Saturday, December 23, 2006

Adding Self Control

Continuing our series on 2 Peter 1:5-7 we look at self-control.

The word for self-control is "encratic". The root "crat" is the same as that in autocrat or democrat. It means rule or power. The "en" at the beginning implies inward. Therefore someone who is self-controlled is someone who has the power to rule inwardly. A self-controlled man has power over his passions, appetites and desires. He has dominion over himself. This is the kind of self-control an athlete would have in training and preparation for his event. I Corinthians 9:25 says that everyone who competes for the prize is self-controlled in all things. The athlete in the natural sphere trains for a perishable prize, but we an imperishable one. As Christian men, we should be as self-controlled in our quest for the eternal prize as is an Olympic athlete is in his quest.

Scripture also teaches us that temperance or self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. That's encouraging to me because it tells me that I don't have to come up with this characteristic on my own. It is a product of the Spirit of God at work in my life. It also tells me that self-control is in opposition to the deeds of the flesh listed in Galatians 5:18 where such things as adultery, fornication, uncleanness and lewdness are listed. These are the natural results of the flesh being in control. When the Spirit is in control, these are replaced by the fruits of the Spirit. The final fruit listed in verse 23 is self-control.
In Acts 24:25 Paul testifying before Felix reasoned about righteousness, self control and the judgment to come. God expects us to live a righteous life. Such a life is very much a life of self control. We are to be ruling over our passions and natural instincts. That’s what makes us men and not animals. All of this is related to the fact that there is a judgment to come when each one of us will give an account of ourselves before God.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Adding Knowledge

The next thing we are to add is knowledge.
This month I'm meditating on what it means to add "knowledge" to the virtue which I am to supply in my faith. Last month we learned that virtue is a visible, observable righteousness, not just an inward goodness. When it comes to the word knowledge, it seems almost too simple to spend time on. However, there has been a great deal of philosophical debate over the years as to what true knowledge is. Knowledge as it is used in the New Testament includes the following ideas: to understand completely, verified , observable knowing. It implies a relationship between the thing known and the knower. Kittel says it is an obedient and grateful acknowledgement of the deeds and demands of God. He also says it develops in the life of the Christian as lasting obedience and reflection
With these thoughts in mind then, what is involved in the diligence of providing our faith with knowledge that has been added to virtue? First it seems to me we need to develop the desire for knowledge. Paul said in Philippians 3:10 that he wanted to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. He said this after he said that he counted all things as loss that he might know Him. Secondly we must spend time in His word. God has revealed Himself through His living Word and it is there that we get to know Him truly. Jesus said in John 17:17, "Thy word is truth." Knowledge of the kind spoken of in scripture is knowledge of the truth. God's Word provides that truth for knowing. As faithful men we must make it our priority to provide our faith with knowledge. If this has not been one of your goals, why not make a commitment to move in that direction today.

Adding Virtue

The first thing we are to provide in our faith then is virtue. But what is virtue? Doing some digging into what this means, I discovered that the word implies moral goodness or excellence. It is the characteristic of being outstanding morally – being eminent. It implies the working of divine power in a person. John MacArthur describes it this way, “…the God-given ability to perform heroic deeds. It also came to mean that quality of life which made someone stand out as excellent. It never meant cloistered virtue, or virtue of attitude, but virtue which is demonstrated in life. Peter is here writing of moral energy, the power that performs deeds of excellence.”
Why would moral goodness or excellence be the first trait that should be provided to our faith? It seems to me that without such virtue, our faith appears worthless. As James tells us, "faith without works is dead." What good is faith if there is no virtue in the life? Also, virtue provides a better soil in which faith can flourish. By this I mean that as a Christian, our faith is better able to produce its normal results when the life is not hindered and distracted by moral failures and weakness. If we are to be diligent in adding virtue to our faith, that means that during each day as we are out and about interacting in our world, we need to make sure that virtue is at the top of our list. When we are at work, we should be virtuous in all we do. When we are at home, our wife and kids ought to be able to see that virtue is outstanding in our life. It should show up in the attitudes we display when helping with the dishes, interacting with the children or making financial decisions. Do we have the courage to turn off the TV when the programs are not characterized by virtue? How can we add virtue to our faith? We do this by learning to be obedient to the Word of God and His Spirit. As we read and understand God's Word, the Spirit shows us where we are failing to live up to who we are as Christians. As He reveals these things to us, we need to repent and take steps to change our behavior or attitudes. In this way we are adding virtue to our lives. As we learn to live this way, we will become increasingly sensitive to areas where virtue may not have its proper place in our lives.

Adding to our Faith

It dawned on me that my last post on perseverance was the latest in a series, but the series started in my other blog. In order to bring some consistency to all of this, I’m going to repost the first parts of this series here.
I’ve been meditating recently on 2 Peter 1:5-7. My goal is to post what God teaches me through this passage. The verses read this way in the NKJV. “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”
The first thing I’m challenged with is the requirement of diligence. According to an online dictionary, diligence is the earnest and persistent application to an undertaking, steady effort, attentive care and heedfulness. According to 2 Peter 1:5-8 we are to give diligence to add to our faith. This tells me that it will not take place "automatically". Of necessity there will be effort required and that effort will have to be earnest and persistent. In other words we are not to begin the task and then let it just fizzle out. It is something we are to give our attention to so that we achieve the desired results.
What is it then that we are supposed to be doing? We are to add various characteristics to our life and this passage implies a step-wise sequence. To "add" in this case means "to supply". We are to add or supply these traits in our faith. When we are asked to supply something, it is important to take the responsibility to follow through. If someone asks us to supply the pop for a picnic, we need to think through how many people are going to be there, what flavors might be needed and whether we will need to bring ice and glasses. It doesn’t do any good to think that through if we don’t go to the store and actually buy the stuff we need for the picnic. And then buying it doesn’t do any good if we don’t bring it so the people can enjoy it. In the same way we are to supply our faith with certain things. We need to be diligent about examining our life and providing these characteristics in the appropriate measure as they are needed. In addition, there is a specific sequence here and so it is important that we pay attention to the significance of that sequence. I’ll try to follow through in subsequent postings as I work my way through this passage.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Some thoughts on patience

In 2 Peter 1:5, 6, Peter gives us characteristics which we are to diligently add to our faith. First we are to add virtue and to virtue knowledge. To knowledge we are to add self-control and to self-control perseverance. As I am studying through these characteristics, I wanted to take some extra time to delve into the meaning of perseverance.

Perseverance is a translation of the word “hupomone”, which means to remain under. The person who is persevering or enduring is remaining under some circumstance or pressure and he is doing so in such a way that his spirit is not crushed by the circumstances. Perseverance can be the result of remaining under the pressures which God brings directly in the form of discipline. Hebrews 12:7 “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons.” Perseverance can also be the result of enduring the pressures inflicted by the world and its system of evil and persecution. Either way we are to remain confident and strong in spite of the pressures.

In the passage under consideration, Peter instructs us to be diligent to add this trait to the others that are being added to our faith. Diligence means that we will focus our attention on and work toward accomplishing this goal of adding endurance to our faith. Endurance is gained primarily by practice. In order to be diligent in adding it to our faith, we will have to go through various trials and be diligent about taking those trials patiently.

What does the New Testament teach us about endurance? James 1:3 tells us that the trying of our faith produces patience. Similarly, Romans 5:3 tells us that tribulation works patience and patience brings experience and experience hope. This is why James says that those who endure are to be counted blessed. (James 5:11) It is also why he tells us to count it all joy when we come under the various pressures because we know that these trials will produce endurance in us. Perseverance/patience/endurance is a tremendous goal to reach for. Trials bring joy because we know the result will be good.

The word “experience” in Romans 5:3 is an interesting one which would take an entire study of its own. In essence it means proof or evidence. So the patience that comes from tribulation brings about the kind of experience that proves the genuine nature of our Christian life. Experience is not the flimsy, superficial feeling-oriented concept that we have today. It is the documentation of our Christian faith. Tribulation brings about patience which gives rise to the documentation of our genuine faith which then provides hope. Someone has said that hope looks to the future while endurance helps us get there. You don’t get there if you don’t endure. We will see hope in close proximity to endurance throughout this study.

Patient endurance is required of all Christians. The passage under consideration tells us to be diligent in adding it to our faith. Peter also tells us in I Peter 2:20 that when we do good and suffer, it is commendable before God to take it patiently. Paul tells Timothy in I Timothy 6:11 that patience is one of the things a man of God is to pursue having fled from youthful lusts and other evils. In 2 Tim 3:10 we find that Paul commends Timothy for having followed his example in the area of patience among other things. An older man who would be a good example to the young men around him must have patience as one of his personal characteristics. (Titus 2:2) Patience is one of the attributes that commended Paul as a minister. (2 Cor 6:4)

The kind of patience or endurance spoken of here is not the simple patience that we normally think of when we say we might need some patience when the car ahead of us is moving too slowly or something like that. Patience is the enduring of a trial whether that trial is directly from the hand of God for our discipline or is being applied by the world and its system in opposition to God and His people. We are strengthened by God Himself so that we might endure. (Col 1:11) It is a goal to be sought after, not avoided. According to James in chapter 5 we are not to grumble against one another while enduring the trials. So rather than grumbling and complaining as we often do when going through hardships, we are to be joyful and accept the trial without complaint. That’s a tough assignment.

God shows his pleasure in this kind of endurance when he commends the Ephesian church in Revelation 2. He says in verse 2, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.”

Being able to endure trials with endurance and patience is helpful in providing the support and encouragement needed by others coming after us who may face the same or similar trials. (2 Cor 1:6-7)

As I mentioned earlier, there is a strong connection between patience and hope. We already looked at the fact that patience produces the proof in our lives which gives us hope. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he said he remembered their “patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Patience helps produce hope and hope also strengthens patience. When we have a sure hope, we wait for it more patiently like the farmer does for his harvest. (James 5:7-10) Even though the word is different, Hebrews 6:11 says that “we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” In other words through our patience we demonstrate the full assurance of the hope we have. Romans 15:4 tells us that through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope.

One of the things that is most interesting to me is the close connection with endurance and the final reward. Heb 10:36 tells us, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” He goes on to say in verse 38 that the just shall live by faith, but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him. In speaking in an “end time” context, Jesus tells us that His followers will be hated by all for His name’s sake. He then adds, “By your patience possess your souls.” In the same kind of “end time” context Matt 24:13 says that he that endures to the end will be saved. 2 Timothy 2:12 tells us that if we endure, we will reign with him.

Our pastor, in preaching on 2 Corinthians 4 called our attention to verse 8 which tells us that though we are hard pressed on every side, we are not crushed. Then in verse 16 we see the evidence of perseverance. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

In a message during prayer meeting he spoke from 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4. It was interesting to see the connection with what we are studying here. Paul boasted of the Thessalonians for “your patience and faith in all your persecutions.” He goes on to say in verse 5 that this is a “manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer.”

Patience or endurance then is to be the hallmark of the Christian life. It is the pattern of life that results in God’s approval of our lives. We are told to run with patience the race that is set before us. Jesus said that the seed that fell on good ground are those who heard the word and keep it and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8;15) This is the characteristic of a true believer. Love endures all things. As our lives are marked by the love of God, they will also be marked by the kind of endurance that only comes from the power of God at work in us for His glory.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Worship that Pleases God

Another reason worship must be according to truth is that man’s methods, while sometimes having the appearance of wisdom, do not work. See Colossians 2:20-23. “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” Only the worship that God has commanded pleases Him and accomplishes in us the transformation God expects.Many times, well meaning people teach that we should avoid certain foods or practices and in that cultural setting the admonitions may be very wise. Over time, the culture may change or the setting may change and people hang on to the practice without knowing the history or the intention. Eventually the practice becomes entrenched in the church and people begin to think that this man-made “rule” is actually a biblical one. A doctrine of man has begun to be accepted as though it were a doctrine of God. But, according to Colossians 2, as well-meaning as this rule may have been, it is of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. Only the Spirit of God along with the proper application of the Word of God can produce the growth in holiness God requires.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Worship According to Truth

The forms and patterns of worship often result in changes in belief and teaching. Teaching should begin with the truth of the Word of God and that is what should govern practice, but sometimes it happens the other way around. What we may adopt in our worship pattern without Scriptural sanction may in the future cause the people to believe false teachings derived from that practice. In verse 11 of Mathew 15 Jesus tells the people that it is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes from the heart. Where would the people get the idea that what we ate defiles us religiously? Jesus had just been challenged on the behavior of His disciples in that they did not wash their hands before eating bread as the tradition of the elders dictated. The fact that this tradition had become entrenched caused the teaching to be understood that a person could be religiously defiled by what went into their mouth. This in turn resulted in their not being as concerned as they should have been with the heart where the real problem was located. The point of this portion of the discussion is that in order for worship to be according to truth, it must not add to what God has said He wants in our worship. Doing so puts us at risk of disobedience and potentially introducing false teaching into the church.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Fear in worship?

Leviticus 9 and 10 tell the interesting story of Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu. These men decided to offer fire and incense before the Lord, but the Lord was not pleased and destroyed them. The interesting thing here is that Leviticus 10:1 tells us that they offered fire and incense which the Lord had not commanded. Sometimes in our minds we don’t read what it actually says. It does not say that God had told them not to offer a particular way but they went ahead and did it anyway. What they did was to offer something which the Lord had not commanded. In Exodus 30:9, the priests were told they were not to offer strange incense on the altar. Perhaps that is what they did wrong. But they offered in a way and an offering of fire which came from a source not approved by God. This should cause us to do some serious thinking about our worship of God. Do we invent methods and rituals and assume that God is pleased because our motives are right even though it may be an offering that He did not command? This seems a lot like what Cain did as well. Cain offered the fruit of the ground and God did not accept it from Him. Cain, instead of getting his act together and offering what God required, got angry. But what about us? We don’t have the luxury of God’s immediate approval or rejection of our offerings and worship. Therefore we must be careful to study His Word so that we are sure to be doing things His way. Many people seem to imply that in this day and age it doesn’t matter. But listen to this New Testament passage in Hebrews 12:28,29 “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” Our worship is to done acceptably in reverence and godly fear. Why reverence and godly fear? Because our God is a consuming fire. Even though under the new covenant we can boldly approach the throne of grace, we are yet to have an appropriate level of reverence and godly fear. It seems to me therefore that we should be exceptionally cautious about adding components to our worship which God has not explicitly or implicitly specified in scripture. In addition, we should be cautious about conducting worship in a way that reflects our culture more closely than the revealed will of God.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Worship - Part 3

The second point Jesus wanted to convey is that worship must be according to truth. According to truth means it must be consistent with God’s revelation of Himself and His will and His statement of the true condition of things. The only place we can find this is in His Word, the Bible. We must be careful not to lift our own experiences up to the level of His revealed Word and will. We must make sure that experiences we have are consistent with His revealed Truth.
In 2 Peter 1:16 we read, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And we have more sure the prophetic word, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Why did I bring up this passage here? Because Peter is referring to the experience he and two others had on the Mount of Transfiguration. This was a real experience. It wasn’t a dream and it wasn’t an illusion. It really happened on a particular day in a particular place. There have hardly been any other experiences that anyone has had that could top this one. However, Peter, who had been there and had that experience, writes in verse 19 that we have a more sure prophetic word. More sure than what? More sure than the real experience they had had. And what is this more sure prophetic word? He tells us in verse 20 that no prophecy of Scriptre is of any private interpretation. Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. I gather from this that God’s Word is to be believed and trusted more than any experience we may have, even real ones. We should avoid saying things like, “I know what the Scripture says, but I feel that ….” or “I know the Bible says we shouldn’t …., but in this case God has led me to ….” God’s Word is authoritative above our feelings, experiences, inner voices, conscience, etc. This applies to every area of life including worship.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Worship - Part 2

First, then, let us look at what it means to worship in spirit. I Thessalonians 5:23 tells us that there are three parts to man – body, soul, and spirit. Some Christians don’t accept the idea of three parts but rather believe there are just the body and soul. We should still be able to be friends and brothers even though we might disagree on this point. However, I have come to believe in the three-part nature of man for a number of reasons. The first reason is from the passage I have just referred to in I Thessalonians. Secondly, Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” This is telling us that the word of God is able to distinguish and divide between the soul and spirit even though we may not always be able to do so. Third, we are told in Scripture that in our natural state we are dead in trespasses and sins. I take that to mean that our spirit is dead. The soul is usually considered to be the seat of our mind, will and emotions and certainly our soul is not dead before being born again. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again. He told him that that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. I assume then that in the new birth, the spirit is born from above and becomes alive.
Why is it important to wade through all of that just to discuss worship? The answer is that Jesus said that our worship is to be in spirit. If there is confusion between soul and spirit, the importance of His statement will not be readily apparent. Often we are stirred emotionally because of something that has occurred in the worship service. This is an emotional response in our souls. This does not necessarily mean that it has affected our spirit. Some events are received through our bodies and are passed “down” to our soul and we have some emotional response or make some decision as a result. Other events, spiritual events, affect are spirit and are communicated to our soul and we have a response or make a decision. It’s not always easy to tell the difference. A true worship event can trigger an emotional response. But the thing we need to remember is that just because we had a strong feeling associated with an experience does not mean it was a spiritual experience. We are easily fooled. Remember, worship must be in spirit AND truth. We’ll get to the truth part later.
Some music and some visual productions trigger responses in our bodies which are then acted upon by our mind, will and emotions. But these events may be focused on and targeted on the body. In that case they may be fleshly and not spiritual. (Notice I said “may be”) We need to be able to tell the difference. Some music and other input can stir us emotionally even though it may not have anything to do with Biblical truth. I listen to classical music quite a bit and some music stirs me almost to tears and yet as far as I know, there is no spiritual truth being conveyed. My point is that we need to be careful and discerning as to whether our worship is in spirit or is focused on the flesh or soul.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Worship - Part I

There are many discussions these days as to how we should worship God. Most of those who I hear talking about it say something like, “I prefer the older music.” Others say, “I prefer the service to be more formal” or “I wish we would sing more upbeat songs.” The thing that seems to be missing here is the question as to what God would want. Isn’t that what really matters? During the next several posts on this blog I hope to express my thoughts and understandings related to worship. This has been covered in more depth by many more competent than I. However, my goal is to take what I’ve learned and express it in a way that makes the issues easy to understand.
Recently I’ve been teaching a Sunday School class on the Gospel of John. We’re currently in chapter 4 where Jesus meets and talks with the Samaritan woman by the well. As I was studying this passage, several verses stuck out to me as they relate to worship. Those two verses are verses 22-24. In this passage Jesus says, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The first thing that strikes me here is the absolute necessity of worshiping the Father as He specifies. Verse 23 tells us that the Father is seeking people who worship Him in a specific manner. Verse 24 tells us that those who worship Him must worship Him this way. Remember, this is Jesus speaking. He’s the one we claim to follow and obey. I take it then that God has specific requirements for worship and He is looking specifically for those who worship that way. To me this means that I cannot be basing my decisions on how to worship on the whims of my own preferences and emotional needs, but rather I need to base those decisions on what God is looking for.This passage teaches us that the way God wants to be worshiped is in spirit and truth. This reflects the nature and character of God. Jesus specifically says that God is spirit. Therefore worship must be in spirit. God’s character is truth and therefore worship must be in truth or according to truth. Jesus says to God in prayer in John 17:17, “Your Word is truth.” Worship must correspond to God’s revealed truth and it must conform to God’s character.

Continued in Part 2

Monday, May 15, 2006

Goal - To Be LIke Christ

Last Wednesday a men’s quartet from a Christian college came to our church. One of the songs they sang was an old song I hadn’t heard for probably 15 or 20 years. The name of it is, “O to Be Like Thee!” by Thomas O. Chisholm. The words are certainly worth thinking about and so I’m sharing them with you today.

O to be like Thee blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus Thy perfect likeness to wear.

O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art!
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

O to be like Thee full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind;
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.

O to be like Thee lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee Lord, I am coming
Now to receive the anointing divine;
All that I am and have I am bringing
Lord, from this moment all shall be Thine.

O to be like Thee while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and heaven above.

O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art!
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Quote Worth Noting

I have been reading the book, “Apostasy from the Gospel” by John Owen. The following quote struck me because of the fact that it is possible to receive truth in the mind without receiving it in the heart. Perhaps this explains why so many fall away when persecution or hardships come.
“The danger of apostasy will always be present if men receive the truth only in their minds, but do not love it in their hearts and gladly submit to it in their wills. Unless this enmity is conquered and cast out; unless the mind is freed from its depravity; unless the truth works powerfully and effectively upon the heart and soul; unless the truth is learned ‘as it is in Jesus’, so that men ‘put off their previous behavior, the old man, which is corrupt and filled with deceitful lusts, and are renewed in the spirit of their mind, and put on the new man which in the image of God is created in righteousness and true holiness’; unless they love the truth and value it for the spiritual peace, power and freedom of spirit it brings them, they will fall away in time of persecution and forsake the gospel for other things.” (Page 57 Apostasy from the Gospel by John Owen published by Banner of Truth Trust, 2003)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

We Stand in Grace

Not only is salvation by grace, but standing (vs falling) and growing are all by grace through faith and not by works. Galatians 3:1-9 covers this pretty thoroughly. He says in verse 3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” Verse 9 says, “Those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” I can’t begin to explain how important this is. So many Christians begin the Christian life by faith – trusting Christ’s finished work on the cross for their salvation. But after that, they begin to develop the mentality that the rest of the Christian life is by works. Not so! Colossians 2:6 says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” You receive Him by faith so walk in Him by faith. In Romans 14 where we are taught not to judge our brothers, Paul asks who we are to be judging our brother. To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand because God is able to make him stand. At the time of salvation, we not only get released from condemnation, we receive the Holy Spirit, a new heart, new motivations, along with the grace and strength to grow and persevere. These all come as a gift of God’s grace. Paul told the Philippians that “he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”(1:6). He also told them that it is God who works in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (2:13) The writer of the Hebrews prayed that God would “make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight…” (13:21) We need to be encouraged to know that what God asks of us, He provides all of the resources including motivation, will and strength to do.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Spiritual Living

In the last post I pointed out that as Christians, we are dead to the law. Where then does the motivation and power for living godly, obedient lives come from? According to Romans 7:6, we now serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter because as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:6 “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Righteous and godly living comes from the operation of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our yieldedness to Him. He tells us in Romans 8:3-4 that what the law could not do, God did by sending His son as a sacrifice for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh so that the righteous requirements of the law would be fulfilled in us who walk according to the Spirit. (paraphrase) The requirements of the law are written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. That is the point of the new covenant that God instituted with His people. The old covenant had not worked. In the new covenant God writes His law directly on our hearts and the Holy Spirit lives out the life of God in us as we yield to Him. It does not come from imposing the law of God on us from outside. It comes from living the life of God from the inside. And that is only possible because we live under the umbrella of God’s forgiveness. The whole topic of the spirit-filled walk in Romans 8 is introduced in verse 1 by the statement that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Christ bore our sins on the cross. They have been washed away and forgiven completely. We stand in righteousness before God because “He made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Once we recognize that we stand completely forgiven as a gift of God’s grace, we are free to grow and mature in Christ allowing His Spirit to manifest the character of God in our lives.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Grace -- not law

It has been a while since I posted the previous five points in this series so if you have not read them or it has been a long time, it would be worth your while to go back and read or reread the previous four posts. The sixth truth we are considering here is from Colossians 2:14 which tells us that the handwriting of requirements that was against us has been wiped out. It has been taken out of the way and has been nailed to the cross. This handwriting of requirements is the law. The Bible clearly teaches us that we are not under the law but under grace. (Romans 6:14) Now as soon as some of you read this you are going to think that here we have another one of those modern antinomian philosophies that is so prevalent today. If you jump to that conclusion you would be incorrect. Please study along and follow the teaching of Scripture. The issue is, “How can we live righteously and godly in this world?” Paul is very clear in this passage that we can’t do it by keeping the law or by keeping man-made rules. It doesn’t work.
According to I Corinthians 15:56, sin gets its power from the law. Paul says the same thing in Romans 7:8 “But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.” So the key to righteous living is not in adding more commandments because that just gives sin its power. The key comes from the realization of the fact that we are not under the law any more. It has no jurisdiction over us. Check out Romans 7. Verse 5 says, “you also have become dead to the law…” Verse 6 says, “…we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by….” Since God sees us as being identified with Christ, he sees us as having been crucified with Christ. Therefore the law has no more authority over us than it does a dead man. That is exactly the point of Romans 7 in the example about adultery.
Some may be asking at this point, “Where then do the motivation and power for doing right come from?” We’ll look at that next time.