts) as well as the testimonies of the NT writers in order to comprehend the fullness of God’s Word and put it into practice. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is the spiritual tool through which He sanctifies us. God proclaimed through Moses: “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” (Cf. Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7; 20:26; 21:8; 22:32) In his epistle, Peter quoted Moses and confirmed its application: “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” And since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:15-17)

Yes, I believe the Lord is calling each of us to holiness … leading us with His Spirit to sanctify ourselves through His Holy Word. Our Heavenly Father desires us to live in reverent fear of Him and to do His will. So, may we have ears to hear what the Spirit of God is saying to His Church….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Willing Spirit…

Psalm 51:12 (NIV)

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Our Verse of the Day comes from Psalm 51, and it is an intense confession and lamentation of David – prompted after Nathan the Prophet confronted him regarding his adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequent act to have her husband killed in battle. I encourage you to reference the story in 2 Samuel 11-12. In the final verse of that chapter we read, “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”

Though he was a man who pursued the heart of God and experienced intimate spiritual relationship with Him, David fell into great temptation. He committed adultery; and then afterwards, a murder as the consequences of his sin spiraled out of control.  In that time … in that moment … it is clear that David did not guard his heart nor fear God. Indeed, the consequences of his actions had far-reaching effects on his relationship with God and those around him. And so, Psalm 51 captures the outpouring of his confession and repentance before God.  David expresses that God desires faithfulness from us … righteousness and holiness … even from the moment of our conception. David asks God for cleansing, healing, renewal, and reinstatement of the fidelity he had violated. And from his prayer, we learn it is a broken spirit … a broken and contrite heart … that our loving and compassionate Father will use to restore us to Himself.

In his confession, David acknowledges not only his transgressions, but he observes in Verse 4 the following concerning his sin: “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight; so You are right in your verdict and justified when You judge. David asserts that his sinful actions against other people were indeed sins against God Himself! Further, He agrees that God’s judgment of his sins is righteous and just. David continues in his prayer to seek forgiveness and cleansing of his sins: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” And it is here that we find the context of our verse today….

To fear God is the beginning of wisdom; and reverence establishes the foundation for our obedience and faithfulness to Him. Like David, we can too easily become focused on ourselves, our own inner desires, and the allure of worldly things. Indeed, there is so much “pleasure” available that it can be challenging to our faithfulness. And the battle between light and darkness … between truth and lies … only seems to be intensifying in this world. Since we are caught in the torrent of spiritual warfare, it is understandable that we might become distracted and operate in the flesh. The deception and confusion can give rise to all kinds of temptations … enticing us to make bad decisions under the circumstances. If ever there was a time to guard our hearts and put on our spiritual armor (Cf. Ephesians 6:10-18), it is now in these latter days.

I see our Verse of the Day as a reminder of the constant struggle we face on the journey of faith. Any sin or transgression in our lives not only displeases the Lord, but there are profound consequences. We quench the Spirit who is working within us (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:19) … and we grieve the Spirit who has sealed us unto the day of redemption. (Cf. Ephesians 4:30) We are robbed of the “joy” of our salvation, and we begin to isolate ourselves from God in guilt and shame. Indeed, we dishonor the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to atone for our sins, and we separate ourselves from the presence of God through His Holy Spirit. Our capacity to love one another and minister to others is diminished because we have compromised ourselves….

As we meditate upon these thoughts, I hope that we will spend some time for introspection. As David did, let us kneel before the Father and pray: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Cf. Psalm 139:23-24) And as John affirmed, “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all (every) sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us. (Cf. 1 John 1:5-10)

Though our transgressions may not rise to the level that David committed, it is certain that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) So, it is my hope that as we examine ourselves before God, we will join David with repentant hearts as the Lord reveals our transgressions. For God is willing to purify us and to restore our joy. He is faithful to do so. Because of His mercy and grace, He will give us a willing spirit to live worthy of Him. As Paul wrote: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Cf. Galatians 5:24-25)

My friends, I believe the Father is calling our hearts to confession and repentance today so that He might restore the joy of our salvation! Let us humble ourselves in reverence. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Cf. Hebrews 4:16) And I am reminded of what Paul asserted: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13) So, let us be diligent to guard our hearts and minds so that we do not fall prey to our enemy the devil – who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:8)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

What Are You Afraid Of?

Proverbs 29:25 (NIV)

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

I like the message of our Verse of the Day. It speaks to the core of faith and how we experience fellowship with God. Fear of man … fear of people will prove to be a snare. And fear will inhibit and immobilize our faith. I believe faith releases the divine power that we have already been given in Christ Jesus. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) Like the conflict we experience between our flesh and our spirit, so goes our struggle between fear and faith. Whatever transpires in our lives, we need to trust God for the outcomes. God is for us and He has equipped us to accomplish His will for our lives….

I’m reminded of something our Lord Jesus said regarding fear, and I think it might be helpful to revisit it here:

Luke 12:4-12 (NIV)

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Understand the context here. Jesus has been teaching His disciples and the gathering crowd about the issue of hypocrisy – meaning we appear to be someone outwardly to others, yet inwardly we are someone different and oftentimes opposite. Jesus taught there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. In other words, God knows everything … every thought … every word … every deed ever done in His sight whether other people are aware of the truth or not. We tend to hide our inner persons from others out of fear. Fear of exposing our true inner person … fear of expressing our true nature … fear of exposing our sins … fear of creating disappointment or rejection in relationships. But Jesus asserts, we have the wrong perspective of ourselves and the reality of God’s omnipresence. Perhaps, hypocrites can hide the truth from others … but not from our all-knowing, all-seeing Father who created the universe and everything in it. We might deceive ourselves and essentially lie to others … but we cannot deceive God. (Cf. Job 13:9)

So, Jesus, in a loving way, says that you and I need to have a proper perspective … a spiritual perspective of things. He tells us not to fear other people or what they might think, but to fear God and what He already knows … the One who will judge us based on the truth and not on appearances. And if any of us would give that careful thought, I believe we would agree that we truly need a Savior … an Advocate … to intercede for us on that day when we stand before God. (Cf. Romans 14:10-11) Our Lord Jesus calls us to believe in Him … to enter into an intimate relationship with Him … knowing that He is the only way to the Father. (Cf. John 14:6) We are called to live our lives based on truth … to be transparent with others just as we already are before God … and to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord Jesus – who redeems us to walk in the light as He is in the light. (Cf. 1 John 1:7) As the Apostle John wrote in John 3:20-21, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

Here are a few other scriptures to guide your meditation on this matter:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? ~ Psalm 56:3-4

In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me? ~ Psalm 56:10-11

This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 17:5

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Exposed…

John 3:20-21 (NIV)

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle John affords us some interesting insight into the hearts of people who disdain the light of the Gospel and deny the truth of God. John states, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” Let’s examine the broader passage for context here:

John 3:16-21 (NKJV)

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

When Jesus declared “I am the light of the world,” the context was related to the exposure of sin. I will reprint the narrative here for us:

John 8:2-12 (NKJV)

2 Now very early in the morning Jesus came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say about her?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear them. 7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” 12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Light. It shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot prevail against it. Darkness cannot overcome light. (Cf. John 1:4-5) Evil will not overcome good. And so, if we want to live in the truth … we must live in the light of Christ Jesus. When you and I step into the light of His holiness, every shadow of sin within our hearts is exposed. We come to the knowledge that God has seen everything we have ever done … heard every word our lips have ever uttered … known every thought our minds have ever conceived. Indeed, nothing can escape His notice because truth is the standard to which each of us will be held accountable. Those are very sobering realities we need to ponder….

John indicates that those who desire to live in the truth WILL come to the light of God … they will come to Jesus so that the darkness in them will be exposed and removed. The Prophet Jeremiah asserted, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure (desperately wicked). Who can understand it? (Cf. Jeremiah 17:9) But this is not something for us to fear; rather, exposure is something to embrace. The light of Jesus inspires our confession and repentance; and these forge a path to redemption, deliverance, healing, and freedom! Yes, I believe it is the fear of our inner darkness being expose that withholds the fullness God intends for us to experience in Him. Healing. Deliverance. Salvation. These all begin with exposure to light … and they can be experienced when we see the path of truth emerge from the trails of darkness we have traveled on. If we truly want liberty and wholeness in our lives, we must come into the light of God through Christ!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. ~ Psalm 56:13

Blessed are those who have learned to worship You, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. ~ Psalm 89:15

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. ~ Isaiah 9:2

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. ~ Ephesians 5:8

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. ~ 1 John 1:7

Teshuva – Time to Return!

1 John 2:1 (NIV)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

Our Verse of the Day deals with the issue of sin in our lives.  I find it interesting that this topic was presented today on Rosh Hashana … and the beginning of Teshuva (10 Days of Repentance) before Yom Kippur … the Day of Atonement.  I plan to observe these special days of reflection; and I think it would serve us well to look deeper into the context as well as other scriptures that lead us to confession, repentance, and obedience….

1 John 1:5-10 Through 1 John 2:1-6 (NIV)

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.

That is probably enough context for us to get the picture. All sin is unbelief or disobedience at its core. If we live in sin, we live in darkness. But if we live in God, we walk in the light. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. As John stated, we must “live as Jesus did” in order to have fellowship with Him. This is HOW we KNOW are in Him. The conviction of sin within us is the evidence that we have offended God … that we have displeased Him. And so, the call to holiness … to the consecration of ourselves to God is the goal. Therefore, confession of sin is necessary … it is required in order to be cleansed and purified by God. And John shares with us the great news that Jesus is our advocate with the Father in order that we might receive forgiveness and be reconciled for our offenses, but John will continue to admonish us with regard to habitual sin:

1 John 3:4-10 (NIV)

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that He (Jesus) appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

I believe we truly need to examine our attitudes toward sin. All too often, we excuse it … rationalize it … or justify it as “being human” or “God understands”. No one is perfect … I get that. But are we conscious of the offense and disgrace that sin brings to God? Do we grieve in our souls when we grieve the Holy Spirit … when we quench the Holy Spirit … when we offend and wound Father God? How often are Christians called “hypocrites” because of their conduct? I see bumper stickers that read: “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.” While the statement is true in a sense … the tone is quite misleading as though grace “excuses” sin. Just to be clear … the grace of God does not excuse sin! The grace of God covers its consequences (See Romans 6:23) … covers it with the precious blood of a perfect sacrificial lamb … atones for sin … and reveals the wrath God “feels” toward it. No, we cannot continue to sin nor be dismissive of the behaviors and habits we have allowed to become the strongholds in our lives. A person born of God … a believer … cannot go on sinning. It is quite unconscionable to treat God with such irreverence if indeed we have been born of the Spirit.

Romans 5:6-10 (NIV)

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 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!

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Being born of the Spirit is the reason we have the capacity to reign in the sinful human nature. As 2 Peter 1:3 declares: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” And godliness should be the desire of a heart that is wholly surrendered to God. Someone once said that we have to hate our sin more than we love God if we truly want to attain holiness. But we cannot attain it in our own strength or power. As Jesus shared with His disciples, “What is impossible with man is possible with God. (Cf. Luke 18:27) It is the Spirit of God who changes our hearts so that the inclinations of the thoughts of our hearts can be made righteous. That is why we are admonished to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:5)

As we meditate on these scriptures and the observance of Teshuvah … the “return” … to turn our hearts toward God, I pray we will see what today is all about for the people of God. The call of repentance is the sound of the shofar – calling an assembly of people united in fasting and prayer before God. Yes, I pray that we will surrender our hearts today and seek the face of God in repentance. For He has said: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:13-16)

Indeed, WE, the people of this nation, need to humble ourselves … we need to turn from our own wicked ways … and consecrate ourselves to the Lord. Then will He hear our prayers and supplications for our homes, for our children, for our communities, for our churches, and for this nation. Then He will forgive and heal our land. Our sins and the sins of this nation can be covered! We have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One. It is His blood … the blood of atonement that redeems and reconciles us with the Father! That is the message of The Return! So let us repent and return to our first love! “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (Cf. Psalm 95:6) Amen….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Links to Bible Gateway for Jewish Readings During Teshuva:

Hosea 14:1-9 (NIV)

Joel 2:15-27 (NIV)