Monthly Archives: February 2018

Dying to Self

Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.       Hebrews 13:12

Revelation 13:8 speaks of Christ as the Lamb that was slain before the creation of the world.  Though we cannot understand this, we know that Jesus had to be crucified at a certain point in time — His crucifixion had to be actualized in history.

Believers can say that they have been crucified with Christ and given new life (Galatians 2:20).  But being crucified with Christ must also be actualized — during the Christian’s own lifetime.

One way Christians can become crucified with Christ today is by recognizing the death of their old self and the birth of new life within them.  Unfortunately, the old self has a way of refusing to stay crucified; man’s sinful nature keeps reviving it.  This is why we must die daily to sin.

One of the more important ways we become crucified is that we give ourselves in loving service to other people.  This is what Jesus meant by laying down one’s life for others and losing one’s life for His sake.

One reason why women often respond sooner to the gospel than men do is that they are naturally more self-giving.  In roles like wife and mother, many women know what it means to wash feet and to risk one’s life for another.  True J-O-Y, as we say, comes in having Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.

Advertisements

Forgiven Forgivers

Let brotherly love continue.       Hebrews 13:1

Hebrews says repeatedly that God forgives and forgets sin completely.  When Scripture repeats itself, it does so because we often need reminding.

One frequently forgotten fact is that, since we have received forgiveness in Jesus Christ, we must also forgive others.  Jesus emphasized this when He taught His disciples the Lord’s prayer.  He said, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14, 15).

Sometimes we say, “I have been forgiven so much, I can afford to be forgiving.”  But this is mere book balancing.  Believers should be forgiving because it has become almost natural for them.  Just as we are free from guilt, we must freely forgive others.

Let’s look at it this way.  If God has forgiven a fellow Christian completely, who are we to keep a record of his evil?

The brotherly love that Hebrews 13 talks about is expressed most fully as we learn to live with others in a forgiving way.  We must forgive for Jesus’ sake, and we must forgive willingly.  If we do no forgive, we will find that we will be tormented by bitterness, resentment, and stress.

New Life for Others

Show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.   Hebrews 13:2

Spiritual children, says John, know that their sins are forgiven (I John 2:12).  Spiritual adolescents have victory over sin.  Spiritual adults know God and themselves so well that they reproduce; they “save” others as they live for Jesus, being hospitable, righteous, and considerate.

In prayer life, children pray, “Give me.”  Adolescents pray, “Make me.”  Adults pray, “Use me.”

In evangelism, children preach, “Christ died for you.”  Often this makes no impression on people because they are more concerned about their needs here and now than they are about the hereafter.

Spiritual adolescents often enjoy telling others, “Christ live in me.”  They bear fruit, but sometimes they talk about themselves too much.

Mature, grown-up believers, however, are so filled with the Spirit of Christ that they bear rich fruit.  The Lord enables them to say what must be said at just the right time, and He guides them to do what must be done when it is needed most.

During prayer, never ask for the Holy Spirit’s power for your own sake; that is the opposite of being Christlike.  Instead, ask God’s Spirit to help you walk in Jesus’ steps — not to be ministered unto, but to be able to minister to others.  Be a giver!

Cloud of Spectators

We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.      Hebrews 12:1

It is useless to speculate on whether or not saints in glory can actually seems.  Jesus once told us that there is an uncrossable chasm between this world and heaven (Luke 16:26).

Even so, the Bible allows us to catch a glimpse of the saints who are already gathered before the throne of God.  Also, the church in heaven and the church on earth have a lot in common.  When Christians say the Apostles’ Creed, for example, they declare that they believe a holy, catholic (universal) church.

Sometimes we even call the church on earth the militant, fighting church.  And, if prayer is a weapon, the saints in heaven are engaged in the struggle with us (Revelation 6:9, 10).

We know that Jesus Christ continually intercede for His people while He is in heaven (Hebrews 7:25), and we know that the prayers the saints offer to God are about events in this world that concern us.

We, on the other hand, should remember the saints in prayer, through we should not pray to them.  Thanksgiving is an important element of prayer, and we should thank God for the saints — in many cases, parents and teachers — whom He used to bring us into existence and to tell us the gospel so the we could be born again through Jesus’ Spirit.

The Problem of Evil

See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness spring up and cause trouble.             Hebrews 12:15

The great, unsolved problem of history is the existence of sin and evil.  Here are three facts about this mystery, and three possible responses.

  1.  God did not make human beings like animals or puppets but gave them minds and wills of their own.
  2.   The Bible says that God makes people different from one another: one may be a ruler and the other a slave.  The difference has nothing to do with a person’s morality.  And the person of either position must choose between serving God or himself.
  3.   In a way that we cannot understand, God uses both good and evil to serve His perfect purpose.

Consequently:

  1.  All people serve God — they are actually His “ministers.”  Christian people gladly recognize this while God uses unbelievers to further His purposes against their will.  Christians are self-giving; unbelievers are self-serving like their leader, Satan.
  2. The Christian does not blame God for the evil in this world but admits that it has been caused by man.  The unbeliever, rich or poor, gives himself credit for his “blessings,” and blames God for all the misfortunes in the world, even those of his own making.
  3. The Christian rejoices even in times of affliction, knowing that they are blessings in disguise.  It is impossible for godless people to be thankful.

Be a Joshua

Make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.         Hebrews 12:13

The name Joshua is actually an Old Testament, Hebrew form of Jesus, and it was Joshua who led the second generation of Israel into the Promised Land.  There is a lesson here for those who enjoy the fullness of salvation and who sometimes become impatient with those who claim to be saved but who seem to be merely “half saved”.

After once surveying the Promised Land, Joshua and his fellow spy Caleb learned that, even though they were personally qualified to enter Canaan, the people of Israel were not yet ready.  God said they would have to wait for another generation to mature in faith before they could lead Israel into the Promised Land.  So they wandered in the desert with the rest of the Israelites for forty years (see Numbers 14).

Now compare Joshua with Moses who, though he had faith, disobeyed God under pressure put on by the Israelites.  Because of his impatience, Moses never set foot in the Promised Land.  He was allowed to see it, however, from Mount Pisgah before he died (see Numbers 20:1-12 and Deuteronomy 34:1-5).

Do you understand?  Any Spirit-filled person who becomes annoyed with others for not claiming their inheritance (enjoying their salvation) must be patient and caring, lest he dishonor God who gives it.

 

 

Looking to Jesus

Let us run … the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus.     Hebrews 12:1, 2

“How to” books are extremely popular, even in dealing with religion.  When a person begins to understand how great salvation in Christ is, he or she naturally desires that salvation and wonders how to obtain it.

First, one must sincerely want the fullness of God’s salvation.  Many people do not want any more of the Christian faith than they think is necessary for getting them to heaven.

Second, one must ask for it.  God is more willing to give of Himself than we are to receive Him.  And, interestingly, those who pray for the fullness of salvation find that their prayer answers itself; before one asks for salvation, God has already granted it.

Third, if one really wants salvation and asks for it sincerely, he will make room for it; he will put away the old self and put on the new.  Paul says that if any one is in Christ, “he is a new creation; the old has passed away” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Finally, if one sincerely seeks salvation, he or she will look where it is most likely to be found.  He will search the Scriptures to find Jesus, and he will learn more about the Bible and Jesus through the church.  With eyes focused steadily on Christ, then, he or she will experience the fullness of salvation.