Month: March 2013
On Easter Sunday morning, all three morning services were able to see and hear the video you are about to see. Monica’s story is so fresh and vibrant, you cannot help feel the joy of Christ in every word!
What are you looking forward to this week? Each year, as Easter approaches, our lives become full of activity and with the awakening of the earth, there is an awakening in our hearts as well.
When we celebrate the new life we have in Jesus Christ, we must see that in order for there to be life, there must first have been a death. Without that death, we would have no forgiveness, no release from the penalty of our sin, and no freedom from the bondage which we experience when sin controls our hearts.
The resurrection of Christ from the grave in triumphant glory secures our hope and raises us up with Him to new life. It is that victorious life which we so heartily proclaim at Easter and which encourages us to press on and live in an attitude of praise and thanksgiving.
But is that really true? Do we allow the truth of Easter– the power and victory of the resurrection, the forgiveness and acceptance of the atonement, and the freedom from the grip of sin– to shape our lives and mold our thinking? Have we become so familiar with this, the most significant event in all of human history, that we have lost our ability to bow in awe before the Lord?
The wonder of what the Lord has done cannot be explained, but it can be experienced by every believer. We know that “…if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). What are these old things which have passed away and what new things have come to you now that you are in Christ?
What Passed Away?
The Bible speaks often about the need to “put off” the old and “put on” the new. What is it that the Lord Jesus died to remove from us? He wants to strip us of all that is old and then clothe us with His own garments. What do we know has passed away when we belong to Jesus Christ?
The Punishment for Our Sin. The greatest news of all in the gospel is that Jesus Christ died for our sin and took away the punishment which we deserved. Because He died in our place, we have been forgiven and the charges against us have been executed on Him
The Reign of Sin. Next we find that He not only freed us from the punishment we deserved, but He also conquered sin so that it no longer has dominion over us. We are no longer powerless to sin. “Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
The Rule of Self. The difficulty we face more than any other is considering our old nature dead given our natural inclination to rule our own lives. We have been given the privilege through Christ and His death and resurrection to put off even the old self and its selfish clamoring to direct its own way rather than surrendering that control to Christ.
We must realize that when Christ died and was resurrected for us, He made it possible for us to have these and many other aspects of our lives pass away so that new things can come. For after all, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
What New Has Come?
Are you living as a new creature or allowing the old to cling to you and hold you back? What new things do you see in your life that would not be there if Christ had not given you resurrection life in His name? For too many of us, there is too little of the new life in Christ and too much of the old.
As we celebrate Easter, what new things can you give thanks for?
A New Attitude. When we come to Christ, He gives us His mind and challenges us to have the same attitude toward life He demonstrated. Our view of life must reflect His as we see all things with the eyes of the Lord.
A New Identity. We are no longer to see ourselves as we once were, slaves to old ways of thinking and doing, but as newly recognized citizens of the royal family, heirs with Christ, the King of kings. Our identification with His death also identifies us with His resurrection life and establishes that we are a “people for His own possession…chosen from the foundation of the world.”
A New Authority. Subjected as we once were to the powers and authorities of this world, what a tremendous joy floods our hearts when we realize that we have been granted authority over all things when we stand in the name of Jesus Christ! As ambassadors for Christ, we live as aliens in a land not our own, but with the authority to act upon His desires without any fear to inhibit us.
On we could go in listing all that is new–a new character, a new purpose, a new future, and so on. But when we come to celebrate the resurrection this year, may we be more sensitive to the true nature of these new beginnings. It is not the awakening of the earth that brings our joy, but the awakening of our hearts to the risen Savior which overwhelms us with gratitude and fills us with praise.
May you enjoy the celebration of your new life in Christ with a glorious Easter!
I am just learning about the music and ministry of Kerrie Roberts. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, she served the Lord with her voice from early childhood, began writing and recording her own music as she entered high school and then college (at the University of Miami). Love her passion for Christ and ability to bring her heart into the songs she sings. Enjoy!
“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. The greatest adversary of love to God is not His enemies, but His gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.” (John Piper, Hunger for God, p. 14)
When a church decides that it needs to check its progress, what are the criteria it must use to do so? For the small business or the large corporation there is an easy way to measure success by checking out the “bottom line”. They can determine whether or not they are making progress by seeing what their labor is producing relative to their goal, profitability.
But how does the church measure its progress? We have a difficult time determining what the “bottom line” is since we are dealing with many intangible issues and with the hearts and lives of unique individuals whose progress cannot always be measured by objective standards. Yet we cannot ignore the need to evaluate and determine whether we are indeed making any progress simply because the task is somewhat subjective.
Since our goal is to grow to maturity in Jesus Christ personally and to introduce others to Him, it only makes sense that we should be able to ask ourselves some probing questions about the presence our absence of several marks of spiritual maturity. Here are eight categories in which to ask ourselves how well we are measuring up to the standard to which we attain as disciples of the Lord Jesus.
Satisfaction with Our Portion. Have you learned to be content with the knowledge that the Lord Himself has promised to be your portion? It is extremely difficult to resist the constant barrage of influences around us telling to be more ambitious, to settle for nothing less than the best. With our children, our homes, our jobs and in every other imaginable way, we are flooded with the thought that what we have and who we are is not enough. When we have been given life in Jesus Christ, we can learn to be satisfied and rest in Him.
Sensitivity to Sin. Am I more aware of aspects of my character that are unworthy of Christ now than I was before? One of the most obvious evidences that we are growing to maturity in Christ is the extent to which we are aware of the presence of sin in our lives. The closer we get to Christ, the more His light exposes the areas darkened by sin. Therefore, we should be recognizing more areas of our lives which need to be changed to be more like Christ and become more sensitive to our sin.
Servant’s Heart. Do I have a heart to serve others and to love them as Christ does? Whenever we walk with Christ, the immediate impact upon our hearts is the presence of a servant’s heart in our Master. We cannot escape the fact that He came to serve and that to follow Him we must also develop the spirit and attitude of a servant. Maturity in the church will always be characterized by a servant’s heart.
Scriptural Soundness. Is what I believe based upon the teaching of the Word of God? The marriage of belief and practice is such an alien concept in our society that an editorial in the local paper some years ago expressed dismay that evangelical Christians were dangerous because they allowed their “religious beliefs” to influence their social and political thinking. Do we dare plead guilty? We better! Our beliefs must be biblically based and practically expressed.
Submissive Spirit. Am I willing to yield what I want for the sake of others? Until we find an attitude in our lives which willingly submits to others, we will not be able to function in the unity of the Spirit nor enjoy the bond of peace which maturity in Christ promises.
Strategy for Non-believers. Are we concerned enough about those who do not know Christ to invest ourselves in developing a strategy that introduce them to Him? We should always be looking for ways to share the good news of salvation in Christ with an ever-increasing circle of non believers. The tendency most of us have is to divest ourselves of most of our relationships with those who do not know Christ. We need to build up more regular contact with those who need to meet Him.
Stewardship. Am I growing in my understanding of the biblical truth that I am just a manager of the resources that God has entrusted to my care? Am I giving faithfully to the work of the body of Christ so that I can share in the blessing of knowing the joy of obedience? When a church is mature, its people are generous and faithful, often sacrificial, and seldom need to be reminded of their responsibility in the area of personal stewardship.
Stable Prayer Life. Is my personal prayer life growing and the content of my conversations with the Lord giving evidence of a deeper walk with Him? The depth and breadth of the prayer life of the body of Christ serves us well in determining something of the spiritual vitality and health of the congregation. Prayer must be an integral part of our personal spiritual lives which adds to the richness and depth of our corporate experience of prayer.
What’s the “bottom line?” If we want to be the kind of church that “measures up”, that is growing in maturity, why not ask ourselves these questions? As you can see, we are not what we once were, but we are not yet what we are going to be!
Let’s press on toward the goal together!
Has your faith become so pragmatic that you have lost sight of the promise that Jesus is coming again? In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Far too many Christians have no idea how to think about that petition. Why? They never think about what heaven will be like so they cannot imagine what it would look like for life here on earth to “as it is in heaven.”
What a glorious day it will be when Christ appears again! That is our hope. John says that everyone who has that hope purifies himself. Paul says that until Christ comes again, we are to fight the good fight of faith, pursue the fruit of the Spirit, flee from temptation, get a good grip on eternal life and keep the commands to live godly lives in Christ Jesus…and to stay that course until that glorious day!
Here is a song by Casting Crowns reminding us of that glorious day when Jesus comes again for us. Until that time, by the power of Christ living in us may His will be done here on earth as it is in heaven!
When the favor of the Lord is upon His people, there can be no greater joy than walking in the perfect communion of the Spirit in the fellowship of the body of Christ. But when there is a breach of that favor through the obstinacy of His people, the hand of the Lord is removed from that people.
During the Exodus, Moses found himself faced with an awful dilemma. The people he loved and had served so faithfully had offended the Lord by acting foolishly and building a golden calf before which they bowed down in worship. The Lord Himself was so grieved that He told Moses that the people would still go up to the land of promise but that they would do so without Him. He said, “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, lest I destroy you on the way” (Exodus 33:3).
Moses was undone! How could such a thing be possible? The only reason they were identified as a people was their unique relationship with the Lord God, a relationship marked by His abiding presence with them.
In the body of Christ, there are times when we act in ways which are unbecoming, ways which undermine the effectiveness of our corporate and individual witness, ways which communicate that we are an obstinate people who are slow to maintain a steadfast devotion to Jesus Christ. When that happens, we cannot expect the continued favor of the Lord upon our ministry.
Moses understood this and went before the Lord with a pleading heart and said, “If Thy presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). In other words, “Lord, if you do not intend to go with us further, what then is the point of our existence? We are together only because you have put your hand upon us and we have an identity as your people, distinguished from all the other people who are on the face of the earth only by your divine presence among us. If you take your favor away, do not send us any further. We will just stop right where we are and cease to continue in our journey because it cannot be done apart from you!”
Why do you think that in the history of the body of Christ, some churches have had great and dynamic periods of growth only to find that they soon fell into periods of severe decline? Only the Lord knows the full answer to that question but we can certainly trace some aspects of the answer to the situation experienced by Moses and the Israelites. When a people attempt to go forward without the assurance that they are proceeding in the certain presence and favor of the Lord, they had better halt immediately and be restored to the Lord.
No church is immune to the problem of obstinacy among its people, nor are we able to ignore the consequences of falling into that trap. Far too many churches have assumed that once the mantle of blessing has been put on, nothing will keep them from enjoying the continued favor and blessing of the Lord. The sobering reality is that any church which allows Jesus Christ to be dishonored, either through doctrinal error, disobedience, dissension among the people or disdain for our calling to serve one another, will cease to enjoy the fruit of the Spirit’s labors among us.
If the Lord declines to accompany us further, we are simply lost! Therefore, we must guard ourselves and the treasure entrusted to us by keeping watch over such things in all humility and with a completely submissive spirit. How shall we do so? We must take steps to avoid…
…Doctrinal Error by remaining true to the Word of God; and we must not allow ourselves to yield to the tendency so prevalent in our day to follow the latest trends and thoughts but instead expound the whole counsel of God.
…Disobedience by committing ourselves to the faithful application of the truth as we discover it in God’s Word so that we do not become a people of highly informed minds with negligent hearts, character and behavior.
…Dissension among the people by basing our relationships and opinions upon the unshakable foundation of Christ and His Word. When we agree upon what we are doing and why, we walk together toward the prize of the high calling which is ours in the Lord.
…Disdain for our calling to serve by rolling up our sleeves, opening our eyes, recognizing the needs, listening to the heart of the Master and getting on with it! With such an approach, there is no room for elevated opinions of ourselves or of our part in the work of the kingdom. We all then defer to one another in love knowing that it is the Lord Christ whom we serve.
When Jesus Christ told His disciples that “apart from Me you can do nothing,” He was speaking to the needs of every church in every age. No programming, no organization, no promotions or strategies–nothing can compensate for the absence of the favor and blessing of the Lord’s presence among His people.
With our hearts open to His, attitudes consistent with His, and lives which are faithful to Him, we can be assured of His abiding presence and enjoy the fruit of the Spirit for generations to come!