Archive for September, 2014

Romans 8:18-30 — Yesterday we talked about our present confidence that we have in the Lord. Today, we talk about our future glory. Paul tells us plain out that there will be suffering, but it is nothing compared to our future glory.

Man, this week, in what I call God’s synchronicity, He is driving home a point to me. In this synchronicity, He drives home a point to me in various different ways and from various different sources. The idea that He is making to me is that there is a price to be paid to be identified with Jesus and how far, how deeply, am I willing to take my faith. How far am I willing to follow. Am I content to sit back while there are billions of people who have not yet come to know Jesus? Do I have the faith of Christians in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia who are dying rather than denounce the name of Jesus. Yes, they are dying today in the 21st century for Christ. Do you have that kind of faith, Mark? How far are you willing to take this thing? God is speaking this synchronously to me – in the chapter of the book, Radical, that I am reading now (which, bam, is using Romans as the source for the discussion in the chapter), in mailing I have received about suffering Christians in Africa and the Middle East, and in my current passage under study, the Book of Romans.

Along with being heirs of God’s glory, Paul, in this passage, mentions suffering. What kinds of suffering are we willing to endure? For first century believers and for many around the world today that are Christ followers, there is economic and social prices to be paid for being Christian. Some face physical torture. Some face death. Even in countries where Christ is still tolerated or is encouraged, we must not become complacent. To live as Jesus did – serving others without expectation of payback, resisting the temptation to conform to the ways of the world, and heeding the call to call out what is evil and against God’s Word, and to love others so much that you are willing to die for them – exacts a price. How far are you willing to go? Being a Christian involves making small choices that separate us from the crowd and sometimes it involves making big ones. Are you content with your American dream lifestyle of me, me, me and gathering all the toys you can? Are you willing to chuck it all and follow where God leads you. Are you willing to say yes to Jesus? or do you say yes to the American dream of stuff, stuff and more stuff.

Comfort. cushiness. Complacency. Just because we go the most up to date current cool church with over the top service to the community and the latest Christian music doesn’t mean anything if we do not answer the call as Christians. If we just sit in a pew on Sunday and that’s the comfy Christian life we want, we are missing the point. It doesn’t matter that you attend a cutting edge church if you don’t heed God’s call, if you do not put your yes on the table. Are you willing to follow God’s call? It may involve selling your house and all your possessions and moving to Nigeria to help Christians being persecuted there? It might involve chucking it all and teaching in an inner city school? Christ did not promise us the American dream. He promised us suffering in His name. How far are you willing to take your faith? This is the question that I am struggling with now. The deeper you go with your faith, the more you are convicted of the inadequacy of it. Jesus went to the cross for us. How far are willing to go to make his name known?

Paul says what we suffer here is nothing compared to the glory that we will be rewarded with in Heaven. Do we really, really believe that? Christians in Nigeria believe it. Christians in Sudan believe it. Christians in Iraq believe it. Nothing that we go through here compares to the glory that we will receive in Heaven. Even dying in the name of Jesus is temporary pain compared to the glory of heaven. Even though we don’t often die in the name of Jesus here, we do still have our personal trials and tribulations, divorce, death of loved ones, job loss, and so on. We suffer in those ways here but the suffering we as humans endure is nothing compared to our future glory in heaven. Nothing we endure here is so nasty and ugly that it can trump our reward in Heaven as Christ followers. Many of us are so worrried out this life and being happy and content that we sell out our souls to chase after these worldly things. Paul says our future glory is what we should be chasing. All this, this is just temporary. Its seasonal fashion. Here today. Gone tomorrow. When we are chasing after Jesus, none of this temporary stuff matters. We have our eyes on the eternal prize. How far your faith? How much in love with this life are you? How deep are you willing to go? Are you all in?

Synchronicity

Posted: September 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

In God’s synchronicity, He sends the same message to me in multiple different formats. How far are you willing to take your faith? In the book, Radical, David Platt is challenging my comfortable American Christianity when there are so many people around the world who have never heard of Jesus Christ. Today, I receive a copy of Voice of the Martyrs and promotional material about the International Day of Prayer on 11/02/14 where we are to pray for persecuted Christians around the world, people that are willing to die for their faith rather than denounce Jesus. How far are you willing to take your faith, Mark? How much are you willing to give up? Do you have the faith of the martyrs?

On November 2, 2014, let us spend the day praying without ceasing for our sisters and brothers in the Middle East, North Korea, and any other nation where Christians are suffering and dying very real deaths for not renouncing Jesus Christ. Let us be moved to help our brothers and sisters in Christ.

http://www.persecution.com/IDOP

Romans 8:18-30 — Present confidence. Future glory. We know that God is with us and that He is working for us and not against us.

In the present age, the world is kind of crappy. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming. Death, destruction, greed, vanity, self-centeredness, looking for number one, and just downright hate and evil. People do such mean things to one another. It is the price we pay for the human history of sin. We live in a fallen world and we are all sinners. We take advantage of one another. We are straight mean. How does the Christ-follower put up with all of this. Paul has spent much of Romans so far telling us that no matter your pedigree, we are all condemned for our sins. Just one sin disqualifies us from the presence of God. We have learned that none of us, no matter who we are have a right to claim heaven as our eternal state. Paul tells us it is only through the gift of grace of Jesus Christ that we can claim heaven as our future home. In the future, that’s great! But what about now. When you sit down and really think about it, we live in a crappy world. What about now, God? Why do we have to deal with all the meanness in this world after we have been saved.

We have present confidence, according to Paul, because God works everything – not just isolated incidents here and there – for our good. This does not mean that all things that happen to us are good. Your spouse may shock you with an affair that rocks you to the core. You may lose a friend to a sudden death. A friend or a child may be stricken with cancer. A child may be born with a disadvantage. We live in a fallen world where even God’s creation is groaning under the weight of the distortion of sin. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding. Yes, even creation is distorted by sin. All of these things bring pain and suffering to our lives. But, yet, Paul tells us we can have confidence. Why? Evil is present in our fallen world and there are things that hurt us, rock us, and knock us down. However, for those who are Christ-followers, God is able to turn every circumstance around for our long-range good. God is not necessarily working to make us 24/7/365 romp around in the daisy field happy, but rather to fulfill His purpose in our lives.

This promise is only for those who love God and have accepted Christ as their Savior. We have a new perspective. We have a new mind-set. We trust in God not in worldly things. We trust that God will work all things for our good just as a child trusts his parents completely. No matter the circumstance, we have present confidence that God will see us through our pains and our sufferings. It does not make them any easier to go through but it does give us confidence that there is a purpose, there is an end game to it all. If you are going through a tough time and you are a believer, please know that God is there for you. He has a purpose in this. He will see you through it. You will emerge from it and God will have done a work in you that makes you stronger as a person and will give you a deeper faith in Him. He doesn’t guarantee us wine and roses after salvation. Sometimes this life is downright hard because we live in a fallen world. To the unsaved, it all seems random and there is no meaning or purpose. To the saved, we have present confidence because we know our God has our back, has our best interest at heart, will see us through the valleys of life, and will have had a purpose in all of it. We see it as God preparing us for what He has prepared for us. We have present confidence.

Tomorrow, let’s meet back here and talk about our future glory. That’s the good stuff.

Father, thank you for giving us your perfect Word. In it, we learn that you love us so much that you take even the evil things that happen to us and turn them around and work them for our good. For those who trust their lives to your hands, we can have present confidence that even the worst things that happen to us are capable of being used by your to speak of your glory. And that you will make all of this mean something that is good and right and true. Help me, Lord, to know that you are near. You are preparing me for what You have prepared for me. Help to see that everything is part of your plan. Help me to trust in that. Help me to see that I can have confidence in You now and have confidence in a future that is glorious. Amen.

“All too often, we view heaven as the default eternal state for humankind. We assume that our race simply deserves heaven, that God owes heaven to us unless we do something really bad to warrant otherwise. But as [the Apostle Paul tells us] in Romans, this theology is just not true. All people are guilty before God, and as such the default is not heaven but hell.” — p. 147, Radical, by David Platt.

To dissolve ourselves of the need to share the gospel, we have made it easier for the hard truth of the Bible to swallow by saying that all religions are the same and that they all lead to God. This absolves us of the urgency that the Bible calls us to. We are comfortable. Don’t give us something hard. As David Platt goes on to say, “Many professing Christians have come to the conclusion that if certain people around the world (and I add, here at home) don’t have the opportunity to heart about Jesus, then this automatically excuses them from God’s condemnation.” There is no biblical evidence to support this idea. We all stand condemned for rejecting God whether we have heard of Jesus or not. This is the hard truth of the Bible. But, God did give us Jesus as the one and only way out of the condemnation, the default state of hell, that we deserve.

In deluding ourselves that all roads lead to heaven it has made evangelism the job of some specially trained on-fire go-getters. It is not someone else’s job. It is ours. There is a whole world outside our door, outside our country that have never heard of Jesus. Why does this not break our hearts? Why does this not energize you? Why does this not energize me? We should be aching for the lost here and around the world. If we believe the Bible as perfect and true (and it is), people will not go to heaven unless they know Jesus as their Savior. No alternate gospel of it’s OK whatever you believe. No exceptions for those have not heard of Him. We all reject God. We stand condemned, all of us, in the absence of Jesus. This should be our desperate passion. It should make us hurt and ache.

Father, help me to not blow this off. Help me to want it. Help me to be so moved by this that I never forget. Help me to care about the destiny of souls who have not heard the gospel. Help me to care about it. Help me to be so stunned that someone might go to hell without having heard of Jesus that it moves me to action instead of sitting on the sidelines. Amen.

Romans 8:1-17 — There is an old saying that says, “there are two kinds of people in the world, the haves and the have-nots!”

This saying usually is talking about material wealth. Those who have it and those who do not. In the context of today’s passage, Paul talks about the haves and the have-nots, too. However, Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit rather than the material wealth. Paul divides people into two categories. We are either those who are dominated by our sinful nature or those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit – the have-nots and the haves. All of us would be in the have-not, sinful nature-controlled category, if Jesus had not been sent by the Father to offer us a way out of the first category. Once we have said yes to Jesus, accepting Him as the Savior of our souls, we will want to follow Him because His ways bring life and peace. Daily, we must consciously choose to center our life around God. We use the Bible to discover God’s guidelines and then follow them. The popular bracelets of recent years that say “What would Jesus do?” remind us that we must choose to follow the ways of the Lord because it is our nature not to do so. We must consciously decide to ask this question daily, “What would Jesus do?” Through the Holy Spirit living in us we will know the answer to the question and we consciously and eagerly must do what the Spirit leads us to do.

Have you ever wondered if you were a “have”, one who has the the Holy Spirit living in them. This question goes to the very core of our faith and what it means to be a Christian. A Christ-follower is anyone who has the Spirit of God living in them. If you have sincerely trusted Christ for your salvation and acknowledged Him as Lord, then, the Holy Spirit lives inside you and as a result your are a Christ-follower. You can be assured that you have the Holy Spirit living inside you because of one thing. Jesus promised it to us. Since you now believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that eternal life comes through Him, you will begin as Christ directs through the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. Our old ways of luxuriating in our sin nature no longer appeals to us. When we commit sins now, it is not because we did not know. Sinning causes us inner struggle now where it did not before. The Holy Spirit has much work to do when He comes to live in us. He spends our lifetime perfecting us. Helping us to see sin for what it is. Sin separates us from God. Sin is destructive. We have the Holy Spirit living in us to be our Advisor, to point us to do the right thing, to be more Christ-like. He directs us to make choices to serve the Lord and to do His will. The Holy Spirit guides to pray and deepen our relationship with the Father. This is how we know we are a “have” – one who has the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

Father, in Heaven, in your great wisdom as the Creator and Sustainer of all life, You send us the Holy Spirit at salvation to help us to make choices that please you. You send us the Holy Spirit to begin perfecting us and to help us repent of our sins. You send Him to clean us up and perfect us so that we may join you in Heaven at the end of our days. Thank you for the Holy Spirit, Father. The Spirit is how we know your presence in our lives. Help us to feel His presence in us. Help us to listen to Him. Help us to consciously choose the Holy Spirit’s ways over our base nature of sin. Help us to know you better through the Spirit. Help us to bring you glory through the Spirit living in us that guides us to be more like your Son progressively each day. To you, Father, is all the honor and the glory for loving us in this way by sending us the Spirit. Amen.