Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lessons From Philippians 3 - More Reasons to Rejoice!!

Oh what a word the Lord spoke to my heart awhile back! I've been revisiting it trying to get a real grasp of what all it means but how's this for starters? God does not find it "irksome" to tell me the same things over and over! Praise the Lord! Do you know how freeing that is to me? I get irked all of the time over how slow I am to actually start walking out the things that He's teaching me. My obedience lags so far behind my heart! As all Scripture is God-breathed, listen to these words spoken to us through the apostle Paul...

...delight yourselves in the Lord and continue to rejoice that you are in Him. To keep writing to you [over and over] of the same things is not irksome to me, and it is [a precaution] for your safety. (vs. 1, Amplified)

Does anyone else just find that reason to rejoice?! A God like that is one I can delight in and rejoice to be found in! I am so encouraged by these words. My feelings can get so "off" but as I remember to delight myself in the Lord, my feelings disapate. As I rejoice in abiding in Christ, I am safe-guarded against the enemy. Verse 2 is a really fitting warning to me (the Lord knows me so well).

Look out for those... [legalists]...

I tend to be so legalistic and performance based. Legalism does not lead me to worship God, rather it leads to condemnation of self because the focus is on me and I can't measure up. The Judaizers of Paul's day were dealing with physical circumcision. Today, we are being circumcised to a new nature. Verse 3 says, For we [Christians] are the true circumcision who worship God in spirit and by the Spirit of God and exult and glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh... I not only put confidence in the "good" things I do "for" God but sometimes I think I put even more confidence in the "bad" things I do as I sin against God. I become confident that He could never really love someone like me or that there must be limitations to His love for me and I start to act like it. Jumping ahead to something Paul says in verse 15, if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also. And this is exactly what He's been doing for me!

The Truth is that NOTHING can separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39)! The Truth is that all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)! For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned... (John 3:16-18a) It is ALL about love and grace - His love for me and His grace extended for me! Any striving on my part should be a natural overflow to His great love for me. Paul makes it clear that no matter our background or zeal, we're to consider it as loss for Christ's sake. When I walk in obedience, that doesn't give me right standing with God, just as disobedience can't negate the gift He purchased for me on the cross.

So, I want to know Him more! Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him... and that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law's demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ... the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith. (vs. 8-9)

So what does that look like? Verse 10 tells me to make my determined purpose to know Him better. It's a progressive knowing. As I begin to perceive and recognize the wonders of His Person more clearly and come to know the power which He exerts and makes available in the lives of believers, I am being transformed. It's a process! Sometimes, I learn through hardships and suffering - you know, when you reach the end of your own rope? He does not expect perfection! Someday, I will be glorified but not until heaven. Until then, I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me. (vs. 12b) I made myself a list in the margin. Why did Jesus say that He came? He came that we should have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10)! He came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). I want to lay hold of that life and I want to be found - in Him!

Verse 13 says in order to truly know Him, I need to have a single-minded purpose... I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. "What" lies behind isn't only the past failures but also the past victories. I need to trust the Lord when He says that His grace is sufficient to cover the sin and remember that works can never add up to equal sufficient. There's freedom to live in the moment here! I don't need to be bound by what I did wrong yesterday nor worry about what I may do wrong later on today. I can just live in the moment and worship Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly!

So I'm going to press on! I'm going to hold true to what knowledge of Him I have already attained and, to the best of my ability, I'm going to order my life by that. I'm going to observe those around me who are living after God's pattern and follow their example. And where I need a change of mind, I'm going to trust He who is faithful to handle that too. I'm going to listen to the warning of serving the god of my appetites and siding with earthly parties because I am a citizen of heaven. I may be living out-of-country for a season but I know in my heart where home is and I want to earnestly wait for my King to take me home. (see verses 14-20) And I will live to praise Him Who will transform and fashion anew the body of our humiliation to conform to and be like the body of His glory and majesty, exerting that power which enables Him even to subject everything to Himself. Even me. (vs. 21) I am not too big of project for God!

Therefore... I will stand firm in the Lord my beloved! (Philippians 4:1) I pray you will too!

The Mind of Christ

"For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?"
But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:16

Consciously or unsconsciously, I have struggled with this verse. I know that the mind of Christ is part of my inheritence as a child of God but since I I am well aware that some of the thoughts I have would NEVER cross my Lord's mind, I struggle. I kept waiting for the day when my thoughts would fall completely in line with those of my Lord. I cling to, and often pray, that the Lord would continuously transform me by the renewing of my mind (see Romans 12:2). It would be wrong of me to not testify that slowly but surely He IS renewing my mind by His Word but I have often been discouraged by the size of the project.

Awhile ago, while consecrating (offering for His use) my mind to the Lord, I read Isaiah 55:8-9. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." I found myself saying, "See, LORD, see! How can I have the mind of Christ? You say Yourself that my thoughts are not Your thoughts." I just stop and praise You, LORD, that You are so gracious and faithful to me!

The Spirit started to bring to my mind times the previous day when I had heard the LORD speak to my heart. Things like "you don't need to eat that" or to call to mind a need or a person to lift before the Throne. This is Christ's mind. These are His thoughts. I was waiting for my mind to be replaced by His but no matter how far He brings me in the sanctification process, as long as I live in this mortal body, I will battle a mind of flesh. But praise be to God! I also know the mind of Christ! The more aware I become of Him speaking to me in the midst of the every day, the more I can take my thoughts captive in obedience to His! LORD, I'm getting it... Thank You for speaking to me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Loving Well"

First of all, I must say that from beginning to end, this is not my material. I have been reminded of a lesson this morning that I simply must share. I have been listening to a recording of Water’s Edge Sunday School class and Beth Moore’s teaching on the book of Romans - specifically, this morning, on Romans chapter 5. I say “reminded” because a few years ago, I heard this teaching in greater depth through a video series by Beth entitled “Loving Well”. That said, let these truths from the Word of God resonate in your heart and mind…

By faith we have been made acceptable to God. And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God. Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God. But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with His love. (Romans 5:1-5 CEV)

Okay, so here are some things that we need to understand about the love of God. First, 1 John 4:16 & 18 tell us that, God is love. We tend to define the love of God by human frames of reference. For us, love is an emotion and a choice. We either feel love or we choose to love but God IS love. We must grasp the ramifications of this. Love is the character of who God is. Just like there is nothing that I can do to alter the fact that God is All-Powerful or that He is All-Knowing, there is absolutely nothing that I can do that can change Who God is! God is love. I am not that good of sinner, that big of a screw-up that can make Him stop being love! Let that sink in!

Just in case that isn’t enough for you, Romans 8:35, 38-39 says, Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, suffering, and hard times, or hunger and nakedness, or danger and death? … nothing can separate us from God’s love – not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Do you know why this is so important to come to grasp? Proverbs 19:22a (NIV) tells us, what a man desires is unfailing love. God created us that way. The Hebrew word translated here as desire is “ta-avah.” It could be defined as the “longing of one’s heart.” ( Strong’s 8378) The longing of your heart is to know that someone loves you unconditionally - that no matter what, someone will be there to love you. Think of the messes that we get ourselves into trying to find that kind of love or medicate the fact that we haven’t found it and received it. God tells us that He has “poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:5 NIV)

Now, are you ready for this? Our capacity to receive the love of God is set by us. There is no shortage of love being poured out to fill our hearts. The real question is how much of your heart are you giving God as a reservoir? Satan whispers of how selfish it would be to sit each morning and just listen to, read, celebrate, delight in how much God loves you. God can’t wait to tell you! The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV). God wants nothing more than for you to begin each day by sitting with Him and marveling in His great love for you. He wants to quiet your fears with His love. Reread the passage at the top of this page (Romans 5:1-5 CEV). He wants to remind you (by His love) that you have been made acceptable to Him. He wants you to remember that Christ has made it possible for you to live at peace with Him. He wants you to take your stand on the fact that Christ brings that undeserved kindness. He wants you to be happy as you look forward to sharing in the glory of God. But that’s not all! He wants you to realize that because He loves you, you can even gladly endure the suffering in this life and the character of Christ that this produces in you. He wants you to have that hope because it will never disappoint you! And you know what? There’s more…

1 John 4:19 says that we love because God first loved us. The thing about that is that we tend to understand it this way, we love God because God first loved us. That is not the context of the passage. It’s not just God we love but we love others because God first loved us. If I believe the depths of God’s love for me and receive it and allow it to fill the vast reservoir of my heart, I will be able to love others as Christ wants me to. I will be free, enabled, to love others no matter the circumstances because I do not need them to fill my love tank. It’s already been filled. Profound!

Romans 8 (see verses 5-6) says this, People who are ruled by their desires think only of themselves. Everyone who is ruled by the Holy Spirit thinks about spiritual things. If our minds are ruled by our desires, we will die. But if our minds are ruled by the Spirit, we will have life and peace. You want to know the secret for living a life that honors Christ? Really believe and receive His unfailing love. Allow Him to satisfy the longing of your heart. Spend your life trying to fathom the depths of His love.

Like the apostle Paul, I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19).