Archive for the ‘Encouragements’ Category:

The Exaltation of Jesus

After Jesus was crucified, he arose from the grave on the third day.  He was with His disciples for forty days and then he ascended into heaven.  On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and they miraculously spoke in tongues.  The apostle Peter spoke to the crowd about Jesus.  Acts 2:31-36 “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.  Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.  For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’  Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  God has made Jesus the Lord and the Christ, the anointed one.  Jesus is at the right hand of God the Father.  The right hand of an individual of power and authority was traditionally identified as a place of honor.  This communicates that God has honored Jesus and given him power and authority.

How exalted is Christ?  Ephesians 1:20-21 “Which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.”  Christ has been exalted far above all principality, power, might and dominion.  Not just a little above them, but far above them all.

The exaltation of Jesus Christ is foretold in prophesy.  Isaiah 9:6-7 “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”  Look at the name He has received:  Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  How great is His name!  Daniel 7:13-14 “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!  He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”  He has supreme authority, He rules over all peoples, and they should serve Him.  His kingdom will never be destroyed.

The apostle John describes what he saw in heaven.  Revelation 5:11-13 “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’  And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:  ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!’”  Jesus is the Lamb.  He has received power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and blessing.

Jesus is now reigning as King in heaven.  He is described as Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14).  In the end, Jesus will give the kingdom back to God the Father.  1 Corinthians 15:24-28 “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.  For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’  But when He says ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted.  Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”

God exalted Jesus because Jesus first humbled Himself and became obedient in dying on the cross.  Philippians 2:5-11 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

My encouragement to you is to bow your knee before Jesus in worship and submission.  Serve Him.  Confess that Jesus Christ is your Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The Fruit of the Spirit

As a Christian, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, since the Spirit dwells in you.  Romans 8:9 “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”  You should be led by the Spirit.  Romans 8:14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”  You should walk in the Spirit.  Galatians 5:16 “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”  There are times in each of our lives when we do not follow the leading of the Spirit; we do not walk in the Spirit.  But what God has done for you should cause you to love Him and desire to walk in the Spirit.

When the Holy Spirit of God lives in you and you walk in the Spirit, you will naturally bear the fruit of the Spirit in your life.  Galatians 5:22-25 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  Let us look at the fruit you should be bearing in your life.

Love.  You will love God because He first loved you.  1 John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”  You demonstrate your love for God by keeping His commandments.  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.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  With this kind of love you will love your family, your brothers and sisters in Christ, your neighbors and even your enemies.  By walking in the Spirit, you will bear love in your life.

Joy.  You have joy in God and in Jesus Christ because of their love and grace to you.  Romans 5:11 “And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”  Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”  You rejoice in your salvation and in your inheritance in heaven.  1 Peter 1:3-7 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.”  In spite of your trials in life, you have joy.  By walking in the Spirit, you will bear joy in your life.

Peace.  You have peace with God because of the sacrifice of Jesus.  Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  You have peace in your heart because you know that God is for you and loves you.  John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  In spite of trials and persecution, you have peace within because of your trust in God.  You have peace with all men.  Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” By walking in the Spirit, you have peace in your life.

Longsuffering.  You demonstrate patience in your life.  You don’t give up on your Christian walk nor on your relationships with others in spite of difficulties and trials.  Kindness.  You have goodness of heart and are sympathetic or helpful in nature.  Goodness.  Instead of working ill to your neighbor, you act beneficially towards him.  Faithfulness.  You have a firm conviction in God and Jesus Christ; you do not waver in your faith and trust in God.  Gentleness.  You are mild in manner and disposition and are easy to be approached and talked to.  Self-control.  You exercise restraint over your impulses, emotions, and desires.  By walking in the Spirit, you have longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in your life.

Perhaps you confess that you are not bearing all of the fruit of the Spirit in your life.  Do not give up.  My encouragement to you is for you to continue to walk in the Spirit and let the Spirit do His work within you.  God is not through working on you.  Philippians 2:13 “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

Works of the Flesh

As a Christian, you are to walk in the Spirit and not to follow the lusts of the flesh.  Galatians 5:16-17 “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”  While your emphasis is to walk in the Spirit, you should also be aware of the works of the flesh.  A banker rejects counterfeit currency because it contains characteristics that are different from genuine currency.  In the same way, you need to be aware of the works of the flesh so that you can reject them.  You should also be able to recognize a counterfeit Christian who is walking according to the flesh.  Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  Let us look at the definition of each of these works of the flesh so that you can recognize such actions.

The works of the flesh include sins of sensuality.  An adulterer is one who has sexual intercourse with the spouse of another.  The scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery.  John 8:4 “They said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.’”  Jesus taught in Mark 10:11-12 “So He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.   And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’”  He also taught in Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  Fornication is any illicit sexual intercourse.  It may include adultery but typically includes all other illicit sexual activities besides adultery.  It might include indulging in pornography.  Uncleanness is the opposite of physical or moral purity; it could include almost anything that is contrary to the righteousness of God.  Lewdness is excessiveness, licentiousness, or absence of restraint or decency.  There may be overlap between adultery, fornication, uncleanness and lewdness.  They all describe sins of sensuality and fleshly indulgence.

The works of the flesh include spiritual sins of false religion.  Idolatry is the worshipping of idols.  It includes the worship of some god rather than worshipping God the Father and Jesus Christ.  The apostle Paul describes covetousness as idolatry (Colossians 3:5) since covetousness makes money or possessions into a god that is worshipped.  Sorcery or witchcraft can include the use of power gained from the assistance of evil spirits.  In includes divining, fortune telling, incantations, magic and use of psychedelic drugs.  Idolatry and sorcery give worship and allegiance to something other than God.

The works of the flesh include sins against your fellow man.  Hatred is hostility towards another.  Contention is debate, disputes, lawsuits, strive or variance with others rather than working for peace and harmony.  Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”  Jealousy is strife to excel at the expense of another.  Outbursts of wrath are turbulent passions producing all sorts of conflict and disharmony.  Selfish ambition is strife, contention, and division motivated by a desire of one to have it his way.  Dissensions are divisions or parties.  Heresies are divisions based upon personal opinions and desire rather than the truth.  Envy is displeasure when one sees that another has success or some advantage.  Murder is the destruction of human life.  The apostle John equates hatred to murder.  1 John 3:15 “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”   Hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy and murders are all contrary to the love we should have for one another.

The works of the flesh include sins of intemperance.  Drunkenness is being intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol.  Today there are other drugs that produce similar effects and control over the mind of an individual.  Revelries are parties, feasts, or riots appealing to the lustful, sinful nature.

“And the like”.  The above list of works of the flesh is not all-inclusive.  People seem to invent new ways of satisfying their lusts of the flesh.  They follow the slogan of “if it feels good, do it.”  All of this is contrary to God’s way and to walking in the Spirit.  Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’”  As a Christian, you are to deny yourself the works of the flesh.

My encouragement to you is to recognize the works of the flesh which would keep you from inheriting the kingdom of God.  Instead, deny yourself and walk in the Spirit.

Walk In The Spirit

You and I are physical people living in a physical world and yet we are called to walk in the Spirit.  Galatians 5:16-17 “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”  There is a battle between your spiritual side and your fleshly side.  As a born again believer, you love God and want to please Him in all things.  But sometimes the fleshly side of you may be strong and you do not do the things that you wish.  Jesus, your High Priest, understands what you are going through.  Hebrews 4:15-16 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  When the desires of the flesh are strong, the writer of Hebrews encourages you to boldly come to God in prayer through Jesus Christ to obtain mercy and find grace to help you in your time of need.

What does it mean to “walk in the Spirit”?  Romans 8:5 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” To walk in the Spirit means to have your mind set on the things of the Spirit.  Since the Spirit desires the things of God, to walk in the Spirit would then be to set your mind on the things of God and do what pleases Him.  That should be your goal in life.  Here are some of the things that the Bible tells you are the things of God.  Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” John 4:23-24 “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.”  From the few preceding passages, to walk in the Spirit would be to walk in love, to do what you can to lead the lost to salvation, to do justly or walk righteously, to love mercy, to walk humbly before God, and to worship Him in spirit and truth.  This is not a complete list.  To walk in the Spirit would be to have your mind set on finding and following the things of God. 

To walk according to the flesh means to have your mind set on the things of the flesh.  It is a selfish walk.  You do what you desire.  Romans 8:6-8 “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”  To set you mind on the things of the flesh would be to continually think about the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, your desires of the flesh, your desires of the eye, and things you take pride in.  The results are the works of the flesh.  Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

The admonishment is to walk in the Spirit and not to walk according to the flesh.  This is easy to say, but not always easy to accomplish.  Maybe you see the failures in your life as a Christian when you walked according to the flesh and you become discouraged.  Seek help and leading from the Holy Spirit.  Romans 8:13-14 “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”  Seek mercy, grace and help from God.  We previously read Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  If you try to defeat the flesh with your own strength, you will fail.  You need the help from God to walk in the Spirit.

The evidence that you are walking in the Spirit is that you bear the fruit of the Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-26 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  My encouragement to you is to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires and instead walk in the Spirit.

The Rich

It is easy to want to be rich.  You could buy whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it.  You could purchase many of the pleasures in life.  As a rich person you wouldn’t have to worry about paying bills or buying food or where you are going to live.  Some of the important people of the Bible were rich.  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were rich.  Kings David and Solomon were rich.  I suspect that Mary, Martha and Lazarus were rich.  It is not wrong to be rich. 

But Jesus said that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 19:23-26 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’  When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’  But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”  It is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom because entering the kingdom requires faith and trust in God.  A typical rich man trusts in his riches.  Whenever a problem comes in life, the rich man uses his riches to solve the problem.  He doesn’t see a need to trust in God.  The poor man must trust in the Lord.  James 2:5 “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”  God wants you to trust in Him rather than to trust in yourself or your riches.  The poor man must trust in the Lord because he doesn’t have any riches to depend upon.

There is no strict definition of who is rich.  I have found that people often don’t consider themselves rich because they can look at someone else who has more.  The one who has more is rich.  The person without a house considers the person with a house to be rich.  The person without a car considers the person with a car as rich.  The person without a savings account in the bank considers the person with a savings account as rich.  And so it goes.  We compare ourselves to others.  They are rich and I am not.  But perhaps you should turn that around and realize that compared to someone else, you are rich.  If you have any possessions at all, you are rich compared to one who has nothing.  And if you are rich, there are things you must be careful to avoid.  The apostle Paul instructed Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.”  If you are richer than someone else, it is easy to be proud.  Somehow you might consider yourself better than those who have less than you do.  Do not be haughty because you have more.  You are not better in God’s eyes because you have more.  He is the one who has given you what you have.  1 Corinthians 4:6b-7 “That none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.  For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” 

It is somewhat natural to trust that your possessions will shield you from the problems in life.  Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  You can lose your possessions due to moth or rust or thieves or any of a number of other reasons.  Trust in God rather than in your possessions.  Don’t make the possessions of this life your treasure; lay up for yourself treasures in heaven.

“Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”  Seek to be rich in good works.  Use your riches to help with the needs of those who have less.  Be ready to give and to share.  Have compassion on those who have needs that you can supply.  If you do, you will be laying up for yourself treasures in heaven.

Compared to someone who has less, you are rich.  Do not be proud or trust in your riches.  Instead, be rich in good works.

Liberty and Love

The first Christians were Jews just as Jesus was a Jew and His apostles were Jewish.   Then God gave His Holy Spirit to Cornelius and his household to prove that Gentiles were also accepted and could receive forgiveness of their sins through Jesus Christ (Acts 10).  Afterwards, some Jewish Christians insisted that the Gentiles had to keep the Law of Moses to include being circumcised.   The apostles and elders met in Jerusalem (Acts 15) and concluded that the gentiles were not required to keep the Law; they were free from the Law with all of its regulations, commandments and ceremonies.  In discussing this fact, the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:13-14 “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Today, you have been called to liberty.  You are free from the Law.  You are free to eat all kinds of animals.  1 Timothy 4:4-5 “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”  You are free from being required to offer animal sacrifices for your sins.  You are free from being required to observe the three annual feasts.  You are free from being required to be circumcised.  There are many, many rules and regulations in the Law from which you are free and are not required to know and faithfully observe.  But that doesn’t mean that you are at liberty to indulge in your fleshly desires.  You are not at liberty to be sexual immoral or be a glutton or a drunkard or a greedy person.  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”  You were washed, sanctified, and justified and you are now a slave to righteousness.  Romans 6:18 “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

 “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”  In contrast to being required to keep the Law, through love we serve one another.  God the Father and Jesus Christ are examples of serving you through love.  Jesus gave the commandment to love.  John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.   By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  You are also taught to love your neighbor and your enemy.  Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”  Husbands are to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25) and wives are to love their husbands (Titus 2:4).  The Christian emphasis is on love.

The Apostle Paul also told the Roman church that love fulfills the Law.  Romans 13:8-10 “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”  The Ten Commandments are the foundation of the Law.  The first three commandments are to have no other gods before God, to not make and worship any image, and to not take the name of the Lord in vain.  If you love God, you will naturally not do any of these things.  The fifth commandment is to honor your father and mother; if you love them, you will honor them.  The sixth commandment is to not murder; if you love your neighbor and your enemy you will not murder them.  The seventh commandment is to not commit adultery; if you love your spouse you will refrain from adultery.  The eighth commandment is to not steal; if you love your neighbor, you will not take anything that belongs to him.  The ninth commandment is to not bear false witness against your neighbor; again, if you love your neighbor you will only speak truth about him.  The tenth commandment is to not covet anything of your neighbor; again, if you love your neighbor you will be happy that he has whatever possession he has and you will not covet it. 

Interestingly, the fourth commandment is to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; I do not see this commandment to be fulfilled by love.  Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27).  Perhaps the Sabbath was given to man as an act of love by God.

You have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  As a Christian, you are commanded to love.  Let love be your emphasis in life – love for God, neighbor, brother and sister in Christ, spouse, and your enemy.

The Fight of Faith

The apostle Paul gave the following admonition to Timothy.  1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”  Just like Timothy, you are in a fight of faith. 

You are in this fight because you have faith.  You believe that there is a God who created everything (Romans 1:19-21).  You believe that God sent His son into the world so that you can be saved from your sin and receive eternal life (John 3:16).  You believe that since Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead that you also will be resurrected after this life (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).  You have faith and you are willing to live your life being a follower of Jesus.

It is a fight of faith because the Devil wants you to lose your faith and thus lose the fight.  You can lose your faith by having doubts.  That is similar to the tactic that the serpent used in the Garden of Eden.  Gen 3:1-5 “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’  And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’’  Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.  For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”  The serpent wanted the woman to doubt what God had said.  The popular media today addresses evolution as if it were a fact; this can cause you to doubt that God created everything.  Today, many doubt the truths about God and Jesus that are found in the Bible.  Even if you believe the Bible, you can doubt that the promises given by God are really true.  “Does He really love me?  Will He give me strength to overcome?  Is He really with me in my trials?  Do all things work together for my good?  Does He really answer prayers?  Is there really a resurrection and a judgement day?”  Such doubts can cause you to lose your fight of faith.

You can lose your faith because of tribulation or persecution.  In explaining the parable of the sower, Jesus gave the following description.  Mark 4:16-17 “These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness;  and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.”  Life is filled with problems.  Maybe some tragedy or difficult situation has come into your life.  Hardships in life can cause you to lose your faith, stumble and lose the fight.  Instead, strengthen your faith.  Problems should be a reason to strengthen your faith and trust in God.  He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

You can weaken your faith by being caught up in the things of the world.  In further explanation of the parable of the sower, Jesus gave the following.  Mark 4:18-19 “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”  It is easy to be like everyone else in the world and get caught up in the struggle of life.  Maybe it is just earning a living or maybe it is trying to get material comforts or possessions or pleasures.  The desire for the things of this life can be very strong.  While you may not totally lose your faith, the things of this world can make you unfruitful for God.  As a result, you will at best be providing a weak fight of faith.

If you are fighting a strong fight of faith, what does it look like?  You strengthen your faith through study and meditation on God’s word (Romans 10:17).  You research the lies of the world to be ready to give an answer for your faith (1 Peter 3:15).  You pray often to receive God’s guidance and blessing.  You trust in His promises.  You deny yourself the lusts of your flesh, the lusts of your eyes and pride (1 John 2:15-17) and instead humble yourself before God and seek his righteousness.  The writer of the book of Hebrews describes the men and women of faith in the 11th chapter.  Then he states in Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Lay aside every weight that may be slowing you down; lay aside the sin that ensnares you; fight the good fight with endurance.  The apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”  Paul had fought the fight of faith to the end of his life and was eager to receive the inheritance and reward promised by God.

Your faith is precious (2 Peter 1:1).  Don’t lose it or let it grow weak.  Fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life.

Grace, Love, and Communion

The apostle Paul wrote thirteen of the books of the New Testament.  These books are actually letters that he wrote to churches or to individuals.  In each of these letters, he closes with a blessing that he gives to the church or individual.  A typical blessing is like the one in Romans 16:20b “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  Amen.”  However, I am greatly impressed with the blessing he gave at the end of the second Corinthian letter.  2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”  Let us analyze this blessing.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  It is good to meditate about the grace that God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ have for you.  Grace is the friendly disposition that God and Jesus have, demonstrated in their loving-kindness, mercy and blessings given to you.  Grace is sometimes described as unmerited favor.  What if God was not a gracious God?  What if instead He was always your enemy and had nothing kind or good to give you?  If that were the case, there would be no salvation, no hope, and no joy.  But praise be to God and Jesus Christ that they are full of grace towards you.  Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”  Even though mercy is a very important part of grace, you must not think that grace is limited to mercy.  1 Corinthians 1:4-7 “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  You are enriched in everything through God’s grace.  Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Through grace, you find help in your time of need.  2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”  God’s grace gives you everything you need to accomplish every good work.

“The love of God.”  Closely associated with grace is the love that God has for you.  The greatest scripture that tells us of God’s love is John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  Romans 5:5-8 “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  The extent of God’s love is demonstrated by His love to you when you were sinful and separated from Him.  Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  The relationship between God and you is described as the relationship between a loving father and His child.  1 John 3:1-3 “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”   Nothing can separate you from the love of God.  Romans 8:38-39 “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“The communion of the Holy Spirit.”  The word translated communion can also be translated fellowship as in Philippians 2:1-2 “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”  As a Christian, you have the Spirit of God in you.  Romans 8:9 “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”  As a child of God, you should be led by the Spirit.  Romans 8:14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”  The Spirit helps you in your weaknesses and intercedes for you.  Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”  You have fellowship with the Holy Spirit; you have the Spirit within you and that Spirit leads you in your life.  How wonderful to have the Spirit of almighty God within you and leading you!

The blessing given by the apostle Paul to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 13:14 is the ultimate blessing.  Nothing can be greater than to have these great blessings from Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit.  Now I send these blessings to you.  May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you always. Amen.  Be greatly encouraged and filled with joy.

Man of God

Moses was called the man of God (Deuteronomy 33:1).  He was known for communicating with God, being close to God, and doing what God told him to do.  Samuel was known as a man of God as well as the prophets Elijah and Elisha.  God may not speak to you directly as He did to Moses or the prophets, but you can also be known as a man of God or woman of God.  Every true follower of Jesus Christ should be known as a man or woman of God.

You can be considered a man or woman of God because you belong to God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Romans 14:8 “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”  It is easy for you to think that you are your own person and you can do whatever you want.  You can pursue whatever career or occupation or position in life you desire.  You can follow whatever pleasure you desire.  But as a Christian, you belong to God.  He bought you at the price of the blood of Jesus.  You are therefore not your own and you are a man or woman of God because you are His.  You are now living for Him.

You should be considered a man or woman of God because of how you live your life.  In 1 Timothy 6, the apostle Paul was instructing Timothy that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  He continues with the following exhortation in 1 Timothy 6:11 “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”  I submit that if you truly pursue these things that you will be a true man or woman of God like Timothy.  So let us briefly look at each of these.

As a man or woman of God, you pursue righteousness.  God made you righteous when you believed in Jesus Christ, you were born again, and you sins were washed away in baptism.  Now you are a slave of righteousness.  Romans 6:18-19 “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.  I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.”  How do you know the righteousness that you should pursue?  The scriptures tell you.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  As a Christian you should use the inspired scriptures and apply them to your life to become the complete man or woman of God.

As a man or woman of God, you pursue godliness.  Godliness means piety, which is reverence and devotion to God.  It describes an attitude that is centered on God and does that which is well-pleasing to Him.  You pursue faith.  You trust in God and His promises regardless of the trials that come your way; you walk by faith with anticipation of eternal life with Him.  You pursue love.  You decide to love all those around you; you love your family, your brethren, your friends, your neighbors, and even your enemies.  You pursue patience.  You are longsuffering with those around you that try your patience as well as being longsuffering in the trials in your life that would attempt to take your joy.  You pursue gentleness.  You decide to react with gentleness to all and make it easy for any to approach you whether it is to correct you, ask for your advice, or share what is happening in their life.  “O man of God … pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).

When Jesus was twelve years old, His parents took Him to Jerusalem.  After several days they left to return home and discovered that Jesus was not with them.  They found Him in the temple, discussing with the teachers of the law.  His mother reprimanded Him.  Luke 2:49 “And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’”  In the same way, the man or woman of God is busy doing the Father’s business.  You have a choice in life.  You can seek to do what you want or what God wants.  The man or woman of God chooses to do what God wants and follows wherever He leads. Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

My encouragement to you is that you be a man or woman of God.  Remember that you belong to God.  Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.  Be about His business.

Crucified With Christ

The apostle Paul wrote in 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.”  I encourage you to have this same pattern for your life.

The crucifixion of Jesus upon the cross is central to the belief of every Christian.  Because of His obedience to God the Father and His love for you, Christ gave Himself to die upon the cross.  The apostle states that he saw himself crucified with Christ.  That means that he died to his old life just as Christ died upon the cross.  The old nature of sin and following fleshly desires was put to death.  In the book of Romans, the apostle similarly describes this spiritual death as dying to sin and being baptized into Christ’s death.  Romans 6:1-4 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”  You should see yourself spiritually crucified with Christ and buried with Him through baptism into death.  Christ’s physical death is a pattern for your spiritual death.  Just as Christ died so that He could be resurrected from the dead and go to reign in heaven, even so you must die spiritually so that you can be born again and walk in newness of life as a follower of Jesus Christ.  Romans 6:11-14 “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  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 to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”  You are crucified with Christ.

Christ now must live in you.  Romans 8:9-11 “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.  And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”  If you do not have the Spirit of Christ living in you, you are not His.  His Spirit gives life to you.  Christ must live within you.  2 Corinthians 13:5-6 “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.  But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.”  Is there evidence in your life that Jesus Christ is in you?  Are you bearing the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)?  Christ lives in you.

The life which you now live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you.  Living by faith not only means believing that Jesus is the Son of God, but it means that you are His follower.  Luke 9:23  “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’”  You deny yourself; you obey His commands; you follow His precepts; you follow His example; you trust in His promises.  The life you now live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God.

Jesus loved you so much that He gave Himself for you.  Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”  Now you want to please Him because He first loved you.  1 John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”  Your service to God is not because you have to; it is not because of what others will think about you; it is not because of the lake of fire that awaits those who reject God’s way.  You service to God is because you love Him because He first loved you.

My encouragement to you is to see yourself crucified with Christ.  You no longer live, but Christ lives in you.  The life which you now live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you.