When You Are Tempted…

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

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.

Our Verse of the Day encourages us to continue the pursuit of holiness for our lives. Let’s break it down and examine it in more detail:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.

No matter what you are going through … no matter what you face in the battle against sin in your life … there is someone else who has waged the same fight. The sinful human nature is common to the human life we experience here on earth. And if you have been “overtaken” by the sin that so easily ensnares you (Cf. Hebrews 12:1), know that you are not alone. What you have allowed to become a stronghold in your life is common to all mankind. And I believe the greatest temptation that has overtaken any human is the sin of “unbelief.” I think when most sin occurs is when we are most vulnerable to its deception and we have fallen into faithlessness toward God. Yes, when we ignore His invitation to intimacy, we lose the awareness that God sees all! David asked: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Cf. Psalm 139:7) Indeed, there is no place we can go outside of His presence. When we wander from God, we do not leave His presence; rather, we abandon His divine power and His hand upon our lives. Unbelief weakens us! It renders us powerless to overcome sin rather than being mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. Yet, there is an answer to this plight of temptation!

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

The reason temptation can overtake us is because we try to fight the battle in our flesh and not in the Spirit realm. Our weapons to resist and flee are not natural but spiritual! And those weapons are fasting, prayer, and the sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God! (Cf. Ephesians 6:17) Paul instructs us to put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil (temptation) comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand. (Cf. Ephesians 6:13). Even Jesus was not exempt from being tempted by Satan when He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness! With every high and lofty arrow of temptation aimed straight for His heart, Jesus responded to Satan with Scripture: “It is written….” (Cf. Matthew 4:1-10) So, do we know the Word of God well enough to fight or resist temptation? Are we spiritually armored up to do battle and to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ? Spiritual warfare is real, my friends! And on the battlefields of our minds and hearts, the war will be won or lost….

God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

I think far too often we lose battles and wave our white flags of surrender because we have not prepared ourselves for the war. When we “cave to crave” we have not yet reached what we can bear. Remember, God will not let us be tempted (tested) beyond what we can bear! So, what happens? Why do we sometimes fail? I believe James gives us some insight:

James 1:12-15 (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.

So, we see that temptation comes from within our hearts. We just examined the condition of man – when the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. (Cf. Genesis 6:5) David asked, “Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? (Cf. Psalm 20:9) Paul observed that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23) And John asserted: “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 1:10) We need clean hearts and right spirits in order to find the path to victory!

What an encouragement to know that even when we are tempted … even when we are weak or faithless … God is still faithful to us. Indeed, His kindness is always intended to lead us to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) David found that place of repentance; and we would do well to carefully observe His confession. I encourage you to read Psalm 51 … but this excerpt is what came to my heart: “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.” (Cf. Psalm 51:10-12) And John affirmed, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (Cf. 1 John 1:9)

But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

The truth of the matter is you and I will be tempted. The text does not read, “But IF you are tempted….” No human being is or has ever been without temptation. It has become part of our human experience since the transgression of Adam and Eve. And even though God showed Himself mighty to deliver His people, they still wandered and rebelled against Him. God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) And yet Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Cf. Luke 18:8) Faith is essential in this battle against temptation, because faith determines whether or not we will engage our human will to resist each temptation that comes. I am reminded what Moses wrote:

Deuteronomy 8:2-5 (NIV)

2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. 6 Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to Him and revering Him.

God took His people into the wilderness and then He led them through it. God caused His people to hunger … and then He fed them. So, I think it is important for us to realize the testing and trials that the Lord allows are not temptations; rather, they are used to expose the truth of what lies within our hearts. As Peter explained: “These (trials) have come so that the 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.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:7) And James encouraged: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Cf. James 1:2-4)

My friends, we will all be sifted! We will all be subjected to temptation … in order to test the sincerity of our faith! But let me encourage you, that even now, Jesus sits at the right hand of God and He is interceding for us. (Cf. Hebrews 7:24-25) God may send you into the wilderness, but He will lead you through it. God may allow you to hunger and thirst, but He will fill you and sustain your life. God may allow Satan to sift you with temptation to test the genuineness of your faith, but Jesus will intercede for you so that your faith may not fail. Praise Him!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” ~ Psalm 119:11

Shine Like Stars…

Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the Word of Life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

Our Verse of the Day is a good word for us because it brings into focus the need for us to be mindful in how we relate to one another within the Church.  By Church I mean not only the local assembly where we attend, but also the entire Body of Christ throughout the world! Paul admonishes us: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, as children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  He speaks of an attitude or mindset that we should have within ourselves … following the example our Lord Jesus modeled for us:

Philippians 2:3-16 (NRSV) – Imitate the Humility of Christ

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that you have in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world16 It is by your holding fast to the Word of Life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 

There are some other Scriptures that come to mind when I look at how our Lord Jesus handled conflicts with people:

Isaiah 53:3-7 (NRSV)

He (the Messiah) was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and sorrows … and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces. He was despised, and we held Him of no account. Surely, He has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the punishment that made us whole and by His bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.

Matthew 27:11-14 (NRSV) (See also Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-9)

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor (Pontius Pilate); and the governor asked Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12 But when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, Jesus did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14 But He gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

1 Peter 2:21-23 (NRSV)

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When He was abused, He did not return abuse; when He suffered, He did not threaten or retaliate; rather, He entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.

It is clear that when we act or respond in humility to real or perceived wrongs, we follow the example of Jesus as He dealt with those who mistreated Him.  He did not grumble or argue.  He did not engage in verbal retorts or assaults.  He did not retaliate against those who bore false witness against Him. When scourged and physically abused, Jesus did not return abuse for the suffering inflicted upon His body. No, Jesus entrusted Himself to the Father … to the One who judges rightly. The Apostle Paul weighs in on this issue as well; and I think he affords us some additional insight:

Romans 12:9-20 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Citing Deuteronomy 32:3520 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Citing Proverbs 25:21-22)

So why are we taught to deny ourselves and pick up our own crosses each day? Why are we urged to have these qualities … these attitudes or mindsets to guide our character and conduct?  In short, the answer is LOVE!  This is what sincere love in action looks like! This is how genuine love manifests itself! “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) Indeed, we need to learn to love as Jesus loved! As Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35)

Oh, how I pray that each of us will be diligent to reflect the love of God through the example that Jesus has shown us. I pray we will embrace the mindset of Christ within our hearts.  That is what will impact our nation and the world.  This is what will bring about healing and deliverance. This is how the world will know we are HIS disciples … when we love others as Jesus has loved us!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Follow God’s Example…

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

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

Our Verse of the Day brings a challenge to us as believers in response to having placed our faith in Jesus. We have been born again of the Holy Spirit; and we have been GIVEN the right (authority) to become children of God and to receive “adoption to sonship”. (Cf. John 1:12-13; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5) And because we love the Son, we love the Father who sent Him. This is why we are dearly loved children of God. But this love did not originate with us; rather, it is our response to His love for us. (Cf. 1 John 4:19) And so we are called to walk in the way of love – in the same manner as Christ loved. Then, Paul goes on here to briefly summarize how His love was demonstrated: “He gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

This theme reverberates throughout the New Testament writings of the apostles. Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Indeed, it is central to our response to the grace of God and a commandment of Jesus Himself. In John 13:34, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Likewise, in John 15:12, Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” There is no ambiguity here. His command does not require theological research or debate. But maybe the guidance of Paul to give us descriptive and practical ways of demonstrating love to one another would be helpful….

As I thought about the many passages in which Paul addresses the demonstration of love, I kept coming back to the guiding principle where he wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-3) You see, love is rooted in mercy. It is in the light of mercy that we see love manifested. Think of a new born baby. It is completely helpless and defenseless upon entrance into the world. Yet mercy demands that care and nurture to be provided – behaviors we would consider a profound demonstration of love. The “living sacrifice” of parents becomes evident from the moment of birth. So, in the same way, God cares for us. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13)

Paul will continue through Romans 12:3-21 to bring full definition to love in action; but I think the conclusion for us is that love in its highest expression is sacrificial. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) Love begins with sacrifice. It means to give something of higher value in return for something of lesser value. It means to suffer loss. This was the principle of the sacrificial system of the temple – where the people would present a highly valued animal (first born, unblemished) to be slaughtered as a sin offering to God according to the Law. Yet, incredibly, in His mercy for our helpless sinful human condition, God decided to sacrifice His best … His all … His only begotten Son as a sin offering for us … to fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law. (Cf. Romans 8:3-4)

Jesus is God’s example of love.  His love is merciful … it is gentle … it is kind and considerate … it is compassionate … it is forgiving.  Paul explained the excellence of His love in this manner: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) And Jesus explained: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” (Cf. John 15:9-10) And so we see that our love for Jesus is rooted in our obedience to Him … just as He was obedient to the Father.

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

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

So, what is the application? If you want to love others as God in Christ Jesus has loved you, then your life too must be sacrificial. And, further, your sacrifice must be your very best! Love must be sincere … not half-hearted. Love is the most excellent way! Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) Yes, I believe this is what God is calling us to do in our generation … at this appointed time in history … as His remnant church! We are called to be “living sacrifices” to those who are helpless; to those who are defenseless; to those who are orphans and widows; to those who are abused and mistreated; to those who are prodigal; those who are lost and without God. Yes, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.” (Cf. 1 John 4:17)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~ 1 John 4:8

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. ~ 1 John 4:20

Trouble and Distress…

Psalm 119:143 (NIV)

Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight.

I sense in my spirit that someone reading our Verse of the Day needs this encouragement for their journey of faith. We all experience trouble and distress in our lives. It is just part of living in a fallen world. Some hardships we bring upon ourselves. Some are beyond our control. But note what the Psalmist said about facing these challenges of life: “Your commands give me delight.” That’s right! Knowing the will of God … knowing His laws and the wisdom they impart … will help us to navigate the troubles and distress that we will experience in this life. And that is the key to perseverance and endurance in faith.

O my friend, if you are experiencing trouble or distress in your life, I encourage you to consider the message of this verse. In times of trial, our best resource for discernment; for revelation of truth; for guidance and instruction; for navigation of the situation; is found in the Word of God. The commands of Lord, His ordinances, His statutes, His decrees, and His precepts, are all available to us. Indeed, the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Scriptures in order to give us the wisdom and understanding we need. So, let’s read the entire section of this chapter for more perspective:

Psalm 19:132-154 (NIV)

132 Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
134 Redeem me from human oppression, that I may obey your precepts.
135 Make your face shine on your servant and teach me your decrees.
136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.

137 You are righteous, Lord, and your laws are right.
138 The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy.
139 My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words.
140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.
141 Though I am lowly and despised, I do not forget your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true.
143 Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight.
144
Your statutes are always righteous; give me understanding that I may live.

145 I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord, and I will obey your decrees.
146 I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.
148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
149 Hear my voice in accordance with your love; preserve my life, Lord, according to your laws.
150 Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law.
151 Yet you are near, Lord, and all your commands are true.
152 Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever.

153 Look on my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise.

Indeed, the Psalmist affirms that we can find comfort, assurance, wisdom, and guidance through the counsel of the Holy Scriptures. They will lead us in the right direction and they are fully trustworthy! Yes, I believe if you will search them, you will find the answers that you are seeking … you will find the hope you are needing … and you will find the rest you are desiring in your inner being. So, I am praying for you … praying for His abiding grace and peace to fill your heart. Yes, I pray you will come to know that your life is preserved according to His promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Cf. Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. ~ Zephaniah 3:17

Suffering For Doing Good

1 Peter 3:18 (NIV)

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

In our Verse of the Day, Peter articulates some essential aspects of the Gospel – the message of Jesus Christ. But I think it is important for us to put this verse in its larger context in order to understand and appreciate why Peter mentions the suffering of Christ in this verse. Beginning at 1 Peter 3:8, Peter reviews the expected conduct of believers and how we should interact with one another … even to the point of “suffering” for doing what is good. Remember in 1 Peter 2:15, we studied that “it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” These may be the same people who consider us “foolish” when we “do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” On the contrary, Peter tells us that we are expected to “repay evil with blessing”.  Let’s check it out:

1 Peter 3:8-18 (NIV)

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (Citing Psalm 34:12-16) 13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear (or their threats); do not be frightened.” (Citing Isaiah 8:12) 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

I think what Peter is driving at here is that suffering for righteousness … suffering for our faith in Jesus Christ … is to be expected. As Jesus had already told His disciples: “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (Cf. John 15:20) Therefore, it is important that we revere Christ as Lord and follow His commands. We need to do what is right … even if it hurts or brings hardship or suffering to ourselves. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. And perhaps that is the point. Our “reserved” response to others who are “ignorant of the truth” might actually convict them of their own evil … it might actually “bring them to God” just as the “kindness of God in Christ led us to repentance.” (Cf. Romans 2:4)

Jesus taught these same principles in His “Sermon on the Mount”:

Matthew 5:9-12 (NIV)

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:22-23; 27-30 (NIV)

22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

And Paul affirms the same principles that we should follow in this regard:

Romans 12:14; 17-21

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Citing Deuteronomy 32:3520 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Citing Proverbs 25:21-22) 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In light of these additional passages, it is clear that Peter is leading us into what it means to exhibit Christ-like conduct. And in doing so, he entertains the probability that we also, in doing what is right, will be treated by the world as Christ was treated. I hope these insights will resonate and give us more thoughtful strategies on how to deal with those who do not know God … who have not been reconciled with Him through Christ Jesus … and who might be hostile toward you and me for our “good conduct.” As Jesus encouraged, we should rejoice and be glad. We will be blessed because our reward in heaven will be great! Let that be our hope when suffering comes our way for putting those things Jesus taught into practice … as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Great Is Your Reward…

Matthew 5:11-12 (NIV)

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

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

Matthew 5:1-12 (NIV)

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

Luke 6:17-26 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

Luke 14:26-30; 33 (NIV)

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

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

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV)

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

If we look at what is happening around the world, even within our own nation, the cost of being a believer and worshipper of Christ Jesus is becoming more apparent. And I believe the historical record of persecution serves witness to this precedent. From Stephen to present-day martyrs scattered across the globe, those who have died for their faith in Jesus testify of the ultimate sacrifice that could be required of any believer.  And I sense we are challenged to ask ourselves if we are willing to do the same. As Paul told the Philippians: “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him….” (Cf. Philippians 1:29) And Paul challenged Timothy: “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:8) All these thoughts call for introspection … as we consider the cost of allegiance, devotion, and faith. Jesus asks us to believe Him … to trust Him at His word … with everything.  And it is my prayer that we will do so….

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. ~ Jesus            (John 15:18-19)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

From Suffering To Hope…

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 find it interesting that our Verse of the Day is an excerpt from the passage that I posted yesterday for our study.  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 see this purpose:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of GodNot only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hopeAnd 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 ungodlyVery 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 Him10 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 I believe 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 first-fruits 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 a correlation, 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.” (Cf. 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. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) Faith is believing God and trusting Him even in the midst of our suffering….

2 Timothy 1:6-13 (NIV)

6 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. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. 11 And of this Gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

It is my prayer that we as believers will come to a place in our walk with God that we will embrace the trials of suffering that come with the journey of faith. 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. Indeed, those are the worthy goals that accompany 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)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Fanning the Flame…

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV)

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Our Verse of the Day is taken from 2 Timothy and I want to spend some time on the commentary this morning. For your convenience, I have reprinted the larger passage so that our verse can be understood in its context:

2 Timothy 1:1-14 (NIV)

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 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. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God.9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

This passage is full of theological material for us to ponder and pursue in our walk with Christ Jesus. Paul, in this letter to Timothy, is exhorting Timothy to “keep the faith” as he imparts his final words before execution in Rome. And so I think we would be wise to observe his instructions and to consider some applicable questions for self-examination. For example, Paul commends Timothy in Verse 5 for having “sincere faith” and being “Spirit-filled” (Cf. Verse 6). But notice with regard to the Holy Spirit, Paul “reminds” Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God.” What does this mean in practical terms? There is an implication that we have the capacity to “moderate” the work of the Holy Spirit. This verse reminds me of an alternate interaction with the Spirit of God found in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 where Paul in his instructions to the church exhorts: “Do not quench the Spirit.” So I see this “igniting” and “quenching” of the Holy Spirit as something intentional on our part; and I think we should be attuned to our relationship with the Spirit in this regard. According to Paul, we are to “be fired up in faith through the advocacy of the Holy Spirit and not quenching the power He produces within us.” Note what Paul says in Verse 7: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” And Verse 8, I believe, connects the power of the Holy Spirit to “the testimony about our Lord Jesus” or the sharing of the Gospel. Similar to Verse 12, Paul professes with boldness: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Cf. Romans 1:16)

As we look further at the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives (the power of God within us); notice that Paul invites Timothy, and implicitly all believers as well, to join him in suffering for the Gospel. (Cf. Verse 8) What does suffering for the Gospel mean? What does that entail in practical terms? How does the Holy Spirit empower us to do so? Well, I think we can look at a passage of Scripture where Paul describes his suffering in detail:

2 Corinthians 11:21b-29 (NIV)

Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Here Paul shares about the physical, emotional, and spiritual hardships he has suffered as an ambassador for Christ in sharing of the Gospel of salvation. And while the context is really intended to be a defense of his apostleship to the Church, it does speak volumes as to the Spirit-filled power Paul received and harnessed (fanned into flame) in order to endure “suffering for the Gospel”. Paul understood that suffering produces perseverance … perseverance produces character; and character produces hope. (Cf. Romans 5:3-4) Suffering for the Gospel was the experience of all the Apostles. Consider some of the record we have from the Book of Acts:

Acts 5:12-21; 25-28; 40-42 (NIV)

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” 21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.

25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. 27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

Although it might seem that I have wandered from our Verse of the Day, I do have a point connected with this discussion of the Holy Spirit … because we need divine power in order to be witnesses … in order to share our testimony of Jesus Christ. Why? Because believers will suffer disgrace and be persecuted … and in some parts of the world be killed … for professing faith in Jesus! Jesus Himself foretold that suffering for His Name would happen to His followers. (Cf. Matthew 5:11-12; Matthew 24:9; Luke 21:12; John 15:20)

So Paul focuses on two issues in his letter to Timothy: “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” As the Apostle Jude wrote, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” (Cf. Jude 1:3) There can be no compromise … no adulteration of the Gospel or its message. And it will take the full power of the Holy Spirit to guard that deposit of faith within us … to defend it … and to proclaim it to the nations. Consider what Paul preached to the churches in Galatia:

Galatians 1:3-10 (NIV)

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

We need the power of the Holy Spirit within us to not only share the Gospel but to live it ourselves. The righteous shall live by their faith. (Cf. Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11) The Gospel includes the crucifixion – the death of Jesus Christ who bore the penalty for our sin – but it also speaks to our own crucifixion and death to the power of sin. (Cf. Romans 6:5-7) As Paul shared in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Cf. Galatians 5:24-25)

So our application question is this: “Are you fanning into flame or quenching the Holy Spirit within you?” Are you “suffering” through putting sin to death in your members in order to experience His sanctification of your body? (Cf. Romans 6:12-14) Are you suffering because you actively proclaim the Gospel and its truth? “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him….” (Cf. Philippians 1:29) You and I cannot afford to quench the very source of power we have been given to endure the suffering; and yet, if we do not “stoke the fire” of the Holy Spirit within us … we are in essence allowing Him to “smolder” and eventually become extinguished in our lives. There will be no power to remove the stronghold of sin in our lives; and there will be no desire or urgency to share the Gospel with others. The Spirit gives birth to our spirits. (Cf. John 3:6) The Spirit gives life (Cf. Romans 8:10); the Spirit gives wisdom and understanding (Cf. Colossians 1:9); and the Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control. (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)

John the Baptist gave this testimony about Jesus: “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loosen. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” A final question: “How do we fan into flame this “fire”? How do we ignite the power of the Holy Spirit within us? Well, first you have to receive the Holy Spirit – and only those who believe in Jesus … who place their faith in Him will ever receive this gift. However, to engage the Spirit in your life, I believe this is achieved through fasting, prayer, and reading the Word of God. Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” (Cf. John 6:63) So we have to humble ourselves and yield our wills to the Holy Spirit so that we do not “quench” His presence within us. And by exercising these spiritual disciplines and submitting ourselves to Him, we can experience the Spirit-filled life Jesus intends for us to live. So I hope you will meditate on all of this Scripture and determine if you are igniting or quenching the Holy Spirit in your own life. And here are some ways you can know:

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

2 Peter 1:3-8 (NIV)

3 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. 4 Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Do What Is Right…

Amos 5:14-15

Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

This is a good word for us! And I invite you to read the entire chapter of Amos 5.  The Prophet admonished the people to “seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.” In light of the current discord in our nation, it is imperative for believers to guard our hearts and our emotions; and to keep our focus on the Sovereign Lord. Paul, and the other apostles, lived during a time of excessive government control and oppression of people. Yet, he advised the following: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.” (Cf. Romans 13:1-3) This might seem counterintuitive when we observe oppressive policies being promoted at the highest levels of government, and strangely, a large percentage of citizens insisting upon those policies. Yet, we are urged to trust God above all else and to do what is right….

When Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans, the evils of Nero and the persecutions that his government inflicted upon Christians, had not yet reached their climax. Paul was later executed under Nero, and during his reign, Nero intensely persecuted Christians – especially within the city of Rome. The Roman emperors who succeeded Nero in the centuries following were even worse at times in their treatment of Christians until the conversion of Constantine. During this period, the atrocities of Diocletian also come to mind. So the trials and sufferings for following Jesus are nothing new; and as we look to the end of the age, we can expect the irrational hate toward believers to continue and intensify. Peter, also executed during the reign of Nero, wrote to believers and provided similar counsel to us:

1 Peter 2:11-17; 21-23 (NLT)

11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when He judges the world. 13 For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, 14 or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. 15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. 16 For you are free, yet you are God’s servants, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. 17 Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king. 21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. Jesus is your example, and you must follow in His steps. 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 23 He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. Instead, He entrusted Himself to God the Father, who always judges fairly.  (See Isaiah 53)

The point is that even in the face of great injustice, the apostles admonished believers to submit to the authorities over them and to reverence the sovereignty of God. This is not to say that believers do not engage in civic matters at all; rather, we are to hate evil, love good, and maintain justice in the courts. We are to be the light of the world! The light we have received from God is not to be hidden from the culture; nor should we be silent when the truth of God and His Word should be proclaimed. (Cf. Matthew 5:14-16) But we are to do so with grace and love. As Paul urged Timothy: “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose the truth must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will change their hearts (grant them repentance) leading them to a knowledge of the truth. Perhaps, then, they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:23-26 NLT)  Yes, this is why we PRAY for those in authority over us!

So in all this, we are to conduct ourselves as subject to the governing authorities just as we are subject to the throne of Christ Jesus – to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given.  So I join with Paul who wrote: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Have a Blessed Day!

Silence the Foolish

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.

As I read our Verse of the Day, I began to think about the significance of its message for believers – both for 1st Century Christians and for us in this current generation as well. I believe Peter affords a challenging insight into how we should conduct ourselves in a world that we have been called out of by the Lord Jesus.  So I have reprinted a larger section of the passage to give us the context:

1 Peter 2:11-23 (NIV)

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the unbelievers that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 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.” (Cf. Isaiah 53:9) 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.

I have emphasized the “applications” I want us to see and consider.  First, Peter states it is the will of God for us to “do good”.  Righteous conduct is not optional for Christians.  We are to do what is right in all situations. This includes both our actions and our words! And the reason is that by doing good we should silence those who in essence oppose God.  It is good conduct that God seeks in us.  We are to show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, and honor the highest offices of government which God has established.  And if we should suffer for doing good, and endure it, this is commendable before God.  Peter goes on to provide the example of our Lord Jesus in how to conduct ourselves in the face of opposition.  We should not return insult for insult.  We do not retaliate; rather, we wait upon the Lord who said: “It is mine to avenge. I will repay.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30)

Deuteronomy 32:34-41 (NIV)

34 “Have I not kept this in reserve and sealed it in my vaults? 35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” 36 The Lord will vindicate His people and relent concerning His servants when He sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free. 37 He will say: “Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in, 38 the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up to help you! Let them give you shelter! 39 “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. 40 I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: As surely as I live forever, 41 when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.

Romans 12:9-19 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Hebrews 10:26-35 (NIV)

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, 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.

So, I pray that we will embrace the will of God for those who believe in Him. His will is for us to “do good” as a testimony to those who oppose Him. God has given salvation and eternal life to those who believe; and He will judge those who are disobedient … those who disdain the blood of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ … those who resist and insult the grace of the Holy Spirit. Yes, God will judge His people.  We just need to do what is right and let God take care of the rest! So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!