Saved For Sanctification

2 Peter 3:3 (NIV)

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.

Our verse today continues to focus on the issue salvation for sanctification. I think we should add Verses 4-8 to it so that we would have a broader context for our study.  We have been looking at the gift of salvation … and the plan God ordained to save us from the darkness of this world before the Creation was spoken into existence.  It is fascinating to ponder the foreknowledge of God and His will as manifested through His love.  Like the Apostle John, the Apostle Peter, also an eyewitness of the majesty of Jesus Christ, came to understand that faith in Him gives us the right to become children of God.  Yes, all who receive Him into their hearts … who believe in His name … He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (Cf. John 1:12-13) And so as children of God, we will grow in our faith to bear His image because our salvation was provided for this purpose … to be set apart … to be sanctified … to be holy just as He is holy. (Cf. 1 Peter 1:15)

When we are born-again of the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ, His Spirit comes to indwell us.  The outcome of this event is what Peter spoke about in this passage.  Peter declared, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness!  His divine power was given to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  As Paul corroborated, “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….” (2 Timothy 1:9)And Paul, in his Letter to Titus observed, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

Through these (His own glory and goodness), God has given us His very great and precious promises (salvation and eternal life), so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

I hope this is making sense.  God ordained our salvation because of His own glory and goodness.  It was His mercy and love that brought grace to existence.  And, again, it is clear that God desires us to “participate in His divine nature”.  This is our calling to holiness!  This is our empowerment to become holy in all that we do!  As Paul exhorted:

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

1 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 lusts 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.

And so Peter goes on to explain that there is an ultimate purpose for faith to be formed in us.  The initial purpose of faith is to bring us the light of the Gospel and to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.  “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Cf. John 1:4) Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Cf. John 8:12) And we can infer that in the beginning,  God ordained for light to be separated from darkness. (Cf. Genesis 1:4) So it follows that our salvation through Jesus Christ was accomplished in order to separate us from the Kingdom of Darkness in this world and to transfer us into the Kingdom of Light.  As Paul concluded, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves.” (Colossians 1:13) This is consistent with what John declared, “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

I want us to look at the passage below wherein Paul stands before King Agrippa and shares what the Lord Jesus said to him during their encounter on the road to Damascus:

Acts 26:12-19 (NIV)

12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 

Wow! God desires for His people to be turned from darkness to light … from the power of Satan to God.  His purpose is to sanctify us through the salvation received in faith!  His purpose is to separate us unto Himself!  This is what it means to be “sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ”.   And this is what Peter is driving at in his epistle.  There is process of sanctification  for us to enter after we have come to faith in Jesus Christ!  I invite you to look at this process as we continue with our verse:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Is this not the process of sanctification laid out for us?  Add to your faith goodness … knowledge … self-discipline … perseverance … godliness … mutual affection … love!  Yes, the light of Jesus should be moving you and I along in the pursuit of love itself … the giving and sharing of the same love which God demonstrated to us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) Through the process of sanctification we are conformed to the same depth of love we received in Christ Jesus. “For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son….” (Cf. Romans 8:29a)  Again, I hope this is making sense….

If people think that reciting the “sinner’s prayer” in repentance, and confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior is all that God has called you to do, I challenge them to look at these Scriptures again. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified!” (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3) Our sanctification IS the objective! Indeed, no one can become set apart for God without first receiving the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit! “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) But it is clear that we must ADD to our faith in order to fully love as we have been loved….

I will close with a couple of Scriptures for us to meditate on.  I believe these passages are a call to the Prodigal … to the wayward and unfaithful among us.   Take some time and allow God to speak to your heart and mine about the perseverance of faith … required to complete the process of sanctification we must all undergo under the hand of God.  Oh, He is testing us!  He is refining us.  God wants us to see the value of faith … for it is of greater value than pure gold.  (Cf. 1 Peter 1:7)  So let us move on in sanctification to accomplish the holiness God desires for us to be like Him.  For without holiness, no one will see the Lord. (Cf. Hebrews 12:14) Amen.

Hebrews 10:32-39 (NIV)

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.” (Cf. Isaiah 26:20; Habakkuk 2:3) 38 And, “But the righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” (Cf. Habakkuk 2:4) 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

2 John 4-9 (NIV)

It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 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 say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Called to a Holy Life

2 Timothy 1:9-10

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.

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

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

Romans 3:20-26 (NIV)

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

Hebrews 2:14-18 (NIV)

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

1 John 2:1-6 (ESV)

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

1 John 4:9-11 (ESV)

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

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

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

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

Revelations 13:5-8 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

Colossians 1:9-20 (ESV)

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

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Those Who Fear Him

Psalm 103:13 (NIV)

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;

Our verse today speaks to the love of our Heavenly Father for His children … and so I wanted to go ahead and past it along today as well.  The Psalmist observes how human fathers are compassionate to their children … realizing that they make mistakes … forgiving them when they fall short of expectations … and conveying to them that love is not based upon performance.  Love. Compassion. Grace. Forgiveness.  These are all things that fathers impart to their children.  And so the Psalmist affirms that God deals with us, His children, in a similar manner.  But I would venture to say, though, that it was God who modeled and taught us the true meaning of love and compassion in the first place….  Look at the surrounding text:

Psalm 103:7-14 (NIV)

7 He made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever;
10 He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;
14 for He knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust.

Just a quick observation here – note the phrase “those who fear Him.”  The Father’s love is great to those who fear Him.  He has compassion on those who fear Him.  You will find this expression used throughout Scripture.  Often it contrasts how God deals with those who love Him versus those in rebellion and disobedient to Him.  So if you are not “feeling the love” or “feeling the compassion” of God … then check your “fear”.  Examine the sincerity of your reverence for God.  How do you honor Him?  How do you express your love or gratitude to Him? Do you spend time with Him?  Is God in your thoughts throughout the day?  In Verse 10, the Psalmist asserts, “God does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”  What do you think?  Should He? Does God’s mercy affect how you view Him?  How you worship Him?

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…. (Cf. Romans 8:1) How does knowing you have been set free from the wrath of God through Christ Jesus impact your reverence for God?  Verse 12 above states, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” It reminds me of another Scripture: “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Cf. Colossians 2:13-14) Oh, I think we really need to take a deeper look at “those who fear Him”.  We need to stir ourselves up in this present generation and culture to revisit what it means to truly “fear” God … to have reverence for Him … to devote ourselves to His Word … to ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us so that holiness and righteousness come to the forefront of our minds each morning as a new day begins!

To fear God is to have the proper reverence and awe for Him so that we do whatever is required of us in order to serve Him. (Cf. Psalm 89:7; Hebrews 12:28) It means being cognizant of His presence – understanding that His eyes are upon us and His ears are attentive to our prayers. (Cf. Psalm 34:15) It means we are more concerned about what we might do to offend Him rather than how He might respond if we do.  It means we are more concerned with not dishonoring Him; displeasing Him; or disgracing Him through our words or conduct.  In short, it means that our deepest desire is to avoid sin at all cost.  Likewise, it means that we wholly endeavor to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength – and to keep His commandments. (Cf. Deuteronomy 10:12-13) The fear of the Lord is what captures our hearts to take sin seriously enough to die daily.  After all, it was the sin of the world that compelled God to send His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (Cf. 1 John 2:2) Yes, sin in any form is that offensive to God!

In Psalm 130:3-4 (NIV) we read, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”  Is it not the compassion of the Lord that leads us to “fear” Him?  Is it not His kindness that leads us to repentance? (Cf. Romans 2:4) We need to meditate on this Word for us because the blessings of God … His great love … His compassion … are for those who fear Him!  So what is the conclusion? “Now that all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Cf. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) Yes, at the end of the day, there is no doubt as to what the Father desires of His children.  He wants us to love Him as demonstrated by our reverence and obedience to His commandments.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Cf. John 14:15) And John concluded, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (Cf. 1 John 5:3)

I pray that each of us will examine ourselves and think more deeply about all it means to “fear God.”  I have probably only scratched the surface here, so I encourage us to look further into the Word of God for more wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.  Now that I think about it … that does sound ironic because “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Cf. Proverbs 9:10) But maybe that’s right!  Maybe the fear of the Lord actually does begin with His Word….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Wisdom From Heaven

James 3:17-18

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Wisdom….  We all need it.  We are urged by the Apostle James to ask for it.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) But we need to distinguish the wisdom that comes from God … and the wisdom that comes from the world and human intellect.  In seeking the wisdom for living that comes from God, James writes:

James 3:13-18 (NIV)

13 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. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Here we have a challenge … that our very lives should emulate the character of Christ Jesus. And James has some fairly salient points for us to consider.  He starts with the premise that those who are wise and have spiritual understanding demonstrate their “depth of faith” by living a “good life”.  And then he defines a “good life” as “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom”.  So as to further explain his instruction, James then contrasts the differences between the “earthly” or “carnal” wisdom of the world with the “heavenly” or “spiritual” wisdom that comes from God.  I think it might be useful to breakdown these “distinctions” James brings to our attention:

Wisdom that does NOT come down from heaven is labeled earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. It is manifested in human conduct such as “harboring bitter envy” or “selfish ambition” in your heart.  He goes on to observe that wherever you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”  In other words, envy, jealousy, pride, covetousness, idolatry, and greed proceed from a pattern of life that is sensual, brutish, and of this world.  Such behavior is inconsistent with a life rooted in the love of God. By contrast, we see that those who live a “good life” through the wisdom that God gives are:

            Pure                            (i.e. seek holiness and self-control)

            Peace-Loving             (i.e. seek resolution to conflict and reconciliation)

            Considerate               (i.e. seek the good of others above themselves)

            Submissive                 (i.e. not only to God but to each other)

            Full of Mercy             (i.e. readily forgiving)

            Full of Good Fruit    (i.e. acts of service and compassion)

            Impartial                    (i.e. righteous judgement; unbiased)

            Sincere                       (i.e. genuine; unpretentious, faithful)

So we can infer from these “distinctions” in wisdom for living what is best, good, and wholesome in our relationships with others versus what is immoral, destructive, and unrestrained to the extent that physical, emotional, and spiritual harm ensues to another.  Only the wisdom that comes from above equips a person to live the righteous life God intends for each of us to live!  Perhaps that is the very reason God has drawn us to believe in His Son – so that we might be filled with His Spirit … the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (Cf. Isaiah 11:2).

No doubt, to be filled with the Spirit of God is essential to living a “good life” as James envisions it.  And I can almost hear Paul chime in with his Letter to the Galatians on this matter … parsing out the same contrasts as James:

Galatians 5:13-26 (NIV)

13 You, my brothers and sisters, have been called to liberty. But do not use your liberty to indulge the flesh (and its nature); rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Cf. Leviticus 19:1815 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (the wisdom that comes from heaven). 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

So my prayer is that we will seek wisdom … ask for wisdom … and apply wisdom to our hearts so that our lives will be good and beneficial to others.  This is HOW we are to love one another as we ourselves have been loved by God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  So I will conclude with an excerpt of the prayer Paul offered up for the believers in Colossae: “I do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Cf. Colossians 1:9-10)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Cross of Self-Denial

Luke 9:23-24

Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

When I read this verse, all kinds of thoughts came to mind….  Do I deny myself?  Do I pick up a daily cross of selflessness or shame or suffering for the sake of Christ?  This is what it means to follow Jesus.  This is what giving your life for Him translates to in reality.  Jesus asserts whoever WANTS to be my disciple … my follower … MUST deny themselves.  So here is the challenge question for every believer: Do we truly, sincerely, honestly WANT to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ?

We I think any believer would answer, “Yes! I want to be His disciple.”  But I wonder how much we ever really examine ourselves in light of this “requirement”.  I say requirement because Jesus said “must”.  What must we deny in or of ourselves to be a sincere disciple?  What does the cross of self-denial actually look like on a daily basis? Denial in this context means to “refuse to give or grant (something desired) to (someone).  So self-denial means we refuse to grant indulgence in our own sinful desires as we pursue (follow) the righteous desires of Christ Jesus for our lives and for His glory. Thus, I believe the primary expectation is that we “die to sin” which is the very purpose for which Jesus bore the cross.  Paul wrote about the necessity of holiness in our lives:

Ephesians 4:17-24 (NIV)

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.  20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (NIV)

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 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; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Disciples will die to themselves (their former natures).  As Paul reasoned, “And Jesus died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15) And again, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) If the CROSS represents death, then we must die daily to our former sinful nature and live worthy of the Lord in every facet of our lives. And the implication is that this transformation of our lives is not optional. It is the natural outcome of the rebirth we experience when we come to Jesus in faith and receive His life as our own…. 

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

I AM the Resurrection

Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

It’s hard to believe we are already a week into April.  Easter is just two weeks away … and I am excited about the celebration to come.  I will address the Verse of the Day above in a moment, but first I would like to explore the topic of the resurrection itself because Paul addresses how we should live and walk under the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. During His time of ministry, Jesus Himself affirmed that the resurrection of our own bodies will occur:

Matthew 22:23; 29-32 (NIV)

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question.

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? (Cf. Exodus 3:6) He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Jesus confirmed to the Sadducees that the resurrection is not some foolish hope or religious myth. God has revealed to us the truth of the resurrection through His Word.  And later, Jesus shared with His disciples regarding His own power and authority to grant eternal life to those who believe in Him….

John 11:21-27 (NIV)

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Again, from this conversation between Jesus and Martha, Martha professes her belief in the resurrection and Jesus assures her that Lazarus will “rise again”.  But Jesus goes on the reveal something much greater than her belief in a theological concept.  Jesus claims to be the agency and reality of her faith! “I AM the resurrection and the life.” And then He asks her (and us) a very pointed question: “Do You believe this?” His question was not about whether she believed in the possibility of physical resurrection.  His question concerned whether she believed that HE is the resurrection and the life?  And her response was indeed the correct one!  Jesus IS the Messiah, the Son of God, who came into the world as testified through the Word of God spoken through the Holy Prophets and now revealed to us through His life.  (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-3)

But in our Verse of the Day, Paul challenges us to living a “resurrected life” now! Since Jesus has already died to take away the sin of the world, Paul indicates that His death became our own death to sin.  Likewise, the resurrected Jesus became the new life that we can live through faith in Him who loves us and gave Himself for us.  This is an incredible theological construct for us to embrace.  And Paul goes on to explain the application for us. In Verse 21 Paul continued, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

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. (Romans 3:20) For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. (Romans 3:28) Salvation and eternal life are not earned, gained, or otherwise merited upon human effort. No human has ever been 100% obedient to the commandments of God except Christ Jesus alone.  A blood sacrifice for atonement was required … and God sent His Son to be the propitiation for the sin of the world.  Jesus, our Redeemer, was the Lamb of God … without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-20)

So what I believe Paul is teaching in this passage is that the efficacy of His sacrifice should become immediate in the life of a believer.  That is, we should individually identify with His sacrifice – specifically to the death of our sinful, human nature and to the resurrection (spiritual rebirth) of our lives through faith in Jesus, the Son of God.  The lives we now live in our redeemed bodies, we live by faith in the One who loves us and gave Himself for us…. Look at these incredible words of longing Paul wrote as He contemplated living in light of the resurrection:

Philippians 3:7-11 (NIV)

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and the power of participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

No, Jesus did not die in vain. He accomplished all the Father sent Him to do. “It is finished!” And through His resurrection, we have full assurance of and confidence in His promise to grant us eternal life! We receive this assurance through the Holy Spirit. And as Paul asserted with Timothy, ” For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:17) Yes, we can live in the power of His resurrection now and become vessels of His righteousness in us. So I pray that we will all give deeper thought and consideration to these truths for our lives….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Spirit-Filled Grace

2 Timothy 1:9 (NIV)

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 …

In his appeal and instruction to Timothy in this letter, Paul affords some great theological concepts for us to ponder. Let’s look at our verse in a wider context:

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-discipline. 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.

Paul speaks about the Holy Spirit a few times in this passage.  In Verse 6, Paul tells Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God….”  The implication is that Timothy has some degree of influence over the Holy Spirit within him.  Here Paul is basically telling Timothy to “get fired up for God.” Why?  Well in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul is giving instructions to believers and admonishes them: “Do not quench the Spirit.” When you quench a fire, you are stopping its source of fuel or air.  You are attempting to extinguish it.  With the use of this metaphor, Paul indicates that we (believers) can “inhibit” the power and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  There appears to be an exertion of the human will that can counteract the will of the Spirit to give us power, love, and self-disciple as Verse 7 mentions.  To me, the application is that if we are timid … if we are ashamed of the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ … if we are unwilling to suffer for His sake … it is not because of His unwillingness to empower us. Verse 8 tells us that God gives us the “power to suffer for the Gospel”.  So if we are timid, it is our own unwillingness to “unleash” the Holy Spirit to drive our spirits and guide our souls.  So Paul tell us – fan into flame the gift of God who indwells us and do not quench Him!

Part of the suffering we will encounter as believers appears to be related to living a holy life!  That’s right!  We will suffer from being good and doing good for others…. But that is the reason we were saved by the grace of God.  We have been called to holiness … and that is the hardest thing for a human to do.  In fact, we cannot do it apart from the power of God through His Spirit within us.  As Jesus asserted, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Cf. Luke 18:27) And this power sometimes comes to us in the form of grace … a grace that was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.  And we know that His grace is sufficient because His power is made perfect (complete) in weakness. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9) So we just need to realize that suffering goes with the experience of being human … but as a believer there is great reward for going through it … eternal life!  All the more reason to fan into flame the gift of God!

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. This is pretty straightforward advice. The theological intellect that Paul had to share was incredible.  I think that is why God called him to be a herald and an apostle and a teacher; and we would do well to heed his instruction and guidance in matters of faith – wouldn’t you agree? Paul tells Timothy to “guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”  So what is Paul talking about here?  Well, I believe the concept here is the “depositing” of the Holy Spirit within us.  Let’s look to some other Scriptures to captures this point:

2 Corinthians 1:21-23 (NIV)

21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,22 set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 5:4-5 (NIV)

For while we are in this earthly body, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly body, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the One who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Ephesians 1:13-15 (NIV)

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 with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.

Notice how Paul uses this concept to explain the function of the Holy Spirit in our salvation – to be a deposit (like a down payment) on a promise or covenant to be kept in the future.  A deposit is similar to a pledge or an oath to do something further, but you want to go ahead and “seal the deal” now.  You put a deposit on a house because you intend to purchase and you want the seller to know you are serious about your commitment to follow through on the deal.  Well, in this context, God has given us His Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.  It’s an awesome analogy that Paul uses here to help us understand what God is doing.  When you come to faith in Jesus Christ, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  He is sent to indwell you … put in your heart … as a guarantee of what is to come … eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  That is what you and I have been called to embrace and believe with our entire being! So why would we ever want to quench the Spirit of God who was given to us for life here and now … especially since we know that suffering will be part of what we must endure?

Well, I hope that I have stirred your thoughts on this subject.  I know Paul has challenged my thinking through this letter; and I pray that I will not quench the Holy Spirit in my life at all … nor grieve Him through willful conduct in conflict with the call of holiness.  (Cf. Isaiah 63:9-11; Ephesians 4:29-31For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. Amen!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Evening!

Nowhere to Hide….

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

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.

Our verse today continues to point us toward the pursuit of holiness in our lives; however, in full context we find a focus on the glory and power of God.  I often go to this Psalm to remind myself that God is ever presence … no matter where I go … no matter what I am doing or saying.  He is there observing … listening … knowing the thoughts of my heart.  As David asserts, we cannot hide from God … there is nowhere to run from His presence … because He fills all things and knows all things.  We deceive ourselves if we think or entertain otherwise….

I have reprinted the entire Psalm here for your reference so that you can consider the context of the prayerful petition David presents:

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

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, 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, 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.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Besides the introspection we find here, I feel that David conveys a calm, “surrendered” tone in his discourse.  He seems to find delight in the fact that God knows him … and knows him intimately.  David does not seem fearful of this knowledge because in Verses 23-24 we see David inviting God to search him and test him. Why?  Because David desired to correct anything displeasing to God.  David sought accountability from God … and knew God would tell him the truth in love.  He sees the rebellion in the hearts of others and despises it.  He sees their evil intent and knows it offends God.  David wants no part of their iniquities and asks God to cleanse his own heart.  All of this meditation is within the context of God’s omniscience and omnipresence.

So what are the implications for us and our walk with God?  Very much the same….  If we know that God sees all (and He does), how should that affect our conduct, our conversation, our confession, and our commitment?  Should we not be more self-aware of God and His presence?  Should we not fear (have great reverence) for the Creator who formed us and gave us the breath of life?  We are living beings and God delighted to create us and have fellowship with us.  Why do we run or try to hide from His presence?  It is futile … and David makes the case here right.

I asked that question, but the answer is obvious.  Did not the first human beings flee from the presence of God in the Garden of Eden?  Adam and Eve were disobedient and knew it … and “hid themselves” because of their guilt and shame. (Cf. Genesis 3:10)  It happens to us all.  Each of us has separated ourselves from God because of our sin.  So we need both His forgiveness and reconciliation.  And God in His great love, compassion, and mercy, provided us with His forgiveness and reconciliation.  It is found in the life of His Son, Jesus.  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Cf. Acts 4:12)

As I ponder this Psalm, I thought about what the Apostle John wrote along these lines.  Why do people run from God instead of to Him?  I love how John frames this concern within the context of God’s tremendous love us:

John 3:16-21 (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.

In his Psalm, David sought the light of God for his heart and for his life.  He wanted to know the truth and follow the ancient way (Cf. Jeremiah 6:16)  David had figured out that God, being who God is, already knows everything about us anyway.  He already knows the truth because He formed us.  We are not going to hide anywhere from the presence of God. It is impossible.  So we might as well submit to Him … be cleansed by Him … be redeemed and reborn through His Son as God made provision.  Yes, we need to join David and ask God to search our hearts … to test and refine us … to remove any offensive attribute or character flaw … and to lead us in the way, the truth, and the life. Otherwise, like the world, we will show that we love darkness more than light.  Like the world, we will deceive ourselves into thinking God does not hear our words or observe our deeds.  Like the world, we will become indifferent to the presence of God and His love – indifferent to the cross and the atoning blood of His Son shed upon it.

So, let this be our prayer … each of us.  Let us pray like David: 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.  Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Evening!

Verse of the Day – 01/28/19

John 4:24

God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in Truth.”

I love this Verse of the Day because it addresses two great points about worship.  Jesus taught that our worship of God must be specific and intentional.  Specific addresses that worship must be spiritualIntentional addresses that worship must be sincere.  To explain spiritual matters in practical terms, I always look to the Apostle Paul for insight.

Romans 12:1 (New International Version)

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.

Romans 12:1 (English Standard Version)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your (rational) spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1 (New American Standard Version)

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your (rational) spiritual service of worship. 

Romans 12:1 (New King James Version)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable (rational) service.

I reprinted several translations of Romans 12:1 because I wanted you to get a diverse since of how the Greek is translated in this passage.  Regardless of how the relationship to worship is presented (i.e. true and proper worship or spiritual worship), all the passages agree that acceptable worship to God is the presentation of yourself … your body as a living and holy sacrifice.  In other words, true and rational worship in bodily action is how your spiritual worship is manifested. And Paul indicates to us that true worship is sacrificial in conduct and holy in nature.  Acceptable worship means we have set ourselves apart (consecrated ourselves) to serve God and His Kingdom in these vessels He has given us – that is our human bodies….

Perhaps easier said than done, but spiritual worship … true worship is ultimately a sacrificial offering of our “surrendered” selves to God.  It means everything we are in our inner being … our souls… is focused on pleasing Him and doing His will. That requires submission not to religious rites or human constructs; rather, it requires a reverent fear of the holy God who saved us and calls us to be holy just as He is holy. (Cf. 1 Peter 1:16) It means that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. (Cf. Luke 9:23) It means to do what is right and just … which is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifices. (Cf. Proverbs 21:3) And it is because of His mercy toward us that we feel compeled to do so.

Isaiah 29:13-14 (NIV)

13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.  14 Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

You see, worship is not something we can pretend. It is not merely following a prescribed set of rules or rituals taught by organized denominations or hierarchies.  Worship is ultimately the sincere, rational expression of the personal relationship you have with Jesus Christ.  The closer you draw to Him … the more you submit to His authority … the more you will abide in Him (and He in you).  Worship then becomes a natural expression of your life in Christ. Everything you do in your body, as a living sacrifice, is Spirit led, so it will not be contrived or feel unnatural.  It will be an outpouring of the wellspring of living water within you…. 

So Now You Know.

Have a Blessed Day.

Verse of the Day – 01/21/19

Galatians 6:7-8

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

This Verse of the Day is connected with the last few we have studied.  To me, the Spirit is trying to focus us on sincerity of heart … the genuineness of our faith. We will all stand before our Holy Father … at the judgment seat of Christ, and the truth of our lives (which have always been known by God) will require an account. His Light will expose every hidden thought and act of darkness within us on the Day!  What we often fail to remember is that “Day” will be the day of our passing or the day of our resurrection. And we do not know the day nor the hour when that will occur….(Cf. Matthew 25:13)

Therefore, the Apostle Paul admonishes us to consider our manner of life … what we do; how we interact with others; and to not deceive ourselves by comparing our hearts and lives with others.  As Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Paul is telling the Galatian Church (and us) to not deceive ourselves.  God sees and knows everything about us … what we say and what we do every moment we are breathing.  We are foolish if we think that He does see:

Genesis 16:13 (NIV)
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Job 11:11 (NIV)
Surely, He recognizes deceivers; and when He sees evil, does He not take note?

Job 31:4 (NIV)
Does He not see my ways and count my every step?

Psalm 33:13-15 (NIV)
The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

Psalm 94:7-11 (NIV)
They say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.” Take notice, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise? Does He who fashioned the ear not hear? Does He who formed the eye not see? 10 Does He who disciplines nations not punish? Does He who teaches mankind lack knowledge? 11 The Lord knows all human plans; He knows that they are futile.

1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)
This is the message we have heard from Him (Jesus) 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 sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.

And so the main point here is about self-deception.  We need to be honest.  We need to be transparent before both God and man.  God sees us even if we are able to hide the truth from others.  God knows us even if we are able to hide our actions from others. Paul warns us that whatever we sow … we will reap – both physically and spiritually.  That is the bottom line.  Everything we say or do has an effect on ourselves and most likely on those around us.  And God sees it all!  But I want to put our Verse of the Day into context so we can view it in a different light….

I think most of us read this verse and only look at its implications for ourselves.  For example, if I smoke (in order to please my flesh), I will reap the physical toll it does to my body.  Similarly, if I eat like a glutton or make poor food choices (in order to please my flesh), I might become overweight and reap the physical toll it does to my body. What about addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography or sexual desires? There are consequences to our bodies; and our souls are highjacked and return to bondage in the process. However, I wonder if Paul meant for us to more intentionally look at the impact of our conduct on the well-being of others when he states: “God cannot be mocked and that we will reap what we sow.”  When we are focused on “pleasing ourselves” do we consider the selfishness of what we sow to indulge our flesh?

Galatians 6:1-10 (NIV)

1Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

When I looked at our verse in its surrounding context, I began to see something different – something that I had not really considered before regarding sowing and reaping.  Most of the time I’ve only considered the outcome of what sowing to my own flesh would produce … how it would please me or the potential consequences which I would choose to dismiss. I might consider its impact on my own soul; but I did not think about the impact of what I sowed to my own flesh (sinful nature) on others.  For example, if I were to judge and broadcast the sins of another person, not only do I harm them emotionally and spiritually, I am reaping destruction within my own soul. Why? Because I am not loving that other person as Christ Jesus has loved me.  We are to comfort each other and edify (encourage) one another. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) We are to carry each other’s burdens. To do otherwise is to disregard the command of Christ to love one another … and to be filled with sanctimonious pride … and we know that God will oppose the proud. (Cf. James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) I started to think about what Paul said about us judging others of their sin:

Romans 2:1-4 (NIV)
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things (see Romans 1:18-32) is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

When we sow to the flesh (our sinful nature), the consequences impact not only ourselves but those around us … often in ways we might not see … or deliberately or blindly ignore.  It is a road that leads to destruction and we are urged to forego the temptation.  Then notice that Paul asserts there is an alternative and that we need to “sow to please the Spirit”.  He suggests that our conduct … our thoughts and deeds … should be cultivated in a manner to please the Holy Spirit.  When we sow to please the Spirit, our objective is to bear the fruit of the Spirit.  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) But here is the catch. Do you realize that this fruit is the product (outcome) of what we sow into the lives of other people?  Look at each of the nine fruits listed.  Every one of them is RELATIONAL! Of what value is the fruit or its harvest if there is no meaningful context for its manifestation! Love requires an object of affection. Joy and peace are to be shared. Kindness, goodness, and gentleness has no impact if these are not extended to another human soul….  I truly think Paul was writing with this in mind when discussing the concept of reaping and sowing.  Doing good … sowing the seeds of spiritual fruit into the lives of others is the harvest that the Lord is seeking from us.  In this way we fulfill what Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15) In this way we fulfill the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (James 2:8)

I pray each of us will thoughtfully consider what sowing to our own flesh really entails … and who it ultimately impacts.  Sin only diminishes your walk with Christ Jesus and it discredits your testimony with others … which ultimately dishonors the Savior who redeemed us and purchased us with His own blood.  Again, we have been called to holiness. We are called to be conformed to His image. (Cf. Romans 8:29) “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) And Paul has warned us not to be deceived or to deceive ourselves … or somehow be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3) So I pray each of us will get serious … reset our mindset … and sow to please the Spirit so that our lives in Christ Jesus will bear the fruit of the Spirit for the benefit of one another and those around us.  In this way, we will reap eternal life….  Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!