Christ in You

Wednesday, June 29, 2016, 5:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Colossians 1:15-29 (ESV).

He is Preeminent (vv. 15-20)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

“He,” in this passage of scripture, is referring to Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (v. 14). He is God, he was with God in the beginning, and all things which were made were made by him, i.e. he is our creator. He is completely sovereign and supreme over all which he created, including he is over all kings, kingdoms, rulers and governments on this earth. He is also the one who determines who is going to rule what countries, too. He sets (establishes) rulers in their places (See: Ro. 13:1; Jn. 19:11; Dn. 2:21; 4:17). He even gives us rulers who are evil, because they serve his ultimate purposes for our lives, oftentimes to draw us to (or closer to) God.

So, if you are one who plans to vote (in America) in this election, then know that, no matter how you vote, God is still going to be the one who establishes rulers in their places, and he will be the one ultimately to decide who ends up ruling over us. As well, I believe there is no real difference between the political right and the political left. I believe they are just two sides of the same whole, and they are both headed the same direction, which is to the rule of the beast (See: Rev. 13) and the one world government and one world religion. This is the direction the world is headed, and it is going there fast. But just know that God/Jesus is in control over all things, and that all which takes place will serve his purposes, mainly to draw people to faith in Jesus Christ and to revive his adulterous church, I believe.

Jesus Christ is also head over the church, his body. Now the church is not a building. It is not a business of human origin, nor is it a corporation under the headship of any human government. That does describe the institutional church, but that is not the true church. We don’t “go” to church. We “are” the church, although we do go to gatherings of the church. So, attending church merely means we are gathering together with fellow believers in Jesus Christ for the study of the Word, for fellowship, for prayer and for communion, no matter the location or the day. Yet, many who profess the name of Jesus have turned the church into something God did not intend. They made it into a human business, marketed just like any other business, and with the government (in America) as head in place of Christ. So, God is calling his true church to separate themselves from what is not of him so that he is her only head for, I believe, the institutional church is under the judgment of God.

Reconciled to God (vv. 21-23)

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

To be reconciled means to be reunited with God. When God first created humans, they had not yet sinned, so they enjoyed perfect fellowship with God. Yet, when they did sin, that separated them from God, and thus all humans have been born into sin and are separate from God, and we come up short of attaining God’s divine approval (See Ro. 3:23). So, God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ to the earth to die on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that when he died, our sins died with him and were buried with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over Satan, sin, hell and death for you and for me. Through his death and resurrection, he provided the way for us to be reconciled (reunited) with God. Through faith in Jesus Christ we can be reunited with God and can have eternal life with God both now and forevermore. Amen!

What that means for us, though, is so much more than just being forgiven of our sins and having the hope of heaven when we die. When Jesus died, he put our sin to death on a cross so that when we come to him in faith we might also die to sin and be resurrected with him to newness of life. Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Being reconciled to God means we don’t live like we lived before. Instead of walking in the flesh and doing evil deeds, we are now empowered by God to walk according to the Spirit, and to no longer gratify the evil desires of our flesh. Jesus reconciled us to God so that we might live holy lives, pleasing to God – all in the power and working of his Spirit now living within us, and not in our own flesh.

So, how is this accomplished? Well, for one, we can’t just pray a prayer and then be congratulated that we are now free from all punishment and that heaven is our eternal destination. It doesn’t work like that. Coming to faith in Jesus Christ means we die with Christ to sin and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” We walk by faith, and not by sight. And, that faith is continuous, not a one-time experience which guarantees heaven no matter what. In John 3:16 we read that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes (believing) in him might not perish but have eternal life. That word “believe” is present tense, which means we must believe today and tomorrow and the next day and so on and so forth until the day we die, or we are taken up to heaven.

Mature in Christ (vv. 24-29)

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

We were not born just to die. We were born to live. In other words, we are not born of the Spirit of God just so we can go to heaven one day. We were born from above in order that we might glorify God with our lives, that we may live in him and him in us. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ we are crucified with Christ so that we (our flesh) no longer live, but now Christ lives in us, and the life we now live, we live by faith in Jesus Christ, who gave his life up for us.

Christ in us, via the Holy Spirit, encourages, strengthens, and empowers us to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to God. As we submit to the cross each day, and surrender our wills to the will of God for our lives, we continually give over lordship of our lives to Jesus Christ so that he can live out his life through us. And, this is why Jesus died, that he might cleanse our hearts from sin, come in to dwell within us, and to live his life out through us, not just to give us an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die. A saved life should be a Christ-filled life submitted to the cross of Christ, and surrendered to Christ’s Lordship.

Jesus also did not die so that we would remain spiritual infants all our lives. He died that we might mature in Christ – in faith, love, and in purpose. We are to continue in the faith, “stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.” We are to grow in Christ through sitting at his feet each day, listening to him speak his words to our hearts, and via obeying what his word teaches us. Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). If we continue to live sinful lifestyles, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the misdeeds of the flesh, we will live eternally with God (See: Ro. 8:1-14; cf. Lu. 9:23-25).

So, if you are counting on a prayer you prayed one day to get to heaven, think again. We must continue in Christ, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel, and we must daily be putting to death the deeds of the flesh and putting on Christ and his armor. This is not to say we must live in sinless perfection, but lack of perfection should never be used as an excuse for continued and willful sin against God. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, so let his Spirit today crucify you with Christ in death to sin, and resurrect you to newness of life in Christ, now lived to his righteousness.

Near the Cross
Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane

Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

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Because of The Hope

Tuesday, June 28, 2016, 6:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Colossians 1:1-14 (ESV).

By the Will of God (vv. 1-2)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

By the will of God, all of us who are in Christ Jesus by faith are called of God to specific tasks (assignments, roles, responsibilities, and/or parts of the body). The Holy Spirit has given each one of us spiritual gifts to be used for the edification (improvement, instruction) and encouragement (inspiration, motivation) of the body of believers in Jesus Christ. We are also called to be holy (set apart from the world, because we are becoming like Christ). And, we are called to be the Lord’s servants and witnesses, his light to the world, and to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. So, each and every one of us, as parts of the Lord’s body, are to be Jesus to the world and to the church in life, in speech and in action.

The Word of Truth (vv. 3-8)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

For us to truly believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, and as Savior of our lives, the Father in heaven must first of all draw us to Christ. In one way or another he makes it possible for us to hear about Jesus Christ and to hear the message of the gospel of our salvation.

We must first of all be confronted with the knowledge that we are sinners, and that we need the Savior to save us from our sins and to give us new lives in Christ Jesus, our Lord. We are taught, in Christ Jesus, that coming to faith in Jesus Christ means dying with Christ to sin, and being resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See Eph. 4:17-24). We may not hear those exact words, but basically we should be given the understanding that receiving Jesus Christ is much more than just escaping hell and the promise of heaven when we die. We ought to be told that believing in Jesus means our lives are radically transformed of the Spirit of God in delivering us out of darkness and in bringing us into God’s wonderful light (truth, righteousness).

When we are crucified with Christ, by faith, in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, to be lived to his righteousness, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives to dwell within us both as a guarantee of the promise of eternal life with God and as God within us empowering, counseling, leading and guiding us in the way we should go. We can now walk (conduct our lives) according to the Spirit, and we no longer live our lives (in lifestyle) according to our sinful flesh. We are not perfect, but daily, by the Spirit, we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh and we are putting on Christ and his armor. The Holy Spirit within us empowers and strengthens us to live godly and holy lives pleasing to our Lord. Because Jesus loves us, and because of his love now living within us, we are able to love others with God’s love, and to demonstrate that love by our actions.

Fully Pleasing to Him (vv. 9-14)

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Don’t we all need prayer? The more we follow Jesus Christ with our lives in obedience to his will and purposes for our lives, the more our enemy Satan comes against us, so we need to lift one another up in prayer, praying that God will give us courage and strength to remain steadfast in our walks of faith and to not give way to fear, discouragement, or temptation to sin. We need to pray for one another to know God’s will, and to understand his word and how it applies to our lives, because there are so many deceivers and liars who would try to lead us astray, and who will try to pull us away from our pure devotion to Jesus Christ so that we will follow after them instead. So many people who profess to know Christ don’t even know what his word teaches, or if they do, many of them are not following it, but they are going their own way, so we need to pray they will be doers of the word and not hearers only.

We need to know God’s will so that we can live holy lives pleasing to him, but we can’t know his will if we are not feasting on his word daily, drinking it in, and applying it to our lives in the power and strength of God’s Holy Spirit living within us. We also can’t know God’s will if we refuse the truths of his Word because they don’t fit with our lifestyles. We have to want to know God’s will, and then we have to obey what we know. If Jesus is just someone we profess to know, or if he is just someone we somewhat acknowledge now and then, or on Sundays during church gatherings, but during the week we live just like the world, then we are not going to walk (conduct our lives) in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him. If our lives mainly consist of work and TV, movies, video games, novels, social media, and the like, but we give little thought to how God wants us to live our lives each and every day, then that is not living in a manner worthy of the Lord, and it does not please him.

When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we are delivered out of darkness and we are transferred to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. This is not just an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die, though. This means we no longer walk in darkness. We no longer live for ourselves, but we live for the one who saved us from our sins. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. His grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Tit. 2:11-14). When God forgives our sins, he delivers us out from the control sin and Satan had over our lives, and he sets us free to now become servants of his righteousness. May we be ones who walk the talk and who live what we say we believe, and not be hypocrites. Amen!

Near the Cross
Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane

Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Holding Fast

Friday, June 24, 2016, 3:36 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Be Strong and Take Courage.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philippians 2:1-18 (ESV).

Of the Same Mind (vv. 1-4)

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

There is much talk these days about “unity,” but the question is, “What kind of unity?” With whom or with what are we uniting? In many cases “unity” means compromise of faith and convictions in order to not offend people with the gospel message of salvation from sin. Inside the institutional church, unity is being pushed strongly, but largely it is unity with human thinking and philosophy and not with God and with his word at all. World leaders are forcing unity among nations and religious groups in order to bring about a one world government and a one world religion. We need to be on the lookout for this so that we don’t unify ourselves with what is not of God, thinking we are doing the right thing.

So, in what way should we, as believers in Jesus Christ, be of one mind with one another? It should not be one mind with human marketing schemes, for sure, or with human goals and objectives which do not line up with scripture. But, it should be one in mind with Christ and with his word. We may not agree on every point of doctrine or interpretation of scripture, but we should be united in the essentials of the Christian faith and practice. We should be likeminded concerning what the scriptures teach concerning Jesus’ life and ministry, and the example he left for all of us to follow. We should all have attentive ears to hear what the Spirit within us has to say to our hearts on a daily basis, and we should be doers of the Word and not hearers only. And, we should all walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

Being of one mind, too, means we exercise humility, and we don’t have to have our own way. We make compromises in areas not essential to our beliefs so as to live in harmony with one another. I see so many Christians fighting with each other over things that don’t matter for eternity, and it just breaks my heart. We shouldn’t fight anyway, yet we should protect the truth and stand for what is right, but we should make sure it is truth. So many who call themselves believers in Jesus are fighting and arguing with one another over political views which may, themselves, be based in lies. I believe there is no right and left, politically speaking, but they are both two sides of the same whole, and they are united in purpose in moving this world of ours toward the rule of the beast. I would ask that you prayerfully consider this possibility, and especially that you not fight over these things.

Have This Mind (vv. 5-11)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

If Jesus Christ, God the Son, could leave his throne in heaven, come to earth, be born as a baby, take on the form of a servant, and humble himself by becoming obedient to death on a cross, who are we to be so proud that we should demand our own personal comfort over following our Lord in obedience? If he says “Go,” we should be willing to go wherever he sends us, and to accept whatever circumstances in which he places us so that we can be used of him to touch other lives for Jesus Christ. God did not put us on this earth for our own comfort and pleasure. He put us here to be lights for him in a dark world, and to love people with his love, following his example. He also put us here to share his word, and to call people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, just as he did, and to bring healing and comfort to the afflicted and the hurting. We should be willing to give up our own comfort in order to be his servants and messengers in sharing Christ’s love with a hurting world.

Work It Out (vv. 12-13)

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

So, what does this mean to work out our own salvation? Are we not saved by God’s grace, through faith, and not of ourselves, lest we should boast that we somehow earned or deserved our own salvation? I hear so many people these days say that, since we are saved by grace, and this not of ourselves, that it means we do nothing and that God does everything, but is that true? Does God truly require nothing of us? Then, why are we instructed here to work out our own salvation? How do we reconcile this?

It is true that we can only be saved by God’s grace, through the blood of Jesus shed on a cross for our sins. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. Yet, we do have a part in it. It is called “faith.” Yet, that faith is not just a one-time experience nor is it a mere acknowledgment of what Jesus did for us in dying for our sins, or a mere desire to escape hell and to go to heaven when we die. In John 3:16, where it says that whoever believes has eternal life, that word “believe” is really “believing.” It is present tense. We are not saved on past belief. True faith is continuous. It is also active and productive. In other words, if we say we believe Jesus died for our sins, and that he has delivered us from slavery to sin, then we should live like we say we believe. We should forsake our sins, and we should walk in obedience to our Lord, and live holy lives, pleasing to God.

Let me put it this way. The Bible says that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15). He didn’t save us just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He saved us out of bondage to sin so that we would be free to walk in his holiness and righteousness. Being saved from sin is not just about escaping punishment. It is about obliterating sin from our lives. Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit. If we walk according to the flesh, we will die spiritually, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with our Lord for eternity (Ro. 8:1-14). So, faith involves our cooperation with God.

In other words, we are able to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. We don’t do this in our own flesh. We can’t! True faith lives in submission to Jesus Christ and to his will for our lives, and it submits to his Lordship and to the cross of Christ in our lives.

You Shine as Lights (vv. 14-18)

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Yet, we live in a crooked and twisted generation which tries to get us to be one with the world or to face rejection and persecution. And, this goes on in the church, too! If we stand on the word of God and truly shine as lights in the world, we will be hated and persecuted for our faith, and for our witness for Christ and his gospel. There will be all kinds of people who will try to get us to compromise our faith and convictions for the sake of “unity.” And, they will try to shame us into this compromise, too, often via false accusations. Or, they will try to convince us that God requires nothing of us – no repentance, no obedience and no submission, as though God set us free so that we can continue sinning without conscience.

So, we should stand strong in our faith, but also in full humility of spirit, not thinking ourselves better than others, but willing to give of our lives to see others go free. We should walk in the Spirit and no longer according to our sinful flesh, so that we do shine as lights in a dark world, and people can see that we live what we say we believe. And, we should not compromise our faith and convictions (of God) for the sake of unity, but we should always maintain the mind of Christ, who held fast to the word of life, even to the point of being hung on a cross because people didn’t want to hear what he had to say. And, we should never give way to fear and intimidation, for our God will be with us, and he will direct our paths, and he will strengthen us and he will give us the courage we need to keep on keeping on. He will go before us, and he will prepare the way. So, be encouraged!

Be Strong and Take Courage / Don Moen

Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the Lord will go before you
And His light will show the way…

Why don’ you give him all of your fears
Why don’t you let him wipe all of your tears
He knows, He’s been through pain before
And He knows all that you’ve been looking for…

With Full Courage

Thursday, June 23, 2016, 6:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Be Strong and Take Courage.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philippians 1:12-30 (ESV).

Without Fear (vv. 12-14)

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

We have an enemy. His name is Satan. His goal is to destroy us one way or another. One of the biggest weapons he uses against us is to try to get us to doubt God and to give way to fear. So, he will go to great lengths to lie to us and to attempt to deceive us into thinking that we need to be afraid, and/or that we need to give up and run, because of whatever potential consequences he may threaten us with if we keep on keeping on in our walks with the Lord and in sharing the message of the gospel with a world in need of the Savior.

Yet, when we respond with faith, and with prayer, and with putting on the armor of God, instead of retreating, his tactics against us only serve to advance the gospel, so he is really just shooting himself in the foot. Even if we are put in prison for our faith in Jesus Christ, and for the sake of the gospel of our salvation, our Lord can use that to get the word out to people, letting them know that we are suffering for the sake of Christ. And, the gospel message will spread even more, rather than dwindling away to nothing, which is Satan’s goal. And, our brothers and sisters in Christ who are also sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings can be encouraged by our faith to speak the word of God without fear.

Selfish Ambition (vv. 15-18a)

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Another of Satan’s evil schemes against us is to use other humans to oppose us and to cause us trouble, hardship and persecution. Sometimes our opponents are others who call themselves ministers of the gospel, who will see us as their competition, and thus they will make a concerted effort to try to discredit us in any way they can, in hopes that they can draw people away from us and to them. They will also dilute the gospel message to make it more appealing to human flesh in order to draw in large crowds of people. They focus much on entertainment because they want to attract the world to their meetings, rather than focusing on the cross of Christ and leading people to genuine faith in Jesus Christ.

Still there are others who are preaching the true message of the gospel, but not out of a sincere desire to see people come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, but out of jealousy and a desire to gain attention to themselves rather than to Christ. Yet, I have found that many of these only appear to be preaching the true message of the gospel, because they use the true gospel as a means to gain the trust of those who long to hear truth spoken, and then they very stealthily introduce heresies disguised as truth, and they do this so subtly that these heresies are barely noticeable to the unsuspecting ear. These people are usually smooth talkers and charmers, so people readily like them and want to listen to what they have to say, but in doing so they open themselves wide to deception and trickery.

If someone is preaching the truth, then we are to rejoice that the truth is going out, even if the messengers are driven by the wrong motives. Yet, we should remain discerning, and we should listen for those subtle lies which are so carefully placed within what appears to be truth so that we can counteract the lies with truth, and so we can warn others.

Full Courage (vv. 18b-26)

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

God is not unaware of the devil’s schemes, though. In fact, Satan has no power but what God permits. One day God will take away that power, though, and he will send him into the lake of fire for eternity, and he will never be able to trouble us again. Until then, God has allowed Satan to roam this earth as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. In fact, in the book of Revelation it says that the dragon (Satan) will give its power to the beast, and the beast will be allowed to exercise authority over the people of the earth, and to make war against the saints of God and to conquer them (militarily, not spiritually).

Yet, God allows us to go through suffering, hardship, pain, sorrow and persecution, for our trials produce in us patient endurance, and they strengthen us in our walks of faith, and they draw us closer to God in full assurance of faith if we choose to allow God to do his work in our hearts through these times of testing rather than retreat and give up because things got too hard. Through these times of testing we learn to rely on God and not on ourselves for our strength. Also, these trials mature and humble us, and they teach us to be more compassionate towards others who are suffering. Then, we can comfort others in their trials with the comfort we received from God when we went through difficult times.

Another quality these times of testing produce in us, who put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, is courage. We learn to be courageous the more we choose to trust God with our circumstances rather than retreat out of fear. We learn that courage doesn’t mean we don’t ever feel fear, but we feel the fear and we do it anyway, i.e. we go against our fears through putting our hope, trust and faith in Jesus Christ. We also learn that we don’t have to face these difficulties in our own strength and resolve, but we can rely on the strength of the Lord to get us through each and every day. As well, we learn that God is absolutely sovereign and in control over every circumstance in our lives, so we never have cause to fear, because he is with us, and he will accomplish his purposes in and through our lives even if all looks hopeless in the natural realm. Our God is a God of miracles! Amen!

Our Manner of Life (vv. 27-30)

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

If we want to be strong in the Lord, and in his mighty strength, and if we want to know the power of God in our lives in conquering and/or overcoming all opposition against us, so that we do stand firm in one spirit, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, then we need to live our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to daily be putting sin and self to death in our lives, by the Spirit, and be daily putting on the armor of God with which to fight off Satan’s evil schemes against us. And, we need to walk according to the Spirit and not according to our sinful flesh.

If we give way to sin in our lives on a regular basis, we open ourselves wide to give the devil a foothold in our lives so that we end up living spiritually defeated, not spiritually victorious lives, in the Spirit, giving glory to God in all things. So, know that we are called not only to believe in Jesus, but to suffer for him, so be strong and take courage, for the Lord will go before you, and His light will show the way. God will take care of you!

Be Strong and Take Courage / Don Moen

Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the Lord will go before you
And His light will show the way…

Why don’ you give him all of your fears
Why don’t you let him wipe all of your tears
He knows, He’s been through pain before
And He knows all that you’ve been looking for…

How We Walk

Monday, June 20, 2016, 8:36 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Ephesians 5:1-21 (ESV).

Imitators of God (vv. 1-2)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The word “imitate” can mean either to pretend to be someone, such as to fake being like someone, much like an actor might do, or it can mean “to follow as a pattern, model, or example” (M-W Dictionary). It is the latter meaning that is intended here by this passage. There is no pretense involved in being an imitator of God. Rather, it means to pattern our lives (our lifestyles) after God – Father, Son & Holy Spirit – and after his divine character and the teachings of Jesus and those of his NT apostles – particularly those teachings on the subject of godly and holy living, and then to do so in truth. There are many “actors” in this world of ours who make pretense at being followers of God, but in reality they are still followers of the flesh and of the world. They are hypocrites, much like the Pharisees of Bible times, who liked to look good on the outside, but inside they are full of wickedness.

When we are followers of God, we are to walk in love. This love is God-like love which loves others even if they hate us and mistreat us in return. Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners; when we were enemies of the cross of Christ. He gave up his reputation, his home in heaven, his time, and his life for us so that we could be set free from slavery to sin and so we could become servants of his righteousness. And, this is how we are to love others. It is not love to tell people lies. It is not love to pat people on the back and to tell them it is ok when we know they are steeped in sin. True love does not pacify sin. It speaks the truth in love to its neighbor, and it rescues people from enslavement to sin. It also encourages holy and righteous living, and it makes no excuses for continued willful sin against God. Jesus loved people enough to tell them the truth. He loved us enough to give up his life so that we can die to sin and live to righteousness. May we love others like he loves us.

Sexual Immorality (vv. 3-6)

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

When this Bible translation says that these things must not even be named among us, it is not saying we should not discuss these issues. We need to talk about these issues, and not just sweep them under the rug. We are never to ignore sin or to pretend it does not exist. We are to expose the fruitless deeds of darkness.

So, then, what does this mean? I believe it means, as the NIV translates, that there should not even be a hint of sexual immorality among us. It should not exist in any form among those who profess the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives.

So, how do we define sexual immorality and impurity? In what ways do these exist today? The Bible clearly defines adultery and fornication as sexual sin, as well as this includes homosexuality. Jesus said that adultery was more than just the physical act of sex between people not married to each other, one of whom at least is married to someone else. He said for a man to look after a woman and to lust after her in his heart, that it is adultery, as well.

God defined adultery in the scriptures, with regard to our relationship with him, as us following after other gods and looking to those other gods to meet needs in us that should be met only in our relationship with our Lord. I believe, as scripture parallels the Lord’s relationship to his church (his bride) with that of a man (husband) with his wife (bride), that we can extend adultery to mean sexual desire after anyone other than our spouse, as well as looking to have sexual or emotional needs met by anyone other than our spouse, and in ways meant only to be fulfilled through the union of a man and a woman in marriage.

Many extra-marital affairs begin when people look outside their marital relationships to have needs met by someone else who doesn’t know them or live with them, and who makes them feel good, and with whom they never have to discuss budgets, in-laws, children, and the like. People also turn to pornography, masturbation (self-gratification), sex-texting and extra-marital secretive internet relationships with others, and the like, in order to satisfy their lusts, and in place of natural and loving relations with their spouses. This, too, is adultery, sexual immorality and impurity, and it can also be idolatry.

If people profess to know Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives, but their lifestyles are marked by sexual immorality, impurity and covetousness, the Bible teaches us that they do not have the hope of heaven and eternal life with God. This does not mean we have to live in sinless perfection in order to be saved and to have eternal life with God, but what it does mean is that if we say we have fellowship with God but we walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin, wickedness), then we are liars (1 Jn. 1:6). The Bible teaches that if we walk according to the flesh that we will die (spiritually for eternity), and we won’t have the promise of eternal life with God. But, if by the Spirit we are putting to death the misdeeds of the flesh, we will live with our Lord for eternity. Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. If we continue living sinful lifestyles, according to scripture, we are not promised eternal life. A saved life is a crucified life.

Not Partners with Them (vv. 7-14)

Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Not only are we not to participate in any form (or hint) of sexual immorality, but we should not partner with those we know are living such a lifestyle. They should not be our best friends and our closest companions, by choice. This includes not watching TV shows which glorify immorality and which entertain us with other people’s sins. We should not be taking these sinful acts into our minds, and especially we should not be partakers with them by allowing ourselves to be entertained by them. Sexual immorality, especially the hint of it, is all throughout TV shows, and it especially presides within many TV commercials.

Instead of partnering or participating with the sexually immoral, we are to conduct our lives (our lifestyles) as children of light, who have been delivered out of the hold sin had on our lives, and who have been set free to walk in Christ’s righteousness and holiness – all in the power and working of God’s Holy Spirit at work within us, as we cooperate fully with that work. Instead of living to please ourselves, we are to live to please God in all that we do and say and think and are. Instead of glossing over sin, and ignoring it, and saying what itching ears want to hear, we need to expose these unfruitful deeds of darkness, and we need to call our brothers and sisters to come out from among those who are participating in such things. We must then call them to live holy lives pleasing to God.

We have to stop worrying about offending people with the truth, and we must stop being concerned about whether or not people will like us. We need to speak out on these issues, and call people to repentance, and to obedience to Christ and to his Word. This is true love! This is what Jesus’ death is all about. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He did not die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die.

Look Carefully (vv. 15-21)

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

So, we need to examine our hearts and lives. We must see where we are not walking according to the Spirit, but where we may still be yielding to our sinful flesh day after day. We should then repent of our sin, and follow our Lord in obedience. We ought to daily be in the Word, listening to our Lord speak his truths to our hearts, and then we must be doing what his Word says. And, we ought to encourage one another to walk in his Spirit and in his love and in his truth, and to forsake sin, and to follow our Lord in surrender and in obedience, instead of shying away from truth telling in order to not offend people and so that they will like us. It is essential that we care more about our brothers and sisters in Christ and the people of this world and their spiritual condition than we care about being liked. This is true love. This is what it means to walk in love, and to love as Christ loved us.

Have Thine Own Way, Lord

Adelaide A. Pollard / George C. Stebbins

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

Becoming Mature

Sunday, June 19, 2016, 3:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Ephesians 4:1-24 (Select vv. ESV).

Worthy of the Calling (vv. 1-7)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

When we come to true faith in Jesus Christ as Lord (master-owner), and as Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). The old has gone. The new has come. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. He died in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Ro. 8:1-14). A saved life is a changed life, transformed of the Spirit of God in new birth. Our lifestyles should, thus, reflect this transformation.

If Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, then daily, in the power and working of God’s Spirit within us, we should be putting to death the misdeeds of the flesh, and we should be putting on the armor of God with which to fight off Satan’s evil attacks against us and his temptations for us to give in to the flesh. And, we should be living holy lives, pleasing to God. This does not mean we will live in sinless perfection, but that our walks should match our confession of Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives. We should live like Jesus truly set us free from slavery to sin, and we should be slaves of his righteousness, instead. We should not be daily feeding our sinful flesh with all kinds of lusts and sinful cravings and desires, but we should be living to please our Lord in all we do.

This should be reflected in our attitudes, in our speech and in our behavior. We should not be prideful, thinking we are better than other people or that we are so deserving of God’s grace because of our own goodness. We are all born into sin. Not one of us is righteous in our own merit. We can only walk in holiness because of God’s grace to us in saving us from our sins and in empowering us with his Holy Spirit to walk in righteousness and no longer after the flesh. All glory goes to God for the good that is done in and through our lives. And, he gets all the praise when we live according to his standards for godly living, and when we no longer live to gratify our sinful flesh. We have nothing to boast about except our Savior who gave his life up for us so that we might live in victory over sin.

We Grow Up (vv. 11-16)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

God has gifted each and every one of us, if we are truly his by genuine faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord. And, he has given us these gifts for the building up of the body of Christ in true faith and Christian practice. We don’t all have the same gifts. And, we are not to try to compete with one another, wishing we had gifts that others have. God has placed each and every one of us in his body as HE determined, not as we choose. Each one of us has a different function assigned to us by God, and different gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit. And, we are to fulfill those areas of ministry where we have been assigned, and utilize the gifts of the Spirit given to us, and to do so in the power of the Spirit at work within us.

We need one another to help encourage us to stay on track so that we don’t stray from our pure devotion to Jesus Christ and end up falling back into sin or else falling prey to deception and false doctrines. Yet, not everyone has faith. And, all those who do profess to have faith are not all walking according to the Spirit in their daily lives. Many Christians today are living just like the world, or very similarly. Many pastors and church leaders are following after humans and the flesh of man instead of following the leading of the Holy Spirit. And, so the body of Christ is not functioning as God intended, and the church is in crisis and in great need of revival and renewal of the Holy Spirit.

Because this is true, that in many cases the body of Christ is not functioning as God intended, the body is not helping one another to mature in Christ as it ought. Instead, in much of today’s church, they are all joining together in worldly thoughts and actions, spending more time talking about what is worldly rather than in encouraging one another to live godly and holy lives pleasing to God. So, we need to individually seek God’s face and his counsel and we need to repent of any known sin in our lives and to now walk in the Spirit and to no longer gratify our sinful desires. Then, we can help one another to mature in Christ and we can encourage one another to watch out for false teaching, and to be discerning about what is true and what is not true.

In True Righteousness (vv. 17-24)

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

As followers of Christ Jesus we should no longer conduct our lives according to our sinful flesh. We should no longer be living to please our sinful nature, but we should be living to please God. So, we need to daily be in prayer and in the study of scripture in order to learn what pleases God and what displeases him, so that we can discontinue what we know to be wrong and we can begin to live how we ought to live as those who profess the name of Jesus. We have to first of all listen to what God says, and then we have to do it.

If we were taught the truth that is in Christ Jesus, and we were not taught a diluted and false gospel message, we should have learned that faith in Jesus Christ means death to sin and living to righteousness. We should have been taught that coming to faith in Jesus Christ means forsaking our former way of life, which is corrupt through deceitful desires, and it means putting “on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” We don’t do this in our own flesh, though. It is only in the power and working of God’s Holy Spirit that we can be transformed in heart and mind away from sin to walking in Christ’s righteousness, but we have to cooperate with the Spirit’s work. We have to yield control of our lives over to God, and allow his Spirit to change us from the inside out.

So, if today you have not yet allowed the Spirit of God to put your flesh to death and to empower you to live in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, I pray you will do so today.

Seek the Lord / An Original Work / July 20, 2012

Based off Isaiah 55

“Come to Me all you who thirst; come to waters.
Listen to Me, and eat what’s good today,
And your soul will delight in richest of fare.
Give ear to Me, and you will live.
I have made an eternal covenant with you.
Wash in the blood of the Lamb.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him.
Let the wicked forsake his way, in truth.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will receive mercy.
Freely, God pardons him.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord, our God.

“My word that goes out of My mouth is truthful.
It will not return to Me unfulfilled.
My word will accomplish all that I desire,
And achieve the goal I intend.
You will go in joy, and be led forth in peace.
The mountains will burst into song… before you,
And all of the trees clap their hands.”

All the Fullness

Saturday, June 18, 2016, 10:55 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Ephesians 3 (NIV).

One Body in Christ (vv. 1-6)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

Before Jesus Christ, God the Son, gave his life up on a cross for our sins, we had two primary classifications of people on the earth. The first was Jew. The Jews were God’s chosen people up until the time of Christ’s death and resurrection and ascension into heaven. The other was Gentile, which basically covered all non-Jews. Yet, when Jesus died for our sins, he made the two one through faith in him. Whether Jew or non-Jew by birth, we are now both reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ, and we are one body (See: Eph. 2:14-18).

As well, just because someone is born a Jew, it does not make him or her Israel. “It is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (See: Ro. 9:6b-8). “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (See: Gal. 3:26-29). “Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise” (See: Gal. 4:22-31).

What this is saying is that the Jews who do not believe in Jesus Christ are not the children of promise. They are not God’s chosen people. Those who believe in Jesus Christ are the chosen and the called of God. We are Abraham’s descendants. We are true Israel. Jews who don’t believe in Jesus Christ are no different from any other non-believers, including the Arab nations. The physical city of Jerusalem is also no longer God’s Holy City, for it is of Hagar, because she is in slavery with her children. The body of Christ, his church, is now his Holy City, the Jerusalem that is from above (See: Gal. 4:22-31).

If a Jew does not believe in Jesus Christ, and if he rejects Jesus Christ as his Lord and Messiah, then he is not Israel, and he is not heir of the promise, and he is not Abraham’s offspring regarding the promise God made with Abraham. “Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son” (1 Jn. 2:22). So, if a Jew denies that Jesus is the Christ, then he or she is antichrist. Yet, to all people, whether Jew or Gentile by birth, if they trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) of their lives, and they have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and have been resurrected with Christ in newness of life, they are one in Christ, no matter their physical birth or nationality.

Through the Church (vv. 7-13)

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? It is not just an escape from hell (eternal punishment) and the promise of heaven when we die. It is also not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse, believing we have heaven guaranteed and that God requires nothing of us – no repentance, no submission and no obedience. The gospel message is that we are all born into sin, without God, without hope, and destined for eternal damnation. We all come up short of attaining God’s divine approval in our own flesh. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. It was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us. It is only by God’s grace to us in sending his only begotten Son to die for us, and through faith in his Son Jesus Christ that we can be forgiven of our sins and have the hope of eternal life with God, beginning now and forevermore.

Yet, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us (2 Co. 5:15). He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who conduct our lives (lifestyles) according to the Spirit. If we live according to the flesh, we will die without Christ and without hope of eternal life. But, if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ eternally (See: Ro. 8:1-14). Jesus said if anyone would come after him, he must deny self and take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them (for eternity). But, if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin and self), we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25).

Basically, 1 Pet. 2:24 sums it up when it says that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. This is the essence of the gospel message, and it is definitely the message Paul preached, and that we must preach, too, for we, the church, are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We are to be his servants and witnesses in taking the gospel message throughout the earth, and in making disciples of Christ of people of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded his followers (See Ac. 1:8; Matt. 28:18-20).

So, what is the church? It is not a building. It is not a business. And, it is not a corporation under the federal government of any nation. It is a living organism with Jesus Christ as its head, not with humans as its head. It is the people of God, the body of Christ, the redeemed of the Lord. And, it doesn’t matter where we meet, or how often, or on what day. If we are truly gathered in the name of Jesus, he is there among us and together we make up the church. The early church met daily in the temple courts and from house to house. So, we are to not forsake gathering together with the body of Christ, though I believe God is calling his true church, his body, to come out from the institutional church, which is not, of itself, the true church of God. I believe Jesus wants his true church to come out from under man and government as heads over the church, and to make Jesus her only head.

Established in Love (vv. 14-21)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

We need to be strengthened in our inner beings with power through God’s Spirit, especially during these perilous times on the earth when so many are preaching a false gospel, and so many are deserting the true faith as established by Christ and his NT apostles. So many who call themselves followers of Christ are really followers of man, and are partakers in the delicacies the world is offering, instead of feasting on the riches of God’s grace and his righteousness. We are being opposed every day. The gospel is under fire, and so many are diluting it in favor of the acceptance of human beings so as not to offend anyone.

We need to truly grasp the depth of God’s love for us. What loving parent would allow his or her children to do just whatever they want, knowing what harm might come to them? God’s love and grace is not a free license to sin. God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (See: Tit. 2:11-14). He cares about us so much that he will discipline us in order that we may “share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (See: Heb. 12:3-11).

The goal is that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer

Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

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

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

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

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

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