Set Your Hope on Jesus…

1 Peter 1:13 (NIV)

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming.

Our Verse of the Day comes from quite an interesting passage. Let’s put it in the context:

1 Peter 1:3-16 (NIV)

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 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. 8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Citing Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2)

What a profound statement of theology that Peter has presented here. I see several key points in this passage; and I think the best approach is to simply outline those points for us to consider:

1.         First of all, praise is to be given to God the Father! Indeed, we should always come before the Father in reverence and honor and adoration – to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth! (Cf. John 4:24)

2.         His mercy has afforded us a new birth. (Cf. John 3:3)

3.         The result of this new birth is a living hope … brought into existence through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (Cf. 1 Timothy 4:9-10)

4.         This new birth provides us access to an inheritance that is everlasting and reserved in heaven for believers. (Cf. Ephesians 1:13-14, 18-19)

5.         Our faith in Jesus Christ is protected by the power of God until that salvation is ultimately revealed. (Cf. Colossians 1:11-12; Ephesians 4:30)

6.         This is cause for great rejoicing even though we are afflicted with the trials and tribulations of the world. (Cf. James 1:2-3)

7.         But God allows challenges and hardships to shape us … to prove the authenticity of our faith toward Him. (Cf. James 1:12; Hebrews 10:22-23)

8.         Your genuine faith will be rewarded at the time of His revelation. (Cf. Hebrews 10:35)

9.         Though we have not physically seen Jesus, the Son of Man, we are convinced of His Being and presence in the Spirit. (Cf. John 16:28)

10.       This “knowing” Jesus through faith … abiding in His Presence … fills us with a joy unspeakable that is filled by His glory. (Cf. John 16:19-22; John 17:13)

11.       You experience this joy because faith in Jesus Christ will be rewarded with the salvation of your soul. (Cf. Isaiah 25:9; 61:10)

12.       This salvation through the Messiah was prophesied by holy men of old … prophets who foretold the sufferings of the Messiah and His resurrection. (Cf. Hebrews 1:1; 2 Peter 1:21)

13.       They prophesied by the Spirit of God for the benefit of those who would live after them.

14.       The prophesies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ … of which the Apostles (anointed by the Holy Spirit) have fully preached to us. (Cf. Acts 8:40; Acts 14:6-7, 20-21; Acts 26:19-20; Romans 15:19-20; 2 Timothy 4:17)

15.       In this context, we are admonished to pay attention to the Word of God … to respond to it … and to set our hope on it. (Cf. Colossians 1:3-6)

16.       Therefore, faith in Jesus Christ will give birth to a new creation. The old has gone, the new is here. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17)

17.       The new creation … the new being … will no longer continue in the evil desires and old behaviors of a sinful person. (Cf. Romans 6:12; Colossians 3:5; 2 Timothy 2:22; 2 Peter 1:4)

18.       And such were all of us at one point in our lives. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23; 1 Corinthians 6:11: Ephesians 4:24)

19.       Since we have been created in Christ Jesus (Cf. Ephesians 2:10), we are called to be holy people … set apart for the work of God.

20.       Holiness, or sanctification by the Spirit, is a process … that will lead us into greater intimacy with Christ. (Cf. John 15:1-12)

Well, I hope this little breakdown of the passage will help you think through all that Peter is sharing with us. His theology and admonition are wonderful; and his message is corroborated by the writings of other apostles as the references (links) were provided to show. In light of the prayer and fasting we have undertaken to focus on and exercise self-discipline, I think this call to holiness is quite timely. I pray that each of us will seek greater intimacy with Christ with minds that are prepared for action and exercise self-control; setting our hope fully on the gracious salvation we will receive when Christ Jesus is revealed at His Coming. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in Him. And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming. ~ 1 John 2:27-28

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

A New Year … A New Creation…

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

As I read our Verse of the Day, I thought, “Wow!” What a great message to share with anyone who does not know Christ Jesus! It is a New Year! What a great time to become a New Creation! The old has gone … the new is here! It is a great time for Second Chance Church … to be a light to those in live in darkness … to be the Body of Christ we were called to be. It is a great time to affirm 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) And the ministry we have been called to do is bring the message of hope … of healing … of deliverance and freedom to those who are in the captivity of sin. Indeed, Jesus is the light we need for this dark and deceived world….

But then I thought, this New Year will be a great opportunity for each of us to examine our own devotion to the Lord Jesus … to renew our hearts in Him. This thought led me to the Letter to the Church in Ephesus:

Revelation 2:1-7 (NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Christ Jesus commended the believers at this church for their hard work, perseverance, and enduring hardships for His Name. Still, He said, “I hold this against you … you have left your first love.” If nothing else, I challenge myself and each of us to consider whether we have drifted or left the love for Jesus that we had at first … when we were first born-again of the Spirit. Have we too become wearied, burdened, or heavy laden such that we have lost our passion … our direction … our genuine love for God? Have we begun to settle for less than what Jesus has called us to do for His Kingdom? Jesus said, “Repent and do the things you did at first.” He said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Cf. Matthew 11:28) The Year of the Healing and Deliverance is not just for those outside of the Church … it is for those within the Church as well. We all need to self-examine and turn our hearts to the Lord Jesus as we did at first! We need to read Psalm 139 and let it penetrate our quiet time in prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me to the way everlasting.”

I believe this is what the call to participate in the “Daniel Fast” is about! It is a focused time of deep reflection … a time of self-denial … a time of repentance … a time for us to return to our first love. This is what the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart for the next 21 days. How I pray we will all spend intentional time before the Lord during our corporate fast to find out what He desires for each of us as His servants … so that we might fulfill the Great Commission … so that we might love others as Jesus has loved us … so that we might worship Him in Spirit and in Truth … so that we might reach those who are in the captivity of sin and shine as a light in the midst of darkness.

I am excited about the call on Second Chance Church to be a “deliverance” church … to be a spiritual hospital for the sick … to minister to those who need healing of the brokenness they are suffering. This vision … this mission … is something that has been resonating in my heart for the past few weeks. It can mean many things, of course; but the context for me is to reach those in bondage with the life-giving truth of the Word of God. This is nothing new for sure; but if we are going to be the church that we have been called by God to be in these latter days, then we are going to have to be intentional in our approach. This is the purpose of this blog … to be a constant reminder to return to our first love….

Our generation has been given a “second chance” to become the church Jesus first commissioned His followers to form. So, I believe we need to revisit the lives of the first Apostles … their transformations … their teachings … their courage … and their approach to ministry and discipleship. There is a call to renewal … to reformation … within the Universal Church itself to rediscover how to function and to be effective. We need to return to the organizational structures developed to minister to the lost. We need to afford believers freedom to exercise the spiritual gifts Christ has given each of them for the benefit of the church. Yes, we need to embrace and embody the apostolic example we have been given in Scripture.

The message of the Gospel is powerful and rests upon the teaching of Jesus Himself when He explained to a man named Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (from above) he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” As Nicodemus questioned Jesus about this teaching, Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Cf. John 3:1-8)

When we are born-again of the Spirit, we become new creations through the Spirit! And I believe this is the foundation of New Covenant … when the Lord puts His law within our minds, and write His law on our hearts. (Cf. Jeremiah 31:31-33). Jesus once shared a metaphor that I think is quite relevant to this point:

Luke 5:36-38 (NIV)

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

We are called into the “new” through Jesus!  He wants us to have a new faith … a new perspective … a new purpose … and a new anointing to enter the Kingdom of God that He establishes within us!  Perhaps His parable was even prophetic when His disciples were gathered on the Day of Pentecost, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. In response to this outpouring, the text states: “And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Cf. Acts 2:1-13)

My friends, as we begin a new year with a renewed resolve to be more disciplined in our walk with the Lord Jesus, I pray that we will keep in mind how our born-again experience has transformed us into new creations … being conformed to the image of Christ. I think the Apostle Paul does an excellent job giving us insight into this process:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free (justified) from sin.

Romans 7:4-6 (NIV)

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Ephesians 4:17-24 (NIV)

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

Colossians 3:5-10 (NIV)

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

And so, I pray that we will begin this New Year with the convictions of faith deeply rooted in our hearts.  May we find within us the discipline to stay in prayer … to study the Word … to fast for healing and deliverance … and to labor with boldness in the harvest field this year. The new creation has come! The old has gone, the new is here! This speaks not only to each of us as individuals … it speaks to the Body of Christ itself. Yes, let us return to our first love … let passion and compassion overtake us in our mission.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. And, write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” ~ Revelation 21:5-6

His Word Endures Forever…

1 Peter 1:24-25 (NIV)

For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the Word that was preached to you.

Our Verse of the Day has a great observation and commentary from the Apostle Peter concerning the eternal and unchanging nature of God’s Word. To me, it provides an interesting contrast that Peter uses here to support his point, and I would like to explore it further….

1 Peter 1:22-25 (NIV)

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from a pure heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God. 24 For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (Citing Isaiah 40:6-8) And this is the Word that was preached to you.

I believe the context of our passage is anchored by Verse 23. Here we find reference to the born-again experience that Jesus discussed with Nicodemus. The Apostle John records this conversation, and I will reprint it here:

John 3:5-15 (NIV)

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.”

With this in mind (being born of the Spirit), I believe we can infer from the premise made by Peter that the Word of God is what the Spirit uses to “effectuate” the new birth experience. He asserts that “we have been born again … through the living and enduring Word of God. And this “word” is unchanging … it is eternal. And this is the word that was preached to you. And this is consistent with what Paul asserted when he penned: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Word of God.” (Cf. Romans 10:17) I cannot explain how this happens; I only know from personal experience that it does. When we allow the “thoughts” of God to penetrate and indwell our hearts, we WILL come to faith in Jesus Christ … which IS the born-again experience being presented here. Jesus said, “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Cf. Luke 22:20), and it was declared through the Prophet Jeremiah when he prophesied:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NIV)

31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

(You will see the new covenant declaration quoted in the Hebrews 8 as well. And in Hebrews 9, you will find its theological development and the requirement for the sacrificial blood of Jesus to “seal” or “enforce” the covenant. So, I encourage you to read those fascinating chapters.)

Now for emphasis, Peter quotes the Prophet Isaiah regarding the temporal nature of man in contrast to the eternal nature of God’s Word. The Word of God is “living” and its truth endures forever in comparison to the brevity of our own lives. Perhaps Peter wanted to assure believers that the Word living in them affirms the Lord’s promise of our resurrection and eternal life with God. As we noted in Hebrews 4:12, “The Word of God is alive and active!” So, when we are born-again of the Spirit through the imperishable, living, and enduring Word of God, our physical lives may end but our souls will live forever. Jesus affirmed, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live … even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Cf. John 11:25-26)

It is certain each of us will face physical death. The statistics have remained unchanged at 100% since humans have been on the earth. Even Jesus died a physical death…. But Jesus taught us that faith in Him would overcome the power of death. When we are alive in Jesus … when we abide in Him … our physical death here will not be final. And this is why Jesus said, “You must be born again – born of water (the Word) and the Spirit – in order to enter the Kingdom of God.

As I meditate on these passages, I think I will conclude with this passage from the Gospel of John because Jesus can explain this better than anyone else:

John 6:63-69 (ESV)

60 Many of His disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” 61 Jesus was aware that His disciples were complaining, so He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? 63 The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are full of the Spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and He knew who would betray Him.) 65 Then He said, “That is why I said to you that no one can come to me unless it has been granted to them by the Father.” 66 At this point many of His disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” 68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Look at how much I love your precepts. Preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your faithful love. All of Your Word is truth, and all Your righteous judgments endure forever. ~ Psalm 119:159-160

New Year … New Creation

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Our first Verse of the Day for 2022 is a great reminder that all things are “new” for those who come to faith in Christ Jesus….

This message of the Gospel is powerful and rests upon the teaching of Jesus Himself when He explained to a member of the Pharisees named Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (from above) he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” As Nicodemus questioned Jesus about this teaching, Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Cf. John 3:1-8)

When we are born-again of the Spirit, we become new creations through Him! And I believe this is the foundation of the New Covenant … when the Lord puts His law within our minds, and write His law on our hearts. (Cf. Jeremiah 31:31-33). Jesus once shared a metaphor that I think is quite relevant to this point:

Luke 5:36-38 (NIV)

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

We are called into the “new” through Jesus! He wants us to have a new faith … a new perspective … a new purpose … and a new anointing to enter the Kingdom of God that He establishes within us!  Perhaps His parable was even prophetic when His disciples were gathered on the Day of Pentecost, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. In response to this outpouring, the text states: “And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Cf. Acts 2:1-13)

As we begin a new year with a renewed resolve to be more disciplined in our walk with the Lord Jesus, I pray that we will keep in mind how our born-again experience has transformed us into new creations … being conformed to the image of Christ. I think the Apostle Paul does an excellent job giving us insight into this process:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free (justified) from sin.

Romans 7:4-6 (NIV)

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Ephesians 4:17-24 (NIV)

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

Colossians 3:1-10 (NIV)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

And so, I pray that we will begin this New Year with the convictions of faith deeply rooted in our hearts.  May we find within us the discipline to stay in prayer … to study the Word … to fast for healing and deliverance … and to labor with courage and commitment in the harvest field this year.  Indeed, 2022 is the year to be devoted in praise and prayer … spiritual priorities if we truly intend to abide in Him and He is us. 

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

A Call To Praise…

1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

There is a solemn decree for praise today!  And we have every reason to give our praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Praise Him for His GREAT mercy!  Praise Him for His gift of New Birth!  Praise Him for our Living Hope!  He is alive!  He is alive!  Alive forevermore! Amen!

1 Peter 1:3-16 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 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. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He (Holy Spirit) foretold the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

This is a powerful passage of Scripture from the Apostle Peter, and I want to think about the power of praise in our lives.  Yes, praise endues power upon and within the believer.  Praise and worship are what will get us through the difficult times and trials in our lives because God supernaturally uses it to fill us with the power we need to build our faith and to overcome.  Notice in Verses 6 and 7 what Peter shares about suffering due to the obedience that comes from faith: “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.” Perhaps, Peter reflected back on when Jesus taught about the trials believers would face for putting their faith in Him. Jesus had likewise encouraged steadfastness in faith. Jesus encouraged His followers to rejoice and be glad when you encounter hostility for your faith in Him. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me (or my name). Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Cf. Matthew 5:11-12) And I think we can add a verse of wisdom from King Solomon here as well: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Cf. Proverbs 29:25)

The application of all these verses is to examine the genuineness of our faith. “What do we honestly believe about God? “Do we trust His Word as the authority for our lives?” “Do our words and deeds align with our profession of faith?” Jesus said God is Spirit, and He is seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.  (Cf. John 4:23-24) It seems apparent to me that Genuineness … Honesty … Sincerity … Truth … is what will prevail and endure before our holy and righteous God and Savior.  Jesus exhorted His disciples, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him.” (Cf. Luke 12:4-5) So yes, God has been quite merciful toward us … and His mercy should lead us to walk in the truth all the more. His gift of repentance is granted to align us with the truth and His purposes. Indeed, as Peter declared: “In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” And as Paul wrote: “Do we have no regard for the goodness, forbearance, and patience of God; not realizing that His kindness is intended to lead us to repentance?” (Cf. Romans 2:4)

And so I pray, that God would reveal to each of us any areas of repentance in which we need to engage ourselves. Yes, let us repent of spiritual indifference; slothfulness; timidity; hardness of heart; resentment; bitterness; unforgiveness; and of anything else that hinders our energy or capacity to praise and worship God in Spirit and in Truth!  Indeed, we are urged by the mercies of God to present ourselves as living sacrifices; holy and acceptable to God – for this is our true, spiritual worship.  And let us not conform to the pattern of this fallen world; rather, let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then, when we are tested, we will discern what is the will of God – His good, pleasing, and perfect will. (Cf. Romans 12:1-2) Yes, I pray our faith will deepen in response to the opportunities God affords us through various tests and trials….

One final thought:

Colossians 3:1-17 (ESV)

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming upon those who are disobedientIn these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, bondservant, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing, psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Wonderfully Made

Psalm 139:13-14

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

When I read this verse this morning … well, I just had to smile and shed a tear.  I think about how gracious God has been to each of us … how He has given each of us the experience of life in all of its mystery, wonder, and fulfillment.  Who can truly understand the mind and wisdom of God to design for us “life” and “being” and “purpose” and “meaning” in the way He has ordained all of these experiences for us … for our spirits (inmost beings)?  I believe this is why the Psalmist declared: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  Oh, my friend, God is to be reverenced! He is worthy of the highest praise! Just look at the ultrasound of a newly conceived embryo….  It is the revelation of God to us – His works are indeed wonderful!

In the wombs of our mothers, God knit us together. Our bodies were formed and grew into a completed beings .  Within our mothers, God prepared us bodies to be the individual temples for our spirits to indwell. He fashioned each of us for His own purpose and for His glory.  This is why we honor our mothers … because through them each of us was brought to life! Even those yet to be born will join this gift of life each of us has graciously been given by our Creator.  And so it has been for millennia that our Father has ordained for those He created in His image to participate in His creative work to fill the earth with His children.  What an incredible thought!

So when we honor mothers for bringing us into this world … we honor our Father in heaven for His handiwork.  We acknowledge His great love, compassion, and provision.  The mystery of His wisdom is simply beyond our human comprehension … yet He has revealed to us Himself through His own Son … and demonstrated His deepest desire to fellowship with each of us personally and collectively.  Oh, I pray we will find in the conception of life … the very heart of God … His tender mercies … His lavish grace … His unfailing love!  And I pray that we the Church … the Body of Christ … will do everything within our power to protect every unborn child as well as every living child that God has given us to nurture and raise for His Name and for His Glory!  Let us unite in prayer for their protection, provision, and person-hood with all sacredness and human dignity possible. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Christ In You….

Colossians 1:27-28

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

I thought that our Verse of the Day needed some additional context, so I have provided that below:

Colossians 1:24-29 (NIV)

24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Some of my thoughts on this passage center on the ministry of the Apostle Paul … who labored and suffered greatly for the Church (the Body of Christ).  His view of affliction and suffering were joined to the great importance of teaching the what God had disclosed (the mystery) to His people (the Church) which believers needed to understand: “Christ indwells you!”  Like the Apostle John, Paul focused on the incredible grace and great love of our Lord Jesus to “abide” in believers through the Holy Spirit.  Remember, before His death, Jesus told His followers, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 12:18) And Paul wants us to know that reality in order for us to have a full, mature understanding of the “indwelling power” each of us possesses through the Spirit of Christ.  The confession of faith we profess in Jesus as Lord and Savior … when we experience new birth through the water (Word) and the Spirit (Cf. John 3:5) … is just the beginning of our new life in Christ.   Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17)

When each of us was born physically, our bodies grew and matured into full adults.  In fact, we had no control over the process of maturation from the time of conception to the present. Even eating, sleeping, and the functioning of our bodies is somewhat involuntary.  When we are born again, we are “expected” to grow in our knowledge of God through the experiential presence with the indwelling Spirit. It is essential to our spiritual maturity and functioning within the Body of Christ.  However, it appears that our spiritual maturation process is more subject to our will – similar to caring for our bodies as we age.  For a discourse on the gifts of the Spirit we receive and are empowered to use for ministry within the church, read 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 and you will find more about what Paul is “admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

I hope this reminder from the Word of God will encourage you to study what Paul labored and suffered so much to bring to us: a greater understanding of the glorious riches we have been given through our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have celebrated His resurrection … and now we anticipate and will celebrate the upcoming Day of Pentecost in remembrance of the amazing unveiling of this mystery – which is Christ in you, the hope of glory!  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)  I pray each of us will strive for this spiritual maturity in our lives….

So Know You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Battle of the Selves

Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

This Verse is a “call” to us regarding our dispositions … our manners … our characters as new creations in Christ.  It reminds us that our redeemed lives are to be Spirit-filled with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  In this context we are to be forgiving … just as the Lord Jesus forgave us.  And over all these virtues, we are to put on love – which binds them all together.  The message here from Paul to the Colossians has quite the application for us because it describes the outward “physical” changes that should follow the inward “spiritual” changes that have caused us to become “holy and dearly loved” children of God.

So I think I will reprint this section of Scripture for your easy reference and reading.  I pray it will impact you and I in the 21st Century as deeply as Paul intended for it to instruct the Colossian believers of the 1st Century.

Colossians 3:1-17 (NIV)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.  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 above 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.

This is the new life we have been saved to live.  If you continue to experience conflicts with your earthly nature exerting itself above your inner man, you need to realize that the battle is now spiritual.  Verse 3 reminds us that the old person you were has died and the new person you are is now hidden in Christ.  But Paul instructs us that we do not wrestle against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Cf. Ephesians 6:12) But I will encourage you in this, as you see the physical manifestations of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love in your relationships with others, you can know that the spiritual battles are being won.  Think of your earthly nature as a barometer of your spiritual nature.  It might not be an exact measure but I’d venture to say it is fairly close….

So what is our application?  Well, our bodies (flesh and blood) are not really the problem.  The greatest battle is within our hearts … our inner beings … our souls.  For as a man thinks in his heart … so is he.  It is our hearts that God must capture; and He did through Christ Jesus.  Do you not realize that it is the kindness of God that led us to repentance? (Cf. Romans 2:4) The love of God is why we submit to His transformation of our hearts … so that we might be conformed to the image of His Son.  And this is why we are called to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  This is why we are admonished to put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. If we are not seeing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and in our relationships with others – then we need to do some serious introspection and start fighting those spiritual battles.  Paul tells us how to be winners:

Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

This is how you fight those battles. This is how you put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.  There are several defensive pieces of armor in the list above – but there is only one offensive spiritual weapon you are provided by God.  It is the sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God.  And, of course, we would include prayer.  Paul instructs that we should be praying at all times in the Spirit. If you want to win the battles – then you will need both the Word and Prayer!  Finally, I will leave you with a couple of parallel verses to encourage you in this fight.  They assure us that our faith in Christ Jesus can overcome our earthly nature and the trouble we have in this world.

John 16:33 (NIV)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

1 John 5:1-5 (NIV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome,for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!