Do What He Says…

James 1:22 (NIV)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

We have read this verse many times I’m sure.  And as the Spirit has been encouraging us to be in the Word and studying it; this is the call to “do what it says”.  All the reading and studying in the world is not going to replace action and putting the Word into practice.  I am reminded (and convicted) by what Jesus said as He concluded His “Sermon on the Mount” recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:

Matthew 7:21-29 (NIV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, 29 because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

In the context, it is those who do the will of the Father that will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  And the words of Jesus have taught us what the will of the Father is: “To believe in the Son whom the Father has sent.”  When asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:28-29) This is the teaching we are to put into practice – the exercise of putting our complete trust and faith in Jesus. But then, in order to grow in our faith, there are disciplines that we will follow to bring us to maturity in Christ.  We take root in a local assembly in order to be equipped for ministry. We exercise our spiritual gifts through good works so that we are putting His teachings into practice. This is how faith becomes effective and productive!  As James would remind us:

James 2:14-18 (NIV)

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

So it is important for us to active in our faith and engaged with those around us. Jesus made it clear that when we serve others, we are serving Him.  For Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:26) So we need to be where Jesus is and serving as Jesus would. For we are His Body in the world.

Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV)

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.41 “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

This passage does not teach that salvation is based on our good works; rather, this expounds on the things that we are saved by grace to be doing for the glory of God! Remember, “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. 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 2:8-10) So we have been saved to serve.  That is the point!  We serve with grace as we proclaim the light of truth through the Gospel.  This is what I believe it means when James tells us to get busy and serve.  If our faith does not activate us to be serving others, it is essentially no faith at all and we deceive ourselves if we think otherwise.

So let’s be about the Father’s business!  There is a world around us that is broken and hurting … searching for the answer we have received by grace through faith. The opportunities are not hard to find. The question is whether we are looking for them. Maybe it is time for us to be more intentional. To be sure, we should always share Jesus with our words. But as we all know; actions will always speak louder than our words. So I pray we will “be” Jesus to those who need Him more than ever before.  And I hope that thought will challenge us in the days ahead….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Light Has Come…

1 John 1:7 (NIV)

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

Good Afternoon!

Earlier this week, we looked at how believers are called to be light in the world.  The Apostle John spent considerable time on this theological issue in his gospel as well as the epistles that he wrote.  In 1 John, we find this declaration that God is Light … as another attribute of His nature.  Let’s look at it in context:

1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

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

I find this passage deep … and quite convicting. Verse 6 is very direct about how our relationship with the Father is dependent upon His light.  You and I cannot be wavering in our practice of faith when it comes to abiding in God.  We either live in the light of truth under its full conviction; or in essence, we have no relationship with God.  John asserts we cannot walk in the darkness and still claim that we have fellowship with God.  It is an “all light” or “no light” proposition as I read it….  But here is the wonderful outcome:  If we walk in the light of truth; we not only have fellowship with God but also with one another.  Just think of how much better our nation and world would be if each person lived in the light of truth.  There would be fellowship instead of division, conflict, and strife, among us.  As I shared in our last lesson, our country is not divided upon political lines; rather, it is divided between light and darkness.  But if we walk in the light … we will have fellowship with one another.  Think about it….

What is so interesting about light is that it is necessary for sight.  We cannot see anything in darkness. There must be light to illuminate darkness for our physical eyes to have the benefit of vision. The same is true for our spiritual eyes. As we studied, Paul affirmed, “The god of this age 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 God.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4) And why is spiritual light so important?  It exposes the darkness of sin!  John addressed this issue as well because it is at the heart of why God sent His Son into the world … the core message of the Gospel:

John 3:19-20 (NIV)

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

With this in mind, we can better understand when Jesus declared: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Cf. John 8:12) And later Jesus would state, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (Cf. John 9:5) The connection we need to make here is that Jesus is still in the world … right now!  You might ask, “How?” Well, He lives in each believer and abides in them through His Spirit to form the Body of Christ … the Church. It is the purpose and mission of the Church to be the light of the world.  (Cf. Matthew 5:14) But here is the problem we can face with unbelievers: “If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” We cannot be light if we ourselves walk in darkness. It is hypocrisy! We just deceive ourselves! Light is going to expose all sin! Light is going to expose darkness! As Paul exhorted, “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?” (Cf. Romans 6:1-2)

Now what is the application? When we share the Gospel with others, I believe a major point to share is the liberation that comes with light.  The knowledge of the truth is what sets a person free. (Cf. John 8:32) Sin and darkness holds a person captive, but Jesus was sent to be the light of life:

Isaiah 42:6-8 (NIV)

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.

Isaiah 61:1(NIV)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (the blind).

Jesus declared that these prophetic words were fulfilled in Him. (Cf. Luke 4:16-20) He is the Good News!  He is the Healer of brokenness!  He is the liberator of those held captive in darkness and sin! In Him is life, and that life is the light of all mankind! (Cf. John 1:4) This is what we need to be sharing with the prodigals and unbelievers! Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” (Cf. Romans 1:16) And before his death, Paul reflected on the necessity of sharing the Gospel in his parting instructions to Timothy … which has been preserved for our admonition as well:

2 Timothy 1:6-14 (NIV)

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. 11 And of this Gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Like Timothy, and all of the earliest disciples and apostles of Christ, we are to join with them in proclaiming, and yes, suffering for the Gospel. For it is Christ Jesus who has destroyed the death that comes from darkness. He is the One who has brought life and immortality to light through His sacrificial love and life. It is this Gospel … this Good News … we are to manifest to the world.  And if we should suffer for sharing the light of the truth, then we simply join our Lord Jesus, the Apostles, Paul, and all those who have devoted their lives to the making the love God known in this world. Jesus said, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (Cf. John 15:20) Peter addressed this issue as well:

1 Peter 4:12-19 (ESV)

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory (power) and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or even as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a follower of Jesus, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (Here Peter is quoting Proverbs 11:31) 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

So, here is the conclusion.  Let us walk in the light as He is in the light!  We must abide in His light in order to have fellowship with God and one another.  If we walk in darkness, we will not have fellowship with God nor one another. That is why we must receive and share the light of life which has been given to us in Christ Jesus. The light of God will bring us to the unity of faith and knowledge of the truth.  And it is the truth that we must guard with our hearts…. Let us not be ashamed of the Gospel; rather, let us convey it in truth.

Mark 8:34-38 (NIV)

34 Then He (Jesus) called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the Gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Powerful Word of God…

Romans 1:16 (NIV)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

When I read this familiar passage, so many thoughts come to mind about the importance of sharing the Gospel … the Good News about Jesus Christ … to whosoever will listen and believe.  Why is this so important? Well, Paul answers that question: “Because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”  There are two key points here regarding the Gospel: Power of God and Salvation! The power of God is His Word. He spoke creation into existence! (Cf. Genesis 1) And so, in order for a person to come to faith and receive salvation, the Word of God (the message about Jesus) must be heard and understood. I think of salvation in this context: “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) So, this is how are we created in Christ Jesus – it is through the Word of God … spoken through the prophets and in these last days through His Son.  (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-3)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.(John 1:14)

For the One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. (John 3:34)

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life. (John 6:63)

Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death. (John 8:51)

There are a multitude of Scriptures that emphasize the creative power of the Word of God; but we can begin to see with just these few I have shared that true life is received in Christ Jesus.  Life … eternal life is formed in us as we hear His words, listen to them, and apply them to our hearts.  And I love this pronouncement from God through the Prophet Isaiah: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Cf. Isaiah 55:11) Indeed, God has ordained that His Word … His Son … shall bring forth salvation.  As Jesus affirmed: “I know that His command leads to eternal life.  So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me say.” (Cf. John 12:50) So the issue is believing and trusting the Word of God … coming to a knowledge of the truth … and placing our faith in Jesus Christ.  And faith comes from hearing the message as Paul shares in Romans 10:

Romans 10:9-17 (NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him (Jesus) will never be put to shame.” (Quoting Isaiah 28:1612 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Quoting Joel 2:3214 How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Quoting Isaiah 52:7) 16 But not all the Israelites accepted the Good News. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (Quoting Isaiah 53:117 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Oh, I hope that I am carefully articulating this train of thought for someone here who has been trying to connect the dots. I pray a veil is being lifted right now for you to comprehend that it is the Word of God that creates you in Christ Jesus. “For you will be born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:23) You become a new creation in Him!  The old has gone and the new is come! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) This is how Jesus will encounter you and reveal Himself to you because you believe the Gospel and come to Him in faith!  Oh, I pray that you will believe this report … that you will experience His light piercing through the veil so that you “see Jesus” … that you experience His zealous love for you …  that an intimate relationship is forged! Yes, and know that today a multitude of prayers are being offered up for you … that intercession is being made for you. And I decree these words over you: “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Cf. Zephaniah 3:17) Even so, Amen!

Lord Jesus, you have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68) You are the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through you. (John 14:6) So, I pray your Word will go forth and accomplish the thing for which you have sent it.  I pray that your Word will speak new life into the one here who is diligently seeking you with their heart.  Reveal yourself to them.  Encounter them as only You can do, and set them free. Let doubt and desperation turn into peace and joy.  Let your presence and your love overwhelm them.  Let them hear you singing over them.  Let your Spirit bring assurance to their heart.  Let them know that they are saved! In Your Mighty Name, I pray.  Amen….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Love of Christ

Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

We have studied this Verse of the Day in recent weeks; so I will just put a larger portion of the passage out there for our consideration.  It really becomes a beautiful prayer of Paul for the Ephesian believers; and I like the deep messages it conveys regarding God’s purposes and Christ’s love. 

Ephesians 3:7-21 (NIV)

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to His eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In Him (Jesus) and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Indeed, each of us is a servant of the Gospel by the gift of God’s grace … through the working of His power.  We may not feel qualified, but His grace indeed qualifies each of us.  Through the CHURCH, God intends for His wisdom to be made known – to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.  You see, your life of faith in the Body of Christ impacts the heavenly realms as much as it does here on earth.  What God has accomplished IN Christ Jesus our Lord is what we have been called by His grace to declare … with our mouths, but more importantly, with our lives.  And so Paul prays for believers to be strengthen with power through His Spirit in our inner beings.  “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) It is through the power of His Spirit that we know the deep love of Christ … a love that surpasses knowledge … a love that imparts the fullness of God to those who believe in Him!

Yes, to know the love of God through Christ Jesus is the greatest grace of all!  It is available! It is receivable! It changes the hearts of those encountered! God is able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine.  Yes, we are more than adequately equipped through His grace to be servants of the Gospel!  Christ Jesus dwelling in our hearts is more than sufficient!  So, I pray we will let the intent of His great love empower us for service….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

He Was Despised

Isaiah 53:3-4

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….

It is the last day of March 2020!  Last day of the quarter!  Unfortunately, it is not the last day of the Coronavirus….  We are only a few days away from Palm Sunday … the start of the holy week leading up to the crucifixion … and then three days in preparation for the resurrection … Easter.  Somehow it all seems surreal at this moment in time and history.  Many of you, like myself, cannot remember an Easter Sunday when we were not at church for worship and celebration of our Lord Jesus.  I suspect this Easter will be a “first” of broken traditions in many ways….

When I read our verse for today … I had to pause again and reflect on its solemn tone and its prophetic description of the Messiah who would appear over 700 years later.  The words and imagery recorded by the Prophet Isaiah in Chapter 53 provoke such a deep sorrow within my soul every time that I read them. Yet within the lines of pain and anguish and sadness and brokenness lies a message of love so profound … so overwhelming … so unmerited and undeserved.  It reveals the incomprehensible depth of love God has for you and for me … that He would send His Son, Jesus, to bear the iniquities of us all … to bear our sin … to make intercession for us … to redeem us from the captivity and penalty of sin … to atone for the justice God required without hesitation or regret….

After the writer of Hebrews recounted those who lived by faith (Chapter 11), he commented: “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) But more important, the writer concluded, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Cf. Hebrews 12:1-2)

Did you see it?  Its reads: For the JOY set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. How many of us find or experience JOY in self-sacrifice?  Would any of us knowingly … willfully … joyfully allow ourselves to die on behalf of death row inmates?  That is what Christ did!  All of us … every one of us was on death row.  For the wages of sin is death! (Romans 6:23) That is the justice each human is destined to receive. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah) died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) This is what … or rather who … Isaiah foretold would come.  This is what God had already planned before the foundation of the world!  How can any human heart not be compelled to respond to the love of God?

Ephesians 2:1-4 (NIV)

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful human nature, and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Indeed, for those who believe in Jesus Christ, God withholds the penalty of death due for our transgression. The death sentence is pardoned because of His great mercy! Likewise, for those who believe in Jesus Christ, God gives us eternal life for our reward.  The gift is unmerited … undeserved because of His grace! Again I ask, “How can any human heart not be compelled to respond to the love of God which is in Christ Jesus?”  Yet we still live in a world filled with disbelief … some even in vehement rejection … just as it was when Jesus walked among His own people:

John 12:35-41 (NIV)

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When He had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid Himself from them. 37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the Prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message; and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Cf. Isaiah 53:1) 39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal (save) them.” (Cf. Isaiah 6:10) 41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

The issue of faith can be distilled down to two forces: light and darkness.  There is a kingdom of light and a kingdom of darkness; and a person belongs to one or the other.  Jesus declared to all: “I AM the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Cf. John 8:12) And in John 9:5, Jesus said, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world!”  What is the implication of His statement? Well, as long as the Church (the Body of Christ) is in the world, we are the light of the world. As long as the Church follows Jesus and submits to His authority, we will not walk in darkness nor lead others into darkness; rather, we will shine the light of the Gospel that leads to life … eternal life.

Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Ephesians 5:1-14 (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 truth10 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.”

So where am I headed with this train of thought?  Well, I had to ask myself the same question. Ha!  Let me cite another passage to bring this all together. In the conflict between belief and unbelief … in the conflict between light and darkness in our world …  the only light there is or will ever be is the light of God found in Jesus Christ!

John 1:1-13 (NIV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankindThe light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through Him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. 11 He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. 12 Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

So here is the application.  A person cannot become a child of God except through faith in Jesus Christ.  We cannot become children of light … we cannot be the light of the world … we cannot expose the darkness of this world … unless we have some to faith in Jesus Christ … the Word of God … the Messiah … the Holy One of Israel … the Light of the world. So, what is the glory of this Messiah that Isaiah saw and declared to Israel? Who is this Messiah that came to His own and His own did not receive Him?  In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  I want to remind us to remember and reflect upon the Messiah … our Lord and Savior Jesus … the One whom we have not seen except through the eyes of faith! Peter said, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

Do you want to see Him … the One you love … the One in whom you believe … the One whose love for you is undeniable? Behold Him, the Lamb of God, who takes away our sin….  Remember this portrait! This is Jesus … our Messiah!  He is the love of God.  He is the light of life … the light that shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….  Amen.

Isaiah 53 (NIV)

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 arrest 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 knowledge of Him 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.

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!

Verse of the Day – 02/08/19

Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

The passage presents another lesson on the command of Christ Jesus to love another as He has loved us.  In this passage, I observe that Jesus raises the bar.  The expression of love to others is not limited only to those we love or those that love us.  No, the expectation is higher – that we would love even our enemies and those who hate us or persecute us. Why? Because that is how God treated us! God loves the whole world … even those who express hatred toward Him or Jesus, His Son.  He is not willing that anyone should perish but that everyone would come to repentance. (Cf. 2 Peter 8-10) To be sure, judgment and condemnation will come to those who do not believe in Christ Jesus. But in His patience and long-suffering, God is benevolent to all … displaying the riches of His grace and kindness in order to lead people to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) So in this passage, Jesus shares a couple of simple examples of this kindness: He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Think about what Jesus is saying here.  God is good and gracious to all people regardless of the intent of their hearts or their manner of life.  Everyone on the earth experiences the sun rise each day.  Everyone receives the rain when it falls. The goodness of God is evident in His creation regardless of whether a person recognizes it. So Jesus implies that we are to be like-minded in our attitudes and conduct toward others.  While it may be hard to fathom … much less perform … we are called to be indiscriminately gracious and kind to all.  We are not to love others based on whether they deserve it; rather, we are to be merciful to the ungrateful and the evil like our Father in Heaven.  When we reflect the nature of God … when we imitate His benevolence to others …  we show that we are His children.  As Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Cf. John 13:35) I want us to look at this same passage in the Gospel of Luke because (true to form) it has a little more detail in the narrative:

Luke 6:27-38 (NIV)

27 “But I say to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your shirt (tunic) either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

In reading this passage in its comparative context, I think there is a lesson that we might miss with just a casual reading.  Yes, we know that we are to be nice people as Christians.  We are to be merciful, kind, forgiving, and generous toward others; but just as I said earlier, Jesus raised the bar!  He said to lend, expecting nothing in return.  He said to judge not and condemn not because you and I will be held to the same standard of judgment or condemnation we “assess” on others.  Yet, notice that Jesus indicated there would be reward for those who follow His instruction.  As we find recorded in Verse 35, when we love our enemies and do good and lend without expectation for reciprocation, we will receive “great reward” as children of the Most-High God.  If we do not judge others, we will not be judged.  If we do not condemn others, we will not be condemned. If we give, it will be returned by God in ways that will overflow in abundance to us!  And please observe that Jesus does not qualify whether the person we encounter is worthy of such mercy or kindness … on any level.  These are imperatives with high expectation for fulfillment … and with promise of great reward in doing so. (Cross reference with Psalm 19).

I cannot emphasize this point enough. If we intend to be followers of Christ, our actions … our words … our conduct with others should not be based on their worthiness.  It is based on mercy … the same mercy that we have received from God through Christ Jesus our Lord! Paul addressed this point for us:

Romans 5:8-11 (NIV)

8 But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Sinners are justified by the blood of Christ!  There is no other justification acceptable to our Holy Father.  So no amount of focus and hostility toward others with a self-righteous attitude is going to lead them to the reconciliation they want and need.  It is by grace we have been saved, through faith – and this is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) None of us is worthy … I repeat … none of us is worthy of the price that was paid for our sin. It was the kindness of God our Savior who gave Himself for all who would come to faith.  And those who are ungodly (like we were) need our Savior …  not our judgment or condemnation! In fact, neither of these indictments were the intent of our Lord Jesus when He was sent by the Father into world:

John 3:16-17 (ESV)

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.

John 5:21-23 (ESV)

21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

John 8:15-16 (ESV)

15 You judge according to human standards; I judge no one16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.

John 12:46-48 (ESV)

46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

So we need to understand the heart of this message.  When God took the judgment for our sin and removed the condemnation for our own darkness and unbelief (Cf. John 3:18; Romans 8:1), He did so out of mercy and love.  His pardon of our sin was unmerited and undeserved!  So who are we to pass judgment or condemnation on anyone? Jesus called us to be merciful, even as our Father is merciful.  We need to have this attitude (mindset) in our relationships with others. As Paul wrote in Romans 14:1, we are to accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. The verse implies there are matters of faith which are indisputable, but that is not a focus of this particular lesson.  Still, it is in this context that Paul continued:

Romans 14:10-13 (NIV)

10 You, then, why do you judge another believer? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat11 It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” (Cf. Isaiah 45:23) 12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. (See Also 2 Corinthians 5:9-11)

Jesus Himself modeled an excellent example for us on how we are to express His mercy to others who are living a sin-filled life:

John 8:2-11 (NIV)

At dawn Jesus appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with His finger. When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.

My thought is that we need to focus less on the sin of others and more on leading them to Jesus – the One who was sent by the Father not to judge or condemn the world but to save the world.  The woman in this passage had transgressed the law and committed adultery, and yet, Jesus did not condemn her; rather, He showed mercy and in doing so led her to repentance and faith in Him.  That is all God has asked of any of us: Repentance and Faith! Yet, please do not misunderstand what is being said here.  Jesus has made it clear that there WILL be a Day of Judgment.  And we will all give an account of our lives. The distinction between those who receive eternal life and those who receive the second death (Cf. Revelation 20:14-15) is based on how a person responds to the truth and love of God.  A person who dismisses the love of God … who rejects His Son … who does not believe the testimony of His Word … will be thrown into the lake of fire (His words not mine).  Those who believe God and receive the gift of His Son as Lord and Savior through repentance and faith will receive eternal life.  It is God who will judge and condemn … or rather … the Word of God that will judge and condemn a person. (Cf. John 3:18; John 12:48)

1 John 5:6-13 (NIV)

This is the One who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

This is the Gospel!  This is the good news we have through Jesus Christ!  This is the truth!  Therefore, let us speak the truth in love to everyone we encounter. (Cf. Ephesians 4:15) And let us be wise in the way we act toward outsiders; making the most of every opportunity. Let our conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how to answer everyone. (Cf. Colossians 4:6) Like you … like me … like the woman caught in adultery … every person is intuitively aware of and will be convicted of the sin and ungodliness within their heart through the role of the Holy Spirit. (Cf. John 16:8) Yet, there is another truth to proclaim: “There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Cf. Romans 8:1) So instead of engaging people specifically about their particular sin(s) … I believe we should be engaging them to encounter the only One who can save them from their sin. What they have done or continue to do is far less important than who Jesus is! The works of the flesh (Cf. Galatians 5:19-21) are just symptomatic of the greater problem in a person’s heart … rejection of the Truth!  Faith comes by hearing the message (testimony), and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Cf. Romans 10:17)

Think about it, did you or I come to faith in Jesus because someone kept badgering us, judging us, or condemning us for our sinful and unrighteous living?  I doubt that was the reason. Your conscience … my conscience … already instinctively knew right from wrong.  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) No, you and I and every believer surrendered to Christ Jesus because we heard the truth and received the testimony God had given about Him. We understood that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23) And the truth convinced us that we needed Jesus … a Savior who is willing and able to forgive us of all our sins. (Cf. Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16)

So like our former experience, those who still live in darkness are probably aware of their sin but are slaves to its deception and darkness. What they need to see is the Light of the world!  They need to see Jesus first and foremost! Like the woman at the well … like the one caught in adultery … like Zacchaeus the dishonest tax collector … those who encountered Jesus were changed forever. The grace and truth of Jesus … His passionate, persistent love … will inspire unbelievers and draw them toward the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen (Cf. Hebrews 11:1).  Like other believers, they too will respond in repentance and come to faith in Jesus.  And the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth and sanctify them by the truth.  As the writer of Hebrews asserts: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) Yes, the Word of God … the Gospel … conveys the love of God in its purest and deepest form. For God our Savior desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and people, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:4-6) Yes, I believe this is the message all people need to hear … much more so than our judgment and condemnation. Amen!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 01/29/19

Mark 9:35

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Our Verse of the Day is a call to humility….  Jesus taught that if you want to be the leader … if you want to be first … then you have to put yourself last.  A leader is expected to be a servant … a servant of all.  And Jesus role-modeled this “unorthodox” approach to leadership to make a spiritual point with His disciples.  We can find it the Gospel of John:

John 13:1-17 (NIV)

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For He knew who was going to betray Him, and that was why He said not every one was clean.

12 When He (Jesus) had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than His master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent Him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Think about this scene for a moment.  Jesus has just humbled Himself like an ordinary servant to make an important point with His disciples.  Jesus had taught that He and God the Father are One … of One essence … and yet Jesus demonstrates that He is willing to serve out of reverence to the Father who sent Him into the world.  Servants are not greater than their masters.  Messengers are not greater than the ones who send them.  And that is what His disciples (students or followers) were to become … ones sent on a mission (or Apostles).  And that is what we are … ones sent on that same mission to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  We are not greater than the One who has called us and sent us on this mission.  Therefore, we are to follow the example of Christ – and be servants of all!

In his Letter to the Philippians, Paul testifies to the humility of Jesus Christ and the power of servitude for the glory of God:

Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He Humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and 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.

And Paul, as usual, shares some very practical advice on HOW to be a servant to all in his Letter to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Are you and I willing to wash feet?  Are you and I willing to become all things to all people so that by all possible means we might effectuate their coming to faith in Jesus Christ … and therefore be saved … bringing glory to the God who saved us?  What are we willing to do for the sake of the Gospel? I am reminded again of how any one of us came to faith in Christ:

Romans 10:14-17 (NIV)

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (cf. Isaiah 52:7) 16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (cf. Isaiah 53:1) 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Everything we do as believers … as those who God has chosen to be conformed to the image of His Son (cf. Romans 8:29) … we are called to be “servants to all”.  This is our job description as followers of Christ.  We are to be ambassadors of the good news found in Jesus Christ … as though God were making His appeal through us. (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) Paul did the most incredible work in this regard, and he urges us to follow in his footsteps.  God has called as many as He has chosen to be given to His Son for salvation (cf. John Chapter 17) … but we have to realize that we who have been granted salvation received it through the service of people of faith who lived before us.  My point being … God uses people to accomplish His work.  We were saved because another person was obedient to God and ministered the Gospel to us … just as God had ordained for them to do according to His own plan and purpose.  The work of salvation did not end with them … nor should it end with us who now believe because of their testimony.  It is an amazing thing to consider that God chose to save us in order to save others through us….  But that is a very humbling thing to consider as well.  The God who created the universe … who created me … wants me to be an instrument of His grace?

Consider what Jesus prayed:

John 17:1-10; 20-24 (NIV)

After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. “I have revealed you (your name) to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Wow!  Such wonderful, inspiring, prayerful words to receive from our Lord Jesus!  First, we come to know that we were GIVEN by God the Father TO Jesus Christ to receive salvation and eternal life through Him. If nothing else, that should humble us into reverent fear and worship! But do you see the greater theme going on here?  Jesus is praying for those who will believe … who will come to faith through sharing the Gospel with them.  It is the message of sharing the truth of God to the world that unites us with all believers!  God knows who He has chosen to give to His Son, and He knows who will believe His report.  BUT WE DO NOT!  So in the absence of this specific knowledge, we are called to share the report … the Gospel … with everyone.  Yes, and we are to battle in prayer for everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth!  As Paul wrote to Timothy:

1 Timothy 2: 1-7 (NIV)

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 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. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

We, as believers, were “predestined” to join the “legacy of witnesses” who have testified to the truth that is found in Christ Jesus! We came to faith because of hearing the message of Jesus Christ that was preached to us and we received it in our hearts.  We were born again of imperishable seed through the living and enduring Word of God. (cf. 1 Peter 1:23) And like the Apostles before us, we have been “sent” to serve those who are being born now and will come to faith (as God foreordained). The question is: “Will we be obedient to His call to share the Gospel with those God has chosen for salvation.” When I asked myself this question, my thoughts raced back to the Book of Ephesians, and here is what God reminded me:

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 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. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Note Verse 10.  We who have been saved by the grace of God are HIS handiwork.  God created us in Christ Jesus to do good works – which He prepared in advance for us to do!  That work is serving others. That work is ministering to others.  That work is proclaiming the kindness of God expressed in Christ Jesus.  For it is the kindness of God that is intended to lead people to repentance. (cf. Romans 2:4) Oh how I pray that each of us will understand this call to humility … to servant leadership! By its definition …. by its very nature … it is how we serve God and His Kingdom.  I pray that our lives will be “living gospels” to draw the lost to the Lord Jesus.  I think that is the heart of His message to the disciples.  This is what the call to be “servants of all” truly means….

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Evening!