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!

Verse of the Day – 01/20/19

James 1:2-3 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Our Verse of the Day continues to focus on our theme of personal holiness.  Yesterday we examined 1 Corinthians 10:13 where Paul reviewed the issue of temptation (also translated ‘testing’) and how God is faithful to us … knowing what or how much we can bear as well as providing a way of escape from it so that we can “endure” it. Remember, this encouragement was given to the Corinthian Church which was had received the Gospel message and turned toward God from idol worship and pagan religious practices.  Paul used the history of the Israelites to illustrate to them the reasons they should persevere in their pursuit of holiness (separation unto God) and to not continue in their idolatry; sexual immorality; unseemly conduct; or testing the “grace” of God given to them in Christ Jesus.  Without holiness, no one will see God. (Hebrews 12:14)

The Apostle James approaches the same issue in his epistle, and his encouragement takes us a little deeper into our spiritual understanding of how temptation and testing works to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. The “trials of many kinds” is quite broad, but the point here is that in our desire and zeal to attain holiness as Christians our faith is going to be tested. I think is has to do with the sincerity of our profession of faith.  I am reminded of what the Prophet Isaiah shared in his writings:

Isaiah 29:13-16 (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 in vain because it 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.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:16-31; 2:1-14) 15 Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” 16 You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me” Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?

We need to understand something more here.  Hearing and understanding the truth of the Word of God is only the beginning of faith!  Receiving it … believing it arouses the spirit of a person to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior … for in truth He is! This is the born-again experience that Jesus explained to Nicodemus (Cf. John 3:1-12) But this is just that – the birth of a new creation.  There is a spiritual maturation process that must ensue after our birth in Christ just as we have experienced a physical maturation process after our physical births into the world.  As Paul taught and ministered to the Galatian Church on these matters, we observe his sense of frustration with their “turning back” from the truth they had received. (Cf. Galatians 4:8-20) As the writer of the Book of Hebrews put it: “1Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts (useless rituals) that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites (baptisms), the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so. (Cf. Hebrews 6:1-3)

Spiritual maturity is produced through the testing of our faith.  It comes through endurance of temptation and perseverance through trials. Both testing and temptation (trials of many kinds) are designed to strengthen our wills to attain the “obedience that comes from faith”. (Cf. Romans 1:5; 16:26) Therefore, trials can be opportunities for the suffering which we have learned can facilitate or produce obedience in our hearts.  So the perspective of James is to count this spiritual maturation process as “joy”.  He urges us to rejoice in the sufferings produced during trials because we should know this will produce perseverance in our faith.  We will not desire to go back to “Egypt” or the bondage of sin in our lives.  No, through this process our spirits will mature and our hearts will grow deeper in love for God … and we will desire to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Cf. Philippians 3:14)

A few final thoughts (Scriptures):

James 1:13-15 (NIV)

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

1 Peter 1:6-7 (NIV)

 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

John 14:15-16

Jesus urged, “If you love me, keep my commands16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate (the Holy Spirit) to help you and be with you forever.

John 15:9-11 (NIV)

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

I pray we will meditate on these things and grow in the obedience that comes from faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 01/19/19

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

No temptation (or testing) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted (tested) He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Our verse continues with the theme of holiness we have undertaken … so the Spirit must want us to truly examine ourselves and focus on what it takes to consecrate ourselves to God.  I think He is looking for a holy people who desire more of Him to empower their lives for ministry. Fasting and prayer are key disciplines we can follow in this endeavor … but our verse today challenges and warns us to exercise self-control to a broader extent.  Let’s look at the context of our verse closer:

1 Corinthians 10: 1-13 (NIV)

1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” (Cf. Exodus 32:6We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord (Jesus) as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation (or testing) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted (or tested) beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted (tested) He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

What Paul is developing here is a parallel for NT believers to understand.  He observes that the Israelites, when led out of Egypt, were all saved from their life of bondage in Egypt. The “cloud” refers to the unique symbol of the presence of God – also known as the shekinah cloud of glory which meant “to dwell with”. We should easily recognize this parallel to Jesus (Emmanuel – God with us). They all passed through the Red Sea on dry land because God had parted the waters for them. It was a “baptism” in effect because the waters closed in behind them.  There was no going back to slavery of Egypt (symbolizing the bondage of sin). God was giving them a new life on this side of the divide.  They had been separated from Egypt (from sin) and chosen by God to be His people.   They all ate the same spiritual food which refers to the manna and to the quail – both supernatural provision by God. Likewise, Jesus is the Bread of Life. And they all drank the same spiritual drink – from a spiritual rock that followed them – refers to the supernatural provision of life-sustaining water.  Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst; indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) This use of “all” is a way to emphasize the inclusion of all Israelites in the experience of God’s grace and judgment during that time of “testing” called the “Wilderness Wandering Period”.

But notice Verse 5 states, “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.”  This verse implicates the humbling of His people and the judgment for unbelief and rebellion as their bones were scattered along the wilderness route to the Promised Land (Cf. Numbers 14). Think about it.  They were God’s chosen people.  He had redeemed them from the land of Egypt. But He judged their unbelief and their rebellious attitudes. These OT believers saw the miraculous provision of God for their lives. They knew His will through their God-ordained leader, Moses. And yet, as we read through the narrative, they still acted in unbelief and rebellion….  Do you think there are Christians today who have a similar display of unbelief in their lives?  Do you think God is pleased with them?  Have you ever considered that there might be a parallel with Matthew 7:21-23?

In Verses 6-11, Paul implies that the Old Testament Scriptures continue to have spiritual relevance for us today. You can cross-reference the following passages regarding this applicability in Romans 4:23-24; Romans 15:4; and 1 Corinthians 9:10. We can readily conclude the revelations of God are eternal and the principles imparted are significant. So Paul points out how the redemptive history of Israel is applicable to us today … “so that we would not crave (set our hearts on) evil things as they did.”  The term translated “crave” is a strong compound Greek term epithumeō, which is made up of the preposition “upon” and “to rush.” It refers to a strong feeling or emotion overtaking and controlling the mind and heart of a person. Paul chooses specific issues for his contrast: idolatry; immoral sexual conduct; provoking or testing God to “prove” Himself; and grumbling in the sense of showing displeasure with God. These are all relevant examples and can be seen within the world and even the Church in our day….

Paul concludes that these things (judgments of God) happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us. The message is that the salvation effectuated for us through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ has been given to us – but if we do not receive it through faith in Him … if we wander into unbelief and rebellion … we will be judged as the Israelites were judged in the wilderness.  So Paul brings us to the point of self-examination in Verse 12, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (Cf. Romans 11:20-21; 2 Peter 3:14-17). God has and will judge His own people. Here are some great references for you to consider in this regard: Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:7-10; and 1 Peter 4:12-19.  I highly encourage you to read Hebrews Chapters 3 and 4.  The parallels to what Paul is preaching here are quite impressive.

This leads us to the Verse of the Day and its call to godliness in response to the salvation God has granted us in Christ Jesus.  Paul asserts that personal holiness is possible. We can overcome temptation. First of all, we have to realize that temptations or tests will happen. The text makes this clear: “But when you are tempted….”  Temptation in any form is common to the human experience. But God uses it to “refine” our souls and to perfect or complete our faith.  Remember, Jesus was tempted in all points as we are … yet He remained without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) So, Jesus is experientially familiar with our weaknesses as discussed in Hebrews Chapter 2. Of special comfort to me in this regard is Hebrews 2:18 which reads, “Because He Himself (Jesus) suffered when He was tempted (tested), He is able to help those who are being tempted (tested).” To me, this verse indicates that dealing with temptation is a form of suffering … and that Jesus is ever present through His Spirit to help me in that moment of temptation or trial.  It also reminds me that, like Jesus, my own obedience will be learned through the process of suffering. (Cf. Hebrews 5:8-9)

The key point from 1 Corinthians 10:13 is that God is faithful.  WHEN you and I are tempted (tested) … HE provides a way out so that we can endure the temptation or test.  It does not say that He will remove the temptation; rather, He provides an “exit” from the thought, feeling, situation, or circumstance that provides the platform or context for our temptations.  A specific temptation may not ever go away.  It may be a “thorn in the flesh”. Victory through one temptation, test, or trial does not assure the same outcome WHEN the next temptation comes.  But we learn obedience through the things we suffer; and that is achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is praying in the Spirit … it is walking in His anointing … that gives us the strength to endure the temptations we will face. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh. It means we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5) And these spiritual disciplines are sufficient because God will not let you or me be tempted beyond what we can bear.  No, there is an endpoint of victory for every temptation, test, or trial if we but persevere under the trial. God has assured that we can endure the hardship of discipline because He disciplines us for our good … in order that we may share in His holiness. (Cf. Hebrews 12:1-10)

Well, I hope that these thoughts and references I have shared will help you and encourage you in your times of temptation.  As Pastor Steve would say, “We need to reset the mindset!”

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!