Archives
Tag Cloud
: Mothers Abandonment Abomination of Desolation Abortion Abraham’s Bosom Abuse Accounting Activism Adoption Adultery Affection Affliction Afterlife Alliances Altar America Angels Anger Anointing Apologetics Apostasy Armor of God Ascension Ashamed Atonement Authority Baal Babylon Bad Baptism Betrayal Bible Bitterness Blasphemy Blessing Blessings Blindness Boasting Body of Christ Bondage Book of Life Borders Born Again Bottomless Pit Bride of Christ Bridegroom Calling Capital Punishment Celebration Character Childbirth Children Children of God Chosen Christ Christian Life Christians Christmas Church Civil Disobedience Clay Cleansing Comfort Commands Communion Community Comparison Compassion Complacency Complaining Conception Condemnation Conduct Confidence Conflict Conformity Confrontation Confusion Connection Conscience Consequences Contentment Conviction Cornerstone Correction Cost Counsel Courage Covenant Coveting Creation Creator Crisis Cross Crowns Crucifixion Culture Curse Darkness David Day of the Lord Death Deceit Deception Decisions Defense Delegation Demon Demons Denial Dependency Design Desolation Destruction Devil Direction Disaster Discernment Disciple Disciples Discipleship Discipline Discontentment Discouragement Disease Disgrace Disputes Distraction Diversity Divine Division Doctrine Double Fulfillment Doubt Drought Drugs Duties Duty Earth Earthly Earthquakes Easter Edom Education Elders Elect Emmaus Emotions Employment Encouragement End Times Endurance Enemies Enemy Environment Environmentalism Equality Equipped Eternal Eternal Life Eternity Evangelism Everlasting Life Evil Evolution Exaltation Exalted Exclusion Excuses Exorcism Expectations Eyes Failure Fairness Faith Faithful Faithful Servant Faithfulness False Christs False Doctrine False Gods False Prophet False Religion False Religions Family Famine Fasting Father Fathers Favoritism Fear Fear of the Lord Feasts Feasts of the Lord Fellowship Fig Tree Finances Fire First Coming First Resurrection Firstborn Flesh Flock Folly Foolishness Foreigner Foreknown Forgiveness Fornication Forsaken Foundation Freedom Friends Friendship Fruit Fruit of the Spirit Fruitfulness Future Gentiles Gentle George Wood Giving Glorified Body Glory God God’s Word Godliness Godly God's Will Good Good Shepherd Good Works Gospel Gospels Government Grace Gratitude Great Commission Greatness Grief Growth Guilt Hades Hardship Harvest Hate Hatred Healing Heart Heaven Heavenly Hedonism Hell Help Herod Hidden Holiness Holy Holy Spirit Home Homosexuality Honor Hope Hopelessness Humility Husband Hypocrisy Idolatry Ignorance Image Immanuel Immigration Impossibility Incarnation Individuals Indulgences Inheritance Injustice Inner Battle Instructions Insults Integrity Intercession Intermediate State Israel Jerusalem Jesus Jewish Temple John the Baptist Joy Judas Judgment Judgment Day Judgments Justice Justification Justify Key Keys Kids Kindness King Kingdom Kingdom of God Kingdom of Heaven Knowledge Lake of Fire Lamp Law Lawlessness Leader Leaders Leadership Leftism Legalism Leprosy Lies Life Life-Span Light Like-minded Lord Lost Love Loyalty Lust Lusts Luxury Malachi Manipulation Marriage Martyrdom Martyrs Mary Master Materialism Maturity Meditation Men Mentoring Mercy Messiah Metaphor Millennium Mind Mind of Christ Minister Ministry Miracle Miracles Mission Mocking Money Mothers Mystery Nations Natural Gifts Naturalism Nature Near-Far Fulfillment Necessities New Covenant New Earth New Jerusalem New Man New Testament Obedience Obstacles Obstructions Offense Old Man Old Nature Old Testament Omnipresence Omniscience One Mind Outcast Pagan Pain Palm Sunday Parable Parables Paradise Paranormal Parenting Passion Passover Patience Patriotism Peace Peer Pressure Pentecost People of God Perception Perfect Persecution Perseverance Persistence Personal Testimonies Perspective Perversion Pestilence Peter Pharisees Philosophy Piety Pilate Politics Poor Position Possession Possessions Posture Power Praise Prayer Preaching Preparation Pride Priority Privilege Prodigal Promise Proof Prophecy Prophet Prophets Protection Protestant Reformation Proverbs Providence Provision Punishment Purgatory Purpose Questions Racism Rapture Reason Rebellion Rebuke Reconciliation Redeemer Redemption Refuge Regeneration Rejection Rejoicing Relationship Relationships Reliability Religion Remember Remnant Renewal Repentance Reputation Resolve Rest Restoration Resurrection Revelation Revenge Revival Reward Rich Riches Righteous Righteousness Rights Riot Risk Rivalry Robbery Roman Catholic Church Rule Sabbath Sacred Sacrifice Saint Salvation Sanctification Sarcasm Satan Savior Schemes Science Scripture Seasons Second Coming Secret Seed Seek Self Self Control Self-centered Self-Control Selfish Ambition Self-Righteous Servant Servant-Leadership Serve Service Serving Sexual Immorality Sexual Sin Sexuality Shame Share Sharing She’ol Shepherd Sickness Signs Signs and Wonders Simplicity Sin Sincerity Singing Singleness Sinners Slavery Sober Society Sojourner Sojourners Son Son of God Son of Man Sons of God Sorrow Soul Source Sovereignty Speech Spirit Spirit Realm Spirits Spiritual Spiritual Battle Spiritual Birth Spiritual Death Spiritual Gifts Spiritual Growth Spiritual Rulers Spiritual Warfare Stewardship Strength Stress Strife Stumbling Block Submission Suffering Supernatural Supper Surrender Syncretism Tags: Patience Taxes Teacher Teaching Tears Technology Temple Temptation Temptations Terminal Illness Test Testimony Testing Tests Thankfulness Thanksgiving The Curse The Day of The Lord The End The Fall The Grave The Holy Spirit The Law The Way The Word The World Theology Throne Time of Visitation Times of the Gentiles Tithing Tongues Tradition Tragedy Transfiguration Transformation Traps Treachery Treasure Tree Tree of Life Trial Trials Tribulation Trifles Trinity Triumphal Triumphal Entry Trouble Trust Truth Unbelievers Uncertainty Unity Unpardonable Sin Utopia Value Victory Vigilance Vindication Virtue Virtues Voice of God Volunteer War Warning Warnings Wars Watching Water Baptism Water of Life Weary Wicked Wickedness Widows Wife Wineskins Wisdom Witness Witnesses Women Word of God Word of the Lord Works World World View Worry Worship Worth Wrath Yahweh Yeast YHWH Yoke Zion

Weekly Word

Entries in Thankfulness (3)

Tuesday
Jul172018

Seeking the Things that are Above II

Colossians 3:12-17.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 15, 2018.

Seeking the things that are above is a phrase that is used to change our perspective on how we live our life.  We can either live with our heart and mind, which is naturally fixated on the earth, leading us, or we can live with our heart and mind, turned towards heaven and the leadership of Christ.  Our flesh will lead us to destruction, but the leadership of Jesus will lead us to eternal life.

Thus, Christians need to be followers of Jesus in deed and not just in word.  To truly follow someone involves watching what direction they choose and making corrections accordingly.  Similarly, to be a disciple of Jesus, we must do more than just show up for His lessons.  We must actually take time to study the lessons that He teaches and then put them into practice in our lives.  In that way we will truly become more like Him over the course of time.

In our passage today, we will see the why, what, and how of doing this.  This passage will not answer every question that you may have.  However, it will encourage you to be a person who is seeking the things that are above rather than a person who is pursuing the things of this world.

Putting on the New Man

In verses 8-10, Paul has introduced the metaphor of taking off our old man, like you would a set of clothing, and then putting on the new man.  In this metaphor the old man represents my life as led by my own fleshly heart and mind.  The new man is Jesus, and by faith Christians are those who are taking off the old way of life and putting on the new way of life that is directed by Jesus.  Now, this is not intended just to be a nice platitude, but a template for our daily transformation.  This is something we must wake up every day and pray, “Lord, show me where I need to put off the old man today, and strengthen me to put on the new that you have for me.”

Thus verse 12 quickly explains why we should give ourselves to such a task.  The first is that we have been chosen by God.  God chose us for the purpose of becoming like Jesus.  He did not choose us just to warm a pew on Sunday mornings.  Also, this choosing was not based upon the fact that we were better than others around us, but simply because we humbled ourselves, and turned from the wisdom of this world and turned towards Jesus, the wisdom of God.  If I refuse to take off the old man and put on the new man, then I am rejecting the purpose for which God chose me.  In fact, I am ultimately rejecting His choice, period.

The second reason he gives for putting on the new man is because we are holy.  We are not holy because we got our act together better than those who are not.  We are holy because when we were chosen by God, He also set us apart for His holy purposes.  Those purposes do include taking the good news about Jesus and His salvation to all people, even to the ends of the earth.  However, we cannot preach salvation if it is not happening in our daily life.  Salvation is more than a legal standing before God.  It is also something that God does in our life every day as we listen to Him and find deliverance from our old man.  The foundation of the Gospel is God’s ability to take the worst of sinners and enable them to become like Jesus, the sinless one.  It is Jesus who purchased us with His blood on the cross, and He did so in order that we would become like Him.  When we are like Him then we can produce deliverance throughout the earth.  However, to use our life for worldly and selfish purposes would be to profane (use a holy thing for common purposes) what God has made holy.

The third reason he points out for putting on the new man is because we are loved by God.  When you have the love of the Creator, then nothing else matters.  It doesn’t matter when the world rejects me because God loves me.  It doesn’t matter if I am lacking in the things of this world.  In Christ I have everything I need.  He is the one who takes care of my needs.  Thus there are two loves that we must choose between.  We can remain in the love of God and pursue His purposes, or we can remain in love with the world and go after the purposes of our own flesh.  We cannot love both because they are diametrically opposed to one another.  I can’t love the ways of the world and the desires of my own flesh, and still love God.  I will go towards one and away from the other.  When we turn towards God in reciprocal love, then He teaches us how to love the world properly.  The proper way to love the world is to lay down your life that they might live, rather than plunging headlong with them into destruction.  May we love God enough that our hearts are changed regarding the world.  Then we will love people enough to call them back from the edge of destruction.

So what does it look like to put on the new man?  In the second part of verse 12 through verse 14, Paul lists many things that show us what this looks like.  He does so not because we need a checklist to accomplish, but because of the deceptions that Christians encountered then and of course also today.  There is one Lord, Jesus, and we are called to one life, putting Him on.  There are no such things as Christians who are at such a high level that it is now okay for them to do things that the Bible tells us are sin.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  These are listed to guard against error.

The first thing he tells us to put on is tender mercies, also translated compassionate hearts.  This parallels Micah 6:8 where we are told to love mercy enough to live it out in our daily lives.  Thus Christians are told to choose the tenderness of God over the hardness of the world.

The next word is kindness.  Kindness goes beyond doing the right thing.  It involves going beyond.  Jesus helped people, but more than that he did so in a kind manner.  We see such tenderness in John 4 as He talks with the woman at the well.

Next we are told to put on humility.  Humility is the disposition of the mind in which we do not see ourselves as superior or above others.  Christ is above us all and asks us to position ourselves beneath each other, so that we can serve one another in His name.  Of course, this is exactly what He did when He yielded to the cross.  Though He is God, He embraced the lowest place.  How much more ought we to do so?

Next we are to put on meekness.  This word is often defined as strength under control.  Its emphasis is gentleness and being mild-mannered, not because you lack strength, but because the Spirit of God enables you to control yourself.  A meek person is not pushing themselves and their agenda, but leaving room for others and what Christ is doing through them.

Patience in this passage is having a long fuse with others.  It is easy to be short-tempered and easily aroused to anger.  However, Christ is patient and slow to anger.

We are told to bear with one another.  We would probably call it putting up with one another.  Yes, it is not always easy to put up with YOU, just as it is not always easy to put up with ME!  This has more to do with the personality differences and disagreements we may have.  Christ puts up with our pettiness and slowness to follow Him, and He does so because He loves us.  Our flesh is too quick to write others off and refuse to deal with them.  This is not the heart of God.

Then we are told to forgive one another.  Here we get to the parts where may do each other wrong in one way or another.  The heart of God wants to forgive us for our sins and works towards reconciliation.  Thus, those who follow Jesus must also be a forgiving people.  This is one of the hardest things for our flesh to swallow.  Forgiveness is not saying, “It’s OK.”  Rather, it is saying, “I am not going to hold this against you.  It is now between you and God.”  If a person is repentant and wants reconciliation, then we embrace them as Jesus embraced Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in John 21.

Lastly, Paul tells us, “above all these things put on love.”  One way to view these different virtues is to see them as different facets of what it means to love Christ and to love others.  When you love someone you have a tender heart towards them, are kind to them, and humble around them, etc.  When we live out the love of Christ in our life it perfectly binds us to one another.  Genealogy, blood, race, nationality, and any other thing cannot perfectly bind people to one another, but the love of Christ can.  Such love cannot be commanded or forced by any human being.  But, every one of us is led by the Spirit of Christ to let the love of Christ be expressed in our life.

So how can we live in such an incredible way?  Verse 15 transitions to answering this question.  Putting on Christ is a daunting task and an extremely high bar.  How can God expect us to do it?  Paul points us back to Christ as our hope of accomplishing such a task.

The phrase, “let the peace of Christ rule in your heart,” has two parts to it.  First we must let it.  Those who put their faith in Christ are the recipients of His peace.  This is given to us by the work of the Holy Spirit in our heart.  The picture I would use for this situation is when the disciples were with Jesus in a boat on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:39).  The sea represents our heart and all the emotions, desires, and thoughts that can stir up such an internal tempest that we fear for our lives.  Letting Jesus bring His peace into our hearts involves having Jesus in our “boat” in the first place.  But, more than that, we must call out to Jesus and ask Him to quell our inner storms.  When we call on Jesus, He says the words, “Peace, be still!”  Once Jesus calms those fears, emotions and desires, we then must let it rule in our hearts.  The word “rule” means the peace that Christ has brought to us is now calling the shots about what we will think, desire, and feel.  When you let Jesus lead in your life, you are enabled to have an inner peace that directs you without turbulence and chaos.  Clearly, this is something we must do each day.  Our hearts tend towards chaos, but letting Jesus rule in our hearts brings peace.  You don’t do this by yourself and all in one day.  You simply need to let the peace of Christ take up residence in your heart and let Him be your King.  “What are we working on today, Lord?”

Next, we are told to be thankful.  Learning to be thankful in each moment is a difficult thing.  Without the assurance that Christ is with us, it would be an impossible thing.  Thankfulness begins with contentment.  When we are content with what God has provided in our life and the station of life in which we have found ourselves, it transforms how we approach others.  Thankfulness needs to become the atmosphere of our daily life.  Each morning, rise up and thank God for the day, but not because it is an opportunity to get more.  Do so simply because it is another day to be faithful in those good things that the Lord has given you.  Instead of looking to the hills for something better, ask the Lord how you might care for what He has already given you.  When you are faithful with the “little” that He has given you, then perhaps you will find that those little things are far greater than you imagined.  It seems impossible to be able to choose to be thankful.  It involves getting our eyes off of what you don’t have here on earth, and looking towards what you do have there in heaven.  God, help me to see what I have already.  Lord, help me to want to please you, in order that I might be more like you!

Lastly, we are told to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly.  Notice that we are to “let” it happen.  God is working to put His Word in us and to have it richly bless our inner life.  This definitely involves reading the Bible, and spending some time in studying it yourself and with others.  However, Jesus is also called the Word.  Thus it is both, the commands that He gives us and He Himself.  Like the glory of God coming upon the tabernacle or the temple of Israel, so we should want the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.  We must not only memorize the word of God, but also have the Spirit who spoke it working inside of us that it might be fruitful.  This process of letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly is expressed in several ways.  We are told to teach and admonish one another, in the ways of Christ.  Also we are to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (alone and with others).  God’s people are intended to be a singing people.  We sing not because our voices are so good, but because we have something worth singing about, Jesus!  Our hearts are full of the grace of God, and He is pleased to hear the sound of our hearts as we sing about it.

Paul ends this passage with a powerful statement.  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him!  We are representatives of Christ in this world.  How well do I represent Jesus?  To some degree, we all fall short.  However, that is why we are told to bear with one another and forgive each other.  Jesus knows that we will have bumps and scrapes along the way, but He promises to dwell within us and enable us from the inside out.  The path forward is not an easy path, but it is a good one in which God will give us all the resources we need to put on the New Man and become like Jesus.  He will help us to be His spiritual children, amen!

Seeking things II Audio

Tuesday
May012018

Our Needs as Followers of Christ

Colossians 1:1-14.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 29, 2018.

The book of the Bible that we call Colossians was a letter written by the Apostle Paul to believers in the city of Colosse (sometimes spelled Colossae).  Like all new believers, the Colossians were in danger of listening to false teachers who would take advantage of their new faith in order to manipulate it towards a mixture of Christian beliefs with those of the Greeks or Jews.  The word that we use for such a mixture is “syncretism.”

In many ways this word describes much of the world today, who treat religion like a buffet table.  When we “cherry-pick” from different religions all the things that make sense to us, several things happen.  First, we have set ourselves up as the judge of what is truth, and yet by searching we confess that we do not know what is true.  So how could we be the best judge?  What guarantee is there that I will somehow choose wisely?  There is none.  Second, we end up with a number of ideas and lifestyle choices that are not coherent, or do not logically tie together (in fact they are often downright contradictions).  We end up with a philosophy of life that is inconsistent and even hypocritical.

Take for instance the reality that modern philosophy promotes a humanistic materialism.  The evolutionary theory that comes from such a view has no true basis for ethic or morality.  There is no such thing as absolute truth.  Who am I to tell a serial killer that what they do is wrong?  We are all just accidents that do not have true thoughts, but only a neuro-electrical version of the old Plinko game.  Yet, we cannot escape the fact that people find it impossible to live out such philosophies with consistency.  The first time someone steals something of yours, a deep inner compulsion pushes you to declare it as wrong.  To remain true to our philosophy we would have to recognize it is just a trick of our bodies and that it has no true validity.  Thus modern man finds himself clinging to a humanistic, evolutionary view of the world, while inconsistently absconding with views from Christianity or any other religion, hoping that know one notices (usually not even noticing ourselves).  Some sense of morality is helpful to a society regardless of whether or not we can make a logical case for the necessity of it without God.

As we look into this letter, we will find that God has spoken into the world and Jesus is that Word that He has spoken to us.  Man's attempts to find meaning outside God are barren.

Paul writes to the believers in Colosse.

Before we get into chapter 1 verse 1, it would be helpful to know exactly where Colosse was.  This city was in what we call Turkey today.  Here is a link to a map that will give you an idea (Thank you BibleAtlas.org).  It was very close to another city mentioned in the book of Revelation, Laodicea.

From what little information that we have in the Bible, it appears that this was not a city that Paul had evangelized.  A convert named Epaphras, who was from Colosse, seems to have brought the gospel to them and a church developed.

We also know that Paul wrote the letter from one of his imprisonments.  He later tells them to remember his chains (4:18).  It is believed the letter was written around AD 63 +/- several years.  While in prison, word had come to Paul about this community in Colosse and some of the doctrinal issues that had cropped up among them.  Thus Paul writes a letter concerning those issues, so that the believers of Colosse could have confidence in what they should believe and how they should live.

We also see that Paul instructs the Colossians to share this letter with the believers of Laodicea, and to read the letter that was written to the believers of Laodicea (4:16).  This helps us to see how the word of God was spread throughout these early churches.  It wasn’t until later that large groups of the Gospels and letters were put together and circulated more widely.

Paul gives thanks for these new believers.

In verses 3-8 Paul mentions several things for which he is thankful.  First, he is thankful for their faith in Jesus.  The reports of how they had embraced the truth about Christ, and the larger body of believers that they were joining, had come to Paul.  Their faith had expressed itself in a love for the saints.  Now remember that “saints” here does not mean an elite group of believers.  It is a term used of all believers that emphasized that each one had been set apart by God for His own purposes, a holy purpose. 

He also reminds them that this faith in Jesus gives them a hope that was laid up in heaven.  Peter uses the phrase, “reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:4).”  Our inheritance is for us to be transformed into glorified bodies and to inherit the world with Jesus at His Second Coming.  We can see a familiar theme of Paul’s here with the three great virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love.

He is also thankful that the word of truth was bringing forth fruit.  It is not enough to hear the word of the Lord, it must bear fruit to be of any value to us and to the world.  Part of that transforming fruit is their “Love in the Spirit” mentioned at the end of verse 8.

Love is an important principle among any people who are going to accomplish something together.  However, without the Holy Spirit, human love continually falls short.  It is here today and gone tomorrow.  For the believer, it is the presence of the Spirit of God that stirs us up to love one another.  When we refuse to listen to the Spirit, then dissension and divisions break out.  Such Spirit-led love has a strength that overcomes all adversity and human frailty that we may find within each other.  our love for one another is not based upon each other, but upon the Spirit of God that is teaching us how to love one another.  Thus the fruit of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23.  This affects our relationship with other believers and with the world.  Paul is welcoming these new believers and rejoicing for their presence within the greater body of Christ.

As we look over this list, we may notice that Paul placed an emphasis on things that are not possessions and wealth.  It is good for believers to be thankful for the material blessings that they have in Christ.  But may we also learn to be even more thankful for the things that Paul listed.  Are you thankful for the people that God used to bring the gospel into your life?  Are you thankful for other believers?  Are you thankful for the grace to believe in Christ and become part of his family?  Are you thankful for the growth of the fruit of the Spirit in your life?  These are the things that we need most and for which we ought to give thanks to God most.

Paul prays for these new believers.

In verses 9-14, Paul lets them know the things he was praying for them.  It is good for us to hear this list because our prayers can become only a list of the material things that we are seeking from God.  Here Paul lists things that are far more important than new cars, houses, business deals, money, etc.

Paul prays that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.  Of course the will of God is to embrace Jesus as our Lord, but it is clear that Paul is thinking more than just our initial acceptance of Jesus.  The phrases, “all wisdom” and “spiritual understanding” speak to living out our lives as believers in Jesus.  We run into all kinds of situations and temptations, in which we need the wisdom and understanding of the Spirit of God in order to do what God wants us to do.  In a nutshell the letters that Paul and the other apostles wrote were doing just that.  Paul was helping them to understand what God’s will was in every situation. Yes, God wants us to embrace Jesus and to be a person in which His Spirit can dwell.  But, then, through a dynamic relationship, He wants to transform our minds and our lives into the image of Jesus Christ.

Paul also prays that they would walk worthy of the Lord.  Paul is using the phrase to emphasize that we are capable of not listening to the Spirit from time to time.  The believer should never be comfortable with this.  The works of the flesh are obvious and believers need to recognize that the Lord Jesus is so glorious that we do not want to tarnish Him before the world.  Many might fear that this will tend towards legalism.  But, Paul’s point is not to create a legalism, but rather, to inspire us to proper actions.  Like a coach reminding students that they represent their school, Paul reminds us that we represent Jesus and our actions reflect upon Him.  

So is it possible to be fully pleasing to the Lord?  We are fully pleasing to the Lord when we listen to the Holy Spirit in regards to how we should live.  Of course this also involves those times when we fail.  Too often people forget that the Holy Spirit also leads us to repentance and forgiveness for those times when we fail.  It is not a phrase that seeks to disqualify and kick us out.  Rather, it is intended to motivate us.

Paul also prays that they would be fruitful in every good work.  This is another way of looking at the concept of walking worthy of the Lord.  A person who follows the Spirit of God will be fruitful in their life.  They will also be beneficial to others much like a fruit tree is beneficial to those who come upon it.  We will be a tree of life and a fresh water spring to the people around us because the Life of the Spirit will flow into us and through us.

Paul also prays that they will be strengthened with all might.  All of this talk about being like Christ and following the Holy Spirit requires much inner strength.  Intestinal fortitude, or “guts” for short, cannot come from our flesh.  It must have a spiritual source.  The closer we get to following Jesus the more our flesh gets queasy and weak.  We need the strength of Christ's glorious power working in us in order to put the desires of the flesh to death.  This daily dying to self and living in Christ is empowered by the Holy Spirit, if we yield to Him.  In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul was reminded by the Lord that “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  In that passage the weakness is that which we have in our flesh.  When our flesh is weak, the powerful strength of the Lord will shine through and do its perfect work.  People will recognize that the power is of God and not of me.

Lastly, Paul prays that they will be thankful to God with Him.  We should be thankful that God has qualified us to be partakers in the inheritance of the saints.  This is what Daniel saw in chapter 7 verses 21-22.  “I was watching and the same horn was making war against the saints and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.”

We are also to be thankful that God has delivered us from the power of darkness (spiritual darkness and spiritual powers) and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.  Wow! Talk about a new immigration status.  Without Christ we are stuck under the powers of darkness that rule over this world.  Their kingdom will never bring peace and joy to the earth.  Yet, mankind continues to operate in league with them.  Through Christ we are able to break out of that spiritual matrix that enslaves the whole world.  We are then enabled to participate in the kingdom of Jesus.  That kingdom exists in part already.  But the fullness of it will be known when He returns to earth to set up an earthly kingdom.

We should also give thanks to the Father that we have been redeemed and have had our sins forgiven.  Jesus paid the price with his blood that purchased us back from the auction block and slavery of sin.  His death made it possible that our sins might be removed from us as far as the east is from the west.

Now as I close, be honest.  Are these the things in which you are most thankful and most likely to be praying for?  May the word of God instruct us in the things that truly make for our joy and that we truly need.  Of course we are instructed to pray for our daily bread.  But let’s pray for the things that Paul is praying, both for yourself and for fellow believers.  We all need these things even more than we need the material.

Our Needs audio

Tuesday
Jun022015

Gratitude

May 31, 2015- Luke 17:11-19

At this point Jesus turns south to head towards Jerusalem by going between Galilee and Samaria.  It is here that he enters an unnamed village and encounters 10 lepers.  Today’s passage gives us a lesson in gratitude or thankfulness.  Neglecting to give thanks where thanks is due is a poor habit that causes our character to deteriorate.  In fact, ingratitude tends to spoil the good things that we have.  It is very common for a person to care for a new vehicle with great detail.  However, as the car gets older our care for it can deteriorate.  It is easier to drive it around without washing it etc…  This ability to diminish in vigor towards the things we ought to do can affect even those who start out very thankful.  Now there are ten people in our story who receive an amazing gift of healing from a horrible disease, and yet only one of them glorifies God and gives thanks to Jesus.  Let’s look at that.

The Hopeless Condition

In verses 11-14 we see the encounter Jesus has with ten lepers.  To be a leper was to be in a very hopeless situation.  Though the Law of Moses has very clear instructions on how a leper could be declared clean by the priest, nothing is said on what to do to get clean.  The truth is that it was extremely rare for a person who had leprosy to get better.  It was practically a death sentence to see its beginning stages on one’s skin.  Nothing could be done medically for these people and their body would slowly deteriorate and waste away.

However, that is only the physical side.  There was also a social stigma.  It was required for lepers to be separated from the rest of the village or city.  Thus a leper is one who has had to break off close contact with family and friends and becomes an outcast.  This type of social quarantine is a very heavy burden for a person to carry because God has made us with an innate drive to socialize on some level.

Thus lepers would often end up in small groups far enough from cities to be separate, but close enough to be able to receive any gracious help from the righteous.  These small “outcast communities” were better than nothing.  Yet, the hopeless condition of each person and the approaching doom of death was a constant shadow over it.

In some ways leprosy is a picture of the sin nature that riddles our human nature.  In this sense we are all spiritually lepers.  It cannot be fixed or healed by anything this world holds.  Only God can help us.  Yet, it is also a picture of the Church of Christ in its sense of being an outcast society.  Yes, from God’s perspective we are the called out ones and that is special.  But from the world’s perspective we are the outcast ones to which it says, “Good riddance!”  We can look at leprosy as a metaphor for being ostracized for one reason or another and learn a lot here.  In Hebrews 13:12-13 it says, “Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.  Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”  Jesus presents himself as the rejected one and offers us a place within his community of outcast ones.

So we have a physical problem, a social problem and lastly we have a theological problem.  Notice that the lepers stand afar off and lift up their voices to Jesus.  That is because they were under requirement by the Law of Moses and the traditions to not come close to a clean person.  Now this pictures the condition of all mankind.  We are spiritual lepers who dare not come close to a pure God.  Legally we are doomed (“the soul who sins will die”).  Yet, in Jesus, God not only comes close to the lepers (see Luke 5 where Jesus touches one), but He actually makes himself worse than the lepers and requires them to join Him by faith in an even deeper level of being outcast.  Though the Law walls us off from God and we are relegated to crying for mercy from afar off, the grace of God has brought Jesus to our side of the Law as he joins us in our hopeless condition.  The marvelous truth is that Jesus is the Lord of life and no condition can remain hopeless when he is there.  Yet, the spiritual healing of a believer in Jesus is seen by the world as a social disease more and more in this world.  At its core, the gospel calls the world to embrace a difficult situation in order to be healed.

The Strange Command

Jesus gives the lepers a strange command and, before we get in to its specifics, I want to show how what he does is so much like how God operates.  In the desert there was a time where the children of Israel were harassed by snakes that were biting a lot of the people.  God told Moses to make a bronze snake and lift it up on a pole.  He was then to instruct those who were bitten to make their way to this thing and simply look upon it in order to be healed.  We are not told that anyone refused to do so.  However, we must admit it was a strange command.  Similarly the Bible tells of a Syrian general named Naaman who happened to be a leper.  His skill as a general had spared him a life of poverty, but it could not completely remove the stigma of the disease he had and its destruction on his flesh.  A young Israelite tells Naaman that there is a prophet in Israel who could heal him.  Thus Naaman travels to Israel and is told to dip 7 times in the Jordan River.  Naaman is offended at being told to dip in the muddy Jordan 7 times and heads home.  It is then that a servant challenges him to at least do it.  Though it didn’t make sense it was actually quite easy to do.  Why not?  God often gives strange commands to test whether or not we trust Him.  What is interesting is that they are often easy to do, but on the other hand they are intellectually and emotionally hard.  Now when I call these strange commands, I will point out that God does not give commands that are contrary to His nature.  Yet, they are often contrary to our logic and require us to trust Him, i.e. exercise faith.

So here, Jesus tells them to show themselves to the priests even though they are still lepers.  Now the only reason for a leper to do this would be because they saw some signs that they were getting better.  Yet, these men are being told to do so without any signs they are better.  They simply must take the word of Jesus for it.  Now His word is pretty heavy because he has proven he can heal.  This call for faith or trust balances two outcomes.  If I trust Him and He fails then I will be humiliated and crushed.  But, if I trust Him and He heals me then I will be free of this cursed condition.  Even today the call of Christ is one that calls us to follow Him by faith, believing that he will do the spiritual work of cleansing us from our sins and healing our hearts (that he will make us to be like him).  You may feel that it isn’t working and are tempted to quit following him.  I would challenge you to listen to this story today and here what the Spirit is saying to you, “Trust me.”  If you will continue to walk in the path that Jesus is on and do the things that he has told you to do, you will find that he will give powerful healing to you in every way.

Thus all ten of the lepers decide to go and show themselves to the priest.  They have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  We are told that they are healed as they go.  Although we are not told how far they went, it was close enough for one to come back and still find Jesus at the village.  I like to think that it was close enough to return and far enough away to be an inconvenience.  Can you imagine their journey?  First is the question, “Are we going to be healed?”  Then the doubts would come, “What if we get there and are still lepers?  Why did he tell us to do this?”  However, when they realize they are healed, I bet it was a Hallelujah moment.   Suddenly they know they can go back to their families and perhaps embrace a child they haven’t been able to touch or see for years.  Every fiber of their being wants to get back to a normal life and yet, what about Jesus.  Can I put my anticipated joys on hold long enough to go back and thank the one who made this possible?  Ours is not a geographical journey.  However, we are on our way to the celestial city to present ourselves to God.  We do this because we have believed what Jesus has told us to do.  Along the road of this life the mysterious power of Christ is working to bring healing to us in every way.  In fact Christ promises to make us every bit whole and complete.  Yet, it doesn’t happen the second we believe.  It happens as we go in faith following the command of Christ.  The joyful truth is that when we stand before the Father in heaven we will be completely clean!  Praise God.

Only One Was Grateful

Gratitude, thankfulness, probably all were thankful at some level.  Yet, only one took the trouble to come to Jesus and show it.  It is not enough to say that we have gratitude in our hearts.  True gratitude seeks opportunity to show itself to the One to whom we are grateful.

Now there is a difference between being happy for grace and being thankful to Jesus for giving it.  The difference is where our primary focus is.  Sometimes we find ourselves being happier for what we have received than we are thankful to God for giving it.  In that way we can be guilty of taking God’s gifts without regard for Him as the giver.  Which is greater, the giver or the gift?  We know the answer, but our life often shows a different answer.

Only one leper took the extra time to glorify God.  Maybe some others thought about going back to give thanks, but this man was the only one who actually did it.  It is sad how despicable our lust for good things can become when we see just how much we can become like an animal feasting on the carcass of Gods gifts.  Instead of taking the time to restrain our flesh and give thanks to God and glorify him for his gifts and then cooking a meal to enjoy, we can leap upon those gifts and suck them dry of any life they have in them.  In the passage the man first glorifies God and then thanks Jesus.  These two things are coupled together.  Thankfulness is between me and God and should be expressed often.  But glorification is between me and you.  It is our testimony of what God has done for us and how great He is.  Take time to Glorify God by declaring what He has done in your life and take time to express thanks to those through whom God has done them.  Though it may seem like wasted time, it is not.  It is time spent keeping our eyes upon the higher and more important things (relationship with God and his people).  It is time delivering our soul from the tyranny of the lust of our flesh for the lower gifts that God can and does give.  In fact it is a means of delivering ourselves from the sin of idolatry.  The good thing that God gives today can become an idol in my life that comes between me and Him.  In the day that we let God’s gifts become idols to us, they also become worthless to us.

A side note to this story is that the thankful leper was a Samaritan, which implies most of the others, if not all, were Judeans.  This Samaritan was even further away from God than the Judeans.  Of all the lepers this Samaritan would deserve it least and yet he is the one who returns.  In Luke 7 Jesus explained this dynamic before Simon the Pharisee, when a woman who was a sinner washed and anointed his feet.  He told Simon a story to illustrate this principle: The one who is forgiven much loves much, but the one who is forgiven little loves little.  Perhaps the Judeans felt they deserved a healing.  Perhaps a part of them was saying, “It’s about time!”  Yet the truth is that all of us are equally undeserving of the grace of God.  If we truly understood our sin we would know that God has given us far more than we ever deserved and could have hoped for.  We would run to him, tossing aside the gifts, in order to wash his feet with our tears and wipe it dry with our head.  The things of this world like different races, stations in life, etc. that make us think we are more deserving are a lie.  We are all the least deserving.  Until we see that we will be ungrateful or at best give it sparingly.  It will ruin our gifts like a cancer that goes untreated if we do not turn around and give God the glory with all our heart.

Jesus then tells the thankful ex-leper this, “Your faith has made you well.”  Now in the context all of the lepers had faith enough to obey Jesus.  Now it is important to remember that the word that is often translated as “heal” can also mean “save,” depending on the context.  It literally means to be safe or saved, whether from injury, disease, or sin, character deficiency, and emotional sickness.  Clearly Jesus means more than that the man’s faith had physically healed him.  Something more would happen in this man’s life than those who were ungrateful.  He would find a spiritual healing as well.  It is a tragedy to be physically healed and yet not be spiritually healed.  Have you settled for lesser things?  Let us all be quick to be more thankful that Jesus is in our lives than all the gifts he could ever give.

Gratitude audio