Monday, January 31, 2011

In Everything, God Causes You Good!

Rom. 8:26-30  
  26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

We were discussing the power we receive from God's Spirit after HE takes up residence within us because of our faith in Christ. He even helps us to wait patiently for His eventual revealing of all truth and eternity. So many of us are impatient. I know I often am. But this weakness, like all our other weaknesses are targets for God's Spirit in us. He helps us with them, says Paul in verse 26.  We learn the awesome truth that God's Holy Spirit is even praying for us when we can't think of the right words to pray. Feel called to prayer but don't know what to say. Just breath the name of Jesus and begin to tell him your unconditional love. Begin to confess your struggles (that He already knows about) and that Might Spirit of God that cast the entire universe in His limitless mind will initiate prayers to Himself on your behalf that go far beyond what you could imagine.

Jesus often spoke of the unity between God the father and The Son. That same unity is in the unity between the Holy Spirit and the Father and The son. So when God the Spirit prays for you, The Father hears and The Son says Amen! If we could hear the conversations around that Holy throne room there would be a ceaseless hum of prayer from the Spirit of God and the angles and beings already gathered there on the behalf of saints still living here and ones even yet to be born. That Spirit of God is, in fact, pleading our cases, each one of us. He is our advocate, promoting our needs in ways that are compatible with the Will of God for us. That is why Romans 8:28 is a favorite verse to so many-- me included. It teaches me that
  • in everything-- there is nothing left out there;
  • God causes-- He initiates interventions into my life;
  • everything to work together for good-- regardless of how painful or disturbing the challenges we face, they will result in ultimate 'good' for the will of God in creation;
  • . . .for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.
Whatever you face, when you face it hand-in-hand with God and yielded to His will, no matter what happens, ultimate good for YOU will result. Doesn't that thought just get you jumping and shouting praises to Him today?  It does me. Let's rejoice together!
Your servant in Christ's "Good"

Friday, January 28, 2011

His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.

Rom. 8:12-25 NLT 
   12  Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 
   15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. 
   18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

From the latter few verses of chapter 7 through chapter 8 in Romans constitute, for me, the Christians 'Declaration of Independence' . . . from sin!  There is so much that brings me joy to talk about in these forty verses that I could do it for days on end, I suspect. It reminds us yet one more time that the power formerly held over us by the sinful nature has been shattered and removed, should we choose it to be. It is as though we had steel shackles on our wrists and ankles holding us to the filth where we live. Yet those shackles are not locked and lay open around our wrists and ankles. In fact, we must work to keep our arms and legs appearing to be within the grasp of those open rusting cuffs. We have the choice to simply remove our arms, stand up on our feet and walk away from sin. We have the chance to turn our back on sin and heed its call no more forever.

We have now received God's Holy Spirit. His spirit does not forcefully enslave us (vs 15-16). His spirit makes us legitimate children of God Himself by adoption and we have the kind of intimate relationship with God that we can call him the ancient Aramaic  equivalent of "Papa." Though verse 17 reminds us that there is some degree of 'suffering' that comes along with associating with Jesus Christ, there follows the a contrast between our mild suffering and God's eternal glory in His Kingdom shared with us forever. Verses 19-23 describe how we, and the whole of creation strain in God's direction, longing to be in His presence and away from the muck and mire that surrounds us caused by sin. Thus we are now the children of 'hope' according to verses 24-25 and we patiently await the fulfilment of that hope because we have been given the power to Trust God for His plan ahead of our own.

Your servant in Christ's Hope

Thursday, January 27, 2011

God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you

Rom. 7:24--8:11 NLT
   7:24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. 
  8:1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. 
   5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. 
   9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

So, we left off last time with Paul saying "Oh what a miserable person I am. . ." because of his bondage to the sin nature and inability to escape its grasp by his own volition. One of my favorite passages in the New Testament follows as we open Chapter 8 of the letter to believers at Rome. It says "So now there is no condemnation---" let's pause right there. Did you hear it? NO CONDEMNATION. Let me say it once more-- "No condemnation!!!"  When we belong to Christ all condemnation is removed. We do not have to be held to account for our sin, Christ has already removed all condemnation. It is gone. Other passages throughout the Bible also clarify and amplify this passage speaking to how far Christ removes sin from us (see Psalms 103:12).

Continuing in vs 2 we see that the Spirit of God has now freed us-- released us from the grasp of-- the power of sin or death. That is shouting ground and we are only on verse 2. We ought to be hopping up and down, singing praises and shouting hallelujahs to God by the time we get to verse 11 today!  Verses 3 to 4 explain the justice of the atonement that Christ has purchased for us. It is sufficient in and of itself and needs no further explanation other than to realize we have been forgiven!

If we choose to remain with our old ways and in our sin nature then it will dominate us. However, if we choose to ask God to remove it, then we are controlled by God's Holy Spirit and we tend to think about the things that please God instead of ourselves (vv 7-9). Yes, even Christ, being one with The Spirit of God, lives in us and gives us his mind and heart. That means that even though our sin nature is dead-- crucified with Christ-- our new nature is raised up with Christ to new life in a new status. So we have The Spirit in us, Jesus Christ, The Son, in us, and God in us. Is there anything at all that could put a damper on the joy of that truth? I think not. Rejoice today.

Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

Rom. 7:14-24 NLT  
  14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. 
   18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.  
   21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

The first portion of Chapter seven reveals Paul's philosophical presentation of the role Theistic Law pays in a people who would be people of God. The Written law codified acceptable and unacceptable conduct. It made adherents aware of violation whereas before they had only their inner nature to guide them in discerning the will of God. Truth is God does speak to people at their inner level and written laws are not essential. But the written law made clear that God was to be first, foremost, and the highest priority of each person who would call himself or herself "God's person."

The fallen nature is not capable of naturally obeying God's will. It is bent toward self-will. Paul says that even when I know the right things to do and the conduct to avoid, I fail. I am unable to self-determine that I will serve self less and God more. It is a 'law of sin and death' because of my bondage to to this principle. Paul brings us the solution in Chapter 8 but before we go there let's unpack this principle some more. We are not predisposed toward good as the liberal philosophers say. We must admit that humanity is predisposed toward evil-- evil being self-service. You cannot look at any period of history and say that, left to our own devices, humanity improves. We continue to spiral deeper and deeper into self-centered sin. Now we have passed laws in our nations attempting to make acceptable that which God calls "sin." Our rebellion against the will of God that began at the famous Garden with the famous first couple and God's enemy continues to expand today. So we inherit a life that is dominated by sin and death.

The Good News, however, is that there is a way out. Tomorrow we will look into it more but I can give you a hint for now. Just say "yes" to Christ being Lord over all aspects of your life and all things will be made different for you.

Your servant in Christ's love

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Now you do those things that lead to holiness

Rom. 6:12-23 NLT 
   12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. 14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. 
   15 Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! 16 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. 
   19 Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. 
   20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. 21 And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. 22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nearly every Christian believer has encountered Romans 6:23 about the 'wages of sin." But have we seen it as a concluding thought to a discourse about holy living? Yes, our sin nature and sin acts do earn wages and those wages are given in death, both physical and the eternal separation from our Creator God, or Spiritual death.  And we deserve those wages-- we earned them during the times when we were slaves to sin and disobeyed God by nature not by decision (V20). Memories of those times make us cringe with embarrassment but there is no need. We could not help ourselves then. But now those wages do not need to be collected, we are free from the sin nature that earned them.

Now, we have choices. We can choose to NOT allow sin to control us (V12). We can choose NOT to give our bodies over to sin practices (V 13). We now have freedom to choose to NOT sin, where as before we had no choice (V14-18). The truth is we chose to be enslaved to sin (V 19), we could have chosen otherwise. We always had freedom of choice. Now we can choose to give ourselves over to righteous living and, by the faith in our choice, receive God's grace and power to live in ways that please Him. When we live in this way our actions are such things that "lead to holiness and result in eternal life'-- eternity with God. Those wages we mentioned- they are no longer due to us because we have received the 'free gift of God.'  We have received this through the Lord and His sacrifice and our faith in Him.

Will you choose holiness today?

Your servant in Christ's love

Monday, January 24, 2011

Consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God

Rom. 6:1-11 NLT
  1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 
   5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. 

We were discussing Paul's message to Roman Christians about grace. In 5:21 he pointed out how 'God's wonderful grace rules instead' of sin and sinning, and this grace gives us all 'right standing' with God.  In Chapter 6 Paul poses the rhetorical question as to whether this means we should just go ahead and embrace our sin and sinning-ness.  You see, there were a  cult of people claiming to be Christians called Gnostics who said just that. Yet, the Apostles were clear that God's unconditional love, His limitless grace did not mean that you and I have an endless license to sin. In fact, where the grace of God takes hold in the believer, the Holy Spirit resides. And, where The Spirit resides, the power of sin, itself, is broken. So we will not continue sinning because we have been granted the power to say a resounding "NO!" to sin in our lives and to turn away from it. In fact, the way Paul put it in 6:2, "we have died to sin." Dead people do not sin, do not succumb to pressures, do not desire self fulfillment. So, by Paul's illustration, when we are filled with The Holy Spirit our relationship to the pull of sin is similar to that of a dead body's relationship to the pull of desire. The link is broken.   To hear Paul tell it, we died and are buried together with Christ in that tomb. And then, when Christ arose from death, we arose as well. We are identified with Jesus Christ in His baptism, in His death, In His resurrection, and in His eternal reign over the Universe.

The reason for the Crucifixion was not to punish Christ but so that our old sinful nature will be crucified through our full association with the Lord (6:6). In 6:7 Paul restates the thesis earlier presented, that we are "set free from the power of sin." That's pretty amazing to me, how about you? Then he restates the premise from vs 5 in verses 7-8-- we are eternally alive together with Jesus Christ.

Do you consider yourself alive to God today and dead to sin? Would you like to be dead to sin? Why not just ask the Lord to fulfill this promise in your live right now? What have you got to lose?

Your servant in Christ's love

Friday, January 21, 2011

Now God’s Wonderful Grace Rules

Rom. 5:12-21 NLT

   When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. 
   18  Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. 
   20  God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The doctrine of sin and the fallen nature is debated by people who want to deny God and their own personal responsibility for it. But it is a reality nevertheless. Paul laid it out clearly in this passage for the new Christian believers at Rome. These were not university educated people but were plain ordinary folk who worked hard for a living seven days a week. He wrote to parents and the young to whom the passages would be read. He wrote it to church groups and individuals alike. His points are obvious:
  1. Sin is every one's real inherited condition  caused since the first human failed (vs 12-15)
  2. Christ overcame sin and yet was offered as the sacrifice for our sin (vs 15-20)
  3. The opportunity for grace is available to everyone who believes  (vs 21)
It is hard for us to realize that we can't earn God's love.  We all think we should deserve it. That alone is a sign of our fallen nature. But we cannot earn it, we would never deserve it no matter how 'good' we might make ourselves be. We will always fail, Paul will make this truth clear later in the book. For now, no matter what the intellectuals and liberal thinkers tell you, realize that sin is real and it affected you. Yet realize that you can not only be forgiven for past and present sins, but you can be delivered from the hold that the sin-nature has over you if you will just yield to Christ and allow Him to fill you daily and hourly.

Your servant in Christ's love

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God

Rom. 5:1-11 NLT  
   3 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. 
   3  We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. 
   6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

We were talking about how Jesus was raised from his heinous death, to life, for the very purpose of making you and I and everyone else who accepts it, right with God. That says that we recognize we are, at first, 'wrong with God.' That is, we are on the wrong side of the great conflict in the universe-- the conflict between good and evil, between God and Satan. Before we align ourselves with God through Christ we are owned by Satan because of our fallen nature. Our choices are always self-serving and evil (when contrasted to God's righteousness).

Chapter five begins with Paul saying "therefore. . . " He says that because of chapter four. Because of all the truth unpacked thus far, THEREFORE. . .The truth that we were made right in God's sight by our faith in Jesus Christ. That is the THEREFORE.
  • Therefore we have peace (vs 1). 
  • Therefore we have true faith (vs 1). 
  • Therefore we have an undeserved privilege of standing in the very presence of God (vs 2). 
  • Therefore we can look forward to sharing God's Glory (vs 2)
  • Therefore we can rejoice the face of trials because we will have endurance (vs 3-4)
  • Therefore such endurance creates character within our new nature that is being made like Christ's nature (vs 3-4).
  • Therefore we have hope of salvation (vs 4)
  • Therefore we have been given The "Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love" (vs 5).
There was a time when we were lost and without hope. Had we remained estranged from God by not accepting Jesus Christ to be Savior, AND Lord over our lives we would still be there. But Christ came. He came at "just the right moment" according to verse 7. By this coming and His sacrifice we have record of those who witnessed first hand God showing His Great Love (vs 8). And in our faith we have directly experienced His Great Love. This experiences has removed us from any sort of condemnation, though we deserve condemnation. Christ has removed our condemnation. This all has restored a relationship between you and God-- between me and God, between each believer and God. This relationship is termed 'friendship.'  You are friends with God. God is your friend.

Look with me at verse 11. Read it out loud several times. Each time let your voice emphasize the subsequent word.
"SO now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God."
So NOW we can rejoice in our. . .
So now WE can rejoice in our. . .
So now we CAN rejoice in our. . .
So now we can REJOICE in our (etc).
I suspect you will be jumping for joy in your spirit by the time you finish repeating that verse in that way.

Oh fellow friend of God, rejoice with me today.

Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Rom. 4:13-25 NLT  
   Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. 14 If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. 15 For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!) 
16  ¶ So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.
Rom. 4:17 That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. 
   18 Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” 19 And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. 
   20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. 23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Paul's point in discussing Hebraic heritage with these Gentile Christians, living at the heart of the Gentile world, was to help them understand how the history of the Jews was for the very purpose of laying a foundation upon which the Kingdom of God would be built through Christ to open citizenship to all people from 'every tribe and language' as Isaiah put it. There were people falsely promoting something they called Judaism, that was not what God called Jews to do or to be, but using it to distract these new Gentile converts to Christ. The truth is, God's enemy, Satan, will use religion, any religion, all religion and anti-religions to distract people from Christ. Have you ever wondered why the political left in the US will only criticize Christianity even when other religions promote actual murder of our citizens? That is the work of The Enemy. Those doing the attacking are hapless pawns in the process intended to distract Christians from being-- well, Christian, or 'Like Christ.'

Paul, a scholar in all things Jewish, speaks about the one Jews considered the "Father of Judaism," Abraham. He points to the unconditional faith that Abraham demonstrated in the most severe of challenges for decades. He also points out that it was hundreds of years after Abraham that the written Hebrew Bible was given that contained "The Law" that Jews were supposedly so zealous about promoting. Then he clarifies that it is the very faith of Abraham that Christians exercise when they trust in Christ as Savior and Lord. This process is the very fulfillment of the promises given Abraham by God. Paul informs the people of faith in Christ that we, in fact, are descendants of Abraham so long ago promised as well as some among the Hebrews who also believe. Verse 25 is the 'pin' I want us to put in this passage as we will continue to come back to it throughout the discussion in the Book of Romans. It is all about Christ. The entire Bible, Old and New Testaments, are all about Christ. Life, itself, is all about Christ. When we live for Him we are living as creation was intended to live.

How are you living?

Your servant in Christ's love

Monday, January 17, 2011

We are made right with God through faith

Rom. 3:21-28 NLT  
   21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. 
   23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. 
   27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

Throughout the New Testament there is this running discussion about two kinds of people--Jews and Non-Jews (called Gentiles or sometimes 'Greeks'). The entire Hebrew Bible was given as a message to God's called people-- the Jews, but they misunderstood the purpose of their calling. They chose to think they were called to be superior and rule over the people of the earth on behalf of God. Quite the opposite, God called them to serve the people of earth by bringing them to Messiah, the Sacrificial Lamb of God. Romans Chapter 2 and 3 involve this running dialogue as well. Beginning in verse 21 we see clearly the reason God chose Jews, and then sent Messiah to the Jews-- that we may be made right with God. Isaiah, Ezekiel, even Abraham in the book of Genesis, were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write that through the people of the Covenant-- Israel-- all the peoples of the earth would be blessed and drawn to God. Not that they would coerce people to worship God but that the Messiah would come through the chosen people and HE would draw all people to himself. Jesus said this on multiple occasions in his three years of ministry and just prior to His crucifixion.

How are people made right with God? We continue reading in this passage that it is not by keeping any particular religious requirements, traditions, worship styles, or group memberships. We are made right with God (v 22) "by placing our faith in Jesus Christ."  If you ask as to why we must be 'made right' the next verse clarifies it. We are all sinners-- separated from the presence of our creator by our self-will. And to further clarify, verse 24 makes more clear that we did not deserve this great kindness from god, yet he has given it. How? (see v 25) By sending Christ to suffer in our place, because of our sin. God's kindness was shown in historical times in that he did not punish sinful people as they deserved. It was shown in Christ's time through the great Passion of the Christ. It is shown in our day by continued patience of God waiting for us to surrender and turn our lives to Him.

Have we done anything at all that deserves praise and glory? Not at all!  We are guilty of being sinners. However we have been acquitted of all charges because Christ suffered in our place. Therefore the sin has been atoned for and recorded to us when we trust God and believe.

So, it is not through law or religious observance you are made right with God. It is through faith in Jesus Christ and that alone. Let's you and me rejoice in this thought today.

Your servant in Christ's love

Friday, January 14, 2011

For God does not show favoritism.

Rom 2:11-16 NLT 
   11 For God does not show favoritism.
   12 When the Gentiles sin, they will be destroyed, even though they never had God’s written law. And the Jews, who do have God’s law, will be judged by that law when they fail to obey it.  13 For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight.  14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.  15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.  16 And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.

Last time we left off with verse 11-- God does not show favoritism. God's kindness toward us is not favoritism but grace. His kindness was extended to all humanity but it was not freely given. It was earned-- earned by Jesus Christ through His obedience, sacrifice and victory. Our potential freedom from sin was bought and paid for by the shed blood of God's sacrificial lamb. It opened the door to all. But not all are responding. To those who do respond God grants grace. To those who reject God and His grace, they remain trapped in their sin and in the condemnation that already encompasses them. It is not that they will one day be condemned. No, they are condemned already and are dead in that condemnation. They are simply waiting until their bodies expire and the discover the consequence for their chosen state. The sin of Gentiles, and the sin of people of Hebrew heritage are both still sin and bound to bring the same destruction.

The Law of God that the passage speaks of, written internally to all humans, is that sense of right and wrong that naturally occurs to us. In fact we have to be taught to ignore that inner voice and willingly embrace wrong doing. That inner knowledge is evidence of the Creator's presence in our design and creation. The comfort that comes to us when we do right is equal affirmation of the voice of God in our inner selves, a space in our nature that is left unfilled because nothing fits it. Only when we invite the Lord God into our lives and yield to His Lordship is that void filled to capacity.

Your secret live is not all that secret, you understand, right? God knows it. It will one day be revealed to all. Only when we wash ourselves clean in Christ is our evil past eradicated and replaced with His new nature. The new secret life is yet a secret but just between you and God. Want to know a most special secret? Know God!
Your servant in Christ's love

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Glory and Honor and Peace from God for All who Do Good

Rom. 2:1-11 NLT  
   1 You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. 2 And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. 3 Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? 4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? 
   5 But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will judge everyone according to what they have done. 7 He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. 8 But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness. 9 There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

Yesterday, in studying the previous chapter, we might have been tempted to cheer because "they" were singled out for their evil natures, showing us to be set apart. But Paul has caught us in a trap that all believers struggle to avoid-- the trap of spiritual pride. Like the early Romans, whose lives and natures Christ had changed, Paul writes to us, recognizing the likelihood that we are beginning to think in condemning ways about those described in verses 27-31 of chapter One. He brings us up short with the opening line "You may think you can condemn such people. . ." Well, yes, I was rather thinking they sort of deserved to go to Hell for all that terrible stuff they do.  Then, the trap door slams shut with the words "but you are just as bad!" Am I? Yes I am! I used to be just like them, I must never forget that!

God has NOT called us to condemn others. They will condemn themselves through their actions and their refusal to obey God and accept His provision for eternal life. They are already condemned and are not in need of us pointing it out over and over again. They need to hear words of life from us. When we condemn others, we step outside God's will, and usurp something that is reserved for God alone. Therefore when we condemn others, we disobey God-- we sin. We are just as bad as those 'haters of God' (1:30). 

Since we have profited from God's wonderful kindness and tolerant patience, then we must show the same kindness to 'them,' whoever "them" is in our lives. If we hang on to unkind and judgmental attitudes then we risk being described by Romans 2:5-- "storing up terrible punishment for yourself." If we claim we are Christians but continue to live for our selves-- according to our own personal preferences, then we only fool ourselves in our claim to purity-- we do not fool God. Our actions betray us. Yet, if we are willing to yield our self-will to God and accept what comes our way according to His plans for us, then He will make it possible for us to do the good things that make differences in the lives of others. He will do good things in and through us that bless others. Then God's "glory, honor, and peace" will become ours because He is doing good things through us. Ready for that today? Ask!

Your servant

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

God's Anger against all who suppress the truth by their wickedness

Rom. 1:17-32 NLT excerpted) 
   17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
   18  But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. 
   21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. 
   24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
. . . (VV 26-27)passages about homosexual behaviors)
   1:28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. 

Continuing from yesterday, The good news and holy boldness is contrasted with the spirit of this world that stands in blatant opposition to everything that God says is good and just. First century world was such a place and 21st century world is also such a place. As we said yesterday, the good news of Christ is God's powerful work and it holds hope for us who are entrapped amidst the wickedness of this world. Paul-- or rather God speaking through Paul's mind and writing, make it clear in vv 18-32 just how ugly the people who oppose God are. One of the reasons (v 18) is that they "suppress the truth" in their wicked behavior and pressure upon others to join such behavior. The creation is, itself, evidence of God but wicked humanity chooses to invent myths about how it came about naturally and without intelligent design or purpose. People know the evidence of God, and have a subconscious awareness of His absence within themselves but they deliberately work to prevent faith in God among others with vigorous denial. Sounds like the secular science and philosophy communities of our day as well right?

Where God is denied, He steps away.  He doesn't go far, and can still be found, but the deniers are left to the consequences of their fallen natures. All of us were once among them, and some still may be. The vile things of today that people find 'acceptable' and are repulsive to God would make my grand parents' generation blush with anger. The list grows to include murder of millions of innocent babies in the womb and marriage between persons of a common gender, authorized killing of people because of their beliefs by governments, and wide-spread political pressure to prevent children from learning about Jesus Christ. We see the terms for 'every kind of wickedness.'  Apply that list to leaders of our nation, of our cities, of our businesses, of our entertainment personalities, of the rich and famous, and of the political activists promoting their anti-God agendas. The include "haters of God," Insolent, proud and boastful" people inventing new ways of sinning.

Let us stop here and pray for them to find the truth. Let us pray that we might be able to help someone we know to turn away from such lives to lives of faith in Christ.
Your servant in Christ's love

Monday, January 10, 2011

I am not ashamed of the Good News about Christ-- the Power of God!

Rom. 1:2-7 and 16-17 NLT
   2God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. 3 The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, 4 and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.
   6 And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7  I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
   8  Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world. . . .
    16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

Looking into things in a new year we can begin with the letter by the Apostle Paul to the Christian believers in the heart of the Roman World. Though all the world was sinful, Paul will choose to point out the difference between sin and Godliness found in the heart of the world-- this city that influenced the rest of known civilization. Godliness is only to be found described in inspired scripture, the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)  and the Christian (New Testament). For Christians both are the Inspired Word of God. In once sense this book is a type of Gospel by Paul, just as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are 'gospels." Gospel means 'the Good News.' Paul had really great news to share with people wherever he went. This good news started in the Hebrew scriptures where they introduced the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul lays out this for his unseen friends in Christ at Rome in the first five verses. If you ever want to use scripture to explain to someone confused by the cults today these verses would be a good place to begin. "He was shown to be the Son of God. .  Christ our Lord. . ." Paul points out that what was done was not simply for Hebrews but for all people everywhere.

Paul makes it personal for the believers at Rome, and for us today as well, when He says that what Christ has done was accomplished "for you."  You and I, are among those who are "who have been called to be His holy people."  Think about that. YOU were called. You were invited. A place among those made Holy by God's grace was reserved just for YOU. VV 6-7 make clear what is in store for us as God's Holy People--grace and peace because we "belong to Christ."Now that is something we all need more of-- grace and peace. 

Paul expresses personal gratitude to God because His grace has been made known to the believers at Rome. I think he would say it about us today as well in this Land that Paul never knew about. We jump over to one of the grandest confessions in Scripture that millions have often quoted.  I am not ashamed of the good news about Christ either. I pray you are equally unashamed and bold in this good news. Why? This good news is the very power of God at work, according to this passage. Notice the key in verse 17-- the work of God is accomplished by faith-- from start to finish, it is faith alone. 
I pray this good news is at work in you daily and that you share it wherever you go.

Your servant in Christ's love

Friday, January 7, 2011

For the Greatest must be the Servant of All

Matt. 23:1-12 NLT  
   1  Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. 4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
    5  “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. 6 And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’
   8  “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. 9 And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Pride in one's position is such a struggle, both for people with position and people without but who wish they had position.  There is this longing for thinking that one is more important to other people, more important THAN other people. Some people come right out and use titles from their academic accomplishments, their elected positions, or their family status. Others are more subtle and manipulate circumstances so that others are 'trained' to use such titles. But all of it is just the myth of self-importance. There is only one important entity in the universe and that is God. He made it all. He provided for the recovery from our fall into sin. He planed an eternity that we do not deserve but that He wants to grant because of His great love. Yet, rather than humble ourselves before others and submit to Him, we cling to our false illusions of greatness, position, power, and influence.

I Have to wonder if Jesus was actually condemning the Pharisees here in this passage as much as he was expressing righteous anger at them for their failure to learn from all He had taught them, and their clinging to false righteousness, false, perceptions of importance, and false illusions of superiority. I see him scolding them as a parent disturbed at a child having undertaken a terribly wrong decision. I see his words as measured with increasing focus on the main point-- there is only one righteous person worthy of recognition and that one is God. You and I, regardless of our circumstances, high or low, should not seek personal praise because of it. And when it comes involuntarily from others we should express the gratitude to our Lord for making possible whatever it was that brought such praise in your direction. He has more to say in the rest of this passage about those who cling to self-righteousness and how much they walk in danger. We will look more into that another time.

For now, Let's be agreed to humble ourselves and serve the Lord by serving others without seeking recognition.

Your servant in His love

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Go and Make Disciples

Matt. 28:16-20 NLT  
     16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 
     18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Of all the things Jesus taught his disciples this last instruction is most paramount. It was not to the masses that Jesus said this, but to his closest friends-- his disciples. Jesus had promised that, while departing from the earth in physical form he would soon return in the Holy Spirit to fill them, empower and equip them and remain with them always, never again departing from them. This was the first part of that event, his Ascension, back to the Right Hand of God, from where He had come in the incarnation and immaculate conception with Mary. Note his directives.

First he tells them that he has been "given all authority." All means ALL. There is nothing in the earth, nor in all creation that is outside of the authority of God. In effect, Jesus was announcing yet once again that He is God. No other religious leader of the world's great religions ever claimed such a thing. None of the other religions teach about their respective founders in the same way that this teaches about Jesus Christ. He was and IS God.

Next, he announces that, since he has ultimate authority, they are commanded to do something. This want not a nice suggestion. It was not a request. It was what they had been prepared for. And, upon the entering within us of God's Holy Spirit, it is what you and I have been prepared for as well. We are commanded to go-- wherever it is that our feet might take us in this world, and 'make disciples. How does one make a disciple? How were you made into a disciple? Someone shared good news with you, prayed for you, remained an example for  you, and then was there to teach you when you were ready. That is what we are directed to do for others.

After making disciples we are directed to baptise them.  Some churches only permit their ordained clergy to conduct a rite of Baptism. However, I believe this passage authorizes YOU to conduct the rite of Baptism when it is you who has,  through the power of the Holy Spirit, produced a disciple. And it is not in your own name that you baptize the disciple-- they are not YOUR disciple. They are another disciple of the Lord. Thus we are to conduct this baptism in the "name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."  Discipling does not end at the baptism. Next we are to continue to nurture these disciples with the truths of Christ that we, ourselves have been taught.  Sounds pretty clear to me. How about you?

Are you ready? God is ready for you to begin.
Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Anyone with ears should listen. . .

Matt. 13:-9 NLT  
   1 Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. 2 A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore.  3 He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

Here is yet another metaphor or parable Jesus used involving farmers and seeds and fruit-yield. This time the focus is on the ground. He tells us that the seed is planted by God's Farmer-Servant-Savior on all ground. Some regions, however do not yield good fruit because of the work of the enemy in destroying the crops. This time the enemy is in the thorns that choke out the crops The enemy is in the rocks that prevent deep rootedness. The seeds of faith can grow but we may need to till our ground a bit. We may need to remove some thorns and weeds to give faith a place to take root. We may need to roto-till our soil and break up the sun-baked surface or remove large rocks to give roots room to grow deep. This conditioning can happen by faith in Jesus Christ if we are willing. 

If we are willing to ask God to make us into fertile ground then faith will grow strong and deep in us. It might involve some discomfort. It will definitely involve self-denial. It will require that we say "Yes" to God's ways while setting aside our own personal preferences. But then the crop of faith can be a hundred times greater than the amount planted. So if you are willing, whatever it took to bring you to first faith in Christ can be magnified a hundred times over. Do you have ears to listen to what God is saying to us.

Your servant in Christ's love

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Weeds to the Furnace and Fruit to the Kingdom

Matt. 13:36-43 excerpted (NLT)  
   36  Then, leaving the crowds outside, Jesus went into the house. His disciples said, “Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.” 
   37 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. 39 The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.
   40 “Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world.  41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

Most often the Bible-- the Holy Spirit inspired Word of God-- is its own best commentary. Jesus intended for his message to be understood by everyone, not only just by the most educated and literate. In fact, sometimes education gets in the way of simple faith, unfortunately because we over think things. Jesus had delivered the parable, and even explained it to the crowds, but even his disciples failed to grasp the beautiful point of it. So they asked him later and he gladly explained it more patiently to them. That's what great teachers do. They take the time to make sure learners have gleaned the desired learning from their lessons.

How many of us can identify the problems caused by weeds growing up in our gardens? Not only our gardens, but there are weeds growing up around us in our daily lives. When we permit Jesus Christ to plant 'good seed" (v 37) it is able to take root in our difficult and poor soil because it has its own source of nourishment. There are weeds that try to crowd out the good growth in our Christian lives, and that will always be so. The enemy of our Lord makes sure of this. But God will grow within us our crop of unconditional love, faithful obedience to God's standards, and persistence in seeking the Lord's will among our daily decisions. The 'angels of God' (v 39-40) will sort out the unfruitful weeds from our lives when we are taken up to be with the Lord. If we have sought to nurture the good fruit of God within ourselves, we can trust in God's grace to take care of the weeds that have remained as well and those will be removed in God's time.

You can trust the Lord today to promote His good growth within you and separate you from the weeds of the evil world that are all around you.
Your servant in His love

Monday, January 3, 2011

anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven

Matt. 12:24-31(NLT)     
   24 But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.”
   25 Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 26 And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is divided and fighting against himself. His own kingdom will not survive. 27 And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. 28 But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. 29 For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.
   30  “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.
   31 “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.

The people of this evil world will always lie, always deny the truths of God, always resist and protest the Lordship of Jesus Christ in your life and mine. Freedom of religion, to them, means that everyone but Christians can do as their religious faiths teach, but not Christians. We are to be restricted and constrained at all costs. In the Western nations the constraints are more subtle than in Comunist and Islamic controlled nations. There Christians pay, with their lives quite often, for their faith. But Jesus challenged them back in 33 AD and He challenges them today.

Jesus pointed out to his detractors (vv 25-29) about the weakness of divided kingdoms and how they fail. That HIS kingdom is ascending, evidences the unity. Beginning in verse 30, however, we see his message to HIS people. We must guard against any type of disunity among believers. We must not promote our own local church by denigrating another local church, so long as the churches seek to live centered upon the Lordship of Christ. We must not allow circumstances and opinions to separate us from other true believers.

There is danger in disunity among believers. In speaking disharmoniously about our true brothers and sisters in Christ, we risk speaking against His lordship. Verse 30-31 point out our circumstance when we are not 'with Christ.'  How can we think we are 'with Christ' when we separate ourselves from large portions of other Christ-followers over silly issues? Isn't Christ with them too? I can't be absolutely certain of this particular opinion, but I think vv 31-32 are NOT a new topic but an extension of what Christ is saying about oneness with Him. Is it possible that when one group of Christ followers reject or denigrate another group, they are, in fact, rejecting the Holy Spirit? According to verse 32, rejecting the Holy Spirit could be 'speaking against' Him. Such behavior has eternal consequences that have no remedy.

From my perspective, I want to remain in unity with all who truly love The Lord, and who live as ones 'called according to His purposes.' Please never let anything I say make you think I am separating myself from any of you.

Your servant in Christ's love
DreamHost reviews