Sunday, January 21, 2018

A New Standing

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Having taken us through the process of what Christ has done for us, Paul outlines the blessings we have when we trust in Him as Savior. We stand before God justified, declared righteous. We stand before Him in a peaceful place, a place of grace, a place of joy.  And we can see the purpose - sufferings are no longer places of doubt as to whether God is punishing us - they are places for us to grow in our character. And we do not stand alone. God has given us His Holy Spirit, who helps us in so many ways - comforting us in our sorrows, giving us hope, helping us overcome those doubts that the enemy tries to use on us.  We stand in a much better place, the only place we want to be.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

There You Have It!

Romans 4 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Paul is taking us through the mental/spiritual process of understanding salvation by Grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  As He does so, he takes us back to the Old Testament greats - often Moses and Isaiah, but here the double-barrel witnesses of Abraham and David.  Both believed in the promises of God.  Abraham preceded Moses as the father of the faith, and in a sense, trumps Moses.  The classic statement concerning him is not about what He did, but what He believed, and allowed God to do.  David, the high point of Jewish history, was also the picture of hope.  This psalm is the parallel to the well-known Psalm 51, written after the Bathsheba incident. It is his first-hand count of forgiveness.  The "Man after God's Own Heart", found his acceptance by God not in his perfect lifestyle, but in his accepting the forgiveness God offered through repentance and faith.  Both greats - David and Abraham - tell the same story: We cannot impress God enough to earn His favor; all we can do is humbly admit our failure, our need of Him, and the forgiveness and life He offers us. There you have it. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Foolishly Falling Back into the Flesh

 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
(Galatians 3)
Before we jump on the bandwagon bashing these believers, let's remember that Paul was not doubting their faith.  He was questioning their actions, their lifestyle.  It's a temptation we all have.  On the one extreme is legalism, where we fall back into our dependence on the flesh - trying to please God by our "doing", even when we know He accepts us by our faith.  The other is libertinism, whereby we fall back into the desires of the flesh, as if our faith really does not matter in everyday life. When we live by faith, and the power of the Spirit, the flesh "stays in line", instead of taking over again.  Both are foolish, because true wisdom says "I need God, I trust Christ, and Greater is He that is in me!"  Let us live by the Spirit, and not by and for the flesh.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Weight of Glory

II Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Glory. What a glorious word! Something that has weight, impact, influence. In reference to God it means so many things: the power of His presence, His perfect plan, His passion for His people. Part of the wonder of Creation and Salvation is that He is willing to give us glory - not taking away from His own, but entrusting to us as mankind dominion over the earth, and giving to us, as His redeemed people, a plan, a purpose, and a hope.  We often are oblivious to such Glory, just as we are to God Himself.  We cannot see, therefore we do not believe.  But what is seen passes away; the One Who is Unseen, the King of Glory, is Eternal. So is the important stuff of what He promises. Do not lose heart. Do not give up.  Let Him renew you day by day.  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Let Nothing Move You...

I Corinthians 15:
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
The people of God were being shaken.  They were beginning to see their loved ones pass away.  Where was God in all this?  Sometimes life does that to us. We get hit with the effects of the curse of the fall, including death, and we want to let go, get blown away, and give up.  Paul reminds us to step back and see the big picture, then to stand firm in our faith - as the NIV puts it in verse 58: "Let nothing move you..."  So whatever hits you in the face today, stand strong, keep on keeping on, trust in the power of Christ to see you through.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Together as the Temple

I Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
Division in the Body of Christ. Paul hated it with a passion. He especially disliked people using him to create disunity. It is like tearing a temple down bit by bit. The opening verses above are often used as a call for personal purity, but that does not come till chapter 6.  The call here is for having a solid building, a unified body.  The NIV captures the gist well when it translates verse 17: "for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple." Don;t tear that temple down. Do all in your power today to "preserve the unity of the bond of peace." It begins in our thoughts and attitudes: staying humble, seeking wisdom, thinking "us", not "me".  Be a building block, not a stone thrown at the building.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Bible: Before, During, and After

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (I Corinthians 2)
Yes, read your Bible.  But what if I don't understand it?  What if it is boring? What if I've already read it?  Because the Holy Spirit draws us and calls us to the Word of God.  Before one knows Christ and has received the Holy Spirit, the Bible can seem like nonsense, but God uses His word to convict, not confuse.  When one is struggling with the choice of whether to accept Christ or not, the Bible is able to convince, and not cave in to the lies of the one who is trying to steal the seed.  When we have known Christ as Savior for a year or fifty, each and every time we look, the Spirit shows us more, as He sanctifies us and draws us closer to Christ. Is it always easy? No. Do we always get instant gratification? Not.  But it is the investment that pays big time in our eternal well-being, helping us through daily life and the trials of life as we walk into eternal life.