Grace Has Appeared…

Titus 2:11-12 (NIV)

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age….

Our Verse of the Day illuminates the reason for the First Advent … the purpose of His “appearing”. FOR THE GRACE OF GOD HAS APPEARED! Yes, it has already happened! Jesus, the grace of God, has already come. There is no other Messiah … nor ever will be. The Holy One of Israel … the Son of God has appeared already. And what does this grace of God teach us? His grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…. Notice that these “lessons” are responses to the work God initiated for us. Let’s put our verse in its context:

Titus 2 (NASB) – Paul Addressing Titus

1 But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. 6 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7 in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with soundness in doctrine, dignified, 8 sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. 9 Urge bondservants (employees) to be subject to their own masters (superiors) in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not stealing, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all mankind, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the (second) appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good works. 15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

From the context we can readily see that the grace of God through Jesus Christ is bringing salvation AND it is teaching or instructing us in the righteous conduct for our response to His appearing. Verse 11, it seems to me, is a summary of all the “instructions” in godly conduct written before it in the prior verses. Our change of conduct … our change of disposition is what the instruction envisions in practical terms when a person is born of the Spirit and becomes a “new creation” in Christ. Behold, the old has gone … the new has come! So, I encourage each of us to look at these instructions … and to self-check our conduct to see if it conforms to the “sound doctrine” outlined for us here. And this brings to mind Paul’s exhortation when dealing with sinful misconduct in the Corinthian church. He challenged: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 13:5)

My friends, we need to exercise self-control in our lives; and our self-discipline should be driven by a spirit aligned and submitted to the Holy Spirit. When we are diligent in our intimate time with Jesus Christ, He will show us the truth within our hearts, and His Spirit will guide us into repentance and correction of what He reveals. But this process requires submission … a willing spirit and self-discipline.

As we move forward with our corporate “Daniel Fast” this month, I pray that its self-imposed physical discipline will awaken His call for spiritual discipline within us. If we are to be ministers to those in need of healing and deliverance, we need to live out the response to the Gospel ourselves in spirit and in truth.  As Paul admonished: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Cf. Romans 12:1-2)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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

Thanksgiving For Giving…

Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Our Verse of the Day instructs us to give thanks to God through the name of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is right for us to always be giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf. Ephesians 5:20) So, let us joyfully give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of Light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Cf. Colossians 1:12-14)

Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Oh, what wisdom the Apostle Paul has shared in his epistle to the Colossian believers!  He instructs us to be thankful … to live in accordance with the lavish grace and redemption we have received in Christ Jesus … and to always give thanks to the Father through Him!  As we studied yesterday: just as we received Christ Jesus as Lord, so we should continue to live our lives in Him.  And so, look at the examples of HOW we should live as God’s chosen people! Yes, whatever we say or do, all is to be done in Jesus’ name to the glory of God the Father.

In this context, I feel compelled to share this word from God that resonated with me during my quiet time this morning. I want to draw our attention to the thanksgiving that comes from giving:

2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (NIV)

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good workAs it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” (Citing Psalm 112:9) 10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Oh, I think that the Spirit of God wants to impress upon us a spirit of generosity!  He desires for us to be generous in the kindness of our words for the ministry of the reconciliation … and in the accomplishment of all He has called us to do for the needs of others. For in the acts of freely giving of our abundance to the poor and freely giving of ourselves as living sacrifices, there is an overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God! Yes, our Heavenly Father will be praised for the obedience that accompanies our confession of the Gospel of Christ … and for our generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

My friend, do not be reluctant or afraid to be generous with what God has graciously provided you. God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work – prepared in advance for you to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) I believe that the most important outcome of generosity is the overflowing of thankfulness that will be offered to God! Yes, every act of giving creates an opportunity for thanksgiving and praise to be lifted up to our Heavenly Father in the name of our Lord Jesus! Indeed, thanks be to God for His indescribable gift … the gift of generous hearts! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV)

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

What Is Your Purpose?

Proverbs 19:20-21 (NIV)

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Our Verse of the Day affords a great truth that I want to share. I especially want to draw your attention to Verse 21 which reads: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” When we make plans for our lives without spending time with God in prayer and seeking His wisdom, I think we lack understanding of “purpose” when it comes to our relationship with Him. Any of us can have great ideas and goals for what we want to accomplish in life, but I believe it would behoove us to find out from God what He wants us to spend our time, talents, and treasures pursuing. After all, it is ultimately His purpose for each of us that will prevail. I think we could avoid a lot of trouble and heartache running down rabbit trails and winding up on dead ends if we would but “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and trust that all the other things of life will be given to us as well.” (Cf. Matthew 6:33)

It probably goes without saying that it is insightful to listen to advice and gain wisdom from others.  Likewise, to accept discipline or correction from another can be gift in disguise. As King Solomon observed: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Cf. Proverbs 15:22) And he noted, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Cf. Proverbs 27:17) Indeed, the Book of Proverbs contains many such nuggets of wisdom to instruct us and guide us through our walks of life; and yet, I sense we too often miss the reason for our personal plans and dreams: To accomplish God’s purpose for our lives … for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Perhaps, today, we need to be reminded that we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10)

What God desires … what He has ordained … what He has purposed will ultimately be done! Pharaoh would not listen to Moses and Aaron nor receive their correction … for his heart was unyielding. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have spared you for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my Name might be proclaimed in all the earth. (Cf. Exodus 9:13-16) Although Pharaoh had other plans in his heart, as we now know, the purpose of the Lord prevailed. Over 3400 years later, His Name, Yahweh, is still proclaimed in all the earth because of the miracles He performed to accomplish His purpose!

Think about that story for a moment. God manifested His supernatural power, even through human beings like Moses and Pharaoh, to accomplish His purpose … His will. And the Bible is full of these stories. Indeed, the Bible reveals a complete narrative – the story of human redemption from beginning to end. I believe our salvation … our eternal life … is the revealed purpose of God!  Indeed, this is the reason God sent His one and only Son into the world … to redeem and save the world through Him. And so, I think it follows that the purpose of our plans should align with His purpose of redemption as well.  Consider the following passages of scripture:

John 6:29 (NIV)

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” 

2 Corinthians 17-20 (NIV)

 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.

Colossians 3:17; 23-24 (NIV)

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Jesus Christ you are serving. 

Regardless of what you and I choose to do for a vocation … regardless of the plans we make for our lives … regardless of where we were born or where we live – our families or spouses or friends; the purpose of our time, talent, and treasure is to fulfill the purposes of God … redemption and reconciliation! Everything we plan to do in life should be for His glory … to fulfill the two great commandments: to love Him and to love one another. Ask yourself: Do my plans for life encompass the ministry of reconciliation? Do my plans for life direct me to offer myself as a living sacrifice to others?  Do my plans for life assure that I will work with all my heart to serve the Lord Jesus Christ? If these are your pursuits, you will be counted among the wise. Vocations, locations, and relations; these are merely the contexts in which we live out our plans. But we know God will use them so that His purposes will prevail in our lives. Yes, God will cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Cf. Romans 8:28)

Well, I hope in addition to the little nuggets of wisdom shared here, you will seek and find the greater storehouses of knowledge and understanding during your Bible reading. And like Paul, “I pray and will continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of Light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Cf. Colossians 1:9-14) Yes, this IS the Lord’s purpose….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Suffering For The Gospel…

Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I wanted to share this verse from the other day, but I have held up because of time constraints and I wanted to add some context and comment.  The topic Paul addresses here is “suffering” and its intended spiritual purpose in our lives.  Paul shares his insight from the tremendous amount of personal suffering that he endured; especially after becoming a believer and follower of Christ. I thought we might put this passage in the larger context to better understand this purpose:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but let us also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Notice the end goal of suffering is “hope”!  And hope does not put us to shame. Why? Because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. It is our reconciliation with God through the death of His Son … through the atonement made by His blood … that produces the hope of eternal life within us.  It is this reconciliation through the suffering of Christ that demonstrates the power and depth of God’s love for us!  And this is the context in which we should view our own suffering in life. Paul indicates that we should glory in any suffering that is encountered for our faith in and devotion to Jesus Christ….

Romans 8:18-25 (NIV)

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope. 21 For the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

There is an intricate relationship between suffering and hope for us to evaluate and to embrace. For we know that Christ Jesus, Son though He was, He learned obedience from the things that He suffered. (Cf. Hebrews 5:8) And Peter reminds us that suffering for doing good will be inevitable. Just as Christ Jesus suffered for us, we as believers have been called to follow in the example of His steps.

1 Peter 2:19-23 (NIV)

19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. (See Isaiah 53 regarding the suffering of Christ)

So Paul enjoins us to “glory in our sufferings” for the sake of Christ.  For it produces perseverance of faith … Christ-like character … and affirms the hope for which we seek an intimate relationship with God.  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) And so, I think it follows that without suffering in our lives, we will not develop confidence in our hope or assurance through our faith.  In other words, suffering is part of a necessary process to attain a faith that pleases God. “And 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. (Hebrews 11:6) Faith is believing God … and trusting Him even in the midst of our suffering….

So I pray that we as believers will come to place in our walk with God to embrace the trials of suffering that will come along in our lives.  As we have learned, suffering produces tremendous spiritual growth in us … deepens our faith and trust in God and His character … and ultimately produces the obedience that comes from faith.  And so, those are the worthy goals that accompany the suffering and affliction. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

2 Timothy 1:6-13 (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 GodHe 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.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

To Live Is Christ….

Philippians 1:21 (NIV)

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

We have an interesting statement from Paul this morning.  What does it mean “to live is Christ and to die is gain?” Well, let’s look at the entire context and gain some insight.  We need to remember, that Paul wrote this letter while in prison … in chains.

Philippians 1:19-26 (NIV)

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

To live is Christ – This simply means that everything you do in this life should be for Christ. If you go to school, it’s for Christ. If you work, it’s for Christ. If you get married and have a family, it’s for Christ. If you serve in ministry, play on a team, whatever you do, you do it with the mindset that it is for Christ. You want Him to be exalted in every aspect of your life. As Paul taught in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” The reason this should matter is because by exalting Him with your life, you can be intentional and create opportunities for the Gospel to go forward. When Christ is exalted in your life, it can open the door for you to share Him with others.

To die is gain – What could be better than living for Christ, being salt and light to this world, and winning people to the kingdom of God? As crazy as it sounds, Paul asserted death is better. Look how Paul stated it in Verses 22-24: “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” If you can really grasp what Paul is saying here, then you will truly understand the meaning and context of Verse 21. For Paul to keep living would be beneficial for the Church and everyone else to whom he ministered. He could keep serving them and be a blessing to the Body of Christ. (That’s to live is Christ). 

I think we should bring into the context the sufferings Paul endured. Remember Paul was in prison when writing this letter; and with all of the challenges and suffering he faced, Paul probably felt that as great as it is to serve Christ in this life, it was better to die and go be with Christ forever. Yet, I think even this supposition should be balanced with what Paul stated in Verse 20: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”  Do you see the hesitation? This is not doubt, but there is always an element of fear.  It is really a prayer for “sufficient courage” that Christ would be exalted in his body, whether by life or by death. He does not want to be ashamed either way; rather, Paul wants to be bold in either situation that might transpire under the circumstances. So this does not mean you should want to die, it just means that your ultimate desire is for Christ to be exalted in you whether by life or by death.  Indeed, we are to die to sin, and we have to understand that physical death for a Christian is not the ending, but the beginning of a new experience to be in the tangible presence of Christ in eternity.

Anyway, these are provocative thoughts; and I encourage you to look further into your own sense of what it means to live for Christ Jesus and to die for Him.  My prayer is to align with Paul … to hope that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness (courage), Christ will always be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!