Invitation to a Yoking, Part 1

 

 

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”   Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)

How do you respond when you receive an invitation? What are your criteria for rendering a positive response? Do you first identify the   sender of the invitation? Are they a friend, a casual acquaintance, or part of an exclusive circle you’d like to join? Do you evaluate the event?  Will a similar invitation be offered at a later time or is this a special occasion?  lnvitations, by their very nature, infer a “closed event”, therein requiring a special request for entry. However, when Jesus extended His invitation “to come”, He invited “not the wise, the mighty, or the noble” (1 Cor. 1:25) but to those in greatest need of Him–“they that labor and are heavy laden.” And to what was He inviting those who heard Him that day? His yoke.

The yoke is a powerful symbol in the Bible. The literal references to the yoke speak of a wooden bar or frame used to join animals to enable them to pull a load, a plow, often together so they could work in tandem. When used in the Old Testament, the yoke is often used figuratively of bondage and of the burden borne by slaves (Ex. 6:6-7). The image is used powerfully by the prophets to portray the fate of disobedient generations (ls. 10:27; Jer. 27:11; Ex.34:27).  ln most of the Old Testament references, the yoke is a negative image–something a person would do virtually anything to avoid.

But Jesus turns his paradoxical rhetoric to represent something “good”–subjection to Him: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,  and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:29-30 NIV). Jesus saw the need of the people at that time. He saw a religious system that was demanding yet indifferent to the needs of its people. He saw a social system that was unjust and oppressive. Jesus saw a hurting world in need of a Messiah.    Very much like our world today.   When Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth on Sunday morning, He confidently proclaimed:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:78-21)

Christ’s yoke is very different from the world’s yoke. The world’s yoke presents itself in the form of fear, guilt, and shame.  lt is heavy, demanding, and burdensome.  Christ’s yoke is “easy” and consists of forgiveness, love, and acceptance. Christ’s “burden” is light because He took the full weight of sin on Himself at the Cross.

Was Jesus’ reference to the yoke, a “symbolic invitation” to join Him and find in His strength release from unbearable burdens? Or was it “His call” to people to become His slaves and experience freedom from the crushing weight they experience from the Law and religious activity?  ln either case, the theme and the invitation are central. Jesus still calls, “Come,” and He promises us “rest for our souls.”  Accept His invitation today and let Him “lighten” your load.

Children of the Light, Part 2

“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that l write unto you. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet,                                     the hope of salvation.” l Thessalonians 5:1, 8 (NKJ)

Believers are privileged to enjoy a special relationship with God as a result of Christ’s work of redemption. Being justified (made righteous) by faith, we now have peace with God (Rom. 5:1) and are adopted as sons (Gal. 4:5-7)—sons of light and sons of the day.  ln last week’s teaching, we exhorted believers to live each day as if Christ would return at any moment. Believers know that the Day of the Lord is coming. So how are we to live as we wait for Christ’s return?

As children of the light, we are to live soberly. To be sober means “self-controlled and clear-headed.” The literal Greek rendering of sober is “l am well-balanced” and free from the influences of intoxicants.

Intoxicants are anything that impairs a person’s thinking or judgment.  Intoxicants are not limited to alcoholic beverages but can include people, relationships, or habits. To be sober is used metaphorically of “alertness” and “watchfulness.” Believer would be well advised to live self-controlled, well-balance lives while avoiding those things that impair their thinking (1 Pet. 4:7; 5:8).

To help the church at Thessalonica “live soberly” while waiting for Christ’s return, Paul recommends two critical pieces of armor–a breastplate and a helmet. While defensive in nature, they are designed to protect two key areas of the believer–their heart and their mind. Paul uses language reminiscent of Ephesians 6 where he describes the proper attire for waging war against “principalities and powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual host of wickedness.”

A soldier’s breastplate covered him from his neck to his waist and protected most of his vital organs. That is what the breastplate of faith and love does for the believer. Faith, our belief in the Risen Christ, guards our heart from error. Love protects our relationship with God and with others.  lf one loves God, he will also love other people (1 John 4:20-21). Faith and love cannot be separated.

The helmet, representing the hope of salvation, guards the believer’s head from attacks on their thinking. The believer’s hope lies in knowing that they are delivered from any future wrath from God (Rom.5:8-9). “For God hath not appointed us (believers) to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”(1 Thess.5:9). God’s wrath is reserved only for the children of disobedience (Eph. 5:6).

As believers wait for Christ’ return, we are to “be sober and adequately armed.” Waiting is not characterized by idle pursuits or wasteful self-indulgence.  Instead our life should reflect an attitude of joyful anticipation as we prepare for the Second Advent of Christ.  Our work of ministry should include passionate evangelizing, expansive outreach, and an outpouring of love to the disenfranchised and brokenhearted. We are to remember both our heritage and our future. We are to live as children of the Light.

Children of the Light, Part 1

“You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6 (NKJ)

1st and 2nd Thessalonians are the first letters written to the early churches. These letters, written by the Apostle Paul, were different from his other letters and crafted for a more spiritually mature audience.

The church’s inquiries included questions concerning Christ’s Second Coming and what benefit were gained if Christians died before Christ returned to establish His kingdom. Since Paul couldn’t predict when Christ would return, he instead assured these early Christians that what matter more was how they live each day.  Paul’s words are still relevant today.  We must live each day as if Christ would return at any moment.

Paul begins chapter five by explaining the stark reality concerning the time of Christ’s second return. No one knows when it will occur! Not even the Son of God (Acts 1: 6-7).  Paul describes Christ’s return as a “thief in the night” (v 2); as “sudden destruction” and as “travail upon a woman with child” (v. 3). While many have tried to estimate the time, it remains the business of the Father alone to determine when His Son will return. This is His prerogative as Creator of heaven and earth. Our times are in His hand (Ps. 75:2-5).

Paul uses the literary device of contrast and comparison to emphasis the distinct difference between how believers are to wait for Christ’s return versus nonbelievers. The brilliance and clarity of light and day is contrasted with the ambiguous character of night and darkness. Paul builds on this theme by depicting individuals “of the night” as those “who sleeps and are drunk”; “sons of light and day” are described as those who “watch and are sober” (v. 6), These differences would be easily understood by the readers of
Paul’s letter.

Living in the 21st century, we are consumed by concern of “future things.” Political outcomes, financial predictions, and social posturing occupy too much of our waking hours. Like the church at Thessalonica, we are carefully assessing our options and prioritize our resources (financial and time) based on what “we hope” will give us the greatest return, But is our focus on the “right” future things? Are we showing adequate concern for our spiritual future? Will our current efforts net us the greatest spiritual return for our eternal souls?  ln whose hand are you placing your “future hope”?

Modern technology offers to us “timely” information so that nothing will “catch us by surprise”.  But Christ return will be different. There will be no blog or Facebook post to announce His return. There will be no tweet or unauthorized photo to publicize His arrival.  We will simply have to watch, read “the signs” and wait (Matt 24:L-44; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36).

Next week, we’ll explore how we are to live while we wait for Christ’s return-unless He comes first .  In the meanwhile, when your thoughts become cloudy and anxious because of concern over “future things”, choose to walk in the light. Jesus is the Light.

“We’ll walk in the light, beautiful light! Come where the dew drops of mercy shine bright.  Shine all around us by day and by night. Jesus, the Light of the world!” 

Perfecting Obedience

Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.  Hebrew 5:8-9 (NKJV)

We close this Lenten Season study on obedience with a quick review as to how to develop a “real time”, biblical view of this critical spiritual discipline.  So what have we learned about obedience?

What is obedience? 

“submission to authority”  Webster

“to hear, to understand, to persuade or convince”  The Bible

Where does obedience come from?

  • Obedience is evidence of a personal relationship with God.
  • Obedience is motivated by love for God.
  • Obedience is the outward response of a heart that hears God and turns to Him.
  • Obedience is the outcome of a faith walk resulting in greater spiritual maturity.

So what is perfected obedience?

Our text gives us a clue into how our obedience becomes “perfected”.  It begins and ends with a clear understanding of Jesus and His walk of perfected obedience.

Firstly, Jesus never sinned. Jesus had no need to become perfect for His work of salvation.  Jesus was perfect in His nature (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15).  Imagine that! Even as a rambunctious child, a growing teenager, and a vibrant young man—Jesus never sinned.  No defiance, no “cutting of the eyes” no hiding behind excuses like “I’m only human” or “A person has to do what a person has to do”.  Yet to fulfill God’s requirement for a “blameless sacrifice for sin” (1 Pet. 1:19), Jesus suffered and was obedient unto death (Phil. 2:8).  Jesus suffered not for His sins but for our sin (2 Cor. 5:21).

Secondly, Jesus learned.  What did He learn?  Jesus learned what it meant to be human by experiencing all the emotions and sensations that we as frail humans feel.  Why?  So that He could identify with man’s depravity and brokenness.  Jesus willingly experienced the full range of emotions He had placed in man at Creation (Heb. 4:25).  We get glimpses of this in the Gospel accounts.

  • When Jesus saw the masses, He was moved with compassion. (Matt. 9:36; Mark 6:34)
  • When Jesus approached Jerusalem, He cried. (Luke 19:41)
  • When Jesus heard of John the Baptist’s arrest, He withdrew. (Matt14:13)
  • When Jesus saw the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, He condemns them. (Matt. 23:1-12)
  • When Jesus heard of Lazarus’ death, He wept. (John 11:35)
  • When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He sweated blood. (Luke 22:42; Mark 14:36)
  • When Jesus was hung on the Cross, He died! (Matt. 27:50)

Jesus learned about humanity and why His sacrificial death was the only solution for the sin problem.

Finally, Jesus was perfected. The literal translation of perfected is “to bring to an end a proposed goal”.   Jesus accomplished the purpose crafted by God before the foundation of the world—to bring redemption, restoration, and reconciliation to mankind.  Jesus became the “all and everything” that was needed to bring salvation to fallen man.  Jesus became “the author of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9), the “firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29), and the “first-begotten from the dead” (Rev. 1:5).

Jesus’ perfecting was accomplished through His obedience.  Jesus’ submission to and love for God resulted in the greatest gift we as believers will ever receive—freedom from sin and eternal life.  To put into words the enormity of God’s plan of salvation is impossible.

Understanding perfecting obedience is captured in the life and love of Jesus the Christ.  Jesus is our model and the example we daily strive to emulate.  Let us endeavor, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be conformed to His image and ultimately transformed into all that God has purposed us to be (Eph. 2:10).

I close with these words from F.B. Meyer on “The Perfecting of Christ”.  May his words move your spirit to new levels of obedience.

“For the long and steep ascent of life, our Father has given us a Companion, a Captain of the march, a Brother, even Jesus our Lord, who passed through the suffering of death, and is now crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:9-ll). He has passed along our pathway, and climbed our steep ascents, that He might become our merciful and faithful Friend and Helper.  In this sense He was perfected, and became unto all them that obey Him the Author of eternal salvation.  But if we are to walk with Him, and realize His eternal salvation, we must learn to obey.”

Slavery, Death, and Obedience

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as  obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  Romans 6:16 (NRS)

In the next few weeks we will enter into the Passion Week, which recounts the suffering and death of Jesus Christ as He journeyed to the Cross.  During that week, Jesus was very intentional and direct as He prepared his disciples for the gruesome ending of His physical life.  Jesus was to die for our sins and receive the penalty we deserved.  His substitutional death would fulfill God’s decree formulated before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) yet revealed to man in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15).  In the end, Jesus Christ would declare His obedience in a different garden—The Garden of Gethsemane—to die and release us from the bondage of sin.

Jesus announced His arrival as the promised Messiah in the synagogue at Nazareth—the one anointed to “release the captives and to let the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18). Jesus accomplished that purpose on Easter Sunday, when He rose from the dead, breaking the power and the penalty of sin in our lives—sins we committed in the past, in the present, and in the future.  When we reach heaven, we will finally be delivered from the presence of sin.  Because of Jesus’ victory over sin, we are free, able to grow in grace (2 Pet. 3:18), and obediently serve the Lord.

So why are we still acting like slaves?

Paul challenged the young church at Rome to follow in obedience the word of Christ which had been delivered to them.  I guess you could call them “hokey-pokey” Christians in that they had “one foot in the Church and one foot in the world.”  That is the same “obedience challenge” we face daily while still in our earthly flesh.  Until we are delivered from the presence of sin, we must doggedly declare “ourselves dead to sin and alive to God” (Rom. 6:11).  We must exercise our freedom in Christ to leave behind sinful patterns and influences which move us away from God.  We must not take God’s glorious gift of grace for granted and continue in sin through our disobedience.

Paul described the reversal of sin’s slavery in Romans 6:15-18:

“What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slavesyou are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin,  have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,  and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”

During this season of Lent, many of us are practicing the discipline of fasting—that is, giving up for a period of time, some habit, practice, or “vice” and replacing it with new activities that draw us closer to Jesus.  This includes more time in prayer, studying the Word, or solitude.  It is a period of denying our “flesh” and of self-reflection, hopefully leading us to greater spiritual maturity and obedience.

But let’s be honest, aren’t there some things we should stop doing beyond Lenten season?  Some sin(s) that are keeping us enslaved to the world and Satan?  Are you choosing to remain “shackled” by sin when Christ has set you free from sin’s power and penalty?

“You are slaves of the one you obey.”  Who are you obedient to?

Obedience Matured

“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah saying, “Go at once to Nineveh and cry out against it.  But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” Jonah 1:1-3 (NRS)

Last week we opened with this question:  Is obedience the outcome of our faith walk or is it the means by which spiritual maturity is accomplished?   The answer is—it is BOTH.  During our faith walk (which will continue until this life ends), our choice to either obey or disobey God will result in “life lessons” that will make us stronger instruments of God.  Through these lessons we “grow” or mature spiritually.

Oswald Chambers shared this thought on obedience and spiritual maturity.

“Spiritual maturity is not reached by the passing of the years, but by obedience to the will of God. Some people mature into an understanding of God’s will more quickly than others because they obey more readily; they more readily sacrifice the life of nature to the will of God.”

Let me detail the correlation between obedience and spiritual maturity with the following illustration.  A toddler, immature physically and mentally, has one basic desire—to satisfy their immediate needs.   They will do just about anything to have their way, disregarding safety or well-being along the way.  This includes climbing up on high counters or grabbing objects that are dangerous to their health, i.e., laundry pods.  Toddlers show little concern for their own safety or well-being as long as the result is physical satisfaction. They are best served and protected by their guardian who will provide for and protect them.  Toddlers must be taught to obey the direction of their guardian who will help them to gain a healthy fear of the world they live in.

Is obedience only for children?

 

Spiritually, this is also true for believers.  Often time, we live in the moment—desiring what will immediately satisfy our needs.  In that moment perhaps the Holy Spirit is directing us to “pray and wait” or to seek godly counsel through others or the Bible.  Many times, we will even fain obedience (fake it) by responding “I’m praying about it” when we already know what God has directed us to do.  Ours is just to obey.

Jonah was reluctant to bring God’s message to Nineveh, the capital of Israel’s hated enemy, the Assyrians.  Foolishly, he fled from the presence of the Lord (Psalm 139:7-10). The Lord however, did not allow him to escape his calling.  Jonah accomplished God’s purpose when the city repented.  Unfortunately, Jonah failed to understand the nature of God and His mercy (Exod. 33:19).  Jonah failed to receive God’s life lesson on obedience and in the process, failed to mature spiritually (Jonah 4:3-4).

God is our heavenly Father who always has our best interest at heart.  Because God is “all-knowing, seeing, and powerful”, He is in the best position to direct our life.  Our response should be complete obedience to His instruction.  Believers, like the rambunctious toddler, are best served by our Heavenly Guardian who both provides for and protects us (Prov. 3:1, 5-6).

Are you running from the presence of the Lord?  Is God asking you to respond obediently to His divine purpose for your life?  Does God’s request appear to be more than you can handle?  Want to understand God’s will for your life?  Begin by quickly obeying His will.  Obey-Go-Grow!

The Character of Obedience

“And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Heb. 5:9 (NKJ)

Obedience—is it an outcome of our faith walk or is it the means by which spiritual maturity is accomplished?

A discussion of obedience seems most appropriate for the Lenten Season.  As I read the accounts of the apostles and other great propagators of the faith, it is evident that obedience played a major role in their faith walk. The hallmark of obedience is modeled by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ is the perfect model as we too journey to the Cross.

The Apostle Paul uses the Greek word for obedience, hupekoos.  Hupo mean “under” and akous means “to hear”.  Christ was under the direction and conviction of God.  He was obedient to the law of God that stated that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin (Heb. 9:22).

We see the character of obedience displayed through the humility of Christ.Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”  Philippians 2:5-8

In this text, the Apostle Paul uses the Greek word hupekoos.  Hupo mean “under” and akous means “to hear”.  Christ was under the direction and conviction of God.  He was obedient to the law of God that stated that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin (Heb. 9:22).   He humbled Himself as Deity and as a man, shed His blood for our sins.

We see the character of obedience displayed through the submission of Christ.  “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:18-19

Here obedience is the Greek word hupakoe which means “attentive harkening, compliance or submission”.  It usually refers to obedience to God’s will in a “special sense”—of willing subjection.  Unlike the animals used in previous sacrifices, Christ came willingly to the Cross.  He expressed His submission to God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane as He repeated “not My will but Your will be done” (Matt. 26:39, 42; Mark 14:32-36).     

We see the character of obedience displayed through the suffering of Christ.  “(Jesus) who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”  Hebrews 5:7-8

Hupakoe is still the translation of obedience here.  Through His suffering, Christ met the need for a human who could fit God’s righteous requirement (Matt. 5:13) and prove to be the perfect sacrifice to take the place of sinners (1 Pet. 3:18).  He “learned” obedience to confirm His humanity and to experience humanities’ suffering to the fullest (Luke 2:52).

“And having been perfected, He (Jesus) became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9).  To obey or hupakova is the manifestation of faith as revealed in the humble acceptance of the Gospel message.  This is our opportunity to display obedience.  Acceptance of the Gospel requires acceptance of Christ as not only Savior but also as Lord of our lives.  We no longer live for ourselves but for Him (Gal. 2:20; 1 Peter 4:2).  In obedience, we learn to have the “same mind of Christ”—obedient in humility, submission, and in suffering.

In a world where defiance and noncompliance is encouraged and revered, Christ offers a different model for living.   Just think, through His obedience two-thousand years earlier, He changed the “eternal outcome” to “all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9).  Once destined to an eternity in hell, we now are partakers of eternal life (John 3:16).  That’s something to shout about!

Obedience: An Invitation to Hear

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.  Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.  Psalm 119:66-67 (NIV)

In book, “Think Like Jesus,” pollster George Barna tackles a formidable topic, “How do Christians develop a “biblical worldview” in a fallen world?  But more than that, why is it important to do so?  How is it possible to be “in this world but not of this world”?  (John 17:14-15)

Believer’s struggle with this dilemma is evidenced by the world’s inability to distinguish believers from itself.  In a world that labels Christian beliefs as intolerant and antiquated, believers find it easier to “go along to get along.” The salt is no longer salty and the light is growing dim (Matt. 5:13-16).

Barna offers several scriptural principles to guide believers as they create a biblical worldview for their life—one of these principles is the importance of obedience to God.  “Obedience is more than just following the letter of the law; it is discerning what God would want – His will for us – and choosing to seek that outcome.”

Lenten season with its focus on self-examination and self-denial is a good time to study this topic of obedience and how it impacts our personal relationship with God.  What is it and why is it important?  And much like Barna’s study, how does obedience to God (of lack of it) affect our “worldview”, our relationships, and our belief systems.

When you read or hear the word obedience, what comes to mind?  lf you are like me, you may instantly  think of its opposite—disobedience and the consequences that go with it.  According to Webster, obedience is defined as submission to authority.  Operating with that definition, people view obedience as harsh and demanding.  Their response is generally one of resistance that is anchored in the human desire to control their own destiny and live independent of God’s rule in their life.  This, unfortunately, misses the true intent of godly obedience.  That is why a biblical view of obedience is needed.

In the Old Testament, obey means to hear.  It stresses not only hearing but also understanding. As God spoke through His revelation (His ways and works), His people were able to hear and understand His desire for them—“plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11).

In the New Testament, obey was not only connected with hearing but also means to convince or to persuade.  A person who is persuaded to obey a demand obeys it (James 3:3). Obedience is spoken of as an attitude (2 Cor. 2:9) and most particularly as a faith-rooted disposition (Phil. 2:12).

Jesus’ teaching of obedience flows out of a personal relationship with God and is motivated only by love.  The obedience of Jesus is held as the ultimate example for believers as we strive to adopt a Christ-like attitude in our daily walk. “He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:8) Obedience is the outward response of a heart that loves God.

God’s call for obedience is a loving invitation to experience His best. Man’s response to God’s invitation is a heart that hears and turns to Him.  Obedience, properly understood, is never a cold or impersonal command that arouses resentment. Our response of obedience should flow from a heart that hears God’s Word, feels God’s love and turns to Him.

What do we do with Sin?

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.       1 John 1:8 (RSV)

What do we do with sin?  For too long this question has been asked only by theologians and scholars as they “pontificate” over spiritual things.  But the people who should be asking this question are those who are currently stewards of God’s grace, desiring that God’s “kingdom will come”—to our nation, to our churches, and more importantly, to our homes.

Unfortunately, the people of God have allowed the “elephant in the room” (sin in disguise) to go unchallenged. We express concern over the national debt, growing unemployment, and the decline of the middle class.  But what do we do with sin?

As crime increases in our communities, we demand more police surveillance and create neighborhood watch groups.  In response to the rise in homelessness and poverty, we advocate for more social programs and outreach.  But what do we do with sin?

It is a subject that is glaringly absent in our discussions concerning the plight of our world especially in our church pulpits.

Many of the issues we face in society are as a result of sin. 

They originate from thoughts and feeling that focus on activities that satisfy personal (and usually) selfish desires (James 1:14-15).  These desires are then acted upon by the will (spirit and heart) which has the power to do what is good—or evil.  Social reform and political posturing cannot affect these human dime nsions. What then is the remedy for the heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9)?

God has devised His plan of redemption to deal with the issue of sin. 

It is “grace-based”, no longer requiring His forbearance (Rom. 3:25), nor demanding redundant, ineffective sacrifices for the sins of men (Heb. 10:11).  He became, through His Son, the just and the justifier of him which believed in Jesus (Rom. 3:24).  Faith would be the starting point and the end would be a righteous soul (Rom. 5:21)—a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  He would replace the stony heart of man with a new heart of flesh and place His Spirit within man that would cause him to “do right” (Ezek. 36:26-27).  Then man and God would once again be reconciled (Col. 1:21).

What do we do with sin?  We must first recognize it by comparing it with the will and counsel of God.   This requires reading His Word, being fervent in prayer, and seeking spiritual discernment. It is time to unmask sin for what it is.  If you personally, are in the midst of sin, first confess and repent quickly.  God is faithful to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1: 19).  Then reckon yourself dead to sin (Rom. 6:11) and no longer let it have dominion over you (Rom. 6:14).  That’s what we do with sin!

What’s Your Role on the Stage of Life?

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)

It’s been said that the “whole world is a stage and everyone plays a part.”   Within my immediate family, I am the heroine playing many different roles–wife, mother, daughter, sister.

Some roles I “rehearsed for”.  For the role of wife, there were several callbacks and a few rejections.  The other roles, I inherited on the day that I took center stage (my birthday). These roles are challenging, requiring much prayer and patience.

As I reflect on the activities of this week, I considered this thought.  What role did I play in the life of those I came into contact with this week?  How well did I play my part?

  • Was I the villain–the antagonist who is always trying to interrupt the plans of others?
  • Was I a supporting actress–insuring that the lead actor and actress had what they needed to “shine” and deliver the story line?

We have a choice as to how we respond to those God places in our path.  We can either be a help or a hindrance; a bearer of encouragement or the purveyor of strife.

The word encouragement originated in the 15th century from the French word encoragieren which means “cause” and corage that means “courage.”  As I look around our world and yes, our churches too, there is a need for us to “cause courage”.  The role requires minimal rehearsal time and is easy to play–a kind word, a smile, a soft touch on the shoulder.  Let God’s Word begin to frame your role.

  • Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
  • And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

The Apostle Paul spoke often about encouragement.  When his plans to visit the church at Thessalonica fell through, he sent in his place Timothy to establish and encourage them in their faith.  Timothy played the supporting role of “brother, minister of God, and fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ” (1 Thess. 3:1-2).

Everyday we are to go forth in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to play a critical role in this fallen world.  Jesus’ message to His disciples in the 1st century hold true for believers today:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:19-20)

How well are you playing your part on the stage of life?