My Great Desire…

Psalm 40:8 (NIV)

I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.

We last spoke about the desires of our hearts; and today we have a specific desire to examine: “I desire to do your will, my God.” And notice the extension: “Your Law is within my heart.” The two concepts are so intertwined that I do not believe they can be separated. How can we do the will of God if we do not know what it is? And how can we know His will, as revealed in His Law … His Word, unless we spend time to hear, read, discover, and understand it?  As King Solomon asserts in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  So if reverence for God is centered in your heart … in your inner being … then His Word it will be the source of your knowledge and understanding. It will generate the thoughts which determine what you say and do. Indeed, every behavioral action of humans is the outward expression of our thoughts whether good or evil.

So I believe the first application for us is to consider is two-fold: We need to examine our reverence for God and our desire to be submitted to Him as a demonstration of that reverence.  To begin, the word “reverence” is typically understood as a noun; and it is defined as “honor or respect felt or shown; profound adoration; or a gesture toward someone regarded as worthy of great honor.”  Likewise, to show reverence or “to revere” someone would be a verb … meaning an action taken. In this case, it would be defined as “an action to show devoted deferential honor to someone; an action expressing great esteem for someone as a superior or sovereign.” And so I believe we can understand the concept of “fear of the Lord” through these definitions.  To me, the core meaning of reverence can be distilled down to a single word: AGAPE … LOVE.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (NIV)

1These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all His decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one Lord.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 11:1 (NIV)

Love the Lord your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always.

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (NIV)
1 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him.

I could continue to reference more texts, but I think we get the idea here.  Notice the connections between the concepts of love, reverence, and obedience in these passages.  This is important because these are the concepts that Jesus challenged His disciples and followers to understand through His teachings:

Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV) – See also, Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:538 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Cf. Leviticus 19:1840 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

John 8:42 (NIV)

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.

John 14:15 (NIV)

If you love me, keep my commands.

John 14:21 (NIV)
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.

John 15:12 (NIV)

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

So I believe evident that reverence is expressed through sincere love; and sincere love is expressed through obedience to the commandments of God. In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands.  And His commands are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3) Our challenge as followers … as believers … is whether we desire to DO His Will … whether His Law is written on our hearts.  And so we must confront and deal with our hearts!  And this is the second application because our thoughts determine our own will … and therefore our own conduct and behavior.

Genesis 6:5 (NIV)
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

Matthew 15:18-20 (NIV) – See also Mark 7:21

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

So it is clear that we need to be aware of our thought life.  More importantly, we need to consider what external and sensory input is being compiled and catalogued within our brains to conceive the thoughts of our hearts. There is a lot of information and sensory stimulation within the world to draw our attentions and to impact our thought life … and therefore our behavioral expression of our hearts. While there is a myriad of verses and throughout the Bible (especially Psalm 119) that emphasize the veracity and authority of Scripture to “input” the Word of God into our minds, there are a few passages that quickly come to mind which I believe speak directly to how we can better “evaluate” the input we encounter from other sources:

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

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.

Philippians 2:5 (NIV)

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

1 John 2:16 (NIV)
For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

I will conclude with the following passage that I believe should guide the input we allow into our thought life and explains the importance of a mind submitted to the Spirit of God:

1 Corinthians 2:10:16 (NIV)

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” (Quoting Isaiah 40:13) But we have the mind of Christ.

So I pray today, that we will thoughtfully consider the desires of our hearts … what generates them … what motivates them … and how we can align our hearts with the will of God. The Father has revealed His will to us. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe.” (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-2) Yes, I pray we will read and study the Word of God so that it might be embedded within our inner beings. “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) And then, let us follow the counsel of the Apostle James: “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (Cf. James 4:8) Yes, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Cf. Psalm 51:10) May these scriptures be our prayer, always…. Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Obey My Teaching…

John 14:23-24 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Our verse has prompted me to revisit the theme of teaching and discipling. Discipling is the process, through teaching and training, of making disciples or followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our verse today, we see Jesus equating our love for Him with the keeping of His teachings and commandments. And as I continue to ponder His Word, I’m not sure what other method or mechanism we have as believers to demonstrate our love for Him.  It is the obedience that comes from faith (Cf. Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26) that expresses our sincere, heartfelt love for God.  This is what Jesus has emphasized to us: “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15)

Throughout the theological history of the Jewish faith, keeping the commandments (teachings) of God has been essential to the covenant relationship God desires with His people.  We find this especially developed in the Book of Deuteronomy. “Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:1) “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Cf. Deuteronomy 7:9) “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Cf. Deuteronomy 11:19) The themes of teaching and training … giving instruction for righteous living is inseparable from the giving of the Law.  We were created in the image of God; and He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son! (Cf. Genesis 1:27; Romans 8:29)

You will find these themes in the Psalms written by David, and further expounded upon in the Proverbs taught by Solomon. Note the exhortations to observe and faithfully follow sound teaching:

Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord,  teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Psalm 119:66 (NIV)

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.

Proverbs 3:1-2 (NIV)

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.

Proverbs 6:20-21 (NIV)

My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.

Proverbs 7:1-3 (NIV)

My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

But another aspect of keeping the teachings of Christ in our hearts is sharing them with others.  Knowing and understanding the Word of God, and its application to the obedience that comes from faith, is something that we have been commanded to share and teach as well.  We studied this last week: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Cf. Matthew 28:18-20) And, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (Cf. John 15:20)

So, as we observe what has been happening in our world over the past several months, the call the teach, train, and disciple unbelievers is just as critical as it was in the apostolic period of early Christianity. We are seeing and experiencing a great spiritual awakening in this present generation … looking for a new apostolic age to emerge from the remnant Church that has been called forth in these latter days to reach the lost. Yes, “Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise (to return), as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9) Stepping up and taking our place in His Body and exercising the spiritual gifts we have been given for the building of the Church is what the Spirit is leading and guiding us to do!

Paul, in his epistles, was quite adamant on the necessity of teaching and discipling those who come to faith in Jesus:

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV)

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 (NIV)

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Titus 2:1-15 (NIV)

1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Teach slaves (employees) to be subject to their masters (employers) in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good. 15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

So what is the application for us? I think the message is straightforward: Observing … Keeping … Obeying … the teachings and commands of God is how we demonstrate our love for Him.  To obey is better than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) And we are to worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth. (Cf. John 4:24) The emphasis is on truth … to be genuine, honest, and sincere.  Not only should we be transparent before God in our obedience to Him, the truth of our love should be readily apparent to others. Our light (our understanding of what Jesus taught us) should be evident before others, that they may see our good deeds (obedience of His commands) and glorify our Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16) And we should be able to teach these things as well. As Paul taught, there are practical ways to live out the Gospel message and to walk in the obedience that comes from faith.  And so, I pray that we will endeavor to not only be disciples but to disciple (teach) others as we have been commanded to do…. 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Called To Worship

Psalm 95:6-7 (NIV)

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care. Today, if only you would hear His voice….

Our verse today is a call to worship!  And through worship we understand who God is … as well as see who we really are.  We are His creation … His people … the sheep of His pasture … the flock under His care and provision.  Notice how everything we are is dependent on who He is!  Father God is the Lord our Maker … the Lord our Creator.  God is sovereign over all His creation; yet He allows humans to rebel against His will.  So, why would God allow rebellion within us … His treasured possession and inheritance? Does it not ultimately come down to a genuine, true, free expression of love toward Father God for who He is?  If God forced us to love Him or worship Him, of what value or glory would that be to Him? When we exert our personal wills through submission to His will, is that not what worship is truly about? God has ordained for His people to abide in Him; and this occurs when we have an intimate relationship with Him.

Isaiah 45:22-24 (NIV)

22 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. 23 By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. 24 They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are deliverance and strength.’” All who have raged against Him will come to Him and be put to shame.

Romans 14:10-12 (NIV)

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” (Paul is quoting Isaiah 45:23) 12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV)

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

Yes, our kneeling … our acknowledgment and confession … is the fruit of submission that Father God seeks in us.  It is of our own volition that we do so … compelled by His irresistible mercy and grace.  Yes, it is His lovingkindness that leads us to repentance! (Cf. Romans 2:4) Jesus urged: If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” (Cf. John 14:15-17) Indeed, it is through surrender, submission, and obedience, that we demonstrate our love for God and receive the blessing of His Covenant of Love with us. (Cf. Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 5:10, 29; Daniel 9:4) Jesus promised: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (Cf. John 14:21) “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.” (Cf. John 15:10)

I want to encourage you to read the entire Psalm 95 today. Let it speak to your heart and inspire you to worship … through surrender, submission, and service. This is the response of sincere faith in the One who reconciled us to the Father! Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Our Lord and Savior has called us to believe in Him and to follow Him.  Following Him means that we will deny ourselves and embrace the suffering of the cross. (Cf. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23) Further, Jesus told His disciples: “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:26) So, I think it is clear what Jesus expects of us….  I pray we will hear His Voice while it is today … and do what He says! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Remain in My Love…

John 15:10 (NIV)

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.

A simple message of obedience … wrapped in a greater context if we want to consider HOW we can keep His commands:

John 15:1-17 (NIV)

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes (cleans) so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to youRemain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 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. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

I want to outline some of the salient points that Jesus made in this passage using the vine and branches metaphor to guide our understanding of His Word:

1.       God the Father is the gardener!  He is the One who planted the True Vine! Jesus is the True Vine!

Isaiah 11:1-5; 10 (NIV)

1A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and He will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears; but with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of his lips He will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be His belt and faithfulness the sash around His waist. 10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to Him, and His resting place will be glorious.

Revelation 5:5-6 (NIV)

5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, that is, the seven-fold Spirit of God sent out into all the earth. 

Revelation 22:16 (NIV)

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

2.       We (those who believe in Christ Jesus) are the Branches of the Vine!

This means that believers emerge from the vine.  We are an integral part of the Vine.  We have no existence or life except that the Vine has produced us and we are an inherent part of its growth.  It is from the branches that flowering buds will emerge, fruit will be set (borne), and a harvest will come forth … from ALL the branches that have formed from the Vine.  I believe this is the image of the metaphor Jesus has used to illustrate not only our relationship to Him and the Father, but also to manifest the depth of His life-giving love for us. Always remember that God the Father “tends” to the Vine.  He observes the branches and their well-being.  The Father notes those branches which are producing fruit and He prunes in order for them to produce even more fruit. Branches in Jesus that do not produce fruit, He cuts off. And what is the key to fruit production? Abiding in the Vine! ALL the resources we will ever need and utilize to produce fruit will come from the roots and through the Vine. Jesus said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (Verse 5) So each individual branch must understand that nothing less than an intimate relationship with Jesus will be able to produce the harvest that the Father is looking to receive from His Vine….

3.       If we keep (obey) His commands, we will REMAIN in Jesus … we will abide in Him and remain in His love.

Jesus states that He is the example of obedience for us.  As we visualize the obedience of Jesus to the Father, we see that His intimate relationship with the Father stems from HOW Jesus lived in obedience.  His relationship was that of Son. What did Jesus say? “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” (Verse 9) As Jesus bore the image of the Father, so we are conformed to the image of Him. The inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews gives us some additional insight into how we too can become empowered for obedience:

Hebrews 5:7-10 (NIV)

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Son though He was, Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

First we observe the prayer life of Jesus.  He offered up prayers and supplications with fervent cries and tears to God! Note the intensity described here….  Second, the prayers of Jesus were heard by the Father because of His “reverent submission.”  I truly believe from this verse that “reverent submission” is the most important element of prayer.  As the Prophet Isaiah noted: “Our iniquities have separated us from God, and our sins have hidden His face from us, so that He will not hear.” (Cf. Isaiah 59:2) But Jesus was filled with the Spirit of the knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He delighted in the fear of the Lord.  And I think we are to have the same mindset if we desire to obey His commands and for His love to remain in us.

As Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered, I surmise that we must enter the same “winepress” in the pursuit of obedience. Sometimes God refines us in the furnace of affliction. (Cf. Isaiah 48:10) So as I ponder the idea of suffering in order to learn obedience, I am reminded by the thought that suffering will be manifested in the natural realm … in our bodies as we die to sin. (Cf. Romans 6:2) It is inevitable! Sin itself will not die; rather, we have to die to it!  And the process of sanctification will often feel like suffering as addictions are withdrawn … as strongholds of bitterness and unforgiveness are uprooted … as the iniquity of the tongue is tamed …  and as a myriad of temptations are resisted and escaped. Yet, “In our struggle against sin, none of us have resisted to the point of shedding our blood.” (Cf. Hebrews 12:4) But that is the course we must pursue if we are truly serious about holiness in our lives. “Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.” (Cf. 1 Peter 4:1)

4.       My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 

If we are to love one another as Jesus has loved us, then we will all the more need to prepare for the suffering that accompanied His love for us! As Jesus shared His heart with the disciples, He told them that He was willing to lay it down for them.  Jesus called them friends!  And this is important to see: “You are my friends IF you do what I command”. This is my command: 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.”  (Cf. 2 John 1:6) Since by the example of Christ Jesus we know that the love of God is sacrificial, our love for one another will manifest as sacrificial as well. And we need to understand that sacrificial love will bring some degree of suffering into our lives … suffering that we will be challenged to endure unless we abide in the Vine through reverent submission to Him. Still, through suffering we learn obedience; the obedience that comes from faith (Cf. Romans 16:26) … the obedience that leads to righteousness (Cf. Romans 6:16) … and the obedience that accompanies our confession of the Gospel of Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 9:13)

Love requires an emptying of ourselves.  It challenges us to be servants to others.  As Paul admonished, “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.”  (Cf. Romans 12:1) Paul goes on to instruct us to be devoted to one another in love; honor one another above yourselves; share with the Lord’s people who are in need; live in harmony with one another; live at peace with everyone; and do not take revenge. (Cf. Romans 12:9-21) And Paul wrote similar instructions to other churches: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Cf. Philippians 2:3-4)

Well, I have tarried here a while, but I hope that something has been said that will inspire you to look at the condition of your branch within the Vine.  Is your branch healthy?  Is it growing?  Is it producing fruit?  Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  Is the Father being glorified through your life and mine?  These are important questions to ask ourselves in order to cultivate and nourish our intimacy with Christ. It is imperative that His Word abide in us … that we are fervent in prayer … and that we pursue reverent submission to Him in all aspects of our lives.  This is HOW we will be equipped to “keep His command” to love one another as He has loved us.  This is how we will bear fruit … fruit that will last.  Indeed, I pray that we will hear these words of Jesus and put them into practice…. 

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

An Everlasting Love …

Psalm 103:17-18 (NIV)

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

Our verse today affords us some theological precepts for covenant relationship with God; and I think we should examine these concepts a little deeper.

Psalm 103 is a beautiful meditation of David. In its 22 verses, he explores the foundations and depths upon which intimacy with God is established.  Here we find David speaking to his own soul … addressing his inner being with truths about the nature and character of God that can only be understood and appreciated by the soul.  As God is Spirit, our relationship with Him must be in the spirit realm … in a transparent form where nothing is hidden and truth abides.  Psalm 103 invites us to think deeply and introspectively about the God who created us and His relationship with us:

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—
Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

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.
15 The life of mortals is like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 The wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlastingthe Lord’s love is with those who fear Him,and His righteousness with their children’s children—
18 With those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

19 The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His word.
21 Praise the Lord, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will.
22 Praise the Lord, all His works everywhere in His dominion. Praise the Lord, my soul.

(Verses 1-6)

I really glad that David began this Psalm with praise for the nature of God.  He tells his soul, “Praise the Lord.” In my view, David “commands” his soul to praise God as he unfolds the “reasons” for doing so.  He says to himself, “Do not forget all the benefits that the Father has bestowed your life.” God forgives ALL your sins and heals ALL your diseases.  He redeems your life from the pit … the dark abyss of sin.  He crowns you … He intentionally places His love and compassion upon you.  His favor promotes good things to bless your life.  He works righteousness and justice for those who have been oppressed by others….  And that is just the beginning of how God acts on our behalf.  I’m reminded of what Paul wrote with similar zeal: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Cf. Ephesians 3:20-21)

(Verses 7-13)

David now continues to explore how God manifests His character.  God revealed His ways to Moses and displayed His works among His covenant people.  From what has been reveal and demonstrated, David concludes that the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  David observes the kindness of God in that He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  David senses in his soul that the love of God … the forgiveness of God … the compassion of God surpasses our ability to comprehend.  Again, I’m reminded of what Paul wrote with great passion: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Cf. Romans 8:38-39) Indeed, the love of Christ Jesus for us … which surpasses knowledge … encompasses all the fullness of God.  (Cf. Ephesians 3:18-19)

(Verses 13-18)

David shares that what He experiences in His relationship with God is special.  The intimacy he has come to know with the Creator … the benefits of fellowship with God the Father … is for those who fear Him! Indeed, His great love is for those who fear Him. (Verse 11). The Lord has compassion on those who fear Him (Verse 13).  Yes, His love is with those who fear Him … with those who keep His covenant … with those who remember to obey His precepts. (Verses 17-18) As David wrote in another Psalm: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge (trusts) in Him.Fear the Lord, you His holy people, for those who fear Him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Psalm 34:8-10) To fear the Lord is to exalt and reverence Him.  And we can only do so through faith … in spirit and in truth. (Cf. John 4:23-24) It is through faith that we are joined with the Father. “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) There are no benefits for life; there are no rewards except for those who fear the Lord … for those who keep His covenant and obey His command.

(Verses 19-22)

David concludes this meditation within his soul with a declaration of the sovereignty of God.  His throne is established in heaven! His Kingdom is the only authority throughout the universe He created. And this conviction ignites praise and worship within David again.  David sees that ALL creation is subjected to the Lord God. ALL are commanded to obedience … ALL are enjoined to worship the Almighty God!  His Word … His Will … His Works have been revealed to ALL creation. So David commands his soul, “Praise the Lord!”  And, perhaps, we should do so ourselves this morning as well. For the soul of every living being WILL bow before Him; and every tongue will acknowledge Him. (Cf. Isaiah 45:22-24; Romans 14:10-12; Philippians 2:9-11)

So here is the application I have found.  I cannot know the blessings or rewards of the Creator apart from an intimate relationship with Him. And it is a covenant relationship that He initiated (for He knows how I am formed and He remembers that I am dust) and conferred upon me through His Son, Christ Jesus. The Apostle John explains, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:10) As Paul wrote: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) So, there is nothing I have done to earn it or deserve it … but I am compelled in my innermost being (my soul) to respond to His irresistible grace and love with great reverence. For I am convinced that His desire for relationship with me is knowable. And the thought of such love overwhelms me!

David said the love of God is everlasting with those who fear Him. His compassion is on those who fear Him. So I am quite motivated to understand this “fear” … this “reverence” … for God our Creator. To show reverence is an intentional act; and it encompasses how I regard God with the highest honor and deepest respect. Shall I not humble myself, and repent, and submit to Him in faith? Shall I not observe His commandments which reveal His will? God said, “Keep my commands and follow them. I am the Lord.” (Cf. Leviticus 22:31) Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15, 14:21; 15:10) Shall I not worship (love) in the manner that God has ordained? Obedience demonstrates our love. Obedience reveals truth. And obedience is better than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) Isaiah recorded, “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.” (Cf. Isaiah 29:13) But Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (Cf. John 4:24) To be sure,  reverence must be sincere. And so love must be sincere. Genuine love cannot be hidden.  God did not hide or conceal His love for us. Thus, we should not hide or veil our love for Him. Love must be evident to all. “And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.” (Cf. 1 John 3:23)

Well, I hope that something said here will resonate with your soul. What King David imparted in his Psalms is prophetic of the intimate relationship God desires with us in Christ Jesus. Indeed, the grace of God we know and experience in Christ Jesus should elicit an overwhelming desire within us to love and adore Him … which is manifested in truth through obedience. Reverence IS obedience … because the New Covenant has not been written on tablets of stone; rather, through the blood of Jesus it has been written on our hearts.  The Covenant of Love is this: God loves us and we love Him.  God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) In return, we demonstrate our love for God in this: Keeping His commandments. (Cf. 1 John 5:3)

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

Live In His Covenant

Psalm 103:17-18

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

This is an awesome passage of Scripture and drives home some key points for us to remember. Let’s break it down and meditate on ways the words can penetrate our hearts and lives:

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him;

What does this say to us?  The love of God is with those who fear Him … who show great reverence for Him.  His love is faithful and everlasting to those who give unto the Lord the glory due His Name! (Cf. 1 Chronicles 16:29; Psalm 29:2; Psalm 96:8) Note how these Scriptures encourage us to GIVE to the Lord … to bring an offering and to worship.  Showing God reverence is not just “lip service” or just the “sacrifice of praise from our lips”; rather, it is the giving of our entire beings and returning a portion of all that He has given us.  As Jesus taught: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” ( Cf. Luke 6:38) This precept applies to everything; including our time, our talents, and the treasure He has entrusted us.

and His righteousness with their children’s children

What does this say?  Well, put in the context – from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s righteousness is with the children and grandchildren of those who fear Him.  What an incredible promise to those who love the LORD and serve Him out of reverence and sincere love….   There is a similar Scripture that some to mind in this regard and addresses the impact of how a person lives upon the generations that come after them.  Consider the second commandment recorded in Exodus 20:

Exodus 20:4-6 (NIV)

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Yes, what you and I do … how we live before God … how we demonstrate our reverence for God and His commandments … this “example” impacts the lives of our children and our grandchildren.  Do not take for granted how you live as though it has no impact upon your children and future generations.  It does in every way!  No, our individual walks with God cannot be vicariously imputed to our children, but the influence of ungodliness will impact and influence them and their children in ways we cannot imagine.  All the more reason to seek wisdom for living … to reverence God … to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ … because our children and grandchildren are impacted by our faithfulness or lack thereof….

with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

What does this say?  In context and syntax – from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love and righteousness is with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.  The keeping of His covenant and obedience to His instruction for righteous living – these draw the love and righteousness of God to us.  And note, God promises that His love and imputed righteousness is eternal for those who love Him … for those who keep His covenant and obey His commands.  This is foundational to what Jesus Himself taught us would be imperative to demonstrating our love for Him:  “If you love Me, keep my commandments.”  (Cf. John 14:15, 21; 15:10)

I pray each of us will take this passage from Psalm 103 to heart and consider how we can have the best impact on the lives of our children and their children … and the generations to come.  We can facilitate blessing or cursing by how we conduct ourselves … by how sincerely we live out our faith before them … because our example can be one of the most powerful influences … for good or for evil … on our offspring and affect how they will live before their children after them….  Let’s endeavor to make our lives a blessing to the next generations for their sake and for the glory of God. Amen.  

So Now You Know…. 

Have a Blessed Day!