Living against the grain…that is what it is like to take a stand for Christ in a culture that does not see eye to eye with biblical faith. On Sunday at Providence, we took time to explain why the Bible is a trustworthy foundation upon which to build our lives. We can trust what He says, of course, but in order to live in the fullness of our new life in Christ, we must learn how to do what He says.
Healthy, new-born babies have a natural hunger that compels them to demand food. Their piercing cries in the night will long be remembered by their parents as a clear indication that the little one desired food. Their hunger and cry for food reminded their parents that a new life needs nourishment.
In the same way, when someone has been born of the Spirit of God, the natural, normal response to new life is to hunger for spiritual food. God’s Word is that food. A healthy, growing church is made up of people who have been born of the Spirit–or born again–and who have a real hunger for the Word of God. Just as physical food helps us grow to maturity physically, so spiritual food helps us grow to maturity spiritually.
Since God has revealed His will to His people through His Word, the Bible, it is essential for us to place ourselves totally under the authority of that Word. In order to grow toward maturity, therefore, we must come together as a church to ask ourselves week by week, day by day, and moment by moment two weighty questions: 1) Are you willing to do what the Bible says? 2) What does the Bible say?
The Bible calls His disciples the righteous ones of Christ. But they will be righteous only as they answer those questions correctly. Paul writes in Romans 2:13: “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” The second part of the verse should give us the answer to the first question. We must be willing to do what the Bible says if we expect to please God and so inherit His blessing in our lives. “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28)
On this point, we must be very clear. Our willingness to obey puts us under the umbrella of the authority of God’s Word as a rule of life. Therefore, all that is written in God’s Word is applicable to all of our lives. There is no room for negotiation. There is no room for compromise. If we are God’s people, we must be willing to do all that His Word requires of us.
What, then, does the Word of God say? That is the primary focus of our attention each time the body of Christ gathers. As a matter of fact, the role of the pastor-teacher according to Ephesians 4:12-13 is “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” I am called to teach and preach the Word of God to the end that the saints of God are maturing in Him through a knowledge of what the Bible says. What that knowledge requires is obedience.
So there it is. Will we do what the Bible says? Then, come, let us find together what it says, and then we will put it into practice so that the God of peace will be with us in all of His fullness!
Sometimes in the middle of global upheaval, the news gets so overwhelming that we compartmentalize our emotions from our thoughts. It is easier to deal with the pain if we disconnect it from actual people. We know about it, but if we do not know the people we can distance ourselves from their circumstances and inoculate ourselves from their hurts.
That is why pictures are so powerful. Every day when we see the faces of those in Syria and Iraq who are running for their lives, sorrow grips us. Whenever we see victims of ebola lying helplessly in huts in small villages, we cannot escape the images of real people staring blankly back at us. As real families hit with enemy fire appear in photographs from Gaza or Israel, our hearts immediately engage. Soldiers and civilians in Ukraine who have been hurt or killed are just statistics to us until we see their faces. Images are indeed powerful.
The biblical mandate to take the light and love of Jesus Christ to the nations remains cerebral and theoretical until we see those faces of men, women and children who live apart from Him. That is why when I travel, I try to take pictures of people as often as I can. Some are willing subjects, others caught from a distance with a zoom lens. But it is people in need who stir the heart. The commission of Christ should be enough. The love for His glory should compel us. The desire for His kingdom to grow and be populated with as many as possible before He comes again should sustain our mission.
But those faces…each one an individual created in the image of God. Let the Spirit keep us fresh in our mission and for missions because He commanded us to go, because we are passionate about making Him known, and because we pray for the expansion of His kingdom. But let us never lose sight of those images of people who need hope, the hope that only Jesus Christ can give!
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!