United with Christ in Death and Resurrection

Well, our study group came to the end of our lessons on union with Christ. This past week we discussed how we share Christ’s death and His resurrection. This is a hard concept to grasp. We may tend to spiritualize it, but as humans, we are also physical. In the Bible, our bodies are described as temples of the Holy Spirit. So, we experience the sufferings and raising of Christ externally as well as internally.

What does this mean? Consider the example of Joseph in the Bible. Joseph is considered a “type” of Christ. This is a technical theological term which means that certain events or people in the Old Testament prefigure the fulfillment of God’s purpose in the New Testament. Like Jesus, Joseph is misunderstood, mistreated, and thrown in prison. However, we later understand that through his sufferings, he was elevated to a high position, and able to save his family from the famine.

Since we are united with Christ, we should expect to see similar things happening in our own lives. We may be persecuted, experience difficulties, or be humiliated (we probably will). However, in Christ, God works all of these things out for our good, and the good of others. We become like Christ through the cycles of death and resurrection in our own lives. This is the pattern God used with Jesus, and with us.

The apostle Paul said:

“… (we) boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 1:2b-5

In suffering we become more like Jesus, and more fruitful. We can comfort others in despair because of the experiences we have been through. Are you willing to suffer for Him?

For more about suffering see:

Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

Behold the Man!

The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan — Book Review

Waiting Requires Patience

We Americans are not known for our patience. We’re fans of fast food; we covet faster internet service; we expect to be able to connect with our loved ones instantly. We’re used to doing things on our schedule at the time we choose. However, the Bible tells us we need to wait for God’s timing, and this requires patience. a fruit of the Spirit.

How can we grow this fruit in our lives? Here are some suggestions.

  1. We must endure. Often waiting requires some kind of suffering, which is unpleasant, even when that suffering is more mental than physical. However, we are promised that that there will be a reward:

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

2. That brings us to the second thing we can do. Hope. We must remind ourselves of God’s promise:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

3. Which means we must trust in that promise, even when we don’t understand.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. “Proverbs 3:5-6

4. We also must not sit idle. There is always work for us to do, even when we are in “waiting” mode.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. “Galatians 6:9

Hmmm… that seems to take us back to endurance again!

Waiting may be uncomfortable, but it isn’t bad. It will teach us patience; we will learn to trust God; and in the end we will see that His timing is the best.


“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14

For more about patience see these posts:

A Different Kind of Fast

Have Patience

Producing Fruit

Identity Crisis

These days it seems like many people are suffering from an identity crisis. We are told that we can be anything we want to be — we can even choose our own gender! This simply isn’t realistic. The Bible says:

“For you (God) formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139: 13-16

God created each of us with talents and also with limitations. He also has a plan for us, a plan that involves others. We are not just individuals; we are an integral part of the whole of history. Our identity is wrapped up in our union with the One who created us, who saved us, and who sustains us.

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Galatians 3:26

As the adopted children of God we are:

“…heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Romans 8:17

Don’t try to make yourself up — that’s bound to end in disappointment. Instead, accept your God given role as His child. His plan for you is will never fail.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

For more about God’s plan see:

Your Dream. God’s Plan. by Tiffany Smiling — Book Review

Everything According To God’s Plan & Timing

When God Says go by Elizabeth Laing Thompson–Book Review

Sin Consciousness– Why We Need It

We can’t be in Christ without sin consciousness. In other words, we need to understand that we can’t save ourselves — we need a savior. As an example of this, in our last class on union with Christ, we looked at the life of the apostle, Paul. Paul had every reason to trust in his own ability to keep the law. Here’s how he describes himself in the third chapter of Philippians:

  1. He had the right pedigree –an Israelite, a member of the tribe of Benjamin
  2. He was outstanding in his performance — a Pharisee, faultless in righteousness
  3. He had been strictly raised and trained in all the Hebrew rituals — circumcised on the eighth day, and so on

He had no sin consciousness at all — and many of us have the same mindset. Although we profess our belief in Christ, we believe we are “good” people, raised in the church, who have never sinned in any significant way. We don’t want to accept the fact that our sinful nature makes it impossible to obey God.

We see in chapter 7 of the book of Romans that the sin of covetousness was the one that got Paul’s attention. (Perhaps his encounter with Stephen led his to covet the grace Stephen displayed.) He realized that the law was given, not so that he could become righteous, but to help him recognize his sin for what it was. He puts it this way:

“Did that which is good then (the law), become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” Romans 7:13

Finally accepting his inability to do good, he is able to turn to Christ. He became a man in Christ who found that nothing was more valuable to him than knowing Jesus and being united to him. As he says,

“… 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 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ … I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death … ” Philippians 3:8-10a

Are you sin conscious? If not, the season of Lent is a good time to ponder this.

For more about sin see:

Why to Avoid Sin

Sin and Grace

More About Sin

What’s Your Superpower?

What’s your superpower? I hear people ask one another this question sometimes. The answer usually has to do with a talent, or passion. Something we really enjoy or are able to do well.

As Christians, we have a different sort of superpower– through our union with Christ, we have received the Holy Spirit. In the gospel of John, as Jesus is preparing for his crucifixion, He tells the disciples that although He will be leaving them:

“… the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26

Paul experienced this power because he said:

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-4

This power is not just for spiritual giants like Paul. In the book of Romans we are told,

“... those who are led by the Spirit of God, are sons of God…. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:14 & 16

This month I’ve been reading a devotional book written by Andrew Murray called Like Christ. I’m going to close this post with a quote about how the power of the Holy Spirit can work in our lives.

“O Christian, have a great reverence for the work of the Spirit who dwells within you. Believe in God’s power, which works in you through the Spirit, to conform you to Chrit’s life and image moment by moment. Be occupied with Jesus and His life, in the full assurance that the Holy Spirit knows, in deep quiet, to fulfill his office of communicating Jesus to you. That life is, simultaneously, your example and your strength. Remember that the fullness of the Spirit is yours in Jesus. It is a real gift which you accept and hold in faith, even when you do not feel its presence, and on which you count to work in you all that you need.”

You and I have the Holy Spirit — we don’t need any other superpower!

For more about the Holy Spirit see these posts:

The Holy Spirit and the Church

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Spiritual Gifts from the Holy Spirit



After the Weekend part 3

In addition to prayer, study can help us the direction our Christian action should take. Have you ever noticed that we’re not all good at the same things? From Romans, chapter 12:

“We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is in serving, let him serve. If it is teaching, let him teach. If it is encouraging, let him encourage. If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously. If it is leadership, let him govern diligently. If it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

There are many books available about discovering your spiritual gifts. There are also personality tests such as the Meyers Briggs test, or seminars about personality types which are often available through your workplace. Take note of the things people praise you for, or tell you you do well. Ask your Pastor or your church friends to give you their opinion and advice. All of these things are study– studying yourself so that you can be a good steward of your unique God-given abilities.

Of course, unless you have physical limitations, there are many things that need to be done around the church that almost any of us can do–things like cleaning, making coffee, being an usher or folding bulletins. We should all be willing to do our share of those chores. Being gifted to teach, for example, should not be used as an excuse to avoid every doing anything else. So make an effort to fit some of them into your schedule. Your fellow members will be VERY grateful.

One more section to come ….

For more about spiritual gifts see:

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

Let Your Spiritual Gifts S–T–R–E–T–C–H You

The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts

Who is Worthy?

Recently the 4th and 5th chapters of Revelation have come up several times on different occasions, so I decided to do a lectio divina reading of those two sections of scripture. What stood out for me in chapter 5 is this phrase …. “Who is worthy….?”

There is great anguish in heaven because nobody is found worthy to open the scroll that will describe the fate of the world. The reason no one is worthy is simple and can be boiled down to one word — SIN. This is a motif that is repeated over and over in the Bible.. For example is Psalm 14:

“They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” Psalm 14:3

And Romans 3:23

“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The Jewish people believed that if they could keep just the Sabbath perfectly three times in a row, the Messiah would come. They couldn’t do it. He came only through the grace and mercy of God.

You’re not worthy; I’m not worthy; but thankfully there is One who is: Jesus, the Lamb of God. He took away our sins and set us free to be children of God. He holds the world in His hands. Thanks be to God! Amen!

For more about the book of Revelation see:

Revelation

Worthy Is the Lamb

Perhaps Today

Why to Avoid Sin

Sometimes people think that sin means having fun, and that Christians are sad people with all sorts of rules that interfere with enjoying life. Not so! Here’s what the Bible says:

But he who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death.” Proverbs 8:36

In the end, sin will not make us happy. Samuel Shaw (1635–1696), an English nonconformist minister. describes it this way:

“Sin itself is hell, and death, and misery to the soul, as being a departure from goodness and holiness itself; I mean from God, in conjunction with whom the happiness, and blessedness, and heaven of a soul doth consist. Avoid it, therefore, as you would avoid being miserable.

Sin leads to a life of pain, regret, and ultimately separation from God; the righteous enjoy peace, now and forever. Which will you choose?

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23

For more about sin see:

Sin and Grace

God’s Victory Over Our Sin

Choosing to Sin

His Commandments

I’ve come to the last chapter of 1 John in my lectio divina study, and here’s what stands out for me:

“…his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3b

Many worldly people believe that to become a Christian, to submit to God’s will, would impact their life in a negative way. How boring to spend free time reading the Bible, praying, and going to worship services! How dull to be barred from behaviors that our society considers acceptable! Life would not be fun at all!

When our children were young, we tried to stress the truth that following God’s rules was not meant to be a punishment, but would make our lives easier. We might miss out on some momentary “fun” but the rewards were far more important. We would have better relationships, a support group in our church family, peace during difficult circumstances, and more. Better yet, at the end of our lives, we would not have too many regrets.

In the book of Matthew Christ tells us:

 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

That yoke is really simple, in fact it boils down to one word: love. Love God and love one another. The more you practice love, the easier it will be. And the rewards are great.

23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our LORD.” Romans 6:23

For more about obedience see these posts:

A Long Obedience In the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson — Book Review

Walking in Obedience

Obedience?

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1 Peter Chapter 3–What Stands Out?

This must be a favorite chapter of mine, because a number of phrases stand out and I have written about them before. For example, “a gentle and quiet spirit” 1 Peter 3:4 (A Gentle and Quiet Spirit), “with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:16 (With Gentleness and Respect) and “seek peace and pursue it” 1 Peter 3:11 (Pursue Peace). Peter is chock-full of good advice! This time, I’ll pick something different — “the hidden person of the heart.” In any number of places, Scripture tells us that God does not judge us because of the way we look, or even our behavior, but by the true motivation and intentions in our heart. When God chose David, He told Samuel:

” The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

And Jesus rebuked the Pharisees saying,

““Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Matthew 23:27

What does this tell me? First of all, God sees everything. I may fool those around me by a lot of good deeds or holy-seeming behavior, but I can’t fool Him. Secondly, that I need to cultivate that “hidden person” deep inside. Changing what I do is important, but changing how I think is critical. In fact, if I change the way I think, I probably won’t have to worry so much about what I do!

This isn’t easy. When my reunion group friend and I review our behavior, we often admit that we’re more likely to be guilty of doing good things with a poor attitude than doing bad things. What’s the answer? I find it in prayer– praying to love those people who annoy me; praying to accept my duty with a cheerful heart; praying to give others the benefit of the doubt … just praying continually. I can change my behavior, but only God can change my heart.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” Romans 12:2

For more about transformation see:

Rebirth and Transformation

This Is Your Brain on Faith

Learning to Count It All Joy