Saturday, September 15, 2018

180916 Victory in Jesus

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete,
Every believer is involved in a struggle. The world around us is filled with a culture that draws us away from God. All of our past habits work against our complete submission to God. And demonic activity is the source of many of the problems we have in life. We struggle with how to defeat these enemies. But too often we depend upon our own abilities in the struggle. The Bible’s emphasis is on the sin that remains in our lives. On another level, demonic influence is recognized. Quite often failure on our part is caused by our giving opportunity to the devil. But, “The devil made me do it” is a copout!
Paul was clearly not referring to our human body when he used the term “flesh”. The New Testament clearly presents the word as referring to more than our human body! Bill Gillam, in his book, “Lifetime Guarantee” gives us a definition that seems to me to be correct. According to Doctor Gillam, the word “flesh” refers to the old ways or patterns by which we have attempted to get all our needs supplied instead of seeking Christ first and trusting Him to meet our needs.
Therefore, he can refer to “flesh” as a condition in which we live. “We walk in the flesh” refers to our day to day activities. He wrote to the Corinthians that there are people who suspect him of “walking according to the flesh!” He wanted to be very clear that walking in the flesh is not the same as walking according to the flesh. It is true that…

We walk in the flesh. Let’s turn to Romans 8:3-5. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Living according to the flesh — attempting to get our needs supplied in our own strength — is not the pattern that we want to see in our day-to-day activities. The flesh condemns the law. In our own strength, we cannot live up to the demands of the law. God allowed that to be proven generation after generation for thousands of years. In order to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law, we must walk according to the Spirit rather than according to the flesh. Without any doubt, it is obvious that…
We can’t win the battle in the flesh. Let’s read on Romans 8:6-8. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Operating in the flesh is death rather than life. And yet most people, including Christians, attempt to “fix” their spiritual problems by using their old habits and human strengths (those “strengths” are really weaknesses). Our human nature is totally without spiritual good. The Bible tells us that nothing good dwells within us, that is within our flesh (Romans 7:18). Jeremiah told us that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9). Any focus on the flesh is deadly and should be avoided at all costs. And yet somehow, we fall back into the old ways of thinking. Habitually we develop patterns of thinking that continually led us into positions opposite to God’s desire for us. In fact, there is no neutrality. The mind set on the flesh is hostile to God! The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. I certainly do not want to put myself in a position where I am hostile to God in any way.
Before we came into relationship with Jesus Christ we were totally unable to do spiritual good. The Bible tells us that before we came to know Christ we were dead in trespasses and sins. Of course, we were not physically dead! It was much worse than that we were spiritually dead. To be spiritually dead is to be separated from God eternally. It’s quite possible for us to be “good” by the world standards and yet be totally isolated from God. Good people often do not believe in the existence of God. Yet the Bible tells us that if we are to draw near to God we must believe that he exists (Hebrews 11:6). The Bible tells us, in the words of Jesus, “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).
A person who is a slave to sin and who is dead spiritually has no hope in this world. It is impossible for us to draw near to God in our own power. Again, in the words of Jesus, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). We must first come to God in faith believing that he rewards all who seek him. We were all born in that “slave to sin” condition that keeps us separated from God. If you are a Christian it is because God himself has called you. When he calls you he does not leave you on your own. That would cause us to continue to operate in the flesh since we knew no other way to operate. When we respond to the call of God we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead. Now that’s not my opinion that is the word of God found in Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 10, verses 9 and 10. Once we come to faith in Christ, we find ourselves in spiritual combat. It is combat the like of which we’ve never known before. We do not have any resources to fight it with. In order for us to be obedient children to our heavenly Father, we must learn to fight the good fight of faith. We do not use any of the weapons that we have used in the past to fight the battles because our weapons are useless. I am so grateful that…
God provides weapons. Let’s look at Ephesians 6:11-12. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
In order for us to fight the battles of the spiritual life, we need to learn to use God’s weapons. We must remember that people are not our enemy and they never have been. Even though we are still living in an earth suit that corresponds to the flesh our war is not, and never has been, of the flesh. Remember what I read in the beginning of this message, “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh”. Our enemies are spiritual! They are the rulers and authorities of the cosmic powers over this present darkness. Our enemies are spiritual forces of evil. Satan has established strongholds throughout the universe that are in direct opposition to God. In order for us to be effective in combat, we must use the weapons God provides. And they are…
Weapons that destroy strongholds. Let’s turn to Romans 8:37-39. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Only the weapons God gives us are sufficient to meet the enemies that we face. Our strength is found in the love of God. Frederick Lehman wrote the song, The Love of God. The first verse speaks of the great victory that God has won for us!
The love of God is greater far Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled And pardoned from his sin. 
As Paul assured the Romans, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us! It is God’s love that enables us to stand against our enemies. It is God’s love that fills our heart with the courage to face those enemies. It is God’s love that is sufficient to meet every need in our life. The wonderful news is nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not death nor life, not angels nor demons, nothing that exists or will exist in the future can ever separate us from His love.
His love gives us…
Weapons of the mind. Let’s turn to Romans 12:1-2. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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. 
Even though we walk in the flesh we must not let that self-centered system of meeting our spiritual needs dominate our lives. We must come before Him as being acceptable to God. The flesh conforms to this world. As a matter-of-fact, the church as represented by her people does not look remarkably different from the rest of the world. Church people are not more loving than the good people of the world. Even though Jesus said that our love for one another would be the way the world recognized us as being His disciples (John 13:35). If our minds are transformed into the image of God we will look like God’s people! The love of God, when released in us, changes us into His image day by day. That transformation will enable us to obey Him completely.
First, we must believe that He exists! Second, we believe that He rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Jeremiah gave us these words, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) Our Lord Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
The only evidence of love for God is not faith but obedience. Love is not a feeling it’s a choice. A choice that grows out of our faith but it is still a choice. The evidence that we have faith in the Son is our obedience. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.… Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father,” (John 14:15, 21a). Evidence of our faith is not found in our testimony is found in our obedience. And…
God’s power is released in obedience. Let’s turn back to 2 Corinthians 10:5. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
God’s divine power destroys strongholds that the enemy has built in our life. Those strongholds are established in philosophy and empty deceit strengthened by human tradition (Colossians 2:8). Human traditions feed the flesh! In order to defeat our enemies, we must bring every thought captive to Christ. Remember…
Everyone is involved in spiritual warfare. There is no exemption! Unbelievers, atheists, are in rebellion against God. I realize many people claim there is no God. Yet many of them spend a lot of time trying to remove this “no God” from our world. If God does not exist why are they intimidated by him? Believers who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are confronted by the world, the flesh, and the devil. But, we can join with the apostle Paul, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 15:57) We have victory in Jesus! Have you openly placed your faith in him? This could be the day of your salvation!

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

180902 Guidance in Giving

2 Corinthians 8:1-2 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord,
Paul is writing to the churches in southern Greece in order to encourage them to have the right attitude about godly living and joyous giving. In the course of the letter, the passage we come to today is a commendation of the churches in northern Greece. He wants the Christians in Corinth to know about the grace of God poured out on the churches in Macedonia. Today we’re going to work our way through 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. I encourage you to take the time to read the chapters in their entirety.
We need to recognize that there is no human effort that can bring about salvation. We are saved by grace through faith and it is the gift of God. There is no way we can earn salvation because all of our good works are dead. The Bible tells us that our righteousness is like filthy rags rather than robes of righteousness. We arrive at those righteous robes by…
The grace of God. Let’s look ahead to 2 Corinthians 9:8. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
Grace that abounds is what God puts in us at salvation. We cannot earn it we can only receive it. It is only by God’s glorious grace that we have any possibility of salvation. When we came into the world we were born sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. As such, we inherit from them sin and death. Our Father God had told them that when they ate the forbidden fruit they would surely die. God chose to put aside the execution of their conviction in order to allow the race to continue on earth. Nevertheless, they did die spiritually that day. We inherited that death from them.
Paul tells us that the Macedonian Christians experienced the grace of God released in their lives and they were…
Tested by suffering. Let’s look it 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—
Four or five years earlier Paul had written this to the Thessalonians. Even though they went through a severe test by suffering it had a definite purpose. God allows our suffering to shape us. We must remember that nothing ever comes our way unless God first approves it.
The result of the suffering, for the Christians in Thessalonica, was steadfastness and faith. The things that they endured were evidence of God’s judgment and it was good. Please remember that in our flesh we are unworthy of the kingdom of God. But God will take us through whatever we face to shape us more completely in his image. No matter what we pass through our God is able. A few years later, Paul would write to the Philippians “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
When we reflect on Paul’s life we see what he is going through as he writes. The Philippian letter would be written from prison. We might think to ourselves, “How can Paul find encouragement in prison?” I see in the Philippian letter an answer to that question even though the question is not presented. As Paul closes out the letter (4:22) with these words “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.” There are not many things that could be more encouraging than to know that one’s imprisonment resulted in born-again believers among the Imperial guard.
Paul could encourage the Corinthians to experience…
Joy in spite of poverty. Let’s look at Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The Galatian letter was very likely written before either of the Corinthian letters. So he could remind the Corinthians of the source of abundant joy. Every believer has the Holy Spirit resident within them. The Spirit bears his fruit. Note that the Bible does not refer to “fruits” as a plural noun. The word is “fruit” and it is singular. So you can’t sit down with the Holy Spirit and choose which of these you display in your life. They are all connected and are one! Beginning with love and going through to self-control we have a description of the work of the Holy Spirit within each of us. I, for one, need all aspects of the Spirit’s fruit in my life.
I am reminded of a lapel button some of us had back in the 60s. It said, “P B P W M G I F W M Y”. Those letters mean, “Please Be Patient With Me God Isn’t Finished With Me Yet”! When I look at the fruit of the Spirit that slogan comes to mind. One standard that we will be measured by is when he appears we shall be like Him! I am far from being like Jesus and never will be in my human strength but I can do all things through him who gives me the ability.
The Macedonians had experienced extreme poverty in the material world but not in the spiritual world. They were able to take their eyes off their physical situation and focus on the spiritual life that was being manifest in them. No matter how poor they may have been they were able to experience joy!
They experienced severe suffering coupled with an abundance of joy in the midst of their extreme poverty. As they focused on the reality of the relationship to God they were able to operate in such a manner that…
Resulted in a wealth of generosity. Now let’s look at 2 Corinthians 8:3-5. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
They gave according to their ability. And when they did God allowed them to give beyond their ability. They experienced the joy of generosity! I hope you can picture with me the scene as Paul described it. They did not give according to his standard. They gave according to their own standard.
There is even a hint in Paul’s description of a hesitancy on his part to accept the gift because they might need it for themselves. They were begging Paul to let them give out of their poverty. They had their budget right side up! They gave their gifts first and then they allowed God to give the increase. When we are faithful in giving God will always ultimately meet our needs. Mind you, not necessarily our WANTS! Many times we get confused about what we need and what we want. Pray for the ability to tell the difference! Now let’s read on…
Following the example of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 8:9. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! That becomes the measure of our ability. He who was rich beyond human imagination. The Bible tells us that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the implication is he also owns the hills. He always has enough and more because Jesus — God the Son — is the creator of the entire universe. As such he is the owner of everything we can see. And he gave it all up for me and for you. Our Lord Jesus left the glory of heaven for the gloom of earth. He left heavenly mansions to be born in a stable and raised in the house of a carpenter! He, whose hands shaped the first human body, had to learn to crawl as a baby. He had to learn to walk and talk just like every human baby did.
I can hardly understand the feelings Jesus may have had as he became aware of who he was. Certainly, he knew who he was by the age of twelve when he sat in the temple courtyard and quizzed the seminary professors and, to their amazement, answered their questions (Luke 2:46-47). He may have had an awareness of who he was much earlier. We don’t know for sure.
Look at his grace. Grace that allowed him to welcome poverty. Becoming an example to us and a direction for us to experience spiritual wealth beyond our imagination. This must have been put here for a reason. I believe the reason will be seen as we go through the next few verses.
Seed sown in joy. Let’s read on 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
The rule of the harvest is that we receive what we plant. If you put out few seeds you get few plants. If you sow bountifully you will reap bountifully. The word that is translated “bountifully” here can be translated “with blessings”! So the passage would read “whoever sows with blessings will also reap with blessings”. I don’t know why the translators didn’t choose that rendition but I like it!
The seed that is sown in joy is clearly financial. The encouragement on the part of the Apostle is for us to observe carefully what we give and decide to give as abundantly as possible with as many blessings as we can possibly give! When we do this it…
Releases God’s grace. Let’s turn to Philippians 4:18-19. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Verse 19 is often quoted separately from the rest of the Philippian letter. We must be careful to recognize that it all has to come together. Never allow one verse or one section of Scripture to be interpreted apart from the context. God will supply every need but first, there needs to have been on our part a giving attitude. Verse 18 says that Paul received their gifts. Their gifts were abundant — with blessing! When we give abundantly we are put in a position to receive abundantly. And of course, the opposite is true that if we are stingy in our giving we can only expect to receive a small supply. There is a sensible reason for this. Here it is shown as…
So that you can be generous. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 9:10-12. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.
God is the supplier of the resources that supply our needs and multiplies our resources. We are enriched not just to become richer but instead to be able to give to meet the needs of others.
So, where does the seed come from that allows us to have a bountiful harvest? It is God who supplies the seed and it is God that directs the planting and sends the follow-up rain and sunshine that causes it to grow. Many times people think they cannot give. The Bible teaches that the tithe is the Lord’s. When we hold onto it we are holding back what belongs to God. When we release it through giving we allow God to bless us in ways beyond our imagination. If you give what you have left over after you pay your bills you will likely never be able to give. You will certainly never be a cheerful giver.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.