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Monday, June 29, 2015

Waiting for Glory to Be Revealed

    These verses in Romans 8:18-30 mention three things that are or will be groaning: creation, the believer and the Spirit.  The creation groans because of the affect of sin.  Creation was created by God and was originally called "good" by God.  But, now has experienced the groans and pains of childbirth, waiting until the glory that God will reveal when he will one day return.  Notice though that verse 18 tells us that whatever suffering we are undergoing now is not to be compared to the glory that will be revealed.
    I've wondered to myself if those who talk about global warming have ever researched these verses.  Pollution and toxins in the air are increasing and should be our concern because we are stewards of the world around us.  God gave us that responsibility as humans in the garden of Eden.  But, there is an effect on creation that exists even more than pollution or coal ash spills and it is sin.  The good news is that God is going to return one day and undo all the damage that sin and the effects of it have done on His creation.  In the meantime, christians should be at the forefront of doing what we can such as recycling to help the environment.
    The second groaning is that of the believer.  In 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 it describes the body as a tent.  A tent has a lot of limitations and is temporary.  Our bodies are also not eternal.  As we get older, it tends to wear down and cause us pain.  We bear an image, Paul says in 1 Cor 15:49 of the earthly, but we shall bear an image that is heavenly.  Part of the groaning is that our spirit longs for that day.  That day when sin and death will be no more and God will wipe away all tears Revelations 21:4.  One gret verse that I found is in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 where it tells us that the light affliction that we now suffer is producing in us something of great weight of glory.  It isn't something seen, but rather it is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is permanent is unseen.
     The third groaning is the Spirit, which intercedes for us.  This should encourage us because the Spirit always knows the will and mind of God.  His prayers are always answered because it is always according to His will.  God can bring about good even when bad things happen.  We should remember that we are called, justified and glorified.  I like how the word "glorified" is not in future tense here, but is a present tense reality. 
Related verses Col 3:4; Titus 2:13; 1 John 3:2; Jer 12:4,11, John 14:16, 17:22; 2 Cor 4:17.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Set Your Heart on Things Above

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

    The above verses are from Colossians 3:1-3.  This is one of my favorite little letters in the Bible.  Paul is writing to the church in Colossae.  At this time in history it is a small, out of the way place that Paul had never even personally been too.  He spent the first two chapters talking to them about the supremacy of Christ.  To encourage them to put Him first and not to add on to the gospel with other things.  He will say this a variety of ways in the different letters he writes, but here he simply tells them to "set your hearts on things above."
     I spend a lot of time talking to my clients at work about the mind.  Our mind is a powerful thing and focusing on positive things can change and affect our mood.  To set your heart to me is something perhaps even more powerful because our heart is the seat of who we are, where our hope is and where our aspirations and dreams are.  In the world, the media seems to suggest that our dream should be wealth, power, prestige or a combination of all of these or more.  But, as a believer, I am to invite Christ into my dreams, aspirations, goals and allow him to change them all for the better.  In fact, if they don't please him I am to give those things up.  That is part of what it means for Him to be Lord.
      To me, it also means that it should change my definition of what it means to be a success.  The world has a definition of that and it is mainly seen as something external.  I can just a successful person by the Lexus or big car they drive or money they have or where they live.  This also seems to be promoted by the health and wealth, prosperity gospel of today.  But, the truth is that many of the believers in the Bible and even Paul himself would have been considered poor.  In fact, the moment that Paul is writing this is that he is in prison in Rome.   Jesus himself relied on the gifts of strangers to fund his ministry and had very little in terms of material possessions.
      Not just that, but it means to change my definition of what is important.  Its the difference between focusing on what is eternal verses what is temporary.  Money is temporary.  Our society is in love with and worships money.  And we have never as a nation been in more debt, both personal and corporate.  We are also in debt as a nation in spiritual leadership and strength.  Our churches are weak and dying and lacking in power.   That is because our priorities as a country and as a church are in the wrong place.  We are to be set apart and sanctified, not the same as the world.  People are what is important.  To love God and to love others and to remember that the souls of people are eternal.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

walking in newness of the Spirit

    Continuing on with our study in Romans 7:1-13, Paul is going to talk about the newness of the Spirit.  Paul begins again with another rhetorical question in verse 1 "Do you not know that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?"  Of course, they knew this.  But, Paul wants to draw a metaphor here.  Interestingly, he uses the relationship between a husband and wife.  His illustration is that the husband and wife around bound together as long as they are alive.  But, if the husband dies then the wife is permitted to marry again.
     The main idea here is not to teach about human marriage, but about the law.  The law has impact as long as the ones who made it are alive.  But, the believer has a new relationship with the law because of his or her union with Christ.  We have, in a sense, died when Christ died and the law is not something we are under any longer.  We are united to another, the person of Christ.  That is why if you read through the book of Ephesians you see the words "in Christ" so many times.  When he died we died and when he rose so also did we.  His victory is our victory over sin and death.
    Paul goes on to say that this does not mean that the law is evil.  The law is what makes us aware of sin.  You see this idea also in Galatians 3:24 where it says, "Therefore the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith."  It is our tutor in that it teaches us our need for Christ and our sinfulness.  It doesn't make us right with God, though the law is holy.  It makes us aware of our need.  It is faith that justifies.
    The one who died also raised himself out of the grave and therefore we are joined to Him.  In verse 4, it says why we were raised, "that we might bear fruit for God."  We were created with a purpose.  Not just to get a paycheck, but for the purpose of bearing fruit.  Before this was impossible since the flesh cannot please God.  But, now we are able, by his Spirit to bear fruit for Him. And this is important for us to realize.  That everyday gives us opportunities, both big and small to be a witness to be used for His purposes.
    The world tells us to chart our own course, to dream our own dreams, to go where we want.  But, we need to remember that we were created for purposes greater than our own.  In Colossians 1, it tells us that Jesus created all things out of nothing for His own purposes.  It would be wrong for us not to consider, in our own world, at work and at play, what purpose and gifts we have from him that he might use for His own glory.  I like how it says this in Ephesians 2:10 "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Free to Choose Romans 6:12-23

   Romans 6:17-18  But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."

     This seems to be one of the major themes of scripture when you look at it.  Paul makes it clear by the way that he speaks about sin.  That the believer is the one who truly has a choice between either living in sin or living in righteousness.  Before we did not have a choice because we only had the flesh.  The flesh is hostile to God and quite incapable of following after God.  But, the believer is now no longer under the chains of law.  We have to opportunity to make better choices to live for God.  We are to use the rest of our time on earth to do just that and to live for God and not for our flesh.

     When you do a study of the idea of being free from sin you find this idea both in Jesus words and also in Peter an Paul's writing.  In John 8:32 it says, "and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."  The again in 1 Peter 2:16 it says that we are to act as free men, to use your freedom to be bondslaves of God.  Galatians 5:1 says that it was for freedom that Christ set us free.  And again in Galatians 5:13 you were called to freedom, therefore, we are not to use this as an opportunity to sin, but in love serve one another.

     You see this idea going back and forth, freedom and slavery.  To Paul, we are always slaves, either to God or to sin.  The end result is either sin resulting in death or God resulting in righteousness and sanctification and eternal life.  The believer has a choice who he is enslaved to.  That is the mark of someone who is truly free.  The truly free person has choices where the slave does not have any choices.  The christian wears chains by choice and not because he or she has to.

     There is a story about elephants, how when they are little they are chained on their leg and a stake is put into the ground.  The little elephant pulls and pulls and eventually gives up trying to get away.  Even after the adult elephant has grown it will no longer try to get away even though it easily could because it has been conditioned to think it cannot get away.   For the believer, we can be conditioned to think that sin is still master over us and we cannot get away.  But, we are actually no longer under the bondage of sin.  We now have a freedom because of what Christ has done to give up those sins, to repent and walk away.  But, we can chose to be under bondage and to act enslaved.  The sad part about this, is that millions of christians still act as though they are enslaved.  They believe the lie of the old chains that say we cannot get away and the believer stops trying.  When God has not designed us to live that way any longer.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Romans 6:1-11

      In my study in the books of Romans, I have come to Romans 6:-11.  Paul begins in verses 1-2 with a rhetorical question "Should we sin more that grace might increase?"  This is apparently what some have accused Paul and Christians of teaching.  Paul gives the reason of why we must live a different way by explaining that since the believer has died with Christ then they have become a new person.
      The idea of death and resurrection and new life is prominent in this passage.  Before we were slaves of sin and unable to please God by our own actions.  Now, Paul says that we have been baptized or immersed in His death.  We are according to verse 4, to walk in newness of life.  The word newness is kainotes which means a new state of life in which the Holy Spirit places in us to produce a new person.
      There are a number of passages which talk about the  newness of life that God calls the believer to.  In Galatians 5:19-24, Paul compares the deeds of the flesh to those of the spirit.  Paul concludes this section with the words "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."  This is also repeated in verses such as Galatians 2:20; 5:24; Col 3:9,10; 1 Peter 2:24; Romans 4:25 and Galatians 5:13.
     Paul sees us as a slave to either sin or righteousness.  This is the choice that we now have.  We can cloth ourselves in the new man and renew our minds in truth.  Or the believer can still walk according to the old man and live a life that is in rebellion to the new life he gives us.  That is implied by the command to "put on" the new man.  We have a choice each day about what we are enslaved to, unlike when we were lost and had no choice about it.
    The irony is that even though we are always slaves to something, either righteousness or sin, we are never truly free until we are in Christ.  We are free in the sense that we are doing and living for the purpose of which we were created.  This is what led Jesus to say in John 8:31-32 "Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed in Him, "If you abide in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
     Paul concludes this section in Romans 6:11 by saying, "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus."  This is what Paul considered himself everyday, as dead to the old man and nature and alive to God.  It was Christ living through Him to accomplish his will.  He was not denying that there was an old nature, but he was surrendering that old nature and putting on the new nature.  This is the battle of the believer each day, something that Paul will go into more detail as we go into Romans 6 and 7.