Ephesians 4:30-32 Please God: Become like Jesus Christ

How can you and I cooperate with God in the process of spiritual growth? Spiritual growth is becoming like Jesus Christ. And He is our perfect role model for every aspect of life.

4:30   and stop grieving the Holy Spirit of God, with [or, by whom; literally: within] whom you were sealed into for the day of redemption.

It is possible to grieve God the Holy Spirit. What causes Him sadness? That’s in the next verse.

Again, the “within” above is an important translation.  It is our eternal connection with the Holy Spirit of God Who is our seal. In a very real sense, The Holy Spirit is the seal Himself. And we are in Him just as He is within us. An insightful auithor years ago called this the interpenetration of God and man.

What does “sealed” mean?

And what does the seal do? It marks us as God’s property. That original word “seal” was used to describe the mark cut in lumbar with the owner’s logo. When the logs were sent downstream to their destination, they could be located and collected via that seal. So many points in Scripture assure us of our safety and salvation. The fact that God owns us is one of them.

When men own us, it is called slavery. When God owns us, it means freedom.

4:31  All bitterness and hot anger and wrath and outcry and slander—let them be removed from you, along with all wickedness,

The passive mood of the words in the above verse is important.  The word I translated “be removed” above is in a passive command form with the sense of “allow this to be done.” It is not our self-discipline that gets the job done. Me gritting my teeth and determining that I will not be angry or loud or say bad things about others, not to mention forsaking all wickedness. No. The secret is in letting the Holy Spirit work the sanctification of Christ within us. It is always a miracle of grace obtained through faith.

We do have to choose not to sin, but that choice should always be accompanied by depending on God to give us strength to resist temptation.

Also, the verse above details part of the things we can do that will grieve the Holy Spirit—anger, yelling, putting down others, and all wickedness.  It is never good to put down another person, that is be personally derogatory.

4:32  becoming yourselves kind to one another, tender-hearted (compassionate), showing grace (forgiveness) to each other, just as God in Christ also has given grace (forgiveness) to you.

And just as it takes grace to rid ourselves of our bad habits and tendencies, once again it takes grace through faith to cultivate the best habits and tendencies.  All that good is accomplished by God with our permission. All our good qualities are a fruit of the Spirit of God’s work within us. And they become visible by our obedience and cooperation with God’s leading.

We  obey, we do works, but we do not depend on our own strength to do so; we depend on God—this is living by faith, not sight. We do works, not to earn our salvation—we are not saved by our performance—but out of love for God and His generous grace and goodness. We do works to activate the grace of God within us. It is His grace that produces sanctification. Works are our active proof to God of our willingness. Words alone are not enough. Action clears the way to get the job done.

That is the way of progress.

So how do we please God? By being kind, caring and compassionate, forgiving others the way God in Jesus has forgiven us (that is, all sins and mistakes, past, present and future).

May we show by our actions today that we are willing indeed for God’s Holy Spirit to do His work within us, forming the character of Jesus within us.

Is Your Faith up to the Task?

A review of two special books by Hal Lindsey

Do you find it challenging to live by faith? Do you find current events, like the threat of nuclear war, the economy,  frequent violence both in the USA and elsewhere–things like that–worrisome?

How should we as Christians view these things?  Is there a sure pathway to peace of mind? Yes, there certainly is.  Faith.

We can all easily agree that we should live by faith, and that a life of constant fear and worry is not victorious Christian living\  But what does it mean to live by faith? And, more to the point, how can we best go about it.

One of the best biblical teachers I have come across is Hal Lindsey.

Hal Lindsey became a best selling author in the 1970 with his blolckbuster book on end time events: The Late Great Planet Earth.”

Then he went on to pen at least 19 more best sellers. He majors in prophecy, but I like his books on faith best.  First, Combat Faith, 1999, and Faith for Earth’s Final Hour, 2003.

The second book repeats much of the teaching of the first, but expands the teaching contained in the first book in a more more thorough and in-depth manner.  Both contain brilliant, not-to-be missed, true-to-Scripture insights on faith and its vital role in the day-to-day life of the believer.  In things both small and great.

In both books, Lindsey looks into important Scripture portions on faith, what it is,  how it works, and how indispensable it is for effective Christian living, not to mention peace of mind.  And just as importantly, he also traces key portions of the history of God’s dealings with His people Israel–how he provided opportunity after opportunity with great patience to grow their faith.

Each lesson has obvious and practical application for all of us today.

In his first chapter, “The Age of Anxiety,” Lindsey points to unmistakable fact that Christians in our contemporary world are being persecuted and warns that this will get worse.  He concludes from this that the quintessential need of every believe in these end times is faith-training, the developed ability, through God’s grace, to trust in God no matter what our circumstances.

These books as a whole contain comprehensive teaching on faith.

Lindsay describes and portrays the type of mature faith that obtains answers to prayer, that brings peace of mind, and enables believers to experience victory after victory.  It takes work and courage and perseverance.  Not works done to earn such faith and God’s blessings, but the more challenging work of proactively believing daily.

Believing that God has always been true to His word, His promises, and steadfast in His love for us before the foundation of the world.

These are books that should be read by every Christian for how to develop a faith that will see each of us through these trouble times.

Check  out Hal Lindsey’s books.  Combat Faith for the concise version, Faith for Earth’s Final Hour for a more indepth version.

More resources:

http://www.ourlittleplace.com/trust.html

http://carm.org/verses-showing-justification-by-faith

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/bible-verses-about-faith-20-popular-scripture-quotes/

 

 

Our Incredible Potential in Christ

Continuing Series of Meditations in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Chapter 5

Many times theological ideas don’t seem to be a lot of practical use to us in our daily lives, but the following can  be.

Most of us know the Christian doctrine concerning Jesus Christ.  He was God but born as a man, and hence He has two natures: divine and human.  Two natures but one person.

That is profoundly significant for you and me, and not just for our salvation, as super-important as that most certainly is.

In Hebrews Chapter 5, Jesus is described as our high priest. After pointing out that a high priests is able to be gentle when dealing with his fellow human beings because he suffers the same weaknesses as we all do.

The writer turns the spotlight on Jesus as our high Priest and points out some surprising things–especially to those of  us who are accustomed to thinking about Jesus as God the Son, that is His deity: During His days in the flesh, that is living on this earth as a human being, fully human as well as fully God, He:

  • offered prayers and supplications to His father,
  • with strong crying and tears,
  • was heard because of his reverence, and
  • He was perfected and learned obedience through suffering.
    (verses 7-9)
Wait! Wasn’t Jesus perfect? Yes, He was, but even as the perfect human being, He still had to mature. Isn’t He the Son of God, and didn’t He enjoy the closest possible relationship with God the Father during His time walking this earth?  Yes. But He was heard not because of His divine position but because of His reverence. And He had to learn obedience.
It’s important to realize that while Jesus never stopped being God, He lived His human life on this earth as a human being and lived the way He did by faith.
He was tempted, and the temptation was a real temptation (Matthew 4:1; Hebrews 4:15).
He grew tired like you and I do (John 4:6). He was hungry at times. He slept, not because He was just going through the motions, but because He needed to sleep.
Again He lived as a man here on earth and as an example for us to follow, to live as He did, depending on His Father by faith:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of HImself…” (John 5:19).
Now, perhaps, a rather  surprising statement:
Everything Jesus did here on earth, you and I can do too–I’f talking potential here–with one exception: we cannot die for the sins all mankind.
That accomplishment  by Jesus necessitated His divine nature.  He died a human death on the cross for you and me. A perfect and sinless man, innocent and killed unjustly.  But because He was at the same time God, never stopped being God, His sacrificial death has infinite reach and power.  It reaches into the past, the present and the future, then and now.
And we read in 1 Peter 2:21:
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…”
Now this verse focuses on suffering.  But even so, it implies a lot.  We can follow in Jesus steps because it is possible for us to do so.
A high challenge
Certainly, that is a high challenge for us, to walk like Him, in His steps.  But that challenge is real. It is possible.
John 14:12.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these will he do because I go to the Father.”
A word of warning: I am not saying that you and I can go out and do whatever we want and expect God to honor our wishes.  It has to be in Jesus name, and that includes a requirement: it has to be God’s will for you to do it.  And it takes faith, of course.
But the point remains.
We can do much more that we commonly think we can do in this life. We have absolutely incredible potential in Christ.
May it be our goal and intent to do what we do for God. And may we follow in HIs steps.

“It remains to be seen what God will do with a man who gives himself up wholly to Him.”
–Dwight L. Moody

 

Life on a Higher Plane

Courtesy Chun-Sao-Lin aka Taiwan-Mountain @Flickr

Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount, Matthew Chapter 6, said, among other things, these words…

“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (verse 6)

And also…

“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that you fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (verses 17-18)

Don’t seek to impress others
You see, our attitude is to be heavenward primarily. God first. Constantly. We live by Him and for Him in His presence. Seeking to impress other people, even your pastor, is not a good idea. Seeking to impress God is. It is His opinion that counts. Always.

A life that continually relates to God
This life I am seeking to describe is a life of faith that says, God is watching me, He is interested in me and what I am doing. Because what I am doing counts. It is a life of faith that says, Every good thing I have and experience and even do can be traced back to God as the source of all good. It is a life of faith that refuses to worry and determines to trust Him in the small events of the day as well as the larger concerns.

Everything contributes
I have thought about this in this way: Everything we do, think or say contributes in one way or another, either to God’s kingdom or to the God’s enemy’s cause. There is no neutrality. We are part of the plan. We contribute, even though ultimately God is the one source of all good.

We’re God’s ambassadors
So life on a higher plane means I see myself as an ambassador for God (2 Corinthians 5:20), and act accordingly:

Both to people who do not yet believe, and when I speak to them my words should be “seasoned with grace” (Colossians 4:6).

And to fellow believers–because every joint in the Body of Christ supplies God’s grace in mutual ministry (Ephesians 4:16)

Again, we are to set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:1-2). God-consciousness. Heavenly thinking.

The Key
The key, then, is in our thought-life, in what the psychologists call self-talk. Or, even better prayer.  “As a man thinks in his heart so is he,” is a biblical principle (Proverbs 23:7A). That’s the basis of the only psychological therapy I whole-heartedly endorse: cognitive therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. What we think about is central to victorious Christian living.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

It’s about sharing
Life on a higher plane is sharing of our life, daily, moment by moment with God, praying without ceasing, and in fact a life that daily enters the holy of holies (Hebrews 4:16; 6:19).