10th Condition for Peace: Christ within us

June 6, 2017

“…never forget the nearness of your Lord.” (Philippians 4:5)

When Paul experienced his last horrible imprisonment in Rome, visiting him was dangerous. Roman guards might chain you up if you came to see him. And nobody did. Paul writes: “They all forsook me. May God not lay it to their charge.” But he also writes: “Nevertheless the Lord stood by me and ministered to me.” (2 Timothy 4:16-17)

Paul has a relationship with the risen Christ. This is always his explanation for the dynamic of his life. He writes: “Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace all the time and in every way.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16) In the upper room discourse, Jesus shared: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you.” (John 14:27) Paul knows that Christ Who lives in us will give us, and keep us, in a state of perpetual peace.

As a by-product of Paul’s relationship with Christ, he can write, “I am ready for anything through the strength of the One Who lives within me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Jesus was speaking about a relationship with God when He taught: “Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10 Amplified Bible)

Seeking is intense asking and knocking is intense seeking. Open the door of your life wider and invite Christ into the center of every meaningful area of your life.

“Never forget the nearness of the presence of the Lord.”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


What does it mean to be in Christ?

October 9, 2013

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I’m indebted to E. Stanley Jones, a missionary who served in India for 50 years, and his superb daily devotional, In Christ, for showing me the importance of this phrase in the New Testament.  I highly recommend his book which highlights the use of this phrase by all the New Testament authors.

According to Dr. Jones, when we think about being “in Christ,” we should realize that Paul was not talking about being in religion.  Few people have been more into religion than Paul before he met Jesus.  Paul was so religious he fervently persecuted followers of Jesus, sure that he was pleasing God by trying to snuff them out.

It is possible to be in religion, but not be in Christ.  It is possible to be in church, and not be in Christ.  We can be in doctrine, or theology, and not be in Christ.  We can be in the ministry and not be in Christ.  We can be committed to Christ, and believe a lot of things about Christ, and still not be in Christ.

To be in Christ locates us in a Person, right now.

Unless we are ‘in Christ’ it’s like we have a powerful engine in our automobile but we cannot find our ignition key that turns the engine on.  Being ‘in Christ’ is the ignition key, opening us up to experience “all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3)  Paul essentially writes: I live because Christ lives in me and I live in Christ.

Just as you sometimes cannot find the keys to your automobile, have you misplaced this critical spiritual key – are you living by and in Christ?

 


The Remedy for the Wrath of God

September 27, 2013

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)

The gospel Paul proclaimed was the good news that God will not only pardon and forgive our sins, but through our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ God will make it just as if we had never sinned.  God will also declare us to be as righteous as if we had never sinned.

In Psalm 51 David literally asked God to un-sin his sin.  David was a prophet and when he prayed that petition he knew the fulfillment of the answer would be in the word “justified.“  It literally means that God makes it as if our sin never happened and He declares us to be righteous.  If you have ever grievously sinned, you know that the cry of your heart is wishing your sin had never happened!

That is precisely what the good news of the gospel proclaims.  Imagine two men convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.  After 25 years one of them is pardoned by the governor.  Evidence is discovered that proves the other man is innocent of his crime.  He cannot be pardoned, he needs to be exonerated as if he never committed the crime.

Man’s law can do that.  Only God, however, can declare a guilty man as innocent as if he never committed a crime for which he is in fact guilty.  That is what God has done and is God’s only remedy for His wrath.

If you believe the Good News of the Gospel, then open your heart to receive this remedy.


The Wrath of God

September 24, 2013

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men… ” (Romans 1:18)

‘The wrath of God’ is the most unpopular phrase in the Bible.  The best definition of this concept I’ve ever heard is: “The wrath of God is the annihilating reaction of a loving God toward that which is destroying His love objects.”  Sin and unrighteousness destroys God’s love objects.  God therefore hates sin because sin will destroy us.

If you are into history you know that many nations have tried to destroy the Jews. Modern nations like Nazi Germany applied a horrible genocide holocaust against the Jewish people. Nazi Germany was destroyed.  I’m proud to be a citizen in a country that was one of many which were the vehicle of the wrath of God that destroyed Nazi Germany.

Throughout history nations that tried to destroy the love objects of God were themselves destroyed and the Jewish people are still here with us.  Some ask if it is not inconsistent with the love of God for Him to express His wrath.

As a social worker one night I saw a loving father express great wrath toward a man who had raped and murdered his seven year old daughter.  When that perverted rapist was brought into the police station it took every policeman in the station to hold that loving father down and keep him from trying to destroy the man who had destroyed his love object.  You see, great love gives us the capacity for great wrath.

The original language tells us that God is love but He can cross over from love and express His wrath until He has completely destroyed what is destroying His love objects.


When You Don’t Know What to Do

September 18, 2013

“We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”  (2Chronicles 20:12 NLT)

Have you ever faced problems that confronted you with the intolerable, the undeniable, the unthinkable and the impossible?  Throughout Hebrew and church history the people of God have often been confronted with these overwhelming realities.  Scripture supports the thought that God sometimes not only permits but creates these circumstances (Isaiah 45: 7).  According to Isaiah He does this because He wants us to learn that He is our only hope and our only help as we live for Him in this world.

The Word of God teaches that God is our Mentor and He does His most effective mentoring when we are coping with calamities and trials of every possible description.  The confession quoted above is proclaiming that the people of God have two problems.  They do not know what to do and they do not have the power to do it when they know it.

Scripture tells us God will give us all the wisdom we need when we confess that we do not know what to do (James 1:5).  And Scripture teaches that God will give us the power to do what He wants us to do because He is God and He always completes what He begins in us (Philippians 1:6; 2:13).

There are times when it is wrong for us to put God to the test.  Then there are times when God invites us to prove Him.  God wants to give us the gift of faith.  He also wants to give us immeasurable degrees of the grace to overcome the greatest possible obstacles.  That’s why He permits and designs calamities or trials that force us to access His all sufficient grace.


Prescription for a Comeback

September 12, 2013

“He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness…”  (Psalm 23: 3)

What is considered by some to be the greatest chapter in the Bible is the best description ever written of what the relationship of a human being with God can be.  I call this psalm “Sheep Talk” because it’s like a sheep is telling us what a great Shepherd he has.  The opening statement of the sheep is the key to the relationship.  When the Lord is his Shepherd he has multiple blessings.  According to the second verse this relationship is established when his Shepherd makes him lie down. When he gets up again he loses those blessings.

He is telling us this has happened and he needs a spiritual comeback.  The prescription for his comeback is that his Shepherd leads him in the paths of righteousness.  This is the second time he uses the word “leads.” His Shepherd not only leads him beside still waters but when he needs restoration he is led in the paths of righteousness.  The second time he uses this word it is a Hebrew word for “drives me” into what is right.

By application, when we need a comeback we should not seek a cheap one.  We should cooperate with our Shepherd as He drives us into the paths of what is right, perhaps for several years, until He restores our soul.  I personally experienced this kind of comeback in the early eighties that lasted nearly a decade.

Rick Warren said “We’re all in recovery.  What do you think the word ‘salvation’ means?”  Do you need a spiritual comeback?  Don’t look for a cheap one.  Ask God to show you the paths of righteousness that will restore your soul.


When to Look Up

September 7, 2013

“My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.”  (Psalm 5:3)

In one sentence in this beautiful psalm David twice emphasizes the reality that he will pray to his God in the morning.  There are three directions of life we must master.  We must learn to look up.  We must learn to look in until our Lord shows us things we need to know about ourselves.  Only then are we prepared to look around in all our relationships.

Anytime we are having difficulty in our relationships with spouses, children, parents or those who are outside the home we should always ask ourselves if we have looked up and looked in sincerely.  Knowing ourselves as God wants us to know ourselves is crucial preparation for relating to others.

Smart people are very often right and so they sometimes think they are always right.  It is very difficult to live with those who think they are always right.  In the same way it is difficult to relate to those who think they never sin.  When God helps us look in and see ourselves as He sees us it gives us a humility that is a tool we need to face our relationships.

What would you think of a concert violinist who plays a beautiful concerto solo and then instead of an encore comes out and tunes her violin?  In the same way we should not play the concert of our day and then tune the instrument of our lives.

We should begin ‘in the morning’ tuning our lives through our prayers to God as the Psalmist directs us, so that we can look up, look in and then look around.