Carry The Load…

Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the Law of Christ!

As we examined our desire to “do” the will of God, we discovered that the will of God must be discerned, understood, and then put into practice through action. (Cf. James 2:14-17) In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle Paul gives us some practical instruction on “how” to fulfill our desire to do the will of God: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

What does it mean to “carry or bear each other’s burdens”? Well, let’s look at the immediate context:

Galatians 6:1-5 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.

Galatians 6:1-5 (NLT)

1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of ChristIf you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

As I examine the context, it appears that the “burden” we are called to bear is the action of restoring someone who has been caught in transgression (i.e., sin). The phrase implies both the responsibility we must take for our own sin as well as helping others through the temptations and weaknesses they endure as well. “You who are spiritual … you who live by the Spirit,” should not be misconstrued to mean “you who are sinless.” But those who live by the Spirit are equipped to know and understand “the root” of what is occurring in their lives and in the lives of those who have fallen, and to guard themselves from the same potential temptation or weakness. It is crucial for those who are mature in Christ to help all others in the Church to receive restoration and to move toward spiritual maturity.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NIV)

11 So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

When we speak about Five-Fold Ministry of the Church, this is “how” our Lord determined that we fulfill His Law. The work of restoration (healing what is broken); reconciliation (leading people to God); and deliverance (finding triumph through Christ Jesus) is accomplished through those who are spiritual … through those who have been appointed and equipped to serve the Lord and to make disciples. And we are blessed with the incredible opportunity to fulfill the Law of Christ within the local body (assembly) that we attend. You do not have to be in the office of Apostle to make a difference. You do not need to compare yourself to a Pastor or Evangelist. God has gifted you for service and to bear fruit as He has determined. So, I encourage you to fulfill what He has chosen for you to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-10)

Remember that regardless of whether you have an “office” within the Church, those who live by the Spirit have been gifted – for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. (Cf. Romans 11:29) You are the best one equipped to help others through the same things you have experienced in life and overcame through faith in Jesus Christ. That is how God will use you to bear the burden(s) of others:

1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 27-31 (NIV)

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way….

Paul will go on to share in 1 Corinthians 13 that the most excellent way to minister to one another is with sincere love. For we know that love covers a multitude of sins. (Cf. Proverbs 10:12; 17:9; 1 Peter 4:8) Our calling is to facilitate healing of the brokenness that sin has caused in the lives of people … and to point others to the deliverance, freedom, and reconciliation found in Jesus Christ our Lord. Our responsibility is not to judge or condemn; rather, it is to love. Love does not condone sin; but it is the power through which repentance is motivated. As Paul admonished:

Romans 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

My prayer is that we will answer the call to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, to fulfill the law of Christ.” And to do so, I encourage you to use the spiritual gifts that you have been graciously given … as the Spirit determined uniquely for you. You are able! You are equipped! You are called to make a difference in the Kingdom! Let’s start right here … right now where we have been placed to serve God. And let us do so in the most excellent way … to love others as we ourselves have been loved by the Lord. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

What Is Your Purpose?

Proverbs 19:20-21 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

John 6:29 (NIV)

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

2 Corinthians 17-20 (NIV)

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

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

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

Colossians 3:17; 23-24 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Teshuva – Time to Return!

1 John 2:1 (NIV)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

Our Verse of the Day deals with the issue of sin in our lives.  I find it interesting that this topic was presented today on Rosh Hashana … and the beginning of Teshuva (10 Days of Repentance) before Yom Kippur … the Day of Atonement.  I plan to observe these special days of reflection; and I think it would serve us well to look deeper into the context as well as other scriptures that lead us to confession, repentance, and obedience….

1 John 1:5-10 Through 1 John 2:1-6 (NIV)

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.

That is probably enough context for us to get the picture. All sin is unbelief or disobedience at its core. If we live in sin, we live in darkness. But if we live in God, we walk in the light. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. As John stated, we must “live as Jesus did” in order to have fellowship with Him. This is HOW we KNOW are in Him. The conviction of sin within us is the evidence that we have offended God … that we have displeased Him. And so, the call to holiness … to the consecration of ourselves to God is the goal. Therefore, confession of sin is necessary … it is required in order to be cleansed and purified by God. And John shares with us the great news that Jesus is our advocate with the Father in order that we might receive forgiveness and be reconciled for our offenses, but John will continue to admonish us with regard to habitual sin:

1 John 3:4-10 (NIV)

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that He (Jesus) appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

I believe we truly need to examine our attitudes toward sin. All too often, we excuse it … rationalize it … or justify it as “being human” or “God understands”. No one is perfect … I get that. But are we conscious of the offense and disgrace that sin brings to God? Do we grieve in our souls when we grieve the Holy Spirit … when we quench the Holy Spirit … when we offend and wound Father God? How often are Christians called “hypocrites” because of their conduct? I see bumper stickers that read: “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.” While the statement is true in a sense … the tone is quite misleading as though grace “excuses” sin. Just to be clear … the grace of God does not excuse sin! The grace of God covers its consequences (See Romans 6:23) … covers it with the precious blood of a perfect sacrificial lamb … atones for sin … and reveals the wrath God “feels” toward it. No, we cannot continue to sin nor be dismissive of the behaviors and habits we have allowed to become the strongholds in our lives. A person born of God … a believer … cannot go on sinning. It is quite unconscionable to treat God with such irreverence if indeed we have been born of the Spirit.

Romans 5:6-10 (NIV)

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Being born of the Spirit is the reason we have the capacity to reign in the sinful human nature. As 2 Peter 1:3 declares: “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.” And godliness should be the desire of a heart that is wholly surrendered to God. Someone once said that we have to hate our sin more than we love God if we truly want to attain holiness. But we cannot attain it in our own strength or power. As Jesus shared with His disciples, “What is impossible with man is possible with God. (Cf. Luke 18:27) It is the Spirit of God who changes our hearts so that the inclinations of the thoughts of our hearts can be made righteous. That is why we are admonished to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:5)

As we meditate on these scriptures and the observance of Teshuvah … the “return” … to turn our hearts toward God, I pray we will see what today is all about for the people of God. The call of repentance is the sound of the shofar – calling an assembly of people united in fasting and prayer before God. Yes, I pray that we will surrender our hearts today and seek the face of God in repentance. For He has said: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:13-16)

Indeed, WE, the people of this nation, need to humble ourselves … we need to turn from our own wicked ways … and consecrate ourselves to the Lord. Then will He hear our prayers and supplications for our homes, for our children, for our communities, for our churches, and for this nation. Then He will forgive and heal our land. Our sins and the sins of this nation can be covered! We have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One. It is His blood … the blood of atonement that redeems and reconciles us with the Father! That is the message of The Return! So let us repent and return to our first love! “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (Cf. Psalm 95:6) Amen….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Links to Bible Gateway for Jewish Readings During Teshuva:

Hosea 14:1-9 (NIV)

Joel 2:15-27 (NIV)

From Suffering To Hope…

Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

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

I find it interesting that our Verse of the Day is an excerpt from the passage that I posted yesterday for our study.  The topic Paul addresses here is “suffering” and its intended spiritual purpose in our lives. Paul shares his insight from the tremendous amount of personal suffering that he endured; especially after becoming a believer and follower of Christ. I thought we might put this passage in the larger context to see this purpose:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of GodNot only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hopeAnd hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodlyVery rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

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

Romans 8:18-25 (NIV)

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

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

1 Peter 2:19-23 (NIV)

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

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

2 Timothy 1:6-13 (NIV)

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God. 9 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, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. 11 And of this Gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Looking For Acceptance…

Romans 15:7 (NIV)

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

As I contemplated our Verse of the Day, a thought began to form on the application of it.  Let’s look at the verse in its surrounding context:

Romans 15:1-8 (NIV)

1We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please Himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Citing Psalm 69:9For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.

As I studied the message being developed here by Paul, I remembered his inspired affirmations in Romans 5 that I believe are applicable to our study as well:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

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

I think if believers would humble themselves under the truth of Roman 5:8; recognize His passionate love for all people (John 3:16); and understand that we were accepted while still in our state of sin and hopelessness; then we should be able to accept one another just as Christ accepted us … in order to bring praise to God. Through faith in Jesus and the atonement for our sin accomplished through His shed blood, new believers have received the love of God and the assurance of His acceptance into their hearts. They are accepted by God just as we were accepted when we first believed and came to faith. And so, all believers should be accepted, embraced, and loved by one another. Yes, we need to deeply consider this admonishment and remember that each individual who responds to the Gospel and comes to faith in Christ Jesus, will move along their journey toward complete healing, deliverance, and freedom at a different pace. Indeed, the process of sanctification does not begin until His reconciliation has been received in the heart of a sinner transformed into a believer.

I am convinced that until a person can accept the forgiveness of God through His Son and embrace the truth of His love and reconciliation, they will not be able to experience the power of His resurrection to heal, deliver, or set them free from every bondage that hinders them from wholeness and fullness in life.  Paul wrote: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Cf. Galatians 5:1) But, I also believe that when members of the Body fail to accept one another as Christ accepted us, we can create obstacles to the victory and freedom found in Jesus. I am sure that is why Paul advised the believers in Rome: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please Himself….”

To the believers in Ephesus Paul wrote: “As a prisoner for the Lord, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Cf. Ephesians 4:1-3) To those in Thessalonica Paul admonished: “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15) And to the Colossians Paul emphasized: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

It is clear from Scripture that we are to make every effort to accept one another … bear with one another … forgive one another … and love one another as Christ Jesus demonstrated His acceptance, forgiveness, patience, and love for each one of us.  This requires a humble and obedience spirit. As Paul advised: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Cf. Romans 12:3) So I pray that we will listen to what the Lord Jesus would have us to hear from His Word this morning.  I pray we will learn to serve one another in love … to build each other up … and to accept one another as Christ has accepted each of us. And let us offer Him thanksgiving and praise for His great love. In Jesus Name, Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

One New Humanity…

Ephesians 2:19 (NIV)

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household…

Our Verse of the Day addresses a theological concept that uses metaphorical language to explain how our relationship with God as non-Jewish followers of Christ is “equivalent” to the natural born relationship of God with His chosen people … His treasured possession.  Let’ look at the context:

Ephesians 2:1-22 (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 cravings 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.

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.

I think Paul gives us a brilliant explanation of how Christ Jesus has joined together both Jew and Gentile believers into one body … one temple … one dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.  This is how He established a unity of the faith handed down from Abraham through His descendants.  The hostilities between Jewish and Gentile believers have ceased in Christ. Our diversity has been transformed into unity within the Body of Christ … for Jesus accomplished reconciliation and peace with God for both peoples through the cross. Paul presents a similar narrative in his Letter to the Colossians:  

Colossians 1:15-23 (NIV)

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds as demonstrated by your evil behavior. 22 But now God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

I encourage you today to meditate on what Christ Jesus has done … the unity of faith He has established to bring peace and reconciliation to all peoples. Remember, “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Cf. Galatians 3:26-29)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Compassionate Father

Psalm 103:13 (NIV)

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him….

As we enter this week and reflect on fathers and fatherhood; I am most grateful for our Heavenly Father … and for His compassions upon His children … upon those who fear (reverence) Him.  As Paul wrote:

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Indeed, we all need compassion and comfort when we are distressed … oppressed … afflicted … or in physical, emotional, or spiritual pain.  It is part of our human experience … perhaps so that we can see and recognize the God of all comfort! And as we endure these experiences, we learn the grace of comforting others.  Indeed, God has shown His compassion since the Creation.  Jesus had great compassion for people as well. It is His nature … just as He is love.  Again, I am reminded of the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Jesus shared, “But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Cf. Luke 15:20) Oh, that is the depth of compassion we have received from God … and it reflects the acts of compassion that we should extend to one another….

So, I pray we will let compassion reign in our hearts as we minister to those who are in brokenness … to those who are ensnared in the darkness and deception of this world … to those who have wandered from the faith and experiencing a change of heart.  Oh, the Father is waiting, to celebrate their change of heart!  He is the Father of compassion! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Dealing With Sin

Matthew 18:15 (NIV)

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.

It appears that the Holy Spirit wants us to deal with the issue of sin within our relationships.  As the Apostle John admonishes us:

1 John 3:1-10 (NIV)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the Law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

So in the context of this “post resurrection” understanding brought to us by John, let’s go back to the matter Jesus discusses with His disciples and followers while He was still with them:

Matthew 18:15-20 (NRSV) – Dealing with Sin in the Church

15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out their offense when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that brother or sister16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (Cf. Deuteronomy 19:1517 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a pagan or a tax collector. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will be released in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

An authentic encounter with Jesus Christ should produce a discernible change of heart within an individual.  It is not enough to simply know about Jesus; rather, a person must enter into an intimate relationship with Him … experience the new birth (born of God through His Spirit) … conceived in deep repentance and complete surrender to Jesus as Lord and Savior.  John tells us that one who is born of God will not continue to sin because the Holy Spirit within them will bring conviction to their heart. This conviction will lead to confession of the sin. And as John instructed: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (Cf. 1 John 1:9) Likewise, we are called to have this same mindset of forgiveness with one another. (Cf. Colossians 3:13) Indeed, I think the Apostle James brings additional perspective on forgiveness when he enjoins us “to confess our sins to each other and to pray for one another so that we may be healed.” (Cf. James 5:13-16) I think his message is that not only should we “release” the one who sins against us, but we should advocate in prayer for their “release” in heaven.  In other words, when we forgive someone, we should ask God to forgive them as well. It does not necessarily change the consequence(s) of their sin(s), but the intent is to release the debt owed for their offense just as God in Christ released you….

Jesus taught that when we pray to God, we should ask for and receive forgiveness for our sins (trespasses or debts) because we have forgiven those who have sinned or trespassed against us.  What we are asking for is the “release” of the debt we owe for our own conduct toward God. We plead for the blood of Jesus to atone for our sin. We ask for His grace to be extended to us. So it is “expected” that we have forgiven others with the same grace that we have asked of the Father for ourselves. Jesus noted: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Cf. Matthew 6:9-15) With this context in mind, I encourage you to revisit Matthew 18:18 again: “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will be released in heaven.” Consider that if you or I withhold forgiveness from someone (bind it on earth); then it could be that our own prayers for forgiveness will be withheld from us (bound in heaven). It could be that we are guilty of the same sin(s) committed against us. Just a thought … in case you never committed the act of adultery but did so in your heart with a spirit of lust or covetousness.  Remember, Jesus has extended the threshold of sinfulness beyond physical deeds to include the malicious intentions of our hearts. For example, our tongues (our words) can wound the spirit or even murder the life of another person. If you have ever physically or emotionally bullied others, you have in essence murdered them in your heart….

Matthew 5:21-24 (NIV)

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder (Cf. Exodus 20:13) and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister without cause will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ (an Aramaic term of contempt or verbal abuse) is answerable to the council. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

More than our tithes and offerings … more than our gifts or sacrifices of praise … God is concerned with the thoughts and intents of our hearts. He observes how we demonstrate our love for other people.  Is our love sincere or just lip service?  Is our love for others manifested in our prayers? God knows in truth.  In Christ Jesus, the love of God embodied in the greatest act of forgiveness … the release of our own sin debt.  Likewise, it is our forgiveness of others that expresses our love for them. Oh, it may be difficult in our human nature to do so; but the precepts presented here in Scripture are too obvious for us to disregard or dismiss.  Forgiveness does not mean what someone else did to you was acceptable. It was wrong. It was painful.  It impacted, diminished, or desecrated your life in some way. What they did should NOT be tolerated; however, it can still be forgiven. You can still “release” them and pray for them … even if reconciliation with you is not possible. In doing so, you affirm God has been merciful to you….  Remember, God did not excuse our sins! What He did was release us from the judgment for them (death). In most cases, we all still suffer from the consequences of our sin. Perhaps this is why James encouraged us to confess our sins to each other and to pray for one another so that we may be healed of our brokenness….

Consider what Paul declared: “Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!  “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!” (Cf. Romans 5:9-10) I believe forgiveness is probably the most powerful demonstration of love ever conceived in the heart of God.  And if we are to love one another as He has loved us, then forgiveness of others must be within our hearts as well.  The riches of His kindness, longsuffering, and patience is intended to lead us to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) Perhaps, if we too acted with kindness and forgiveness, the one who offended us might be granted repentance as well. (Cf. 2 Timothy 24-26) As the Apostle James pointed out: My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (Cf. James 5:19-20) And we should take to heart the lesson Jesus taught us:

Luke 6:27-37 (NIV)

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most-High God, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

When you love your enemies and do good to them, your reward will be great!  We were once enemies of God; and yet, for the JOY set before Him, Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) We have been called in Christ Jesus to share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. (Cf. Romans 8:17) Peter affirmed this reward as well: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (Cf. 1 Peter 4:12-14) Yes, somehow we need to find it within us to be kind to those who sin against us.  To me, the greatest kindness we can extend is forgiveness.  We can release them to God for His judgment.  Perhaps they might respond to His kindness.

Romans 12:17-21 (NIV)

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:3520 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, then feed him; if he is thirsty, then give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Cf. Proverbs 25:21-22) 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Well, I see that I have covered quite a bit of ground on the issue of forgiveness.  A final thought to share is that communication and interaction are essential for forgiveness and reconciliation to be realized.  We are expected to “confront” our offenders.  We should go to them in love … even when we should feel righteous anger toward them.  How we feel is important … but how they are separated from you and from God is the greater issue to be addressed.  When people sin against each other … we must realize that we sin against God.  There should be a deep sense of sorrow for the offense.  There should be a great desire to effectuate reconciliation. The impulse to seek revenge should be counterbalanced with a deeper desire to see repentance and restoration. And even though you act in a spirit of grace, there could be ambivalence or indifference on the part of the offender. Still, you and I should do what is best and just commit them to God.  And do not be offended or upset with God because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.  His kindness once led you and I to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ. So I believe that we should pray that God would do the same for those who offend us. For God is longsuffering toward us all – not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (Cf. 2 Peter 3:9)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

SEEK AND SAVE

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10

When we think about Jesus, do we think about Him or His mission?  I know that I spend time mediating on Him … His person … His character … His example … His majesty.  But I think it is important for us to spend time mediating on His mission.  As our verse points out: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  And we, as born-again believers, are the evidence of His successful mission … a mission that was completed on the cross.

What we might on occasion overlook or forget is that His mission was for everyone … for the whole world.  As the Apostle John so eloquently put it: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) The mission … the purpose for which Jesus the Son was sent to the world is salvation of man.  It was through the redemption obtained by Jesus that God would reconcile the world to Himself.  The goal was to bring light into the world … understanding and the wisdom of God … so that we might know the only true God and Creator … that we might reverence Him … that we might surrender ourselves to Him.  When we think about Jesus, His Being is tied to His mission. And Jesus went to great lengths … even an undeserved death on a cross to complete and fulfill the will of God for us who believe.  It is now our responsibility as the Church to continue the mission….

What we need to realize and remember is that every human ever born is lost….  Think about that for a moment.  Every human ever born is lost and in need of salvation.  It is not our human nature to seek God. The Father has set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what He has done from beginning to end. (Cf. Ecclesiastes 3:11) Therefore, the Father seeks us! And God does so in a personal way … through Jesus His Son! Indeed, God has revealed Himself … He has spoken to us through His Word … through His Prophets … and in these last days through His Son.  (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-3) Through Jesus, we see the kindness of God seeking us; leading us to repentance; and reconciling us to Himself. (Cf. Romans 2:4) God implores everyone to believe in Him and to sanctify ourselves for Him.

In Romans 10:14-15, Paul asked: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” And, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17) So, I pray that as we identify with the mission of Christ … we will join with Him in the mission.  The good works for which we have been created in Christ is to seek and to save the lost on His behalf. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) As Paul affirmed:

2 Corinthians 17-20 (NIV)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

A Foolish Message?

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Our verse today is a wonderful message of hope and assurance.  Let’s look at the context and explore “the message of the cross”:

1 Corinthians 1:17-31 (NIV)

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Paul is quoting Isaiah 29:14) 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (Paul is quoting Jeremiah 9:24)

I think it is important to note that in the preceding Verses 10-17, Paul is addressing what he describes as “divisions” within the church … specifically a matter over which church leader(s) people should follow.  Paul asks, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?” His point was that there is only ONE leader or head of the church … and that is Christ Jesus.  For He is the one who was crucified on the cross for our sins.  Even more … Jesus was resurrected from the dead to demonstrate the power and authority He received from God the Father. To Paul, and for us, this is the only message worthy of preaching.  The Gospel is inseparable from the cross! In fact, the Gospel IS the message of the cross! So, what exactly is the message of the cross?

The message of the cross is light!

Think about it for a moment. What took place on the cross? Yes, suffering, agony, and excruciating pain. But what else did the torment of crucifixion entail? Absolute Humiliation! I think that aspect is one we tend to forget.  Indeed, one of the reasons that crucifixion was used by the Romans was to use its horrific humiliation to discourage others from engaging in criminal acts – especially those of treason or insurrection. Those who were crucified were stripped naked to increase their shame since these spectacles were conducted in full view of the public.  Yet, perhaps, the full exposure (the humiliation) is an aspect that we need to consider more when it comes to the message of the cross….

John 3:19-21 (NIV)

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

The cross exposes the hideous nature of sin in full detail. It reveals the justice of God against all sin, transgression, iniquity, rebellion, and evil. And I believe the full humiliation that Christ Jesus suffered for our sin should not be taken for granted at all. Yes, stop for a moment, and take an honest look at the disgrace and humiliation our own words and behaviors have inflicted upon the name of Jesus Christ. Yes, look at the cross and you will see what sin has done to us and our world…. God, in His wisdom, leads us to the cross in order to expose the condition of the human heart … the inclination of the thoughts of our hearts … to reveal the depravity of sin … and to convict us of our offense against the holiness of God.

The message of the cross is love!

While the light of the cross shows the entire world what the darkness of sin has done, the cross is where God revealed His mercy and grace … and demonstrated His love for us:

John 3:16-17 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Romans 5:7-9 (NIV)

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!

Ephesians 2:1-5 (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 cravings of our sinful nature 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.

1 John 3:16 (NIV)

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.

1 John 4:9-10 (NIV)

This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

The message of the cross is forgiveness!

The death of Jesus on the cross was far more than just an event in history … it was ordained for the forgiveness of sins …  to purchase our redemption from the slavery or control of sin. Both the Apostles Peter and Paul preached this Gospel message to the early Church:

Acts 10:39-43 (NIV)

39 We are witnesses of everything Jesus did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed Him by hanging Him on a cross, 40 but God raised Him from the dead on the third day and caused Him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the One whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.

Acts 13:32-39 (NIV)

32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 33 He has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’ (Psalm 2:7) 34 God raised Jesus from the dead so that He will never be subject to decay. As God has said, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ (Isaiah 55:3) 35 So it is also stated elsewhere: “‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’ (Psalm 16:10) 36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. 38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.

Paul later affirmed, “ In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.” (Cf. Ephesians 7-8) And again, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Cf. Colossians 1:13-14) And the Apostle John wrote: “He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (Cf. 1 John 2:2) No, we cannot escape the truth that the message of the cross is redemption … the forgiveness of our sins.

The message of the cross is reconciliation!

The forgiveness of our sins accomplished through the blood atonement, effectuated on the cross, cleansed us from all unrighteousness!  Through faith in Christ Jesus, God declares us reconciled and restored. Through the cross, Jesus brought us the assurance of peace with God. As Isaiah prophesied: “Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Cf. Isaiah 53:4-5)

Colossians 1:19-23 (NIV)

19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Jesus20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the Gospel. This is the Gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Romans 5:10-11 (NIV)

10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NIV)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made Him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

The message of reconciliation is probably one in need of great emphasis at this moment in history.  Every prodigal needs to be reminded that reconciliation with God was obtained through the cross.  Yes, the prodigal needs to know that peace with God is still afforded through the cross.  The offense of rebellion has been redeemed!  The attitude of indifference has been covered.  The time for restoration is Today!  The cross is where liberty from darkness awaits and where the power to live in righteousness is found! 

The message of the cross is liberty!

The cross ultimately brings us freedom from sin. The cross is where the sinful nature of our flesh is put to death before we are resurrected in our spirit to newness of life. Yes, the Old Rugged Cross is the emblem of suffering and shame; but I see its beams as the intersection of our bodies and our spirits – the crossroads from which the process of sanctification emerges. Indeed, God in His wisdom, requires us to confront our sinful nature at the cross! Why? Because the cross is HOW we are freed not only from the penalty of sin (death) also how we are freed from the power of sin (sanctification). The cross is where we are led by the wisdom of God to die to self … and to no longer be held captive by the sin that was crucified there….

Romans 6:1-14 (NIV)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. 10 The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans 8:1-4 (NIV)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Galatians 5:19-25 (NIV)

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

The message of the cross is power!

Indeed, as Paul implied, the cross represents the power of God. The cross displays the sovereignty of God to determine how His salvation and sanctification will be accomplished. Although God allowed His Son to be humiliated and executed on the cross; His resurrection as the third day disarmed the powers and authorities (and the spiritual forces of darkness behind them)! Jesus overruled their plans because ALL authority in heaven and in earth has been given to Him. (Cf. Matthew 28:18, John 17:2) Through the cross, God has displayed to all creation that He alone has the power to forgive sin … and His Word declares that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness! (Cf. Hebrews 9:22) And we can see this message of power in the preaching of the Apostles:

Acts 26:15-18 (NIV)

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.

Romans 1:15-17 (NIV)

15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,  just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Paul is quoting Habakkuk 2:4)

1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (NIV)

I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

1 Timothy 1:6-8 (NKJV)

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the Gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

2 Peter 1:3-4 (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. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

The message of the cross is triumph!

Through His death, Jesus has paid the penalty of sin – in full and once for all! And through His resurrection, Jesus imparts His Spirit to afford us continual power to triumph over sin … to give us victory in our trials and tribulations:

Colossians 2:13-15 (NIV)

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in Him by the cross.

1 Corinthians 15:54-56 (NIV)

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”  56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Note here that Paul quotes from the Prophets Isaiah and Hosea; and I want to share these particular passages for the richness they bring to Paul’s conclusion:

Isaiah 25:6-9 (NIV)

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines.On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove His people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”

Hosea 13:14 (NIV)

“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;  I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?

Revelation 12:10-11 (NIV)

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

The message of the cross is hope!

Going back to the discourse Paul had before King Agrippa, we see that he proclaims the hope of the resurrection as it relates to the cross of Jesus Christ.  It is because the resurrection is true that we now have hope in all the promises of God….

Acts 26:4-8 (NIV)

“The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?

Romans 8:19-25 (NIV)

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

We have, I think, fully examined the message of the cross. And so I wonder, “Why is the message of the cross considered foolishness to anyone?” If a person is unable to “hear” the message about Christ Jesus, they will not come to faith. (Cf. Romans 10:17) Although we can see and understand the power of God demonstrated through the cross to bring us salvation, the fool has said in his/her heart, “There is no God.” (Cf. Psalm 14:1) And so I pray. I ask all of us to pray … that God would open the spiritual eyes and ears and hearts of prodigals and all those whom God is calling to respond to the message of the cross! Oh, how I pray, the veil of darkness will be removed from the eyes of their hearts … that the light of the cross will go forth and illuminate minds to receive and understand the Word of Truth … so that the kindness of God will lead them to repentance! (Cf. Romans 2:4) I pray that we as believers will understand that our prayers are mission critical in this hour as never before! The message of the cross is the power of God to save! I pray we will live out its message as a testimony to those who consider it foolishness.  Oh may our lives bring conviction and desire to embrace the message of the cross…. Amen.

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!