Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who are you living for?

Galatians 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

If you turn on the television and spend five minutes watching a show or commercials, you will notice one general theme: we are expected to cater to ourselves. Society thrives on humanism. Commercials solicit our wants and desires. Situation comedies revolve around a character's pursuit of career, love, or money. Even Christian authors are writing books on how to "Become a Better You" and "Live in Abundance." However, the central message of the cross is anti-humanism. It is a call to deny yourself and to be crucified with Christ.

In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes that we have been crucified with Christ. He uses the perfect tense, indicating that, though the event was completed in the past, it has a lasting effect. As believers, we share in both Christ's death and resurrection. The life we now live is not a result of anything that we have done on our own, but rather it is a result of the workings of Christ. Since we are now united with Christ, there is no more "I" in the sense that we are an individualistic, self-centered person. Christ's selfless sacrifice united us to him and calls us to do the same: to die to our selfish nature and live in fellowship with him. Therefore, we should no longer live according to our own desires, but we should allow Christ to live in and through us. We should do this because he was faithful in showing his love for us through his sacrifice. As a result, we ought to do the same.

Instead of focusing on ourselves, and what feeds our selfish desires, we should instead, focus on how we might serve the kingdom of God. Will this build our wealth, popularity, or status? Probably not. But it will build our character and obedience. If we do not of focus on how we might increase our own status, but place our minds on how we might display God's glory, we will show the world that we are different.

Tomorrow, we will look more in depth as to what this principle looks like practically. For today, I pose the question: who are you living for and who does the world see when they look at you?

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Words We Speak

Ephesians 4:29 - Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

The cliche "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," might hold true in social settings. However, as believers in Christ, we are called to do even more. We are to be intentional with our words. In Ephesians 4:29, Paul first gives the mandate that no corrupt speech come forth from the believers mouths. The adjective for corrupt is a Greek term that is also used of fish that had been left out in the market too long (cf. Matthew 12:33-34; BDAG). Therefore,if ingested by others, our words can have the same damaging affect as stinky, rotten, fish. Paul makes no room for concession as to which words are included in the mandate. No word coming from the mouth should have any ill characteristic whether it is vulgar language or slanderous talk. Often times, we think that if we telling something in jest or speaking sarcastically, our words are exempt. However, this verse states otherwise.

After giving the command of how the Ephesians are to guard their speech, Paul directs them in the way in which they should exhort one another. Their speech should be wholesome and beneficial in order to build up or strengthen the Christian community. Not only are believers to be beneficial in what we say, but we are to be intentional in how, when, and to whom to say it. Paul instructs the Ephesians to speak that which is beneficial of the need, therefore showing a prudence to the words spoken. Often times we can speak wholesome words, but if they are to the wrong person, in the wrong situation, or at the wrong time, they fall on deaf ears. The purpose for our good speech is so that we might give grace to those who hear our words. As image-bearers of God and followers of Christ, we are to be administrators of grace. One way in which to do that is through our words.

If we actually begin to think intentionally about being administrators of grace before we begin our conversation with both believers and non-believers, think about the impact our words would have on society. It would be much easier to hold back the words that have rude meaning and speak words of truth, love, and encouragement.

The challenge in this verse is to think before you speak. Not only should we think about WHAT we say, but think about WHY we are saying it. When we do, we will make a greater impact for the kingdom of God.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Trusting in the Name of the Lord

Psalm 9:10 - And those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

There is an element of trust that requires a knowledge of who God is. In Scripture, the name of the Lord represents His character and nature. Therefore, in order for us to completely entrust ourselves into Him, it is important that we know who we are giving ourselves to. Otherwise, there is no depth to the relationship and when hard times fall, our faith may waiver.

Imagine a young couple who fell in love "at first sight" and decided to get married that same day. They knew little about each other, nothing of their background, or how they would handle different situations. After the initial "buzz" wore off, what do you think would happen to the couple? Chances are, they would find out that their relationship was not what they thought it was.

In the same way, if we think that we have faith without having a knowledge of who God is, we carry the risk of having wrong perceptions about God. We then might carry with that wrong expectations. Then, when God does not meet our wrong expectations of Him, we blame Him.

However, when we know the character of God, the natural result is trust, because in His nature is faithfulness, trustworthiness, truth, honor, etc. By knowing God's character, represented by His name, we are given reassurance in times of trouble.

The challenge today is to look through Scripture at some of the names of God and see how He is that name in your life.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dealing with Disappointments

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

We all go through times of disappointment. They could be due to circumstances or they could be because of a consequence of sin. The question is,"how do we deal with disappointment?" We have several options: 1. we could rationalize it 2. we could project our disappointment onto someone else 3. we can repress it and can just pretend to forget about it 4. we can do a series of other unhealthy defense mechanisms or 5. we can turn to Scripture and see what to do.

The Apostle Paul went through many disappointments within his lifetime. In 1 Thessalonians, we see that one of his great disappointments was not being able to visit the church in Thessalonica. In chapter 2, he discusses his great desire to see his beloved followers in whom he had invested so much time. However, in Acts 17, it shows that his visit had to be cut short due to opposition. It is for this reason that he still has not been able to return to the church there. Instead of sulking about his disappointment, Paul sends Timothy to check on the congregation while he remained in Athens (1 Thess. 3:1-2).

We can learn several things from the way Paul responded to disappointment through the exhortation he gave in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

1. Express joy in all things. Paul consistently expressed the joy he had in Christ. He saw the faith of the Thessalonians to be a source of joy. This was unswayed by circumstances because he saw God at work in them. He therefore did not have an ownership over them, but saw them as belonging to God. We often struggle with expressing joy in our lives when we lay claim over things that ultimately belong to God. This could include our plans, our loved ones, our jobs, etc.

2. Remain thankful no matter the circumstance. Paul continues to thank God throughout the letter, though God's plans might not have matched up to his own. (1 Thess. 1:2; 2:13; 3:9; 5:18). We often struggle with thankfulness when we let the disappointing situation distract us from our relationship with God. However, having a spirit of thankfulness helps us keep a proper perspective of the situation and the God in charge.

3. Continue in prayer. Prayer is a pervasive element in Paul's ministry. He prays for the people he ministers to and continues to pray for an opportunity to see them again. His persistence in prayer shows his reliance upon God in all circumstances. It also shows that no matter the circumstance, God is the priority. (1 Thess 1:2; 3:10; 5:17). When faced with disappointment, we should continue to express our trust in God through prayer. It helps us keep hope in God's plan for our lives.

God's ultimate will for our lives is our sanctification. He desires for us to develop Christ-like character by walking in the Spirit. By doing these three things, we keep ourselves from blocking the Spirit's work in our life.