Let’s Settle The Matter…

Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

I was first intrigued with this verse and its message of redemption.  We see in the metaphors a work of cleansing and forgiveness … and in the context there is a decision for people to make with regard to this offer of redemption.  The choice is to either be willing and obedient or to be resistant and rebellious.  As I read the entire Isaiah 1 this morning, I could not help but ponder on its theme of rebellion against God and its presentation of His correction or discipline for the insolence of Israel. I think this is a reflection of our own nation in this hour of history; and I believe the people of God should heed its instruction to examine ourselves in its light.

Isaiah 1 ~ A Rebellious Nation

The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

 The Problem

Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the Lord has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil.

The Consequence

Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. Daughter Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a cucumber field, like a city under siege. Unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah. 10 Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11 “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!

The Solution

16 Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. 17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. 18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; 20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The Reason

21 See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her— but now murderers! 22 Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. 23 Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them. 24 Therefore the Lord, the Lord Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares: “Ah! I will vent my wrath on my foes and avenge myself on my enemies. 25 I will turn my hand against you (the faithful city) I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities. 26 I will restore your leaders as in days of old, your rulers as at the beginning. Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.” 27 Zion will be delivered with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness.

The Disobedient

28 But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the Lord will perish. 29 “You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks in which you have delighted; you will be disgraced because of the gardens that you have chosen. 30 You will be like an oak with fading leaves, like a garden without water. 31 The mighty man will become tinder and his work a spark; both will burn together, with no one to quench the fire.”

Wow!  Do you agree there might be some parallels for the Church … the Body of Christ … to consider?  Does the Lord not discipline those whom He loves … as a Father the child He delights in?  (Cf. Proverbs 3:16) Have our prophets not quoted: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land?” (Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14) Yes, I think the application for believers is to humble ourselves and to seek the Lord in repentance and brokenness. The prayer of our hearts should be to learn to do right; to seek justice; to defend the oppressed; to take up the cause of the fatherless; and to plead the case of the widow … because these expressed issues on the heart of our God. These are the responsibilities of the Church! And so, I am reminded of what Paul wrote in this regard:

Romans 12 ~ A Living Sacrifice

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Each one of us has a personal decision to make each day. Jesus instructed: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Cf. Luke 9:23) The choice is to either be willing and obedient … or to be resistant and rebellious. So I hear the Father bidding us the morning: “Come now … let us settle the matter.”

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~ Jesus.

Destination – Unity…

Ephesians 1:9-10 (NIV)

He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

After four days, we still do not have official election results.  Indeed, it will be interesting to see the outcome amid all of the discrepancies as they are discovered and resolved.  But there is one thing I know without knowing the election results … that God has made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Yes, regardless of election outcomes, the unity of believers … those called out of the world to minister to the world … is what God has made known to us through His Word and His Spirit. For the Holy Spirit has been given to us as “a guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession” has been accomplished.  This is to the praise of His glory!

I think it would provide us both inspiration and assurance to read the opening of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.  As I read it this morning, I was amazed again with his overview of the plan of salvation God prepared for those who would come to faith in His Son, our Lord Jesus. And I pray that the Spirit will impress on you as well the truth of what Paul has unraveled for us – the mystery of His will – which God ordained in Christ Jesus.  Let this Word of God fill you with hope and readiness … instill in you an eternal perspective of the life God has given us in Christ.  Amen.

Ephesians Chapter 1 (NIV)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He (God) chose us (believers) in Him (Jesus) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In Him (Christ) we were also chosen (made heirs) having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him (Jesus) with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, 19 and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 He (God) exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.

To me, it is clear that the call and purpose of the Church is to be the physical body of Jesus Christ in the earth. Though Jesus is seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly realms … far above all earthly rule, authority, power, and dominion … everything has been placed under Him, including the Church.  As His Body, His fullness resides in us, so that we might be His eyes and ears … His arms and legs … His hands and feet … His heart and soul. Indeed, as Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5-7: “In our relationships with one another, we should 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 so I think the application is that we are to be the “human likeness” of Christ Jesus in our families … in our local churches … in our communities, states, and nations. Wherever we are guided to serve others by the Spirit of God, we are to have gracious influence and fruitful impact. And in this context, I again pray we will all stay focused on the eternal inheritance that awaits those who persevere in faith.  May His promises motivate and encourage us to bring glory to God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Walk In Love…

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

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

Our verse today continues on the theme of love as the full expression of what it means to walk with God.  Paul opens up this passage with the exhortation to “follow God’s example” of what it means to love. And I especially like that Paul preferences that we should do so “as dearly loved children.”  To me, knowing that we are beloved and cherished by our Heavenly Father is the greatest motivation we could have to emulate His love.  And we know experientially that agape love He has poured out to us through His Son … our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The way of love we are to exhibit has been defined by the merciful love we have received in Him. As we have noted before: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34) So, I want us to look at our verse in the larger context presented:

Ephesians 5:1-20 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Note how Paul contrasts walking in the way of love with our former conduct as unbelievers. Before we encountered the love of God through Jesus Christ, we were unable to walk in perfect love. Paul illustrates this and provides us with practical, concrete examples of the tension between light and darkness … between love and the absence of love.  Just as light exposes the darkness, so the love of God exposes the behaviors we exhibit as humans that are unloving, unkind, and therefore, unholy. We are enjoined to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can truly walk in the way of love. Christ Jesus demonstrated the sacrificial love the Father has in mind for each of us to imitate. And He challenges believers with this spiritual standard: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Cf. Luke 9:23) James and Peter weigh in on this instruction as well: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (Cf. James 3:13) And, “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.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:22)

Although love is spiritual, it will always express itself in the physical or natural. God, the source of all love,  Love is the outcome of faith … the fruit of the Spirit.  Indeed, every fruit of the Spirit is rooted in love. The Apostle John affirms for us:

1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 4:20-21 (NIV)

20 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.

2 John 1:6 (NIV)

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.

I just feel impressed that the Spirit of God is very concerned that we as believers not only hear the command to walk in love, but to make it actionable in our lives. As I have shared before, God saved us … created us in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) Thus, we have been saved to serve! This is His call on the life of every believer! We just need to be obedient as opportunities to share the love of God with others present themselves. And as the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews advised: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds….” (Hebrews 10:24) Yes, being the love of God in this world is the responsibility and purpose of the Church.  We are called to be the physical expression of God’s love to the world … and I pray we will do so with intentionality as we see the Day approaching….

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Delegated Authority…

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As I think about this familiar passage … the last words Jesus spoke as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew … I sometimes wonder if these words preceded those recorded for us in the Book of Acts.  Somehow I see the parting words of Jesus as a continuous narrative before His ascension into heaven; and His commandment to proclaim and share the Gospel so that others might come to faith (Cf. Romans 10:17) is quite clear:

Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Acts 1:4-11 (NIV)

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.” Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Jesus said ALL authority had been given to Him by the Father … both in heaven and on earth! And why is this important for us to understand? Because there is no higher authority in all of creation than the authority bestowed upon the Son by the Father. As Jesus declared, “I and My Father are one.” (Cf. John 10:30) This signifies His sovereignty over all creation. Nothing is allowed to happen except that it passes through His will.  And we should be comforted by that knowledge in as much as His incomprehensible love is manifested through His will! This is why the people who encountered Jesus during His life on earth perceived His authority when He spoke and taught. (Cf. Matthew 7:29; Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32). With authority, Jesus commanded unclean spirits to leave those oppressed and afflicted by them … and they obeyed Him. (Cf. Mark 1:27; Luke 4:36)

And we know that His authority was challenged and doubted by the religious leaders. Jesus was confronted and questioned by the chief priests and elders asking, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” (Cf. Matthew 21:23; Mark 11:27-28; Luke 20:1-2) Now Jesus responded to these questions with a question of His own … regarding the authority given to John the Baptist. Was it given from heaven or self-imagined? And when they would not answer, Jesus stated that He would not reveal the source of His authority either. So there is a lesson for all of us to learn as Jesus Himself reveals the authority given to Him by the Father:

John 12:48-50 (NKJV)

48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”

John 14:9-11 (NKJV)

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

John 17:1-3 (NKJV)

1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given HimAnd this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

John 19:7-11 (NKJV)

The Jews answered Pontius Pilate, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power (authority) to crucify You, and power (authority) to release You?” 11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power (authority) at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

When Jesus was questioned about His identity, Pontius Pilate asserted that he had the authority to crucify Him.  But Jesus responded that Pilate could have no authority except that it had been given to him by God. This assertion is true for us as well. We have no authority over anyone or anything except that it has been granted (given) by God! And now we see Jesus proclaim that ALL authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him by the Father. Yes, the authority of Almighty God … Creator of heaven and earth … has been delegated to the Son of God, Jesus. And what an incredible thing is should be for us to realize is that Jesus has delegated His authority to US … to those who love Him and keep His commands!  Let’s read about it:

Luke 9:1-6 (NKJV)

1Then Jesus called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseasesHe sent them to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece. “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the Gospel and healing everywhere.

Luke 10:1-9; 17-20 (NKJV)

1 After these things the Lord appointed seventy-two others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near to you.’

17 Then the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Wow! The One who has been given ALL authority has delegated authority to us … His Church! And I wonder … just as Pastor Steve did during his sermon this past weekend … who among the Church is exercising the authority we have been given by our Lord Jesus? Who is proclaiming the Kingdom of God is near?  Who is healing the sick? Who is casting out demons?  Who is exercising power over the enemy in these latter days?  These are questions each of us as believers need to ask of ourselves? When Jesus sent disciples out into the field He told them, “The harvest if plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (Luke 10:2) So He is asking us now: “Who is willing to go out into the harvest field now?  Who is sharing the Gospel and healing the sick and taking authority over demonic forces?” He has given us the authority! Are we going to exercise the authority we have been given … or stand on the fence and watch as the harvest field is plowed under into darkness?

Indeed, the Church needs to be awakened and exhorted! The harvest is our responsibility … and we have been given the authority to carry out our responsibilities! The question is whether we have the individual and collective will to fulfill His mandate to go and make disciples of all nations.  Perhaps we should begin with the nation in which we live … the state … the county … the town … the local community. Perhaps we should look within our own neighborhoods … maybe we should start with our own households and exercise authority over the one who wants to steal, kill, and destroy our families! The battles we need to fight are 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. (Cf. Ephesians 6:12) “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

So I pray we will be moved in our spirits to begin exercising the spiritual authority we have received from our Lord Jesus Christ. For we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works which the Father prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) God has not asked us to say or do anything that He has not equipped us to do through His Word or empowered us to do by His Spirit. As the Lord spoke to Joshua, so I believe He is speaking to us in our generation: “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) Yes, let us put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand.  Let us stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waists, with the breastplates of righteousness in place, and with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, let us take up the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Let us take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And let us pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, let us be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Cf. Ephesians 6:13-18) I ask all these things in the powerful name of Jesus.  Amen….

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Week!

Peace Through Faith

Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed with life or the distresses going on in the world right now, I encourage us as believers to keep perspective.  God, the loving Father who created us, knows what is going on with His people.  And He will cause all things to work for the good of those who love Him – who have been called according to His purpose. (Cf. Romans 8:28) And so, we need to trust in God … more than we trust in government or man-made systems to resolve our situations. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying in this regard. To be sure, God will use His people to address and engage in the suffering that occurs in our fallen world, but God’s people are aligned with God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven … and I believe that is the major difference.  When we rely on God … when we take refuge in Him … when we trust Him for our needs … His supernatural power is released! Yes, the Spirit of God works in and through His people to accomplish His will….

1 Corinthians 12:4-12 (NIV)

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 tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 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 by 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.

Romans 12:3-18 (NIV)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the othersWe have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people who do more menial work. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

You see, living in this world is the will of God. And though it is fallen because of sin, God wants us here to achieve His purposes according to His own counsel and will.  And I believe the greatest purpose our Father has in mind is relationship with the special creatures He made in His own image.  All other creation was spoke into existence in the beginning. But God purposely “made” us from the dust of the earth. Our human existence is differential and intentional.  As David reflected:

Psalm 139: 13-18 (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, that I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts concerning me, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

And so God invites us to trust Him.  Because when we put our trust in Him, our minds become steadfast … we rely upon the truth of His Word.  And we experience something great in our inner being.  We call it “peace”.  We call it “rest”.  We call it assurance, confidence, and steadfastness.  We call it “faith”!  Indeed, Christ Jesus was sent to this world by the Father to bring us to faith … a saving faith … a serving faith.  And this is what Jesus commanded, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35)

God is Love! Love is how God works! “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And our work, our labor of love, is to serve as the Body of Christ in this world.  Being Jesus to others is HOW God works all things for the good of those who love Him … for those who are called according to His purpose.  We need not fear; rather, we need to be courageous in these times and days. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)  Let’s use these gifts to make a difference in our chaotic and fallen world! For God will keep us in perfect peace … complete peace … whose faith is fastened on Him….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Reverence For God

2 Corinthians 7:1 (NIV)

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Paul gives us a great and timely message regarding our pursuit of holiness out of reverence for God.  To me, the point being made is that our motivation for obedience is to be based in reverence and not merely obligation or duty.  Let’s look at our passage in the larger context.  Since 2 Corinthians 7 begins with the word “therefore,” we need to understand what it is there for.  So, we will need to go back to 2 Corinthians 6 to get a better idea:

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (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 darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial (Satan)? 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.” (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.” (Cf. Isaiah 52:11; Ezekiel 20:34, 41)

18 And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (Cf. 2 Samuel 7:14; 7:8)

Corinthians 7:1 (NIV)

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

So as we look at the larger context, we see Paul admonish us regarding the nature of our walk with God.  His concern is about our pursuit of holiness as temples of the living God.  And from this perspective, we need to look at how to keep our lives clean and righteous.  To that end, Paul stresses that believers should not seek a “yoked” relationship with unbelievers because there is an inherent spiritual incompatibility that ensues from the relationship. He is saying we should not “bind” ourselves in such arrangements where spiritual conflict is inevitable.   He asks what does righteousness and wickedness have in common?  What fellowship can light have with darkness?  What agreement is there between the worship of God and the worship of idols?  The answer, of course, is there can be no harmony between two opposite or opposing forces. There is a natural separation in this realm.  And so, Paul takes us to the higher reality that we (the church) are the temple of the living God.  We are the Body of Christ through His indwelling/abiding Spirit within each of us….

So with this view in mind, Paul sets out to address the scriptural promises that God has made with His people; believers whom He has called “out of the world” and who represent His temple.  God says, “I will live WITH them and walk among them.  I will be their God and they will be my people.”  God calls us out of the world and says to be separate … sanctified (holy) and set apart for service to God. And in another place, God says, “I will be a Father to you.  You will be my sons and daughters.”  How wonderful are His thoughts toward us!  How miraculous is it that the Creator of the universe expresses such a passionate desire to have intimate relationship with His people … those who have consecrated themselves to Him?

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.  Now our verse makes perfect sense!  When we separate ourselves from the things of the world and commit ourselves unto the Father, we prepare ourselves for Him to enter into relationship with us.  For it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Cf. Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16) So Paul urges us to purify ourselves from EVERYTHING that defiles our bodies and our spirits. And the reason we want to do so is because of our reverence for God … our reverent fear of Him.  This is more than a “have to” motivation. (Law) This is a “want to” motivation. (Spirit)

It is clear that the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ desire to have intimate relationship with us. The question is: “Do we want to have an intimate relationship with God?”  If so, then we need to do those things with separate us from the world.  The Apostle John taught: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17) These are the three avenues of temptation for us, and so we need to consider our spiritual strategies for separation from the world. Our greatest tool (spiritual weapon) is the Word of God! We need to read it, understand it, and put it into practice! I believe the more we engage the Word of God in our lives, the more we will find, feel, and express reverence for God.

In His teaching on intimacy with Him, Jesus used a vine and branches metaphor to help His disciples understand the necessity of abiding in Him in order to “remain in His love” and to “Love one another as Jesus has loved us.”  He goes on to reflect: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”  Do you see it?  Jesus said, “I have chosen you OUT of the world.”  The Church, His Body, are known as “the called-out ones”. This is our call to holiness and sanctification in Christ! In His High Priestly prayer to the Father, Jesus affirmed, “I have given them your Word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (Cf. John 17:14-16) And as the Psalmist wrote: “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Cf. Psalm 119:11)

So, I think the application for our Verse of the Day is self-evident. We have been chosen “out of the world” by Jesus Christ.  We have received a great honor and privilege to enter into His sanctifying work through the Spirit in order to be separated from the world unto the Father.  And the promise is that God will receive us in Christ Jesus.  God Himself will love us and be a father unto us. He will dwell among us. He will be our God and we will be His chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light! (Cf. 1 Peter 2:9) This is why we pursue holiness and righteousness in our lives. Consecration is our expression of reverence for Father God who sent His Beloved Son to rescue us from darkness … to redeem us from sin … to release us from captivity … to reconcile us to Himself and to restore us to reverence.  Let these things be our prayer this morning with all thanksgiving for the great mercy shown to us … that we would be CHOSEN to be separated and to have intimate relationship with our Creator.  Amen.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” ~ Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

“Sanctify them by the Truth. Your Word is Truth” ~ Jesus (John 17:17)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Real Freedom….

Psalm 33:12 (NIV)

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people. ~ Proverbs 14:34

I’m not sure what else could be said that is not embodied in this verse.  Yet, note how King Solomon addresses the matter as a collective issue: A NATION!  Yes, a nation is lifted up by its righteousness … which is inherently composed of the individual righteousness of each citizen.  A nation cannot be righteous if its people live in sin….  And what we have seen so prevalent within the past few decades is a deepening moral decline within our nation.  There has been a discernible shift from the “condemnation” of sin to the “celebration” of sin; and it seems to now pervade our culture with a ravenous appetite.  To be sure, we cannot continue to celebrate and glory in sinful conduct and expect our nation to be upheld by the God who loves righteousness and justice….

King David wrote: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.” (Psalm 33:12) He, too, affirms that a nation devoted to God Most-High, Creator of heaven and earth,  shall be exalted … shall be blessed.  Indeed, we find both David and Solomon admonishing the nation of Israel to direct their collective hearts to a mindset of reverence for Father God.  Each individual is responsible to self-examine in this regard in order for the larger society to flourish as a people (a nation) under the authority and reign of God.  Perhaps, we should look closer at how David envisioned the relationship of God with His people … a nation whose God is the Lord:

Psalm 33:1-22 (NIV)

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to Him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. For the Word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love. By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea as into a heap; He puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm. 10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance. 13 From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; 14 from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth— 15 He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. 16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. 18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. 20 We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. 21 In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. 22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.

Wow!  What a beautiful meditation!  It speaks to the communal nature of our praise … our trust … our hope … our life as a people. Indeed, I believe the metaphor that Paul used to describe the interdependent relationships of God’s people as a single body with many members is quite fitting in this context:

Romans 12:4-5 (NIV)

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV)

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”

Ephesians 3:2-6 (NIV)

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the Gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

It is through Christ Jesus that all believers become one Body … one Family … one Kingdom. The Apostle Peter affirms this oneness; declaring that we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God; once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy.” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:9-10) Yes, we are heirs together with Israel because we have been chosen for His inheritance in Christ Jesus. In Christ, there is great diversity … yet no division.  As Paul affirmed, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Cf. Galatians 3:28-29) And in another epistle Paul wrote, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. (Cf. Colossians 3:11-15)

So where am I headed with this thought train?  Well, as we celebrate the founding of our nation today, I want to encourage us to remember and celebrate the founding of the holy nation that God ordained for His people to become. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Behold, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will not panic.” (Cf. Isaiah 28:16) And, “The stone that builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (Cf. Psalm 118:22) Yes, the “nation” believers form in Christ should celebrate its foundation and coming together and the purpose for which it has been founded. For we are to “give joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of Light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Cf. Colossians 1:12-14) Yes, let us give thanks to God for our adoption … for our inheritance … and for the foundations of faith laid before us.

And just as we celebrate the liberty and freedom we enjoy in this country, let us celebrate the liberty and freedom we have obtained through Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus declared that He was sent by the Father to proclaim freedom for those who are captive or oppressed and to release from darkness those who are blind. (Cf. Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1) To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (Cf. John 8:31-32; 34-36) As Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Cf. Galatians 5:1) And Paul will go on to admonish: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13) Peter will expound on this general point as well:

1 Peter 2:11-17 (NIV)

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

So I hope that everyone will have a wonderful and blessed celebration this weekend!  Our Declaration of Independence is worth celebrating and our Constitution is worth commending because our nation was founded upon the principles of human dignity and liberty. Though as a nation we have not always lived up to the standards ascribed, its guidance has served to form a more perfect union of people.  Likewise, the Body of Christ as a “holy nation” was founded upon the Word of God and His declaration of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Truth and grace came by Jesus Christ … the light and manifestation of God’s love. So let us celebrate Jesus today for the liberty He has granted us. “For if we have been united with Jesus 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.” (Cf. Romans 6:5-7)

Through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death. ~ Romans 8:2

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Happy Father’s Day!

Ephesians 5:25-26 (NIV)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word….

I hope all those who are fathers and grandfathers enjoyed a Blessed Father’s Day!

As we finish this week of examining the gift of fatherhood and the roles that men have been ordained by God to fulfill in His Kingdom … we turn our attention to the position that afforded us the honor and privilege to become a father – the role of husband.  The relationship that a husband and wife … father and mother … have with each other greatly influences the role each partner plays in the development of their children and the capacity of their children to fulfill the 5th commandment of God – “Honor your father and mother.”  If the relationship between parents is unhealthy, strained, uncivil, fractured, or out of balance, the fall out upon the minds and hearts of their children is inevitable.  I’m not talking about the natural disagreements that arise in the course of normal human relationships (for we were all uniquely created). These are generally negotiated and resolved within the bonds of love.  Rather, I am speaking to the visibility of a relationship that no one would characterize as honorable or pleasing to God … where unity has been lost or displaced with self-centeredness, covetousness, worldliness, bitterness, malice, etc.

Now, I realize there are many human factors and dynamics that enter into the covenant relationship of marriage; but my thoughts today are directed at men and our God-ordained responsibilities for the union of our bodies with another.  And I believe the inspired wisdom that Paul brings to our attention here should direct the approach of our hearts to the covenant of marriage.  After all, God made a covenant with those whom He chose for salvation … and gave to His Son, Christ Jesus, to receive forgiveness and the gift of eternal life.  He has been faithful to us; and that truth, in itself, should dominate the heart of every man to whom God has entrusted the precious gift of a woman to have and to hold from this day forward.  Men, when two became one flesh, we made a vow … we made a covenant with our wives to be united to our own souls … and to be faithful to them in all things.  If you can receive it, then I ask you to consider this: If there is a schism in your marriage relationship … then I encourage you to look intently into your own heart and soul. Why? Because I believe there you will find something that you can change or correct …  actionable steps … spiritual surgery to foster the restoration, healing, and strengthening of the intimacy you both were created to experience.  Yes, whether we realized it at the time or not, we made a promise to be like Jesus in our relationships with our wives.  And whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) Indeed, that is the standard that the Apostle Paul is exhorting us to achieve here….  Let’s look at it further in context:

Ephesians 5:21-33 (NIV)

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her 26 to make her holy, having cleansed her by the washing with water through the Word, 27 and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Cf. Genesis 2:2432 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

The passage begins with this instruction: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The text and the context are absolutely clear! The foundation of the covenant relationship we share with our wives is out of reverence for Christ Jesus. Did you see it? “Reverence for Christ Jesus!” You must see this truth and it must abide in your heart more than anything else!  You cannot love your wife in the manner God has ordained for you if you do not have reverence for the One who created you and redeemed you and commanded you: “Love one another as I have loved you.”  How did Jesus love you?  Unconditionally! Sacrificially!  Yes, if you and I (men) want marriage relationships that our children will see as genuine … the kind they will readily respond with honor for their father and mother, then we as the heads need to self-examine our hearts.  As David (a man after God’s own heart) wrote in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Let there be no doubt: True love for our wives begins and flourishes with our reverence for Christ Jesus!

And while Paul speaks to women about their responsibilities in the covenant of marriage, I truly believe that he wants to emphasize the God-ordained role of the man to LEAD the relationship.  And he uses the relationship between Christ and His Church as the metaphor and example to help men understand this critical mindset.  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” The text does not say, “similar to” the way Christ demonstrated His love for His Body.  No, it instructs: “JUST AS!”  The pattern and the example have already been demonstrated.  The question for us, men, is whether we intend to identify with what Christ has revealed to us and to emulate it in our marriages?

The profound mystery Paul referenced is found in the inspired narrative written by Moses and recorded in Genesis 2:18-24 – where God creates a woman from the man to be his helper!

Genesis 2:18-24 (NIV)

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

I had never thoughtfully considered this passage until now … and I am flooded with thoughts and applications of the metaphor Paul uses when he states, “But I am talking about Christ and the Church.”  Think about it. If Christ is represented by Adam and the Church is represented by Eve; then the pattern of the woman taken from the man makes sense.  The Church, the body of Christ, was formed out of Christ Himself. Another perspective is that God brought the Church to His Son to be His helper … even though His helper came from within Him. Jesus is the Head of and united with His Body … just as Adam and Eve became ONE flesh.  And as Christ determines how His Body should function, so men are charged with the functioning of their marriage!  I can see it in my spiritual mind … but it remains a profound mystery.  Like many things, I can understand “how” this makes sense … but like many things, I do not understand “why” this makes sense.  But the connection points me to the greater weight of the parallel that has been drawn for me: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”  Just as I am united with Christ and abide in Him … so I too am united with my wife and she abides in me.  And because she abides in me, I am responsible for her … just as Christ is responsible for His Body.

Well, those are my thoughts as this Father’s Day comes to a close.  As I survey all that is going on in our nation and our world; the more I am convinced that many of the problems we face are the consequences of innumerable men not fulfilling their God ordained roles of Provider, Protector, and Priest.  We have been called to be the leaders of our homes! And the first relationship in which we exercise that authority is within our marriages.  It is the foundation of all enduring relationships that will follow. We have to get that one right … if we want to have relationships with our children that will lead them into their own covenant relationships with God … and eventually their own spouses and children. Oh, there is so much more that could be said here, but I will end with this time-tested observation – the greatest testimony and the best gift you can give your children is a Christ-centered marriage. Why?  Because your children will learn that the most intimate relationships they will ever experience in life begins with reverence for Christ Jesus.  And in my estimation, that gift is absolutely priceless.     

Reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. ~ Proverbs 9:10

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!