Wednesday, December 24, 2008

While You Were Sleeping

Recently I was listening with about a quarter of an ear to a new Christmas CD. Suddenly my ears perked up and I said to myself, "What did they just sing?" I found the lyrics folder and read the following. What challenging and convicting words!

I'll pass these on to you to meditate on this Christmas.

Have a blessed Christmas.

"While You Were Sleeping" by Casting Crowns

Oh little town of Bethlehem
Looks like another silent night
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
A giant star lights up the sky
And while you're lying in the dark
There shines an everlasting light
For the King has left His throne
And is sleeping in a manger tonight

Oh Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
For God became a man
And stepped into your world today
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

Oh little town of Jerusalem
Looks like another silent night
The Father gave His only Son
The Way, the Truth, the Life had come
But there was no room for Him in the world He came to save

Jerusalem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
The Savior of the world is dying on your cross today
Jerusalem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

United States of America
Looks like another silent night
As we're sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children
And while we're lying in the dark
There's a shout heard 'cross the eastern sky
For the Bridegroom has returned
And has carried His bride away in the night

America, what will we miss while we are sleeping
Will Jesus come again
And leave us slumbering where we lay
America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King
Will we be sleeping
Will we be sleeping

United States of America
Looks like another silent night

Monday, December 15, 2008

Memorization Monday - Week 15

Here we are at week 15 of our memory program. The next three verses focus on the principle of obedience in the Christian life.

This week’s verse is John 14:21 “He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Monday, December 08, 2008

Memorization Monday - Week 14 Review

Week 14 and another opportunity for review. I’ll give the section headings, the reference and the first two words of the verse in the NKJV and you see if you can remember the verse.

The Christian Life
The Life in Christ
II Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if
Col 2:6 As you
Col 2:9, 10 For in

Christ the Center
John 15:5 I am
Phil 1:6 Being confident
Gal 2:20 I have

The Word
Matt 4:4 But He
Acts 17:11 These were
Col 3:16 Let the

John 16:24 Until now
Matthew 21:22 And whatever
I John 5:14, 15 Now this

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

And the Word Became Flesh

The verse I decided to focus on this month is from John 1:14: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

There are many things one could meditate on in this passage, but as we approach the Christmas season, I think it’s worth while to really try to get a handle on what is means that God became flesh and lived here among us. What an amazing thought! If you’ve been a Christian a long time, then perhaps you, like me, tend to skim right over this because we’re so used to it. There seems to be such a wide gap between the kind of being God is and the kind of beings we are that so big a step would be impossible. But as the angel told Mary, with God, nothing shall be impossible.

Michael Card wrote a song several years ago that may help us meditate on this truth. It’s called “The Final Word.”

You and me we use so very many clumsy words.
The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard.
When the Father’s Wisdom wanted to communicate His love,
He spoke it in one final perfect Word.

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

And so the Father’s fondest thought took on flesh and bone.
He spoke the living luminous Word, at once His will was done.
And so the transformation that in man had been unheard
Took place in God the Father as He spoke that final Word.

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

And so the Light became alive
And manna became Man.
Eternity stepped into time
So we could understand.

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

Have a blessed Christmas.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Study with Me - Acts Lesson 4

If you’ve just joined us, you’ll see that I am studying the book of Acts, but I’m studying it topically so we’ll be going through it several times looking at different aspects each time. In the past few posts, I shared a discussion of the baptism in the Holy Spirit based on the prepositions that are used in the Bible related to baptism. On the right side of this blog there is a link that takes you to the location where notes and mp3 files of these studies can be found. There is a chart of how the word baptism is used with various prepositions. There are also two versions of the study notes – one without the “answers” and one with. The mp3 files are unedited recordings of the adult Sunday School class at Faith Baptist Church in Mattawan Michigan where I teach. The whole list of resources is here.

One of the topics that I thought was important to look at was the comments of Christ about the Holy Spirit prior to His coming on the Day of Pentecost. In John 14:16 and 26, for example, Jesus told the disciples to ask the Father and He would give the Holy Spirit. He told them that the Father would send them in Christ’s name and that His mission would be to teach them and to bring to remembrance the things which Christ had taught.

In John 15:26 Jesus said that He would send the Spirit from the Father. He called Him the Spirit of Truth.

And finally in John 16:7, 13 we are told that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment and would guide us into all truth.

From these passages I believe we can get an overview of how the Spirit is supposed to come and what He will do. In several of these passages we gain the understanding that both Jesus Christ and the Father are involved. He comes in the name of Christ and sent by Christ from the Father. He comes at the request of the Son. This shows us how caring Christ is for His disciples and consequently for us in that He did not want to leave us without His very presence in our lives. In John 14: 16-18 Jesus says, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

As far as the ministry of the Spirit is concerned, we can see that He has a convicting work in the world and a teaching work in the lives of believers. The focus of that teaching is on the mission and work of Christ. In John 14:26 we read, “He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” And in John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”

So if we wonder what the content of the Holy Spirit’s teaching is going to be, we can see it in the previous verse. He will glorify Christ and will take what is Christ’s and declare it to us. Much of the emphasis on the Holy Spirit among Christians is on the Holy Spirit Himself, but the Holy Spirit never lifts Himself up, but always focuses on Christ.

As far as His ministry to the world is concerned, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. (John 16:8) Sometimes we think that we can do the convincing; that it is somehow our job to change people’s minds. We know that we can present the truth and even argue persuasively and passionately for it, but it is the Holy Spirit’s job to do the convicting and convincing. And, I might add, He is better equipped to do so. He knows exactly what sort of motivation will work on which people. After all, He is God. He is all-powerful and can fully be trusted to accomplish what God intends to do in the world.

Memorization Monday - Week 13 Prayer

How are you guys doing on these verses? I don’t hear much feedback, but hopefully they are encouraging. Even if you haven’t got all the other ones, let’s get this one down.

Today is the 3rd verse with a promise concerning prayer.

The outline section is The Christian Life – Prayer

I John 5:14, 15
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Thursday

This is the fourth and last installment of our Thanksgiving Thursday series.

I'm thankful for Jesus Christ who willingly died in my place on the cross. I'm thankful that He was made to be sin for me that I might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Where would we be if we did not have a savior to save us from the awful torment of Hell forever. God is serious about the sin issue -- so serious that he was willing to go to the cross to pay the debt himself. Thank you Lord for saving my soul!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Memorization Monday - Week 12 Prayer

Here's your verse for this week's memorization and meditation.

The Christian Life – Prayer
And whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive. Matthew 21:22

Have a wonderful week with your families as you thank God for all He has done.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Study With Me - Acts Lesson 3

We’re studying through the book of Acts together. In the last two sessions I have been discussing the distinctions in baptisms based on the prepositions involved. I showed last time that there is a difference between the baptism of John and the baptism commissioned to the church. The importance in all of this is to be able to understand scriptures that otherwise might lead us to the wrong conclusions. I shared one of those passages last time.

Look at this passage from Romans 6:3 “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”

What kind of baptism is this? Does baptism really put us into Christ? If I’ve not been baptized in water, does that mean that I am not in Christ?

Again let’s take a look at the chart I gave you a couple of weeks ago. You will notice that this passage speaks of being baptized “into” Christ. This contrasts with being baptized into the name of Christ. Galatians 3:27 uses similar terminology to say that as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. I Corinthians 12:13 tells us that “in” one Spirit we were all baptized “into” one body. I take it to mean that this is the same Spirit baptism that is spoken of in passages like John 1:33. In this baptism the Spirit places us into Christ. I maintain that this is not water baptism at all, but the baptism of the Spirit foretold in the gospels when the writers say that John baptized “in” water, but Jesus would baptize “in” the spirit. I Corinthians 12:13 tells us what that is.

So back to the original passage of Romans 6:3. I believe what Scripture is teaching us is that when the Holy Spirit put us into Christ at our salvation we were made one with Him and were therefore also baptized into His death. Water baptism is, of course, a perfect picture of this, but it doesn’t do it. We are made one with Christ when we are saved.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving Thursday

On this Thanksgiving Thursday I’m thankful for all of the abundance God has given. I saw a heart-wrenching photo of refugees in Congo the other day and I thought through how I sleep in a comfortable bed, have hot water for a shower, am able to clean my teeth and enjoy good food. When my clothes are dirty we can throw them in the washer and dryer. When we want to communicate with our children and grandchildren, phones and email are right there. I have a roof over my head and warmth on cold snowy days like we’re having now. I thank God for all the benefits He has loaded on me. There is no reason I can see why I was born here rather than in the Congo.

If you care to add your thanksgiving praise to this blog, please click on comment. Let's fill this page with praise to our great God.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Memorization Monday - Week 11 Prayer

Today we start a 3-part series of verses on prayer.

The outline section is The Christian Life – Prayer

John 16:24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hymn of the Week - May the Mind of Christ

May the mind of Christ my Savior
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thanksgiving Thursday

On this Thanksgiving Thursday I’m thankful for the family God has given me. My wife of 39 years has been supportive and encouraging. It’s humbling to think that a young woman would choose to join with a man and trust God and him to lead in her life. I’m thankful for her courage and willingness to join me in life’s adventure. I’m thankful for my three children. Each one of them has a special and unique place in my heart. Each one is supportive encouraging and loyal. Each one desires to serve God through their life. I’m thankful for their spouses and the special man one of my children is courting. Finally I’m thankful for five grandchildren – two boys and three girls. God has wonderfully blessed and as I expressed last time, it is only through His grace because there is not one human being on the face of the earth who deserves anything from God. And yet He has given bountifully.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Study With Me - Acts Lesson 2

If you read back over the Study With Me post last week, you will find a discussion of baptism and the prepositions involved in those passages. Some of you may immediately feel that it is too complex or detailed to worry about. But I would argue that there are some basic differences among Christians that stem for our interpretations of passages related to baptism.

Take Acts 2:38 for example, this passage reads: Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Some believe that the Holy Spirit and consequently salvation is received through baptism. That’s an important question. Did the Holy Spirit come to dwell in you when you trusted Christ or did he wait until you were baptized?

If you look at the chart I explained last week, you will see that the baptism Peter spoke about in Acts 2:38 is “into” forgiveness and is associated with repentance. If you’ll look through the other passages in the gospels you will notice that this was what John’s baptism was about. This baptism of Peter is not the same as Christian baptism, it is the same as John’s baptism.

But you might ask, Isn’t it all the same thing? Look with me at Acts 19:1-5. Paul asked the disciples if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. They said they hadn’t even heard of the Holy Spirit and Paul asked them into what were you baptized. They said they had received John’s baptism. Paul then explained the difference and they were rebaptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. If it was an important distinction for Paul, it should be an important distinction for us.

More next time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Memorization Monday - Week 10 Review

Well, this is week 10 and I thought it would be good to have another review. I’ll give the section headings, the reference and the first two words of the verse in the NKJV and you see if you can remember the verse.

The Christian Life
The Life in Christ
II Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if
Col 2:6 As you
Col 2:9, 10 For in

Christ the Center
John 15:5 I am
Phil 1:6 Being confident
Gal 2:20 I have

The Word
Matt 4:4 But He
Acts 17:11 These were
Col 3:16 Let the

Have a great day.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Hymn of the Week - Jesus Paid It All

I hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small!
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

Lord, Now indeed I find Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.

For nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calvry’s Lamb.

And when before the throne I stand in Him complete,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
My lips shall still repeat.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Study with Me - Acts 1

One of the topics that comes up in Acts is the topic of baptism. Baptism, of course, is a topic upon which Christians sometimes disagree. I’m not so na├»ve as to think that I can clear everything up once and for all, but I have worked through some things to my own satisfaction and that is what I will be sharing here.

There are several passages in the gospels and in Acts that say something like this: “John baptized with water but Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” There are other places in Acts where it was said that certain people were baptized with John’s baptism and then were baptized again in the name of Jesus.

Sometimes there are passages that say things like those who were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death.

So is there anything that distinguishes these various descriptions of baptism?

Early on my dad suggested that I look at the prepositions involved with the word baptism. I have prepared a chart showing most of the key passages in the New Testament and some descriptions under the appropriate prepositions. You will find that chart here.

For example, you will see that John’s baptism was “in” water whereas Jesus baptism was “in” the Holy Spirit. Notice how John’s baptism was “into” repentance or forgiveness. So when you look at Peter’s preaching in Act’s 2 which doesn’t mention John at all, you will see that his message to them was similar to John’s. This is different from Jesus command in the great commission in Matthew 28 where his command is to be baptized “into” the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Take some time to study through the passages in the chart and see what you come up with. How many different baptisms do you find? What kind of baptism is Romans 6 talking about? Is the baptism mentioned in I Corinthians 12:13 the same as Jesus’ baptism in the Spirit?

Let me know what you come up with and I share some of my conclusions next week.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thanksgiving Thursday

On this Thanksgiving Thursday I’m thankful for God’s grace in my life. Grace, as you know, is often described as unmerited favor. As I grow older I recognize more clearly that I merit nothing from God except His wrath. It’s always been easy to say I am saved by grace, but as I’ve come to understand more of God’s standards I see how far short I’ve come. Sometimes we judge ourselves based on outward performance and by and large most of us can perform fairly well. But God is looking for love that comes from our whole being and attitudes that are impossible to fake.

Giving thanks today for God’s grace.

Every Thursday this month, I'd like to devote this space to abundant thanksgiving to our God. Please join me by posting comments focused on what you're thankful for.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Study With Me - Acts

One of the ways I like to use this blog is to give you the opportunity to study what I’m studying along with me. Because I don’t have the time to keep a lot of different studies going, I usually share what I’m working on in my adult Sunday School class.

My current study is in the book of Acts. My approach is going to be to go through the book looking at it from various perspectives. For example, the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit is prominent in the book so we’ll look at what Acts says about the Holy Spirit. There are many situations where evangelism is taking place and so we’ll look at the approach various people used in preaching the gospel to the lost. My goal is to post a Study With Me article once a week on Tuesday or Wednesday. This week there will probably be two posts – this one as an introduction to be followed shortly by the first study.

If you want to join in, I encourage you to read through the whole book of Acts in one sitting or at least in as few sittings over as short a time period as possible. I love to hear from people so if you agree, disagree or have comments on my understanding of Scripture, feel free to comment on the blog.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Memorization Monday

This week’s category is: The Christian Life – The Word

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Remember, if you would like to have me email this to you each week, send me your email address to be added to the list.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Let Us Love, and Sing and Wonder

Let us love, and sing, and wonder, Let us praise the Savior’s name!
He has hushed the law’s loud thunder, He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame;
He has washed us with his blood, He has brought us nigh to God.

Let us love the Lord who bought us, Pitied us when enemies,
Called us by his grace, and taught us,
Gave us ears and gave us eyes:
He has washed us with his blood, He presents our souls to God.

Let us sing, though fierce temptation threaten hard to bear us down!
For the Lord, our strong salvation, Holds in view the conqueror’s crown,
He who washed us with his blood, Soon will bring us home to God.

Let us wonder; grace and justice Join, and point to mercy’s store;
When through grace in Christ our trust is, Justice smiles, and asks no more:
He who washed us with his blood, Has secured our way to God.

Let us praise, and join the chorus of the saints enthroned on high;
Here they trusted him before us, Now their praises fill the sky:
“Thou hast washed us with thy blood; thou art worthy Lamb of God”

Monday, October 27, 2008

Memorization Monday

Each Monday we are learning or reviewing verses from the Navigators Topical Memory System. If you would like these verses emailed to you, please let me know.

This week’s category is: The Christian Life – The Word

Acts 17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Curses and Blessings 11

In case you’ve gotten lost working through the series on Curses and Blessings, here is a summary statement of what I believe God says about this. If this sounds interesting or far out, go back and read through the previous posts and the scriptures that are given to determine for yourself what the Bible is saying. I believe these truths are very powerful in delivering us from defeat and bringing us into victory in our walk with Christ.

In the Old Testament, God gave statements of blessing and cursing. Those who keep all of the law are blessed. Those who fail in any of it are cursed.

There are two ways of living – under the law or by faith.

Those who are under the law are under that curse that God gave.

Abraham believed God and God blessed him and his seed.

The law that came later could not annul that promised blessing otherwise God is guilty of breaking his contract.

If we too believe God and accept His word of salvation through Christ, we are Abraham’s seed according to the promise and therefore recipients of the blessing that cannot be revoked.

Christ lived a perfect life and yet died on the cross and therefore was cursed because anyone hung on a tree is cursed. He bore the curse that was due to us.

The law cannot bring reform to our lives because with it comes the curse. It also stimulates sin and gives sin its power.

The law was in charge before the time of Christ, but now we are in an adult age when those who are Christ’s are adopted as adult sons into his family and are no longer under the guardianship of the law to keep us in line as though we were children.

God begs us not to look to the law as the answer to our sinful and fleshly ways. He reminds us that we, just like Isaac are children of promise and should live our lives in that light.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Curses and Blessings Part 10

We are coming to the conclusion in this series on blessings and curses. If you have not read through the entire line of thought, please go back to the first post on this issue and read the posts in sequence.

In Galatians 4:21 Paul asks us to look at the picture provided by Abraham’s two sons. One was of the freewoman and one was of the bondwoman. The one born to the bond woman was of the flesh. He came into existence because of the scheming of people. Isaac, the child of the free woman, was a child of promise. These are symbolic of two covenants – one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage and the other corresponds to Jerusalem. Sinai of course was the place where the law was given.

Paul concludes by saying this in verse 28, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise…. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’ So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Curses and Blessings Part 9

Does God through the Apostle Paul beg us not to put ourselves under the law? In Galatians 4, Paul said that when we were children (i.e. before Christ came) we were in bondage under the elements of the world. What does he mean, elements of the world? If we look in verse 9 he says, “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?” What are those? Verse 10 tells us. “You observe days and months and seasons and years.” These are the kind of rules and law that Paul calls beggarly elements.

In Colossians 2:8, Paul writes, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Then in verse 20 he says, “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, (there’s that expression again) why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations – do not touch, do not taste, do not handle.” The interesting point here is that he finishes up this thought in verse 23 by saying, “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.” In other words, it doesn’t work to set up these rules for yourself to try to stifle the flesh.

So my question was, “does God beg us not to put ourselves under the law?” Look at verses 11-16 of Galatians 4 and see what you think. God is serious about this. He uses expressions like “I urge you…” and “I’m afraid for you….” The answer we need to trying to live a godly life is not in more law. It is in our recognition and accepting by faith the fact that we are new creatures in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit within us and we need to yield to His leadership in our lives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Curses and Blessings Part 8

Last time we saw that one of the purposes of the law was to confine all under sin. The next purpose of the law is to keep us under guard until the faith came. To be honest with you, I’m not sure what that means. Perhaps it means that the law keeps people under control in sort of an artificial way until the reality of faith comes.
The third purpose is to be a tutor to bring us to Christ so that we can be justified by faith. The important point here is that Paul goes on to say that once faith comes, the tutor is no longer needed! Galatians 3:25. The question I have is when did faith come? Does that mean when we trust Christ and are saved? Let’s continue reading.
So the law is like the parent or guardian to an under-aged child. Galatians 4:1-3 says just as much. A child, Paul says, is not much different than a slave even though he is the heir of everything. He is under the rule of his parent until he comes of age. In the same way, when we were children we were in bondage under the elements of the world. My question is still the same – when were we children and when did adulthood come?
Paul answers that question in Galatians 4:4. He says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Verse 7 goes on to tell us that if we are a son then we are an heir of God. Think about what that means! We are adult sons, not children. We are heirs of God with all the rights and privileges of being an adult son. The guardianship of the law has ended. It ended when Christ came.
Please don’t interpret any of this to say that we are free to live in any way we like. I’m talking about the role of the law and its place in our lives. The reason this is important is that many Christians put themselves under the law in order to try to please God in the sense of making Him happy with their level of obedience. Another motivation sometimes is to try to use the law to get their lives in order. The problem is that the law brings a curse as we have seen. In fact in Romans 7:8 that sin takes the opportunity in the law to produce all sorts of evil desire. 2 Corinthians 15:56 tells us that the strength of sin is the law. Life requires self-discipline, but putting oneself under the law doesn’t work and in fact God pleads with us not to do that. More on that next time.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Six Week Review

We’ve been working at this for six weeks now and I thought it would be helpful to summarize what we have learned.

The Christian Life – The Life in Christ

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Colossians 2:6, 7a “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him.”

Colossians 2:9, 10 “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”

The Christian Life – Christ the Center

John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 NKJV

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Let’s spend some time this week reviewing these and making sure that we can remember them when we think of the outline point.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Memorization Monday

Here is part 6 of our memorization Monday series.

This is verse 3 in the following outline point.

1. The Christian Life, B. Christ the Center

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Curses and Blessings Part 7

We’re continuing our study of God’s blessings and curses. In the Old Testament God said that those who keep the law will be blessed and those who don’t keep it in its entirety will be cursed. There are many Christians who are trying desperately to keep the law so that God’s blessing will be on their lives. They do this because this is the message to the people in Deuteronomy and Joshua. What we’ve learned in this study is that as Christians, we are children of Abraham and therefore recipients of the unconditional promise made to him and to his seed. Christ took the God’s curse on himself so that the blessing of Abraham could be ours. Galatians 3:14. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

What I’m trying to encourage you with is to realize and believe that God will not add conditions to the blessing He is giving you through His promise to Abraham. The law that came 430 years after the promise cannot annul the promise. If you’re a Christian, the discussion of God’s curse does not apply to you. Christ became the curse so that you won’t be the recipient of it.

The next question though is what purpose does the law serve? This is more than just an academic question for theologians. It has important implications in your lives and the way you choose to live your life.

The first thing the law does is to confine all people under sin. According to Galatians 3:22, God did this so that he could offer the promise of Abraham to all that believe. There is no boasting, no way for one person to do better at law-keeping than another. All are confined under sin so that anyone who believes can receive the unconditional promise God made to Abraham.

We’ll pick it up there next time.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Memorization Monday

It’s week 5 and we’re ready for our next memory verse from the Navigators original topical memory plan.
The Christian Life, B. Christ the Center

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 NKJV

Monday, September 22, 2008

Memorization Monday

We’re into week four of our Memory Monday series

This week’s verse and outline are:
1. The Christian Life; B. Christ the Center

John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Curses and Blessings Part 6

We’re going through a very important study on God’s blessings and curses and how we fit. If you haven’t read the previous posts, it’s very important that you do so.
Last time we concluded that we as Christians are heirs of God’s promise of blessing to Abraham and his seed. This promise predates the law and the law cannot mitigate in anyway that promise.
An interesting question that Paul foresees then is what is the purpose of the law. He answers that question in verses 22-24 of Galatians 3. First he says that it confines all under sin. In other words, the law lays down the standard and no one lives up to it. Therefore all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.
Second, before faith came we were kept under guard by the law and kept for the faith that should be revealed afterward. Before faith came the law had a guardianship role to keep people under control. A question you should ask yourself is what is the timeline involved. In other words the law guarded before the faith came. When did the faith come? When did that guardianship end?
Third, the law was a tutor to bring us to Christ. Again he says that when faith came, the tutor relationship ended. When did that faith come? We’ll look at the timing of this more later. What I want us to see now is that the purpose of the law had nothing to do with giving salvation because it can’t do that. It doesn’t even have anything to do with spiritual growth. As you will recall, Paul asked that question in verse 3. His conclusion was that the law does not perfect us. The law’s responsibility was to confine all under sin and to guard and serve as tutor until the time that faith comes. Next time we’ll look at that timing more closely.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Memory Monday

We’re into week three of our Memory Monday series.

This week’s verse is for the same outline point as last week:
1. The Christian Life; A. The Life in Christ.

Colossians 2:9, 10 “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Curses and Blessings Part 5

My goal in sharing this Bible study with you is so that as faithful men we might be able to understand how some of the crucial teachings of Scripture fit together. If we are to be the kind of leaders God wants us to be in our homes and churches, but can’t accurately interpret the Scriptures, how can we be faithful to what is handed down to us from previous generations? So we continue our study of the curses and blessings.
The point in the last post was that God had made a promise to Abraham and his seed. Nothing could cancel that promise, not even the law. But what does that have to do with us?
To answer this I’d like to put Galatians 3:26 and 29 together. Basically God is saying that we are sons of God by faith in Christ. If we are Christ’s then we are heirs according to the promise. He had summarized this earlier in verse 14. “…that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” The blessing of Abraham… That blessing is ours!
So let me summarize what we have so far. God has issued blessings and curses. Those who don’t keep every bit of the law are under a curse. God’s blessing was upon those who obeyed perfectly. There are basically two ways to live, either by faith or by law. That’s what we learned from Galatians 3:10-12. These are mutually exclusive. Living by law puts you under the curse because there is no one who can keep it perfectly. We can’t be under it and then somehow claim exceptions because we are a Christian.
The Christian answer is that God blessed Abraham and his seed unconditionally. The law that came later could not cancel that blessing otherwise God would have been a liar in making such promises to Abraham. If I’m a Christian, I am an heir of that blessing because I am part of Abraham’s seed. That means that the promise that I am a recipient of supersedes and precedes the giving of the law. There’s nothing in the keeping or the not-keeping of the law that can affect my status of blessing given by the promise of God. There is no curse hanging over the Christian. Let your mind and spirit think on this.
We’ll explore some of the repercussions of this truth next time.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Curses and Blessings Part 4

It’s really important that you follow Paul’s logic for the teaching we are developing from Galatians chapter 3 so I encourage you to go back and read the previous posts.
In Galatians 3:15 we read that even men’s contracts are binding. We know that to be true in our culture. When you sign a contract, it is a binding agreement. Therefore it is even more so if God makes the contract. God made a contract with Abraham and his seed. It’s interesting here to see that Paul says, “It does not say seeds as to many.” Doesn’t that show something of the importance of words in the Bible? Paul assumes that when he reads “seed” it means seed and not “seeds”. Nothing can void the contract which God gave to Abraham and his seed.
This is where the real crux of the argument begins to come into play. This is such an important truth I hope that you will take the time to really think about what is happening here. Galatians 3:17 tells us that the law which came 430 years after the promise to Abraham cannot annul or cancel the promise which God had made. Why? Because God’s Word and promises are certain and binding. If man’s contracts cannot be abrogated, how much less can God’s? What Paul is saying is that if God were to give the blessing of the inheritance based on the law, then it wouldn’t be the result of a promise any more, but God gave it as a promise and so the law has nothing to do with it.
The question arises though in what that has to do with us. God had made these promises to Abraham and his seed, so where do we fit in and why should it matter?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Memorization Monday

This is the second in the Monday series encouraging scripture memorization and meditation.

This week’s verse is for the same outline point as last week:
1. The Christian Life; A. The Life in Christ.

Colossians 2:6, 7a “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him.”

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Curses and Blessings Part 3

We’re continuing our study on God’s blessings and curses and our relationship to them. It will work best for you if you have your Bible open in order to follow the logical discussion that the Apostle Paul is presenting in Galatians 3. According to verse 10, what is the standard for avoiding the curse? The standard given there is that we must continue in all of the things written in the book of the Law. We’re not allowed to deviate from it to either side. We must hit the nail on the head every time. That leaves us in a precarious situation, doesn’t it?
Basically there are two ways to live life. Paul explains this in verses 11 and 12. In verse 11 he tells us that one way is to live by faith. The just shall live by faith. The other way, given in verse 12, is to live by the law. He says very clearly that the law is not of faith because those who does them shall live by them. The “them” I take to mean all of the commandments in the law. So you can live “by faith” or “by them, the commandments”.
What’s interesting to me here is that Paul seems to be saying that these are two mutually exclusive ways of living. We’re not going to get into a long discussion here about whether we should be obedient to the law of God because I think Scripture obviously says we should, but there appears to be a way of living which is law based and it not right for the Christian. I think this will come out as we go along, but you read in verse 10 that those who are of the works of the law are under a curse. So that can’t be where God wants us to be.
Verses 13 and 14 summarize the upcoming argument. This argument is the Christ became the curse so that the blessing of Abraham, which includes the promise of the spirit would be ours through faith.
We’ll pick up here next time.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Memorization Monday

I realized lately that I have to get back into the Scripture memorization/meditation routine. I’m going to start by reviewing verses I learned during my college years.

The outline and verses I’ll be using are taken from The Navigators Topical Memory System that I used as a college student. You can find their current system here. (I’m using the New King James Version in all of these verses.) The roman numerals and letters indicate the position of the verse in the topical outline.

I. The Christian Life
A. The Life in Christ

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Curses and Blessings Part 2

In the last Joshua post I began a series called Blessings and Curses. I said at the time not to look for daily posts, but I had no idea it would take me ten days to get to the next one. I do hope to do better.
Our study jumps from Joshua 8 where Joshua had obediently divided the people into two groups to proclaim the blessings and curses of God. This has a lot to do with us in spite of the fact that we might not think so. Go back and read the first article in the series to catch up with today’s lesson.
In Galatians 3:2 Paul asks the question, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?” The answer to the question should be obvious – by the hearing of faith.
In verse 3 he asks another question. “Having begun in the Spirit are you now made perfect by the flesh?” The answer should obviously be “no”. So we begin by faith and we are perfected through faith. In order to illustrate this point, Paul brings up Abraham in verse 6. He tells us that Abraham believed God and it was counted as righteousness for him. Stay with me now because I know some of you are not used to thinking through the details of Paul’s argument.
In verse 7 he tells us then that those who are of faith (like Abraham was) are the sons of Abraham. God had promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him and verse 9 tells us the conclusion to this section: Those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. This then sets up the basis for the argument Paul is going to use in the rest of the chapter and it is an extremely crucial argument if you want to understand your relationship to the blessings and curses of God.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Curses and Blessings Part 1

Today is the first of several posts in a series discussing the God’s curse on mankind and the way out from under the curse into God’s blessing. I taught this series a couple of months ago in the adult Sunday School class in our church and believe it is one of the most important concepts I have ever covered. Don’t look for daily updates because things are starting to get busy as I get ready for another school year, but hopefully at least once a week I’ll be able to post the next section.

We begin in Joshua 8:30. If you read this section you will see that Joshua split the people up and sent half to Mount Ebal and the other half to Mount Gerizim. I know that’s not the most interesting beginning and you may be tempted to tune me out, but please stay with this series and follow the logic of God’s truth.

In Deuteronomy 27, Moses commanded this event. The people on Mount Gerizim were to read the blessings that you read in chapter 27. The people on Mount Ebal were to read the curses. You’ll notice that God’s blessing included every facet of life. Similarly the curses. Notice the curse in verse 26: “Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law.” Paul picks this up in Galatians 3:10, “For as many as are of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’”

In Deuteronomy 30:19 God pleads with them to choose life. The choice is before them – life or death. What would they choose?

We’ll pick this up next time because we want to see what this all has to do with us. If you’re thinking that since this is the Old Testament it has nothing to do with us, think again. Paul deals with this thoroughly in Galatians and the truth is encouraging and liberating.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Wages of Sin

After the victory at Jericho, the Israelites felt pretty confident about the next battle at Ai. What most of the people didn’t know is that one of the men had taken some things from Jericho as spoil. God had commanded them to take nothing but to burn everything.

When the Israelites went to attack Ai, they were soundly defeated. Obviously God wasn’t with them on this venture. When Joshua asked the Lord why such a defeat, God told them about Achan’s sin and disobedience.

There are several things we can learn from this. First, our sin affects everyone. Even for so-called secret sins, we shouldn’t think that others in the body of Christ are not hurt. This is a spiritual battle we’re in and there are spiritual consequences that we may not be able to see.

Israel’s response to this revelation was to repent. There was repentance, humility and a sincere concern for God’s name and His glory. Repentance and sorrow weren’t enough, however. Action had to be taken. Achan had to get specific about his sin explaining how he had seen then taken and hidden the loot.

What was the result for Achan? He and his entire family were put to death. This reminds me that God is serious about sin. Romans 3:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. Those of us who know that Scripture well repeat it so easily and without feeling, but I wonder if we really understand the impact. The sins you and I commit are enough to cause us to be stoned as Achan was. Somehow I don’t think we look at it that seriously.

Finally, I’m reminded of the awesome grace of God toward a sinner like me. Second Corinthians 5:21 says that Christ was made sin for us so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Galatians 3:10 explains how He was cursed for us so that we would be released from the curse. I Peter 2:24 tells us that He bore our sins on the cross. “Sin has left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.”

Monday, August 11, 2008

Memorization/Meditation Plan Coming

I hope your summer has been going well. I’ve been busy with a family trip to South Carolina, a train trip with my wife to Denver and an extended family campout at Spring Mill State Park in Indiana. If you see me personally, don’t ask about the 8 hour wait for the train in Denver or the invasion of the raccoons at Spring Mill because if you do, you’ll hear the long versions of both entertaining stories. Spring Mill, by the way is a very nice park with lots to do for the whole family.

One of the spiritual disciplines that we as faithful men ought to have is Scripture memorization and meditation. When I was in college and for a time thereafter, I used the Scripture memory plan published by the Navigators. What I liked about this plan was the outline of biblical topics that went with it. My intention is to go back through and focus on those passages and I invite you to do that with me. Beginning in September I’m going to use each Monday as the memorization/mediation day. I’ll post the verse for the week and the outline points that go with it. If you’d like to be emailed that information each Monday, let me know. Otherwise I just encourage you to check the blog on Mondays to find out the verse of the week.

Each month or so I pick a verse that I can use in praying for you and others in my life. This time I’m looking at Epesians 3:18, 19. Paul prayed that they “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Take some time to think through all of the “impossible” things being prayed for here for real people, especially the part of being filled with all the fullness of God!

People don’t like to read long emails so I’ll quit for now. Remember if you want the memorization emails, let me know.

Have a great week.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

God is in Control

Last time I mentioned that the purpose of engaging the enemy in a battle and winning that battle is for the glory of God. As I grow older I’m learning that all of the struggles and battles in our life all funnel down to our response to what God is doing in our lives and whether we will trust Him and obey Him in them. So often we want to focus on the circumstances and the other people involved. We wonder why we are being treated unfairly or why the other person doesn’t have to be all that they should be. We find this often in the struggles in marriages. When we counsel one partner to be obedient to God and respond the way God would have them to, he/she usually wants to know what if the other person doesn’t do what they are supposed to do. It’s relatively easy to be obedient when the other people and circumstances in our lives are the way they should be. What’s difficult is when things don’t seem to be lining up fairly.

Do you remember when Jesus was telling Peter how he (Peter) would die in John 21:21? Peter pointed to John and asked, “What about that man?” Basically Jesus’ answer was to forget about John and follow Christ. That is exactly what God wants from each one of us. He wants us to obey at the point of the testing.

Sometimes other areas of our life are in good shape, but God points at one particular area and says, “What about obedience here?” Are we responsive in that area?

The real question comes down to this. Do we trust God? God’s ways and our ways differ. (Isaiah 55:9) When the situation seems not to have an answer, it probably doesn’t.

Only God can change people – and He can change them. (Proverbs 21:1) Nothing is outside of His capabilities and knowledge. Sometimes we look at God as though He were as frustrated by situations in life or the world as we are. The truth is that God is never frustrated. He accomplishes all He desires to do. (Daniel 4:34) His wisdom is unsearchable and perfect. (Romans 11:37) There is no flaw or missing links in His thought process.

When the battles are great or the circumstances seem impossible, think on the truths that I have just outlined for you. Everything is under control. Do you remember what happened when Paul asked repeatedly for a certain physical problem to be taken away? God did not remove the problem. He just said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Are you ok with that?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lessons From Jericho

In Joshua chapter 6 we find the story of the battle of Jericho. Most of you know that story well and so I’m not going to go into the details much. If you are unfamiliar with those details, I recommend that you read it over so that you know how the battle unfolded.

As the Israelites walked around the walls of that great city, they must have been impressed with its size and impregnable strength. One wonders why God would make them just walk around the city once each day for six days. We don’t know that answer for sure, but I think it was to show them how humanly impossible it was to defeat the city and its inhabitants.

Many of the situations we face in life are that way. They seem to loom as obstacles that we cannot overcome. Some of the difficult situations in life involve other people. One of the things we should learn early in life is that you can’t change other people. You can’t get inside of them and turn a screw that will make them love you or make them more cooperative. They make decisions for their own reasons and there seems to be little we can do to change that.

The city of Jericho was to be conquered using God’s methods. God has given us everything we need in His Word for life and godliness. So many times we rely on our own logic or the teachings of psychology or sociology or other man-made system to accomplish what only God can do. Having said that though, we need to observe that they did not do nothing. There was a plan and it involved following obediently in the carrying out of that plan. Our problem, especially as men, is that we don’t take the time to learn God’s Word well enough to learn its principles and the spiritual guidelines for living victoriously. I suggest that if you don’t have a systematic plan to read and study the Bible, you should begin one right away.

Second Corinthians 10:4 tells us that the weapons God has given us are not fleshly and worldly, but are spiritual and are mighty through God for the tearing down of strongholds. Jericho was certainly a physical stronghold and in our lives we have spiritual strongholds. It would be a good exercise to list several strongholds the enemy has in your life and then take steps to apply God’s Word as a weapon to tear those strongholds down.

Keep in mind the purpose of the victory. It is always for the glory of God. Many times we are hoping for victory so that we will feel better or so that our relationships will be healed. But God wants to be glorified in our lives in whatever we do and we should see that goal as the supreme purpose for undertaking and winning a spiritual battle.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Spiritual Victory

Last time we saw Joshua responding to the Captain of the Lord of Hosts. When asked whose side He was on, the Captain responded, “No. I am in charge.” What is this host that He was commander of?

In 2 Kings 6:17 we read of an incident where Elisha was surrounded by an enemy and yet he says, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then his servant’s eyes were opened and he saw that the mountains were full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

There is a spiritual battle going on. Zechariah 4:6 tells us that it is not by might nor by power but by my spirit, says the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 10:4 we read that the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but might through God for the pulling down of strongholds.

We should remember that this is a real battle but it is a spiritual battle. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. Ephesians 6:4.

Many times we try to use psychology and human methods to try to solve our personal and family problems, but they are usually spiritual battles. We often try to grow our church or change people’s lives by human means. None of this produces real and lasting results. We need to know the Word and then in faith be obedient to it.

Joshua’s encounter gives us four principles. First, realize that Christ claims authority to command. Second, our response is to submit and worship. Third, we need to ask, “What is your word to us?” Then respond in obedience. And finally, acknowledge the holiness of God and obey Him.

May we as men who desire to be God’s faithful men follow these principles in our daily lives.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Whose Side is God On?

Have you ever wondered whose side God is on? Before the battle of Jericho, Joshua met a Man with a sword in His hand. It turns out that this “man” is a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. This incident is recorded in Joshua 5:13.

Joshua asked Him the question we might like to ask. He asked, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?”

The answer is interesting. He said “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell on his face and worshiped. (Sometimes people in the Bible fall and worship before an angel, but the angel usually says something like, “Stand up. I’m just a creature too.”) Why is “No” an interesting answer to Joshua’s question? Because God does not take sides among men. God is the one who is in charge. He is the commander. He isn’t on Joshua’s side. Joshua is supposed to be on His side.

Who is this one? He is the image of the invisible God, firstborn over all creation. By him all things were created and in Him everything holds together. In Him all the fullness of God dwells. He is the heir of all things and the express image of God. He is the captain of our salvation made perfect through sufferings. He is not ashamed to be called our brother. He has become our High Priest, holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners yet tempted in every way like we are. He entered the most holy place with his own blood once for all. By him and through Him and to Him are all things. Amen!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Leaving Defeat Behind

If you’ve been reading this blog regularly you know that I’ve been working my way through the book of Joshua with lots of detours as we find concepts that need to be pursued in greater depth. We are in chapter 5 and we have found that through all the years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelite men had not been circumcised as the law had commanded. This oversight was dealt with and immediately they were allowed to keep the Passover in the plains of Jericho. (Joshua 5:9ff)

Without skipping a beat we find that they were able to eat of the produce of the land immediately after the Passover was finished. They had been eating manna for 40 years as they wandered in the wilderness, but now they were able to eat the food that grew in the land that God was giving them.

I pick up a couple of important thoughts from this. First, as Christians we often spend a lot of our time wandering in the wilderness of defeat and compromise. When we really get serious about wanting to live the kind of victorious life that God has given us in Christ, that reproach needs to be put away. We need to confess our sins and in the process we find that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Second, we are to feed upon Christ. He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) and He is our living water (John 4). He satisfies the longing soul. (Psalm 107:8, 9) He satisfies our mouth with good things so that our youth is renewed like the eagles. (Psalm 103:5) As Christians we are to desire the sincere milk of the Word (I Peter 2:23) but we are to go on to meat. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

What this means is that we are to leave the foundation of elementary principles as the writer of Hebrews discusses in chapter 5 and 6. It would make a great Bible study for you to dig through these chapters and study what’s involved in moving forward rather than staying on the basics.

The last thing I see in this passage in Joshua 5 is that they were able to feast in the plains of Jericho. What does that mean? That means in the very sight of the enemy, they were able to hold their worship celebration without fear because God was with them. Isn’t that what we find in Psalm 23? You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

Let’s rejoice that if we truly put away the soot and dirt of the wilderness life and move on to a life of claiming the promises of God, feasting on Him and His Word and worshiping here in enemy territory, we will find God’s blessing on our lives.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Living in the Spirit (2)

Continuing our thought from last time, it often seems like it’s not that easy to live consistently in the Spirit. The first step is to remember what we’ve already seen in chapter 8 and that is that there is no condemnation, we are free from the law of sin and death, and that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us through His Spirit.

We have seen that those who have the Spirit of God dwelling in them are in the Spirit, not the flesh and therefore shouldn’t live as though they were in the flesh.

Verse 10 reminds us of why all of this is very powerfully effective. Though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life and since the Spirit dwells in us, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to our mortal body through the Spirit that already dwells in us.

What this is saying to me is that as a Christian, my spirit is alive because of Christ’s indwelling presence in my life. That means that even though my body is dead or dying and the flesh is still present, the seed of life is there in all its reality. The result will be that this body will also be raised some day because of and through the Spirit that already is alive inside of me. So even though the battle sometimes seems hopeless, it isn’t. As Christians, we have God the Spirit living in us. He is called the down payment which God has given us promising that the rest will be forthcoming. He sums this up in Romans 8:23 where he says, “we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” The redemption of the body is coming, but it’s not here yet.

Because of the fact that the Spirit is in us, we are no longer debtors to live according to the flesh. Remember when a bully wanted to pick on you? If you were alone, you were vulnerable and were sort of forced into doing what he said. But if your big brother or a bigger stronger friend was with you, the bully could not get the upper hand. To me this illustrates what Paul is describing here. Because God lives in us, we don’t have to do what the flesh wants. We are not debtors to live the way it wants us to live and to cave in to the temptations that it wants us to give in to.

As Paul often does, he puts a warning along with this great truth and that is that if we live according to the flesh, we will die. However, if we use the power of the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the flesh we will live. And then he makes this amazing statement. It is those who are led by the Spirit that are the sons of God.

All of this is a challenge to me to live the way I’m supposed to live. I claim to be a Christian and so I should live through the power of the Spirit to daily put to death the deeds of the body. It’s not always easy. But it is the God-ordained method of successful Christian living.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Living in the Spirit

We’re currently in a study of Joshua that led us to look at our death, burial and resurrection with Christ. Just as the people of Israel went down into the river bed with God and came up safely on the other side, so we too were crucified with Christ, were buried with Him and are alive in Him. That led us to look at several things we are dead to – sin, the law and the world. Even though it may not feel like it, we are to count these things as true because God says they are true.

This led us to begin thinking through the fact that there seems to be a lot of struggle in this life if we are really on the victory side of things. It might be wise for you to read back through the past several postings to get the gist of our discussion.

Last time we looked at the first four verses of Romans 8 to find that life in the Spirit is where the victory is as opposed to life under the law.

Verse 5 of Romans 8 tells us that there are two opposite ways to live. Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh. That’s one way to live. The other way is to live according to the Spirit, in which case the mind is set on the things of the Spirit. I think it’s appropriate to ask ourselves which mind set is typical for us.

There are those who say that we can be a Christian and live according to the flesh. Perhaps, but I’m not so sure this passage allows for that. What do you think? In verse 6, Paul says, “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Here again there are two kinds of mindedness—one is death and the other is life and peace. The reason this is so is that the fleshly mind is enmity against God not being subject to the law of God. The conclusion then in verse 8 is that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. The question still remains. Are Christians basically able to choose one of two life-styles, either life in the Spirit or life in the flesh.

In verse 9, Paul tells us that you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. And, if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

At the very least we have a strong admonition here as to why we should not choose to mind the things of the flesh. Minding the flesh is death. Minding the flesh is enmity against God. In living this way we are living like those who are in the flesh, in other words we are acting like those who are lost. The challenge to us men today is to make sure that we are living the life of who we are. In other words, as Christian men, we are in the Spirit and therefore should live like it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Victory Through the Holy Spirit

Many of us spend a lot of time struggling like Paul describes in Romans 7. The key to victory, I believe, is what he describes in Romans 8. He had described the struggle that comes by trying to apply the law to the Christian life and it doesn’t work. The way it is actually accomplished is through the power of the Holy Spirit.

There are several things I think are important to realize in applying this truth. First is the fact that for those who are in Christ, there is no condemnation. We sometimes state this so lightly and yet when we realize the depth of our sin, disobedience and rebellion, we realize what a tremendous truth this is. No Condemnation! (Romans 8:1)

The second thing to realize is that we are free from the law of sin and death. This is a vicious cycle. We sin and the law condemns us to death because of it. We often feel like there is no escape. But the great news in the gospel is that we have been released from this cycle of sin and death. There is no condemnation and therefore the law of sin and death does not apply to us. (Romans 8:2)

As we studied last time, the law is weak because of the reaction of the flesh to it. When the law comes in, sin is strengthened and produces death. But Romans 8:3 tells us that what the law could not do God did. He sent His son in the likeness of sinful flesh. He was a man like we are. He was tempted in all points like we are except that He did not sin. In living a perfect life He condemned sin in the flesh. He judged sin and overcame its power by living sinlessly. My way of thinking of it is that He proved it could be done. I don’t know how theologically correct that is, but it is what I see Paul saying here. In the very place where sin seems to exert its power using the law as its strength, Christ overruled it and defeated it.

This leads to verse 4 which tells us that all of this happened so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. The way of victory is the way of walking in Spirit. Doing so fulfills the law in us. Rather than being imposed on us from the outside, which does not work, we have the law fulfilled in us by the working of the Spirit of God which does work. After all, this was the promise of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:33, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts.”

The New Covenant promise in Ezekiel 36:27 says it this way, I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”

The promise is that God through His Spirit gives us a new nature which has the motivation and desire to work out God’s law from within because it has been written on the heart.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dead to the World?

We’ve seen so far that when we died with Christ we died to sin and we died to the law. The third aspect of our death with Christ is that we died to the world. In Galatians 6:14 we read, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

It’s interesting to me that this is written in the past tense as a completed act. The world has been crucified to me and I to the world. This is a fact and we need to believe God when He says so. However, we don’t always put into practice what is true. Even though we’ve died to the world, we still interact in ways that suggest that we really haven’t died to it. When we do this, it does not change the reality of what happened at the cross. As in so many other teachings of Scripture there are completed events which God then challenges us to live up to. Rather than having to reach some sort of perfection before He declares us righteous or dead to the world, he makes the declaration of fact first and then by His spirit works in us to move us toward what, in His eyes, is a completed reality.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul uses this approach to challenge the Christians there not to subject themselves to the futile rules of human religion. “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?” (Colossians 2:20) In other words, since you’ve died to the world, don’t subject yourselves to its regulations.

In Colossians 3:2 we are told to “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” For what reason are we to do this? “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

So the message is that because we have died to sin, the law and the world, we are to work this out on a day to day basis in our lives We are to realize more and more on a daily basis the reality of what is already absolutely true of us.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder

I love this song by John Newton. It's an old hymn and hardly anyone sings it any more, but Jars of Clay has produced a modern version for this generation. Read and ponder the words carefully as you thank God for His abundant mercy.

Let us love and sing and wonder,
Let us praise the Savior’s Name!
He has hushed the law’s loud thunder,
He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame.
He has washed us with His blood,
He has brought us nigh to God.

Let us love the Lord Who bought us,
Pitied us when enemies,
Called us by His grace, and taught us,
Gave us ears and gave us eyes:
He has washed us with His blood,
He presents our souls to God.

Let us sing, though fierce temptation
Threaten hard to bear us down!
For the Lord, our strong Salvation,
Holds in view the conqueror’s crown:
He Who washed us with His blood
Soon will bring us home to God.

Let us wonder; grace and justice
Join and point to mercy’s store;
When through grace in Christ our trust is,
Justice smiles and asks no more:
He Who washed us with His blood
Has secured our way to God.

Let us praise, and join the chorus
Of the saints enthroned on high;
Here they trusted Him before us,
Now their praises fill the sky:
“Thou hast washed us with Your blood;
Thou art worthy, Lamb of God!”

Hark! the Name of Jesus, sounded
Loud, from golden harps above!
Lord, we blush, and are confounded,
Faint our praises, cold our love!
Wash our souls and songs with blood,
For by Thee we come to God.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dead to the Law

Wow! I just looked back to see when I had posted my last entry in the Joshua study and it has been a month! I guess things have been very busy and I’m not as consistent as I would like to be in my blogging.

The last time we looked at the fact that in dying with Christ, we died to sin. The Bible also teaches us that we have died to the law. I think the key passage on this is Romans 7:1-6

The argument Paul makes here is that the law only applies to a person as long as he is living. That should make sense to all of us. He uses the example of marriage, pointing out the fact that to marry a second husband while the first is living would be committing adultery. But if the first husband has died, the woman is freed from the law and can marry the other man. The law against adultery doesn’t apply in that case.

The application is that in the same way, we have become dead to the law through the body of Christ so that we can be married to another, Christ, and consequently bring forth fruit for God.

The law has in its nature the ability to arouse sinful passions (vs 5) which then work in our bodies to bear the fruit of death. Paul addresses this further in verses 8 and 9. He says, “apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” In 1 Corinthians 15:56 we read, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.”

So what we see then is that the law gives sin its power. Paul makes sure we understand that the law isn’t the problem. He tells us in Romans 7:7 that the law is not sin and then in verse 14 that the law is spiritual. It’s not the law but it’s us. Even so the spiritual law in contact with our fleshly nature is a combination that gives sin power and brings death to us.

So what is God’s remedy? The remedy is that when Christ died on the cross, we died with Him and in so doing, we died to the law. When we sin, the law responds, “The soul that sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:20) But when the sentence of death was imposed on Christ, it was our sentence. Therefore the law cannot be applied twice. If Satan were to try to bring charges against us pleading in court for the death penalty, God can look up the record and tell him that the person has already died! You can’t be executed twice.

Hopefully this is an encouragement to you as you think through what it means to be dead to the law.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dead to Sin

I’m doing something today that I very seldom do – stay home from church. I woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible sore throat. I’m not sure where it came from, but it’s kind of wiping me out. As a result, I’m home taking this opportunity to think through some things related to our study in the book of Joshua.

We’ve seen that we have died with Christ and risen with Him. The Scripture even goes so far as to say that we are raised with Him and seated with Him in heavenly places in Christ. The problem is that while this may be true, we still face the struggles of living here. The Israelites had been freed from their bondage in Egypt and now, having crossed the Jordan, even their wilderness wanderings were over and yet difficult times lay ahead. They would need to put two key principles into practice – faith and obedience. It became a matter of believing God and responding obediently to that belief.

In the same way we need to believe God and respond obediently. If we have died with Christ and risen with Him, what are the implications of that? What is it exactly that we have to believe and obey related to this truth?

There are three areas I want us to look at. We’ll cover the first one today and the others in succeeding posts. The first truth then is that in dying with Christ, we have died to sin. Look at this passage in Romans 6:5-12. I won’t quote the whole thing here. I assume you have a Bible you can look it up in. Verse 6 says that “our old man was crucified with Him that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.”

The thing then that we are to believe is that if we are a Christian, that is if we have received Christ and are trusting Him alone for our salvation, our old man died with Christ on the cross. It may not often feel that way, but don’t let your feelings get in the way of the truth. No matter how you feel and how strong the temptations are, the truth is the old self has been crucified.

The passage goes on to explain how we are to apply this. Verse 9 says “knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.”

When Christ died He died to sin. Christ never sinned, but Scripture tells us that He was tempted in all points like we are. Those temptations were real and vigorous and yet He defeated them. His death brought an end to the temptation to sin. Now that He is alive from the dead, His focus is toward God.

Now the passage says in verse 11, “Likewise you also…” Here comes the challenge for us to obediently apply the truth. “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The word reckon doesn’t mean “pretend”. It means “count it so”. The truth is we died with Christ and so we are to reckon or count it so, to believe it to be true and to act accordingly. More important than just believing it in our head, we need to work it out in our lives because having died with Christ we are to reckon ourselves dead unto sin. That means when those temptations come, we are to act as though we are already on the other side of the resurrection. We are to see ourselves as alive to God. Our focus is to be God-ward.

The concluding result in verse 12 is, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts and do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness.” Do you see how belief and obedience go together. If we truly believe that we died with Christ, then we too died to sin and are now alive to God. As a result we will not allow sin to reign. If we do, we are not only being disobedient, but we are sinning against what is true.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Living on Resurrection Ground

It’s been a busy several weeks. With the coming of spring there is so much yard work to be done that it takes up a lot of time. I want to continue the study of Joshua that we’ve been working on. Part of my motivation for doing this is the personal discipline of putting the results of my study in writing. Hopefully you will find it helpful as you follow along.

The last time we were studying this we noted that the Israelites marked their crossing of the Jordan with stones. The priests with the ark stood in the middle of the river until all was finished. I pointed out that this is representative of the death of Christ and our death in Him.

Moving on with the story then, we see that the Israelites came up out of the river on the tenth day of the first month. This is the very same day 40 years later that the children of Israel had come out of Egypt. You see, they were “saved” from their bondage 40 years ago, but because they didn’t believe God at the time, they ended up wandering in the wilderness all of those years. And most of the people who escaped Egypt did not enter into the promised land. Sometimes we do the same thing. We have our salvation in hand, but we have trouble really believing the truth about who God says we are and what our position is in Christ.

This is what the author of Hebrews is getting at in 3:16 and following: “For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was he angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

It is important that we believe God regarding our position in Christ on resurrection ground. Ephesians 2:5 and 6 say, “even when we were dead in trespasses, He made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” We’re using the crossing of the Jordan as a picture of taking this truth by faith and putting behind us the purposeless wandering.

The difficulty as I see it is that even though we are positionally on resurrection ground, life has a way of hitting us with the reality of sin, disease, pain and temptation. Romans 8:23 puts it this way, “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

We are presented as a church without spot or wrinkle, but now our practice and experience is less than that. So a point of tension arises. Am I going to accept God’s Word or am I going to go with my feelings? I need to ask myself who is going to be in control – my body or the spirit and the truth?

Through the next several articles we’ll look at the truth of our death with Christ and the importance of reckoning it true in our lives. Hebrews 4:1 says “let us fear lest any of you seem to have short of it” (God’s rest).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Christ's Victory

I came across a poem the other day on SharperIron blog that I thought my readers would be interested in.

Christ’s Victory

Richard Crashaw (c. 1613-1649)

Christ, when he died,
Deceived the cross,
And on death’s side
Threw all the loss:
The captive world awaked and found
The prisoners loose, the jailor bound.

O dear and sweet dispute
’Twixt death’s and love’s far different fruit,
Different as far
As antidotes and poisons are:
By the first and fatal tree
Both life and liberty
Were sold and slain;
By this they both look up and live again.

Friday, May 09, 2008

It Is Finished

In Joshua 4:8-10 we read, “And the children of Israel did so, just as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan, as the Lord had spoken to Joshua, according to the number of the tries of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them to the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day. So the priests who bore the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that he Lord had commanded Joshua.”

When Christ died on the cross we died with Him there. We died to sin, self and the world. And yet we find that often we don’t enter into the reality of this truth. The crossing of the Israelites over the Jordan pictures this truth for us. Last time we pointed out the fact that the ark (God) went before the people. In the same way, Christ has gone before us having died and raised and ascended as our forerunner.

Here in this passage the priests stood in the midst of the Jordan until all was finished. Christ also stayed put on the cross until all was finished. The sin question has been totally dealt with on the cross. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

If you read the Joshua passage carefully you will see that there were two sets of twelve stones that were set up. One set was in the middle of the river and the other on the bank of the river. Joshua said to the people, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’ … that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is might, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

Our lives should be marked by events and things that help us remember and give us opportunity to explain to our children and grand children what God has done in our lives. If any of the people of Israel had determined to go back to wilderness living, they would have passed these piles of stones. These stones certainly would not have kept them from going back, but they would have reminded them of all God had done and made them ask themselves whether going back was a good idea.

Here are a couple of questions you need to think about. Even though you may be a Christian, have you accepted by faith the victorious position that you have in Christ? Have you left reminders of one kind or another along the way to prod your memory of what life used to be like on the other side so that going back won’t be a temptation? Are you using the opportunities you have to explain to your children and grand children what God has done for you in Christ so that they will be challenged to follow in your footsteps?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Seeing Christ as our Forerunner

In Joshua 3:11, we learn that the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is to go into the Jordan ahead of the people. When the feet of the priests entered the river, the water stopped. I think we can learn a couple of things here. First of all, by way of reminder, we’re looking at the crossing of the Jordan as a picture of the Christian taking hold of God’s promises and moving forward in the Christian life by faith. This is opposed to a Christian who wanders around in life full of doubts and fears and not living the victorious Christian life God has planned for us.

The first thing I notice here is that God, represented by the ark, goes ahead of His people. He has gone ahead and secured victory for us. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” When He is with us, there is no storm of life that can overwhelm us.

Think about this. There is a man in heaven, Jesus the God-man, who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15. He has gone before us. He successfully lived a human life and now calls us to follow Him.

Having gone ahead of us he has “disarmed principalities and powers and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:15.

The point I’m trying to make is just as the ark went ahead of the people of Israel, Christ has gone ahead of us and secured for us the blessing and victory. Read through the following verses from Hebrews 6:15-20, “And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus, God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus.”

Here he is called our forerunner. And where is this forerunner? He is behind the veil in the real Holy of Holies. The writer of Hebrews call this a sure and steadfast anchor. If He, our forerunner and representative is there, then certainly we who are in Christ will also be there with Him.