Saturday, October 29, 2016

161030 Walk Worthy of Our Calling

Ephesians 4:1-3, I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The New Testament presents the idea of living the Christian life as one of imitating Jesus in all our actions. Not being an “imitation” Christian but instead letting the life of Jesus be the pattern that we follow. For example, a man is to love his wife “as Christ loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25). Also, we are to forgive “as the Lord has forgiven you” (Colossians 3:13). Jesus laid down His life for us therefore we ought to lay down our lives for one another (1 John 3:16). The Bible presents our life as a race in which we are “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,” (Hebrews 12:2). Indeed, we are to walk worthy of our calling.
Many people believe that following in the footsteps of Jesus will always be a pleasant experience. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our suffering is part of the process of our being glorified with Him (Romans 8:17). God uses suffering and difficulty to make us Christ-like. This is part of the process of our growing to maturity as Christians. Since Christ perfectly obeyed His Father in the face of great suffering, our obedience, trust and patience in suffering picture what Christ is like and, in the face of it, we bring more honor to Him.
The apostle…
Paul was in prison thinking of his Christian brothers. Let’s look at Acts 28:17. After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
Paul was arrested in Jerusalem while carrying out a Jewish ritual and not preaching Christ. After he was arrested he was taken to Caesarea for protection from the Jews. In order that he not be taken back to Jerusalem, Paul appealed to Caesar. That’s kind of like appealing to the Supreme Court here in the United States. Every Roman citizen had the right to appeal to the Emperor and Paul was born a Roman citizen even though he was a Jew. All the time that he was in prison, being taken from jail to jail, his thoughts were primarily for the churches and not for himself. Every opportunity that he had to write to them…
He was urging them to live a godly life. See what he wrote to the Colossians in Colossians 1:10-12. So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
To live in a manner worthy of the Lord is much more complicated than we realized when we first began our faith walk. When we begin to walk with God we began to learn about Him. We learn how to be pleasing to Him. But we will never learn all that can be learned about Him. Our God is so far beyond us that apart from Jesus Christ we would never be able to understand Him. His infinite greatness separates all of His creation from Him. We will be able to continue to increase in the knowledge of God throughout eternity. We do not stop learning and growing spiritually when we pass from this life into the one to come. I believe what we see now is hardly a glimmer of what we will see then.
When we live a life that is worthy of the Lord we will bear fruit in every good work. Work that we have been designed for. Remember, “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).
When we look at the life He has given us to live here on earth remember…
Such a life would be characterized by humility. This theme is common in Paul’s teachings. Let’s look at Philippians 2:3-8.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
If we are going to live a godly life we must look at everything said about Jesus and see how we can apply them to ourselves. Paul encouraged the Philippians, and us, to do nothing from selfish ambition. He continues by asking us to look out for the interests of others for Christ’s sake not just considering our own interests. Jesus’ life is the most amazing example of this kind of humility ever seen.
We are to have the same attitude that Jesus did. He existed forever as part of the triune God. He did not hang on to His Deity instead He emptied Himself and took on the shape of a servant. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, left the glory of heaven to come to the gloom of earth. Jesus did the unimaginable in not only taking human form and being born as an infant but, beyond that, the Creator of the universe learned to crawl and then to stand and walk. He learned to talk just as all of us had to. He lived a perfect life and then allowed the Romans to beat Him nearly to death and nail Him to a cross. When He did that He took our sins upon Himself and gave us, in place of that, God’s righteousness.
The deepest part of His humility was when He became sin for us. He had no sin of His own and therefore was not required to die. Only the soul that sins faces death (Ezekiel 18:20).
A godly life will be characterized by humility. And…
Such a life would include gentleness. Let’s look at the fruit of the Spirit listed in 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.
These are characteristics that we will desire more and more as we come closer to the time that we join our Lord in physical presence. The fruit of the Spirit is love. That love produces joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
If we are to walk worthy of our calling we will be determined to be like Christ in every possible way. Our manner of life will have a massive effect upon our ability to share the gospel with others. When we follow in Jesus’ steps we will allow His peace to rule in our hearts. As we become more and more hungry for Him we will let His word dwell in us (Colossians 3:15-16). The same attitude of gentle humility that marked the life of Jesus on earth will also mark our life as we grow closer to Him. We will reflect humility and gentleness…
And be marked by patience and tolerance. Let’s look at Colossians 3:12-14. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
One of the reasons the Christian church does not operate in perfect harmony -- I’ll go further than that! One of the reasons the local church does not have harmony is that we are not patient with others and certainly not tolerant of others. Being tolerant of a person does not mean that you have to approve everything that they do or say. Being tolerant means that we will patiently wait on God to change them. If we can persuade someone to change by our own intolerant attitude they will not be convinced of it in themselves and that change will not stick.
We are to bear with one another and that simply means being tolerant of their differences with us. If we have a complaint against another believer we must forgive them. Our only hope of heaven is that God has forgiven us in Christ. If we’re going to be God-like we will be forgiving. Because God is forgiving we will also be forgiving.
Christians are to love one another as Christ loved us. If we will simply take on a God-like lifestyle we will be happier and those who love us and have to bear with us will also be happier. You see, when we are loving towards others — allowing the fruit of the Spirit to flow through us — we will become much easier to live with! Our local church should always be marked with love! Remember, love is not a feeling it is a lifestyle. When we do loving things we become more loving towards those that we have interacted with and they will feel more loving towards us.
I don’t know about you but I need to be loved. Therefore I need to love others and consider them better than myself (Philippians 2:3). If we are to act in a genuine loving way it will certainly require gentleness and humility. If we want God’s blessings on this church we will individually work at living a godly life. We will be gentle with others and we will be patient and tolerant of the differences that are reflected in their lives.
I’m not saying that we must approve anything that is ungodly or that is clearly against God’s word. But we need to be gentle in our attitude toward others. When we do this…
The result will be peace in the body. Let’s look at Paul’s words in Romans 14:17-19. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Too often the Christian life is considered to be simply following the rules. That’s wrong on many different levels. The kingdom of God is not a matter of rules — the letter kills but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit! When we live this kind of life we are acceptable to God. That is probably the most important thing that we could consider – being acceptable to God! It is my desire to live a life characterized by godly attitudes and outlooks. I want my life to be marked by peace and joy and not by disorder and confusion. We need to do everything that we possibly can to reflect the kind of love that God has for us and for all of those who will believe in Him.
Paul had every reason to think of himself and his own personal needs while waiting in the prison in Rome. He left that prison when the executioner cut off his head. He knew it would be so and yet he was constantly concerned for the churches. He was urging the believers to live a godly life. A life marked by humility, gentleness, patience and tolerance. Then he assured us that we will be able to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace! I pray that that always characterizes this church and our outreach to our community.
Our worthy walk is not simply a matter of mimicking Jesus’ actions nor the actions of the Apostle. We’re not just seeking to impress other people we are instead seeking to live in a way that is pleasing to God. When we act like Christ we become like Christ. We will grow up to maturity (Ephesians 4:13, 15). We will be “changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The result will be that we will become like Jesus, because God has predestined us “to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). Praise God “when He appears, we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2). Our desire should be that Christ be glorified in us (2 Thessalonians 1:10-12; John 17:10). We will never lose our individuality as we grow to be like Christ. Out of this maturity will grow the kind of unity that brings glory to God in the church. Have you repented of your sin and believed on the Lord Jesus Chriat? This could be your day of salvation.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

161023 A Prayer for the Fullness of God

Ephesians 3:14-21 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Paul is praying for the church that the many variations of God’s wisdom might be reflected to shine light into the darkness and break the power of evil. We do not struggle against human enemies. The humans are tools of Satan. We must put aside the appearance of the struggle and focus on Him who is the Creator! Our God is the ultimate ruler of the universe. Through His presence in our lives we can exercise boldness in our prayers and witness.
When the apostle Paul found himself alone in Athens he walked around the city and discovered it was full of idols. He went to the synagogue and went out into the marketplace proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. When some of the elite philosophers heard what he had to say they called on him to come to the Areopagus and explain his views. The philosophers were very interested in the new ideas that came along. Paul welcomed the opportunity! He pointed out to them that…
Our Father rules every family. Let’s look at what Paul had to say about our relationship to one another and to God, our Father, Acts 17:24-27. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,
I rejoice in Paul’s boldness! He turned an ancient idol into an opportunity to talk about the living God! He pointed out that the only true God does not live in shrines on the roadside or even in great temples. He cannot do that because everything exists in Him. God is everywhere present! In Psalm 139 the psalmist proclaims that God is already located anywhere we go. Go to heaven. He’s there! Go to the grave and He is there! Even before we were born God knitted us together in our mother’s body.
The ancient Greeks considered themselves to be intellectually and philosophically superior to all other nations or races. Paul wanted them to understand that they were simply one of many families. In relatively recent years scientists have discovered DNA! Proof positive that we are all related. God made all nations from one man and one woman. God does not need us but we certainly do need Him. Since God is the common Creator we are encouraged to believe that all humankind are cousins. As such the image of God is stamped into everyone’s DNA. God not only gave all mankind life and breath He has begun to call upon all mankind to seek God. Throughout the Bible we are repeatedly told that if we seek Him we will find Him. God is not hiding from us! He is the Father of everyone who believes without regard to their race or nationality. Throughout history God has maintained individuals that put their trust in Him. With the coming of Jesus into the world as the Christ the time began for all men to seek Him. Is he your Lord? He came to seek and save that which is lost (Luke 19:10) and we are certainly lost without Him. All who believe in Him are blessed with strength…
The strength He gives comes through Holy Spirit. Hundreds of years before the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost we find the prophet Zechariah talking about it in Zechariah 4:6. Then he (God) said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
It is absolutely essential for us to depend upon the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is received by faith in the beginning of the Christian life (Galatians 3:2; 1 Corinthians 12:13). The New Testament presents many activities that are done in the Holy Spirit. It’s possible to rejoice in the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21). We have our conscience bearing witness in the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1). We have access to God in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). We are told to pray in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20). And we are instructed to love in the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:8). We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
I quote “To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with the immediate presence of God himself, and it therefore will result in feeling what God feels, desiring what God desires, doing what God wants, speaking by God’s power, praying and ministering in God’s strength, and knowing with the knowledge which God himself gives.” Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, P 649.
When revival comes to the church it is the Holy Spirit that produces it. Revival doesn’t come by our efforts in any way shape or form. It comes not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit. Throughout history that is the way God has operated.
In Paul’s prayer for the fullness of God in the life of the Christian church we are reminded that…
Our faith is a dwelling place of Christ. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.  Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. At salvation the Holy Spirit comes to live in all true believers. Individually we are temples for God’s Spirit. Corporately we are God’s temple. As a result we have close fellowship in partnership with the Spirit in our lives. He gives us the gifts we need and teaches us the truth. He gives ministries to us so that, as Jesus promised, He will flow out of our lives like rivers of living water (John 7:38-39). It is absolutely essential that our lives operate in the Holy Spirit in an atmosphere of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). With Christ dwelling in us by the Spirit…
The basis of our existence is Christ. Let’s look at Colossians 2:6-7. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
We are to continue living day-to-day in the same way that we received Christ — by faith. We are reminded by the apostle Paul in the beginning of the book of Romans that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The gospel shows the righteousness of God through us beginning in faith and going on to ever-increasing levels of faith (Romans 1:16-17).
We are spiritually designed to live our lives guided and strengthened by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to rejoice in what He has given us. We are to draw strength from the indwelling Christ allowing us to grow in grace and overflow in thanksgiving. This kind of faith walk…
It is grounded in love. Let’s look at 1 Timothy 1:5. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
The focus of our life, the very basis of our spiritual growth is love. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians teaching us that we are to live at a level higher than the spiritual gifts. What he called the more excellent way is one resulting in faith, hope, and love and he gives us the assurance that the greatest is love (1 Corinthians 12:31-13). If we live in love we will come to a place in our life where we actually pass knowledge. We will experience more than we can understand that God has given to us. Spiritual growth is essential to a happy life. If Satan can, he will keep us from the word of God and prayer so that we do not grow. It is not just knowing facts it is experiencing a relationship with God that is beyond anything we can “know”!
As we grow we pass knowledge. Let’s look at Philippians 4:4-7. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
God intends that our lives be filled with joy. Yet for many Christians joy does not mark their life instead a kind of melancholy sadness seems to permeate their very existence. The Bible tells us that it is reasonable to rejoice in the Lord! And we do this by humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God so that, in His time, He will lift us up. We are to cast all our anxiety on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:6-7). When we do this we are enabled to boldly come to God in prayer. And we can be thankful as we make our requests known to God. When we do the peace of God — beyond all human understanding — becomes the guard around our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus!
One of the surmountable difficulties related to this peace is the fact that we have to “let” the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). And when we do this we can rejoice in all things, in all ways, and therefore be thankful in whatever situation we find ourselves. As we grow in grace we will move beyond knowledge…
And move to the love of Christ. Let me read 2 Corinthians 5:13-15. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
As we seek to serve God more and more it is because the love of Christ controls us. As we grow spiritually our dying and rising with Christ gives us the strength we need from the moment we become a Christian. The death to our old way of living and our resurrection with Christ becomes the explanation of the change that the Holy Spirit brings about in us. As we grow we become more and more able to serve Him with greater power and success. And we do this because His love controls us. Every step along the way is guided by our being “in Christ”. In Christ we are called to salvation (1 Corinthians 7:22), we are blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3), we are justified in Christ (Romans 8:1). In Christ we die (1 Thessalonians 4:16) and are made alive again (1 Corinthians 15:22).
The love of Christ that controls us enables us to serve Him in His power and strength and not our own. Our loving Father rules over every family on earth. Our loving Father gives us strength in the Holy Spirit! Our loving Father gifts us with a faith that Christ dwells in. Our loving Father gives us Christ as the foundation of our life. Our loving Father gives us a goal of love that He has for all who believe in Him. As we grow spiritually we move beyond “head-knowledge” and move into a life filled with the love of Christ. Consequently…
And are filled with the fullness of God. Let’s look at Colossians 1:18-20. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
We are filled with the fullness of God as a part of God’s original plan that He made before the creation of the universe. He is our example! Anyone who says that he abides in Christ ought to live a Christ-like life (1 John 2:6). Since we are allowed to live on earth like Him we are reminded that when He appears we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2). If we’re going to be like Him at the end we should make every effort to be Christ-like in our day-to-day activities. In our human ability that is impossible but “in Christ” we are able because it is not by our strength but by His Spirit that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Now, in Him all the fullness of God is pleased to dwell. In our salvation He comes to live in us through the Spirit. If Jesus lives in us and the fullness of God lives in Him then it follows that the fullness of God dwells in us “in Christ”! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Christ is able to give us more than we could have imagined. However, He has a purpose in all the gifts he gives us. And that purpose centers on The Church. Spiritual gifts are given to strengthen the worldwide church beginning with the local congregation and spreading outward. Everything on earth is from Him and through Him and to Him (Romans 11:36). The glory of God in Christ Jesus is poured out on the church. We are encouraged to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). We must be born into the kingdom through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, having put our faith in Him we can grow up spiritually. Are you on a growth path with our Savior? Put your faith in Him and follow.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.