Saturday, August 9, 2014

1 Peter 4:1 and 2

"Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,  so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God."


"Therefore, since Christ has suffered (pascho: to be vexed, to feel and have a sensible experience, to sadly be in a bad plight, sick) in the flesh (sarx: body, flesh and bone), arm (hoplizo: furnish with arms, to furnish one's self with a thing) yourselves also with the same purpose (ennoia: mind, intent, consideration, meditation, conception and thinking), because he who has suffered in the flesh (sarx: body, flesh and bone) has ceased (pauo: leave, refrain, no longer stirred by incitements and seductions) from sin,  so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh (sarx: body, flesh and bone) no longer for the lusts (epithumiadesires and cravings for what is forbiddenof men, but for the will (thelema: desire, pleasure and purposesof God." 


Therefore, since Christ has suffered in sadness and plight, experientially in His body, arm yourselves also with the same mind and intent, because he who has suffered in his body has refrained from being enticed by the seductions of sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the body no longer for the forbidden desires and cravings of men, but for the pleasure and purposes of God.


I remember as a child being reared within the organized Baptist church, sin was always openly discussed. It was always made clear that my sin made me vile and despised by God and so therefore I must “make a decision” and somehow cease from sinning. Of course little beyond the hollow “try harder”, “be better” and “go to church more” approaches were every taught so off I went into my life, ignorant, na├»ve and entirely ill-equipped for spiritual success. Alongside these teachings it was insinuated that if you were uncomfortable, unhappy or experiencing anything deemed as “bad”, you surely did something wrong to encounter such suffering and likely “backslid” in order to encounter such calamity.  

Fast forward. Here I sit this morning within mere weeks of 41 years of age being added to my vapor of a life. I’d like to think that I’ve learned a lot over the years, post-rebellion. Not in an arrogant way, but just a satisfaction that I’ve chosen to embark down the path of studying and embracing the realities of this mysterious Christ-life. I don’t run from the difficult things that make me confront my comforts or misconceptions about true Christianity any more. In fact, the more I read, the more I contemplate the vast depths of the Scriptures, the more I see how vital the challenges and sufferings are for spiritual growth.

So you want to stop sinning do you? Me too! But, incrementally, we must embrace the suffering in our flesh, arming ourselves with the purpose of Christ. It is not a simple matter of the will, it will take decision-by-decision action. Action that is rooted and established in complete surrender to the mind and will of Christ Who indwells the Believer. Our purpose, our intent and goal must be joined with that of Christ. Then and only then can we live out our post-regeneration lives for the desire, pleasures and purposes of our Father.

Hebrews tells us that “Jesus learned obedience by the things which He suffered”. What a beautiful thing it is I’ve found: to embrace this life I now live in the flesh, and the sufferings that come, trusting that it is giving me the opportunity to learn obedience as Jesus did. He fully knows that our absolute only hope is found in Him and He has left us in this physical body post-salvation for a reason! May we embrace the sufferings of this flesh and then be empowered to cease from sin.    

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Genesis 4:4-5

Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.


Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard (sha`ah: respect) for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering (minchah: present, gift, sacrifice, tribute) He had no regard. So Cain became very angry (charah: wrot, displeased, burning, incensed) and his countenance fell.

Abel, on his part also brought of the firstfruits of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard and respect for Abel and his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard or respect. So Cain became incensed with burning anger and his countenance fell.


Believers all over the world “bring offerings” when they gather. (It’s generally all monetary but we won’t get into that today.) The matter at hand in today’s verses allows us to see deep into the desires of the Father. Although Cain and Abel both brought offerings that God had previously approved of, one was deemed greater. Why? Why did God seemingly show preferential treatment to one over the other? What we must understand is that God sees the heart condition of the bringer of the offering. God’s rejection of Cain’s sacrifice presented an opportunity to reveal his hateful heart. The issue was not as much what the offering was as it was about the motive behind the presenting of it.

We have the same challenge before us today. In services throughout this nation and beyond many will write large checks and give seemingly honorable gifts to the Lord. Perhaps you will do the same. As we see in many biblical accounts and parables (such as the widow’s mite for example) one’s offering generally has little to nothing to do with it being deemed pleasing. Of course we need to know what God deems acceptable but above all else, our heart must be found pure and pleasing as we bring our best before Him. Today, what is your motive for giving to the Lord? To receive blessing? To simply be reluctantly and grievously obedient? I encourage you to sit quietly and examine your heart’s condition in regards to bringing your offering to the Lord. It’s you that God wants above all else, not your time and money. 

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

1 John 3:5

You know that [Christ] appeared in order to take away sins.”


You know that [Christ] appeared (phaneroo: made manifest, made visible, exposed to view) in order to take away (airo: take up, bear, cause to cease, take upon one's self and carry off) sins (hamartia: offenses, to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor, violations of God's law).”


You know that Christ appeared and made Himself visible to mankind in order to bear and carry off our sin and offenses against God.


As most of you who are reading this know, I work in the automotive detailing business. Yesterday I had a customer contact me requesting some interior work on her vehicle. Specifically, she had a bottled drink explode and empty a bit on her floorboard before she could get to it. So of course the drink was in the carpet and needed removed. When I met her later in the day to do the job she went on to tell me about how she had “sprayed some carpet cleaner on it” after the incident. I kind of chuckled at this knowing that this would do absolutely nothing to help her situation.

As I was doing the job, I got to thinking about the spiritual metaphors buried within this. A lot of times in our lives we approach our sin and guilt in this manner. It’s “in” us and needs removed yet we just spray some topical fix on it that convinces us that just maybe that will be enough. The problem is however that it doesn’t really do anything. The customer went on to say that she sprayed the cleaner to “hopefully at least keep it from smelling”. This too is an easy spiritual comparison. “If I can just keep it from being seen or noticed (smelled), maybe that will be enough!” we may say.

But there is really only one solution of course – it needs removed. The sin, the stain needs seized and carried off. What in your life have you just attempted to cover over with the fragrance of religious piety or masks of being “OK”? We all have ugly stains that need removed. Jesus Christ left all of Heaven to come to this earth to do this on your behalf. Invite Him to come and wash you today. No more hiding or covering up, just Jesus who appeared to take away our sins.              

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Psalm 119:102

I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, For You Yourself have taught me. (NASB)


I have not turned aside (suwr: turned away departed from, avoided, rejected) from Your ordinances (mishpat:  judgment, laws), For You Yourself have taught (yarah: instructed, directed) me.


I have not departed from or rejected Your laws and judgments, for You Yourself have instructed and directed me.


How awesome it is to be personally taught by the Father! We can read books, listen to sermons and teachings of men, study on our own the height and depth of the Scriptures but the Author and Creator of all is the absolute best Teacher of all! Do you spend time sitting is His presence? Do you open His Word for yourself and expect Him to speak to you through it? I hope you do! Jesus’ death on the cross rent the veil in two, signifying that all may enter into the Most Holy Place where God Himself dwells. All who have called upon His name and received new hearts of flesh have invited into the priesthood of Christ. In this place is revelation, truth, life and love to be encountered by those who enter in. Today, embrace the laws of God, don’t dread or run from them for they exist to rescue and preserve you. Take time – make time – to quiet yourself today and anticipate a visitation by the Great Teacher! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Matthew 11:28

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”


“Come to Me, all you who labor (kopiao: toil, grow weary, tired, exhausted – as with toil or burdens or grief) and are heavy-laden (phortizo: burdened upon, loaded down), and I will give you rest (anapauo: refresh, to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength; to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation).”


Come to me all who have become exhausted, weary and loaded down with burdens. I will give you refreshing in order to collect your strength.


As I hear Christians often speak of all they “do” on behalf of Christianity, I wonder how much of it all is really even necessary. We’ve been led to believe that our following of Christ can somehow be modeled after how we labor in the natural. Yes, there is much to tend to – spiritual growth, serving the poor, caring for one’s family, interacting with the Body of Christ and so forth. That being said, these should not be exhausting to the point of constant weariness, spiritual or otherwise. I remember vividly the times I’d brag as a youth pastor of all I was doing, all “our” youth were doing, all our church was doing. Efforts were always being made to promote all that we were always “doing”. We were always all tired and somehow proud of it because it gave some unhealthy sense of accomplishment. 

Burdens abound within our constant attempts to be found pleasing to God equally as much as with our earthly ventures, perhaps even more. The Christ-life is meant to be a joyful one, not a begrudging and laborious yoke. So today, shake off your burdens and rest. Rest in the arms of your Saviour. Remember, He has invited you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Matthew 26:14-15

“Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?’ And they covenanted with him and weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him.


“Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to betray (paradidomi: give over, deliver up one to custody to be judged and condemned, give up) Him to you?’ And they covenanted (histemi: stand with, set, established) with him and weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him.


Then one of the twelve disciples, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me to deliver Jesus to you to be judged and condemned?” And they stood with Judas and gave him thirty pieces of silver.


Today, within the American evangelical movement, people seem to be trying so hard to portray their innocence and how “good” they are. Most attend church services, defend and support their denomination, listen to Christian radio, dress well, live accomplished lives in the natural and do their best to be seen as all around excellent people. It seems to be forgotten though who we are without Christ (or perhaps even more especially who we were before regeneration). It’s in this place I’d like to discuss today’s passage. Here we see the well-known account of this man Judas, one of Jesus’ closest friends. Judas was of course hand-picked by Jesus Himself to be one of His disciples but turns out to be His betrayer for a bag of money.

Was Jesus stunned when this occurred? Of course few would argue that Jesus was taken by surprise whatsoever in this. In fact, after we’re done thinking on how evil Judas was and how horrible what he did was, we may want to take a step back and be silent. Why? Because Judas is you and me. You see, it would do us good to ponder on the depths of the reality that Jesus knew well in advance of Judas’ future actions. When He called Judas. When He sat with Judas and ate. When Judas took part in the miraculous events of Jesus’ life. When they sat together and discussed the plans of the Father. Even when Jesus knelt down in the dirt and washed Judas’ feet. All the while, Jesus knew…. yet He still called him.  

Fast forward to today. Jesus knows your deepest secrets, hurts and sin. He knew it all when He called you and He knows it all today. Yet He calls and He says, walk beside Me. Follow Me. You and I too have been betrayers of the One Who is holy and pure. May we never forget this in this ever-increasing age of Christian pride and masks of false-perfection. The King of all Kings knelt down to wash our feet as a servant of all, even unto death. Today, embrace the overwhelming love that you’ve been given for there is absolutely none greater. The King of all became a lowly servant. Even for a betrayer and liar like me.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Proverbs 23:4

“Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.” (NASB)


“Do not weary (yaga`: labor, faint, toil) yourself to gain wealth (`ashar: rich, enrich, richer, pretend to be rich), cease (chadal: forbear, leave, left off, let alone, forsake, rest) from your consideration (biynah: understanding, wisdom, knowledge) of it.”


Don’t labor and grow weary in order to gain riches – leave it alone and rest from even considering it.


Few strongholds have infected the Body of Christ so extensively as the endless pursuit of financial gain and hoarding of possessions. Modern-day Christianity teaches that wealth and success are somehow expected attributes of one who follows Christ. Even though Jesus was documented as saying to sell all we have and give to the poor, we’ve somehow adopted a different position on matters of earthly increase. Many people work 60-plus hour weeks, sit in cars for hours on end commuting, and strive endlessly to advance in position and rank. We must redefine what the Scripture calls “blessed” my friends. There are surely a multitude of things that money will never be able to buy but it sure can steal from. Are you missing out on eternal matters by seeking worldly riches and all that they can buy? Go without that new iPad. Give your tax return money (that you’ve set aside for that new HDTV) to the poor. Buy a model class lower vehicle and give the financial difference away instead. One who is captivated with giving (himself as well as his possessions) will never become weary from seeking to gain wealth. Today, let us cease trying to figure out how to get more “stuff” and be givers. Give as God has given to you, without limits!