In the mid 60s A.D., there was a fire in Rome; and the emperor at that time (Nero) blamed the Christians. Subsequently, he launched a murderous campaign against them.
The apostle Peter writes a letter during this time, to the same churches in Asia minor where he had sent his previous one (now known as 1 Peter). This new letter has come to be known today as the biblical book of 2 Peter. In it, Peter intimates that he is imprisoned yet again, and that he is certain he is about to be executed. Indeed, this would be his last letter.
Yet, Peter is finishing his race for Jesus in full steam – writing now to encourage the church to stay committed to godly ways, and to resist any false teachers who try to distort the pure doctrine of the church of Christ.
Peter begins by describing some of the gifts that God bestows upon His children to help them reach that godliness: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Pet. 1:2 – 4. NASB
God empowers us, through Christ, to be able to live a godly life; and we advance that empowerment when we continue to walk in the word of God – becoming more Christ-like daily.
Peter then tells us how to hang on to our divine gifts:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 1:5 – 8. ESV
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 1:10, 11. NKJV
Peter is asking us to run our race for Jesus until we take our last breath, or until He returns, whichever comes first. Jesus will be waving the checkered flag, congratulating you, saying ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’
Peter continues to encourage his audience by reminding them that Christ Himself conferred apostolic authority and the wisdom of God upon him. So, they can take everything that Peter says right to the bank:
For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Pet. 1:16 – 21. NKJV
We can see then that all of the authors of the books of the Bible were Holy Spirit-inspired, so that they could receive and reveal the pure, unadulterated word of God…
At this point in his letter, just like the apostle Paul, Peter warns the church about satanically driven false teachers, who will try to destroy it. This will be a continual battle that will be fought right up until Jesus returns:
But also [in those days] there arose false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among yourselves, who will subtly and stealthily introduce heretical doctrines (destructive heresies), even denying and disowning the Master Who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
And many will follow their immoral and lascivious doings; because of them the true Way will be maligned and defamed. 2 Pet. 2:1, 2. AMP
And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment…making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment…for them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 2 Pet. 2:3, 4, 6, 9 & 17. ESV
Peter is saying that we must always be alert, discerning the godly from the ungodly – following God’s righteous path so that we do not fall prey to the darkness that awaits the sons and daughters of disobedience. Regardless of what they may spew from themselves, we are to stay firm in the true hope of Christ’s return:
…you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 2 Pet. 3:3 – 4. NASB
Nevertheless, do not let this one fact escape you, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should return to repentance. 2 Pet. 3:8, 9. AMP
God has a plan; and He promises that all of it will come to pass. It will be fulfilled when He decides that it is time for time to run out, and not a second earlier. God is not stretching out the time for your heavenly transition because He’s sadistic. He does so because of His great love for the human race. God wants everyone to have a chance to latch onto his or her salvation.
God made that promise over two thousand years ago. However, if you look at how old the universe is, (believed to be over sixteen billion years), 2000 years is just a flash in the pan.
God is a promise keeper. He will send His Son for us. How will that look?
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works upon it will be exposed.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!
But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation. 2 Pet. 3:10 – 15. ESV
You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Pet. 3:17, 18. NKJV
When Christ returns, He’s going to help His Father do a major universal re-do; and it will be a wonderful, marvelous new beginning for the children of God – who have been doing their best to live holy lives, rejoicing in the fact that Jesus makes up the difference when they have fallen short. Hallelujah!
Good night and God bless.
March 01 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
In the first of this two-part series, we took up the study of the biblical book of 1 Timothy, wherein the apostle Paul sent a letter that would become that book, to his co-worker Timothy – to both show him how to lead people into the kingdom of God by being a godly example, and to tell him of the importance of quelling the opposition of false teachings that attempt to distort what the true nature of godliness is.
During Paul’s missionary travels, (after he was released from his Roman house arrest) he established a church on the island of Crete. When finished his task, he charged his disciple Titus with shepherding that church, while he continued on with his missionary travels.
[Titus was a Greek who had traveled with Paul to Jerusalem and accompanied him on his third missionary journey - where he represented Paul when he delivered the apostle's letter to the church in Corinth (which would become the biblical book of 2 Corinthians)].
Paul writes this letter to Titus (at approximately the same time as he wrote 1 Timothy) from the Grecian city of Nicopolis. As he did with Timothy, Paul is writing Titus to encourage him, and to instruct him in how to lead in church and how to deal with false teachers.
(Any time we take a stand for Christ, we will be under attack. Thankfully, God equips us to be able to withstand those assaults.)
Crete was a special challenge because it was renown for the state of its moral decadence.
Paul begins by listing many of the same character traits that he revealed to Timothy, that were required for leading God’s children in church. (These apply to us as well, because we are to be a living example of the church of Christ.)
In addition, Paul writes: He must hold fast to the sure and trustworthy Word of God as he was taught it, so that he may be able both to give stimulating instruction and encouragement in sound (wholesome) doctrine and to refute and convict those who contradict and oppose it [showing the wayward their error]. Titus 1:9 AMP
So again, Paul is reminding us of the vital importance of teaching the pure word of God as well as being prepared to discern and correct any errors that others may have in their understanding of it.
The apostle then shares with Titus some of the principles that he can teach with regards to Christian living: Older men are to be sober-minded, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love and in steadfastness.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands so that the word of God may not be reviled.
Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Titus 2:2 – 6. ESV
All in all, the advice is to purse a spiritual life, submit to spiritual guidance, live in love and faith, and live from the heart, not the flesh.
Paul returns to the role of godly leadership: Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned…so that everything may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. Titus 2:7, 8 & 10. ESV
Sounds a lot like the leadership that Jesus projected, yes? Your leadership glorifies God. Moreover, your leadership is an integral part of how God opens the way for the lost souls to come home:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11 – 14. NKJV
…when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4 – 7. NKJV
God wants you to lead. He has chosen you to do so; and the two aforementioned scriptures are your leading messages…
Good night and God bless.
February 22 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
The time is approximately 64 A.D. The apostle Paul has been released from what would be his first Roman imprisonment. Unfazed, Paul continues his ministry, and is believed to have taken it as far as Spain. Along his journey, Paul revisits the church that he established in Ephesus. After his visit was concluded, he left his ministerial co-worker, Timothy, at the church to be an overseer.
(Timothy began as Paul’s disciple fourteen years prior, during Paul’s second missionary journey to Greece.)
Paul writes Timothy a letter when he reaches the region of Macedonia, to instruct him in how to be an effective leader for the kingdom of God, (especially in church) and to encourage him in his walk. This letter is now known as the biblical book of 1Timothy.
This book is often grouped along with the books of Titus and 2 Timothy in what biblical scholars refer to as the ‘pastoral epistles,’ given that they all deal with church leadership. This is relevant to us because all of God’s children are to be walking, talking and acting ambassadors of the church of Christ.
Paul begins by charging Timothy to stand against false teachings, and gives him instructions regarding the framework in which that stand should be taught:
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Tim. 1:5 ESV
The apostle now contrasts how Timothy should stand up against the ‘false teachers’ attempts to promote Mosaic Law, (intimating that the gospel doesn’t stand on its own), by teaching him the correct utilization of the Law:
Now we recognize and know that the Law is good if anyone uses it lawfully [for the purpose for which it was designed], knowing and understanding this: that the Law is not enacted for the righteous (the upright and just, who are in right standing with God), but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinful… 1 Tim. 1:8, 9. AMP
In other words, the Law was meant to show unbelievers their sin, and to point towards their need for salvation. The gospel on the other hand, is meant to be a guidepost to the followers of Christ for facilitating a righteous lifestyle.
Paul then holds up his own conversion, (i.e. his transformation from being a persecutor of the church, to becoming a primary disseminator of the churches and an evangelizer for Christ) to fortify Timothy’s faith in the transformative power of the gospel:
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Tim. 1:15 – 17. NASB
There is no one whom the gospel cannot transform…
Next, Paul leads Timothy into the task of facilitating the transformation for others:
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time… 1 Tim. 2:1 – 6. NKJV
God wants you to live a peaceful life during your allotted time on this earth. That’s why He tells you to pray for your government leaders, (even if you didn’t vote for them) that they exercise godly wisdom in the dissemination of their governance.
Our Creator also wants everyone to be saved; and the only way for that to happen is for all to be led to a personal relationship with God through Christ.
Paul then lays out the character traits that one should posses in order to be an effective leader for God’s kingdom (in this case, within the church). It entails being above reproach, living by the word of God, and demonstrating visible fruit from their godly efforts in all facets of their lives. Then he sums up his purpose for giving Timothy the descriptions of these traits: …so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. 1 Tim. 3:15 NASB
And what is that truth?
And great and important and weighty, we confess, is the hidden (the mystic secret) of godliness. He [God] was made visible in human flesh, justified and and vindicated in the [Holy] Spirit, was seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, [and] taken up in glory. 1 Tim. 3:16 AMP
Paul now returns to the threat of false teachers:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 1 Tim. 4:1 – 5. ESV
Paul is giving us a Holy Spirit-inspired warning against saddling up with religiosity instead of the truth of the word of God. In fact, we see that the foundations of many of the denominational doctrinal and traditional conflicts are demonic in nature. God tells us to set those aside stick by His ways:
Have nothing to do with irrelevant, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for that life to come. 1 Tim. 4:7, 8. ESV
Why? It’s because godly behavior is a reflection of our faith in God’s word – the same faith that locks us into the kingdom of God and helps us to resist the worldly mindset:
For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 1 Tim. 4:10 NKJV
Keep in mind that false teachers have a blatant agenda: it is to sow seeds of doubt and discontent, because the master of discontent (Satan) hates the church:
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 1 Tim. 6:3 – 5. ESV
So we see then that these false agendas are completely antithetical to the purposes of God:
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 1 Tim. 6:6 – 8. NASB
God does not have anything against you enjoying your blessings. He just wants you to remember where they come from (Him), and to continue to realize that He is the source of all your needs. When you know that, you won’t obsess over the accumulation of anything, because your faith tells you that God is your great provider. God wants you to know that obsessing over one’s possessions leads to destruction:
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Tim. 6:9, 10. NKJV
Finally, Paul charges Timothy with living the life of a leader for God by living out the characteristics of His Son, in order to bring himself and the souls around him into eternal life:
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life, to which you were also called… 1 Tim. 6:11, 12. NKJV
…keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time – he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. 1 Tim. 6:14 – 16. ESV
God wants you to lead. When you keep your eyes on God, and live and share the purity of His word, you are equipped to do so…
Good night and God bless.
February 15 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
The apostle Paul wrote four letters to various churches while he was under house arrest in Rome. (~ 62 A.D. – the same time that the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke were in circulation.) The final letter that we are going to take up is what is now known as the biblical book of Colossians.
The apostle wrote this letter (aided by the disciple Timothy) to a church in the city of Colossae [100 miles inland from the port city of Ephesus, (in the region of modern-day Turkey)].
It is thought that when Paul was ministering in Ephesus (52 – 55 A.D.), there was a Colossian named Epaphrus in attendance, who became a convert and returned to Colossae to establish a church. Epaphrus visited Paul during his house arrest, bringing a concern that there was a person(s) in the church who set himself up as some sort of ‘spiritual guru,’ and was trying to convince the congregants to accept his own brand of ‘fictional gospel.’
Paul responds by writing a letter that teaches the difference between the love and truth of God and the oppositional lies of self-serving men – (who are generally motivated demonically, because the devil doesn’t want anyone to be saved). He begins by letting them know that he keeps praying for their ever-increasing depth of conviction for their calling:
…we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God… Col. 1:9, 10. NASB
Thus, to walk like God, we have to know God; and we know Him by delving progressively deeper into His word.
The exact nature of the ‘false teachings’ in the church are not spelled out, but we can deduce that they take away from the divine nature and purpose of Christ, because Paul jumps right into reaffirming those very things:
[The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in Whom we have our redemption through His blood, [which means] the forgiveness of our sins. Col. 1:13, 14. AMP
It is the blood of Jesus that broke Satan’s hold over us – granting us amnesty from our old worldly selves, and ushering us into Christ’s kingdom.
Paul continues to press on, letting us know just how BIG our savior is:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. Col. 1:15 – 17. NKJV
That’s really BIG, far more so than the ramblings of some self-proclaimed ‘spiritual guru.’ Jesus is the animated essence of God, drawn into existence before time or space began, to become God’s creative force for the entire universe – both material and spiritual. All things were made for Jesus, He has dominion over them, and their very existence is dependent upon Him.
And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn of the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. Col. 1:18 – 20. NKJV
(There were others who were raised from the dead by the Old Testament prophets and by Jesus Himself, but they all eventually went on to die. Jesus was the first to be resurrected to eternal life.)
Jesus is the centerpiece and the ultimate authority of the church. He is the reflection of the will of God, and He is the instrument of our reconciliation with our Creator. Christ is still at work today – cleansing you to make you presentable before God. Your part, is to remain in faith:
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight – if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard… Col. 1:21 – 23. NKJV
God gave this wondrous great gift of His love to everyone:
…the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col. 1:26, 27. NASB
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Col. 1:28 ESV
The ‘mystery’ revealed is that salvation is available now for all people, not only for the Jewish converts. Its message states that Christ is ready to live within you now; and it is imperative for God’s children to share that salvation message with as many lost souls as possible, because there will be no further salvation at the end of time, for those who heard the gospel and chose to reject it.
We can be encouraged and equipped for this task by learning and remembering the truth about our BIG Christ: …their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Col. 2:2, 3. NASB
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Col. 2:6, 7. NKJV
When we do that, we can resist the lies of the demonic fiction slingers who would distort and minimize who the Son of God is:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Col. 2:8 ESV
For in Him the whole fullness of the Deity (the Godhead) continues to dwell in bodily form [giving complete expression of the divine nature]. And you are in Him, made full and having come to fullness of life [in Christ you too are filled with the Godhead - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - and reach full spiritual stature]. And He is the head of all rule and authority. Col. 2:9, 10. AMP
So, our BIG Jesus makes our transformation BIG as well:
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you of all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Col. 2:11 – 14. NKJV
A follower of Christ is not required to submit him or herself to rituals of the flesh, (e.g. physical circumcision). What we do submit ourselves to, is the spiritual circumcision of our hearts by Jesus, as He prepares them to be vessels to receive Him by faith.
An exception would be the one-time ritual that we undergo in baptism, which is a public declaration of our faith – accompanied by water immersion (to symbolize the death of Jesus and His burial), and the rising out of the water (to symbolize His resurrection). We are paying homage to Jesus for resurrecting us from our old Adam-tainted flesh, making us new and sanctified under the gospel, not the law.
Furthermore, Christ’s work on the cross also constituted a spiritual victory over the darkness in this world, on our behalf: [God] disarmed the principalities and powers that were ranged against us and made a bold display and public example of them, in triumphing over them in Him and in it [the cross]. Col. 2:15 AMP
The devil has no claim on the children of God, and neither do Satan’s followers, who try to disenfranchise the faith of the saints:
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food or drink, or with regard to a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. Col 2:18, 19. ESV
We are no longer slaves to old Jewish rituals, nor do we ever worship angels, punish our flesh, or submit to anything designated by Man regarding spiritual growth. Christ is our only teacher…
If we latch onto what the Holy Spirit is teaching us, and we own it, we can be warriors of faith – impervious to the lies of false teachers and preachers:
If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. Col. 3:1, 2. AMP
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly for you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Col. 3:3 -5. ESV
Because of these things, the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience…you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him… Col. 3:6 & 8 – 10. NKJV
Thus, we stay focused on godly things, and turn away from our old selves, and live as a model of Christ:
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Col. 3:12 – 17. NKJV
It’s always about the love…
You are a powerful godly truth teller and truth perceiver. Separate yourself from those who try to rewrite the word of God to reflect their personal beliefs:
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Col. 3:23, 24. ESV
Behave yourselves wisely [living prudently and with discretion] in your relations with those of the outside world (the non-Christians), making the very most of the time and seizing (buying up) the opportunity. Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome), seasoned [as it were] with salt, [so that you may never be at a loss] to know how you ought to answer anyone [who puts a question to you]. Col. 4:5, 6. AMP
You are the expert on God and His salvation through Christ. You are a facilitator of God’s salvation. You are a purveyor of the word of God. You are a leader…
Look people straight in the eye and boldly claim, ‘With regards to things spiritual, if it’s not in the Bible, it’s not the truth.’
Good night and God bless.
February 08 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
During the apostle Paul’s time under house arrest in Rome, (~ 62 A.D.) he wrote four letters that would later become parts of the New Testament. We took up the first one in the last two posts (Building A Love Church: The Book of Ephesians). Today, we’ll explore Paul’s second letter, the one that would become the biblical book of Philippians.
Paul sent the letter to a church that he had founded ten years prior, during his second missionary journey. The church was located in the city of Philippi, which was a Roman colony in the region of Macedonia (northern Greece). The apostle wrote to this church to express his gratitude for a contribution that they had sent to him, for his physical sustenance during his confinement. Moreover, he also uses this letter to encourage them to grow in their spiritual progress.
Paul begins by telling them (us) how God nourishes His children who are out in the trenches, doing His will: …I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. Phil. 1:6 AMP
We see then that God Himself wraps His arms around you and never lets you go, all the while, working within you to bring you to spiritual perfection – preparing you for your Christ-deliverance into eternity.
The apostle then encourages the Philippians to stay hungry for that process: And this I pray: that your love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight [that your love may display itself in greater depth of acquaintance and more comprehensive discernment], so that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value [recognizing the highest and best, and distinguishing the moral differences], and that you may be untainted and pure and unerring and blameless [so that with hearts sincere and certain and unsullied, you may approach] the day of Christ… Phil. 1:9, 10. AMP
Sounds like a monumental task, but it isn’t really. If you continue searching the word of God and living out His commandments, the Holy Spirit will continually bring you greater revelation of the purposes of God, which He intends to fulfill through you. As you do this, God occupies more of your heart, tweaking your perfection, and applying compassion, as He picks you back up when you fall short – setting your feet back onto His path. So you see, the odds of completing your purpose are really stacked in your favor…
The church had expressed their dismay over Paul’s imprisonment. Yet in this letter, Paul tells them that his confinement has become a vehicle for him to advance the kingdom of God. He says that everyone around him (including the Roman Imperial Guard) know that he is being imprisoned solely for his service to Christ. Furthermore, Paul also continues to preach boldly to his visitors, which in turn has inspired other preachers in his immediate area.
Paul assures them the church that he will be delivered from his detention; nevertheless, he remains content to serve Christ in all circumstances: …it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil. 1:20, 21. ESV
What Paul means, is that if he lives, he is honored to be able to continue glorifying the Son of God; and if he should die, he will be in the presence of his Savior. Either way, he’s good to go. Paul is pursuing his spiritual progress, and he instructs the church to do the same:
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents – which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake… Phil. 1:27 – 29. NASB
It always comes down to walking the walk. The more that we emulate Jesus, the more of God’s purpose is revealed to us, immersing us in His love so that we can radiate that same love outwards. When we pursue our spiritual progress, Christ brings us closer to Him and to His Father, showing us more of God’s divine plan, and allowing us to play an ever-increasing part. In that part, we must stand in faith and unity for the gospel, even in the face of worldly opposition, tirelessly working through whatever suffering the world brings to bear – to continue to usher in more souls for salvation.
As always and in everything, Christ is our example:
…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil. 2:2 – 4. ESV
Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which made God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, but stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being.
And after He has appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even to the death of the cross! Phil. 2:5 – 8. AMP
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and that every tongue should confess that Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil. 2:9 – 11. NKJV
God calls us to be humble, and to live in peace – united in Christ, holding the needs of others above our own. Jesus is the ultimate example of humility: He relinquished His divine nature and stature in order to become a mere mortal, so that He could feel our sufferings and be able to step up and take our divine punishment upon Himself, for the salvation of these mortals that He and His Father loved so dearly. Likewise, it is to the glory of the Father and the Son that we too put our personal concerns aside, and strive to bring the Key to the kingdom (Jesus) to everyone that we can touch in our lifetime.
God acknowledged His Son’s obedience, by restoring Him to His divine status and exalting Him to be king over every work of His creation. You too will be exalted for your service as well, when God sends His Son to claim you forever.
Paul continues with more Holy Spirit-inspired revelation regarding the actions that promote spiritual progress: …work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do good for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life… Phil. 2:12 – 16. NKJV
Paul is not preaching salvation by works here. What he is saying, is that we need to be diligent in our continual pursuit of spiritual progress. We cannot forget the reverence that we must hold for God and His Son, and for the imperative that we must muster for completing the tasks that They set before us. Furthermore, once a task is complete, we must ready ourselves for the next one, all the while remembering who we are in Christ – especially in the face of opposition:
Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh… Phil. 3:2, 3. NASB
[Paul is turning a phrase here. It was the Jews who usually referred to the Gentiles as 'dogs.' Here, Paul is using the word 'dogs' to refer to a group of Jews, (called Judaizers) who taught that Christians were still required to adhere to all of the Mosaic Laws and to the Jewish religious traditions as well.]
So Paul is saying that our salvation and spiritual progress is worked out within our spirits, and thus it is not subject to rituals of the flesh. Paul uses his personal conversion as an example:
But what things were gain to me, these things I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Phil. 3:7 – 11. NKJV
Paul had lived the luxuriant life of a Pharisee, yet he threw it all aside when he encountered Jesus. Like Paul, we are called to do the same. We don’t have to be perfect in our endeavor. Nevertheless, we remain a marvelous work in spiritual progress because of our sincere efforts to be obedient:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Phil. 3:12 ESV
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3:13, 14. NKJV
Our spiritual progress will stand in stark contrast against what the world is engaged in:
For there are many…who walk (live) as enemies of the cross of Christ (the Anointed One). They are doomed and their fate is eternal misery (perdition); their god is their stomach (their appetites, their sensuality) and they glory in their shame, siding with earthly things and being of their party. Phil. 3:18, 19. AMP
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. Phil. 3:20, 21. NKJV
Transformed and transcendent…
Paul winds up his letter with an exhortation:
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:4 – 7. NKJV
God has got you covered with His Son. So, you can relax and lean on Him and learn from Him, and stay the course:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praise worthy – meditate on these things. The things which you have learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Phil. 4:8, 9. NKJV
Why? It’s because the rewards are many:
…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. Phil. 4:11 NASB
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13 NKJV
…God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19 NKJV
We are content because we have faith. We have faith because Christ empowers us. We have abundance because our Father is a promise-keeper!
You are a marvelous work in progress…
Goodnight and God bless.
February 01 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
In part one of this two-part series, we examined the first half of the apostle Paul’s Holy Spirit-inspired letter (now known as the biblical book of Ephesians) written to the church of Ephesus, that was also circulated to the other churches in that region.
In his letter, Paul brings deepened revelations about the nature of the Spiritual blessings of God, (His salvation through Christ being the greatest), guaranteed only to His children of faith, for whom He preordained, when they were yet only a thought in His creative contemplation. Our redemption comes through the blood of Jesus – whom His Father made head of the Love Church of Christ (for Jews and Gentiles alike) and lifted Him up to be the King over the entire universe. As a member of that church, you become a child of God, gifted with a heavenly citizenship.
Now, Paul continues expanding upon the ‘mystery’ that is Christ – who came to save the world: When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. Eph. 3:4 – 7. ESV
…to bring a light to everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. Eph. 3:9 – 12. ESV
What Paul is saying is that God is using him as an instrument to further illuminate the gospel – to bring all people (not just the Jews) under the lordship of Jesus Christ. He is also placing a God-given charge upon the church to bring this illuminated gospel to the entire planet, to unite all of humanity in Jehovah God. The gospel is this: Christ was the sacrifice that opened the doors of heaven, so that we, (the children of God), could live in eternal communion with our Father.
Paul is also telling us that even those in heaven (e.g. angels) are watching and learning about the glorification of God through the church of Christ, (i.e. seeing the entire role of Man, and his hierarchical station, for the first time in God’s grand scheme of things).
The apostle closes this section of his letter with a prayer, asking God to empower the church in order to advance His kingdom: May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality].
May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, that you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God's devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; [that you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]! Eph. 3:16 – 19. AMP
Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundant above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Eph. 3:20, 21. NKJV
Paul would only pray for that which he knows is available from God, in this case, for the strengthening of our spirits, by the Holy Spirit, and for the indwelling of Christ through the Holy Spirit – to empower us to be filled with the love of Christ, which is the love of God. When we, as members of the church of Christ, step up to bring God glory, He reciprocates by covering you with blessings, (through Christ) that surpass your every expectation…
Paul then opens the next section of his letter by telling us how to make a Love church:
…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Eph. 4:1 – 3. ESV
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Eph. 4:4 – 7. NKJV
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting… Eph. 4:11 – 14. NKJV
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Eph. 4:15, 16. ESV
The Love Church then, is filled with Love Children – those who walk humbly in love and in unity, as they exercise their God-given gifts of the Spirit, to edify one another in their kingdom purpose, bringing the saving love of God, through Christ, as a beacon to those who still dwell in the darkness of this world.
If we are going to be a member of the church of Christ and stand as an image of that church to the world, we will have to step up to a higher standard – a standard of righteousness:
Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; and be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness. Eph. 4:22 – 24. AMP
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each of one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Eph. 4:25 – 32. NKJV
In other words, God asks us to refrain from our old ways of being – when we were ruled by the flesh instead of the spirit:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Eph. 5:1 – 5. ESV
Paul tells us that we must emulate Christ, separate ourselves from the stubbornly persistent practitioners of the ways of the world, and put a stop to our old ways of imitating them:
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. Eph. 5:6 – 11. NKJV
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk on wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Eph. 5:15 – 21. NASB
So then, God has shown us extensively (through Paul) how to represent Him when we go out into the world as living examples of His love. Paul now tells us how to practice that same example at home:
Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her… Eph. 5:22 – 25. NKJV
So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself…let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Eph. 5:28 & 33. NKJV
Two posts ago, we saw similar instructions from God that He gave us through the apostle Peter, (Why We Love Even In The Face Of Suffering: The Book of 1 Peter – part 2). Obviously, they must be important. We see that the husband’s role is to be a Christ-like spiritual leader of the home, and to be a spouse who loves his wife so much that he’s willing to lie down his life for her. A loving godly wife will willingly submit to that kind of leadership, because she knows it comes from God; thus, it will elicit her respect.
Furthermore, God expands this example of living out His love in the home, to include the role of parenting, as well as how the children should relate to their parents:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right…And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Eph. 6:1 & 4. NKJV
Paul ends his letter by sending us out into the world of darkness and satanic opposition, to do what we are here to do, (gather God’s lost sheep), all the while showing us how to strengthen ourselves in God, for that endeavor:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication for all the saints… Eph. 6:10 – 18. NKJV
If God tells us to be strong in Him, then we must be able to do that, because God cannot lie. (Heb. 6:18) He says that we gather our strength by continually being immersed in His word – fortifying ourselves with His truth, peace, righteousness and the certainty of His salvation, which He sends to us in response to our earnest prayer. If we do this, God Himself promises us that there will be nothing that we can’t overcome…
Good night and God bless.
January 25 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
We’ve taken a little over a month to look at the book of Hebrews (Jesus Is Our Hope: parts 1-3) and the book of 1 Peter (Why We Still Love Even In The Face Of Suffering: parts 1 & 2). Chronologically, it’s time to return to the apostle Paul.
At approximately the same time (62 A.D.) the apostle Peter wrote his first letter, the apostle Luke wrote the book of Acts, and the apostle Paul (still under house arrest in Rome) wrote the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Today, we’ll take up the book of Ephesians.
What is now known as the biblical book of Ephesians was a letter that Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, and it was also circulated to all of the other churches in ‘Asia’ (modern-day Turkey). In the letter, the Holy Spirit empowers Paul to write of further revelations regarding God’s purposes for His children, and how they are to be meted out by the church of Christ. Paul opens with a blessing:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the beloved. Eph. 1:1 – 6. NKJV
There is a treasure trove of truths revealed here. We see that God, through Christ, has (already been done) given us every spiritual blessing from heaven – which includes His grace and peace. Furthermore, God had our eternal salvation planned out before He even created the world that we would be born into. All of God’s gifts are waiting for all people to grab a hold of, by placing their faith in Jesus. Once they do that, they become saints, holy and blameless through Christ’s righteousness, adopted in as children of God.
God’s appropriation of those who are willing to exercise their faith, is predestined, in that the adoption is a guarantee, set before time began, for everyone who accepts Christ as their savior. We become ‘acceptable’ to God when we make that choice, and it is His good pleasure to accept us – which also brings Him glory. His Son is the redemptive source for that acceptance:
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight, He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him, with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on earth. Eph. 1:7 – 11. NASB
Our redemption comes through the blood of Jesus. Through the gospel, we have learned of the ‘mystery’ of salvation through faith in Christ. See the words in the beginning of the above scripture: ‘we have redemption.’ Those who accept Jesus are redeemed and made holy now. The mystery is continually revealed in God’s word, sent to us by the Holy Spirit. When we walk by it, we can continually put ourselves in the places where we can best grab all of the promises that God has made for us.
Furthermore, at the end of time, all things will be gathered up to Jesus; Paul says it again: In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the council of His will… Eph. 1:11 NKJV
God has a marvelous plan for you, and nobody but you can unravel that plan – (by refusing Christ). But if instead you accept Jesus and keep the faith, your plan remains whole:
…having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. Eph. 1:13, 14. NKJV
Those who choose Jesus are sealed with the Holy Spirit; and then the entire universe knows that we belong to God. That seal is an assurance that God will redeem His faithful (His ‘purchased possession’) – those now cared for by His Son, who, is forever revealing more of Himself and more about the nature of His calling:
By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones), and [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe, as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him at His [own] right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named [above every title that can be conferred], not only in this age and in the world, but also in the age and the world which are to come. Eph 1:18 – 21. AMP
And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fulfills all in all. Eph. 1:22, 23. NKJV
Thus, when we keep our spiritual eyes heavenward, we can find our purpose in God and walk in it. When we do, God tells us that His own power is available for us to tap into.
God made His Son the head of the church; and as a member of that church, you are a part of the body of Christ – that same Jesus that God has made ruler over the entire universe…
How great is your conversion? Well, let’s see who you were before that took place:
…you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Eph. 2:1 -3. ESV
Who are you now?
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding richness of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Eph. 2:4 – 10. NKJV
God loves you even before He helps you clean up the mess that you’ve made of your life. When you choose Him, (through Christ) God pulls you away from the clutches of Satan; and you are no longer grouped with the ‘sons of disobedience’ (those whose promised future is one of annihilation).
You were dead spiritually, but now you are alive spiritually through the grace of God through Christ – all because you were obedient, and you exercised your faith, which brings the free gift of God’s salvation. Now, you have been raised up and you sit in heavenly places, meaning that you have a vital role in advancing the kingdom of heaven, a role that God Himself will reveal to you.
Hold on! There’s still more to your conversion / transformation: But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were [so] far away, through (by, in) the blood of Christ have been brought near. For He is [Himself] our peace (our bond of unity and harmony). He has made us both [Jew and Gentile] one [body], and has broken down (destroyed, abolished) the hostile dividing wall between us.
By abolishing in His [own crucified] flesh the enmity [caused by] the Law with its decrees and ordinances [which He annulled]; that He from the two might create in Himself one new man [one new quality out of the two], so making peace. Eph. 2:13 – 15. AMP
God’s intent is for there to be only one church, with Christ as its head, and for it to welcome all peoples (Jew and Gentile alike) who make Jesus their savior, and do the best to walk in His gospel.
If you are a member of that church, you are now on God’s team:
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Eph. 2:19 – 22. NKJV
You now have a heavenly citizenship, and are spiritually a part of this church of Christ, this holy temple of God. So, being that you are a vital spiritual member of the Love Church, it would behoove you to search out a physical church to be involved with. Why? It’s because it’s imperative to hang out with like-minded ‘Christians,’ so that you can draw strength from one another to stay strong and accountable in your faith. Also, don’t forget what else they do in church – they preach the word of God; and what did God say was the best way to strengthen your faith? Did He not say that is was by hearing the word of God? (Rom. 10:17)
Church is also a great place to bring someone who is still dabbling in the world, so that they can be immersed in the corporate love of God.
You are the Love Church…
Good night and God bless.
January 18 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
In the first part of this two-part series, we examined the first half of the apostle Peter’s letter (now known as the biblical book of 1 Peter) that he wrote to the followers of Christ living in Asia Minor, who were being persecuted for their faith. His letter was meant to encourage them to stand fast in their faith, taking comfort in the fact that Jesus suffered (in faith) many times more for their salvation. This encouragement came in the form of reminding them of the indescribable and immeasurable gift that God has provided for them through His Son, and by giving them instructions for how to keep their faith focused and strong.
Peter begins the second half of his letter with more examples of how to apply our love regardless of our circumstances. He starts by showing us how to effectively love within the framework of matrimony:
…wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 1 Pet. 3:1, 2. ESV
Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Pet. 3:3, 4. NKJV
God created the institution of marriage to be the highest form of relationship between a man and a woman. Yet ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, men and women have suffered from the foibles of their souls and their flesh; and when they forget their ‘spiritual program,’ and dip their toes back into the ways of the world, contentions arise. Yet God is never one to leave us to suffer without a way out; and so here He is giving Peter instructions to help us to revive our marriage by bringing our love back to the relationship when it goes awry.
In this scripture, Peter is telling us that there is a distinct hierarchy within the marriage regarding certain areas. Wives are not being called to submit to their husbands because they are any less worthy than their husbands. They are to submit to the husband in spiritual matters because God says that the husband’s rightful place in the household is to be the spiritual leader.
God also depends upon the wife to bring her husband to Him (if he is not a follower of Christ) by being such an example of Christ’s love that he will be drawn into the faith. She does this by revealing the love and beauty of her transformed heart. Thus, her spiritual role in matrimony is every bit as important as her husband’s.
In addition, the onus of applying love in the home does not just fall upon the wife: In the same way you married men should live considerately with [your wives], with an intelligent recognition [of the marriage relation], honoring the woman as [physically] the weaker, but [realizing that you] are joint heirs of the grace (God’s unmerited favor) of life, in order that your prayers my not be hindered and cut off. [Otherwise you cannot pray effectively.] 1 Pet. 3:7 AMP
The husband is to love his wife, showing her equal honor, realizing that a godly-balanced marriage is essential to his relationship with God.
Bigger still, man and wife (as well as all followers of Christ) must also bring their love to the bigger family of Man:
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Pet. 3:8, 9. NKJV
We love no matter what, because God always looks out for us. Thus, we do not hesitate to tell everyone why we love:
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.
Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 1 Pet. 3:13 – 16. ESV
For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Pet. 3:17 NKJV
When we apply our love and do our best to walk like Jesus, the blessings will come, regardless of our circumstances. We can do that by focusing on what the walk of Jesus accomplished for us:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit… 1 Pet. 3:18 NKJV
Next, Peter speaks about the necessity for baptism as a component of our Jesus walk, by telling us how God’s salvation of the eight people on Noah’s ark from the flood was a baptismal metaphor, and how the significance of it applies to us:
And baptism, which is a figure [of their deliverance], does now also save you [from inward questionings and fears], not by removing of outward body filth [bathing], but by [providing you with] the answer of a good and clear conscience (inward cleanness and peace) before God [because you are demonstrating what you believe to be yours] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 1 Pet. 3:21 AMP
(Baptism alone does not make for your salvation. It is a public declaration of your faith in the salvation that you received through the resurrection of Christ; yet it is a necessary adjunct.)
Returning to the ‘love applications,’ Peter reveals that we possess our greatest ability to give love, when we do the things that please our God:
So since Christ suffered in the flesh for us, for you, arm yourselves with the same thought and purpose [patiently to suffer rather than to fail to please God]. For whoever has suffered n the flesh [having the mind of Christ] is done with [intentional] sin [has stopped pleasing himself and the world, and pleases God], so that he can no longer spend the rest of his natural life by living by [his] human appetites and desires, but [he lives] for what God wills. 1 Pet. 4:1, 2. AMP
Finally, the Holy Spirit-inspired Peter reminds us to continue to love in the face of suffering because not only will it bring God’s blessings, but it will keep us in readiness for the return of God’s ultimate expression of love – His Son. Jesus is coming for His own:
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 1 Pet. 4:7 – 10. NASB
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 1 Pet. 4:12 – 14. ESV
Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. 1 Pet. 4:19 NKJV
Love no matter what. God glorifies you when you suffer for Him, and you are repaid with eternal love. Moreover, you can lean on His love even now:
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Pet. 5:6 – 8. NKJV
Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Pet. 5:9, 10. ESV
We all suffer waves of resistance from Satan for our Christ walk. The devil doesn’t want anyone to land in the loving arms of God. Yet our earthly sufferings are born upon us only by the futile puffs of breath pathetically blown upon us by this angelic outcast who does not want to suffer alone.
We love no matter what. We know that our Savior will separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, and He’s taking us home.
Faith overcomes. Love always wins…
Goodnight and God bless.
January 11 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
[First, a historical update: Recall that in 44 A.D., the Jewish king, Herod Agrippa, had the apostle James (the brother of the apostle John) put to death. We are now in 62 A.D., where Ananus, the high priest of the Sadducces, has the other apostle James (the brother of Jesus) executed as well. This date also corresponds to the approximate time that the apostle Peter wrote a letter from Rome that we now know at the biblical book of 1 Peter.]
Peter is addressing his letter to the followers of Christ that are spread over Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Many of the places that he sent this letter to, were those that the apostle Paul had visited as well. Most of the Christians in these areas were Gentiles, and at this time, they were under heavy persecution. Peter’s letter was one of encouragement – urging the recipients to stand fast in their faith, and to emulate Christ even in the face of their suffering.
He begins his letter with a blessing: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Pet. 1:3 – 5. NASB
Jehovah is the Father of the divine nature of Jesus, and the God of the human essence that Christ took upon Himself; and it was Jesus’ human-ness that proved to be the vehicle for His death in order to purchase our salvation.
The resurrection of Jesus transformed Him into the God-Man [i.e. the exact Spiritual essence of God + the transcendent / transformed / glorified body (similar to what will be the glorified bodies that envelop our spirits in heaven without the original flesh and blood), because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50)] who is our eternal living Savior – able to convey us into His Father’s presence. When we bring our faith, we are instantly transformed, covered with the incorruptibility of Jesus’ righteousness, which allows us to stay in God’s presence. Our transformation is called being ‘born again.’ This promise guarantees for us our eternal destination, and it overcomes whatever we may be facing on this earth:
[You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations, so that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested and purified by the fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed. 1 Pet. 1:6, 7. AMP
…and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Pet. 1:8, 9. NASB
Peter is exhorting the followers of Christ, telling them that regardless of what life is throwing at them, they should respond with joy, knowing that God is building their faith in Christ. When you do that, you will bring a positive increase to your heavenly account, and be glorified for your endurance.
God never said that life would be easy. However, through Christ He fills you with His boundless love and joy; and He covers you on all sides with His mercy and protection – empowering you to transcend your trials as you complete your journey.
It is your faith in those very promises of God that is the bedrock of your joy. Your faith tells you that you shall come face to face with your Savior, and walk side by side with Him into eternity.
So, how do we keep our faith focused on His promises?
So brace up your minds; be sober (circumspect, morally alert); set your hope wholly and unchangeably on the grace (divine favor) that is coming to you when Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is revealed.
[Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel]. But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living. 1 Pet. 1:13 – 15. AMP
And if you call upon Him as [your] Father Who judges each one impartially according to what he does, [then] you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time of your temporary residence [on the earth… 1 Pet. 1:17 AMP
…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory so that your faith and hope are in God. 1 Pet. 1:18 – 21. ESV
Thus, our focus is trained upon the magnanimity of God’s gift of salvation through Christ, on the gift that no one can take away from us. We honor God for that gift with our obedience – showing our loving gratitude for His gift and for the willingness of His Son to step up and be that gift.
With all of that grateful love flowing out of us, we should then see dramatic changes in who we are being:
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever… 1 Pet. 1;22, 23. NKJV
It’s all about the love…
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus. 1 Pet. 2:1 – 6. ESV
Staying in the word, and holding tight to Jesus, we gradually become more like Him. We become Ambassadors of Love:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Pet. 2:9, 10. NASB
We as believers, constitute a ‘church’ that is representative of the new spiritual Israel – transcending geography and genealogy, which only requires the willing hearts of the faithful, as the criteria for membership. And as members, we then set the example to attract others to our church:
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passion of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 1 Pet. 2:11, 12. ESV
The children of God are just passing through this earthly experience – exiled because we stand in opposition to the ways of the world, which in turn brings the Holy Spirit’s conviction upon the world’s head.
God is asking us to have our behavior be so obviously godly, that it will falsify our detractor’s criticisms. And even though the world would make us its enemy, God’s wish is for His children rise above the world’s hostility, and co-exist peacefully with it:
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 1 Pet. 2:13 & 15. ESV
Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Pet. 2:17 ESV
Okay, God has made everything clear so far; but, what is the why that should be behind our determination to love in the face of suffering?
For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 1 Pet. 2:19, 20. ESV
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;” who, when He was reviled did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed. 1 Pet 2:21 – 24. NKJV
The ‘why’ stems from our loving gratitude that acknowledges what Christ submitted Himself to, so that we may be healed from our self-inflicted sin-wounds. He made the ultimate sacrifice – laying down His life in order to ensure our righteousness before God. In addition, we are called to make our best effort to emulate Jesus, so that we too can face un-righteousness with a determined resolve, yet doing so with a loving example that will encourage others to make that same commitment. We can empathize with the sinner, because of the like behaviors that we engaged in when we were of the world:
For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Pet. 2:25 NKJV
We received the blessing of unconditional love; now our job is to pass it on…
Good night and God bless.
January 04 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »
In the first two parts of this three-part series, the Holy Spirit-inspired author of the book of Hebrews has gone into great detail about who Jesus is, why we should place our hope in Him, what had to happen before Jesus could fulfill His purpose, and about the awe-inspiring power that He wields for us as both King and High Priest – in order to reveal just how much we are sealed in the salvation of Christ for our eternal reward.
The author then goes on to tell us why all of these revelations should build up our faith: Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our heart sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Heb. 10:19 – 23. NKJV
Thus, we have a plethora of joyful reasons to place our faith in Christ. Moreover, God warns us in earnest of what awaits those who refuse to exercise that faith:
For if we sin willingly after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Heb. 10:26 NKJV
Jesus has already shed His blood for everyone who will ever live on this earth – whether or not they accept Him as their Savior. If, once you’ve heard the gospel, decide to reject it, there won’t be any room for you in God’s eternal love plan.
[It should be noted that it is those that rebel against God and behave as they see fit ('sin willingly') regardless of His statutes, who will be condemned. Followers of Christ are still human, and will sin due to the nature of the flesh, (unwilling slips) but only they have the option of confession > repentance > restoration.]
So, the Holy Spirit-inspired author is pleading with us, for the sake of our salvation, to cling doggedly to our faith: …do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what is promised. Heb. 10:35, 36. ESV
Furthermore, the author goes on to tell you exactly what faith is – so that you know when you have it:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, for the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made of things that are visible. Heb. 11:1 – 3. ESV
Nothing existed before God spoke it into existence. There were no primordial building blocks. God transformed His own thoughts into things material.
Now, God tells us the most important reason to have faith: …without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Heb. 11:6 NKJV
If you don’t believe in God, there is nothing everlastingly good coming your way.
The author then cites some of the Old Testament characters of faith as examples. (Remember, the author is pleading God’s case to Jewish converts who are waffling in their faith in Christ.)
He begins by telling of the faith of Abel, which led him to worship God His way, as opposed to the rebellious Cain, who did not. He also holds up the faith of Abraham – both his faith that led him to follow God’s instructions and leave his family, and his unswerving faith in God’s promise of eternal life: …for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Heb. 11:10 NASB
The author then paints a picture of the common trait of all of the biblical paragons of faith:
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Heb. 11:13 NKJV
They all had faith in their eternal destination. They knew that their earthly time was only the beginning of their journey. They looked forward to their ‘graduation’ with joy because they had faith in the fact that God Himself is faithful to His word:
But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. Heb. 11:16 NKJV
The author also includes the faith of Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and others – again, holding them up for their acts of faith:
…through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions…Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Heb. 11:33 & 35. NKJV
And all of these, though they won divine approval by [means of] their faith, did not receive the fulfillment of what was promised, because God had something better and greater for us, so that they [these heroes and heroines of faith] should not come to perfection apart from us [before we could join them]. Heb. 11:39, 40. AMP
They stood up against all persecution – empowered by God, waiting for the day their spirits would join with Him. But the big party won’t start until the resurrection of every faith-filled follower’s glorified bodies.
We see then the tenacity of the faithful of old, and they didn’t have Jesus in person to inspire them. We do! So how can we be empowered by their examples?
…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God. Heb. 12:1, 2. NKJV
Jesus foresaw His joy in connecting with you for all of eternity and decided that it was worth paying the price of His crucifixion; and, the price that you pay for faithful endurance (setting aside earthly ways for those that are heavenly) will be more than worth it as well:
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? Heb. 12:7 ESV
…He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Heb. 12:10, 11. NASB
So, you have a choice. When you make the choice for Jesus, you are immediately placed at the doorstep of heaven:
…you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood sprinkling that speaks of better things than that of Abel. Heb. 12:22 – 24. NKJV
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe. Heb. 12:28 NASB
You too can be a firstborn that is registered in heaven – not by accepting the blood of Abel that cried out to God for vengeance, but by the miraculous work of the blood of Jesus that completely transforms you, preparing you for your date with eternal Love…
Now at this point, like the apostle Paul, (and who knows, the author just might be Paul) the author leaves us with some godly behaviors to engage in, in order to remain in readiness for our heavenly call: Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have unwittingly entertained angels.
Remember the prisoners as if chained with them… Heb. 13:1 – 3. NKJV
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have. Heb. 13:4, 5. ESV
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried away with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them. Heb. 13:8, 9. NKJV
For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. Heb. 13:14, 15. NASB
Amen. I think that the case for Jesus has been thoroughly made…
Good night and God bless.
December 31 2013 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »