Saturday, October 31, 2009
We are surrounded by immaturity. We are surrounded by those who still feed "the evil desires of youth". I know grown adults, old men and women, who at the heart level are still living like children. Some of them even go to church on Sunday, but live their own way the rest of the week.
Yet, lest I sound judgmental, I still at times give in to the evil desires of youth as well. Instead of fleeing, I chase it down. And if we set out to simply fight against these evil desires, we will most certainly lose every time. This is why Paul doesn't just say, "Fight the evil desires of youth". Instead he replaces it, and says in essence, "Instead of pursuing the evil desires of youth, pursue these things".
But just as we talked about yesterday, we are not in this alone. Paul points out that we are on this journey "along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart".
So are you trying to flee evil desires and pursue holiness on your own? Even if you are involved on Sunday morning and in a community group, it is the way of the American individualistic Christian to try and flee and pursue all alone. I confess that for too many years, I viewed church as my weekly "refueling and equipping" session where I got my mission objectives for the week and then went out to fight all my battles alone.
Don't waste the wonderful community we share at Redeemer. Invite others to take an active interest in your holiness. Foster and seek relationships that will demonstrate for you and spur you toward righteousness, faith, love and peace.
Friday, October 30, 2009
2) “Train yourself for godliness”. All to often I think that godliness will come easily and naturally. Just read the Bible and pray once in a while and *poof* I’m godly. But the way Paul talks about godliness, he makes it sound like it’s . . . work. Like it’s hard. Like we must “toil and strive” to attain it.
As an American, I am accustomed to everything instantly. The Internet. My food. And I am accustomed to everything easy, for a price at least. But godliness is not instant and it is not easy. It’s like preparing for a marathon, but there are no steroids I can take to make this easier.
This is one reason Paul called the believers to not give up meeting with one another. The church serves to bear one another's burderns. We sharpen each other "as iron sharpens iron". But just like a diet and exercise regimine, it is only as effective as the trainee is committed. So how is the exercise of your "spiritual muscles" going? How is your diet (i.e. the things you are putting into your heart and mind)? The church exists to encourage and help the believer in the training process. After all, we are all in this together.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
And not only has Jesus come to save even the worst sinners, but Paul suggests that he was saved not only to show the reach of God’s saving grace, but also his patience in it. Indeed, elsewhere it is written “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
But do we really believe this? Do we understand our own sinfulness as Paul did? Do we understand what Jesus has saved us from? Do we appreciate the patience of God in our own salvation?
Today, say a prayer of thanks to God for his reach and patience in your salvation. Paul was saved so that Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for you and for me.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
This is not a direct command from Paul. Rather, this is a prayer, a petition given up to the Lord for the saints in Thessalonica. Yet even this petition has application for the Thessalonians. And as we all pray this for Redeemer Church, we have similar application:
- The saints should pray the same thing that their leaders are praying for them. To pray in agreement is much like saying "Amen, let it be so, Lord."
- The saints should see God's love and Christ's perseverance as goals in their spiritual lives (in their hearts). Does your heart desire God's love? Does it desire the harder sort of God's love, the kind that loves it enemies? Does your heart desire the perseverance of Christ? Even if it means, as it did for Jesus, persevering to death?
- The saints should strive to know and understand God's love and Christ's perseverance continually in a better way. This is one reason that the New Testament Challenge is so exciting for us: we cannot think of a better way to learn more of God's love and Christ's perseverance.
As you can see, there are things that every believer can do even after a prayer is offered to God. When we lay our requests before God, it does not mean that we can simply check it off our list and kick back to wait for God to do everything. Indeed, prayer is only the first level where God expects us to be involved in answers to prayer. Instead our mindset should be "Pray and then get to work".
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Sanctification is a big word. When we talk about Christian sanctification as it concerns our salvation, we mean the progressive maturing of a believer away from sin and towards Christ-likeness. Sanctification can also mean "to be set apart". Interestingly enough, one of the meanings of the word "holy" is also "set apart".
In the context of our passage today, both seem applicable and fitting. All of our Christian life should be colored by holiness, purity, and sanctification. We should be set apart for God's purposes and uses. We should be holy and "wholy absent" from the darkness and the night that Paul talk about. "Since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled".
At the same time, we are not expected to leave this world. We are not expected to remove ourselves from society. Indeed, we cannot "win the respect of outsiders" if we are wholly separated from them. So how do we be at the same time "set apart" and still "in the mix"?
We are set apart by our actions and motivations. Obviously Paul opens the chapter with a call to a change in behavior. But the motivations are there too:
- Obedience - "It is God's will"
- The joy of the master - "live in order to please God"
- Internal compulsion - "love all the brothers"
- Time on earth is temporary - "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven"
- Final reward - "we will be with the Lord forever"
So this week consider not only your actions (obedience in behavior) but your motivation (obedience in heart). Are you motivated by love for God and for others, or are you motivated by self? As Lee talked about this Sunday, are you motivated by what you can give and how you can serve, or are you motivated by what you can get and how you can be served? Both can be a motivation for obedience and good behavior, what's yours?
Monday, October 26, 2009
Just four verses later Paul says that “like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory”. Notice how the relationship changes. As the converts mature, the gentle mothering gives way to a stronger exhorting and encouraging. While the parental imagery remains, the relationship matures and changes as the convert matures.
Paul continues the familial imagery later in the book as he exhorts the Thessalonians to grow more and more in “brotherly love”. He seems to be driving home the idea of the believing family as on who helps, cares for, and cherishes the family found there. Indeed, he uses these different terms of family over 20 times in this short letter.
When you think of church, do you think of family or do you think of a weekly obligation? Are you taking steps to make it family-like? Are you gentle, exhorting, encouraging, and loving in turn and in their proper context?
Sunday, October 25, 2009
There are certain principles that should guide our lives with non-Christians, certain attributes we should strive for. Wisdom. Timing. Grace. There is a certain way we ought to answer each person, and there is no simple pat answer for everyone.
Live and communicate in the wisdom and insight of the Word of God. Maximize your opportunities to soften hearts, plant seeds, and share the good news. Don’t be heavy-handed and over-bearing with side issues. There is a right and a wrong way to handle the lost and the Gospel.
Most Christians fall into one of two categories when it comes to talking about Christianity. The first category assumes that this life is a battle, and their approach toward outsiders come as offensive (yes, I intend both meanings of the word). Their words are often agressive and confrontational, assuming that every person is attacking Christian views and values.
The other Christian on the other end of the spectrum is embarassed by "that sort of Christian" and instead just tries to love everyone. They are often heard quoting St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” The problem is that if the Gospel is never brought up, if the name of Jesus is never mentioned, then most people will assume you're just a nice person.
Somewhere in the middle is the sort of Christian Paul is talking about. Wise toward outsiders, but taking advantage of every opportunity with outsiders. Graceful, but always engaged in the conversation of the Gospel.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
It’s much harder to love the saints. Much harder to love each and every Christian. Maybe because we’re all still sinners trying to love sinners. We try to see each other with the eyes of God, but we’re imperfect. Yet our faith in Christ should illuminate something for us. Christ loved us while we were still sinners. And unrepentant sinners at that. And Christ loved the other Christians the same. And he loves them still. If we have been forgiven everything, what can we not forgive of others? And if we can forgive everything, we can love as Christ loves.
Personally, it is easy to love the cool Christians. The ones that have it all together. The ones that have something I can benefit from.
It's harder to love the broken and defensive Christians. The weird ones. The judgmental ones. The gossiping ones. No Christian will be perfect. Every Christian has his flaw or weakness, whether public or private. Yet we are called to love and forgive all of them. Because a body of believers that is not just correcting and reprimanding, but loving and forgiving, is a body that is becoming more like Jesus.
Friday, October 23, 2009
First, we strive for a life worthy of the Gospel because this world is not our home. Rather “our citizenship is in heaven”. And not only that, but these bodies will not always be our bodies, but we will have glorified bodies like that of Christ. So this hope in the future is like a prize that is set before our eyes so that we may run with hope, run with a goal.
But we also strive because we have power in the present. Paul tells us that Jesus has the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Why should His power be strength for us? Because His power is at work to spread His own good news. And if we live a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then that power is working in collaboration with us.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
But to live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ? That is another thing all together. What does it mean to live a life worthy of the death of the Son of God on my behalf? What does it mean to live a life worthy of His condemnation for my righteousness? It sounds ridiculously impossible.
And if we were left to our own devices it would be impossible. But God has set his seal in our hearts, the Holy Spirit as a promise and gurantee of a life, not only to come, but a life to live now in His power. We would despair without it.
This does not mean we are expected to live a perfect life. Indeed, living a life worthy of the gospel of Christ means we live it in humility. We live in dependence of Christ. We daily fall on His grace for our shortcomings.
Today, consider how you life can be lived in a manner "worthy of the Gospel". Confess sin. Give grace to those you interact with. Talk to God throughout the day, but talk to others in love as you have the opportunity.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Or as Paul calls describes it:
“The futility of their minds”
“Darkened in their understanding”
“Alienated from the life of God”
“Your former manner of life”
So as you consider how to put away falsehood, do not just watch your words. Does your manner of life appear more like your former ways or the life of Jesus? Does your thinking dwell on the things above or on things that are darkened by the flesh and futile? Consider how you can bring your life in more harmony with the truth that is in Jesus.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
In Ephesians chapter 1, Paul wants the saints in Ephesus to grasp something important. This is clear by the use of the words wisdom, revelation, knowledge, and enlightened. There are three things that stand out to me that he wanted the saints to know:
- The hope to which [God] has called you
- The riches of [God’s] glorious inheritance in the saints
- The immeasurable greatness of [God’s] power toward us who believe
Even broken down into numbered points this passage has a depth that is hard to grasp and process. There’s just a lot going on here. But for simplicity’s sake, God has given three things to the saints: hope, riches, and power and it all revolves around Christ. We have hope because we are called and saved in Christ. We have riches because we are heirs of an inheritance with Christ. And we have power working towards us that worked in Christ when he was raised from the dead.
And why should all of this result in the praise of his glory? Consider what it is we have come out of. Into hope from hopelessness. Into riches from poverty. And into power from helplessness. How can we who were hopeless, helpless, and destitute not praise the glory of God in Christ Jesus for what he has done for us and in us.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Salvation is freedom. Freedom from the slavery to sin. Freedom from the ultimate consequences of our flesh.
However, salvation is not freedom from the flesh (at least not right away). Otherwise it would be meaningless for Paul to tell the Galatians they should not use their freedom as “an opportunity for the flesh”. And what a sad prospect, that we could be given such a great gift in the freedom of salvation and abuse it for the desires of the flesh. Yet this is the daily battle that every Christian finds themselves in.
The desires of the Spirit are set against the desires of the flesh. And Paul calls the Galatians to gratify one and starve the other. And what are the desires of the Spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.
This is certainly counter-intuitive, since freedom usually means getting to do what I want to do. Not using my freedom to serve others. Yet, much like giving the perfect gift on Christmas is somehow more satisfying than getting the perfect gift, using our freedom to serve is more satisfying that gratifying the flesh.
And that’s what Christian freedom is about. The counter-intuitive. Freedom in service.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Yet this is not just an issue for the Galatians of Paul's day. Today Christians are still faced with the temptation to preach a gospel of faith and works. Of "grace and ______".
Paul's question is as applicable today as it was then: "After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?"
Are you trying to earn God's favor by reading your Bible, attending church, tithing your money? Is your obedience motivated by love or by an effort to merit something before God? Worse yet, are you "preaching" and projecting such moralism onto other Christians? Or even the non-Christians around us? Do the unbelieving around us think that Christianity and salvation is fundamentally about grace and faith and obedience motivated by love, or do they think it's about working through a check-list of moralism every week under human effort?
This week, consider the motivation of all your obedience before God. Examine how you talk about Christianity to your friends, family, and co-workers. And dwell on the grace and love that has been lavished on us by the Father until your obedience is an outpouring of your gratitude and love.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
So how exactly do we do that? How do we examine to see if we are in the faith? Take heart! You're currently taking part in one of the best tests.
As you read the Bible during the New Testament Challenge, do you have a deep love for the person of Christ? Do you feel a deep affection growing for him, as you might feel for a friend you are spending more time with?
Do you desire to obey Jesus to the best of you ability? As Jesus said this week "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord' and do not do what I say?"
Are you reading certain moral ideals for the Christian life that bother you because you feel so far from them? Don't despair. If your life is marked by a desire and continued effort to be more like Jesus because you love him and want to do what he says, this is the work of the Holy Spirit.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. But if you feel a desire to examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith, I can think of no better magnifier to hold up to you life than the Word of God.
Friday, October 16, 2009
We would expect the biblical opinion of boasting to be staunchly against it. Indeed, Lee pointed out just this past Sunday in his sermon on the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13) that "love does not boast". But Paul turns that assumption on it's head when, two chapters in a row, he talks about a sort of boasting that he himself engages in.
"Let him who boasts boast in the Lord"
"If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness"
In fact, I think he is saying the same thing here in different ways. Because if Paul boasts about the things that show his weakness, it is not so that his weaknesses look great. It is so God looks great in our weakness.
This is what the grace of Christ does. This is what the mercy of the Lord makes possible. Things that would be our shame, the hidden weaknesses and shortcoming that would be only our private guilt, reveals the power and grace of Christ in our lives.
Now we can say, "I was this way, but by the grace of God and no strength of my own . . . "
"I am struggling with this, but the Holy Spirit is slowly changing me . . ."
"I was lost, rebellious, angry and resentful towards God. I was going my own way, but his kindness and mercy led me to repentance . . ."
When you are before man or God, do you still boast in what you have done? Do you still boast in who you are on your own strength? Is your boasting to make much of you, or to make much of Christ?
Thursday, October 15, 2009
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."
Paul is using the grace of Jesus to effect two movements in the hearts and minds of the people of Corinth.
First, he is trying to move their hearts towards generosity in response to the immeasurable generosity that Christ had towards them. "For your sakes he became poor." He left glory, honor, position and status to become humble, poor, and . . . human. So if Christ did all this for you, what should you not do for him and for others in his name?
Second, he is trying to move their mindset away from earthly riches. Notice that he says that the Corinthians, through Christ's poverty, "become rich". Now he certainly doesn't mean that as soon as they received Christ, there was gold spilling out of their purses. Rather he is contrasting the infinite superiority of the generosity of Christ in the spiritual realm.
Thus, if you have become spiritually rich by the generosity of Christ, how can you not be generous in these smaller and temporary things?
What about you? Has your heart been moved by the generosity of Christ? Does your giving and generosity in your daily life reflect that?
Has your mindset been moved away from esteeming physical riches as better than spiritual riches? Does your giving and generosity in your daily life reflect that?
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
"And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
Everyone's default is to live for themselves. It's human nature. And if that stays unchanged, we will live our whole lives for ourselves. Only through a radical re-creation by God can we break this pattern.
And it can get ugly. When we live for ourselves, our thought process is "What can you do for me?" Paul suggests that we even "once regarded Christ in this way". When this happens, some people decide Jesus is simply a model for a good life. Others decide he's just there to make them feel better about themselves. And still others decide there's nothing he can do for them and write him off altogether.
But the new creation changes everything. It changes how we regard Christ and those around us. If we are "in Christ", we are now able to stop asking "What can you do for me?" and start asking "What can I do for you?" And when we ask this, we are no longer regarding anyone from a worldly point of view.
Today, ask yourself (as you read your Bible), "What can I do for Jesus today?"
Then ask "What can I do for others today?"
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
God, through us, spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. Paul is using a bit of Old Testament imagery here. While we don't offer burnt sacrifices any more, the Old Testament spoke often of the smoke from those sacrifices rising up as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. But since Christ was the perfect sacrifice, given once for all, such sacrifices have been replaced. And the source of the aroma has been replaced as well. "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing". We are "living sacrifices", as Romans says, and we are now the pleasing aroma to God if we are in Christ.
Do you feel like a "living sacrifice" most days? I know I don't. Do you feel like your life is spreading "the fragrance of the knowledge of him"? I know I often don't.
This is the uncomfortable tension that will always be there in the Christian life. The tension between what we are told is true about our Christian life versus what we feel. But the tension is a good thing. When you get comfortable, you stop pushing yourself, stop striving.
This week, recall one of Lee's points about love from Sunday's sermon, and strive to live as one who is the aroma of Christ to God and to the world.
If you want a creative way to be reminded that we are the aroma of Christ, click on this link to download "Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder" by Daniel Renstrom from iTunes. As we have sung on Sunday, it says "Righteous now is how he looks at me / Aroma of Christ to God from me / Bought with the precious blood".
Monday, October 12, 2009
Twice Paul clearly states that our faith hinges on the resurrection of Christ from the dead. He says that if Christ has not been raised, “our preching is useless and so is your faith” and “your faith is futile and you are still in your sins”. The resurrection is that important.
Is it that important in your mind? Do you understand the resurrection well enough to know why Paul considers it so critical to Christianity? Have you investigated the resurrection to be convinced to your satisfaction that the resurrection truly happened?
Here are some brief points about the importance of the resurrection to Christianity:
- It demonstrates and decidedly proves the divinity of Christ
- It shows with finality His power and authority over sin and death
- It is a prequel to the power that will exercised in our own resurrections
- It allows us to worship and follow a living Messiah rather than some ideal set before us by a man long dead
OK, big deal, you say. How does this apply directly to me today?
Pray today. And when you pray, you are praying to someone alive. You are praying to someone powerful. And You are praying to someone who is working that power in your life.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Yesterday we saw that God wants His people to judge sin within the church. The point of that is to encourage one another to live lives that show people the wisdom of following Jesus. (Ephesians 3:10)
God clearly states that certain things are sinful for everyone and that all Christians should avoid them (for example, see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Other activities are “gray” – meaning that God has not clearly spoken regarding them. For example, the Bible does not address forbid listening to certain musical styles, getting tattoos, watching movies, smoking cigarettes or body piercing. However, these activities may not be beneficial.
In 1 Corinthians, as well as a few other passages, we find wisdom for helping us make choices in “gray areas”. I hope that you find these helpful in thinking through decisions in your life.
7 Questions to Guide Your Choices:
1. Is this permissible? (1 Cor. 10:23) Is this activity one that God has universally prohibited for all Christians?
2. Is this legal? (Romans 13:1-7) Do the authorities God has placed over you forbid this activity? For children, this includes parents. For parents, this includes traffic cops.
3. Is this beneficial? (1 Cor. 10:23, 1 Cor. 6:12) Does this activity have the potential to become addictive, physically harmful, etc.? For example, smoking, China Buffet, or any foods ending in “-itos”.
4. Is this loving? (1 Cor. 10:24) Does this activity put the needs of others before your own?
5. Is this evangelistic? (1 Cor. 10:27-30) What will this activity cause an unbeliever to think about Jesus?
6. Will this cause someone else to stumble? (1 Cor. 10:32-33) We are strong in some areas and weak in others. Will your acting on your strength cause another to fall in his weakness?
7. Will this glorify God? (1 Cor. 10:31) Will this activity reflect well on Jesus?
For more information, check out the sermon on www.RedeemerOmaha.org entitled “Guidance for Gray Areas” on 6/21/09.
Friday, October 9, 2009
This becomes difficult for two reasons. One, we have a hard time understanding who we should judge (and yes, it is permissible to judge some people). Two, we struggle with knowing what to judge. Today, we’ll deal with the “who” question and tomorrow we’ll look at the “what” question.
In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Paul shows us the struggle of who to judge. We are to judge those who sin and call themselves Christians. We don’t judge those who don’t follow God - that’s His job.
Many Christians today have wrongly applied this, just like the Corinthians did. They ignore the sin of those inside the church and avoid those who sin outside the church. The very reason Jesus came and the church exists is to help people encounter and follow Jesus. What are we communicating if our lives look no different than theirs? How can that take place if we are never in contact with those who need to hear?
You can almost hear Paul’s sarcasm when he says:
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. – 1 Cor. 5:9-10
We have to engage in the lives of those who need Jesus, but not by joining them in their sin. Instead, we are to live as examples of God’s grace – freeing us from sin and our empty way of living. When our brother struggles, we are to help him see his sin and turn from it.
This brings to mind two questions:
1. Are you involved in the lives of people who need Jesus so they can see and hear of a different way of living?
2. Is there sin in you life where you need to repent and turn to Jesus?
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Who’s your favorite preacher? Your favorite worship band? Your favorite church?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with having favorites or even sharing them. It’s awesome that through technology, we can access so many great resources to point us to Jesus.
The problem is that we tend to take our favorite and lift it up as the “right” way, while tearing the others down as the “wrong” way. Even worse, we begin to give our favorite credit for being the reason that things work. At best, this causes fights. At worst, it robs God of the praise He deserves and sets up an idol in our lives.
Paul’s point is that everyone is called to serve God. Some are called to different tasks and given different gifts. Everyone is called to the same purpose, however – to use our gifts to serve God. He will work through us to do His work.
God is the one who does the work. He is the only One worth fighting for. His is the only cause worth serving.
How does He want you to serve?
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Once we experience the grace of Jesus, we find that the opposite is true:
“For in him you have been enriched in every way . . .” – 1 Cor. 1:5
Our lives have improved now and there are even better things to come:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him – “ – 1 Cor. 2:9
Our problem is that we tend to forget or don’t understand. That is one reason that God has sent the Spirit – to help us understand what God has freely given us (see 1 Cor. 2:12). One of His primary jobs is to help us remember what Jesus has taught and done (John 14:26).
Ask the Spirit to help you remember all that God has done for you. How has your life changed since Jesus found you? What has He promised for your future?
“He will keep you strong to the end . . . God . . . is faithful.”
– 1 Cor. 1:8-9
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
That has become the motto for many Christians. We’ve bought into the idea that God offers the best plan for eternity, but that it’s kind of lacking for this life. We try to play both sides to get the “fun” of this life while avoiding fire, brimstone, gnashing teeth, and worms in the afterlife.
Satan has us buying a lie. Jesus came to offer life that is full and abundant. Not just in the hereafter, but right now. Today.
We need to immerse ourselves in the life of God and see that He is the only thing that is truly fulfilling. Paul is encouraging us to do just that:
“. . . I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” - Romans 16:19
We can accomplish that by focusing on Jesus. Pursue Him and you will find that He is far better than anything else. He is more than enough; there’s no reason to seek any other. We read this yesterday:
Romans 13:14 – “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
This cartoon illustrates the idea perfectly. Check it out:
Monday, October 5, 2009
Who do you know that doesn’t know Jesus? Will their life be any different because you are the common link between the two? There’s one degree of separation between them and Jesus – and you are that degree.
I love the simple passion of Levi and the paralytic’s friends. Neither of them had the answers. Neither of them could solve their friends’ problems. But they knew who could, so they did everything they could to introduce their friends to Jesus.
My challenge to you is this: Make a list of three friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, etc. who do not know Jesus. Write their names on a 3x5 card. Pray for these friends each day. Ask God to open their heart and give you an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus. It may be as simple as inviting them to Redeemer.
Don’t miss this – the paralytic’s life was changed, not because of his faith, but because of the faith of his friends (Mark 2:5). Who’s life will be different because of your faith?
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Per request, here's some of our newest songs we've been playing at Redeemer. Clicking on the links will take you directly to the iTunes store where you can download the songs.
Lift High by Fee
Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder by Daniel Renstrom
At the Cross by Daniel Renstrom
Reign In Us by Starfield
Remain by Starfield
Also you can jump back here to find some older songs I posted a couple months ago. New songs coming soon!
This passage is not just about the Jews. It’s about me. It’s about you. All of us, before turning to Christ, have sought to establish our own righteousness. Like a child, we fight and say “Let me do it! I can do it!”. In our foolishness we pridefully try to work out our own righteousness so that we can stand before God under our own strength and goodness and say “I did it”.
But if you have lived long at all, the impossibility of it all comes crashing down around you. And this happened to the Jews as well. Trying to achieve a righteousness by following the law, they rejected the gift of righteousness (and thus rejected Christ). The irony is that, in trying to stand righteous and justified before God under our own strength and merit, we reject the very one God sent. We reject God himself. Through obeying the law no one will attain righteousness, but through Christ, who is the end of the law, there is “righteousness for everyone who believes”.
Are you still trying to "earn" God's favor when you do good things? Are you still trying to prove yourself to God?
Or are you doing good out of a response of gratefulness for what Christ has already done for you? Are you pursuing righteous living out of a love for Jesus and a desire to be more like him? Test yourself. Test your heart.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Why does this matter? Why is this important? Because all things will not work together for my good unless I love God and I have been called according to his purpose. This is because, first and foremost, God works for his own good, for the good of Christ Jesus, and for his glory. And if we are in Christ, we are along for the ride! Things can go terribly bad, but if we are in Christ, everything will someday—sooner or later—work for His glory and our good.
So perhaps we should all spend a little less time and energy trying to "manipulate" God into giving us what we think is best for us. We all have a tendency to assume we know what our "good" is. Instead, spend more time this week loving God and trusting his call and purpose.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Don’t mistake this phrase. After being justified through faith, “we have peace with God”. It does not mean we receive peace from God. It doesn’t mean a warm, happy, fuzzy feeling. The “peace” in this context is in contrast to what previously was there: alienation, antagonism, and conflict with God. As Paul says in the following verses: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
Remember the parable from yesterday's reading in Matthew 21? Jesus tells a parable of a land owner who plants a vineyard and rents it to some farmers. They rebel, beating and killing every servant sent to them from the master. Finally they murder the master's own son (predicting his own death). Now this is a parable directed at the Israelites and even more so at the Pharisees. Their rejection of God and the son he sent results in this pronouncement: "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit".
But if Romans 5 is right, we are in the same camp. We are enemies just like the rebels and murderers. We are the rebels and murderers. But do you notice the common theme in both passages?
The death of the son.
Ironic, isn't it? The death of the son is at the same time the height of the enemies' rebellion (Matt. 21), and the source of reconciliation (Rom. 5). And the question is, do you still remain in rebellion and stand guilty of the death of the son? Or do you have peace with God in the death (and life) of the son?
Thursday, October 1, 2009
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of every who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith'."
It is easy to be ashamed of the gospel by human terms. Easy because the gospel presumes that we are all sinners and in need of help completely beyond our reach or on our own strength. It proclaims that we cannot "earn" merit or favor with God, but rather that salvation is a free gift. It confesses that God became man and died for sinners.
Yes, there are elements that we wouldn't have chosen if we were piecing together a gospel that we could be proud of before all men. But God, in his sovereign wisdom, chose this way to save sinners, and only in this way is there power to save sinners. And for that reason alone I can boast in the gospel, boast in the cross, boast in Christ crucified.
Hints for Romans: Take detailed notes. Ask questions of your community group leaders, even days before group meets if you like. Or simply leave a question here or over at the Redeemer Church facebook page!
There is a wealth of beauty in this book if you are willing to put in the time and effort!