We Have A New Lifestyle

For May 26, 2019
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have His Spirit dwelling within, Who enables us to illuminate our surroundings as a candle illuminates the darkness. And as we continue to abide in Christ, we emulate His moral and spiritual fervor just as He promised in Matthew 5:14–16 (NLT):

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

We will never arrive at 100% perfection in these mortal bodies; because of our human frailty. Thus, we require a Savior and Mediator—all the time. In other words, we will grieve the Holy Spirit by committing a sin, or walking in some form of disobedience, or being rebellious towards God instead of walking in His Spirit.

Typically, this happens on those occasions when we choose to disobey the Lord out of pride, selfishness, or spite, like children having temper tantrums. However, much like the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:17–20, we will eventually “come to ourselves” by repenting of (or turning from) our sin and returning to the Lord.

This is our Sanctification or the process by which the Spirit of Christ (or Holy Spirit), who inhabits at the New Birth, helps us to emulate our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ just as 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 declares.

Our sins remind us how deficient we are at achieving Christ’s perfection consistently as He did. We must rely completely on His Holy Spirit to reflect the Lord’s moral and spiritual proficiency in our thoughts, speech, and conduct.

Each day, His Spirit also reminds us of what Christ did for us at Calvary, and He supplies us with a new lifestyle that honors the Lord while benefiting others and ourselves.

Ultimately, His Spirit molds us into the likeness of Jesus Christ over the course of our lifetime as we operate under His influence and give Him complete control of our lives.

In addition, since we belong to Christ exclusively, we seek opportunities to grow spiritually by reading the Bible, fasting, praying, participating in regular worship, serving others, and performing other noble deeds that honor the Lord.

We perform these “good works” not to earn God’s salvation and favor. Instead, we practice them to honor the Lord Jesus Christ—out of a heart of gratitude—because we are saved already.

In addition, His Spirit also produces a growing sense of humility and unworthiness, along with a passion for the things of God and a disdain for the things of the world.

True fulfillment will never be found by pursuing the things of this world. It will be found as we pursue the things of Christ…with a new lifestyle. What a wonderful Savior!

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

For May 5, 2019
While at Caesarea Philippi, our Lord Jesus Christ assured us He would provide a firm foundation for His universal Church, which would withstand all assaults. Later, He challenges us by saying:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Matthew 16:24-26 (NIV)

Living in luxury and possessing the means to buy the newest “toy” on the market is something many of us desire in this modern, “instant gratification” society, where we take pleasure in providing for our personal enjoyment and comfort.

But in our acquisition of material things, we experience an emptiness paradox whereby no matter how tantalizing, acquiring power, influence and possessions seem to us at the moment. None of these things can satisfy our deep spiritual yearnings as does a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

In addition, none of us can have true fellowship with the Lord and pursue the things of this world simultaneously, just as Matthew 6:24 (NIV) teaches:

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Ultimately, we cannot take our “toys” with us. When we die, we can no longer experience what this world has to offer…it’s gone forever! Then our “reality” becomes eternal as we look directly into the face of our Omnipotent, Holy, Creator—stripped of everything we amassed in this life. Our destiny then becomes blissful fellowship with the Lord, or agonizing separation from the Lord.

We must live a life that is totally committed to serving the Lord Jesus Christ daily. In other words, He must become more than just a historical figure to us. He must become our real, personal Savior and Lord we desire to follow and obey forever.

Such a life is filled with indescribable peace, joy and fulfillment. Because no one but Jesus Christ loves us so deeply, gives of Himself so freely, and whose Spirit keeps us so completely in this life and the next. We pursue Him because He delivered us from a life of sin and presents us before the Father as our everlasting:

Advocate, Alpha and Omega, Bridegroom, Deliverer, Faithful and True Witness, Lord and God, Good Shepherd, Great God and Savior, Great High Priest, Hope of Glory, I Am, Eternal Judge, Friend, King of Glory, Lamb of God, Light of the World, Physician, Prince of Peace, Prophet, Ransom, Redeemer, Resurrection and Life, Righteous Judge, Rock, Ruler of Kings, Savior, True Vine, Truth, Way, and Word of God.

Our Lord wants us to pursue excellence in this life in our personal and social endeavors. Nevertheless, He must be at the center of all these things. If we  are to follow the Lord, let us deny ourselves take up our crosses and follow Him faithfully.

Got Tranquility?

For April 22, 2019
After a religious gathering, inquiries were made about someone who missed the event. A person who knew the absentee responded by saying: “Gladiators,” and the message was clear.

A self-imposed representative of God, “straightened out” a person about a religious matter. As a result, the person who was criticized felt insulted, hurt, and chose not to attend the meeting.

In Luke 18:9-14, the Lord Jesus Christ addressed the issue of self-righteousness:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

In Matthew 7:1-5, the Lord admonishes us not to judge by attempting to remove the “speck” from someone’s eye when we have a “log” in our eye. A similar theme is presented in Galatians 6:1-3 (NIV):

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 Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

Religious gladiators slay their wounded. This dynamic is difficult to understand since failure is part of the human experience. Each of us, even gladiators will inevitably make mistakes and/or disappoint someone at some point during our lifetime.

In working with those who were sinners and outcasts, Jesus used an approach based on love whereby although the sin was addressed, the recipient felt loved and valued.

His new paradigm brought an extraordinary inner transformation, via the Born Again experience resulting in an eternal fellowship with God and others where faith, hope, and love are celebrated and practiced.

Also, the vicarious work the Lord performed on our behalf we could not perform for ourselves inspires our humility and gratitude. He loved us and died for us when we were sinners with no desire for Him or the things of God. As result, we now can have a deep abiding faith in the Lord while we hope in His promise of eternal life; completely motivated by love.

Because we are sin-tarnished, we must rely on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His perfect righteousness at all times. There is no place for self-righteousness in this model because our focus is never on our righteousness, which will always be “filthy rags” even on our best day according to Isaiah 64:6. Sanctification is a full time job that requires our attention 24/7.

Thus, civility, forgiveness, and reconciliation should be our aim when we encounter people who have either stumbled and/or have fallen into sin. Expressing love, and restoring the person to a right relationship with the Lord should be our objective. In other words, we should never shame or disgrace the person since we can stumble too.

Our goal is to restore, but our success is not guaranteed. Everyone has the freedom to choose to obey the Lord. Yet we can assist them into wholeness and restoration just as Jesus modeled.

Got tranquility? Yes! When Christ is our example.

True Peace With God—And Others!

For March 27, 2019
Our peace with God is the foundation on which our being, identity, choices, and destiny are forever changed. Through the vicarious and efficacious work of Jesus Christ, God deems us as having satisfied all of His righteous standards; suitable to have eternal, holy, and loving fellowship with Him according to Romans 5:1-2:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

 

Romans 6:23 notes the wages of sin is death. In other words, someone had to die to pay sin’s price and reconcile us to God forever—Jesus did!

Our peace with God is complete and eternal because we are no longer at odds with Him due to our sinful past. (Jesus’ spilled blood at Calvary washes away our sins forever!) God accepts us into His family and into His holy presence forever. Jesus says those who come to Him will not be cast out in John 6:37. Also as the latter part of Romans 3:23 assures: “The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Sometimes the Enemy (Satan) uses our memory of past negative experiences to perpetuate the lie we are worthless and cannot be loved or forgiven. People who struggle in this area will often say something like: “God will never love or forgive me…You don’t know what I’ve done!

We should be ever mindful our past is immaterial since it has been erased and forgotten by the cross as Colossians 2:14 (NLT) states: “He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.”

The Lord knows us better than we know ourselves. He is aware of our past hurts as well as those “secret” sins no one else knows about. Yet He is willing to love, accept, treasure, value, and forgive us. Thus, we should be all the more willing to love, accept, treasure, value, and forgive ourselves.1

When we have peace with God, we can be at peace with others and ourselves. Here, we do not seek to avenge, harbor grudges, or express ill will toward the people who may have wronged us in the past. Nor do we express ill will toward those who are of a different color or culture. Instead, we give them all a “clean slate” and treat them as though they are precious in God’s sight—just as He does for us.

At Joppa, God reminded Peter that He shows no partiality, and He expects us to follow suit (Acts Chapter 10). There while Peter was ministering to the non-Jew Cornelius and his family, there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit similar to the one the Jews experienced at Jerusalem, as presented in Acts Chapter 2.

Ultimately through this experience, God shows how Christians are one body, and one family in Christ. Thus, today we can express genuine brotherly kindness (Greek: philadelphia) toward each other, or the social (or horizontal) dimension of our faith (the vertical dimension) in Christ, which allows us to fulfill our Lord’s prayer for unity:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20–23 (NIV)

Christians are a diverse people with Christ at the center. God loves, saves, and treats us as equals, while his Word and Spirit enable us to practice a loving fellowship (Greek: koinonia). This miracle of simultaneous unity and diversity under the banner of Christ validates our distinctive message of God’s grace and love.

The world is a cold, cruel, and lonely place, where smiles are rare, and where people are so busy that they do not have time to establish and maintain connections. Yet Christians yearn for opportunities to fellowship, because we enjoy our interconnection as a Christian family; where even strangers can feel welcome as we share their world and allow them to share ours.

Worshipping, praying, and fellowshipping, sharing a meal, spending time together, celebrating birthdays and special occasions, and attending events of mutual interest are all ways that we show the world that we are a family where no one is a stranger or outcast.

Over time, together we will affirm there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, by growing in His grace and not walking according to the flesh an its desires but according to His Spirit as Romans 8:1-2 teaches.

When we Christians show kindness, honor and prefer one another as Paul teaches in Romans 12:10, we show kindness, honor and prefer our Lord, who says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren [and my sisters], ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40 (KJV)

Our peace with God results in a clear conscience that frees us from our past and opens new and exciting possibilities for our future. Now we can express positive, constructive feelings toward God, others, and ourselves.

 

 

A Famine in the Land

For March 21, 2019
Approximately seven-hundred and sixty years before the birth of Christ, the Old Testament Prophet Amos warned ancient Israel of the consequences of disobeying God. In Amos 8:11-12 (NLT), he declares a most catastrophic warning to God’s people—both then and now (my emphasis):

The time is surely coming, says the Sovereign Lord, when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from border to border searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.

For ancient Israel, this was a time of material prosperity under the reign of Jeroboam II. Yet rampant idolatry, wanton licentiousness, corrupt and abusive leaders, injustice, excessive self-indulgence, and insensitivity to the needs of the poor and underprivileged plagued this nation.

Because they chose to pursue the pleasures of sin while rejecting their Lord, they were subject to His chastening and dispersion at the hands of the Assyrians less than 40 years later.1

If Amos’ warning sounds familiar, 2 Timothy 3:1-7 presents a similar declaration concerning the grave spiritual condition of many during the “last days (my emphasis):”

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power…always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Like ancient Israel, are we spiritually bankrupt and in grave danger today amidst our affluence?

I am concerned with how so many people adopt the opinions of “experts” who insist human beings are not created by God—in His image—with special, unique, incomparable intrinsic value; then we spoil, pamper and worship the animal kingdom, along with our pets, almost to the point of supreme deity.

Yet we can show little consideration for the sanctioned murder of a precious human life in the womb—especially in those instances when the medical technology to preserve life (coupled with the Hippocratic Oath) is an available, feasible alternative.

In Mark 10:14 (KJV), our Lord Jesus declares: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” Yet many feel our children’s exposure to the Bible and prayer is somehow detrimental. Here, some will argue that supplying youngsters with contraceptives (instead of teaching abstinence) is somehow more beneficial and practical.

In addition, socially underdeveloped people (with a misplaced sense of entitlement) will often resort to violence to obtain the newest, biggest, or best “toy” they can have. Unfortunately, their actions often conflict with another person’s physical, financial, or emotional well-being; leaving behind vast numbers of abused, exploited, physically and emotionally traumatized victims of the perpetrator’s self-centered extravagance, sexual prowess, tyrannical oppression, and brutal assault.

Although these victims are often irreparably devastated, the harmful outcomes are irrelevant to the perpetrator because “it’s a dog-eat-dog world” where “only the strong survive.” Thus to them, the “ends will always justify the means” because “it’s not personal; it’s only business.” No wonder our news reports seem to grow gloomier by the day…there is a famine in the land!

God is the embodiment of love and holiness. He does not delight in our deprivation and famine. As 2 Peter 3:9 teaches, He is patient and longsuffering towards us because He does not want anyone to perish. Instead, He wants everyone to come to repentance.

To remedy the famine, God sent His Son as the Bread of Life, as presented in John 6:35-40 (NLT), to satisfy us forever:

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them…For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

Jesus is the Seed of the Woman promised to Abraham, through whom the entire human race would greatly benefit.2 He is God’s Suffering Servant who redeemed a lost humanity as Isaiah 53:6 (KJV) foretells: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

As “The Good Shepherd,” His vicarious death imparts new life to His precious sheep just as He promises in John 10:10 (KJV): “The Thief [Satan] cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Our Lord’s mission and message was distinct from anything seen or heard before or since, and His theme is simple:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”3

The Apostle Peter summarized these revolutionary ideas when he declared: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 (NIV) We belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the final analysis, absolute safekeeping is ours because He died for our sins and rose for our justification according to Romans 4:25.

As Christians, we should never live our lives based on the false assumptions of those who do not know the Lord and scoff at the Bible. Instead, we should always live by the biblical principles contained in our Christian faith. In this way can create an oasis where others can benefit greatly from God’s grace and love along with ourselves (as we grow spiritually as well).

By faith, we are a spiritual people whose very existence depends on Christ the Bread of Life and the Living Word. As we obtain His life-giving resources from the Bible that enable us to grow spiritually and morally, over time we can become astute practitioners of the Christian faith who express a growing moral consciousness to produce the living fruit that changes lives positively while validating our Christian witness.

Is there a famine in the land? Not for those of us who love the Lord…and love His Word.