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Weekly Word

Entries in Hope (8)

Sunday
Jul092017

Our Great Joy in Jesus

1 Peter 1:3-9.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 09, 2017.

Today we will spend some time in a passage that focuses on the joy that we have as believers in Jesus Christ.  It is easy to let the things of the world around us drag our hearts down into a dreary drudgery.  We see individuals rejecting the gospel and plunging down the “wide way,” and we see the nations of the world rejecting the ways of God and pursuing their own ways.  In the midst of this is the onslaught of both individual and political evils that continue to tear the world apart and create massive suffering.  So I want us not to forget about the world’s plight, and yet not to be infected by a spirit of hopelessness.  The follower of Jesus has nothing to hang their head over.  We are never defeated or losers.  We are the true overcomers as we keep our eyes upon Jesus and the mission that He gave us.

We Give Thanks to God

In verses 3-5, Peter starts out by thanking God for His blessings and yet he is also reminding the believers of the blessings that they have.  And so, we do have much to be thankful for, and it all finds its source in God the Father.  He is the architect of creation, and the giver of life and all its wonderful aspects.  Am I thankful?  And, do I take time to thank God?  We should wake every morning and recount the amazing blessings with which God has surrounded us.  He has been good to us and grateful thanks should be the foundation of our daily life.

In fact Peter uses the phrase, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  It could also be translated as “Praise the God…”  Our praise is the proper acknowledgment that is actually due to God.  All creation should praise Him, but not all of creation does.  Of course giving God His due praise speaks to those who are not doing so.  But to us who do praise Him, it should not be about duty and obligation.  It should be about gratefulness and thanks.  Our thanks and praise rises up to God in the midst of a world that takes God’s goodness for granted, and a spiritual realm that has a rebellion against Him.  The devil and his angels believe that they can do better than God and are ungrateful for His decisions.    We are those who have rebelled against the rebellion, and have put our faith in Jesus.  We are not under the shadow of judgment, but can see and recognize the goodness of God.  Because of this, we are the recipients of the greater treasures that God is in the middle of giving to those who trust Him.

Peter particularly points out the “abundant mercy” of God.  He is not obligated by justice to give us mercy.  However, He is kind, loving, and merciful.  Salvation always begins with the mercy of God and we must never forget that.  His holiness and justice would come against our lives and bring us to account and to punishment.  But in His mercy, God makes a way for us to be saved from punishment.  He holds out the offer of eternal life to those who will trust Him.  So what are some of these mercies?  Peter lists some for us.

He uses the phrase, “He has begotten us again.”  This is very similar to the phrase used by Jesus in John 3:3, “You must be born again.”  We are all born physically and because of the will of two humans.  Yet, we are not spiritually alive.  Thus all humans are in need of being “born again,” but not physically.  This second birth is a spiritual birth and is because of the will of God, not man.  Even though we are alive to the world around us, we are spiritually unable to recognize and interact with the God who created us.  If we were to use the analogy of a still birth, we can think of it like this.  Though a still born physically exists, they cannot interact with the physical world around them.  Similarly, though we do have an inner spirit, it is still born towards the Holy Spirit of God.  It will never be able to sense and interact with God unless a spiritual miracle occurs. The analogy is not perfect, but it does help to see what the Bible is saying.  This is called being born again.  So to compare the two births we have this.  Physical birth is the first birth, caused by humans, in which we are able to interact with the physical world.  Being born again is Spiritual birth, a second birth, caused by God, in which we are able to interact with the Spirit of God.  What a blessing and mercy this is.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  In John 1:12-13 we are told that such a birth makes us the children of God.  “But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

So why has God made us spiritually alive?  Peter says it is for the purpose of receiving a “living hope.”  Regardless of what our lot is in life because of our physical birth, our spiritual birth leaves all of that in the dust.  All that we might hope for in this life will one day be taken away from us.  Thus it is a hope, but a dying one.  Our spiritual birth gives us hope of things that cannot be taken away, even in physical death.  If a person is born into royalty or a family of great power, that is nothing compared to being born again in Jesus.  Even, if I have been born into squalor and have little hope in the things of this world, in Christ I have a living hope that is so much greater than anything this world can offer.  Peter further describes this living hope.  It is a living hope because of “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  It is living because it is based upon the living Jesus.  He is alive and can no longer die.  Similarly because our hope is in Him, even if we die physically our hope cannot die because it is in one who cannot die again.  Even more than this, we believers in Jesus are promised a day of Resurrection in which we will fully join Christ in that state of eternal life through a body that cannot die and a spirit that dwells in the presence of God every second.  Thus even our physical death because an entering into the presence of the Lord of Life.  What a living hope we have in Jesus!

Peter also describes this living hope as “incorruptible,” and “reserved in heaven” for us (vs. 4).  It is called an inheritance because there is a future aspect to what God is giving us.  Yes, I have eternal life already, but I have not received all that eternal life has to offer, yet.  Thus he uses the word “hope.”  We are already experiencing some of His promises now and thus the hope that is future is already “living” within us and blessing us.  Peter uses several words to show that this hope is secure for the ages.  It is incorruptible, and will not decay or go bad.  There is no expiration date on the promises of God.  It is also “undefiled.”  It is a hope that is untainted by the sin and rebellion of this world.  No matter how much the rebels of this world hope in a Utopia, it is a defiled hope.  They will continually slam up against the reality that the hope is tainted by the sin of mankind and the fallen angels.  Lastly, Peter says that it doesn’t “fade away.”  It is a hope that will not lose its luster and beauty.  This world fades and dims, but our hope does not.  It is reserved in heaven for us.  Thus it is safe in God’s hands, and guarded by none other than God Himself.  If God be for us who can be against us?  On this earth our inheritance and blessings are always in danger of others who may want to steal it, but the inheritance of God cannot be touched by any, not even the devil himself.

However, God does more than just guard our inheritance.  In verse 5 it says that we ourselves are guarded by the power of God.  The same God who guards our inheritance is also insuring that we can make it to that inheritance.  The word “kept” in verse 5 is similar to the word “reserved” in verse 4.  They both have the sense of guarding something.  However, the word in verse 5 adds the sense of a military guard.  It has a higher sense of protection to it.  Thus God stations His forces around us, to ensure that we make it to the day of inheritance, which is the completion of our salvation (notice the future sense of salvation in this verse- more on that later).  The only thing that can derail it is our own faith.  Satan cannot win by destroying us physically, financially, or emotionally.  But, he uses those things to try and destroy our trust in God.  Now, God doesn’t just put a carrot in front of us.  He also protects us along our way to make sure that we will be able to dine upon it.  All of this is “through faith,” our faith in Him.  This living hope and inheritance from God cannot be earned or purchased by the power of this world.  It can only be the gift of God to those who trust Him.

Our Thanks Endure Even Our Various Trials

In verses 6-9, Peter acknowledges that Christians go through difficult things, even though they have much to be joyful.  It is easy to be so focused on making people look happy that we can forget that there is a time to cry, and a time to mourn.  We must deal with the difficult things of life, not by shutting them down, but by overcoming them.  They devil is trying to disqualify us through those trials and tests of life.  But God allows them for the purpose of proving that we qualify and ultimately making us stronger.

So let’s look first at how the trials of life can grieve us for a little while.  Do not make light of the emotional side of trials.  They are difficult and tend to weigh us down with an internal heaviness.  God does not call us to be unfeeling automatons, or robots.  As we grieve and yet remind ourselves of the goodness of God, our faith in God can be deepened.  We can also understand the depths of God’s love towards us.  Trials also help us to see the depths to which our enemy will stoop in order to try and disqualify us.  If we shed tears in this life, then we can shed them knowing that God sees them and will keep a record of them.  He will right every wrong and then bring us to a place where we will cry no more and have pain no more.  And, on that day, He will reward us for those tears and pains of this life that we endured while hanging on to the promise of eternal life, our living hope.  The enemy, however, wants to drown us in our sorrows and difficulties.  He wants us to blame God for our pains, so that we will lose faith in God and walk away from our inheritance.

Peter reminds us in verse 7 that these tests prove our faith.  Have I really trusted in God?  If God stepped in and removed every difficult thing in our life then we would never truly know if our faith is founded on solid ground.  In a sense many people say, “God I trust you, if You keep everything from hurting me.”  This is not trust.  Yet, Job said, “Even if God slay me, yet I will trust Him!”  Some follow Jesus because of what they obtain in this life: people who care for you, and love you, among other comforts of life.  But what about when I lose all of those things?  Like John the Baptist sitting in prison about to lose his head, we can begin to question and waver in our faith in Jesus.  Thus the picture of trials being a refining fire is used by Peter.  The trials are called various because there are innumerable ways to be tried in this life.  Some are seductive, with hidden motives, and we can enjoy their presence to some degree.  Others are brutish, with the obvious motive to overwhelm and destroy us.  Typically we do not enjoy these.  But our faith, Peter says, is more precious than gold.  We are tempted by things that are really not as precious as we think.  The truth about our faith will be made clear at the “revelation of Jesus,” which is His Second Coming.  This will be our glory and honor in the day that He returns: we world will see that we belong to Him.

In verse 8 He commends them for their faith and love for Jesus.  They are keeping their eyes on Jesus even in the face of trials.  Peter had seen Jesus with his own eyes.  But then Jesus was taken into heaven and now Peter no longer can see Jesus.  He must use the eyes of faith, trust.  Even harder it is for those who had never seen Jesus in the flesh.  They are taking the witness of Peter, and the Holy Spirit.  They have come to love this Jesus that they have learned about.  They are not about to be scammed out of the inheritance they have in Jesus.  So also, keeping our eyes upon Jesus, we await that day when He will split the clouds and return to earth.  Even if I die, I do so keeping my trust upon the one who said, “He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.”  Our love for Jesus is birthed in the love that He had for us.  He died in my place even while I was still a rebel against Him.  He did so to make an inheritance for me with Him.  He paid the price that I might sit with Him at the Father’s table.  He purchased us back from the place of slavery to which we had sold ourselves.  And, He does this to make us His beloved ones.  In the words of Paul, “[love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails. 

So this love that Jesus has for us and that we have for Him fills us with a joy that is inexpressible and full of glory.  In the face of our own death, His death and resurrection assures us that He loves us and will keep His word.  The daily joy that we have as a Christian should never be based upon the earthly joys and comforts that we have.  Yes, we should be thankful for any such things that we experience.  But they must never be the foundation of our joy.  The foundation of our joy is the relationship of love that Jesus has given to us.  As the old song says, “I’ve got something the world can’t give, and the world can’t take it away!”  It is called inexpressible or unspeakable because it goes beyond the ability of words to fully express.  Not that we don’t express our thanks, but that they too fall short.  “O, for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemers praise, the glories of our God and King, the triumphs of His grace.”  So we continue to describe to people that which can never be fully expressed.  Such is the joy of the believer.  It is also described as “full of glory” because it is given by God Himself.  Glory is often described as brilliant light in the spirit realm (within Scripture).    God has given us Himself and the glorious shining of God sits at the center of our heart and life like a blazing sun.  Thus our joy and faith in Him, which is set on fire by the blazing glory of God, cannot be extinguished by the devil. 

In the midst of such glorious joy, Peter says we are receiving the salvation of our souls.  In fact this is part of the joy.  I may endure a difficult trial, but it is part of me receiving something much better.  Verse 5 speaks of our salvation in the future, but verse 9 speaks of it as a present thing.  That is because we are in the process of receiving a salvation that will one day be completed at the second coming of Christ.  Thus we can look back to the day that we began receiving salvation, we can look around at our current salvation, and we can look forward to its completion at the Second Coming of Christ!  Amen!

Our Great Joy audio

Tuesday
Mar292016

There is Hope

Romans 8:16-30.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty on March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday.

Hope is a word that we use to refer to the anticipation of something good in the future.  This seems to be the default position of the human heart.  When we are young and innocent we have a basic sense of good things ahead.  However, through difficult experiences in a fallen world and our own moral failures, we can lose hope.  In Jesus God has restored hope by demonstrating the depths to which His love is willing to go for fallen humans.  Yes, we may give up on hope, but God will never.  He is the creator of hope.

It is also important to recognize that we are not talking about hope in the sense of wishing for something.  “I hope I win the lottery,” is a statement that is more about wishing for something.  In the Bible the hope in our heart is instigated by the object of hope that God has promised in our future.  It would be more like the hope a young person has of graduating from college because their parents have promised to pay for it.  Today we are going to remind ourselves of the hope that God has anchored in the future for all who put their faith in Jesus and follow him.

We Are Children Of God

In verses 16-22, Paul reminds us that we are children of God.  Now we all belong to God by the fact of creation.  Thus all humans are children of God in that sense.  However, in the Bible it has a more narrow sense.  It is referring to those who have been born spiritually.  When you were physically birthed you were the child of two human parents, i.e. a child of man.  In order to be a child of God you must also be born spiritually by putting your faith in Jesus as your teacher and the one who covers your sins.

As a child of God we are also heirs, and joint heirs with Jesus.  Technically it is Jesus who stands to inherit all/ things because of what he did while he was on this earth.  He lived the perfect, sinless life and yet was unjustly attacked.  Instead of fighting, Jesus puts his full trust in the God of heaven.  Though the cross may seem to show his trust was ill-placed, the resurrection proves that Jesus knew what he was doing.  God has declared that those who put their trust in the work of Jesus and his commands will be brought into the Family of God and allowed to inherit with Jesus.

Notice that Paul states at the end of verse 17 a conditional phrase.  We stand to inherit with Christ, “if” we are willing to suffer with Jesus.  Just as Jesus suffered in the hope that the Father would answer him so too, we must pick up our cross and follow him.  Now we will not all suffer the same things or in the same way.  But we will experience many hardships in this life that will challenge our decision to follow Jesus.  His commands are very clear and cause us to have to choose between trusting him or making our own way.  Some people walk away from the faith when they encounter suffering.  But, this seems strange because we are going to have pain and suffering whether we follow Jesus or not.  This world is filled with them everywhere you go.  Thus Paul states that those who will follow the way of Jesus will suffer on this earth, but they will one day be glorified with Jesus.  Just as Jesus was glorified with an immortal, indestructible body and was glorified in his position over all creation, so we too will receive glorified bodies and a glorified position beside Jesus.  To illustrate this, I would point us to the Basketball tournament that the NCAA is putting on right now.  These teams are in the middle of a great struggle to be the champions.  As each game is played one team walks away saddened because they lost, but the other team is rejoicing because they have won.  As the final championship game ends with the blare of the buzzer, the time of blood, sweat, and tears will be over and one of the teams will enter into a time of glory, the time of enjoying the fruit of your labor.  This is what it will be for all believers at the Resurrection.

This is what is being referred to in vs. 19.  All creation awaits the revealing of the Sons of God.  This is the moment when believers are glorified and revealed to the world in glorified form and position.  Most people don’t recognize how critical mankind is to the universe.  Through our moral fall, all of creation was put under the curse of sin.  In the Old Testament the term Sons of God is a reference to the angelic beings.  They were direct creations of God and they were immortal.  However, through Jesus, God is raising up lowly humans to join the heavenly Sons of God.  This is referenced in Hebrews 2: 9-10, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angles, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.  For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”  Yes, we are in a time of difficulty, blood, sweat, and tears at this time.  Yet, a day has been appointed in which all who have believed upon Jesus Christ will be raised up immortal.  We will be revealed as the Sons of God, along with Jesus the One and Only Unique Son of God.

In verses 20-22, we are reminded that the curse was given for the hope of what was to come.  We might be tempted to look at the effects of the curse and sin on the Earth and accuse God of doing a terrible job, perhaps even being evil.  The truth is that we were not cursed for the sake of vengeance, but for the hope of what would one day come.  The triumph of mankind over the devil would be a long time in coming, but come it would.  At the cross, the devil was disarmed.  The truth was given to the world and the law was satisfied.  For the last 2 thousand years people have been plundered from his control, people from every language and nation.  One day all of those people will stand immortal beside the Lord, while the devil is captured and removed from the scene.  This is the victory that the Lord has assured us.

Jesus Is The Hope Of Mankind

Starting in verse 24 we see the hope that Jesus makes possible for mankind.  First it states that this is what we have been saved for.  Putting your faith in Jesus is not about simply trying to get something better in this life.  It is about so much more.  Sure, following Jesus will change the way you live and bring many good things into your life.  But it can also bring some bad things into your life as well: suffering, pain, rejection, and even death.  But the apostles knew that they were not dying for a lie.  They had seen the resurrected Lord and had been told by him that they too would experience resurrection if they followed him.  It would be good for American Christians to recognize that our greatest hope is not in fixing America, as great as that would be.  Our greatest hope is to reign with Jesus over a new earth and a new heavens that is not tainted by sin, pain, and suffering.

In verse 28 we are told that all things are working together for the good of those who are called by God.  It may seem impossible to understand that such a thing could be true.  Yet, even for a person who is not an unbeliever, this can be true the second they believe in Jesus.  Until that moment, everything that happens in their life is a sad story.  But once they believe in Jesus, it all becomes part of a glorious story of overcoming an enemy that was far too strong for us.  Don’t push faith aside.  By doing so you will only allow your pain and suffering to remain meaningless and evil.  But when you embrace it, all that difficulty becomes full of meaning and goodness.

Verses 29-30 show us that God’s plan is far greater than ours.  It is greater in effect and greater in scope.  From the beginning of time before he created, He foresaw all that would be.  In the moment that he chooses to create, He also chooses a destiny for all who would trust Him.  This is what is meant by Predestined.  He destined those who would trust him to be transformed and made like Jesus (morally and physically).  Then, in the course of time, He Called us to join His family.  All of us who are followers of Jesus had to hear the call of God by the Spirit and through a human being.  When we responded in faith that destiny became our own.  Then, those that responded to the call were Justified.  They were made to be righteous by the work of God.  No one will be able to stand before God and make a case against them receiving such a destiny.  They have been justified by the judge himself.  Lastly, those who have been justified will one day be Glorified.  The justified will be clothed with immortal glory and enter into the inheritance of a new creation.  This is the hope of mankind that Jesus has made available to whosoever will believe upon Him.  If you haven’t already, please do so today.  If you hear the call of the Spirit to join the ranks of the redeemed then respond today and let God justify your claim to the glory He has for you.

hope audio

Thursday
Dec272012

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Today we will look at the Angel’s message to Joseph before the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:18-25.  He faced a difficulty that in many ways he probably wasn’t prepared for. 

We often face difficulties, but it is very different when we have the tools to deal with them.  So the person who has to go to work in the snow can be more confident if they have snow tires and 4-wheel drive.  The person who is lost in Seattle can be more confident if they have a 4-G cell phone with a data plan. 

But, Joseph wasn’t the only one with a tough problem.  We will see that all mankind had a problem, in fact still has a problem, and that problem is sin.  No matter how many tools we create and assemble we won’t be able to remove that stubborn bane of mankind—sin.  It is not just the sin in others, but even the sin within us personally that mankind cannot remove.  Christmas is the celebration of the truth that we have not been left alone in this impossible battle.  God is with us.

Jesus Comes

The central point of this passage is that Jesus, who is the long-awaited messiah, has come.  This is the moment that Israel had been waiting for since its inception.  In fact, we could say that even the Gentile nations with their twisted theologies and religions had longed for “the gods to come down.”  Thus Jesus who is God comes down in a miraculous way: He is born of a woman who had never been with a man.  Though we might be quick in this modern era to scoff at such an idea, we must recognize that if God can create man in the first place, then surely he can cause a egg to be fertilized in the womb.  In fact what is the insertion of the sperm but an insertion of information?  God did not even need a sperm.  The Holy Spirit was able to activate the egg by the same creative power he had at the beginning.  You either believe in God or not.  But don’t pretend that the reason you don’t believe in him is because of such miracles.

Jesus came in a way that looked shameful.  Though Joseph and Mary were betrothed, they had not tied the knot, so to speak, yet.  For Joseph to go ahead with the marriage would be to confess simultaneously that he is the father and that he was not a righteous man.  His only option seemed to be calling off the wedding in as discrete a way as possible.  Thus Jesus would be born with the social stigma of a shameful conception to unrighteous parents.  Of course this is nothing in our society today.  However that is not to our honor.

Jesus comes to earth accompanied by angels.  We see much activity of angels with Mary, Zechariah, the shepherds, and here, Joseph.  Didn’t Joseph believe Mary?  We are not told.  However as he is determining his response to the news of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph has a dream.  The angel tells him that Mary’s story is true.  As wonderful as that news may have been to Joseph, he still has a tough decision because no one else will believe the story.  However, Joseph becomes a picture of God.  He is innocent, yet marries a bride that the world sees as unfaithful.  In fact, unlike Mary we have been unfaithful.  We are more like Gomer in the story of Hosea.

Jesus also comes as an answer to prophecy.  In verses 22-23 Matthew points out that the virgin birth had been spoken of in Isaiah chapter 7.  The messiah would be recognized as God with us, Immanuel.  But his “name” would be Jesus.

Jesus Saves Us From Our Sins

Jesus is an English version of a word that begins in the Hebrew or Aramaic tongue.  It was some form of Yeshua or Yahshua.  This was transliterated into the Greek language as Iesous.  The name literally means Yahweh is Salvation or Yahweh Saves.  This is the central point of who Jesus is: He is the salvation of God. 

The problem of mankind had been fully explored by mankind.  The Gentiles had continued down the road of creating their own path of salvation.  The Jews had proven that even if God gave us His perfect laws it would not make us righteous.  We all needed a miracle.  We needed God with us in this battle.  In fact we needed him to fight for us.  We were not just bound in slavery to sin.  But this slavery had even infiltrated our mind.  We self-justified those pet sins that we liked and thundered against those we didn’t.  This ever evolving, ever-changing definition of righteousness only protected sin.  This same problem is just as bad today.  We may shrink in horror at a gunman in Conneticut who shoots 20 kids in cold blood.  But then turn around and angrily defend a woman’s right to have a cold-blooded doctor rip apart the life within her.  Over 1 million babies a year are aborted in America.  But few choke up over such infanticide.

In Isaiah 1:18-20, God called to Israel to reason with him.  Though their sins were as scarlet and crimson, he would make them white as snow.  The picture is one of blood.  Sin causes our life to be stained with a stain as difficult as blood.  No matter how hard we try our white righteousness will never look the same.  It will only become more and more stained.  But, God promises to help us.  He says to those who are willing and obedient, rather than rebellious and refusing, that He will make them white.  This is precisely what Jesus was coming to do: to save us from our sins.

“He will save His people from their sins.”  Does this just mean Israel only?  In Matthew 12:50 Jesus had revealed to his disciples that, “whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  Thus Jesus was stating that his people were not identified by biology, or what town they lived in, or what culture they shared.  Rather, they are identified by their desire to God’s will.  What is God’s will?  John 6:29, “This is the work of God; that you believe in him whom he sent.”  That one is Jesus.  Our faith in Jesus makes us a part of the people of Jesus.  He promises to save each one.

Final Thoughts

Without Jesus we have no hope against our sins, much less those of mankind.  We can continue to lie to ourselves.  But the stakes only continue to go higher and we have more and more to lose.  We cannot create enough rules or technology to protect ourselves from the effects of sin.  Only Jesus can.

Jesus is God’s proof that he has not abandoned us.  He will cleanse those who trust him and his ways.  But, how can an innocent baby save us?  Only because he is Immanuel; God with us.  With God on our side we cannot fail.

This Christmas make it a truly white Christmas by putting your trust in Jesus alone as the one who covers your sin and makes you white as snow.

dreaming white Christmas audio

Tuesday
Nov202012

We Give Thanks To You, O Lord

We will take a break from 1 Peter today and focus upon this week’s topic of Thanksgiving.  It can be easy to lose hope, joy, and peace as things get difficult in our life and our nation.  However, for us in America, it is important to remember that the first century believers were in circumstances more difficult and under governance that was far more oppressive.  In other words God’s Word can take us through whatever is ahead of us.  Paul wrote the letter of Romans to the believers in Rome.  As he closed that letter he encourages them.  Let’s look at the passage in Romans 15:5-13,

May God Grant Us the Mind of Christ

When you boil verse 5 down you see that Paul is praying for them to not just be like-minded but “according to Christ Jesus.”  Thus the mind we need to share is not yours and neither is it mine.  Rather we are to share the mind of Christ.  Back in verse 3 he had reminded them of this mind that Jesus had.  He did not please himself but rather laid his life down that we might live.  Notice that it is God who “grants” or gives this to us.  How we ought to pray and seek God for the gift of having the mind of Christ with one another.  This very same God is the God of patience and comfort.  Both of these are necessary if we are to live out the mind of Christ.  When it says that he is the God of comfort, it doesn’t just mean that he has a lot of it in his kingdom.  Rather, his very nature is patience and comfort.  Let’s look at patience first.  To remain under a situation is to be patient.  We all will draw the line and say that we will not put up with anything beyond it.  However, the mind of Christ is willing to die in order that others might live.  Are my “lines” from God?  No, they are from my flesh.  As the God of patience, this is what he is building in us, helping us to see our need of patience and its value.  We also need comfort.  Literally the word means to come alongside.  So it can refer to help in any sense: instruction, aid, encouragement, help, defense, or correction.  His nature is to come alongside of others to help.  Thus we can trust God to come alongside of us and wait for his perfect timing in our lives.

The “like-mindedness” is defined by Christ’s words and his actions.  Unity is good, but not in a bad thing.  The Nazi party was unified, but we reject that it was a good thing.  Psalm 2 tells us that there is a global rebellion against God and his Messiah.  This is not a good thing.  Do not join it.  Rather, repent and turn back to God so that you may be saved.  Be patient and receive his help so that we can be the body of Christ in this world.  We need to be unified around Christ, his truth and his actions, so that we can speak with his voice to this world.  Then God will be glorified by us.  Ask yourself do you accept other believers in the same way that Jesus received us?  Think about what that really means.

Jesus Became a Servant

In verses 8-13 Paul reminds them of that mind of Christ.  He served.  First he served the nation of Israel.  Paul refers to them as the “circumcision” because they took great pride in this act of the flesh and how it separated them from the rest of the world.  They thought God accepted them merely because they had cut some flesh off their body (outward action).  Jesus served them by verifying and protecting the truth: God had always received them only because of the faith in their heart.  Jesus had come to confirm that the promises of God were real and would be completed.  Even today, there is recognition that God is raising up Israel, once again, so that he can draw her heart to him and save them.  Why? Because the life of Jesus confirmed God’s love for us all.  Jesus also was a servant to the Gentiles (the nations other than Israel).  Jesus teaches us the glorious mercy of God.  While we were yet sinners Christ Jesus died for us.  We didn’t deserve it.  Paul points this out in chapters 9-11 of Romans.  Romans 11:15 says that if Israel’s being cast away allowed the world to have peace with God then what will be their acceptance back, but life from the dead?  Why will God show his mercy to Israel in these last days?  He will do so, precisely because it is a metaphor of his Resurrection nature.  He is Life.  Outside of him there is no life.  He is not afraid of death and even incorporates it into his plan because he is life.

He has done all these things that we might abound in Hope.  Our hope is both behind us and ahead of us.  But let us never forget that our greatest hope is still ahead.  That hope is Jesus ruling over the world.

Paul prays that God will fill them with “all joy and peace” in their faith.  If you are not joyful and peaceful then ask yourself what exactly is robbing you of it?  Part of our joy is to fellowship with the Holy Spirit and to fellowship with fellow believers.  God wants us to have joy and peace as much as he wants us to serve the lost.  May we learn to find true joy and true peace in him.  Notice that it can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps we need to spend some time praying in an upper room until we know for sure that with the Holy Spirit we can have joy and peace in every circumstance.  Whether it is Paul and Silas in a jail cell singing praises to God, or believers singing while they are being burned and fed to the lions, we can boldly stand against the destroyer and refuse to give up our faith.  We can stand against the destroying lion and that destroying mountain and know that the God of the universe holds us up.  If he is for us then who can be against us?  None, for greater is he that is in us then he that is in the world.

Final Thoughts

When things get difficult we tend to lose our sense of hope.  This happens when we have pinned our hopes on things of this world.  We forget that the Scriptures promised us that this world will pass away.  We forget that we were told to not love the things of this world in a way that would compromise our faith.

Also, according to the Keep-It-Simple-Stupid principle (KISS), we should focus on the simple task our Lord has given us.  Keep your faith fully upon Jesus and fully love your Christian brothers and sisters.  Believe and Love as Jesus did.  Not in the way that others tell you or your flesh wants to believe.

Lastly, our greatest hope is ahead of us not behind.  Quit looking at the decay of society around us and giving up.  Start looking up for our redemption is drawing near.  Our leader is not of this world and the kingdom that we inherit is not one that we have built.  Trust God and love your brothers and sisters.

We Give Thanks Audio