Sunday, August 2, 2015

Even When People Mean Bad, God Works it To Your Good

"18What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice" (Philippians 1: 18)

Paul was in prison, yet even there, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached without end. Reports indicate that Paul was even influencing people in Caesar's own home:

"21Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. 22All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household." (Philippians 4: 21-22)

Now, what greater revelation can we draw from this passage?

Paul had written something every powerful in another Epistle:

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8: 28)

Let us not read law into this gracious passage.

Things do not work for us because we love God, but rather we are defined by our love for God.

And why do we love Him? "Because we are called according to his purpose."

He called on us to save us!

"For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." (Acts 2: 39)

and also

"We love Him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4: 19)

So, whatever bad things may be happening in our lives, we can recognize that He is making all things work together for good. In the case of Paul's imprisonment and the challenges he faced from temporal adversaries, he could declare without reserve that they were furthering the Gospel.

We can attest today that in all these things, we are "more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8: 37)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Because of the Gospel, His Peace Guards our Hearts

6Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4: 6-7)

Paul gives us the sure-fire way to be freed from cares in our lives.

He did not say: "Tell everyone you meet about your fears."

He did not say: "Take three pills, then call me in the morning".

He said: "Let your requests be made known unto God".

Yet for many of us, we cannot even come to Him, or we fear coming to Him for whatever reason.

Throughout the first three chapters of Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, he talks about the Gospel:

"3I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, 5For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;" (Philippians 1: 3-5)

and

"But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;" (Philippians 1: 12)

and even

"Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;" (Philippians 1: 27)

and also

"But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel." (Philippians 2: 22)

The joy, the peace, the righteousness we have in Christ, is all about the Gospel:

"Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts 13: 38-39)

The Gospel is all about peace:

"And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Romans 10: 15)

and

"For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;" (Ephesians 2: 14)

and

"14Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Ephesians 6: 14-15)

So, when we get to the point where Paul urges all of us to let all our needs be known to God, we can rest assured that He will guard our hearts and  minds, because we have peace with Him. We can come to Him boldly for every need in our lives, too, because of His grace:

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4: 16)

Friday, July 31, 2015

No Need to Retaliate


The grace of God is indeed a wonderful thing.

Today, I recognize that I do not need to retaliate against anyone.

The goodness of God so far outstrips the hurt and setbacks of others.

For the longest time, I was so easily and upset by the remarks which other people made to me.

A sense of outrage, a sentiment of "payback" was dominant.

Most importantly, a sense of shame and condemnation would follow me around because I did not take down people who had been mean, rude, or downright unpleasant.

I still have not answered the question yet -- where this "pay-back" mentality came from.

But the more that I meditate on the truth that the Lord is my shepherd, the less I feel the need to make people pay for their wrongdoing.

The gift of righteousness is really something, and something that we keep receiving.

This revelation is quite new to me. Still is.

"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5: 17)

This is a gift which we keep on receiving, for that little word "receives" carries in it the intense, large revelation of ongoing reception.

For the longest time, I had the upsets and wars in my head, the sense of frustration, pressure, and shame that I had to do something about how I felt.

I had to talk to someone, I had to write something, or I had to payback people for hurting my feelings.

Oh brother, the pain never ends if we are constantly looking at how we feel, and making those sentiments the final authority in our lives for, well - just about everything.

That need for retribution goes all the way back to the fact that many of us simply do not believe what the Bible says.

"Vengeance is mine. I will repay" (Deuteronomy 32: 35)

Yet a sense of condemnation used to follow me around a lot if I did not make people payback. Then there was the never-ending kicking-myself: "How could I let you do that?"

The answer is in that one word "I" and breaking free into a better, true identity:

"Herein is love perfected among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4: 17)

We are not trying to get rid of every bad feeling in our lives any more, for everything that we have in this life is a gift from God and His Son Jesus, Life personified and made real to us.

There is no need to retaliate when we understand that in Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8: 1).

Today, I can relate why I felt the way that I did. I grew up with someone who was constantly fighting with people, taking everything personally.

Yet even then, why do people take everything so personally in the first place?

If we do not believe that every sin and shame and bit of condemnation has been eaten up, paid for in full at the Cross, what else can we expect but to take people down a notch?

As long as we walk around with a false or a poor identity, convinced that we are still wrong in some way or about something, we will feel a need to retaliate against others.
There is no need to retaliate, there is no reason to be angry all the time, there is no need for me to apologize for how I feel or do not feel anymore.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fight for the Truth of the Gospel of Grace

In the last post, we learned that the fight of faith is a rest, one in which we rest from our efforts to please God.

Now, there is a fight, in that we in the Body of Christ stand for the truth, the faith, which speaks of Christ's death on the Cross and the full measure of justification which we receive from Christ Jesus:

"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 1: 3)

What is "the faith" about? Speaking out so that I get a car or other material demands?

No: it's about the grace of God:

"Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2: 5-9)

Paul explained full what the Gospel is all about:

"38Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts 13: 38-39)

Boom.

This Gospel produces divisions, as it did the  moment that Paul announced it:

"42And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. 43Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
 
44And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. 45But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming." (Acts 13: 42-45)
 
The fight was on from the moment Paul preached the truth of the Gospel.
 
Jesus of course faced the same headaches from Pharisees, who embraced the law and rejected grace:
 
"
1At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. 2But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. 3But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 4How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? 5Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? 6But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. 7But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
8For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day." (Matthew 12: 1-8)
 
and
 
"15The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? 16And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? 17And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him." (Luke 13: 15-17)
 
The four Parables of the Grace of God in Luke 15 and 16 also offended religious people. If they have read over the Old Testament, they would see how gracious indeed God was to His people. In the New Testament, this grace of God is fully manifest in His Son.
 
Paul the Apostle called to preach the Grace of God had to fight against legalists, Pharisees, and Judaizers, and was unsparing in his hatred of their perverting the Gospel:
 
"6I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-7)
 
Paul openly rebuked Peter for going back under in a matter as seemingly benign as separating himself from the Gentile Christians:
 
"11But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" (Galatians 2: 11-14)
 
Who can forget this statement from Paul:
 
"11And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. 12I would they were even cut off which trouble you. (Galatians 5: 11-12)
 
So, indeed we do fight, but not against sin or the devil or even the world, since they have been judged and condemned already (John 16: 8-11). If there is any fight, it is to stand for the truth of the Gospel of Grace.
 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

We Do Not Fight Anymore

No more fighting, but resting: that is what the Christian Life, or rather Christ's life in us, is all about.

Yet Most people draw their misplaced inspiration from this verse:

"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses." (1 Timothy 6: 12)

Now, let us read through this exhortation with some care. How do we intend to fight if we are called to lay hold onto eternal life at the same time? It does not make sense if we look at the English translation.

The original Greek communicates and exhortation to rest:

"Let the good fight of faith be fought."

What?

John gives us a better appreciation of this fight in his First Epistle:

"I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one." (1 John 2: 12)

and then John reiterates:

"I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one." (1 John 2: 14)

For the young men, John writes that they have overcome the wicked one. They are not fighting still. They are not still fighting. They recognize that the fight if over and they are winners.

Paul writes about this consummate victory that we have in Christ Jesus:

"37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. " (Romans 8: 37)

We are more than conquerors because we do not have to right, but Jesus has granted us the victory through His death, resurrection, and forever ministry at the right hand of God our Father.

Fatherhood, adulthood in the Body of Christ is no longer about fighting, but about seeing how great Jesus is, and to know Him who has been from the beginning (1 John 2: 12-14)

The temptation for the longest time remained, however, for me to fight.

Now I know today that His Spirit fights, and wins. All I have to do is rest:

"16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law." (Galatians 5: 16-18)

and

"10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14Stand therefore. . ." (Ephesians 6: 10-14)

Paul did not say "Fight". He did state and repeat: "Stand". It's a fight of not fighting.

One could also call it a work to rest:

"Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." (Hebrews 4: 11)

We do not fight anymore, and we should not feel condemned or shamed of the thoughts and feelings which fly through our heads.

The question then rises up again: "What are you going to do about it when you get angry again?"

The answer was as easy as pointing back to the fullness of the Cross:

"(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 6And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled." (2 Corinthians 10: 4-6)

The weapons are mighty through God, not through ourselves or our efforts. He is the one fighting. We do not have to feel condemned, for in Christ there is no condemnation (Romans 8: 1)

We do not fight anymore, because Jesus Christ fought the fight and won it at the Cross. He defeated sin, the world, and the Enemy

John also speaks of this glorious hyper-victory in Christ:

"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." (1  John 4: 4)

and then

"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John 5: 4)

Why would we keep on fighting, since He has more than overcome every obstacle?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

God Forgave Us More than Seventy Times Seven

"21Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." (Matthew 18: 21-22)

How interesting that in this passage in the Gospel of Matthew, Peter (whose name means "stone" and speaks of the law) tries to establish a standard or condition for forgiveness, and then a limit.

Jesus pushed aside this self-righteousness, and declared that everyone of us must forgive and keep on forgiving.

Let us never forget that Jesus was preaching under the Old Covenant and fulfilled it at the Cross (Matthew 5: 17)

Yet after pressing on Peter that he must keep on forgiving, Jesus preached the parable of the Gracious King, who forgave an insurmountable debt. When the steward then refused to forgive another fellow steward, the king forced the unforgiving steward into prison until he paid the full debt.

Today, however, we know that Jesus has more than paid our debt:

"10And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 13And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it." (Colossians 2: 10-15)

We are complete in Christ Jesus, and His death paid for all our sins. There is no limitation to the grace of God in all that Jesus accomplished for us at the Cross.

In fact, today we keep receiving the abundance of grace and His gift of righteousness (Romans 5: 17)

We do not forgive in order to be forgiven, but because we have been forgiven:

"31Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Ephesians 4: 31-32)

and

"12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Colossians 3: 12-13)

Jesus forgave us more than seven times, or seventy times, or seventy times seven times. We have been eternally forgiven for all our sins, and sin in our flesh has been condemned in turn (Romans 8: 3).

Monday, July 27, 2015

Taking No Thought -- Not Fighting Bad Thoughts

"(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 6And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled." (2 Corinthians 10: 4-6)

We do not have to fret about bad thoughts -- at all.

In fact we are not called to fight with these bad thoughts.

Most people simply do not take time to read through the above passage:

"The weapons of our warfare are mighty through. . .God". They are not mighty through us!

Like many people who learn to walk by faith in Christ Jesus, I would face off against a sense of anger and outrage over the thoughts flowing in my head, and then headaches would follow.

I spent a great deal of my time trying to prevent bad thoughts.

I had so much more to learn about this central tenet of the Gospel:

"There is now therefore no condemnation in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)

The negative is far more emphatic than anything that English can convey. "No never. Not ever. Never ever". It is a done and forever deal.

We do not even have to feel guilty or feel condemned about what we are thinking.

Our thoughts are now His thoughts, for we are no longer in ourselves, but rather in Christ.

"5Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 15: 5-6)

and

"For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ." (1 Corinthians 2: 16)

If we find ourselves meditating on something bad or something wrong, if we have lustful unhappy thoughts about times past or times to come, the answer is the Cross.

We are no longer in ourselves, and thus no longer called to look at ourselves, but Jesus:

"1If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3: 1-4)

We are no longer trying to get rid of the bad thoughts, but instead we are called to receive more of His righteousness and grace into our lives.

"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17)

What needed to be focused on, was the truth of the Gospel, that in Christ I am justified from all things, and that the law of Moses has been put aside and fulfilled for me.

One of the most outstanding revelations for me especially was that He restores my soul. Not me -- He! Jesus Christ!

"3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalm 23: 3)

He causes us to prosper, He causes us to walk in His ways (3 John 2)

It has been a hard transition for me, no question about it. I have wanted to fix what I was thinking, have nothing but good thoughts going though my mind. It is a fight that I still want to fight much of the time. Resting in God's goodness is a hard thing to do, but it is not impossible.

In fact, He gives us more grace (James 4: 6)

We are not called to fight the bad thoughts in our lives. He is fighting, and we are called to let Him fight.