Tuesday, November 30, 2010
OK, so right off the bat we have the "yoked with unbelievers" verses... particularly applicable to me, as my husband is not a Christian. It definitely makes things more difficult in some ways, especially with our children. My husband does not make snide remarks or discourage them from reading stories from the Bible or going to church, however if the children bring him a Bible story book to read to them, he tells them that they should bring it to me. Generally speaking, we have a very strong marriage and we avoid arguments about this issue by simply not discussing it at all. There are times, however, when I wish that I could discuss spiritual things with him, or tell him things that I've learned from our reading and blogging over the course of this year. There are times where I wish he did come to church with us so that it would be something we do together as a family, not to mention the fact that it's not always easy getting three kids ready and to church and Sunday School by myself. There were times when the boys were younger and didn't attend Sunday School yet when we simply stayed home, especially in winter, because it seemed like so much work to go. Now that they're in Sunday School, however, I make sure we go unless someone is sick. Recently our younger son has started saying occasionally that he wants to stay home with Dad. So far I've managed each time to get him to come to church anyway, but I can see it becoming more difficult in the future. All I can do is hope and pray that during these years when he's young and comes with me relatively willingly, he will learn to love God and want to continue as he gets older.
I guess all that is to say that I definitely have it easier that some believers who have non-Christian spouses; I love my husband dearly, and without him I wouldn't have the three amazing, beautiful, smart, funny children that bless my life and drive me just a little crazy, so while I can't bring myself to say that I shouldn't have married him, I can see how there would be some significant benefits to being married to someone who shared my faith.
The other passage that stood out to me was 2 Corinthians 9:6-11:
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
In Keeping Your Commitments, Bob Deffinbaugh has this to say regarding the above verses:
In introducing the principle of sowing and reaping here in our text, Paul informs us that giving away some of what we have is the means by which God provides more for us to give. The one who sows sparingly, reaps sparingly. The one who sows bountifully, reaps bountifully. According to the principle of sowing and reaping, to give generously is the way to have an abundant return. The key to sowing bountifully is to delight in doing so. The reason we sow sparingly is because we sow begrudgingly. What we enjoy doing (giving generously), we do more abundantly. What we dislike intensely, we avoid. And so Paul urges the Corinthians to give generously, out of a heart filled with gratitude and joy.
Giving generously is not only to be an act of joy, it must also be an act of faith. Let’s face it, when we give generously to the poor, it would seem there is no way we will ever see anything in return. But Paul introduces a second principle of giving: When we sow generously, God allows us to reap bountifully, so that we may be able to give even more.
Giving generously is giving graciously. When we show grace to others by giving generously, God replenishes our grace, so that we have yet more to give (verse 8). God graciously provides for us to be gracious, as we exercise grace toward others in generosity. It is He who “supplies and multiplies our seed for sowing” (verse 10).
Like most spiritual principles, this principle is just the opposite of what we would naturally think and practice with regard to generosity. We believe we can show generosity to others only after we have obtained all that we think we need for ourselves. I am willing to give to others, once I am assured that I have enough for myself. But I never quite reach the point where I think I have enough for myself, and so I keep postponing my generosity to others. Paul tells me that I must first be generous to others, and then after I have sown generously, God will cause me to reap in abundance, so that I may give even more. I must give joyfully and in faith, looking to God to provide for my own needs, as well as for my continuing generosity to others. (emphasis mine)
It's hard to give generously when you're feeling like there isn't enough to go around. It's part of our nature to want to make sure we have what we need first, before sharing with others. But then I think of some of the episodes of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" that I've seen, where people who have little, often less than we have, are doing and sharing with those around them regardless... I can think of one family that was living in what I can only describe as a hovel, and yet they helped and cared for others in their community selflessly and without complaint.
When we sow generously, God allows us to reap bountifully, so that we may be able to give even more.
Tomorrow's passage: 2 Corinthians 11-13:13 and Acts 20:7-12
Monday, November 29, 2010
There are so many great verses to focus on in today's passage.
A few, in particular, really jumped out at me, and they are actually related to each other quite well.....
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. (5:15)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. (5:17)
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. (5:20a)
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (4:7)
When we become born again, we are a new creation. The Holy Spirit gives us a new life which is under direction of a new Master! We no longer live for ourselves. We live to give glory to God. As His ambassadors, we are His representatives to a world desperate for the Good News. But we cannot do it on our own strength - this power comes from God!
These verses just say it so well, I really don't have much to add. Except the challenge to walk the talk!
Tomorrow's passage: 2 Corinthians 6:14-10:18
Sunday, November 28, 2010
I found it odd that out of all these passages I came back to the very first verse. I think the reason why was because the Lord convicted me this morning to do one thing toward my daughter (13 on Christmas day) this week. Edify, Edify, Edify. Not really just encourage, thought that is in there, but to build up with godly example and teaching and love shown and spoken.
At this age, it's so easy to say this line over and over to my eldest "act your age" or "you're old enough to know better!". Yet this verse convicted me to remember that I am older and stronger in my faith, life experience and even human development than she is. I should not be expecting her to just take on Christian character by default.
John Mac Arthur says about this verse:
"As with the principles of receiving one another with understanding and building up one another without offending, responsibility for pleasing one another falls on all believers but especially those who are strong. Consequently, they ought to bear the weakness of those without strength."
This really hit me. I need to be willing to bear more.
"Therefore, to bear the weakness of fellow believers is not simply to tolerate those weaknesses but to help carry them- by not being critical or condescending and by showing respect for sincere views or practices that we may not agree with. It is to "do nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with humility of mind...(to) regard one another as more important than" ourselves, not merely looking "out for (our) own personal. interests, but also for the interests of others" (Phill 2:3-4)
Someday my daughter will sit (Lord willing) at my table as my mom and I did last night after a bowl of turkey soup, and talk about the world through maturity and perspective she does not have right now. Tiny petty things are huge to her right now, and spiritual things are still very much a mystery. She is weak, and I have to bear, or carry, her weakness with patience instead of expecting her to leap in her journey so I can have the prideful satisfaction of having her "get it" now.
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.
I heard this as parent, as that was what the Lord had for me in it this time, but this is meant to apply to the body of believers as well. It also applies in the area of Christian liberties as Paul later states in 1 Cor 9 that he may be free to do this or that, but he will consider the weakness of those others around him before taking part in that freedom or passing on it.
It can also apply just in the way as it did with my daughter, that I need to bear some weaknesses in my sisters on certain things. The interesting thought about this is that someone is probably bearing me as well.:)
2 Corinthians 2:5-6:13
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Tomorrow's passage: Romans 15-16, 2 Corinthians 1-2:4
Friday, November 26, 2010
First of all, I just have to say how funny I think it is that I ended up with this passage! Several times this year, the reading I've had to write about has felt very personal. And given that RIGHT NOW I'm in the midst of working through a seismic shift in how I've believed God to work in this exact area, having to study this particular passage on predestination and unconditional election is just, well... amusing!!!
I will begin by saying I'm not done wrestling with it. Really, it flies in the face of everything I've grown up hearing and I'm having a really hard time understanding verses like John 3:16 in the light of Romans 9.
It's clear there are two distinct camps when it comes to this whole issue and there are wise, well-learned, well-respected men and women in both. Salvation doesn't appear to hang in the balance ~ meaning that believing one way or the other doesn't make you a true Christian ~ even though we're dealing specifically with the behind-the-scenes of salvation, but I think a large part of our understanding of God and grace DOES hang in the balance.
Paul teaches here in these verses that God chooses those who will believe and follow Him; that they existed in His mind along with everything else long before the foundations of time were laid. Paul gives the example of Jacob and Esau and reminds us that before they even had the ability to choose anything ~ good or bad, right or wrong ~ God said the elder would serve the younger. Paul reminds us that years later through the prophet Malachi, God also said, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
Now there are arguments that God was not talking about individuals, but entire nations descended from these two, and that He doesn't literally mean hate, as in doomed to damnation, just that Esau/Edom wasn't favoured by God. As far as I'm concerned, though, that's kind of beside the point. God still specifically chose one through which to reveal Himself to mankind and to redeem them. And you can't very well specifically choose something without specifically NOT choosing what's left! The Old Testament is FULL of instances where God chose one individual instead of another: Abel instead of Cain; Abram instead of Nahor or Haran, his brothers; Shem instead of either of his brothers; Jacob instead of Esau; Judah instead of any of his 11 brothers; Moses instead of Aaron; David instead of his older brothers; Israel instead of any other nation in the then-known world...
I'm sure we can think of many other instances where God specifically chose whom He would prosper for His glory, whom He would destroy to demonstrate His sovereignty, and whom He would use as cautionary examples. And NONE of them are FAIR! At least, not the way we humans view fairness. What I find curious is that we seem to be okay with it happening in Old Testament times, but not now in the New Testament church era. My guess is because now it hits home. Thousands of years ago, it didn't affect us personally. Now it does. Was I chosen or did I choose God? Why didn't He choose my neighbour? What if He hasn't chosen my children? Why do I need to care about spreading the gospel if He's already chosen who's going to believe and follow Him? How can John say God loved the WORLD so much He sent His only Son to die so that anyone who believed in Him would be saved, while Paul says God chose all who would believe in Him?
I'm not sure. But I do know that Christ's death is the only thing that makes it possible to eventually come into the presence of God, and that His sacrifice eliminated the need for ritual sacrifices. If Christ had not been provided as the ultimate sacrifice, even if just for a chosen few, those chosen would still be making animal sacrifices, and they would all be pointless. We could still never enter God's presence because only Christ could endure the wrath of God for our sins and not end up in hell for them.
And, I believe it is impossible to choose something that God hasn't already foreknown from before the dawn of time in a plan that has always existed in Him. Because we don't have the roadmap He does, because we can't see the future as reality the way He does, we can't help but view our lives as a series of choices for which we CAN be held accountable. We don't know the future plans for ourselves, let alone for anyone else, so we base those choices on what we know and believe about Him.
He is God. And Paul reminds us that He simply operates on a different plane than we do and that as the Creator of all things, He gets to make the rules and we have no right to accuse Him of being unfair. Whether He specifically chooses some and rejects others or whether He specifically chooses some and lets the rest decide for themselves, or whether there's something of a partnership between His choices and our choices... HOWEVER election and subsequent salvation come about, Paul reminds us of some key things: 1. Election is not by any merit in and of ourselves, but by God for His divine purposes, 2. Justification is not by works, but by faith in God, 3. Reconciliation is only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, and 4. God reigns supreme over all of it. HE alone detemines how He operates and has every right to do anything that best serves HIS glorious purpose, whether we understand it or not.
"A proper understanding of this doctrine," says gotQuestions.org, "should not result in questioning the justice of God, but instead in marveling at His great mercy. The question we really should ask is not why God chooses only some to salvation but why He would choose any at all."
Tomorrow's passages: Romans 11-14
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Today's passage deals with our journey of sanctification which starts with the necessity of sanctification and how it frees us from sin's control; the impossibility of sanctification here on earth and how we continue to struggle with sin; and ending with the certainty of our sanctification and our victory over sin.
The part that hit home the most is the middle one: our continuing struggle with sin and gaining the victory over our human sinful nature.
In his sermon The Responsibility of Justification: The Agony and the Ecstasy, Bob Deffinbaugh says....
Justification deals with the penalty of sin, but not its power...
just as the unbeliever cannot produce righteousness by his own works, neither can the Christian. The difference between the Christian and the unbeliever is that the Christian actually desires to please God, but is not able to do so, while the unbeliever could care less about obeying God...
What the Christian cannot do in his own strength, God does. The solution to Paul’s problem in Romans 7 is found once again, at the cross of Calvary, in the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf...
There is therefore “now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Being “in Christ” means that we are obligated to live our lives differently (Romans 6:1–7:6). We will often fail to do so, and in our own strength we will always fail do so. But being “in Christ” means we have no condemnation. The Christian will still sin; he will now (for the first time) struggle with sin, but he will not be condemned.
It is indeed good news to know that when we fail, as we surely will, that our sins will be forgiven. It is great news to know as well that God has provided the power necessary for the Christian to obey Him and to produce good works. The power to do this is provided through the ministry of the Holy Spirit:
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you (Romans 8:11).....
We have another comfort as well—the comfort of the character of God Himself. This is the final (and in many ways the ultimate) comfort for the Christian. It is the comfort of knowing that while we are fallen (albeit forgiven) creatures, living in a fallen world, we have a sovereign God whose plans and purposes will all be fulfilled. These plans have been formed in eternity past (“whom He foreknew,” 8:29) and they extend to eternity future (“these He also glorified,” 8:30). And these plans move on, from one stage to the next, without a hitch or a failure, and without the loss of any who are a part of that plan. All whom He foreknew, He predestined, and all He predestined, He called, and all He called, He justified, and all He justified, He glorified.
Do we live in a world which groans? Do we find ourselves fallible? We have every reason for confidence, for we are “sons of God.” His plans are not dependent on our perfection, our complete obedience, our sinlessness, to be realized. His plans include “all things,” including our collapses, including Satanic and demonic opposition (8:38), including every obstacle (8:38-39). God as easily uses opposition and failure to accomplish His purposes as He does our obedience. How, then, could we doubt the certainty of our sonship, and of all that God has purposed to accomplish? We can fail, but His purposes cannot. And since His purpose includes our glorification, we know that we shall experience “sonship” to the full, in His kingdom. (emphasis mine)
He also lists 3 things that are impossible....
(1) It is impossible to be saved and to continue to live in sin, as we formerly did.
(2) It is impossible to be saved or to live righteously in our own strength.
(3) It is impossible for the Christian, who will sin, to be condemned, to be separated from the love of God, or to thwart the plans and purposes of God. (emphasis mine)
And I love how Deffinbaugh ends off.....
Finally, I want you to notice the change in focus in these three chapters. The focus was initially on man. The focus was on the obligation of men to live differently than they did before they were justified. The focus was on the utter inability of man to keep God’s Law and to live a holy life, due to the strength of sin and the weakness of his flesh. There is little that can come from this focus except frustration and distress, which is exactly what we find in Romans 7. It is only when the focus shifts to God, to His love, to His sovereignty, to His faithfulness, that we move from agony to ecstasy.
Tomorrow's passage: Romans 8:18-10:21
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
In Romans Chapter 2 Paul blasts the religiously priviledged who were quite content to point out the large sins of the heathen among them instead of making sure that their own hearts were right with God.
My Life Application Bible warns very clearly (and accurately!)....
Those of us who have grown up in Christian families are the religiously privileged of today.
It is so easy for those of us who have grown up in Christian families not to see the holiness of God clearly. I already posted on this here at my own blog, but this just seems to be such a recurring theme for me during this year's reading and studying of the Bible.
In his book Gospel-Powered Parenting, William P Farley devotes an entire chapter to explaining how our fear of God, as parents, impacts our parenting.....
the fear of God is the key to effective parenting. What the cross teaches us about God's holiness provokes Christian parents to fear God. As we have seen, the greatest display of God's holiness is not in the Old Testament. It is in the New Testament. It is at the cross. What transpired at the cross, properly understood, is the reason to fear God.....
the cross motivates Christian parents to pursue their own personal holiness....the cross motivates parents to hate sin, first in themselves, then in their children....
the cross gives us an eternal perspective....
the holiness of God, demonstrated at the cross, makes parents decisive...the cross teaches parents to never presume upon the grace of God. The cross motivate the passive parent to decisive action....
the holiness of God, demonstrated at the cross, makes both parents and children needy. It convinces us that salvation cannot be earned. It motivates us to joyfully pursue our salvation in Christ alone.
In their book How People Change, Lane and Tripp insightfully write: "One of the reasons teenagers are not excited by the gospel is that they do not think they need it. Many parents have successfully raised self-righteous little Phrarisees. When they look at themselves, they do not see a sinner in desperate need, so they are not grateful for a Saviour." Children raised by diligent parents immersed in the holiness of God are not apt to share this problem.
These five benefits can be summed up with one phrase - the fear of God. "But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word" Isaiah 66:2 The fear of God introduces us to these three virtues. It humbles us. It motivates contrition and trembling at God's Word. God looks at the parents with these virtues and blesses their efforts...
the cross convinces us that God is holy. The fear of God is a by-product of living at the foot of the cross. Blessed is the child whose parents possess it.
Until we understand our sin, until we understand God's holiness and intolerance for sin of any kind - we will not understand His grace or His love.
A proper understanding and experience of the fear of God is crucial, not only for our salvation, but for the salvation of our children.
Tomorrow's passage: Romans 5-8:17
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I've been looking forward to Romans. It's been a while since I've read it, but I remember at the time thinking that it was probably the best book in the Bible for explaining what a Christian is and how to be one. Anyone who went on Teen Missions will have the "Roman Road" in their Bible. The Roman Road is a series of verses to help someone explain why one needs to accept Christ as their Saviour, and how to do so, which is by faith. The Roman Road, as one might expect, begins with Romans 3:23, but Romans 1:16-17 is kind of an introduction to the theme of the book of Romans.
Scripture - Romans 1:16-17
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
The gospel is the power of God that brings salvation by faith.
The following is an excerpt from Exploring the Riches of the Book of Romans by Bob Deffinbaugh.
...in November of 1515, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk who was a professor at the University of Wittenberg, began to expound the Book of Romans to his students. The more he studied the Epistle, the more he recognized that the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith was central and crucial to the argument of the Epistle. But he found himself struggling to understand it. He describes his struggle with this Epistle and his dramatic conversion when the message came clear to his mind, heart, and soul:
I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, ‘the righteousness of God,’ because I took it to mean that righteousness whereby God is righteous and deals righteously in punishing the unrighteous … Night and day I pondered until … I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before ‘the righteousness of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gateway to heaven. (emphasis mine)
In these two introductory verses (Romans 1:16-17), Paul asserts his confidence in the gospel and gives us two reasons for his boldness in proclaiming it. First, the gospel is the “power of God for the salvation” of both Jews and Gentiles. Second, the gospel reveals the righteousness of God. The rest of the Epistle, as I understand it, is Paul’s explanation of this fundamental truth: THE GOSPEL REVEALS THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD.
This has been a recurring theme throughout our study this year - we are not righteous, we cannot become righteous on our own, and only by faith can we be made righteous by God.
Heavenly Father, we thank you that the gospel is for us. We thank you for everything you've been teaching us through this study, and we pray that now, as we read more about your wonderful gift of salvation that we would learn more about who you are and about your righteousness. Strengthen our faith, fill us with your Spirit, and may the love and joy that come from being Spirit-filled overflow to those around us. In Jesus' name we pray, AMEN.
Tomorrow's passage: Romans 2-4.
Monday, November 22, 2010
In chapter 15 Paul deals with the Corinthians lack of understanding of the resurrection and how utterly crucial it is to the Christian faith.
Whether they actually refused to believe it, or simply wanted to reinterpret it (it was symbolic, blah blah blah) - something about their belief was wrong and Paul needed to correct it.
In his sermon Pity Not Them That Rise With Christ, John Piper points out 5 consequences listed by Paul if Christ is not raised from the dead.
First, if Christ did not rise from the dead than our preaching of the gospel is in vain and our witness is false.
Secondly, not only is our preaching in vain, but so is our faith. Without the resurrection our faith is worthless.
Third, if Christ did not rise, then His death accomplished nothing and we are still lost in our sins and under the wrath of God.
Fourth, which naturally follows the third, is that then the dead have perished and are eternally lost.
Fifth, if the resurrection did not happen, if we have simply fallen for a lie, then we are to be most pitied.
the great obstacle to a life of sacrificial, risk-taking love for other people is found in 1 Corinthians 15:32b: "If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die." In other words, without a hope for resurrection and everlasting joy with Christ we all tend to treat this life as a place where we have to squeeze out as much pleasure as we can and take as few risks as we can. Because there is nothing else.
But if Christ is raised, and if trusting him means that I will be raised with him, then this life is just a brief prelude to eternal life with Christ and ever-increasing joy with him. And if that is true, then Paul is no fool. His life of radical, risk-taking, sacrificial love is not to be pitied. Pity not them that rise with Christ......Do you see the effect of believing in the resurrection – really believing, not just saying you believe it? Without the resurrection we tend to want our pleasures here and now, and so we avoid risk and danger and difficulty and pain and discomfort and frustration; and so our love is tame and bland and weak and cautious and timid.
But, Jesus says, if you believe that your joy in the resurrection will make up for a thousand losses and self-denials and sacrifices and dangers and risks here for the sake of love, then you will love people without a view to what you can get out of it here. It will be sustained by the joy set before you (see Hebrews 12:2). And that will be the kind of love that we all dream about from time to time.
We were made for it. Christ died and rose again to make it possible. Come to him. Trust him. The Bible says, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" Romans 10:9 Saved from sin. Saved from judgment. Saved from a life of mere self-serving indulgence.
"If in this life only we have hoped in Christ we are of all men most to be pitied." But since Christ has been raised, and since by trusting in him we will be raised with him, then this life of radical, sacrificial love is not to be pitied. Pity not them who rise with Christ. (emphasis mine)Obviously, belief in the resurrection is absolutely foundational to the Christian faith. But I love how Piper takes it further than that. When we truly believe in the resurrection of Christ, and, therefore, in our future resurrection - then self-denial, sacrifice and risk done in the name of Love is put into perspective and found to be worth it!
Tomorrow's passage: 1 Corinthians 16, Acts 19:21-20:6, Romans 1
Sunday, November 21, 2010
I came to this blog to do my post today with a bit of a grudge. Today has been a rough day for my ongoing struggle with hormone difficulties. I've really struggled to finish this reading program (this is no reflection on the wonderful ladies here whom I've really enjoyed in every way) and do do my weekly post. For some reason, blogging has become quite a chore for me instead of the hobby I use to love. It's just where my life is right now.
So, I clicked on the reading and of course God decided to bless me. He gave me the passage that is very special to me. I'm thankful he chose to remind me of his past intimate direction.
Like a child who goes through both physical and mental growth spurts, my spiritual walk has been one of varying intensity. The last year, and especially the last six months I've felt spiritually numb. I know whom I have believed, I know what is true, and I know what I need to obey and persevere with but I have not felt intimate delight with my savior. The world has been overwhelming to me the last few months, my load as a mom of a developing woman (who turns 13 on Christmas day), and the practical struggles of human life have smudged out my passion. I know it's still there, deep down, like a true love I have for my husband but it's not ridding on the surface with infatuated expulsions. That's okay, I don't fret about it and know it's a life phase, but I'm not enjoying it.
So, going back to this passage took me back to a time of intense growth in my life. God started taking me through this exactly one year after my dad passed with cancer. Through Randy Alcorn and my dad's death, God had pushed my heart into a never before comprehended understanding of my God and his plan for our lives, now he was about to rip open my understanding of the law and who I was in him. He was breaking me out of trapped thinking into the freedom of intimacy with Him and His perfect will for me.
I've had few times in my life when God has spoken nearly audibly to me to turn to a certain passage but as I sat in my car one afternoon waiting for my husband and children to come out of a store he did just that. I was praying and he led me to 1 Cor 12:19. When I read it, I started crying intensely because it was so obviously the answer to what my heart was dealing with.
If you wish, please to to...
to read the testimony of this passage in my life. I hope it's easy enough to jump in to know what was going on. If not, go here for the complete set of links. To preface this exactly though, I was in a place in my life where I was falling into Christian uniformity where all Christians should do this and look like this. Yet, God was calling me out of what I thought my mold should be and on this day he was using the above passage to say to me "my body is many parts, how ridiculous if it all looked like one part, and how disfunctional it would be for my glory!". Anyway....read if you can, if not just move on:)
I realize this is an non-conventional way to do this post and I hope that's okay. I think testimony is one of the best ways to see God's glory in our lives, so, what more can I say that what I posted on this all ready.
is Tomorrow's passage:1 Corinthians 14-15:58
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Once again, so many options of things to discuss!
Here are a few that jumped out at me....
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Cor 9:25
You can't run a marathon without being physically in shape, without training for it. It takes self-discipline.
So does living the Christian life. We can't expect to be able to grow spiritually if we are not willing to put in the self-discipline, training and effort required in order to do so!
I've exercised regularly for years. Why? Because it was something I considered to be important and I made it a priority and a matter of self-discipline.
Until fairly recently, my actions (or rather, inaction!) have made it clear that I hadn't considered my spiritual life to be a priority.
What kind of backwards thinking is that?!
Of course taking care of our physical bodies is important - our bodies are the temple or the Lord and we were bought with a price (6:19-20). I am not minimizing that.
But I know that God is much more concerned with our spiritual health and that exercising self-discipline in this area is so much more important it's almost not worthy of even comparing the two.
One interesting comparison too - with exercising there always comes a point where you hit a plateau and you just don't seem to be progressing anymore. In order to break through that plateau you need to do something different - either lift heavier weights, or do more reps, or add some entirely new exercises.
I think the same principle works in our spiritual lives as well. We can hit spiritual plateaus. And the way to break through them is to do something different - maybe our prayer life needs improvement, maybe we need to read the Bible more, maybe we need to study smaller portions of the Bible more, maybe we need to serve in an area outside our comfort zone, maybe we need to mentor someone, maybe we need a mentor - so many ways to bust out of a spiritual plateau as we continue to run in such a way as to get the prize (9:24b)!!
The other verse that I love from this passage is one of the many verses we had to memorize for Teen Missions....
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Cor 10:13
First of all, I think there are very few verses that have been misquoted or misinterpreted more than this one. Haven't we all heard "God will not give you more than you can bear"? That's not what this verse says. In fact, I think God gives us more than we can bear all the time! That's how we learn to trust in Him and to rely on Him instead of relying on our own strength. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
No, this verse says that God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. There is always a way out of sin. God will never let sin be our only option. We may not like the other option, we will almost certainly not be able to choose the other option in our own strength, but God will always provide a way out. He is faithful. Always.
And, of course, exercising our spiritual muscles will certainly help in this area too!
So the question is - are you willing to exercise the self-discipline necessary to bust through spiritual plateaus and keep pressing on towards the finish line?
Tomorrow's passage: 1 Corinthians 11:2-13:13
Friday, November 19, 2010
Okay, so I think it's safe to say that Paul manages to cram a LOT of stuff into his letters! Man, it just seems like every passage just has WAY too much to be able to examine in detail!! And he's so passionate about his message. It's virtually gushing out of him ~ you can tell by all the long, run-on sentences!
Each section in today's reading contains a very strong message, and I found it difficult to decide how to post, but two passages, in particular, caught my eye among all the other verses ~ and one caught my funnybone. I will focus on those.
To avoid seeming anti-climactic, I will share the giggles first! In 4:21 where Paul asks if the Corinthians would prefer him to come with a whip or with a gentle spirit, I couldn't help but think of kids arguing in the back of a vehicle and dad threatening, "Don't make me come back there!!" It's harsh and serious and no laughing matter, but I just couldn't help it. :)
The first SERIOUS attention-grabber for me is in the first section in chapter 5. In addressing some blatant sexual sins in the Corinthian church, Paul gives very specific instructions for how to deal with the offending believer, and insists the church expel him from among them. Not just because what he's doing is immoral (and by all indications, considered so even among unbelievers), but because sin has this insidious way of spreading and infecting the entire church. I think Paul's concern here is more for the preservation of the purity of the Bride of Christ than with correcting the individual.
And then come the words that caught my eye: "I wrote to 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. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people."
As far as unbelievers are concerned, Paul says, definitely spend time with them. Get to know them. It doesn't matter how ungodly and immoral their lifestyles are ~ befriend them! Extend God's grace and love to them.
But those who call themselves believers and act like the unsaved? Don't have ANYTHING to do with them! Put as much distance between yourself and them as you can.
It seems like Christians in North America have completely reversed this instruction. We surround ourselves with church friends and become an exclusive clique, avoiding contact if at all possible with those who don't believe the way we do. But do we make sure our close circle of church friends doesn't include slanderers, swindlers, and idolaters? Do we make sure WE don't fit those categories?? How many times do we turn a blind eye because we'd rather stay friends than keep the Bride of Christ pure?
The second passage that caught my attention is in chapter 7 where Paul's talking about the benefits of the single life with regards to the spread of the gospel. There's lots of fodder for discussion there, but the part that really stood out is verses 29-31: "What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away."
Paul reminds believers in that day and ours that the world is coming to an end. There is apparently reason to believe Paul sensed coming persecution from Rome and that his warning stems from that, but it's good advice to constantly live in a state of preparedness for Christ's return.
The sight of people standing on street corners wearing sandwich boards proclaiming, "The end is near!" used to be relatively common. Now, it's most commonly seen as a cartoon; a caricature of "Jesus freaks." Paul certainly didn't think it was funny. He almost seems a little frantic here, I feel. I think his whole point in this section is that we constantly need to be in the process of detaching ourselves from this world. To remember...
Tomorrow's passages: I Corinthians 8:1-11:1
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wow, I felt like there was a lot to process in today's readings!
I'm going to touch on just a couple things that hit me - nothing necessarily too deep, but definitely practical.
First of all, I LOVED what my Life Application Bible had to say about married couple, Priscilla and Aquila.....
Some couples know how to make the most of life. They complement each other, capitalize on each other's strengths, and form an effective team. Their united efforts affect those around them. Aquila and Priscilla were such a couple. They are never mentioned separately in the Bible. In marriage and ministry, they operated as one....
Priscilla and Aquila made the most of their spiritual education [that they received from Paul]. They listened carefully to sermons and evaluated what they heard. When they heard Apollos speak, they were impressed by his ability but realized that his information was not complete. Instead of open confrontation, the couple quietly took Apollos home and shared with him what he needed to know. Until then, Apollos had only been aware of John the Baptist's message about Christ. Priscilla and Aquila told him about Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, and the reality of God's indwelling Spirit. He continued to preach powerfully - but now with the full story.
As for Priscilla and Aquila, they went on using their home as a warm place for training and worship. Back in Rome years later, they hosted one of the house churches that developed.
In an age when the focus is mostly on what happens between husband and wife, Aquila and Priscilla are an example of what can happen through husband and wife. Their effectiveness together is the result of their good relationship with each other. Their hospitality opened the doorway of salvation to many. The Christian home is still one of the best tools for spreading the gospel. Do guests find Christ in your home? (emphasis in bold mine)
Isn't that awesome?! A godly, united marriage, not only affects you and your children and your extended family, but it can be a ministry. It can impact eternity! So inspirational!!
I also noticed how Apollos was not defensive when Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and taught him. As an accomplished scholar, orator and debater it would have been so easy to him to become defensive. But instead, he was willing to become a student in order that he would become an even more effective teacher!
Unfortunately, Apollos' talent created a problem when the Corinthians began to follow the preach instead of the message. Some were following Paul, some Apollos and some Cephas (which is Peter - I totally did not know that until now!) and Paul had to deal with this huge and divisive issue directly and strongly. This is still a problem today. How often do you hear of church's falling apart because the pastor leaves. We are not to be pastor followers, we are to be follower's of Christ!
I also noticed how much 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 mirrored the passage I mentioned yesterday! Just in case we needed that message reinforced a little ;)
Tomorrow's passage: 1 Corinthians 4-7
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I love reading Acts and Paul's letters to the churches at the same time - definitely making a bigger impact then reading straight from Matthew to Revelation!
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
You could write a whole sermon on those two verses. In fact, John MacArthur did and it's entitled A Prayer for Complete Sanctification.
I love his definition of sanctification....
Sanctification then is the process of being set apart from sin unto holiness. It is as if you have sin on the one hand, holiness on the other hand, and you are moving in progression away from sin to holiness. That's Paul's prayer burden, that there may be a decreasing attachment to sin, an increasing attachment to holiness, that there may be a decreasing incident of sin and an increasing incident of holiness, that there may be a decreasing frequency of sin and an increasing frequency of holiness. That's the path of sanctification.
Sanctification is a process. And it's a strange one, because it depends on God and yet, it also takes a lot of work on our part.
God is the source of our sanctification. But we still have to do it. But we can only do it through His power.
And the best thing - it's guaranteed to be successful. Because of us? NO! Because of Him. Because the one who calls you is faithful and he will do it!
Tomorrow's passage: Acts 18:24-19:20, 1 Corinthians 1-3
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Two verses jumped out at me as though they were suddenly in bold letters as I read. Acts 17:24-25 - “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else."
I found a message on these verses by John Piper - Why God Cannot Be Served But Loves To Serve
He had this to say:
If you feel strong and self-sufficient and morally in sync with God and able to serve God and make independent contributions to God and his work, then this is bad news when Paul says, "God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything." In other words, if this message is true about God, then self-sufficient people who think they can negotiate with God are deluding themselves.
But on the other hand, this is the best news in all the world - that God is not served by human hands has though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all people life and breath and all things." If you are weak and helpless and sinful and know that any good you do, you need God's help to do, then this comes as the best news in the world. That God is the kind of God who cannot be served, but loves to serve. His message to the world - the Christian gospel - is not a "help-wanted" sign, but a "help available" sign. He is not served as though he needed anything, but he gives to all people life and breath and everything. To those who feel morally self-sufficient this is bad news. It threatens to take away our basis for boasting. But to those who feel morally desperate and hopeless before a holy and infinitely righteous God, this is good news. Maybe a God who doesn't need me would be willing to be for me what I need.
Let me just look at one other verse of Scripture with you to confirm that we are at the very core of the Christian gospel. The verse I am thinking about comes straight from Jesus himself and is found in the Gospel according to Mark (10:45). It goes like this: "Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Here we have Jesus telling us why he came into the world. This is the
central Christian claim: Christ, the Son of God became a Son of Man and lived among us. Why? Did he come to recruit workers and servants for God? Did he come like a employer's company scout goes to a job fair at a college to find bright, young, able workers to help him keep his company afloat and prosperous?
No. That is not why he came. The words of Jesus are crystal clear: "The Son of Man did not come to be served . . ." He did not come in need of us. God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything - neither is his Son, the Son of Man. It's the same point. God is not served and Jesus is not served, as though they needed anything. Jesus came not because he needed us, but because we needed him.
So we are in no position to serve him, or impress him in any way with our abilities or our moral prowess. We are rebels at the root, and God is not our loved and honored and trusted and treasured king. We are captive to sin and destined for righteous judgment. That is why our greatest need is not for health, or wealth, or marriage repair, or job, or obedient kids. Our greatest need is someone to die in our place and ransom us from the penalty and power of sin, so that we escape God's judgment and enter eternal life.
The truth of the matter is, as we must know by now, that there is absolutely no way to earn salvation. We cannot be good enough or "follow the rules" well enough. We cannot just have the good outweigh the bad and the scales will tip in our favour.
Having said that, GOD may not need anything that we feeble humans are capable of providing, but our spouses, our children, our parents, our extended families, our church families - they all benefit from our service, and we have been commanded to serve others as part of living with the Holy Spirit in us. In 1 Thessalonians 4:7-12 of today's passage it says:
For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
You (and I) have been commanded to love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself. To love is to serve. How do we show love to those around us? It's not appropriate to go around hugging random people and saying "I love you." Hugs and hearing the words are nice, from people in your family or circle of friends, but the way we show love to others in our church family, work environment, neighbourhood, at the grocery store, etc. is by serving. It doesn't have to be something big... when you see the lady with her three kids in the store and one of them drops a mitten, pick it up and give it to her. Offer to hold the baby for five minutes after church so the mother can help her older kids get their coats on. Invite someone over for supper when his or her spouse is out of town for a few days - no one likes cooking for just themselves. I even find it harder to cook for myself and the kids if my husband isn't going to be home for dinner.
"Mind your own business" - well, that could be directed right at me sometimes - we all like to know what's going on in everybody else's life. It all seems much more interesting than our own. Especially nowadays, when you have not only the usual neighbourhood or small-town gossip or the gossip mags at the checkout, but entire blogs and websites devoted to every celebrity or celebrity-wanna-be out there.
"Work with your hands...so that you will not be dependent on anybody." I generally find it difficult to accept help sometimes because I don't feel I should need it. I'm young (relatively), strong, and in good health. I had three children on purpose and it's up to me and my husband to raise and support them, etc. (I'm not saying that's the right attitude, but it's how I feel more often than not.) But there are people out there who take God's provision for them to the extreme. Dr. Phil once, a few years ago, had a couple on his show who firmly believed that it was their responsibility NOT to work, because to do so was to not trust God to provide for them. So they were living with one of their parents, basically sponging off people around them and saying "Look! God is providing!" Evidently they neglected to read 1 Thessalonians.
Tomorrow's passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28; 2 Thessalonians 1-3:18; Acts 18:4-23.
Monday, November 15, 2010
As I was reading today's passage, one section jumped out at me - 16:6-10 which discussed where Paul tried to go in his missionary journey and how the Spirit kept stopping him until finally directing him to Macedonia. It wasn't exactly an obviously "spiritual" passage, but I was intrigued and decided to do a little geeky digging. Lo and behold, I found some very interesting tidbits from John MacArthur in his sermon Evangelism the Right Way. Not only did he have some great information to share about the historical specifics, but he also had an excellent application for us today...
I left the map up because I want to show you something that is so exciting. Now look at verse 6. "Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia" now notice they've gone through Sallitia through the Sallitian gates. They just kind of slid right in here. Here's Derbe, Iconium, Antioch and Listra, this little section in here. You perhaps can't read it all. This is all part of Galatia. Galatia was a whole large area. The red line represents the Roman Empire, the blue the water areas, but here in this great section here, Galatia was a large province. Now they had gone all in this area preaching and confirming and strengthening the saints and now it was time to move west, see? So Paul thought wow, you know what's next? Asia. Asia Minor, this area right here. You know what the cities were in Asia Minor? Ephesus, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Collosae, Sardis, Pergamus, Thyatira. Wow. Just think of it! "Lord, we're going to Asia Minor", and they start to move "and God drops a concrete wall" verse 6. They were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the Word in Asia. They started to go west and whammo, so what happened? The Holy Spirit slid them up and the trail must've been like this. See? He slid them up and they thought well, maybe north. Maybe the Holy Spirit is telling us north.
You know something? They never stopped. They never stopped. Just because this was closed they didn't stop. They just slid around it. They thought, "Well we'll go north." Look at verse 7. "They came to Mycea." Mycea is a little region right up here between Asia and Bithynia. It's actually in a part of Asia but the very north part and they couldn't preach, and in verse 7, "They attempted to go to Bithynia and maybe God wants us to go north." They can't go east, they've been there, and in the south is water. So north, Bithynia, but you know what? It says in verse 7, "The Spirit allowed them not. You cannot go to Bithynia." Well what are you gonna do? You can't go south, you can't go north. Here they are walking a thin line. You say all the doors are closed. South is water, east we've been, north we can't go, west we can't go. We might as well fold up and go home. But you don't know Paul.
He still had a corridor here, and so he just wiggled between Bithynia and Asia and he kept going and going and going. Finally he got a little place over here. You know what the name of it is? Troas. You know why he stopped there? Because the next step was the Aegean Sea. He couldn't take another step. He stopped. He got all the way to the water, "Well, Lord, you forced us into this little channel and we've been wiggling along between these two deals. Here we are at Troas" verse 8, "They passing by Mycea came to Troas."
You know, beloved, one of the great ways to know the will of God in your life? Just keep moving. You'll sit around, "I don't know what to do. God hasn't shown me." Just get up and do anything! Just do anything in His service and He'll move you where He wants you to be. Read my book on the will of God. It's all in there. Verse 9, "And a vision appeared to Paul in the night and there stood a man of Macedonia." Macedonia was across the Aegean Sea. You know what great cities were there? Philippi, _____, Corinth and Athens. Oh, and this was pure Europe. No longer was Christianity going to be an Asian cult. It was going to reach Europe. Fabulous. And a man of Macedonia vision says, "Come over to Macedonia." You want to know something? God wanted them in Macedonia but he never told them until they couldn't take one more step. You want to know how to live by faith? That's how. Just keep pushing and pushing and pushing until you finally hit a dead end and then God will open the door so wide you won't know what hit you, and you think Paul hesitated? Verse 10, "After he had seen the vision immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the Gospel to them."
Friends, a great way to know you where God wants you to work, just start going any old direction and watch Him close doors and just keep pressing on until you find an open one. (emphasis mine)
Sitting around doing nothing is going to accomplish exactly that. Nothing.
Doing something is better than doing nothing. Do something, anything, pressing on in faith that God will direct your path....and He will - in His timing!
Tomorrow's passage: Acts 17:16-18:3, 1 Thessalonians 1-5:11
Sunday, November 14, 2010
GALATIONS 3:24-6:18 ACTS 15:1-21
The Balance of Truth
"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law."
Could there be a better chapter in the bible on the practicality of living out the Christian life than we have in Galations 5? Our big struggle as believers is to figure out what these ideas of "freedom" and "live by the Spirit", and "law" really look like in our lives. More than that, to find the balance when definitions and lines are not always crystal clear. The reason they are not is because we are given the freedom to enjoy many things that can become idols in our lives or flesh feeding distractions.
In our thinking we usually separate flesh and law as two different avenues we can slide down in our walk. They are actually the same. Under Christ and the New Covenant, the law can actually feed the flesh. What do I mean by that? Well, it's quite simple really. We can feed our flesh by focusing on what we do or don't do as Christians and how that makes us more or less pious. Many Christians living this way look down on others feeding their flesh in other ways: "She spends too much money on her appearance", "they allow their kids to listen to secular music", and so on. When in actuality, they are feeding their own flesh with pride producing works. They are finding their salvation in their law abiding.
Then, on the other hand, we have the free spirited Christian. Their struggle is usually in letting things that are free to be enjoyed become determining factors in their happiness rather than Christ. They are encouraged to serve others, just the antidote to their tendency to serve themselves with too much indulgence. It's interesting that vs. 19 sums up aspects of both ends of feeding the flesh.
It's the age old comic strip of Christianity called "Calvin and Arminius" (as apposed to the more light hearted Hobbs :) The delicate debate of faith vs. works. Personally, I think both sides have a great deal of truthful perspective to give to each other.
Still, the dividing lines are the problem and men tend to lean toward prideful division with a side order of "my way is best". Paul has a strong admonishment for the church in this: "If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other."
The key is in the above verse. This is one I'm committing to memory the past few months. Unfortunately I've had some pretty intense experiences with the law side of Christianity. I have an extremist personality so when I was around these Christians I became like Paul's description of them. Thankfully some tough things happened to open my eyes to the wrong of this distraction for Christ. Yet, now I struggle with the other side of it. So, this verse covers the whole solution. You are free from the law, but not free to indulge your flesh and grieve the Spirit.
So, how to deal with fellowship with other brother's and sisters who we feel are leaning one way or the other? Well, first I think is to take the log out of our own eye, and then pray these very words for them. "Lord, help them, and help me, to be led by your Spirit. Convict us of your will and ways and let truth set the scales of balance straight in our lives. Not so that I can think I'm right, or that they can feel right, but that you may be glorified in both our lives. Give me grace for them when I feel frustrated with their decisions and convict me to fellowship with them despite our differences so that we have unity. May I not participate in biting and dividing whether spoken, or unspoken. Let nothing distract from your glory and your kingdom purposes."
Tomorrow's reading is:Acts 15:22-17:15
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
In order to become a Christian we need to accept Christ's sacrifice on our behalf, acknowledging that there is no way we can follow the law in it's entirety, no way we can be good enough to work our way into heaven. Salvation is by God's grace through faith in Christ Jesus and nothing else. We rely on this grace through faith when we become Christians, but then we are tempted to become like Christ on our own power, through works, and we stop relying on faith. This is foolishness!
Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
That's pretty easy for us to understand. No one is perfect. No one can be perfect. And perfection is what God requires. We have no hope on our own strength. We need the gift of God that comes only by faith in Christ Jesus.
We get that.
But then it is oh so easy to try to grow in our Christian lives through works instead of continuing to rely on faith.
In his sermon Can You Begin by the Spirit and Be Completed By the Flesh?, John Piper agrees with Paul that the answer is a resounding "No!"....
Since we began by the work of the Spirit, we must go on relying on the Spirit. The essence of the Galatian heresy is the teaching that you begin the Christian life by faith, and then you grow in the Christian life by works, that is, by drawing on powers in yourself to make your contribution to salvation. One modern form of the heresy is: "God helps those who help themselves." If you buy into that as a way of advancing in the Christian life, you have put works where faith belongs. Faith is the only response to God's Word which makes room for the Spirit to work in us and through us. Flesh, on the other hand, is the insubordinate, self-determining ego which in religious people responds to God's Word not with reliance on the Spirit but with reliance on self. It can produce a very rigorous morality, but it nullifies grace and removes the stumbling block of the cross.
I hope you can see that the essential mark of a Christian is not how far you have progressed in sanctification, but on what you are relying to get there. Are you striving for sanctification by works? Or are you striving for sanctification by faith? (Note well the issue in verse 3 is how to be completed, i.e., sanctification.) Are you advancing in the life of love by the power of the Spirit? Or are you trying to love in the power of the flesh, that is, by your own works?
OK, but how does that work itself out in our lives, practically speaking? Piper goes on to describe an acronym he uses....
APTAT: A—Acknowledge your inability to do good on your own. P—Pray for divine enablement. T—Trust the promises of God for help and strength and guidance. A—Act in obedience to God's Word. T—Thank God for whatever good comes....
Through the Spirit (not the flesh), by faith (not works), we wait for the hope of righteousness. Only when that is true can we say, "I am sure that the one who began a good work in me, he (and he alone!) will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).Prayer
Dear Lord, we thank you for your saving grace that we can receive through faith in Christ Jesus and Christ alone. Lord, we acknowledge our tendency to think we can achieve sanctification through our own strength, but Lord, we cannot. Again, we acknowledge our inability to do good on our own and we ask for Your help as we trust in Your promises. We commit to acting in obedience to Your Word and thank You for the good You are able to accomplish through us and give You all the glory. Amen.
Tomorrow's passage: Galatians 3:24-6:18, Acts 15:1-21