Dual Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:20-22

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Our verse (last Sunday) presented some incredible theology regarding the resurrection of Christ … and I believe it prompts further examination for us.  I have taken some time to let it penetrate my own heart and renew my thinking. I hope it will resonate in same way with you – to more deeply examine the implications of the resurrection both in the present and in the future. Let’s break down 1 Corinthians 15 and let it be the outline for some study:

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (NIV)

1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

Here Paul begins with the affirmation of the Gospel and its salvific message.  He then reviews the three pillars on which the Christian faith rests (Christ died, was buried, and was resurrected) – which is the core of the Gospel message and the creed of our faith. And then Paul recounts those who were witnesses to the fact of the resurrection … lastly including himself during his “encounter” with Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Paul will contend it is the literal, bodily resurrection of Christ that supersedes the entire Gospel narrative as he continues to reason:

1 Corinthians 15:12-19 (NIV)

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Paul is quite adamant that the resurrection of Christ has indeed occurred:

1 Corinthians 15:20-26 (NIV)

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have died. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the first-fruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. 24 Then the end will come, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Indeed, in Verse 22, we see the theological implications of the resurrection from Genesis to Revelation.  In one sentence, Paul contrasts Adam with his Seed who will strike (crush) the head of Satan under His foot. (Cf. Genesis 3:15) Paul explains this victory in further detail through his letter to the Romans:

Romans 5:12-21 (NIV)

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— 13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! 18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. 20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:30-34 (NIV)

30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (Cf. Isaiah 22:13) 33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (Here Paul quotes the Greek Poet Menander34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.

I believe the point Paul intends to make here is that the preaching of the resurrection has brought extreme hardship and death threats to him.  So if the resurrection did not happen, why would he put himself in such peril?  If the resurrection of Christ did not occur, then there is no atonement … our faith is in vain … we are still in our sins and salvation is just some sort of myth.  We might as well just eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we will die….  But Paul warns against such thinking; and he advises us to be careful not to listen to people who have no understanding or faith in the truth of the resurrection.  In a sense, unbelief in the resurrection is tantamount to unbelief in the Gospel – the testimony or word of God….

Paul goes on to surmise that someone will ask, ““How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” (Verse 35) And while it seems that Paul finds these questions somewhat “silly,” he proceeds to explain the process of our own resurrections using “natural” examples to teach “spiritual” truths.

1 Corinthians 15:35-49 (NIV)

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

(Note: this quote is found in Genesis 2:7) Then the Lord God formed a man (Adam in Hebrew) from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Paul uses this contrast between the “first” Adam with the “last” Adam to highlight his following thought process:

46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

To me, the pertinent question here is: “What seed is it that we sow?”  “What seed is it that we bury … to die … so that it will emerge in a new form … as God determines?” I believe that seed to be buried is our life … the life we now live in our body.  And this brings to mind what Jesus taught:

Matthew 16:24-26 (NIV) (See also Mark 8:34-36; Luke 9:23-25)

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

It is clear that we are to die to our sinful nature; and I believe this is the seed we sow!  Our former life (our natural life) is to be buried with Christ Jesus through baptism into death in order that we too may live a new life … a resurrected life now (our spiritual life).  Just as Christ Jesus was raised from the dead after His crucifixion, so we are raised to new life … a new creation … that does not bear the image of what was sown; rather, it bears the image that God has determined.  Yes, He conforms us to the image of His Son!  (Cf. Romans 8:29)

Romans 6:1-11 (NIV)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 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— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with HimFor we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. 10 The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

What I think we need to understand is that there is a spiritual resurrection that occurs now when we die to self, repent, and place our faith in Jesus. And there will be a resurrection of our bodies after our physical deaths that occurs later when Jesus returns for the day of judgement and His rule. But Paul goes on to assure us that the image we will bear in our resurrected bodies will be the same as the resurrected body of Jesus Christ. Oh how I pray that we get the importance of this revelation … because it sets the foundation for what Paul declares next:

1 Corinthians 15:50-55 (NIV)

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all die, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (Read Isaiah 25:6-8) Where, O death, is your sting?” (Cf. Hosea 13:14) 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Before He was sentenced to be crucified, Jesus told Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not from here.” (Cf. John 18:36) This is an interesting statement Christ made; but it does confirm that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God?  It is similar to what Jesus disclosed in His prayer for believers:

John 17:14-18 (NIV)

14 I have given them Your Word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.

Although we are not of this world, we are still in this world. Even though we serve the Kingdom of God within our physical flesh and blood, its realm will not be of this world! As Jesus explained to the Pharisees, “The Kingdom of God does not come with observation; rather, the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Cf. Luke 17:20-21) Indeed, at the new birth (after we have died to ourselves and been resurrected in newness of life), the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us and we submit to His authority over us. Our citizenship is transferred into heaven – from which we await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf. Philippians 3:20) So even though the Kingdom of God is not of this world … our service to God IS within this world, and we are exhorted to continue the work of sanctification; that is, to set ourselves apart unto God and to lead others out of this world and into the Kingdom of Light. As Paul concluded in Verse 58: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

The concept of the Kingdom of God has its roots in the Old Testament – when YHWH (God) was thought of as the King of Israel … the ruler of His people. But with the birth of Jesus, the Kingdom of God entered with new power and redemption (i.e. the New Covenant – when God will put His law into our minds and write it on our hearts. See Jeremiah 31:31-34)   Jesus clearly taught that the “Kingdom” is present through His life and through His Word; yet, we must enter it of our own free will. So how do we reconcile the tension of these two views? Well, my thought, is that we must recognize that the Kingdom of God “embodies” a spiritual dimension.  Just as salvation has already been effectuated through the cross and we receive it in faith; the Kingdom of God was effectuated through the resurrection of Christ Jesus and we enter it through the Spirit! Both are available to us now. Both are realities in the future.

Death has reigned because of sin … from Adam until Jesus Christ. But we have been given victory over the sting of death and the power of sin. Sin no longer reigns; rather, Christ reigns in our hearts! Death from sin is being destroyed now by the preaching of the Gospel … it has been nailed to the cross! And when the Gospel has been fully preached to the ends of the earth, then the end will come. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” And the Apostle John tells us that when believers are resurrected (the first resurrection), we will reign with Christ Jesus in His Kingdom! (Cf. Revelation 20:4-6) Perhaps this is the Kingdom that Paul indicated would not be inherited by flesh and blood. Perhaps the Kingdom we enter now is not the same as the Kingdom we will enter after death. This is a mystery…. But we do know that Jesus Christ is the King Eternal … Immortal … Invisible. (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:17)

Jesus told us to pray: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your Kingdom come … your will be done … on earth as it is in heaven.” (Cf. Matthew 6:10) What does this mean in the context of our study? Well, understanding that the will of God is for all people to come to a knowledge of the truth (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:3), there is a Kingdom where God Himself has sworn by His own mouth, and His Word will not be revoked: “Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear.” (Cf. Isaiah 45:22-25) Paul quotes this passage in his discourse regarding our individual spiritual journeys in Romans 14. And in Philippians, Paul asserts sovereignty of God is fulfilled in our Lord Jesus.

Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)

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! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest placeand gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.

Yes, in the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ rules in our hearts … and we bow to Him and acknowledge Him as Lord! And God invites all people to enter His Kingdom through His Son because Scripture tells us that submission to Jesus as Lord is required. Jesus declared, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Cf. John 14:6) This is what God has ordained for His plan of redemption before the creation of the earth! So even though the Kingdom of God to come will not be experienced by flesh and blood, it will be experienced by our souls … which are ever present within us even now. And it appears that our souls will indwell our resurrected bodies … which will be like the resurrected body of Christ.  This should make us even more introspective of the question Jesus posed: “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

As we think through the issues of faith, I think it is important to note that this tension between the present and the future should not be viewed as a hindrance to our understanding of Scripture; rather, I believe the “dualism” flows from the truth we encounter each day. As Paul explained, “there is a natural body and a spiritual body. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.” But we should recognize that the spiritual is readily manifested in the natural even now. Perhaps this experience should be considered an “integration” because each one impacts the other without reference to time.  There is a salvation now … and a salvation later.  There is a resurrection now … and a resurrection later. There is a Kingdom of God now … and a Kingdom of God later.  There is eternal life now … and eternal life later.  Yet, for God, it is the eternal present.  There is no time … and that is the mystery for us to reconcile. 

So, I hope that we will see these patterns and relationships between the physical (natural) and the spiritual (supernatural) presented here.  I pray that we will come to understand that what we do and how we respond to God impacts not only our spiritual birth and maturity within the physical reality of life we experience now, but I hope that we will come to understand how this impacts our inheritance of what God has prepared and declared for the new heavens and new earth to come. (Yes, even the heavens will experience a resurrection to come!) So while there is a reality of physical and spiritual integration in the present; there is a similar reality to be experienced in the age to come.  This is the hope of our salvation to come! And I believe the challenge is this: To enter the kingdom of God now … to deny ourselves and the attachments of darkness now … in order to inherit the kingdom of God to come – when Jesus returns in glory to take us to the place He has prepared for us. Yes, the body of sin must be put to death so that a spirit of holiness will prevail in us. Perhaps, this is why we are admonished: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  (Cf. Luke 9:23) Yes, for the Christian, death to sin is a daily decision. But the promises of God and our inheritance through Christ Jesus is worth it all – both now and in the age to come.

I realize this has been quite lengthy; and I appreciate your patience with me if you made it through…. I may not have articulated the points very well; but I hope you have been intrigued enough to examine these Scriptures for yourself and to consider how they should engage deeper thought on key theological issues of the faith.  I pray you and I will continue to grow in our knowledge of God through His Word and be changed by its truths….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Our Sin Offering

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

I found this verse to have an interesting statement of doctrine, but I do not like how it has been rendered (translated) here in the New International Version (NIV).  So, I thought that I might look at all other English translations; and so, I found some that I think better express what I believe Paul was asserting here.  Many of the translations mirrored the NIV in grammar and format, but I liked these for my commentary:

New Living Translation

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.

New Matthew Bible

For he has made him who knew no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that we, by means of him, should be that righteousness which is accepted before God.

Tree of Live Version
He made the One who knew no sin to become a sin offering on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

What I struggled with in the more widely known translations (i.e. KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, RSV, AMP, etc.) is this language: He (meaning Jesus) became sin or that God made Him to be sin.  I just have a hard time conceiving that possibility in my mind. So I was glad to see additional translations that confirmed what I believed Paul meant: the concept  of Jesus “becoming a sin offering”. This is highly consistent with the surrounding context of “reconciliation with God” and with the inspired writings of the Apostle John.   Let’s look at the additional context first:

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NIV)

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 reconciliation: 19 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 reconciliation. 20 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.

And this language is consistent with the doctrinal material that Paul shared in the Book of Romans:

Romans 3:20-26 (NIV)

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 He did it to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Romans 8:1-4 (NIV)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, 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, 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.

1 Timothy 2:5-6

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.

These passages explain in greater detail what the Apostle John affirmed:

1 John 4:9-10 (NIV)

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. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

While John focuses on the love of God for us … and its “manifestation” through sending His Son to become an eternal sin offering so that we might have eternal life; Paul goes the extra step to explain HOW the love and grace of God effectually accomplished our justification through Christ Jesus. Paul preaches an absolute home-run sermon which you will find in Acts 13:13-42.  I encourage you to read the entire passage, but I want to focus on his conclusion:

Acts 13:38-41(NIV)

38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through Him, everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: 41 “‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’”

Although Paul is quoting Habakkuk 1:5 in Verse 41, he uses its prophetic application of warning for those who scoff, dispute, discredit, and do not believe the message being declared to them.  He was urging them to not reject the Gospel … or its proclamation of freedom from darkness … or its declaration of hope and reconciliation with God.  Yet, the religious and self-righteous could not understand or accept this message of love and grace or the justification afforded us through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus through His blood shed on a cross. Paul explains the reason for this spiritual tension and conflict produced in people when the Gospel is preached to them:

2 Corinthians 3:13-18 (NIV)

13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 

2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (NIV)

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

It is not that the Gospel is unclear, it is that unbelievers are blinded by Satan.  There is a veil of darkness that covers their hearts so that the light and the liberty of the Gospel cannot be discerned. The Apostle John stated, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 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.  (Cf. John 3:19-21) And Paul informs us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

So we need to be aware of this struggle.  There is spiritual warfare being fought on the battlefields of our minds. And this is why truth is so important!  This is why we are sanctified (set apart unto God) by the truth … which is found in Jesus, the Word of God. (Cf. John 17:17) As the Psalmist wrote: “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) I pray we will all take time to read and study the truth found in God’s word, and to share its truth and light with others.  I think that is the most important thing we can be doing right now….

I hope this has been a helpful discussion.  Everyone please be safe out there!  The impact of this pandemic is far from over….

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Trust and Be Blessed

Jeremiah 17:7-8

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

The Lord tells us, through the Prophet Jeremiah, that blessing and cursing are determined by where; or rather, in whom we place our trust.  The ones who trust in themselves … in their abilities as humans or the abilities of other people … whose hearts are not turned toward … God will not be blessed but left desolate.  But the ones who trust in God … who place their full confidence (faith) in Him … will be blessed.  They will be as a tree planted by the water and kept alive and bear fruit!

Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV)

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NIV)

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. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

In the context of the current Coronavirus Pandemic sweeping across our nation, we need to keep historical experience and perspective in mind. World-wide pandemics and pestilences have plagued humans over the millennia of human history. Famines, droughts, swarms of locust, earthquakes, powerful weather systems, etc. have occurred; and it is probable they will continue to do so.  History is filled with wars, violence, and other human conflicts ever since Cain and Abel.  But God has always taken care of those who trust Him with their whole hearts.  His care does not mean we will be free of hardship or suffering.  But we can be sure … we can be confident … that WHEN the heat of trials and difficulties comes, we will be watered.  We will be refreshed.  We will have the peace of God that surpasses all understanding; and He will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Cf. Philippians 4:7)

So we need to remember that God will work every circumstance in our lives to grow our faith in Him … to help us become more rooted in His Word, more transformed in our thinking, and more fruitful in our lives. His desire is to conform us (those who love Him) to the image of Jesus, His Son. Considered what Paul affirmed in this regard:

Romans 8:28-39 (NIV)

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose29 For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who (or what) shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword (or Coronavirus)? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Quoted from Psalm 44:22) 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What we can see in this passage is the sure promises of God through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Whatever happens in the days ahead, we KNOW that in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love Him … for the good of those who have been called according to His purpose.  We do not have to be afraid; rather we should believe Him at His Word.  As with Joshua, I believe we too can hear the voice of God saying: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Cf. Joshua 1:9) As Paul asked, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  And, “What shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  And his conclusion? Our conclusion?  “No, in ALL these things (that we WILL endure in life) we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Note that our troubles and trials will not only be the physical realities of hardship and suffering that will test us; there will be spiritual challenges and battles in the midst of this tribulation as well.  The Coronavirus not only has the potential to disrupt our health and well-being, but Satan will attempt to use it to disrupt our faith … plant seeds of doubt … and entice us to question the love of God.  But, thanks be to God, we have Jesus!  Jesus said to His disciples: “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have tribulation.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Cf. John 16:33)  “For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? ONLY the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Cf. 1 John 5:4-5)

So how can we build our faith during this time of trial?

1 Peter 1:22-25; 2:1-3 (NIV)

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.  23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God24 For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (Peter is quoting Isaiah 40:6-8) And this (the living and enduring word of God) is the word that was preached to you. 1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

 Here, Peter emphasizes the power of the Word of God to produce the new birth that we experienced when we came to faith in Jesus Christ.  As Paul explained it, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Cf. Romans 10:17) And it follows, that upon our spiritual birth, we must begin to nourish ourselves with the Word of God in order to grow.  Peter uses the metaphor “pure, spiritual milk” to signify that as newborn babies in Christ, this is where we start our path of spiritual maturation.  The point is that we must know the Word of God in order to grow in our knowledge of His will through all wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. (Cf. Colossians 1:9) And as we have already studied this past week, we are to add to our faith – qualities in increasing measure so that we can be effective and productive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:1-12)

 Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 

Here, Paul emphasizes the power of the Spirit of God to produce perseverance and to expose the real war … the real battle that is going on.  I believe what is happening in our natural world is a reflection of what is going on in the heavenly realms … the Kingdom of light at war with the powers of this dark world. … with the spiritual forces of evil.  The Coronavirus can be viewed as a metaphor of this battle in this: we are in a struggle for our lives against something we cannot even see … at least not with our natural eyes.  Yet, we can see in the natural that we are fighting an enemy; and I pray that more believers will now begin to see with spiritual eyes that the we are fighting a real enemy of our minds and hearts … our souls.  And so we need to be equipped!  We need to be strong in the Lord and in HIS mighty power.  All of the spiritual armor serves its purpose to protect us … to defend us from the onslaught; but do not overlook that we have an OFFENSIVE spiritual weapon.  That weapon is the sword of the Spirit … which is the Word of God.  To go on the offense, we must know and wield the Word of God … the Word of Truth!

Jesus declared the identity of our opponent:

John 8:31-47 (NIV)

31 To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” 39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God Himself.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

So I pray … as a nation … as a community … as a church … as one born of God … that we will become alert to the spiritual lessons being presented as we observe the natural lessons the Coronavirus is teaching.  When we wash our hands … let us call to mind Scriptures like: “I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, Lord,proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 26:6-7) When we keep our “social” distance from others … let us consider if we have distanced ourselves from God: “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (Isaiah 29:13) When we run short of resources and supplies … let us remember: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:19-20) At every turn of the events that we will walk through in the days ahead, let us draw near to God and He will draw near to us. (Cf. James 4:8) Yes, as we educate ourselves more about the Coronavirus, let us turn our attention to the Word of God and educate ourselves about God our Father … His mercy … His grace … His peace … His compassion … His faithfulness … His love!

As we enter another week of uncertainty and upheaval, we need to encourage one another and build one another up … just as you are doing. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:11) We need to encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of us may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Cf. Hebrews 3:13) And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together (even if only temporarily virtual through the use of technology), as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Cf. Hebrews 10:24-25) Yes, it is vital that we stay connected and that we continue to care for one another.

I will close with these two Scriptures:

Philippians 4:5-7 (NIV)

Let your gentleness and graciousness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NIV)

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. 23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Faithful God

Deuteronomy 7:9

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.

After our previous lessons, I think this verse that came is a great affirmation for us.  We talked about how the plan of salvation for mankind was ordained by God the Father before the beginning of time … before the foundations of the earth were laid.  And here we are told by Moses – “THIS God is the faithful God.”  Indeed, God has been faithful to HIS creation from eternity past!  In His sovereignty, God the Father has ordained everything that has ever been … everything that will ever be.  And we KNOW this faithful God.  As Moses declared, “The Lord your God IS God.”  There can be no question regarding His identity. He is the God who rescued His people from the bondage of Egyptian rule … who delivered them from oppression … who in His mercy would “pass over” the first-born of those who applied the blood of a sacrificial lamb to the doorposts and lintels of their homes … Yes, He is the Almighty God, showing His power on behalf of those who love Him, And He is faithful.  He is the One who sent His Son, Christ Jesus, to bear the death penalty for our sin so that we could be deemed righteous when we stand before the Him….

Yes, God the Father keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments! You and I can fully trust Father God because He has already demonstrated His own love for us in this: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) And the Apostle John affirmed this same truth: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice (propitiation) for our sins. (Cf. 1 John 4:10) Indeed, God is faithful to us; and so the question becomes, “Are we faithful to God?”  Are we trustworthy?  Does God trust you … does He trust me … in our relationships with Him?  It is an appropriate question to ask because it reveals the sincerity of our faith in Him … the genuineness of our faith in Him.  And this is the purpose of the testing of our faith. (Cf. Deuteronomy 8:2; 8:16; 1 Peter 1:7)

Note how God is faithful to keep His covenant of love with “those who love Him and keep (obey) His commandments”.  Sound familiar?

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV)

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 7:12 (NIV)

If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep His covenant of love with you, as He swore to your ancestors.

Deuteronomy 11:13 (NIV)

 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul—

Deuteronomy 11:22 (NIV)

If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him and to hold fast to Him—

Jesus spoke the same words to His disciples.  He said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15) His words are not suggestive.  They are not ambiguous.  They are directive and clear! He went on to teach: “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. (John 15:10) Oh, the question is not whether God loves us.  The question is whether we truly love God … love Him in truth by keeping (obeying) His commands.  Keeping His commands is HOW we demonstrate our love for God.  As John wrote: “In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands.  And His commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) Do you see it?  His commands are NOT burdensome.  They are not hard to keep.  Why?  “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4) What does faith do?  It overcomes the world and its darkness! As John tells us: “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:5)

Faith brings us to Jesus and Jesus embodied and fulfilled love of God.  Jesus completed the love of God.  Jesus is His covenant of love for us!  Jesus, the One who saved us … the One who loved us and gave Himself for us … now lives in us. (Cf. Galatians 2:20) And apart from Jesus, we can do nothing:

John 15:1-8 (NIV)

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) And, “This is my command” Love each other.” (John 15:17) And so apart from Him, we cannot love as He has loved us.  The full discourse of John 15 is centered on abiding in Jesus in order to fulfill His command to love each other. I’m not sure we could reach any other conclusion.  And, as we studied, this is the purpose of our salvation – that we would abide in Jesus Christ in order to love one another.  God has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. This is the light He has brought into the world: LOVE! So I will close with this Scripture to examine:

1 John 4:10-21 (NIV)

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 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. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because He first loved us20 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. 21 And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Called to a Holy Life

2 Timothy 1:9-10

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, 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.

I believe this verse is a good follow up to the study sent out yesterday.  It succinctly presents the purpose of the salvation we have been given through Jesus Christ.  He saved us. Period.  Jesus completed the entire work.  His sacrifice on the cross … to shed His own blood for the remission of our sins was/is totally sufficient.  His death served as the “propitiation” for our sin.  The blood of the Lamb of God was the only (and eternal) sacrifice acceptable to God the Father to “impute” righteousness to us. (Cf. Hebrews 9-12-14) It is the only method by which our transgression … our sinful conduct is absolved.

Here are some additional scriptures that explain and illustrate this truth:

Romans 3:20-26 (NIV)

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement (propitiation), through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 God did it to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Hebrews 2:14-18 (NIV)

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, Jesus too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels God helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason Jesus had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement (propitiation) for the sins of the people. 18 Because Jesus Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.

1 John 2:1-6 (ESV)

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. He is the atoning sacrifice (propitiation) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in Him, but whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Jesus must live as Jesus did.

1 John 4:9-11 (ESV)

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice (propitiation) for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Do you see the implications these apostolic writers have presented in connection with the sacrificial atonement accomplished by Jesus Christ?  His atoning sacrifice, His propitiation, has purchased our redemption … our salvation.  His propitiation has imputed righteousness.  His propitiation brings us to the knowledge of God and the understanding of His Law … the Law of Love.  His propitiation manifests the love of God so that we might love one another in the same manner.  His propitiation brings us to the purpose of salvation … HOLINESS!  As Paul shared below, He saved us and CALLED US TO A HOLY LIFE!  His blood atonement cleanses us and consecrates us to God.  It initiates the process of sanctification … to be set apart unto God and not “of this world”.  To be IN HIM means that we belong to His Kingdom … the Kingdom of Light!  And therefore, we are being transformed into the same image of Jesus from one degree of glory to another. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18)

Yes, the purpose of salvation is to rescue us from this world … from its dominion of darkness … and to reconcile us with God – to restore our fellowship with the Father.  Faith is required to receive the grace of salvation; but moreover, salvation is essential to initiate the process of transformation … to be conformed to the image of the Son – Christ Jesus. (Cf. Romans 8:29) As Paul admonished, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (rational service). Do not be conformed to this world (the kingdom of darkness), but be transformed (brought into the kingdom of light) 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 12:1-2)

Salvation is not because of anything that we have done; rather, it was/is initiated by God through Christ Jesus because of His own purpose and grace.  And Paul notes, “This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time … and this is quite a profound statement.  It has a connotation similar to what the Apostle John recorded in the Book of the Revelation:

Revelations 13:5-8 (NIV)

The beast was given a mouth to utter haughty words and blasphemies and it was allowed to exercise its authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander His name and His dwelling place; that is, those who live in heaven. It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

The LAMB mentioned here is referenced more than ten times in Revelation.  Jesus was declared by John the Baptist as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Cf. John 1:29) So, these declarations in Scripture bring further context to Ephesians 2:10 which states: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” So, I believe that we can conclude that the plan of salvation for human beings was ordained before the creation … if we can even comprehend what that means or describes.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (Cf. John 1:1-2) And all this points to a purpose which God ordained … and that is for us to be holy – just as He is holy.  As Paul further explains:

2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 7:1-2 (NIV)

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial (Hebrew for wickedness – or the leader of the forces of darkness)? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  (Paul is possibly quoting Cf. Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 32:38; Ezekiel 37:27) 17 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” (Paul is possibly quoting Isaiah 52:11) 18 And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”  (Paul is possibly quoting 2 Samuel 7:14; Jeremiah 31:9)

The point here is that we are saved for a purpose; and when we examine the Scriptures we discover the purpose is to deliver us from darkness … to bring us into the Kingdom of Light so that we might be conformed to the image of God … to the image of His Son.  So I will close with this prayer Paul shared in his epistle to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:9-20 (ESV)

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience; 12 giving thanks with joy to the Father, who has qualified us to be partakers in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of Light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. 19 For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Where Do I Stand

Job 23:10-11

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

I read this verse and I had to pause for some self-examination. Surely God knows everything!  It’s a given that He knows the way I take.  And I pondered, “Will I come forth as gold when I am tested? Will I persevere under trial? Just how close do my feet follow in His steps?  Have I consistently, faithfully kept my steps from turning aside?”  The final question … when I asked the question … is could I have answered or responded confidently like Job? Then I thought, maybe I should just read the entire Chapter 23.  So when I did, the answers to my questions seemed further away. My inquiry took me on a journey that I will share with you; and I apologize for the length, but perhaps, it will resonate with you at the conclusion. I do encourage you to read Job 23 in order to understand what Job was feeling and questioning in the midst of his own predicament and suffering.

Understandably, there are some theological points to challenge us in this passage and the entire book. As Job continues to complain about the personal suffering he is enduring … the unfairness and injustice of it … it appears that Job begins to consider the possibility that his complaint to God could be a form of rebellion (sin) in itself. Why? Because Job is in essence asserting that God has been unjust or unrighteous with him in this situation.  God has inflicted or allowed the infliction of severe pain, unrelenting distress, and great physical anguish. Job believes the “punishment” is unexpected … unbearable … and undeserved. Yet, Job also knows that neither injustice nor unrighteousness could come from the heart or nature of a loving God. To accuse God of doing wrong is … well … wrong itself. Like all of us, Job wants desperately to understand what God is doing … why He allows righteous people to be afflicted … why He permits bad things to happen to good people.  Indeed, this is an ongoing theological question that has been difficult to resolve with our limited human perspective or reasoning.

Many of us might assert that we live righteous lives … Christian lives … and perhaps even contend that our “goodness” should inoculate us from hardship in life. Yet, the experience of Job demonstrates that the absence of suffering will not necessarily be the case. So, if we should become bitter at God over the afflictions and hardships we encounter or experience during the course of life, what does that “response” convey about our own attitudes toward God? Like Job, our concept and knowledge of God is incomplete. We only know in part. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:9) His ways are higher than our ways … and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Cf. Isaiah 55:9) And frankly, our knowledge of ourselves can be inaccurate as well.  As 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 yet, David reflects that God, in His great mercy, does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Cf. Psalm 103:10) Both points are valid and add to the theological tension we must consider….

I am drawn to Psalm 139, where David meditates on the intimate knowledge that God possesses of each of us.  It is difficult to even comprehend how God knows each one of us individually; personally; deeply; and yet, still loves us so passionately.  Though knowing the holiness and righteousness of God … knowing that he and each person falls short of His perfection … David still trusted and embraced the love of God when he prayed, “Search me, O 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) I think this is what Job was doing as He desperately attempted to figure out the “reason” for the cascades of misfortune that had befallen him.  Job had followed the rules. He had lived blamelessly. Job contended that he has done nothing wrong … or at least nothing that should have deserved the loss of everything – short of his life itself. But then, I was reminded of the story about the rich young ruler:

Matthew 19:16-22 (NKJV)

16 Now behold, one came and said to Jesus, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” 17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect (complete), go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The young ruler claimed a righteousness like that of Job. He had kept all the commandments! Yet, Jesus exposed a deeper issue … a heart issue … that the young man had not considered. Jesus revealed that in his heart, the young man was not “spiritually” where God wanted him to be. The young ruler trusted in himself and his own outward goodness … not realizing that his spirit was focused inward and filled with pride. Perhaps he mistakenly supposed that his riches sustained his life rather than the God who created him. Indeed, more “refining” was needed if the man wanted to have intimate relationship with God.  And as Job observed in his discourse, “God is unique, and who can make Him change? And whatever His soul desires, that He does. For He performs what is appointed for me, and many such things are with Him. Therefore I am terrified at His presence; when I consider this, I am afraid of Him.” (Cf. Job 23:13-15) Job knew that he was missing something … that He lacked full knowledge of what God desired. Job had maintained his integrity before God, and I don’t believe that Job was self-deceived about his own righteousness … though his so-called friends had tried to convince him as much. Yet, it appears there was something more God desired of Job or wanted to accomplish in Job. And it eluded Job until God later confronted him and revealed Himself.  I encourage you to read Job Chapters 38-42. Here is an excerpt to give see where I’m headed with this study:

Job 40:1-8 (NIV)

The Lord said to Job:

“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer Him!” Then Job answered the Lord: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more.” Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm: “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

Perhaps there is a deeper “refining” process that transcends our attempts and abilities to “keep” the moral commandments of God.  And that might be the point we should note. As hard as we might endeavor to be obedient to the commands of God in our flesh, we still lack what is more desired by God – the transformation of our hearts through faith, hope, and love.  Through faith we discover and embrace the love of God; and through love, obedience is accomplished.  But faith in our works … in our own accomplishments … is quite misguided. And I believe this is what “righteous” Job learned through his experience. As Isaiah would later declare: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Cf. Isaiah 64:6) And Paul later affirmed, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) So, while I think we should all keep a healthy perspective of ourselves, I sense we need to consider that the afflictions and injustices that we encounter in life might not always be associated with sin or God’s righteous judgment of our sin.  Maybe God permits what humans might view as “injustice” to accomplish the greater purposes of faith, hope, and love!

John 9:1-3 (NKJV)

1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

One might consider that God was “unjust” to allow this man to be born blind. Now, think about all the birth “defects” that have occurred among the human population. Is God unloving or unjust to allow these things to occur to the innocent?  Yet, these “permitted” situations provide a great context for faith, hope, and love to be accomplished within us. Would we learn compassion for one another if our bodies were perfect and never ill? Would we learn to love one another in the absence of physical deformities or infirmities? If Job had never suffered in the manner he did, would he have sought to know God as deeply as he ultimately did? Think about the final outcome of this blind man’s life. His physical blindness was reversed and healed; but the greater result was that the work of God was revealed! As Jesus declared, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Think about the final outcome of Job’s life. God blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…. (Cf. Job 42:12) Oh, there is an “outcome” that God desires for each of us … something deeper … more personal … more intimate! There is a desire for us to believe Him!  There is a desire for us to be holy, just as He is holy! (Cf. 1 Peter 1:15-16) There is a calling for us to be conformed to image of His Son! (Cf. Romans 8:29) What God desires in us requires FAITH!

I think the Book of Job provides us with great insight into the complexity of faith and its vital role for fellowship with God. It supports the theological foundation of what Paul would later posit: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) As a possible contemporary of Job, Abraham embodied the power of faith to accomplish what God desires in his people. Regarding the faith of Abraham, Paul wrote: “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.” (Cf. Romans 4:2-3) Likewise, Paul notes in Romans 4:5-8 how David understood the imputed righteousness of God: “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” Here Paul is quoting from Psalm 32:1-2.

So, why is this important? Because the truth of the Gospel is found through faith! As Paul declared, “ 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. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Cf. Habakkuk 2:4) This truth has been revealed in Job … in Abraham … in David … and in those mentioned in the Hall of Faith (Cf. Hebrews 11).  If you will take time to read their stories, you will discover what those who “lived by faith” also had to endure all types of suffering in their lives! And you will observe what their faith produced during and through times of incredible testing and trials.  You will see, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:39-40) That something better was Jesus Christ – His Son! This is what Paul brings to our attention:

Romans 4:18-25 (NIV)

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Cf. Genesis 15:5) 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

When we think about the possible injustices that God has allowed in our world … in the lives of His people … there is one great injustice that He ordained that stands out in my mind. For God made Jesus, who know no sin, to be sin for us – so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Was it unfair of God … to sacrifice Himself for the world?  Was it unjust of Him … to determine that the justice we deserve would be borne by His only begotten Son?

Hebrews 5:5-10 (NIV)

In the same way, Christ did not take on Himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to Him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” (Quote is from Psalm 2:7) And He says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (Quote is from Psalm 110:4) During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Isaiah 53

1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him; nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely, He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. From confinement and judgment He was taken away. Yet who of His generation protested? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life an offering for sin, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand. 11 After He has suffered, He will see the fruit of His suffering and be satisfied; by His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Let these passages sink deep into your spirit for a moment. Let them unearth every thought you might have about any personal unfairness or injustice you have experienced.  Whatever you are going through … whatever you are experiencing … whatever hardship or affliction or suffering or despair of life … I want to encourage you to seek God in fervent prayer today. In His body, Jesus experienced every form of human suffering. He knows firsthand the intensity of your physical or emotional pain! He knows what you are enduring! He knows where you are! Oh, His light may reveal the presence of sin within your heart for you to confess; but I believe there may be something far greater that He desires to do in your life.  Allowing suffering may just be the “refining” work that He is doing for your faith – your precious faith that is of greater worth than gold! There may be a special work that God has chosen to reveal in you … so that others will receive the fruit of your suffering.  You may be closer to the image of Jesus than you realize! Perhaps this is why Paul declared, “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death. (Cf. Philippians 3:10) For God is producing a faith in you and me that understands righteousness is imputed and not earned … that salvation is received because of who He is and not because of what we have done.  Yes, He is filling you and me with a faith to know His grace is sufficient … with a faith that can be harnessed to move mountains … to do the impossible! You and I may not see the final outcome of what God is doing in and through our lives, but I am certain that we should trust Him and His great love for us as we travel along this journey of faith….

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV)

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

We are not able to choose the method or circumstances by which God determines to cultivate and refine our faith in Him.  But we know that His will is for faith to be formed and to grow within us so that it may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed! Without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) Our faith must be genuine … it must be sincere.  So, I believe God will work (as His sovereignty determines) to bring each of us to an authentic faith … as we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of faith. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) For Jesus will distribute (just as He determines), the gifts of faith for the benefit and common good of all. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11) Because it is faith that will advance His Kingdom, it is through faith that we are equipped for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Cf. Ephesians 4:12-13)

So, I have come to believe that the Book of Job ultimately teaches us the purposes of faith … its role in hope … and its fulfillment in love. As Paul would later explain: “12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:12-13) If you have read this far, I appreciate your hanging with me on this side excursion into the topic of suffering.  I hope it has presented some ideas for you to ponder … or better still … encouraged you to dig deeper into the Word to discover more for yourself. (Cf. Acts 17:11) Regardless, if you are experiencing deep anguish in body or soul, I pray you will know in your inmost being that God is there with you.  He is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:3) May you and I, along with Job, in faith proclaim: “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand on the earth.  And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God – whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes behold, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me! (Cf. Job 19:25-27)

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Be Strong and Courageous

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I thought this verse tied in well with our previous one.  Note the intensity – “Have I not commanded you?”  The implication here is that the Lord commands us to be strong and courageous.  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline! (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) Therefore, do not be afraid.  Do not be discouraged.  The Father is always with us … wherever we are. You can never really leave His presence anyway. Where would you go trying to do so? He observes everyone on earth; His eyes examine them. (Cf. Psalm 11:4) And we have the sure promise of Jesus who said, “ And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Cf. Matthew 28:20b)

I have noticed in Scripture that whenever an angel spoke to a human, some of the first words spoken are “do not be afraid.”  And when Jesus came to the disciples in the boat, walking on the water, they were terrified.  But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”  (Cf. Matthew 14:26-27) I am reminded how the Apostle John wrote for us: “There is no fear in love; but perfect (complete) love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”  (Cf. 1 John 4:18) When you love God … you trust God. And when you trust God … you do not fear Him in the sense of being afraid or tormented; rather, you fear Him in the sense of awe, reverence, adoration, and sincere love.

God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. (Cf. Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5) So based on His promise, I pray we will trust Him at His Word.  I pray we will understand that the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid. I pray we will embrace Him … move where He is moving … work where He is working … with confidence! What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:12) Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19) And look at what the Spirit of God does within us and through us:

1 Corinthians 12:1-14; 27-31 (NIV)

12 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of languages,  and to still another the interpretation of languages11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines. 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized with one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

2Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in other languages? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet, I will show you the most excellent way….

When we come together as the Body of Christ … when we operate in the gifts, the services, and the workings of the Holy Spirit as He distributes and determines for each of us individually … I am not sure what there would be for us to fear at all.  Though the enemy and the powers of darkness will come against us,  Jesus said He would build His Church and the gates of hell (Hades) would not prevail against it. (Cf. Matthew 16:18) If God be for us, who can stand against us?  (Cf. Romans 8:31) Indeed, what do we have to fear? His victory has already been won!  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Cf. John 16:33) Yes, it is through the Spirit of God that we have power to be light in the world … to be His witnesses … to live worthy of Him in all godliness.  For if we walk by the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.  Yes, if we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. And let us not become conceited (with our spiritual gifts) therein provoking one another and envying one another. (Cf. Galatians 5:16, 25-26)

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

The Spirit God Gave Us

2 Timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

This verse has come up a couple of times during my prayer times this week.  So the subject of spiritual empowerment appears to be something that I, perhaps we, need to think about more deeply….

That we are spiritual creatures is evident from Scripture.  King Solomon wrote: Remember your Creator before the silver cord is removed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. (Cf. Ecclesiastes 12:6-7) The Prophet Daniel wrote: “I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. (Cf. Daniel 7:15) And Paul affirmed the nature of our beings when he wrote: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:20) And, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spiritsoul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23)

So, there is an aspect of our existence that is spiritual. The spirit we have been given by God is the “life force” of our bodies and our souls; and therefore, determines and guides the course of our lives. Since we are created in the image of God (Cf. Genesis 1:27), our beings reflect His Being.  Our spirits operate or function in the same manner as the Spirit of God; and this will manifest through our physical lives.  Perhaps, this is why both John and Paul spent a great deal of time teaching about the Holy Spirit and His work in and through our lives.  Paul, in particular, addressed the infilling of the Holy Spirit and His administration of spiritual gifts to equip and build up the Body of Christ … the Church.  You can read a portion of His teaching on the subject in 1 Corinthians 12.

Anyway, this verse has stirred my thoughts regarding the work of the Holy Spirit within my own life.  And I love the focus it brings upon the power we have been GIVEN.  The Holy Spirit does NOT make us timid; rather, He GIVES us courage.  He GIVES us confidence.  He GIVES us boldness and tenacity.  We do not have to remain in weakness or uncertainty of faith at all.  Peter shared, “His divine power has granted to us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3) Paul indicated that the weapons of our warfare (to battle sin and evil) are NOT of the flesh (that is, not within our physical natures) but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4) So divine power is what the Holy Spirit has given us in order to live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6)

Notice the Holy Spirit GIVES us love. Indeed, He fills us with the everlasting love of God. So it follows that we have been given divine power to love as we have been loved by God … to fulfill His command to love others with the same love we ourselves have experienced in Christ Jesus. In addition, the Holy Spirit GIVES us divine power to exercise self-discipline or self-control. To me this means we have power over our bodies … power over our emotions … power over our tongues … power over temptation.  And I believe this power is closely connected to the command to love.  For how can we sincerely love others if we disrespect, dishonor, violate or abuse them through the uncontrolled impulses of our sinful nature.  If our hearts are not changed by the Spirit of God, the inclinations of our sinful nature will be unabated…. Thus, His indwelling Spirit gives us power to have a renewed mind and to exercise self-control in order to love one another.

Indeed … power, love, and self-discipline … are a tri-fold manifestation of the Holy Spirit within your life and mine.  And the key point here is that God GAVE us His Spirit for this unified purpose. God did not give us power over others to dominate them; rather, He gave us power to love and serve one another … to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. (Cf. Romans 12:1) He did not give us power to do as we please; rather, He gives us the power needed to exert self-control and to exhibit holiness.  We should not be timid or afraid to utilize the power He gave us.  On the contrary, His power should give us confidence, courage, and boldness to become all that God desires for us to be as beings created in His image.  It is clear that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit. (Cf. Luke 4:1, Luke 10:21) And His disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. (Cf. Acts 2:4, Acts 4:8, Acts 4:31, Acts 9:17, Acts 13:52) It follows that we, too, are to be filled with the Holy Spirit….

Jesus spoke about the “gift” of the Holy Spirit … and that He would be sent to us. Jesus spoke about the work and role of the Holy Spirit … as an Advocate for us … as the Spirit of Truth.

John 14:15-20 (NIV)

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate (comforter) to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be (is) in you18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

John 14:25-27 (NIV)

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 15:26-27 (NIV)

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father—He will testify about me27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

John 16:7-15 (NIV)

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come14 He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what He will make known to you.”

Acts 1:4-8 (NIV)

4  And being assembled together with them, Jesus commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

When we examine what Jesus taught about the Holy Spirit, we learn He is the Spirit of Truth, and He will guide us into all the truth. His purpose is to “help” us, and He will be with us forever.  We will “know” Him because He will indwell us.  His role is to “teach us all things” and to “remind us of everything” Jesus said.  The Holy Spirit will testify of Jesus and convict the world of who He is.  He will speak only what He hears … and share it with us.  We shall receive divine power through Him.  And this power shall enable us to be witnesses!  Indeed, everything we do and everything we speak should be a testimony of the grace of God given to us through faith in Jesus Christ.  So remember that every work … every gift of the Holy Spirit is for the exaltation of Jesus and the edification of His Body … the Church.  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. Amen.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Not For You To Know

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Sometimes life just doesn’t make sense.  Indeed, life is more mysterious than understood.  But that’s okay!  Really! We do not have to understand everything.  In fact, it is probably best that we do not understand everything….  Now I’m not saying that ignorance is bliss; but I am saying that sometimes the unknown is best … a safe harbor for us.  The unexpected can actually be a source of great joy … especially when we connect the dots and see the picture God has actually drawn out.  Not “knowing” puts us in the position of exercising our faith … it requires us to trust God.  And faith is the desired outcome of every context we encounter in life. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen. (Cf. Hebrews 11:1) And without faith, it is impossible to please Him; for whoever would draw near to God must believe the He exists and the He rewards those who seek Him. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6)

So why this commentary on the matter of faith?  Well, I think it has an intimate connection with our verse.  What we think and understand is based on our limited, finite human knowledge. The thoughts of God are higher than our thoughts.  How God operates is not determined by how we believe He should operate. I think of Job – when God questioned him:

Job 42:1-6 (NKJV)

1Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

We simply do not know the beginning to the end. King Solomon observed:

Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 (NIV)

What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? 10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. 12 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. 14 I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. 15 That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; and God requires an account of what is past.

There really is no way to fully know all that God does or why He allows (permits) what happens in our lives.  Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. (Cf. Proverbs 19:21) And we can rest assured that His purpose is for our good … even when we cannot see it.  He is conforming us to the image of His Son.  (Cf. Romans 8:28-29) We can be certain that He is perfecting our faith.  (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) Indeed, there is no question that God will be glorified through all that He does. (Cf. John 11:4) So, let’s keep it all in perspective and submit ourselves to the Lord.  (Cf. Isaiah 40:28)

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

In My Distress

Psalm 120:1

I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me.

Always a timely word!  Whenever you or I feel stressed … hard pressed … distressed … anxious … or even fearful with what is happening in your life, God has affirmed in His Word that He wants us to call upon Him.  God in our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble (Cf. Psalm 46:1) So whatever we are going through, we should give it to the Father.  Talk with Him.  Share with Him.  This verse assures us that He will listen.  As Peter affirmed, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7) Here Peter quotes Psalm 55:22 which reads, “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.”

If you feel defeated for some reason … if you feel like giving up or giving in to your circumstances or situation … pause for a moment.  Breathe.  Breathe deeply.  Now I encourage you to read how Asaph reset His mindset when feeling overwhelmed with the world and culture that surrounded him.  Read Psalm 73 this morning.  It will not take long, but it will impact your day.  I believe it will bring you some fresh perspective.  I am particularly fond of its conclusion:

Psalm 73:23-28 (ESV)

21 When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a brute beast toward You. 23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

Oh, how I pray that we would understand how much God loves us!  He is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:3) Even now, He is running toward you … to embrace you and show you His lovingkindness. (Cf. Luke 15:20) Just be still and embrace Him.  Rest in Him.  He is the God of peace.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. (Cf. Philippians 4:7) In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Yes, Jesus is all you need, and His grace is sufficient for you. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9) So, call upon Him.  He will listen to you.  And when you are finished, be still and listen to Him. I believe you will be amazed at His answer….

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!