My Redeemer Lives….

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. Job 19:25

We have probably read or heard this verse from the oldest inspired text of the Bible … and I think it might be a word for us to revisit this morning.  We know the story of Job … the incredible losses that he suffered; the intense physical and emotional anguish inflicted upon him; and the deep lessons of faith that he learned as he persevered through the experience.  In the midst of this time of great pain, we find these comments which expressed the hope Job found within his soul … the hope of vindication … the promise of redemption … a confident assurance of resurrection … and a prophetic knowledge of a literal face-to-face meeting with the Lord at the end. 

Job 19:23-27 (NIV)

23 “Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, 24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! 25 I know that my redeemer (vindicator) lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. 26 And after I awake, through this body has been destroyed, then in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

Job addresses not only the resurrection, but he declares we shall see God … with our own eyes!  And I think, “How my heart yearns within me!”  And, yet, is there not an element of “fear” that accompanies that thought?  When He stands upon the earth, and I stand before Him, what happens next?  I think about the Apostle John who personally witnessed the resurrection and the later ascension of Jesus … and while in exile on the island of Patmos He sees the Lord Jesus again and writes: “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead.” (Cf. Revelation 1:17a) I believe that is probably what will happen to most of us. There will be the undeniable reality (not faith) of what we have believed all these years standing right before us!  Oh, I think many of us will be filled with awe and wonder … and gripped with a certain element of fear.  There will be a long, hard gulp … a skip in our heartbeat … and intense reverence to worship Him.

I imagine there will be a swell of thoughts crashing and foaming in that moment.  Perhaps, a common thought will be: “Did I accomplish what I was created in Christ to do?”  “Did I miss His will … His call?” “Was I faithful at all times … in all circumstances during my life?” And yet, are those not questions we should be asking ourselves right now?  If we lived with Jesus in full line of  “sight” each moment, how would that change us now? Oh, how my heart longs to see Him now as I ought…. Oh, how my ears need to hear His voice now ….  Oh, how I need to do what I have been created in Christ to do now … what was prepared in advance for me to do.  (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) If we all lived as righteous Job, I believe there would be more confidence within each of us when we stand before God on that Day. Yes, we can be about the Father’s business right now … for He has equipped us to do so! “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)

We know that our redeemer lives! But do we live in this awareness?  The Apostle John brings us this guidance for introspection: “We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:3-6) Perhaps, we should all ask ourselves: “Do I live as Jesus did?” “Do I love others as I have been loved?”  “Do I forgive others as I have been forgiven?”  “Do I see others as I am seen by the Father?”  If we feel conviction with our answers, then we need to look deeper within ourselves. Consider this passage: “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Cf. Hebrews 10:30-31)

Well, a short verse from the Book of Job can challenge us if we let it. “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 so, I pray that we will always endeavor to apply the Word of God to our hearts … to change our thoughts and attitudes … so that we might have confidence and assurance when returns to the earth and we see Him as He is….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Job 19

1 Then Job replied:

“How long will you torment me
    and crush me with words?
Ten times now you have reproached me;
    shamelessly you attack me.
If it is true that I have gone astray,
    my error remains my concern alone.
If indeed you would exalt yourselves above me
    and use my humiliation against me,
then know that God has wronged me
    and drawn his net around me.

“Though I cry, ‘Violence!’ I get no response;
    though I call for help, there is no justice.
He has blocked my way so I cannot pass;
    He has shrouded my paths in darkness.
He has stripped me of my honor
    and removed the crown from my head.
10 He tears me down on every side till I am gone;
    He uproots my hope like a tree.
11 His anger burns against me;
    He counts me among His enemies.
12 His troops advance in force;
    they build a siege ramp against me
    and encamp around my tent.

13 “He has alienated my family from me;
    my acquaintances are completely estranged from me.
14 My relatives have gone away;
    my closest friends have forgotten me.
15 My guests and my female servants count me a foreigner;
    they look on me as on a stranger.
16 I summon my servant, but he does not answer,
    though I beg him with my own mouth.
17 My breath is offensive to my wife;
    I am loathsome to my own family.
18 Even the little boys scorn me;
    when I appear, they ridicule me.
19 All my intimate friends detest me;
    those I love have turned against me.
20 I am nothing but skin and bones;
    I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth.

21 “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity,
    for the hand of God has struck me.
22 Why do you pursue me as God does?
    Will you never get enough of my flesh?

23 “Oh, that my words were recorded,
    that they were written on a scroll,
24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead,
    or engraved in rock forever!
25 I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end He will stand on the earth.

26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see Him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!

28 “If you say, ‘How we will hound him,
    since the root of the trouble lies in him,’
29 you should fear the sword yourselves;
    for wrath will bring punishment by the sword,
    and then you will know that there is judgment.”

Suffering For Christ

Philippians 1:29

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him…

There are some powerful theological considerations for us in our verse today.  Let’s put our verse in some additional context:

Philippians 1:22-30 (NIV)

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. 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

In this chapter, Paul has been recounting the struggles and suffering he has endured on his missionary journeys in the preaching of the Gospel.  As a prisoner, most likely in Rome at the time this letter was written, Paul shared his thoughts about all that had happened to him; and he wanted to encourage the believers at Philippi to have courage as they faced the same tests of their faith.  Uncertain of his future physical survival (as we all are), Paul contrasted his potential demise with the hope of restoration from the current isolation and suffering imposed on him.  So Paul instructs the believers to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ … no matter what happens.  And then he makes an interesting statement:  “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.”

God “grants” … God gives you and I two things: the hearing of faith and the suffering of faith.  And both have been granted to us on “behalf of Christ.”  In English, this translation has a profound application.  It does not say “in behalf of Christ” … which would mean “helping for the benefit of” or “acting in the interest of” Christ; rather, it states “on behalf of Christ” … meaning “in place of” or “as the agent of” or “as representing” Christ.  It follows that our faith and suffering is not meant to “manifest” in the interest of Jesus Christ; rather, I believe the implication is that our faith in God and the suffering that accompanies faith is now “in place of” or “a continuation of” the sufferings of Christ. We are enduring the struggles of faith and suffering now as Christ in the world … as His Body … as His Church.  I think Paul is saying that both faith and suffering should be viewed as a “privilege” given to us by God! In His sovereignty, God granted us the privilege (the grace) not only to believe in Him through Jesus Christ … but also the privilege (the grace) to suffer as Christ did in order to refine and mature our faith.  As Hebrews 5:8 points out: “Though Christ was the Son of God, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”  Likewise, the obedience of faith will be formed in us through hardship and suffering….

Did not Jesus Himself explain this would happen? You can find context for the suffering that comes with faith in Matthew 10:16-26 when Jesus sent out His disciples and followers into the towns of Judea to proclaim the Gospel.  In Matthew 24:3-14, we can see the suffering that comes with faith in the latter days should be expected as well. In John Chapters 15-17, when Jesus speaks about His imminent departure from the earth, He prays not only for the disciples to remain steadfast in faith, but also for those who will come to faith based on their testimony,

Matthew 10:21-22 (NIV)

21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Matthew 24:9-13 (NIV)

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

John 15:18-21 (NIV)

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ (Reference John 13:16) If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.

John 16:1-4 (NIV)

1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.

John 17:14-18 (NIV)

14 “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

What these passages indicate is that suffering for our faith in Jesus Christ is inevitable.  And I believe the suffering we will experience “on behalf of Christ” is the suffering that He said we would endure in the world.  We are in His place now … in the world.  We are His Body … the Church.  We are His agents … His ambassadors.  And like Jesus, we will suffer ridicule, persecution, hate, violence, and even death for our faith in Him. So, I think it is important to note that as believers, we have the Holy Spirit living within us so that we can persevere in faith and hope.  Through Scripture, we are exhorted to persevere:

Hebrews 10:32-39 (NIV)

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

James 1:12-18 (NIV)

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose (granted) to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all He created.

Verse 17 states that “Every good and perfect gift is from above….”  You see, God has granted those He chose in Christ Jesus to believe in Him for salvation. And He granted the gift of suffering as well … to test our faith and to produce perseverance.  We need to recognize that “the cross comes before the crown”.  Both faith and suffering work in tandem to produce in us the kind of faith that God desires … a sincere faith that will remain steadfast when tried and tested.  Why?  Because that kind of faith will grow to the size of a mustard seed.  It will be empowered to move mountains!  Nothing will be impossible for us! (Cf. Matthew 17:19:20) Indeed, God wants us to be effective and productive through an ever-increasing faith. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:1-9) God wants our faith to grow so that we can accomplish the works He prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And a faith that endures all things is necessary for us to accomplish the will of God!  Truly, it is His divine power at work to heal the sick, to mend broken hearts, to free those who are captives, to release people from darkness, and to proclaim the Gospel! But most often, the Holy Spirit works through us … through those who believe in Him and suffer for His Name sake!  That is our purpose … our role as the Church!

David reflected: “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress; I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:5-8) So, my prayer is that we will see and understand the “privileges” we have received from God.  Let Him be praised for His grace … for His gifts!  May these truths from His Word penetrate our hearts and equip us … empower us … to be His Church in these latter days! For it has been granted to us, on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him….  Amen.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Saved For Sanctification

2 Peter 3:3 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the lusts of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

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

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

Acts 26:12-19 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 10:32-39 (NIV)

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

2 John 4-9 (NIV)

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

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

An Audacious Request

Luke 11:13 (NIV)

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

As you can see, the topic of prayer (communication with God) is being examined … and more specifically … the aspect of “asking” God for real needs in our lives.  I think it very important to examine this verse in the surrounding context because it follows Jesus’ teaching of a “model prayer” … followed by a parable … that leads to a teachable moment … and culminates with the life application of our verse … which should itself prompt us to seek and ask God for His incredible gift … His indwelling Holy Spirit!  Follow along with me:

Luke 11:1-13 (ESV)

The Lord’s Prayer

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins (debts), for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Parable of the Inopportune Friend

And Jesus said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves,for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence* (or persistence) he will rise and give him whatever he needs. (*The NIV Translation renders the expression “shameless audacity”.)

Teachable Moment

And so I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What fathers among you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

Application

13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Now, given the background and foundation laid here, it is evident to me that the focal point of this passage is Verse 13.  Jesus begins with teaching that prayer is about connecting with God the Father.  Prayer acknowledges God is … His dominion … His power.  We are to show Him reverence – “hallowed be your name”.  “Your Kingdom come,” means God has authority and sovereignty over all HIS creation … including us.  Jesus encourages us through prayer to ask for our physical needs … to request forgiveness … and to avoid the temptation of evil.  But then, Jesus shares a parable to emphasize our need to be “persistent” in prayer.  It is as though we are urged to be bold and tenacious in the expression of our hearts before God.  But why the need for perseverance?  Perhaps our resolve and steadfastness in prayer reflects the sincerity of our hearts … that we have not come before God with just some vague hope laced with doubt or a general wish for something without deep expectancy to receive it.

I find confidence in that Jesus moves into an imperative concerning prayer at this point: “And so I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  If prayer was futile or pointless, why would Jesus instruct us to ask, seek, and knock during prayer AND assure us the Father will favorably respond?  Jesus goes on to compare the responses of human fathers to their children when they “ask” for various physical needs.  He observes, “if sinful human fathers know how to respond to requests based upon their mortal capacities to give, then how much more will our perfect Heavenly Father know how to respond to His children when they ask for even greater needs … something so “audacious” or “outrageous” as to want the Holy Spirit?  Yet, Jesus indicates that the baptism or infilling of the Holy Spirit is exactly what we should be asking to receive!  I dare say, He is indeed our greatest need!

I know that I have quoted this passage quite often, but I believe it shares great insight into this issue:

2 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

  1. His divine power (the Holy Spirit) is a gift. (Cf. Acts 1:8; Acts 2:38; Acts 10:45)
  2. His divine power (the Holy Spirit) is promised. See Joel 2:28-29. (Cf. Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2:33, 39; Ephesians 1:13)
  3. His divine nature is effectuated in us through the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (Cf. Acts 10:38; Romans 15:13, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 2:4; Ephesians 3:16)

You might note that most of the cited cross-references above point to the power of the Holy Spirit to endue the ability to proclaim the Gospel … the Word of God … with boldness or with tongues (other languages) so that the message of Jesus Christ is spread to anyone and everyone who will hear or listen. I believe the reason this “power” is so prominent it because the Word of God induces genuine faith (Cf. Romans 10:17); and it is faith in Jesus Christ that effectuates the divine power we need for a transformed and Spirit-filled life as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) Indeed, His divine power is essential for the Kingdom of God to be realized in our lives; and I believe that is our greatest need to be sought through prayer. As Jesus shared, we should ask the Father for the Holy Spirit (His divine power) with “shameless audacity” and “persistence”!  And although I think such brash language was used in His parable to urge us to be fearless and courageous as we approach the Father, I cannot help but believe we should always be humble and reverent before Him … even when feeling zealous for His precious promise.  And this is His promise: Our Heavenly Father, who is perfect in all His ways, WILL give His Spirit to those who ask Him.

One final thought:

James 1:5-8 (NIV)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

So when you ask God for anything … believe God! By His own glory and excellence, God has promised to grant us His Spirit, and He has promised to grant us eternal life through His Son, Christ Jesus. And so my prayer is that you and I will believe His great and precious promises in these latter days and ask for them with expectant boldness! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Finish The Race!

Acts 20:24

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

What an interesting personal assessment Paul gives here in this verse: “I consider my life worth nothing to me.”  He goes on to provide some context for his statement – which I think is important for us to include so that the value of his life … our lives … is put into better perspective.  Up to this point in Acts:20, Luke has been documenting the missionary journey undertaken by Paul and the evangelical opportunities for ministry afforded to him along the way.  It has been a fruitful journey, but there have been hardships and challenges in the midst of preaching the Gospel and discipling elders in the churches he labored to establish.  This is the backdrop when we reach Verse 22.

Acts 20:22-24 (NIV) – Paul is speaking

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

This is a more useful context to understand what Paul meant regarding the “worth of his life.”  It was not that Paul thought his life had no value; rather, it was a comparison to the calling of preaching the Gospel and completing the “job” which he had been “assigned” to do.  I think this is the more salient point for us to consider.  Each of us has a life given to us by the grace and will of God.  I say will of God because if He did not ordain for you to be conceived, then you would not exist.  Likewise, I say the grace of God because if He had not orchestrated a course around all of the threats and obstacles to your life, you would not continue to be here.  In short, our lives are miracles on many levels of contemplation, and we have been allowed our own free will to navigate it towards meaning and purpose within our mortal limitations.

When we find Christ Jesus … when the testimonies of the Apostles and the Word of God convince our souls of the Truth, a new dimension of life enters our existence.  Our spirits … our beings are born again!  Our concept of “self” is radically altered with the knowledge of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We are changed!  The old has gone, the new is here! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) And so the value or worth we placed on our previous existence is changed as well.  What we thought we valued for our lives becomes replaced with a “purpose” of far more significant value … eternal value.  Our lives, hidden in Christ, have a new motivation … to live worthy of the Lord and to please Him in every way and to be productive in His Kingdom for His glory!

I think when Paul said, “I consider my life worth nothing to me,” I believe he was referring to his former life and the former meaning he had placed on it.  In light of his authentic encounter with the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul was radically changed and his new life in Christ took on a “life of its own” … a life lived in the context of a close, personal relationship with Jesus and his new assignment to be an ambassador of the Gospel in all its fullness and truth.  In essence, Paul was saying that nothing (prison or hardships) would deter him from completing the good work he was created in Christ Jesus to do, which God had prepared in advance for him to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And he expressed this in terms that we can relate in a way to communicate that whatever the risks of following the Lord Jesus and accomplishing His will for my life is more important … of great value … than my own inward, personal aspirations for this experience of life.  It represents a complete surrender to the will of God, and I believe this is an important principle for us to embrace in our journey of faith….

As Pastor Steve shared during his sermon Sunday morning about the life of Joseph (Cf. Genesis 37-47), he observed that Joseph from a youth had a life within the will of God, and yet, Joseph suffered being ridiculed, mocked, abuse, threatened with murder, sold into slavery (human trafficked), lied about, imprisoned, and forsaken, before he finally came to the place of accomplishing what God had purposed in advance for his life.  Surely, all of these horrific hardships and challenges tested his faith in God, yet he remained steadfast in his belief in the ultimate goodness and love of God. The entire time, Joseph was within the will of God, yet his life was far from “perfect” from a human perspective.  Yet Joseph spiritually understood that God was ever present in his life to bring about His will … His good purpose … and with perseverance he awaited it in faith.

Genesis 45:4-8 (NIV) 

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  8 So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God

Genesis 50:15-21 (NIV)

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

As we contemplate the visions and dreams God has instilled in our spirits for our lives … as we seek significance, purpose, and meaning for our lives … let us remember both Joseph and Paul – who despite tremendous opposition and hardship – went on to complete their respective roles in the Kingdom of God.  They did not consider their “own” lives worth anything compared to the rewards of faithfulness to what God called them to do.  And the application of these biblical lessons is for us to persevere in faith to accomplish the work God has given each of us to do in Christ.  As the writer of Hebrews suggested:

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

So I pray that each of us will run the race; reach the finish line; and receive the reward – the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (Cf. James 1:12) I pray we will remain courageous and steadfast in the pursuit of the visions and dreams God has given each of us to guide our journey of faith … and to bear much fruit to the glory of God the Father.  I encourage you to read John 15:1-17.  As Jesus shared with His disciples (and with us), we must remain (abide) in Him in order to bear fruit.  Further, we should understand that the Father will “prune” us in order to bear even more fruit; and that in Christ Jesus we were chosen (appointed) to bear fruit and that it should remain….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 01/19/19

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

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

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

1 Corinthians 10: 1-13 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!