December 17, 2017

December 17, 2017

TITUS & PHILEMON

Focus Verse: and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.
Philemon 1:6

 

What a great little passage of Scripture! I like the ESV translation here, “and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” This falls in line with every other good thing that we have in Christ in God’s Kingdom Philosophy. In order to receive every good thing in Christ, we have to give every good thing in Christ.

 

Jump back to 2 Corinthians and we see it. Check out all of Jesus’ teaching on giving. Even if we stretch back into the Old Testament, this backwards Kingdom concept is everywhere in the Bible. This world will tell you that in order to receive all that you can, you need to hoard, store up and take from others, everything that you can. But in the backwards Kingdom of God, you do the exact opposite. Do you want more? You have to send what you have away. Doesn’t make any sense, does it? But that’s how God’s Kingdom works.

 

Here in Philemon, Paul applies this principle to learning about God. Your faith is made complete, you knowledge of Christ is made complete, as you share it with others. The world will tell you that to learn more about something you need to take in as much information as you can. The Kingdom of God says that to learn more about Him you have to give all of your knowledge away to others…and in the process, He will grow you even more.

 

It all goes back to this Gospel thing we’ve been talking about lately. When you put others first, when you put their needs ahead of yours, God fills in your blanks. Instead of you being left to fill them in on your own, God takes the reigns and fills them in (a whole lot better that you could ever do) for you. But the focus has to come off of yourself and get fixed on Christ Jesus, who will, in turn, turn it towards the people to whom He wants you to be a light.

 

Do you want to know more about God? Then give to others all of the knowledge that you have, put your faith into fellowship, and He will keep filling you to overflowing!

Advertisements

December 16, 2017

December 16, 2017

2 TIMOTHY

Focus Verse: The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:2

 

This is one of the best Bible verses on discipleship in God’s Word. The whole goal of walking with Christ is to replicate what He has done in us in those around us. I always joke around with our worship team that if God convicts me of something, they better buckle their seat belts because I’m gonna bring that same conviction to them in our Sunday morning devotionals. But that’s what discipleship is. When God speaks something to us, we entrust those things to those walking through life with us who will, in turn, teach those things to others. And it doesn’t just go with convicting…it can be encouraging as well (I just tend to be convicted more often because of the thickness of my skull).

 

This means that we can’t be discipling others if we aren’t spending any time with God on our own. We have to get out of this consumer mentality as a church today. I love discipling those on the worship team, but if that’s the only way they’re hearing from the Lord, there is a problem with their walk. It also means that I’m not doing a very good job at obeying what Paul is telling Timothy here.

 

We mistake teaching for discipling a lot in the church today. But you can’t disciple someone once a week in a class that lasts an hour and a half. It always makes me laugh (and it probably shouldn’t because this is a glaring hole in the church today) when I see that someone is offering a class titled “Discipleship”. Then in the description of the class it tells us how, through this class, we will be discipled. WRONG! Discipleship isn’t a communication of knowledge; it’s a communication of life. You can’t disciple someone else without doing life with that person.

 

Similarly, you’re not doing a very good job entrusting someone with something if you’re throwing some knowledge at them and then pushing them out the doors with the tip of the hat and a ‘go get ‘em tiger’ pep talk. How is that entrusting? My Father-in-law illustrated this to me the other day. He handed me a huge wad of cash (I’m actually a little afraid he may be mixed up in some shady stuff…only drug dealers and mob bosses carry that much cash) and told me he was entrusting me to get that money into the bank for him. Then he asked, “Now if I just shove you out the door and expect that cash to make it to the bank by the deadline I need it there, have I done a good job entrusting you?”

 

The answer was no. But you wouldn’t do that with your hard earned money, would you? You’d call and remind me to get that money in the bank. You might even make sure that my schedule for the day would allow me to get to the bank. If you were really serious about it, you might even offer to find a way to get me to the bank. You would do whatever you had to in order to make sure that I got that wad of cash into the bank on time.

 

So why are we so lax with the Word of God that’s been entrusted to us? God doesn’t just hand us His Word and tell us, “Good luck…hope this all makes sense,” while shoving us out the door. He has given us His Holy Spirit to help us make sense of His Word. He encourages us to read His Word, pray through His Word. He convicts us if we aren’t spending enough time in His Word or if we are applying it incorrectly or not at all. He opens our eyes to what He’s trying to teach us in our life through the lenses of His Word.

 

We must take His lead and do the same with the people we are discipling. We need to entrust them the way the Lord has entrusted us. We need to encourage, pray for, walk with, pray with, correct and rebuke…we need to do life with those whom we are entrusting with what God has entrusted us.

December 15, 2017

December 15, 2017

1 TIMOTHY

Focus Verse: It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:15-17

 

Can you imagine what would happen if we all took this approach towards ourselves when thinking about the Gospel? If you’ve ever wondered what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 5:3 when He says, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, I think that this is a really good example of what being poor in Spirit looks like.

 

Now we have to draw a careful tightrope to walk here. Let’s be clear, it takes just as much pride and self-centeredness to despise yourself as it does to be infatuated with yourself. So the answer to getting rid of your pride and moving the center of your life off of yourself is not to beat yourself up. In other words, the Gospel is NOT, “Ho-hum, I’m such a scum bag. I can’t believe what a failure I am. I’m the scummiest scum to ever be scum.” While there may be truth to there, that’s not the Gospel. The Gospel has to have both sides of that coin.

 

So yes, you are the worst of sinners, but that’s not who you are anymore since Christ got His hands on you. I’ve talked about this a lot, but the goal here is not to beat yourself up over your sin. It’s to remember that you, at your very core, are a wicked sinner who has been forgiven an unforgivable debt by a Savior who loved you at your worst.

 

To toss out my favorite definition of humility again by Rick Warren, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Paul isn’t denying the fact that he was a horrible sinner…the worst actually…but he also isn’t trying to define himself as such. He is using the enormity of his sin to point all attention off of himself and on to Jesus Christ! That is exactly what we need to let the Gospel do in us.

 

We don’t have to relive our sin or continue to think about it, we just need to remember how far Christ has brought us and how far He will continue to bring us as we trust completely in Him. Jesus is going to finish the good work He started in you (Philippians 1:6). He’s not done! And all you have to do is get the focus off of yourself and put it on Him. We do this by looking at the grace He has so freely given us while we were at our worst. We do this by admitting that we are poor in Spirit on our own and need the Holy Spirit to empower us and get us to where we could never get on our own.

 

You can’t, but Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in you!

December 14, 2017

December 14, 2017

2 THESSALONIANS

Focus Verse: Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;
2 Thessalonians 2:8

 

Do I even need to write anything about this? 2 Thessalonians 2 talks about some of the end times events, specifically the Anti-Christ or “lawless one”. I talked about this yesterday, but this verse makes what I talked about yesterday even simpler.

 

This is Satan’s future right here. It’s also your future. It also happens to be your present. Remember what I wrote about two days ago in Colossians 3? THIS isn’t your life anymore. Your life is in Christ, and one aspect of that life is in HIS assured victory! So this isn’t just your future…it’s your current standing as well.

 

YOU ARE VICTORIOUS!

 

DONE. PAID FOR. JESUS HAS WON YOUR VICTORY!

 

So stop relegating this to future events. Now yes, these are literal future events that will take place. But these future events HAVE to change your present situation.

 

Please let this sink in. The Anit-Christ…the best soldier the enemy has to throw at God, WILL BE slayed by the breath of Jesus Christ. Are you picking up on this? This isn’t trash talk. This isn’t the elementary school yard where Paul is bragging on the fact that his daddy could whip your daddy in a fight. This is GOSPEL TRUTH and it DESTROYS any attack the enemy might try to bring to your door.

 

Our glorious Savior doesn’t even have to flex a muscle. Jesus Christ, the Lamb who was slain for the sins of the world, has to exhale…and the enemy is defeated. I hope you’re getting as excited about this as I am!

 

This means that any attack of the enemy can be defeated by Jesus Christ simply exhaling…this means that if you are going through a trial right now, if Jesus hasn’t defeated it already, that He has a purpose for your pain. It might not make it hurt any less, but there is a glory that is coming that cannot be matched by this world. The same Savior who turned the humiliation and shame of death on a cross into the greatest victory this world will ever see, will turn all of your suffering and pain into glory.

 

And all He has to do is exhale!

 

What a mighty God we serve!

December 13, 2017

December 13, 2017

1 THESSALONIANS

Focus Verse: Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-2

 

I used to freak out that I had missed the rapture. Like all the time. I’d come home and my wife wouldn’t be there (I should say that my wife is the most amazing person in the world…this is why it would always freak me out that Jesus had come back and taken her and I got left behind) and I would just about lose it thinking that I had missed the rapture. I know it sounds really funny, but there was nothing funny about it at the time. It was most likely a symptom from reading too many of the Left Behind Series of books, a series of popular Christian fiction novels about the rapture. But another huge symptom was that I really didn’t understand the love of God.

 

I know that a lot of people get really into understanding the end time events and trying to narrow things down to a timeline so they know what to expect. I used to be one of those people. I bought books and had charts and even wrote out some of my own thoughts and theories about how Jesus would come back, what the great tribulation would be like and what to expect should I get left behind. I used to be like that.

 

Now I am much more concerned with walking in the Spirit. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with knowing about the end times – God wouldn’t have put it in the Bible if He didn’t want us to have some idea of what was going to happen. I just think that some people put far too much stress on trying to “figure it out” and living in fear that they are going to miss something.

 

But that’s where we miss God’s love in all of this. God isn’t a sneaky God. I know that His Word says that He will come like a thief in the night, but I believe that this is a reference for unbelievers. Those who are walking in the Spirit will know when Jesus is coming back. Do you really think the Holy Spirit, who guides us through God’s will, is going to let you sleep through your alarm clock on this one? I don’t see anywhere in Scripture that would lead me to believe God’s love would do this to His children.

 

But you can’t have that assurance unless you’re walking in His Spirit. If you’re going about things your own way, I absolutely believe God will let you continue to do so, even though it’s detrimental to your eternity. He’s not a God who is going to put a gun to your head and force you to walk with Him. I believe C.S. Lewis puts it best in his book, The Great Divorce,

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.

 

If you choose God, He will let you in on His plans. Here’s some great assurance for you today: God wants you to know His will more than you could ever want to know it! He isn’t interested in keeping secrets from you that could save you! But you have to choose to walk with Him. What is your choice? Thy will be done or my will be done?

December 12, 2017

December 12, 2017

COLOSSIANS

Focus Verse: When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Colossians 3:4

 

I’m going to get a little “out there” today. So hang on to your seats…it’s gonna get a little trippy. But if we can get past the weirdness on the surface, we find something quite amazing and liberating.

 

So here comes the boom: this isn’t life. What you are going through right now, your struggles, trials, successes…all of this – it isn’t life anymore. I told you it was going to get a little trippy. Like we just jumped into the movie Inception. Is this real? Are we just in the Matrix and this is all a computer simulated reality? What is reality? Is all of this in my head?

 

Now before we fall too far off the deep end, I’m going to cut off the questions right now because that’s not really what I mean. I’m not suggesting that what we are experiencing right now isn’t real. Neither is Paul here. What I am saying, and what I believe Paul is saying here in Colossians, is that when we give Christ authority in our lives, this life no longer defines us. Jump back to Philippians where Paul tells us in 1:21 that, for him, to live is Christ and to die is gain. What could that possibly mean? The same thing that he’s talking about here. His life is no longer defined by what happens on this earth, but what Christ has already done for him, is doing in him and will one day complete in him. That is life!

 

So here’s the good news: what you’re walking through right now doesn’t have to crush you. In fact, if your life is now hidden in Christ, there is nothing this world can throw at you that can crush you! You life, what you are defined by, who you are, is no longer tied to this world. If it is, if your life is found in something temporal on this earth, then it can, and eventually will, be taken away from you. And what do you do when this happens? You are undone. It will crush you.

 

This of the people who stand up at the altar on their wedding day and tell their soon to be spouse that they are their whole world. And perhaps they are. If this is the case though, divorce will destroy one of them if it happens. Death will rip apart the spouse who has to watch their world slip away. And this scenario is by no means rare. It happens all the time. We do the same thing with our children, our families, our jobs, our finances, our social status…maybe even a little combination of all of the above and then some. Fact of the matter is though, these things will fail you. And when they do, you will be left without a life, or at least with a life that is shattered and needs to be put back together.

 

Enter Jesus Christ, a man from Nazareth, born a few thousand years ago. If what He says about Himself, as recorded in Scripture, is true, then He (and only He) can give you life that can never be taken away. This man who claimed to be God, and backed it up by rising from the dead, was crushed. He had His life tragically cut short in order to give you new life that could never be taken; to give you hope that could never be crushed.

 

So where is your life? Is it here on this earth or is it in a place where no one can affect it, in eternity with Jesus? I really don’t want to see you crushed…God really doesn’t want to see you crushed. But you will watch these temporal things that you think are your life all fall away until you reach the point where Jesus is all you have left. I’ve been there. It’s not a fun place to be, but you find God very quickly once you reach the end of yourself.

December 11, 2017

December 11, 2017

PHILIPPIANS

Focus Verse: Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11

 

I absolutely love this passage of scripture! I just don’t think there is a better passage that shows us, in detail, exactly what it took for Jesus to come down to become Emmanuel, God with us. The humility and meekness we see in this passage from Christ exemplifies His earthly ministry and gives us a peek behind the veil on why He carried Himself the way that He did while on this earth.

 

It comes right on the tail of Paul telling the church in Philippi to make sure they don’t do anything out of selfish ambition, but to put others before themselves. This attitude it in direct conflict with our fleshly nature, but it is a requirement for Kingdom living. The Kingdom of God is about right relationships. I’ve said that before, and I’ll say it again, but it is vital that we remember this. We talked about Ephesians 5 a few days ago, and it centered around this same principle. We submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Why? Because that is what Christ did for us.

 

Jesus Christ is the only person ever to walk this planet who had every right to think of Himself more highly than others. But is that what He did? Absolutely not! He emptied Himself of His heavenly glory, made Himself vulnerable for the sole purpose that people would take advantage of that vulnerability and reject and destroy Him, and was perfectly obedient to His Father, even though the only reward He would receive for doing so was to be crushed by God and sent to hell.

 

But because of all of this, God lifted Him up. Because of His obedience and His suffering IN His obedience, God gave Jesus Christ the name above ever other name. God made the way for the name of Jesus…and we aren’t even getting into the power of His Word or anything else…just the NAME of Jesus, to bend every knee and to cause every tongue to cry out His praises for all of eternity.

 

This holds two-fold for us. First, we treat others the way that we do because of how Jesus Christ treated us. Even though He had every right to stay in heaven, to remain untouchable, unkillable, invulnerable, He CHOSE to come down. He CHOSE YOU over eternity without you. When the Father, Son and Holy Spirit discussed how to make a way for humankind to get back into their presence, Jesus decided that everything He would have to suffer was worth it for YOU. Let’s make sure we make this personal this morning. Say it to yourself if you have to. I know this is one of those things that we “mature” Christians understand, but do you “head know it” or “heart know it”? Get it down into your heart this morning. “Jesus Christ gladly gave up His life for me.” This doesn’t mean He enjoyed dying and going through all of the persecution and rejection, but it does mean that He absolutely thought you were worth it all.

 

Because of all of this, we can now treat others with that same love. Don’t you see? When you get down into the very core of who you are how much Jesus loves you – how much He gave for you – then it is absolutely impossible to keep that grace for yourself. If you really believe this, you MUST extend that same love and grace to others. If you aren’t extending that kind of love and grace to other people; if there are people who you think “don’t deserve” the Gospel, then you need to go back to this previous paragraph and remind yourself how Jesus…the Lord of ALL the universe…felt about a wicked sinner like you.

 

The second thing this holds for us: what trial are you going through right now? Jesus can relate. Here is God, who gave up everything to come to earth and suffer. He went through the most severe case of injustice, suffered rejection from His closest family and friends, endured unimaginable pain, humiliation and death, and in the end of all of this, He was ultimately rejected by God. Because of sins, God had to turn His face away when Jesus needed Him the most.

 

But then came the glory. After three days in the grave, the power of God reached down, grabbed hold of His Son, and with all of the powers of hell and Satan fighting to keep Jesus there, God ripped Him out of the pit and raised Him to glorious life! How much more do we now have the confidence that He will do the same for us! AND MORE! Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we no longer have to bear the guilt and shame of our sin.

 

How does this relate to your trials? Because of all of this, we have a reason for our suffering. For those of us in Christ, we can be guaranteed that our suffering has purpose. If Jesus Christ went through the suffering of the cross and was raised to glorious life, we can be sure that we will be raised to life at the end of our suffering as well. Jesus Christ gives purpose to suffering like no other religion can.

 

All of this can happen only because He left His place in heaven. He stepped down, made Himself vulnerable, and gave Himself to the Father’s will FOR US! What a Savior! What a God!