Monday, May 25, 2015
Rom. 6:1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?
For Paul the idea of sinning and living in Christ were two incompatible concepts. Once someone is baptized and united with Christ they are living in the newness and grace of that life. It automatically raises the question of sin. Origen tell us, “it is clear that someone who has died to sin cannot remain a sinner.” That’s because the kingdom loyalties have shifted.
“To sin is to live to sin, and not to sin is to live to God. Therefore, when the grace of God through Christ and through faith came upon us, we began by the spiritual rebirth of baptism to live to God, and we died to sin, which is the devil. This is what dying to sin means: to be set free from sin and to become a servant of God. Therefore, having died to sin, let us not go back to our earlier evils, lest by living once again to sin and dying to God we should incur the penalty from which we have escaped.” (Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Paul’s Epistles)
To argue that a baptized individual would go on sinning is ludicrous in the mind of Paul. The life of sin has been left behind and the believer has entered into a new life, united with Christ. The direction of life is completely changed and there should be no going back. This is a real change that is transformational.
It seems that there are more arguments these days about why we humans fall short of God’s desire for us and why we continue to sin, than there are about why we don’t have to go on sinning. It’s become a crutch to argue that we can’t live without sin and for those who would argue that they can — that they are simply fooling themselves. We argue that we’re simply being “realistic.” Or, could it be that we are providing excuses for our own behavior and justifying the fact that we are not wholeheartedly united with Christ — we are not totally sold out to living for him — and therefore we will continue to dabble in sin.
There is no place in-between for the Christian. Paul talks about dying to sin and living in Christ. When someone dies, they really die!
Yesterday we celebrated the life of Dr. Rob Staples. He was an incredible man who made a difference in the lives of many people throughout the years. Dr. Rob Staples has died to this life. There is no coming back in the way in which he lived this life previously for he has moved on and would not want to come back! He is enjoying the very presence of Jesus Christ. To desire to return to the physical body with all of its struggles and weaknesses would be foolishness.
When we die to sin we leave the old life behind. It’s over. It’s finished. We are united together with Christ and transformed when we put on the new life. We are now new and different people. Why would we want to go back to the life of sin? Why would we want to “dabble” in sin anymore for it is no longer compatible with the new life that we have been given in Christ, which is just a little foretaste of heaven!
The arguments about sinning now make sense in light of the new life in Christ. The old is gone! It is dead! You and I — we are invited to live in the newness of our life in Christ. Embrace it. Live it boldly. Live in deep intimacy with the Savior and there will be no desire to sin.
Lord, may I live into the intimacy of my relationship with you. Amen.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
2Chr. 8:11 Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter from the city of David to the house that he had built for her, for he said, “My wife shall not live in the house of King David of Israel, for the places to which the ark of the LORD has come are holy.”
Solomon had a problem with women. He married far too many wives and married outside of Israel. This sin is especially difficult to accept for he marries Pharoah’s daughter. This means that he developed ties back to Egypt, the very place from which God had freed his people. This man of wisdom — Solomon — proved to be very foolish when it came to his own personal relationships.
At the same time he realized that there was something improper about this relationship. He saw that the places where God resided were holy and there was something “unholy” about an Egyptian woman in the midst of God’s dwelling. Trying to make himself look better he built a separate house for her to keep her away from God’s holy presence.
I believe that Solomon was going a long distance to try and justify his behavior. What he had done was clearly in disobedience to God but somehow he was justifying that if he didn’t contaminate God’s holy place with his wife’s presence, he was going to be okay. He goes out of his way to build her a separate house so that he could boast about the fact that she was not living in the dwelling place of the presence of God.
Instead of addressing the real root of his personal problem, Solomon was trying to make himself look good.
This practice continues today and quite frequently among “Christians.” When our concern becomes focused on what others will think of us, rather than our personal relationship before God we will do anything to cover up bad behavior and try to make things look good. Somehow we soothe our conscience when we keep up a good front, but underneath there is a decay which will ultimately prove to be destructive.
Solomon’s love of women had horrible consequences for all of God’s people. If we refuse to deal with the real issues and continue to try and make things look good, then we, too, will have to live with the consequences. God never told us to try to look good for the world…he told us to love him and love our neighbors…and that requires honesty and transparency which includes repentance and forgiveness.
Lord, please help me to be honest and transparent. Amen.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
2Chr. 6:32 “Likewise when foreigners, who are not of your people Israel, come from a distant land because of your great name, and your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm, when they come and pray toward this house, 33 may you hear from heaven your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigners ask of you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.
Here in the midst of Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple he prays for a number of circumstances to be used to the glory of God. He prays for the foreigners who will come to Israel because they have heard about the great name of God. They have heard about the ways in which God is working in and through his people and as a result, people are drawn to the nation. God is not just blessing the people of Israel for their sakes, but for the sake of a lost world.
When the foreigners arrive they are to be welcomed and Solomon even prays that God will “do whatever the foreigners ask of you.” It is an evangelistic prayer. He wants the foreigners to experience the things of God so that they will worship and praise God and that the message will be spread among more and more people of the earth.
We begin to see here that immigration is God’s plan of evangelism. We pray for missionary movements and revivals to happen around the world (we do, don’t we?) — and we want to see God work in extraordinary ways. Yet, we fail to see that the extraordinary may be something we are encountering on a daily basis.
The foreigners who come to our lands are often drawn because of the resources that are available. When we become protective of those resources, concerned that there won’t be enough for all of us, then we fail to see the miracle that is at work. God, who multiplied the loaves and fed the 5000 is still at work today. He can help us multiply and share our resources when people are drawn toward us because it appears we have plenty. We need to ask God to help us open our eyes and see that this is his miracle at work.
The miracle is that the mission field is moving closer than we would have ever imagined. Every day I am in contact with people who have arrived in my neighborhood from around the world. I’ve never been to Vietnam but I see and talk to people who are Vietnamese on a regular basis. Years ago weren’t believers praying for the war — that the walls would come down — that we could share Christ with people. Now it’s possible in my own city. Isn’t that a miracle?
Solomon in all his wisdom saw the miracle of evangelism that could occur when foreigners came to Israel because the word got out about God’s work in the land. Have we been living in the blessings of God? Is that for us to enjoy, or for it to be used to the glory of God and to bring the world to him?
Solomon’s prayer went beyond his own people. We are encouraged by his prayer and so we pray for us, and the foreigners as well. May God use all of us in his kingdom’s work!
Lord, thank you for the foreigners among us for they are a sign of your activity. Amen.
Friday, May 22, 2015
Psa. 99:1 The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
2 The LORD is great in Zion;
he is exalted over all the peoples.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name.
Holy is he!
4 Mighty King, lover of justice,
you have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob.
5 Extol the LORD our God;
worship at his footstool.
Holy is he!
The holiness of God is something about which to sing! Our LORD is great and holy. The nature of holiness is revealed in God’s love for justice, equity and righteousness which is to be found among his holy people. Therefore we come before the LORD our God and we worship him — for he is holy!
God’s holy nature is to be reflected in his people. We are to be the likeness of God for the world. If he is reflected in us then we will respond to the needs of the world around us in the same way in which he responds.
Do we love justice? It’s amazing how holiness and justice are so often connected. God is a lover of justice and as his people we should be as well. The early holiness people fought against the injustices that they saw in the world because the very nature of injustice rubs against the nature of God’s holiness. The two are incompatible.
Not only is there a love of justice, but equity is established. What does that mean for a Christ-follower seeking to be a reflection of God’s holiness? We are to be fair and equitable to those who are around us for this becomes our witness. The ways in which we act, react and treat those around us is our testimony. The world is watching and wanting to know how God’s holy people will respond. When we become more concerned about ourselves and making sure that we are properly cared for — than for others — then we are not seeking the equity of our holy God. We must put others first, sharing with those in need! In this, God’s holiness is revealed.
We worship him when we are at his footstool, facing God and in his holy presence. Yes, “Holy is he!”
Lord, may my life be a testimony to you. Amen.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Psa. 98:0 A Psalm.
1 O sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gotten him victory.
2 The LORD has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.
When a new chapter unfolded in the life of God’s people they wrote a new song. This Psalm is a foreshadowing of God’s mighty victory through the Messiah. This indeed is a new song and a completely new chapter for all of God’s people. God is praised for what he has done, is doing and will do into the future. He has revealed his ultimate victory and this is worthy of a new song!
It’s so easy to become focused upon the difficulties that we fail to see God’s hand at work in the world. God’s activity begs for a new song to be written and yet we can’t seem to see beyond our own personal frustrations. There is the temptation to become so mired in negativity that we fail to see God’s activity.
God is inviting us to write a new song. He is in the business of transforming lives and touching our world — but we just may fail to see it! If we fail to see it, we fail to celebrate it and there will be no new song for anyone to hear.
I rejoice in the hand of God that is at work in the world today. He’s not given up on us and a new song is being written in the lives of people all around us. Let’s celebrate. Let’s look to what he is doing in a powerful and mighty way. And let’s join in singing that new song.
Lord, may your new song be sung in my heart and mind today. Amen.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Paul was certainly not ashamed of the faith that he had in the gospel. Imagine the distance he had come from persecuting the believers to openly admitting his faith and proclaiming it everywhere that he could. He may have been ashamed of what he had done previously but was certainly not ashamed of the new life that he had in Christ.
He had learned to follow Christ and realized the power of God, resurrection power, which was available for all of humankind. Jews and Greeks alike were provided with salvation through the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul wanted everyone to know!
The world isn’t overly fond of Christians these days. I wear my NTS pin nearly everywhere I go and there, proudly displayed in the center is a cross. It is a reminder of the Christ-centeredness of our understanding of holiness. I am not ashamed of Christ and yet — people look at that pin and sometimes immediately frown. It’s amazing to me how in such a short period of time being a Christian has become viewed so negatively by society.
At the same time, I am not ashamed! Just as Paul was called to share the good news of salvation to the world, so are we. We are challenged in the face of hostility to live the Spirit-filled life, reflecting Jesus to the world. I don’t want people to just see a cross on my pin, I want them to see Jesus living in and through me. My prayer is that if they see Christ they will see what Christianity truly is about — for it’s about him!
The challenge for Paul was to first seek Christ. This he did and spent valuable time in prayer and seeking the face of God. As a result, he was not ashamed of the gospel for he had already experienced its power. His own salvation story was extraordinary, but he continued to see the power of God for salvation in his daily ministry. He was not ashamed for he knew the reality of God’s transforming work in the lives of those to whom he had ministered.
It’s not time to be ashamed, but it is time to walk deeper with Christ, knowing him and sharing him with our world.
Lord, may I be deepened in my walk with you and may you lead me to proudly proclaim you on a daily basis. Amen.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
2Th. 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.
Paul’s benediction for the Thessalonians was that peace would overwhelm them. He identified the Lord as “the Lord of peace himself.” God’s nature of holy love reaches out and fills his people, resulting in peace.
The prayer for peace was for “all times and in all ways.” This permeation of peace was also in his message of sanctifying the people “through and through.” The connection between God’s holy love and peace is clear and distinct and it is Paul’s desire for God’s people.
This is only possible when the Lord is with God’s people and so this becomes the final word of Paul’s prayer. His desire is that the Lord be with God’s people in all ways and all times! The result is peace, both personal and corporate.
Peace can seem elusive. Just read the daily headlines and we are overcome with the negative and evil that is in the world. There is too much hostility between people. Why are we so angry with one another?
A group of biker gangs gathered in Waco, TX and shot at one another. We seem to not even notice this news and yet, how in the world did we get to the place where we behave in this way?
We have cities in America where there is no peace. Issues of race are tearing us apart and we have for far too long, had a deaf ear to what is happening. Where is the peace?
In the Middle East a group by the name of ISIS has seized another city. Innocent, ordinary people are having their lives destroyed because there is no peace.
Paul’s prayer is one that we need today. Holiness is what the world needs today. Peace is what we need today.
Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians is not one of a mediocre Christianity. The call and prayer is to a deeper walk with Jesus Christ and greater intimacy with the Prince of Peace. That deeper intimacy leads to entire sanctification and then God’s holy love flows from his people, transforming them into his people of holy peace. This is peace of heart and mind in the midst of trauma. It is also peaceful behavior in the midst of a chaotic war.
Rebecca Krikorian was a young Armenian woman who left Turkey prior to the first World War and came to America to raise funds for her mission back at home. While in America she received word of the atrocities her people were facing. Too many friends and family members were being murdered; and in ways which almost defy description. Overcome with grief she spent hours and hours in prayer and the God of peace ministered to her. He filled her heart with his peace and her desire in life was to return home and bring the good news of Jesus to the perpetrators of the heinous crimes. She worked tirelessly to raise money to go home with forgiveness and peace. Her peace could only have come from Christ himself, and of course it did, for she was intimately connected to him.
We need peace. Peace will only come when we know the Prince of Peace. This is for us, and should drive us to evangelize, bringing the good news of this peace to a world that is anything but peaceful.
Lord, may I know your peace. Amen.