Resurrection Understanding

Resurrection Understanding

Resurrection hope

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the foundational tenets of our Christian faith.  If Christ had remained in that darkened tomb, preaching the message of the gospel would have been in vain.  (Imagine all the revivals you could have skipped).  Our faith would be in vain (1 Cor. 15:14).  Worst of all, we would still be dead in our sins (1 Cor.15:17).  Just imagine!  Guilt, shame, bondage, spiritual death—all these would still be at play in our lives.

The crucifixion had dashed the hopes of the disciples.  They had imagined how life would be as part of the promised Messiah’s entourage.  Plus, they would finally be delivered from the tyranny of Rome.  But what happened?  Jesus was dead.  They scattered and hid for fear of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19).  They returned to their old homes and their old lives–disappointed, disillusioned, and disheartened.

But God.  The Creator of heaven and earth, the Great Deliverer of Israel from Egypt, raised Jesus from the grave (Acts 13:30).  God made good on His promise to deliver man from sin’s grip and “begat man again” (Eph. 2:1, 5).  In Christ, man was a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17).  Resurrection was, and still is, definitive proof that God is sovereign with power over life and over death.

Resurrection promise

God’s plan of salvation has always included resurrection (Gen. 3:15). The Old Testament prophets and psalmists spoke of, not only the promised Savior’s coming, but also of his death and resurrection (Ps. 16:10; Ps. 53:11; Ps. 45:6-7; Ps. 110:1;  Is. 53:11).

Because of this, it is somewhat surprising that Jesus’ disciples initially disregarded the resurrection proclamation (Mark 16:11; Luke 24:11).

In the horror and grief of the crucifixion, the Disciples had forgotten that Jesus Himself told them that he must “suffer at the hands of sinners, be crucified, and be raised the third day.” (Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19).  The disciples were devastated by Jesus’ words.  Unfortunately, they missed the good news beyond the death of Jesus—resurrection on the third day.

On the other hand, it is ironic that the chief priest and Pharisees, who rejected Jesus as the Messiah, remembered Jesus’ statement that He would rise again after three days.  They requested from Pilate a Roman centurion to guard the tomb (Matt. 27:62-66).  Was it an empty tomb they feared or the risen Christ?

Resurrection confusion

In reading the synoptic Gospels and John, the followers of Jesus shared a common reaction to the resurrection.  They did not believe it.  Some scholars say Mary Magdalene imagined that grave robbers had stolen Jesus’ body (John 20:11-13).

Our four gospel writers all complete their narratives of the Gospel of Jesus with a story or stories of Jesus resurrection. They come at it from different directions and provide different details, but one element is common to each of them:  a sense of wonder, astonishment, and surprise. Despite the several hints scattered throughout the Hebrew scripture and Jesus’ three explicit statements forecasting his resurrection (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34), when it happened it turned out that no one–no one–expected it. The first people involved in Jesus’ resurrection were totally involved in dealing with his death. Now they had to do a complete about-face and deal with his life. [1]

Resurrection possibilities

Do we as believers “scatter” as we are daily challenged by unbelievers who reject Christ?  Do we “hide” from those who discount the resurrection?  Even after Easter Sunday, do we return to our old lives—disappointed and disillusioned.  Are we disheartened by the continuation of the health pandemic, financial uncertainty, and social unrest?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it is time that we believers expand our understanding of the resurrection.  As new creatures in Christ, victorious living awaits us as the Spirit that raised Christ from the grave, now indwells us (Rom. 8:11).

Eastertide, a fifty-day season on the Christian calendar, is dedicated to examining the deep and wonderful mystery of resurrection.  It is a perfect opportunity to reflect on what the resurrection means to us personally.  “It is a season of learning how to live a new kind of life called resurrection.”[2] 

Next week, we will continue our teaching on “resurrection understanding”.  The resurrection is key in strengthening our resolve to press forward through difficult times.  Most importantly, it enables us to live out our God ordained purpose. Let’s explore what it means to live each day in the light of the resurrection (Eph. 2:4-6).

[1] Living the Resurrection, Eugene H. Peterson.

[2] Living the Way of Jesus:  Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time, Michaele Lavigne.

Resurrection Wonder

Resurrection

Last week we discussed what it means to live in resurrection power.  Resurrection power is the supernatural force God used to raise Jesus from the grave (Eph. 1:19-20).  It is that same power that has delivered us from sin and its penalty.  Along with the “Good News” there is also great news!  BELIEVERS have access to that same  power today.

Resurrection is primarily discussed during the Easter season.  However, more  time may be needed to address questions around this foundation belief within our Christian faith.  These include questions such as, “how does Christ’s resurrection affect my daily life?”

To increase our understanding, I’d like to spend the next few weeks exploring the resurrection experience.  Let’s begin with  resurrection wonder.

What emotions do you feel?

The discussion of the resurrection can produce a wide range of responses from people.  For those outside the family of Christ, it can be a point of disbelief or irritation.

What do you think when you read scripture concerning the resurrection? What emotions rise within you?  Confidence or confusion?  Gratefulness or embarrassment?   Let me give you one emotion to consider—wonder.

Wonder is defined as a feeling of surprise caused by something unbelievable, unexpected, or inexplicable.  Undoubtedly these are all appropriate descriptions for Christ’s resurrection.

Jesus Wonder

The people were in wonder of Jesus as He ministered to “the brokenhearted, the captives, and those who were bound” (Is. 61:1).  Jesus’ love and compassion gave new excitement and hope to those who had been cast aside by society.

The crowds’ wonder with and admiration for Jesus drove them into the deserts, to the mountainside, and to the seashores .  They hoped to catch a glimpse of His healings and miracles.  Little did they know or expect that Jesus’ resurrection would become an even greater reason for their wonder.

Resurrection Wonder

The Gospel resurrection narratives explode with “wonder”.  Imagine the unbelievable wonder that Mary Magdalene and the women felt as they found the empty tomb on the first day of the week.  They quickly witnessed to what they had seen to the disciples even though their witness fell on their “hardened and unbelieving hearts” (Luke 24:11).

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus also experienced resurrection wonder.  Unknown at that time, it was Jesus who conversed and fellowshipped with them.  Such unexpected wonder could only be captured by the expression “did not our hearts burn within us” (Luke 24:32).  Like Mary and the women, these disciples became ready witnesses to the wonder of Christ’s resurrection.

Christ’s sacrifice (accepted by God) and resurrection (empowered by God) is a wonder in and of itself.  First, the fact that God loved us so much, that He sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to die for us (John 3:16).  Secondly, we are now in Christ with all its spiritual blessings because of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection (Eph. 1:3-14).  And finally, we have eternal life (beginning now) and an inheritance reserved in heaven just for us (1 Pet. 1:4).  Resurrection, without a doubt, is an inexplicable wonder.

21st century Wonder

A sense of wonder should emerge as we consider God’s plan of salvation.  With Jesus’ resurrection came supernatural outcomes that can never be repeated—Satan’s defeat, sin forgiven, man reconciled to God.  Unbelievable, unexpected, inexplicable wonder!

How then are we as believers to respond to resurrection wonder?  Do we joyfully witness as Mary and the Emmaus travelers? Or do we harden our hearts through unbelief or indifference?

The historical “event” of Christ’s resurrection occurred over 2,000 years ago.  Yet it still exerts an unprecedented and recurring influence in the hearts and lives of believers around the world.  It is because of their wonder of Jesus and His resurrection.

Resurrection wonder offers believers exuberate hope, embolden witness, and empowered service.  Let us daily testify to the unfathomable wonder of the resurrection.

Living in Resurrection Power

Living in Resurrection Power

Resurrection Reality

“Christ has risen!” (Matt.28:5)   “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; He is not here” (Mark 16:6).  “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen” (Luke 24:5).  These are the biblical explanations to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection noted in the synoptic Gospels.

But one of the responses by Jesus’ followers (not recorded in the biblical record) might have been, “Ok, but what now?”  They had received the resurrection proclamation from the women who visited the empty tomb early Easter morning. They had personally seen the glorified Christ “behind shut doors” (John 20:19-30).  But, “what now?”

Even after this, the Disciples did not fully comprehend the implications of the resurrection and how it would change their lives forever. The Disciples and the New Testament Church would now face persecution and even death for their belief in Jesus Christ.   They would need to depend on resurrection power to achieve Jesus’ commission (Matt. 28:19-20).

Even now, in the 21st century, we as believers must come to terms with how the reality of Jesus’ resurrection impacts our lives every day.  To successfully navigate the challenges of today, we need resurrection power.

What is resurrection power?

Resurrection power is the supernatural power God used to raise Jesus from the grave (Eph. 1:19-20). It is this same power that has delivered us from sin’s power and penalty (Rom. 6:14).

Sin kept us in our brokenness and our bondage.  It manifested itself in our lives as guilt, shame, and misery.  These led us to dark paths of despair, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. However, as new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we have access to the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the grave (Rom. 8:11).  Satan has been crushed.  We are free (Col. 2:15).

Although we may be tempted, we are able to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  Even if we stumble or fall, we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:39).  We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, our Guarantee, until we arrive in heaven (Eph. 1:13, 14).

Living in the power of the Resurrection

In the final days of His earthly life, Jesus hinted about this resurrection power.  He assured His disciples, “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do” (John 14:12).

The Apostle Paul knew how to live in the power of the resurrection.  He wanted to not only “share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings” but also, to know Him and the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10).  It was through the power of the Holy Spirit that Paul proclaimed the sufficiency of God’s grace through the “power of Christ that would rest on him” (2 Cor. 12:9).

How do 21st century believers live in resurrection power?

The early New Testament church gained its potency through the anointing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Through resurrection power, we too, as 21st century disciples, can gain the same strength to accomplish God’s purpose.  In addition, it is through this power that we can find personal forgiveness, acceptance, and wholeness.

The Holy Spirit is the source of resurrection power.  It is through His presence that we are empowered for service to the Lord (John 16:13-15). The work that has been entrusted to us is destined for success because of the Holy Spirit working within us (Phil. 1:6).

The key to unlocking resurrection power is our willingness to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Cooperation is critical in every endeavor a person may attempt.  If we are to live successfully in resurrection power, we must follow Jesus’ example who practiced obedience and humility.  Although Jesus was God’s son, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross (Phil 2:8).   We must learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.

Opportunities for resurrection power

Easter 2021 is over.  Once again, we have received (through every form of media) the resurrection proclamation. We have personally experienced the glorified Christ through our new life in Him.  The question we must ask ourselves is, “what now?”

As I look around and reflect on the state of our world, it is more evident than ever, “we need supernatural power” to deal with our challenges.  The human needs of the 1st century still exist today.  The resurrection power of Jesus Christ is still as powerful as when He rose on Easter morning.  And we have access to the same resurrection power in 2021.

Let us begin today to access resurrection power on behalf of our families, our communities, and our nation.  Let us courageously intercede on behalf of those experiencing the effects of sin in our world—hate, hurt, and hopelessness (2 Cor. 5:15).  Jesus, teach us how to live in your resurrection power TODAY.

Lessons Learned at the Cross

Lessons Learned at the Cross

Willingness to learn

There was book that was popular many years ago entitled, “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”  It contained simple nuggets of wisdom that were garnered from watching how children interacted with each other and the world.

It’s been said that life is a giant classroom in which we can experience many valuable lessons.  What really determines our success in learning is our willingness to learn.

As the close of Lenten season approaches, I have learned three valuable lessons in observing Christ’s journey to and ultimate sacrifice on the Cross.  I share these with you on your journey to living victoriously in Christ Jesus .

Lesson #1

 I must Die to Live.  Believers will have difficulty living victoriously until we are willing to die to ourselves and surrender to the Lord.  In His final days with His disciples, Jesus used an example from farming to illustrate this point.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:24-26)

Lesson #2

I must Lose to Win.  Believers cannot live in the fullness of God apart from the “filling” of the Holy Spirit.  “Filling” means relinquishing control to the Holy Spirit.  Paul shared this belief in his letter to the church in Philippi.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7, 8) 

Lesson #3

 I must Surrender for Victory.  Believers who surrender to the King of Kings acknowledge God as the Sovereign of the universe.  We are part of God’s kingdom and we must willingly abdicate to His rule over our lives.  Habakkuk, the prophet, understood this relationship when he prayed this prayer. 

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines , though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

What now?

Lenten and Easter seasons are a time for us to not only celebrate the victory of Jesus over the Cross (Is. 49:1-7) but also to prepare for  our next steps after Easter.  It is a perfect time for reflection and redirection.

What are the things God is asking you to lose, surrender and/or die to in order to live victoriously in the fullness of God?  We need only a child-like trust in the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ, to learn all we need to know about “what really matters.”

The Surrendered Life and Sin

The Surrendered Life and Sin

Who do we choose?

Sin and surrender have more in common than their first letter.  Sin has at its core the stubborn resistance to surrender oneself to the authority and rule of God.  Remember Adam and Eve?

We all have used the excuse, “the devil made me do it” but someone had to open the door and invite him in!   As a child I accepted Jesus as my savior.  I bought the fire insurance but lordship?  That came much later in my adult life.  After much sinning and denying Jesus’ rule in my life, I surrendered to His lordship.  Thank God for His mercy and His glorious grace (Ep. 2:1-6).

Often time we fail to see the spiritual reality of two conflicting influences in this world—God and Satan. Each day we, unknowingly or knowingly, choose the one we will surrender to.  We give them rule, control, and influence in our life.  Paul makes clear this truth to the church at Rome (Rom. 6:16).

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? 

The surrendered life in Christ, is by far the best choice.  But as Jesus cautioned, it is important that we consider the cost.

“Everyone need not apply!”

Jesus in His teaching on the cost of discipleship was brutally honest about His expectation of His followers.  There was no mincing of words or changing of position to make the offer more appealing to His listeners (Matt. 16:24; Luke 14:33).

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”

Deny or forsake?  It’s still good-bye!

Intimate relations with Jesus require that we “deny self and forsake all”.  Such was the case during His earthly ministry 2000 years ago.  Jesus’ ministry continues today with us as His disciples.  His expectations have not changed.  

Deny has two meanings: (1) to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone and (2) to lose sight of oneself and own interests.  Matthew uses the second definition to explain Jesus’ rebuke to would-be disciples unaware of the cost to follow Him.    

Luke chose to express the same idea using the word forsake.  To forsake adds further to the ideal of departure from one’s old self and habits.  It means to renounce or bid farewell to.    

As we deny our own interest and forsake our past self, we must also reject our love for this world—“the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16).  All these create within us a divided heart which cannot love Jesus well nor surrender to His leading.

The surrendered life

The world, Satan, and our flesh are not big on “denying or forsaking.”   They encourage us to place our desires above the Lord’s.  They deceive by whispering, “You can have it your way right now.  Jesus can wait another day.”  Jesus replies, “I am The Way” (John 14:6) and offers instead His love (John 3:16), salvation (Heb. 2:10), forgiveness (Ep. 1:7), freedom (Ps. 146:7), and peace (Col. 3:15).

The surrendered life in Christ results in great joy and wisdom.  There is great confidence in knowing we have made the best choice in choosing “the Pearl of Great Price” (Matt. 13:46).

Recognizing Our Sin

Recognizing Our Sin It wasn’t me!

Chuck Berry, guitarist, singer and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music, recorded a song in the 60’s that has become the automatic response when Ron and I accuse each other of some “mishap in the house.”  These lyrics have been modernized in a television commercial showing a child (hiding under the dining table) joyfully eating a cake obviously confiscated from the dessert buffet.  The lyrics are these: “It wasn’t me, baby!  No, it wasn’t me, baby!  Must have been some other body, uh, uh, baby, it wasn’t me.”

This is often the response we hear when people are confronted with their sin.  Listen to the news this week, this month, this year!  Rather than take responsibility and quickly confessing, we begin to distance ourselves from the sin.  Denial doesn’t remove the sin.  Instead, it allows sin to strengthen in our life.  Our willingness to accept responsibility for our sins is further complicated by living in a postmodern world where truth is relative.  This further numbs us to the presence of sin in our lives.

Because of these factors, it is critical that we take personal responsibility for our sinful actions.  This process begins with our being intentional in identifying sin in our lives (1 John 1:6-8, 10).

Living the Way of Jesus

This year as part of my spiritual development, I am reading Michaele Lavigne’s notable book, Living the Way of Jesus:  Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time.  The book is organized around the Christian calendar, using scriptural texts that follow the seasons of the Christian Calendar.  While Jewish celebration revolves around the Exodus from Egypt, the Christian Church year focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus.

Lavigne includes weekly practices that invite readers to the rhythms of the Christian calendar and to orient us to God’s reality.

We do not merely ask God to join our lives: instead, we are invited to participate in God’s life. Subtly and explicitly, this way of making time reminds us that we [Believers] are part of a story that is different from the stories we hear all around us.[1]    

This Season of Lent provides us an opportunity to walk with Jesus as He makes His way to the Cross and to gain a whole new understanding of what it means to be Christ’s disciple. This includes how we address sin in our lives—both subtle and obvious.

For Lent, Lavigne has suggested weekly practices that invite us to observe “who we really are and what the world is really like”.  Practices to date have included Silence, Honoring Others’ Requests, and Recognizing our Sin.  It is this last one that I share my personal reflections.  Perhaps you will find it helpful in your journey to becoming more conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

Where do I start?

I was invited to begin with prayer and to consider what Jesus may need to “clean out of me”.  Are there desires, activities, or decisions that are cluttering my life and preventing full worship of Jesus?  I was to write them down and then take them to the One Person who could help me with my “sin problem”.  I was to take them to Jesus.

Jesus alone could clear out and burn away the things that harmed me (John 2:13-22).  Jesus would shine His light of truth on those things that kept me from being in right relationship with God and with others.  I was to listen to anything Jesus might share with me during our time together.  That was the most illuminating part of this practice.   Once I confessed my sins, Jesus faithfully forgave me and cleansed me from my sins (1 John 1:9).

At the end of the week, I was to process what I learned from this practice of recognizing my sin.

What did I learn about myself?   About God?

I learned that there were things that cluttered my life and prevented me from spending quality time with the Lord.  I had allowed busyness to dominate my time.  My schedule was interfering with my time with my First Love (Rev. 2:4).

For me, even ministry work (externally focused) sometimes takes time away from prayer, reading God’s Word, meditation, journaling, and more.  Dedicated time with Jesus provides “sacred space” where He can direct, reproof, instruct, nurture, and correct me.  It is time when I can “d-r-i-n-k” from the fountain of life (Ps. 36:9).  And as I drink, I am being transformed (Rom. 12:2).

What did I Learned about God?  He never changes!  Hallelujah!  God is loving and patient.  Even in my foolishness and sin, He never gives up on me.  “The Lord will wait that He may be gracious unto me.” (Is. 30:18)

Recognizing My Sin:  The Conclusion

I close with this quote from F.B. Meyers concerning sin.  “We often expose ourselves to more anguish in our effort to retain and to restrain [our sins], than to remove them absolutely and forever.”   Where are you spending your efforts?

It is our responsibility to keep sin at bay in our lives.  While we live in this flesh, we must deal with the presence of sin.  However, we have been delivered from its power in our lives (Rom. 6:6-14).   The intentional practice of recognizing sin can draw us nearer to Jesus and becoming the people our Heavenly Father created us to be.

[1] Living the Way of Jesus:  Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time

Rising Above Sin: The Grace Factor Multiples

This month we published a WordBytes entitled,  Sin:  What do we do with it Our intent was to show the relationship between our nation’s current social/economic dilemma and “sin.” In response, our guest writer, Bethany Spilde offers encouraging options to address the “elephant in the room”–SIN.  ENJOY!

The question

That 6-word question (What do we do with sin?) splashed color on the elephant (SIN) that had blended into the walls of churches, homes and society.  And, like a carpet stain, it drives us nuts at first because we know it’s not supposed to be there.  Then, life gets busy and distractions come in.  Every day that passes, the stain is tolerated a little more until eventually it “blends in” and is forgotten.  That’s what we refer to as the “slow fade.”

Well, the freshly painted elephant needs our attention.  Take a deep breath and reflect on what is going on in our world. What sins have we accepted, tolerated or become numb to – which are leading families, leaders, communities and nations to ‘death’ (Ephesians 2)?

So, what more could we do with ‘sin’ after we have confessed, repented and are dead to it?

Is there a way to lead our families, communities and nation away from their current direction?   What about the hopeless, ungodly, and captives which the last WordBytes referenced in 1 Peter 4:17-18?

YES!  If you have experienced God’s grace – it’s time to take it up a notch to GLORIFY Him!

Your TESTIMONY has the power to inspire others to faith in Jesus Christ.

By SHARING your personal story of God’s saving grace, He is glorified!   It is our duty and privilege to share who God is and what He has done. We must never lose sight of the reality that God is active among us – it is what sets us apart from the rest of the world and inspires the lost soul to know Him.

In Romans 5, Paul writes: “…He [Jesus] has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live.  And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory!”

Also, in the tenth chapter Paul states that salvation is for ALL.  “How can people believe if they have not heard the message?  How can they hear if the message isn’t proclaimed? … How wonderful is the coming of messengers who bring good news!”

Indeed, it’s time to get real and relational with the people around us.

Bring the message.  We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. When we let our walls down and stop judging, we allow God’s love to overflow onto everyone around us.

What would happen to families, churches and society if parents and leaders humbly admitted/shared their personal failures and how their life has changed because of God?  What if there were more “God’s grace stories” in general – at breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Your testimony will encourage and increase faith in fellow believers and lead the lost to Jesus.  Even David took testimonies as a heritage, which rejoiced in his heart (Psalm 119:111).

 What is the most effective way to share?

 Start with God.  Talk about who He is and how He created the world and each of us in his image, with plans to prosper and give us hope.  He knew us before we sinned (example of Adam and Eve) and had a redemption plan in place (Jesus) to save us from a fallen world.

Past sin/struggle. Describe the sin, a little of what life was like living from human nature/fleshly desires of the world, while realizing that God is bigger than any sin.  Note, this is where most people start their testimony (“I was a sinner” i.e. alcoholic, glutton, thief).  It’s important to start with God because He has been and will always be with us.

Jesus.  Next, explain your encounter with Jesus.  God sent His only son to die upon the cross for our sins, while we were still sinners, so that we might have a relationship with Him (Ephesians 2).  God loves you and cares deeply to not leave you where you are at.  He sees you as whole, complete, and His child above all else (Philippians 1:6).  He has specific plans for you, for good.  God’s kindness spurs us to confess and repent, knowing He is quick to forgive and shower us with the depths of His grace (Romans 4:7).

Life.  Share how are you living now after coming to Jesus with your sin and receiving Forgiveness and Grace.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.  Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  He has placed a new heart and spirit in us, which inspires us to do what is right and good (Ezekiel 36:26).

It is my hope that you and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ will be bold in rising above the sin through your testifying of His Grace in your life.   I pray boldness and courage…and an increase of faith and revelation for you.  Who will you “say it forward” to for His Glory?

 Bethany Spilde is the founder of Social Buzz Media, a leading social media, relationship marketing and branding firm. She is also an adjunct professor, and recently honored as an Emerging Leader of the Year by eWomen Network.

Sin: What do we do with it?

 

What do we do with sin?

What do we do with sin?  John wrote in his epistle that “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us   1 John 1:8).  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. Did we really expect “the  lost” (2 Cor. 4:4) to lodge complaints about sin?  It is time to speak up!

We express concern over the difficulties created by the COVID pandemic and the financial uncertainties we now face.  But what do we do with the sin that is at its root?  Hate,  greed, and selfishness?

As we struggle with the racial and political division in our nation, we demand respect, equality, and justice.  In response to the rise in homelessness and poverty, we advocate for humane responses  for those forced to live marginalized on the fringes of our society.   But what do we do with the sin that is at its core–strife and indifference?

Sin 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. 

Sin originates 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 dimensions. 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. 

Redemption is “grace-based”, no longer requiring God’s forbearance (Rom. 3:25), nor demanding redundant, ineffective sacrifices for the sins of men (Heb. 10:11).  God became, through His Son, the just and the Justifier of him which believed in Jesus (Rom. 3:24).

Faith in the Son is the starting point of redemption and the end is a righteous soul (Rom. 5:21)—a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  Jesus   replaces the stony heart of man with a new heart of flesh.  He places His Spirit within man that will cause him to “do right” (Ezek. 36:26-27).

So what do we do with sin?

We must first recognize sin in our own life.  We begin by aligning our will with the will and counsel of God (Col. 3:1-3).   This requires that we read His Word, become fervent in prayer, and seek his guidance.

Secondarily, we must boldly speak out against sin in our society.  It includes our witness to God’s expectation that we love one another (1 John 4:7-8) and seek to be “reconciled” (in right relationship) to each other (Eph. 2:14-15).

Finally, we are to advocate for all things (not just what fits our political preference) that glorify and honor God (Gal. 5:22-24).  Sound simple? It is when we place God over our personal needs and agendas (Matt.6:33).

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 sin have dominion over you (Rom. 6:14).  That’s what we do with sin!

Certainty in an Uncertain World: Epilogue

Certainty in an Uncertain World-Epilogue

We close this series by reviewing what we have learned and by identifying next steps that will bring us greater certainty in an uncertain world.

What have we learned?

#1 We do not like uncertainty.  “It is like a type of pain, something to be avoided. Certainty on the other hand feels rewarding, and we tend to steer toward it, even when it might be better for us to remain uncertain.”  Uncertainty makes us uneasy.  We feel it is something we need to control (Prov. 3:5-6).

#2 Uncertainty is as sure as death and taxes.  The sources of uncertainty will not go away.  Such is the result of living in a fallen world.  Uncertainty is a “sure thing” that we must learn to manage (Eccl. 9:11).

#3 God is the only reliable source of certainty.  He provides us with divine certainty.    He alone has both the desire and the capability to address whatever may come our way.  And God never changes and is forever faithful (Lam. 3:22-23).  Because of God’s character, we can place our confidence and trust in Him.

Equipped with this information, how do we incorporate these realities into our lives?  How do we build spiritual muscle to contend with the uncertainties of life?

“Holdfast to your faith.”

Hebrews 11:1 gives us a point of reference to begin addressing uncertainty in our lives.  Our writer states in the opening verse: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”   This statement comes after an appeal to the readers of this letter to “hold fast.”   (Heb. 10:19-39)

It is here that the author begins to cite individuals in biblical history who earned a place in the Faith Hall of Fame.  While the object of what they hoped for was temporal, it was their faith that helped them to holdfast.  For our discussion, I will focus on one member of this notable group, Abraham.  Let’s examine how Abraham’s faith helped him deal with uncertainty.

“He hoped against hope.”

Paul used Abraham as an example for the church at Romans.  In chapter 4, the apostle continues to teach the point that it is faith—belief in Jesus Christ—that individuals receive salvation.  It is in the closing verses (Rom. 4:16-25), that the Apostle Paul, like the writer of Hebrews, testifies to the faith of Abraham.

Paul magnifies the strength of Abraham’s faith in several expressions used in this text.

“Who against hope believed in hope.”  Upon hearing God’s promises, Abraham had to “bring into captivity every thought” (2 Cor. 10:5) he had concerning ‘what was possible’ with God.  Every rational explanation of how parenthood and leadership of a nation was possible (human hope) had to become “subservient” to the supernatural reality of God (divine hope).  Such hope is reliant on understanding the power and sovereignty of God (Rom. 4:17).

 “He considered not his own body.”  When Abraham did consider his own body, he birthed Ishmael with Sarah’s Egyptian handmaid, Hagar (Gen. 16).  That was not God’s plan.  It was God’s plan for Abraham and Sarah to birth a child when both their bodies were considered “dead”.   Once Abraham accepted God’s plan, he “didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, ‘It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child. Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up’ “(Rom. 4:19, The Message).  Sometimes God does things “His way” so we understand HE IS GOD and we are not.  Translation:  God is sovereign.

“He staggered not…”

“He staggered not at the promise of God.”  Some translations use the word, waver instead of staggered to describe the resolve of Abraham’s faith.  To stagger means to be at variance with oneself, to hesitate, or doubt (James 1:6).   Such was not the case with Abraham.  To the contrary, his acceptance of God’s promise resulted in the strengthening of his faith.  Some translations also share that this strengthening of Abraham’s faith resulted “in bringing God glory” (CSB) or that Abraham’s faith grew stronger “as he gave glory to God” (NRS).   When we trust God, not doubting, we are strengthened, and He is glorified.

 “Being fully persuaded.”  The literal reading of this phrase is “being fully assured.” Abraham was convinced that God was able and willing to make good on all His promises.  Such faith can be described as “God-centric”, in that, the accomplishment of the promises to Abraham were totally dependent on God.  In this case, the promises of God would depend on God’s ability to perform them—not man’s capability.   Abraham’s role, like ours today is to exercise our faith and believe God.

The impact of unbelief

Unbelief can cripple our faith.  It can cause us to make bad choices and interrupt God’s purpose for our lives.  Remember Abraham and Hagar?  One commentator wrote this about unbelief: “Unbelief dishonors God by making Him a liar (1 John 5:10).  Faith honors God by setting to its seal that He is true.”[1] 

Our unbelief is often caused by viewing a problem or situation from our ability to resolve it.  Unbelief is “shortsighted” seeing only our own capacity or ability to resolve.  We seldom factor in God until our plans go awry.  Many biblical failures occurred because of unbelief.  Remember the Garden of Eden?

The old elders of the church were often questioned about their faith in God.  They never attended theological institutions nor studied with great scholars of the Bible.  They would humbly respond, “I just know what I know!”  Translation:  They believed without a doubt who God was and they believed that God would do ALL that He promised.  For these elders to “know” was synonymous with their “belief”.

Conclusion

As we look around and see our world in a state of uncertainty, it is easy to become anxious and fearful.  It is difficult to understand what is happening around us.  Pandemics, civil unrest, financial insecurity.   Uncertainty has become commonplace with little hope of eliminating it. Who are we to believe?  Who do we trust for the right answers?

There is a solution for times of uncertainty in our life.   We can begin by embracing the divine certainty of God, His promises, and our position in Christ Jesus.  However, these certainties can only be realized through our intentional response of faith.

It is important that we as believers move past simply “intellectualizing” our faith.  We must “internalized” it.  Our faith in God must become “second nature” to us as we deal with our fears and our challenges.  Not pie in the sky but total reliance on the goodness and greatness of God.  This requires that we walk closely with Lord and practice His presence.

Let us rely on the power and sovereignty of God.  Don’t focus on your own impotency.  When we trust God, our faith is strengthened, and He is glorified.  Let us not stagger.  Let us be “fully persuaded” knowing God is in charge and the Source for all our needs.   God is our certainty for uncertain times.  God is our hope and our peace—our exceeding great reward (Gen. 15:1).

Closing Prayer

Father God, help us to trust You in all we face in these days of uncertainty.  Make our faith real and active.  Let us not walk by sight but by faith.  We praise You and glorify Your holy name.  We stagger not at Your promises knowing You are more than able.  And not only are You able, but You are willing.  We ask these things in Your darling Son’s name, our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  AMEN

 

[1] Matthew Henry Commentary, Romans 4

Certainty in an Uncertain World, Part 2

 

Certainty in an Uncertain World, Part 2

The Believer’s certainty

As we stated last week, certainty is defined as a fact that is definitely true.  It is the state of being reliably true.  As believers our certainty is connected to God.  Our confidence is based not only on Who God is but also on His truth.

We recognize the uncertainties of living in a fallen world.  To live in a fallen world means we struggle with sin daily. We experience heartache and pain. We witness natural disasters and staggering loss. Injustice, inhumanity, and falsehood seem to dominate.  Discord and trouble are commonplace. None of this was God’s original plan for humanity.

It is important, however, that as believers we focus on the certainties of our faith—divine certainties—that enable us to navigate successfully in these difficult times.  What are these divine certainties?  How do they help us in times of uncertainty?

Divine Certainty-God’s Nature

The certainty of our faith begins with our understanding the nature of God.  While there are many attributes of God’s nature, I will focus on two (2):  God’s immutability (He does not change) and God’s veracity (He is truthful).

This is especially important as we discuss the matter of certainty.  This means that whatever God states, in His Word and through His Holy Spirt, can be accepted with certainty—as reliably true.  What God has stated in the historical past is still true in our contemporary present.

The immutability of God expresses the fact that God does not change.  What we are dealing with here is the dependability of God.  He will be the same tomorrow as He is today.  He will act as He has promised.  The believer can rely on Him (Lam. 3:22-23; 1 John 1:9).  God’s immutability is “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.”  (Hebrews 6:18-19)

God’s veracity speaks to God’s truthfulness.   God represents things as they really are.  God never lies (Titus 1:2).  It is contrary to His nature.  God is “trustworthy”.  Such truth can either be assuring or fearful, depending on your relationship with the Lord (Numbers 23:19).

Divine Certainty-Our Identity in Christ

Our identity in Christ is another major reason for certainty and assurance of our faith in God.  We have peace during uncertain times because of our relationship with Jesus.

For me, Ephesians 1:3-17, does an extraordinary job outlining the many spiritual blessings and promises found in our New Covenant relationship with Father God.  It details the completed work of Christ as only can be designed by God before the foundation of the earth.

In Christ God makes His superabundant blessing available to His children by faith in Christ so that what Christ has is theirs—including His righteousness, privilege, resources, position, and power.  Believers are now able to draw upon the wealth of Christ to accomplish God’s purpose and His will. This includes our spiritual security as we move from “death to eternal life” (John 5:24).

Divine Certainty-Our Anchor

Our certainty is also connected to our memory.  Let us not forget the faithfulness God has shown us in the past.  The church mothers would often assure us in times of distress: “The Lord didn’t bring us this far to leave us.”  King David shares their belief as he reminds us in Psalm 103:2 to “forget not all God’s benefits.

Our personal history to God’s faithfulness is a testimony of our certainty in God.  We are witnesses to God’s presence, His protection, and His provision.  During times of uncertainty, we can walk confidently in the divine certainty based on our connection with God.

My intent in this writing is to remind believers that during these times of uncertainty and disruption, we have an anchor in the Lord.  Our confidence is based on Him alone.  Our Lord is the only true source of certainty in an uncertain world (Ps. 37:3).