Anchor Deep

“…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. ” (Ephesians 4:14)

We should never think the work of ministry is only for those who do it vocationally. That’s not found in Scripture. We are all “ministers” with a role and responsibility to spread the gospel. The reason Paul says God gave the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers was that they would equip the saints (all Christians) for the work of ministry and for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12).

There is a purpose for equipping of believers. Ultimately, that purpose is that we would bring God glory. This happens as we live out His will in our lives. God’s glory should always be our primary goal. But growing in maturity also helps us navigate through a challenging world. We need a filter through which to see the world, an anchor to keep us from being tossed about by false teaching.

Our world promotes many non-biblical ideas. Some may even sound good on the surface, but in the end just get us off course. Paul explains in Ephesians 4:14 that spiritual maturity is important because it keeps us from being like a ship without an anchor as wave’s crash in and the wind blows around us. It helps us to better be able to choose right instead of wrong and less likely to follow where we shouldn’t. So, make sure to anchor deep that you may more fully discern the will of God. Search His will in His Word. Doing so will benefit you as you navigate in a crazy and confused world. Most importantly, it will bring God the glory He deserves.

The Will of the Lord

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17)

No one sought to do the will of God the Father more than Jesus, God the Son. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my will but the will of Him who sent me” (John 6:38). Even as He met the moment of the cross, the purpose for which He came and agonized over separation from His heavenly Father, Jesus submitted to the Father’s will. “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Romans 12:2 says we are not to be conformed to this world, but instead transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may “discern the will of God”. Though the Bible tells of people who patterned obedience to God’s will, only one did it perfectly, Jesus Christ. He was obedient all the way to the cross.

God’s “hidden will” are those things He has chosen not to reveal. His “revealed will” are those things He has chosen to reveal in order to provide us a roadmap for our lives. If as Scripture says we were predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son, why should we think our wills are not to be conformed to God’s. We shouldn’t. Paul teaches that we are to walk as children of the light…and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:9-10). Jesus’ perfect obedience to the will of the Father doesn’t make our submission to God’s will unimportant. It’s the only proper response to His grace. And because God’s will is found in His Word, we are to search for it there. And as best we can, enabled by the Holy Spirit, we should seek to understand it because to do otherwise would be foolish.

Grieving with Hope

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Sometimes the testimonies of God’s grace are overwhelming. To see others worship God in the midst of their pain is amazing. Suffering of any kind is a harsh reality of life. Suffering that leads to death is an even harsher reality. I think the Bible speaks so much about suffering because of its prominence in our world. No one is immune to suffering and when it happens it’s easy to ask why. Why does a young child die? Why does death occur so suddenly that there’s no time for goodbye? Or why does a lifelong of suffering have to precede death? For that matter, why does death occur at all? Scripture helps us to know that death is not normal, but is a consequence of The Fall. But Scripture also helps us to know that for those who are in Christ, death ultimately brings life.

The emphasis of 1 Thessalonians 4:13 is that although grief is a completely normal reaction to death, Christians grieve with the hope of knowing that one day a reunion with their loved ones will follow. The people in the church at Thessalonica were concerned that their loved ones who had already died would miss out on the Lord’s return. Paul taught them and is also teaching us about the proper perspective and response to death. This teaching should never be taken to mean Christians are not to grieve.

It’s a privilege to be able to see people live out their faith in difficult times. To watch them trusting in God’s promise that He works all thing together for good, to believe the truth that suffering can’t compare to glory, and to testify that there is a peace, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Romans 8:28, Romans 8:18, Philippians 4:7). Wow! To say it’s a privilege is not to say we wouldn’t have preferred them not suffer loss and have to grieve at all. It is only to say it’s a privilege in the sense of seeing the Holy Spirit do in and for them what only He can do.

One of the primary roles of the church is to strengthen the body of Christ. This happens when we’re taught God’s Word, but I think sometimes even more so when we witness it lived out. It happens when we see those who are suffering because of their loss, clinging to God and His Word, proclaiming not only that He is great, but that He is good, even in spite of the fact that so much of what has happened may tell them differently. This is the Spirit’s work. It is something those apart from Christ cannot know. I believe the Spirit of God uses these people to show others of us where we may be lacking in our own faith; while at the same time providing encouragement by storing up their testimonies in our hearts should our paths ever take a similar route.

God is so gracious. He is good all the time. Dig deep in His Word to know Him more. Don’t face the harshness of this world and the reality of suffering and death without Him at your side. Seek the peace and hope that He alone provides. One day death will come for all of us, but for those who have placed their hope in Christ; it’s really just the beginning.

Thankful

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

As part of our Thanksgiving service at church each year, we have the opportunity to hear testimonies of God’s work in people’s lives. At some point in the service we are always reminded that whether our current circumstance has on the top of the mountain or in the deepest of valleys, God is the author of both. The theme verse for this service is 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Let’s face it; it’s easier to give thanks in certain circumstances than others, but God’s Word says we are to give thanks in ALL of them. What Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 has a tendency to strike us the same way as when James writes, “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). The call to obey is clear, but obedience to that call is easier said than done. In fact, without the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, it’s impossible.

Over the last couple of years, many of the testimonies in this Thanksgiving service have been from people dealing with difficult and often uncertain circumstances in their lives. But in spite of that, they testify to God’s faithfulness and grace. I always leave this service encouraged yet reminded that the problems I have aren’t really problems at all.

God’s love and faithfulness is threaded throughout the Bible. That love was demonstrated most clearly in the person of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul wrote about the importance of joy and contentment not being based on our circumstance, but rather on our relationship with Christ. He also demonstrated it in his life. Paul prayed less about a change in his circumstance, only that he would glorify God through whatever circumstance in which he found himself. He trusted that God could take any circumstance and work it for good. And though he may not have known why what was happening was happening, he knew there was a purpose behind it (Romans 8:28-29). So, when we give thanks during this year, let us remember how much we have to be thankful for. Let us remember that it’s not only on the mountaintop that God is faithful, but also in the valley. Let us remember that the Author of our circumstance has also written its ending. It is in that truth we rest our hope and give our thanks!

To Your Name Alone

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory” (Psalm 115:1)

God’s greatest desire is to be glorified. It was also Jesus’ greatest passion. G. Campbell Morgan once wrote, “The deepest passion of the heart of Jesus was not the saving of men, but the glory of God; and then the saving of men, because that is for the glory of God”. In church, we talk a lot about God’s glory, but the truth is it’s hard to define. The most common word for glory in the Old Testament is the Hebrew kabod, which means “heavy in weight”. In the New Testament it is the Greek word doxazo, which means “to magnify, praise or hold in honor”.

As humans, we are incapable of adding to or taking away from God’s inherent glory. However, we are called to respond to it. Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” God has done amazing things for us in Christ. By His grace, He has saved us. If we are to be about God’s glory, we must have as our central goal to make Him look as glorious as He is. We don’t do this privately, but in full view of the world. We also don’t do this in our own strength, but in the strength supplied by the Holy Spirit as we seek God in His Word.

Our God has done great things! Let us live and speak in such a way that honors the reality of who He is and what He has done. He deserves nothing less. Seek Him each day and let His light shine in you, never for your glory or mine, but always and only for His.

Winning Either Way

“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)

In Romans 6:3-10, Paul uses baptism as a metaphor to teach about the believers union with Christ. He says in verse 4 that we were buried with Christ by baptism into death and raised to walk in newness of life. Fast forward three years where we find Paul sitting in a Roman prison. It was the first of his two imprisonments in Rome and the location from which he wrote four letters, including one to the church at Philippi. It’s always been interesting to me that Paul’s letter to the Philippians, a letter written from prison would be considered his most joyful letter, but it is. Paul found great joy in serving Christ. His was an inward joy that was unaffected by circumstance.

There are certainly implications of having the gospel in our lives. The apostle Paul was completely sold out to Christ. From the time of his conversion, everything he did and everything he incurred was for the sake of advancing the gospel. As a result, he found himself in some difficult situations. Paul knew there would be consequences for his commitment to Christ, but he also knew that ultimately, his was a win-win situation. He would either be released to continue his ministry, or should he die, it would only deepen his union with Christ.

The apostle Paul is great example of many things. He is not only a wonderful example of God’s grace, but also of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. As committed as he was to the persecution of Christians before his conversion, he was equally committed to proclaiming Jesus after it. Are you that committed to Jesus? Am I? Is ours a view that there’s much more to look forward to than what we see? Do we really believe that this life is only preparation for the next? God has done amazing things for us in Christ. Let us live in light of that truth with the full understanding that our union and our destiny are secure. And because they are, let it influence our commitments today.

About Sin

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

The fact that we are all sinners is clearly taught in Scripture. Speaking to both Jews and Gentiles, Paul spent the first two and a half chapters making the case that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Known as the Apostle Paul’s most theological letter, Romans spells out the whole of the gospel more than any other letter. It’s not an accident that in doing so, he began with sin.

There are two dangerous attitudes toward sin that we need to be cautioned against. The first is the attitude that shrugs off sin with words like, “I’m just a sinner; God knows that”. While we are sinners, and yes, God does know that, our attitude toward sin matters. God has commanded us to “be holy, for I am holy!” (1 Peter 1:16). A casual attitude toward sin never brings glory to God. A second dangerous attitude toward sin is an attitude that believes we are incapable of great sin. It is often manifested by judging someone else by saying something like, “I can’t believe what they did. I would never do that.” Be careful, we all have a sin nature and are capable of great sin. If you believe you’re not, you’ll be less likely to guard against it. The Christian life requires discipline. We must train ourselves for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7).

I once heard a sermon where a pastor in preaching to prospective pastors in seminary training said that if in their preaching they do not confront their congregation about sin, it not only brings into question their love for their congregation, but also their love for God. When your pastor confronts you with your sin, be grateful. He’s preaching the Bible. However, also know that the natural extension of confronting you with your sin is for him to tell you of its cure, Jesus Christ. It has been said that “the first act of faith is to believe what God says about sin”. It’s true. And what brings people to saving faith is what God did about it. He gave His Son to pay sin’s penalty. Have you placed your faith in that truth? Jesus really did pay it all. He paid it willingly, perfectly and for all time. After such a display of love, how could we be so casual about what Christ came to cure?