What is a Christian?

What is a Christian?

Daily Reading: (Acts 11:26):

“And when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”

In the entire Bible the term Christian is only used three times. The first time doesn’t appear until after Jesus’ earthly ministry is over, He has already been crucified, resurrected and has ascended into heaven. The term was first used in a Gentile city which clearly shows that “Christians” are made up of both Jews and Gentiles.

In Acts 11:26 the Greek word used for Christian “Christianos” means a follower of Christ.

There is a straightforward answer of “what is Christian”? A Christian is a person who is a follower of Christ. Now the better question instead might be “how does one become a follower of Jesus”? Anybody could fill out a survey and say, “I identify as a Christian because my grandparents or great grandparents were.” Identifying as a Christian, isn’t the same thing as knowing Christ. Salvation is a free gift, you have either received it by faith, belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, making you a follower of Jesus or you haven’t. Your good works isn’t what saved you or keeps you saved, your salvation once you believed is secured in Christ.  

Here are the other usages of the term “Christian” in Scripture.

“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28)? 

“However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16).

So, what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? What the world needs is not more people who check the box identifying as being Christian but believers who actually follow Jesus. People who are actively engaging on a rescue mission, sharing the Gospel with the lost and hurting people of the world. We need more and more people who reflect the very love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, letting His light shine, and showing the Way to salvation. I want people to know what it means to follow Jesus.

We can learn what it means to follow Jesus through His first interactions with His disciples. “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me” (John 1:43).

Here is the good news for anyone who decides to become a disciple of Jesus is that when a rabbi asked someone to follow him, it was an incredible honor. This invitation was an offer of unlimited access to the rabbi. “Following Jesus” is unlimited access to Him, (He lives in the hearts of every believer).I will never leave you Jesus said, meaning unlimited access because Grace is a person, not a doctrine. This means that every blessing that we would ever need is inseparable from the person of Jesus!

The Lord being with you is all that you need in this life, because the Lord Himself is the One who blesses you. In Genesis 22:1–14 we discover that God is Jehovah Jireh. Jehovah is Jireh! God is my provider! You cannot separate your blessings apart from God, because He is your Provider. Did you see what this means and how awesome the invitation is to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus? We have access to God’s grace and provision in our lives all the time.

In Exodus 15:26, God is referred to as Jehovah-Rapha at the place where God healed the bitter waters of Marah, so that the children of Israel could drink. In Hebrew, it means “I am healing, I am health”! God is telling us “I am your health! I am your healing!”

Relationship with Jesus is a life of abundant victory and favor with God forever, who wouldn’t want this? Anyone who understands this would also want this for others.

For Jesus’ disciples (Christians) following Jesus included sharing in the enthusiasm of declaring the good news (Matthew 4:19).

What is a Christian? A Christian is a person who has been undone by the love of God in Christ Jesus, that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. He offered His life for mine so I might become the righteousness of God in Him and be highly favored by God. I am now a child of God; holy, royal, beloved with access to the Kingdom. I am a follower of Jesus which means that I am a Christian.

Love Your Enemies

Love Your Enemies

Daily Reading: (Matthew 5:44):

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

In the minds of the original audience there would have been no problem to identify an enemy. They probably turned their heads and glanced off in the distance and set their gaze upon some Roman soldiers. Their homelands had been invaded by the Romans. The Romans still allowed worship, they just charged a Jewish tax to do so. So, imagine you just heard Jesus’ words. “Pray for your enemies,” and the next day you are going to the Temple to worship, but before you can worship you have to pay tax to the Romans to do so. Now, go ahead and pray for those people who just taxed you to pray.

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:41). Rome had passed a law where a Roman could force any Jew, at any time, to carry their belongings a mile down the road. We see an example of this in Jesus crucifixion scene. Roman soldiers pressed Simon of Cyrene into service of carrying Jesus’ cross (Matthew 27:32).

What Jesus said is the opposite of what the multitudes had expected to hear from their Messiah. Our Messiah should bring us freedom by destroying our enemies, not having us love and pray for them. 

Oswald Chambers said, “The Sermon on the Mount is not an ideal, it is a statement of what will happen in me when Jesus Christ has altered my disposition and put in a disposition like His own.Jesus Christ is the only One who can fulfill the Sermon on the Mount.”

It’s a crazy way of living that Christ was describing to them. It was something they really hadn’t thought of before. It was an impossible way to live. When we come to our text, don’t hate your enemies, love your enemies and pray for them. Don’t get even, forgive people, even when they don’t deserve it, even when they don’t ask for it. It is backwards to how we feel and to what we want to do. The Jews didn’t want to live in the first mile of servitude to the Romans, let alone the second.

Prayer for your enemies is one of the deepest forms of love, because it means that you have to really want something good to happen to someone who doesn’t necessarily deserve it. This is unconditional love. The kind of love that Jesus displayed as He hung on the cross:

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

And it’s what Stephen did the first Christian martyr as he was being stoned to death for his faith:

“Falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60)!

I know we aren’t being forced to carry military supplies a mile for a foreign army. So, practically speaking how we live out Matthew 5:41 “willing to go the extra mile” is possible as we spend time with Jesus, allowing His love, grace, and forgiveness to flow from us.

Colossians 3:12-13:“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Christ is our example for all of this. The good news is that Jesus loves us at our worst and His love changes us.

The Sermon on the Mount and the command to love our enemies comes from the great foundation of grace in the life and teaching of Jesus. This is where we get the power to love; that he loved us while we were poor, helpless enemies of God (Romans 5:10), He gave himself for us.

Only By My Spirit

Daily Reading: (Zechariah 4:6-7):So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’”

Zechariah Chapter 4 says:

Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep (Zechariah 4:1).

I have woken up a little more than 14,292 times and I have not once been woken up by an angel before. Have you ever been woken up by an angel that spoke to you?  Probably not because this was the way God would speak to His people in the Old Covenant. In the past God would speak through prophets but the final word over our lives today is Jesus. God speaks to us primarily through His Word, and this is how we are to speak (grace) over our lives. Hebrews 1:2 tells us: “But in these last days” he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” Prophets still exist, we find this in Acts 2 and Ephesians 4 and if anyone claims to be a prophet or have a word from the Lord whatever they say will not be new, as in adding to Scripture. A word from the Lord through a modern-day prophet will be nothing in addition to what God has already spoken. A prophecy will always agree with scripture or what the Lord has previously spoken.

He asked me, “What do you see? ”I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left” (Zechariah 4:2-3).

Do you know what these are? That’s what the angel asked the prophet.

  • A gold lampstand, with a bowl at the top
  • Seven lamps on it with seven channels to the lamps.
  • 2 Olive trees one on the right and the other on the left. 

The golden candlestick is the Word of God, it is the Light of the World and it represents Jesus. 

The bowl on top held the oil to light the lamp. The fullness of grace in Christ, which is as “a fountain”, as the Word to supply His church and His people; We are the light of the world because Christ lives and flows in us Matthew 5:14.

The 7 lamps represent the seven churches written about in Revelation 2 and 3. The 7 channels or pipes to the 7 lamps lets the oil into the lamps. These are the various gifts given by the Holy Spirit to the members of the Body of Christ.Each lamp is supplied perfectly. The lamps were fueled by pure, specially prepared olive oil that came from the trees and when you know what the trees represent than you will see how this is the gifts the Holy Spirit has given the members of the church flowing into the seven lamps. This gives us a visual of limitless oil and a constant supply.

If you read the entire text, Zechariah only struggles with one symbol, and he asks about it over and over again. This one symbol would have made no sense to him. All he knew is God’s people at that time are the Israelites. He knew nothing about God’s plan to include the Gentiles into His kingdom. So, let’s observe his bewilderment.

Then I asked the angel, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” Again I asked him, “What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?” He replied, “Do you not know what these are?” “No, my lord,” I said. So he said, “These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth” (Zechariah 4:11-14).

The “two olive trees” are the natural branch (physical Israel), and the grafted in branch (spiritual Israel), the church. These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth” (Zechariah 4:14). Zechariah was looking ahead to the day we live in.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it! (Zechariah 4:6-7).

When you look in a mirror, what do you see? If you look a little closer in the mirror, you will still see yourself, but you might also notice things that you don’t really like so much. Wrinkles, age spots, perhaps you might look a little depressed. Maybe when you look in the mirror you see a person who appears weak or you see a person who is broke. Did you know that God does not want us to look at ourselves in the natural way? God wants you to see yourself the way He sees you (Colossians 1:27). God wants you to see yourself as strong, as favored and whole because you reflect Christ.

Let’s go back to a portion from our main verses:“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it’” (Zechariah 4:6-7)!

This isn’t supposed to read, “God bless it. God bless it.” I know that is how the text might read in your Bible but when you study the original text, only one Hebrew word is used twice. The word is (Chen). Shout to your mountain grace, grace! Which means to shout to your obstruction God’s favor, God’s favor! Do you see it? What is your hindrance? What is your mountain? What is the area you need a breakthrough in? Shout to it God’s Word. Speak grace to it. God’s favor is on me and over this hindrance. Speak God’s grace over that thing against you and watch as God levels it. Isaiah 26:7- “The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth.”

Look in the mirror today and behold as in a mirror the glory of His Son who is in you by His Spirit. As you do this, His Word says that you are being transformed from glory to glory—sick to healed, broken to whole. Mountains before you will be leveled not by anything other than by the Spirit of the Lord.

Take Up Your Cross

Take Up Your Cross

Daily Reading: (Luke 9:23): Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   

How do you react to this text? “Whoever wants to be a disciple of Jesus must… take up their cross daily and follow Him.” The way I have heard this verse commonly and incorrectly used is in the preaching of self-denial. If this were true then the Gospel would not be good news. If we had a bad day or screwed up and didn’t properly deny ourselves, well I guess we’re just not a disciple of Jesus anymore. If this were the case it would mean that Christ’s death on the cross was not needed. It would also mean that the more you deny yourself the holier you’ll be. But go ahead and deny yourself from anything and everything and that won’t make you anymore righteous or holy, Isaiah 64:6 tells us that.

Another problem with this interpretation of preaching self-denial as a way of becoming righteous is that it will leave you anxious and insecure. “Have I denied myself enough?” Jesus suffered and die on the cross so that we might be free from this sort of religious way of life.

So, when we come to Luke 9:23 we must ask two very important questions if we really want to understand what Jesus is saying.

  • Question 1: Who is Jesus talking to in this verse?
  • Question 2: What Covenant are we now living in?

In verse 18 it says- “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” this progresses until we get into our verse.  If you want an even clearer answer where you don’t have to back up a few verses to understand who Jesus is referring to just read Matthew’s version (16:24).

The disciples were still living in the Old Covenant system. The New Covenant we live in was enacted after the death of Jesus. One purpose of the Old Covenant was to make it absolutely clear that no man is righteous before God and that no one can save himself (Romans 3:10–11, 20). “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” There are no off days if you are living according to your righteousness. The ultimate purpose of the Old Covenant was to point people to Christ: “The law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian” (Galatians 3:24–25). The Old Covenant established our guilt before God and our need for a Savior.

So. the correct translation of what Jesus is saying in Luke 9:23 happens as we continue moving forward in the text in the next two verses, verses 24 and 25.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self” (Luke 9:24-25)?

When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he’s saying the way to salvation is through Him and His cross. In the New Covenant taking up your cross daily doesn’t make sense and is impossible to do because you were already crucified (Galatians 2:20). I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me… (Gal 2:20a). The reason most Christians struggle to live the Christian life is they look at Luke 9:23 and are trying to die daily, they do not know they have already died with Christ.

“To deny yourself” (Luke 9:23) means to trust Jesus instead of self. Live each and every day out of the glorious relationship you have with the Lord. This Greek word “deny” (aparneomai) is to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests. This denial of self is the same thing for all Christians that the cross was for Jesus, namely, the submission to God’s will, not one’s own will.So, in our text Jesus made the cross central. Our Lord’s death was an absolute requirement and precondition of human redemption. As long as the will of man opposes the will of the Lord, salvation for that individual remains impossible.

Be Still… In Stillness is Strength

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The most common travesty committed toward Psalm 46:10 is that only a portion of it is quoted.  A portion of this verse is seen on coffee mugs, in artwork paintings, on fridge magnets, and other trinkets. Because only a part of the verse is what is often seen most don’t know how to “Be still, and know that I am God.”

The greatest justice we can provide for this verse is to actually quote it in its entirety. What an incredible comfort and reminder to know that we can be still and know that God is in control. Stillness indicates lack of movement but it does not indicate inactivity. We are able to be still as we wait on God’s plan to unfold. We do not have to try and manufacture the work that God is trying to bring forth. Christians who receive God’s rest are the most active people I know which is best illustrated in a story of a lumberjack competition.

There was a story of one man who challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other fellow who took breaks constantly had chopped substantially more wood than he had. “I don’t get it,” he said. “Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did.”

“But you didn’t notice,” said the winning woodsman, “that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest.”[1]  The sword of the Spirit, your spiritual ax is sharpened as you rest and receive from the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

When we are still and surrendered to God, we find peace even when the earth gives way and the mountains fall (Psalm 46:2), or the nations go into an uproar and kingdoms fall (verse 6). Be still and know that He is God and your axe or your Sword of The Spirit will be sharp to take down those troubling things that come against you as you speak out verses like our verse today in Psalm 46.

The words “Be still” is raphah which means relax.Relax and know that your God is with you. He is our refuge, our strength, and our ever-present help in time of need. Crazy stuff happens in the world and in our lives, but through it all, watch God work. When trouble comes you have an ever-present help in your time of need. Find shelter, take refuge in the shadow of His wings.

How does acknowledging God impact our stillness?

Acknowledging God implies that we can trust Him and surrender to His plan because we understand who He is. His plan for you and me is so much better than anything we could devise on our own. Stillness significance trust. We can look to other things to help us and God can use people to help us in our time of need, but ultimately, I have been at peace and find rest and can relax even in intense moments is when I remember that God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in my trouble.

It isn’t into we relax in His presence and we receive His peace that we become at peace. Allow God’s universal triumph to take hold of you and change the outlook of your very life. God’s desire is for rest and refreshment of our soul. What we need is spiritual rest from God’s Word which will lead us to physical rest. How well are you going to sleep at night if you are not relaxed and your spirit is troubled?

Many people in our world today are exhausted, fatigued, and frustrated. Those emotions would describe Peter who had labored all night and caught nothing in his fishing net. What turned it around was the words of Jesus. Because Peter followed Jesus’ guidance, he caught so much his boat began to take on water. Whatever your struggle is today, you can know that God is with you (ever present) and knows exactly how to help (He is your help in time of need).

[1] Source Unknown. https://bible.org/illustration/i-was-sharpening-my-ax.

Promise of Protection

The Promise of Protection

Daily Reading: (Psalm 91:4-6):

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.”

The Psalmist refers to God with two different names. He calls God both Most High (El Elyon) and Almighty (El Shaddai). The Hebrew name for God Most High means the extremely-exalted, sovereign, High God. He that dwells in the secret place of the Extremely-Exalted, Sovereign, Almighty is the One absolute in power (Psalm 91:1). If you are a believer, the place you dwell and find your rest is in the protection of the one who has absolute power. When we know this truth about our positioning in Christ, protecting by the One with absolute power, what is there to fear? Wisdom tells us not to jump off a cliff without a parachute. The wise thing would to not gather in large crowds during a pandemic. As you go through your life guided by God’s leading, dangers will be present no matter what you do, but His protection is there for you.

This word rest or abide means to stay permanently. Our permanent dwelling place in Christ is with the extremely exalted Sovereign High God (El Elyon) under the shadow of the One in Absolute Power (El Shaddai), which means we have the protection of the Lord. 

Let’s follow the Psalmist in his writing: “This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him” (Psalm 91:2). Do you trust the Most High? Do you trust that He loves you and that He has and will continue to take care of you? Do you trust him with your life?

 “For he will rescue you from every trap.” When you set a trap, it is to ensnare the unexpecting, otherwise, traps wouldn’t work. God’s protection protects us from dangers we can’t even see (Psalm 91:3).

“You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday” (Psalm 91:5-6).

When we receive His love for us the fear is cast out. David says in Psalm 91 that we don’t need to fear, we only need to trust. We were created, our bodies were not designed for fear. Our bodies were designed for faith and trust in our Creator (Psalm 91:2).

Psalm 91:15-16: “He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

This means that trouble will most certainly come. The doctor could give troubling news but the report from the Lord is “I will deliver him”. Deliver him and honor him. As the troubles and the terrors come all around us may we remember that Jesus, Our High Priest prayed on our behalf, that God the Father would protect us from the evil in this world. “Father I pray not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil in the world” (John 17:15). His prayer was not to be delivered out of trouble, but to be protected in the midst of it.

The Psalm concludes in verse 16. “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” There is another name of God mentioned in Psalm 91 (Yeshua). So we started off with two names for God listed: El Elyon (Extremely-Exalted, Sovereign, High God) and (El Shaddia) absolute in power, and then finally Yeshua.“Show him my Salvation/Yeshua.” The final word of Psalm 91 is the name of Jesus.We have been shown our salvation is Yeshua/ Jesus.When trouble comes you will find salvation in the name of Jesus.

The Promise of Union Life

The Promise of Union Life With Jesus

Daily Reading: (2 Timothy 2:13):

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

What this is saying right off the bat is that even if we sin or when we sin, Christ isn’t going to disown you, how could He? Because Christ lives in us, He is always with us and He cannot disown Himself. This verse is indirectly speaking of union life with Christ. Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:5, asks the Corinthian believers a question: “Or do you not realize about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?” Maybe a better starting point is to realize Christ lives in you. He is always with you, He will never leave you or forsake you and since He remains faithful, even when we mess up, Christ will never disown you for He cannot disown Himself.

The book of 2 Timothy has a lot of great verses in it. There is a website called topverses.com that has ranked verses by how popular they are. 2 Timothy 3:16 ranks 9th on the list, 2 Timothy 2:15 ranks 45th. Already two verses in the top 50 in the book of 2 Timothy alone. One of my favorites, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” checks in at number 429. There are many verses in 2 Timothy that are ranked as some of people’s most favorite verses. Where does our 2 Timothy 2:13 verse rank on people’s all-time favorite Scripture verse list? 2 Timothy 2:13 is the 16,811 most popular verse. What that tells me is people don’t understand what is being said here. If we knew what this verse meant it might become your favorite verse from 2 Timothy. There is a verse, 2 Timothy 4:12 that says: “I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.” That’s all it said and that is ranked 9,552. It ranked over 7,000 spots ahead of our verse. People don’t like the verse I quoted because it is attached to a portion that absolutely frightens people because they have been misled in what is being said. Today, that all changes.

I believe one reason why 2 Timothy 2:13 is often overlooked is because it completely dismantles a works-based system of my own faithfulness. The spotlight is entirely where it should be and that is on Jesus Christ and His accomplished work for us that whatever the promise God has made, Promises of God series part 2, He is faithful to deliver on it through Jesus.

In the Gospel in Twenty Questions Paul Ellis breaks down our 2 Timothy 2:13 verse and he does it masterfully as he connects it to the entire statement.

Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:11–13).

The “if we endure” is satisfied with the faithful one (Jesus). Jesus who did endure, lives in us and will cause us to endure and reign now.”

Why is this verse the 16,811 most popular verse? Because people don’t understand it? This new life we have in Christ is a new kind of life characterized by supernatural endurance and reigning in all things (2 Timothy 2:11-13).

“If we disown him, he will also disown us.” Paul is not talking about Christians at all, but those who reject Christ and will one day reap the consequences of their choice (2 Timothy 2:12). There’s no grace for the faithless because the faithless will not receive it.

Do you see? There are two camps in the world. There are individuals who confess Christ as Lord and those who deny Him.

If you have denied him, you may yet confess him. This provides hope for the lost and unsaved people.

If you have confessed him, you cannot deny him. This simply means we who have died with Christ cannot un-die. We who have been born again cannot be unborn. If you were to deny him, as Peter did three times, Jesus won’t disown you, for He cannot disown himself. If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (2 Timothy 2:13) “Keep reminding them of these things…” (2 Timothy 2:14a)

To recap, Paul says if we die with Christ, we will live, endure, and reign with him. Each follows the other and this is a trustworthy saying.Thank you, Paul Ellis, for the amazing clarity you have brought to this passage of Scripture, making it one of my favorites and hopefully one of yours as well.

Trouble and Peace

Daily Reading: (John 14:1, 27, John 16:33):

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

What I absolutely love about this text is that the promise is not an absence of trouble and fear but peace in it.

I have found that two real enemies to peace in my life are in fact trouble and fear. Jesus instead of listing all of the potential troubling things we could experience, uses the Greek word that describes the condition troubling things can bring (to agitate, to take away calmness of mind, make restless, strike one’s spirit with fear and dread, to render anxious). Do not let your hearts take away calmness of your mind and fear.

There is no need to allow those troubling things to cause fear in your spirit, rob you of the calmness of your mind, make you restless and anxious and lead about timidity in your life.

Those troubling things are the opposite of what God has given you as He has given us the peace of Christ that’s why Paul writes to his young protégé Timothy: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God has given us a spirit of power (not timidity) a spirit of love- because perfect love cast out all fear, and of a sound, calm of mind.

Jesus guarantees trouble for us in this world (John 16:33). Even Jesus’ disciples thought that somehow their connection to Jesus meant an absence of trouble. This was obviously not their experience and it is not ours either. 

You will have trouble in this world, and if that is where Jesus finished his sentence I guess all we could expect would be timidity, fear, a lack of calmness of mind. But that is not the final word over your trouble. The final word over your trouble is, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Take heart (tharseō) – be of good cheer, be of good comfort. Because “I have overcome the world.” If we understand this Greek word for overcome then we are enabled to have courage in trouble, we are able to have the peace of Christ in all things.

(nikaō) – I carry off the victory. I have been victorious over all of your enemies.

So because of Jesus’ victory over our foes (victory over our trouble), we can have peace and we do not have to fear when the already defeated trouble comes (John 14:27, John 16:33).  

Don’t lose heart when trouble comes because Christ will carry you off in victory(John 16:33). Don’t let the calmness of your mind leave because of what is happening around you, instead, place your confidence in me (John 14:1).

At the cross the disciples thought their Messiah was being defeated. Jesus as He takes His last breath declares our victory in John 19:30 “it is finished.” God’s salvation plan, the masterpiece to redeem humanity is complete. He has overcome the world!!! “It is finished” comes from one Greek word (teleō). In the days of Jesus, a servant would use it when reporting to his master: “I have completed the work assigned to me.” Jesus said those final words to the Father. (John 17:4) The word means, “It is finished, it stands finished and it will always be finished!” Perhaps the most significant meaning of teleō is how it is used by merchants: “The debt is paid in full!” When Jesus gave Himself on the cross, He met fully the righteous demands of the law. He paid our debts in full! Today, it is not our works that will bring us the blessings, or will bring us to a settled mind, it is Christ’s finished work. It is confidence and trust in Christ alone (John 14:1, John 19:30). Our blessings are a result of Jesus defeating sin and death and granting us restoration in relationship with God as our Father- which means favor with God forever. Our blessings come by way of Christ’s finished work. It is not our works that gave us access to blessing, or that will bring us to a settled mind, it is Christ’s finished work. It is confidence and trust in Christ alone (John 14:1, John 19:30). 

Maybe you are faced with overwhelming odds today. Jesus promises, “It is finished!” You are not going to be delivered, because you have already been delivered. You are not going to be healed because you are already healed! God healed you 2,000 years ago! Isaiah 53:5 declares, “By His stripes you are healed!” Keep resting in His finished work and it will manifest itself in your life! Our blessings have been bought by His blood! Live life knowing that there is nothing for you to do—only believe! It is finished!

So, you will have trouble in this world (we can testify to that) but you don’t have to be troubled. You can have confidence in Christ finished work at the cross (John 14:1). He offers to us healing, forgiveness, His righteousness, and He has given us the Comforter as our aid, (John 14:16) who will continue to point us to Jesus and His finished work.

The Secret of Contentment

The Secret of Contentment

Daily Reading: (Philippians 4:10-13):

“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

We will find that the “all things” Paul references he can do through Christ (Philippians 4:13), is connected to the secret of contentment he has found (Philippians 4:12).

The gift Paul received from the church could have caused a lot of different emotions ways. It was late to arrive, Paul’s feelings could have been anxious, uneasy, or upset about it.

The person bringing the gift was deathly ill, perhaps even contagious. Paul could have been afraid for Epaphroditus and worried about his own health.

The distance the gift the church was sending Paul (Philippi to Rome) was approximately 4,608 miles and so instead of having a negative emotion,the apostle of grace sees Epaphroditus through the eyes of grace and says give this guy a hero’s welcome. “So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ.”

Let’s celebrate those who do a work of Christ regardless of how successful the endeavor may appear on the outside. The reason Paul does not land in the negative emotions unsatisfied camp is because Paul was never focused on the gift to begin with. Verse ten gives us this insight: “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord” Contentment is secured as you view everything made available to you in Christ which will cause your spirit to rejoice. The focus was not on the gift but the Giver. I am not meaning the church, although, there will be gratitude toward the brothers and sisters in Christ but this is what Christ has done in them. Paul was expecting Jesus to bear the fruit of generosity in their lives.  

Generosity isn’t a fruit of the Spirit- is it? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control(Galatians 5:22-23a). I don’t see generosity listed there, but it actually is. Most translations call it “goodness,” because the root word means “good,” but, given the context, a better interpretation would be “generous,” which is the way it is worded in the New Revised Standard.

In Philippians 4 Paul says he has needs, but he is not needy because God is going to meet His needs (Philippians 4:12). The way the supply comes to us changes so it is easy for us to worry and doubt and ask God what are you doing when it is delayed or comes about another way. That is the problem that arises when we put our focus on the supply instead of the Supplier, we can move from the contentment camp to the unsatisfied one. New seasons means new supply. God’s provision is ongoing (the source doesn’t change, but the way the supply comes does).

But our God, Paul says seven verses later will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). “He meets the needs according to” which is the Greek Word (kata) it means daily. So, it doesn’t matter if your daily need is great or it is small, you can be content, God will meet our needs every day abundantly.

What is the secret of contentment?

William Barclay says, “contentment comes from knowing God and delighting in his sovereign goodness and fatherly care.”[1] The temptation to be discontent is everywhere. Paul grew to believe with great conviction all of who Christ was in his life—his Savior, his Friend, his Provider, his Lord—and it was the essence of what he needed most. The sufficiency of Christ that Paul experienced enabled him to have a strong heart of contentment (joy, peace, and gratitude) in the best and worst of times. Because Christ lived in Him and was with Him always.

[1] William Barcley. The Secret of Contentment. P&R Publishing

Free From Condemnation

Free From Condemnation

Daily Reading: (Romans 8:1): “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Who wouldn’t want no condemnation? Every single one of us has done things and said things that we wish we would not have. Romans 8:1 is grace in a nutshell that God will not count my sins against me. I deserve to be punished for my sins. I deserve to be separated from God forever. I should be forever condemned but God gave me what I didn’t deserve when He sent Jesus to die for the penalty of my sins in my place, so that in Him I might be given His life and counted as righteous. This verse is easy to understand but yet so hard to believe when we mess up. God must be mad at me. God must have caused that shopping cart to dent my car to teach me a lesson for taking someone’s spot. I hear this all the time, “God is judging me”. “There is now no condemnation in Christ.” Your worst moments are forgiven and that is a hard thing for any of us to receive. Here is the result or the fruit of this truth: because of how greatly you have been forgiven you are now enabled to extend forgiveness to other people who don’t deserve it. I don’t know where we learned that someone has to say sorry or show remorse in order for us to forgive them. The only person you are hurting when you decide to carry an offense against you is yourself.

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10).We all were guilty – the sentence was pronounced. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Now that we know just how guilty we were and the death sentence we faced we now see how great the love of God is toward us the criminals in order to save us and give us life. 

God’s grace that we have received by faith, gets out of the prison of sin and death at the cost of Jesus’ life. However, continuing to sin causes damaging consequences to you and people around you.

I don’t know if you have ever played the game of Monopoly before, but if you have, you would know you can receive something in the game that keeps you out of jail, a get out of jail free card. The nice thing about having the card is you don’t have to worry about rolling doubles too much or landing on the go to jail space or even receiving another card that sends you to jail, you can really enjoy going around the board and scooping up properties. If you have the get out of jail free card, it doesn’t mean you won’t do stupid stuff and make bad decisions during the game. Would you like to buy this property to make a set? No, I’m good. We can go around the boardgame of life and make some really stupid decisions and continue in sin even though we have been given the abundant life. Jesus said, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]” (John 10:10b AMP). You have been given the opportunity to live the abundant life but you might choose to walk after the flesh.

One time I was playing the game of Monopoly and I was doing so bad that when I landed on community chest I received a card that said, “Go to jail, go directly to jail. Do not pass go do not collect $200.” My opponent asked if I was going to use my get out of jail free card? I told them that I would rather stay in prison, just so I didn’t have to pay them rent. That is the opposite of what abundance looks like, choosing prison over freedom. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). What this means is: “We have been set free because of what Christ has done. Through his blood our sins have been forgiven. We have been set free because God’s grace is so rich” (Ephesians 1:7).

In life although you possess eternal life, although you possess all the spiritual promises made to us in Jesus it doesn’t mean that you will choose to live in the freedom you have been given and walk in victory.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1).

[The Greek aorist tense would be better translated, “so that you may not commit an act of sin,” or the equivalent.]

God’s desire for you and me is that we do not sin, but if we do, we have Jesus the Righteous One as our Advocate (1 John 2:1) which means there is no condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 8:1).

The Greek word is paraklētos one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins.

As our advocate, He pleads for what He has done in behalf of people; that is, by the plea that His sufferings and death in behalf of sinners have done as much to honor the law, and to maintain the truth and justice of God.

Now, it does not say that if anyone repents, we have an Advocate with the Father. It says that if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father. The moment a child of God sins, straightaway, his Advocate, Jesus Christ, goes into action to pray for and protect him.

There is no need to try and atone for your own sins – you can’t. Instead look to Jesus’ atonement as sufficient. Know that Jesus ensures that what He died and suffered to give you, you get! In heaven right now, He defends and represents you to ensure that the healing, wholeness, protection and other blessings that He died to give you are enforced in your life. Have confidence in and rest in the ability of your Advocate-Jesus Christ.