The Four Conquerors

December 1, 2012

“…   much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”   (Romans5:17)

Here the Apostle Paul describes the fourth in a series of four conquerors.  Each of these conquerors does three things: they enter, abound, and reign.  The first one is King Sin.  He sounds like a Chinese King.  He enters this world and our lives.  Paul doesn’t get into a heavy discussion here of how this conqueror entered this world.  He just makes it clear that his intent when he enters is to abound and reign.  We can’t co-exist with him.  Like a malignant tumor his intent is to kill us.

A second conqueror that always follows King Sin is King Death.  Even in these days of economic downturns the wages paid by King Sin are always the same.  They are death, or the pits.  We might say these first two conquerors are the bad news.

The third conqueror Paul presents is Queen Grace.  And the fourth conqueror is King You and King Me.  We can definitely say that these last two conquerors are the Good News.  Just as Kings Sin and Death enter our lives to abound and reign, it is possible for Queen Grace to enter and reign in us in such a way that we can reign in life through Jesus Christ.

In these four conquerors Paul is telling us what God has to do that we might be justified or declared righteous.  Then he tells us how God makes it possible for people who have been declared right to get right, be right and do right ‘til the stars fall.

We can enter, abound and reign in Christ and in life.


The Price of Ingratitude

November 22, 2012

“… although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful…”   (Romans 1:21)

In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome he gives a resume of the fall of the human race.  Paul does the same thing Moses did in the third chapter of the book of Genesis.  They both describe the fall of man as it was and as it is.  By that I mean they are not merely describing an historical event in the past but they want us to understand what is happening in our culture right now.

In Paul’s account of the fall of the human race he traces the origin of our fall to two things: we did not glorify God as God, and we were not thankful.  He then continues to describe how God gave us up to what we wanted and we became guilty of every imaginable kind of sin.  As he vividly describes what happened to the human race after God did not give up on us but gave us up to what we wanted, the result became what Paul described as “all unrighteousness.”

If you track with Paul as he itemizes what he means by “all unrighteousness” it’s intriguing to realize that all that horrible sin began with the hard reality that we were not thankful.  There are so many exhortations and prescriptions in the Word of God for us to be thankful but here in the first chapter of Romans is a great warning about the price of not being thankful.

Like it was and like it is, appreciate the value of an attitude of gratitude.  And, like it was and like it is, do not underestimate the price of an attitude of ingratitude.


Adversity and Prosperity

November 16, 2012

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: surely God has appointed the one as well as the other”   (Ecclesiastes7:14)

Many devout people are confused about prosperity.  Some preach and teach a prosperity theology that is pure heresy.  It could only receive a hearing in a place like America.  It will not receive a hearing in places where devout people suffer poverty and persecution because they believe.  Others believe we should feel guilty when we experience prosperity.

Solomon writes that in the day of prosperity we should rejoice and know that our God has given us all things richly to enjoy.  And he informs us that in the day of adversity we should consider the profound reality that God has made the one as well as the other.  A truth that means much to me is that God is our personal Mentor and He does His most effective mentoring when things are difficult for us.

Now that I am old I spend time looking back over a long life.  As I reflect on my relationship with God over more than eight decades I realize that my times of spiritual growth have been times of adversity and my times of spiritual regression and stagnation have been times of prosperity.

Paul wrote that he knew how to be abased and he knew how to abound.  He presented a challenge to us.  That challenge is that it takes more grace and wisdom to know how to abound than it takes to know how to be abased.

If you are enjoying prosperity I hope you do not feel guilty but rejoice.  If you are experiencing adversity let it be a time of effective mentoring from God and a time of growth for you.


Difficult Relationships

November 6, 2012

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in meekness correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”   (2Timothy2:24-26)

We might label these words Paul wrote to Timothy: “How to relate to a difficult person.” We all need this teaching because we must all deal with difficult people.

According to Paul the difficult person to whom we are relating has been taken captive by the evil one and we cannot free them.  We can maintain three fruits of the Spirit (gentleness, meekness and patience), which keeps the door open for God.  We then earn our hearing and place before them the Word of truth they need to hear. We must not quarrel because that opens the door for the evil one and closes the door for God.

When they acknowledge the truth of God’s Word they experience repentance, and escape from the captivity of the evil one.  This is not a matter of teaching or preaching.  It is not having the last word or winning the argument.  This is becoming a conduit through which almighty God sets people free who were not free.

To repent means to think again or to have a change of mind, heart, will and direction.  It is a work of God you cannot perform.  Only God can use His Word and you His servant to make this happen.  In an attitude of prayer and in dependence upon God and His Spirit are you willing to be a conduit of this miracle?


Whatever It Takes!

September 9, 2012

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9: 25-27 NIV)

We have now finished the Summer Olympics in London and here in America our version of football began last week.  One of our American football teams has a slogan posted in conspicuous places around their training center.  It is simply the three words: “Whatever It Takes!”  The meaning: every member of the team pledges, “I will do whatever it takes to win!”

In the verses quoted above Paul is referring to the way Olympic athletes from his time trained and disciplined their bodies.  They sacrificed whatever it took in discipline and preparation with one goal in mind: to win.

While they did this to win a prize that does not last we should train and discipline ourselves that we might win a prize that is eternal.  As we run the race of our ministry we should have a strategy and a race plan.  When we fight the good fight of faith we should have a fight plan.  While we observe the way the athletes train and do whatever it takes to win we should do whatever it takes to win the real race and fight the real fight.

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to win the race and the fight today?

 


Another Beautiful Word

August 31, 2012

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:8)

The mercy of God withholds what we deserve and the grace of God lavishes on us countless blessings we do not deserve.  As we appreciate what the mercy of God withholds and the grace of God bestows when we believe the Gospel, we should be filled with grateful worship of our gracious and merciful God.

When Jesus gave His Great Commission He instructed the disciples to wait until the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them before they obeyed His Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1: 4, 5).  After that happened to them on the Day of Pentecost, we read:  “Great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33).  This use of the word “grace” means there is such a thing as the anointing, or the energizing unction of the Holy Spirit upon us as we serve Christ.  I am using the word in that sense when I tell people that His grace outweighs my challenges.

Paul was declaring this dimension of grace when he wrote: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you so that you, always, having all sufficiency in all things may abound unto every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).  This is the most emphatic verse in the New Testament regarding the anointing and energizing grace of God.

Check out the superlatives he uses in this verse: All grace – abounding grace – each and every one of you  – he repeats all of you – all sufficiency – in all things – abounding unto every good work – always!  According to Paul we should all be able to make the claim that His grace outweighs our challenges!

Do you believe the grace of God can outweigh your challenges today?


A Communication Prescription

July 12, 2012

“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you…As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NIV)

To paraphrase this passage, Paul is suggesting that each of us has a communication “flap” on our heart.  We should be face-to-face and heart-to-heart with our communication flaps open.  But, the hard reality is that we are often back-to-back with our communication flaps down and tightly closed.  The solution Paul prescribes here is that someone must say, “I am heart-to-heart with you, and my communication flap is open.  Be heart-to-heart with me and open your communication flap.”

We face communication challenges every day in our family, work life, and in our interactions with people.  When there is a communication problem it is so very important to realize that someone has to initiate a solution by saying, in spirit and in principle, to the person with whom they are having a communication conflict, “I am heart-to-heart with you, and my communication flap is open. Be heart to heart with me and open your communication flap.”

You may be totally amazed at how taking that stance can melt the obstacles between you and that person with whom you are having a difficult and challenging relationship.  This can be a communication “circuit breaker” that restores communication in a relationship.

Bacteria multiply in the dark but cannot live in the light.  If we do not have good communication in a relationship misunderstandings multiply like bacteria, but when communication is restored it is as if we have turned the light on our relationship.  Most of the bacteria will die and we can address that which doesn’t die with the light of our restored communication.


A Fellowship in the Gospel

May 4, 2012

“… your fellowship in the Gospel…”  (Philippians 1:5)

When you read the first words of Paul’s letter to his favorite church they show you the passion of Paul and the heart of this church he loved.  The bonds that made them so remarkably one in heart are expressed in the repetition of one word: “Gospel.”  Paul writes that the things he has experienced have fallen out to the furtherance of the Gospel.  And that he has them in his heart because in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel they all are partakers of God’s grace.

As Paul continues to repeat the word “Gospel” he expresses his heart’s passion when he describes what he calls “the faith of the Gospel.”  He precedes that with the concept of behavior that becomes the Gospel.  Paul is describing the purpose and function of a church when he calls their church “a fellowship of the Gospel.” The context in which the Gospel is to be believed is that fellowship of the Gospel.

Paul is in prison when he writes these words and he doesn’t know if he will be released.  In verse 27 he writes his ideal for his ideal church.  His great Gospel prescription is: “I want to hear that every member of your church is a Christian; every Christian is Christian and Christians are Christian together in a way that results in other people believing the Gospel!”

Paul’s plan for filling this prescription for his ideal spiritual community is to “Stand fast in one Spirit with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel!” (1:27) That Church in Philippi is to act as if they have one mind among them because in fact because they do.

It is the mind of Christ.


Oneness

April 25, 2012

“Is Christ divided?”   (1 Corinthians 1:13)

 In the great prayer our Lord prayed for His Church (John 17), Jesus asked His Father, not once but five times, that we all might be one.  In light of that great prayer priority of our Lord, is it not an evidence of the work of the evil one when we consider all the “sects and insects and isms and spasms” that say they are His true Church today?

The risen, living Christ can be known by His followers today.  One of the favorite ways the authors of the New Testament identify the authentic followers of Jesus is when they refer to them as being “in Christ.”  When His Church in Corinth was hopelessly divided the Apostle Paul asked that church a very appropriate question: “Is Christ divided?”

If thinking people really track with the authors of the New Testament would they not think it strange if people profess to be in Christ and then cannot agree on anything?  There is, however, a supernatural oneness or agreement among people who are truly in Christ today.

Many decades ago when African American believers were petitioning white churches in the southern part of our country to integrate I discovered that it didn’t matter whether the people in my church were born in northern or southern United States.  What mattered in my congregation was whether or not they were born again.  Christ does not feel more than one way about civil rights.  Neither will we if we are born again and in Christ.

Paul concludes the second chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians by claiming that we have the mind of Christ.  If we in fact do have the mind of Christ we will agree.


A Perspective for a Hurting Heart

March 10, 2012

“… who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  (2 Corinthians 1:4)

The Apostle Paul has just experienced life threatening persecution when he was stoned in Lystra.  As he describes that experience for the Church in Corinth he gives them (and us) a perspective on suffering.  He writes that there is a kind of suffering that drives us to God and there is a quality of comfort that can only be found in God when the level of our suffering drives us to Him.

According to Paul, an evangelist is “one beggar telling another beggar where the bread is.”  A hurting heart that has discovered the comfort that can only be found in God is “one hurting heart telling another hurting heart where the Comfort is.”

As a pastor when I met grief stricken parents who had lost a child, since I had never suffered that loss I sent a couple to comfort them who had lost a child and found the comfort of God to help them.  Any time your heart is hurting because God has permitted you to suffer, realize that you are being given a credential by God.  As you find the comfort that is to be found in God you are now qualified to point any person with that same problem to the comfort you discovered when you had that hurt in your heart.

Although you will not answer all of the “why” questions until you know as you are known, are you willing to let this perspective bring some meaning and purpose to your suffering?

Or would you rather choose to waste your sorrows?