Monday, June 23, 2014

Resting in Christ

Romans 5:3-4   “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

James 1:2-4  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

How often do you “glory in your suffering” or “consider it joy when you face trials”?

I’ve experienced a hard couple of months in my personal life.  We all go through tough times.  It’s how you allow God to use those tough times that makes the difference.

As I was thinking through some things today, I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps God’s purpose in what I’ve been through is to bring me to the place where I rest totally in the sufficiency of Christ.  Yes – it’s easy to say you trust Jesus but do you totally trust him?  Do you totally rest in his care?

I’ve always been able to handle just about anything life has thrown at me.  I’m a strong independent woman.  And – that’s not necessarily a blessing.  While I would dedicate my abilities and efforts to God, that isn’t really what He wanted.  I would even pray for God to bless my efforts but what God wants is not my efforts. 

He wants me to be totally yielded to Him.  God doesn’t need me to help Him.  He needs me to get out of the way and let Him be God.  He needs my availability not my ability. 

I experience peace when I focus on the person of Jesus not on what I can do for Jesus.

Many people think that God won’t give me more than I can handle.  I think God does give me more than I can handle sometimes.  He gives me burdens that I can’t carry alone in an effort to break me.  He wants to bring me to the end of my own resources so that I can understand that He is the only resource I need.

As long as I can do it myself, I will never really understand that He doesn’t just give me strength, He is my strength.  He doesn’t want me to get stronger – He wants me to become weak so that He can express Himself as my strength.

Sometimes I pray for God to change my circumstances when what I don’t see is how God wants to use those circumstances to accomplish His purposes in me.  God’s design is that I would give up all hope in doing it myself and fully trust Him to do it through me.

Don’t become so preoccupied with what you are doing for God that you lose your focus on the One who called you to it.  Busyness, even in ministry, can be a deterrent in your intimacy with your Savior.  (Think about the story of Mary and Martha)

Resting in Christ is the main responsibility of a believer.  Let everything else flow from that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Good Works

Main Idea - Good works done in the flesh bring death but done in the Spirit bring life.

Galatians 6:7
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

All you gardeners know this to be true. If you plant a pumpkin seed, you will get a ____________.

What you plant = what you get at harvest time.

It’s true in the Christian life as well. What you plant = what you get.

Galatians 6:8
”For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

If you plant your flesh, the fruit that results is called corruption. Death, destruction, pain, decay, wasting away, death, …

Flesh is living independently from the Spirit within us. It’s living in our own effort. It’s trying to control people. It’s trying to gain something for me by doing something. Doing good works to get something out of it.

The end result is Galatians 5:19-21

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”

You might expect Paul to say - You plant the seed of a fit of anger and you will get the fruit of a fit of anger. That’s not what he says. He says you plant flesh and you get all this junk. It’s all born out of flesh. It’s all born out of self-confidence, independence from God.

Sometimes you are actually trying to do good in your flesh. People think that whenever you are stepping into flesh it is because you are stepping into sin. That is true but it is also true that in the flesh you might be trying to do something good, just for the wrong reasons.

For example, you might be trying to bring reconciliation in a relationship but you are doing it in the flesh and the net result is you reap division. You might be trying to be patient in your own strength but instead the result is fits of anger and you don’t get it.

The key word here is you are trying, trying, trying … You are trying to do it in your own strength and this stuff is what you are getting instead of the good stuff you were anticipating. And you end up thinking how comes doing good works doesn’t work? The answer is because you are doing them in the flesh.

The result of doing good works in the flesh is death, destruction, decay, stench,…

Think of an octopus. You’ve got all these different arms on the octopus. Each arm is one of these things from verses 19-21. You hate that stuff. You don’t want it in your life. You are a believer. You’re a follower of Jesus. You don’t want to see this stuff happening in your life. So you see the envy, jealousy, fits of anger and so you say, “God, I’m not going to lash out in anger anymore” and you try not to do it and your life becomes this life of sin management. I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to do this. There are all these arms you are trying desperately to manage. For a while you cut that fits of anger arm off and you don’t get mad any more but then all of a sudden one day it starts to bubble up and off you go again. What you discover is that arm has grown back. The only way you can deal with the arm, is to cut off the head. That’s the only way you can take an octopus out. The head of the octopus is called the flesh.

So how can you take off the head of the octopus? Look at Galatians 5:16.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

So how do I walk by the Spirit – look at Galatians 6:8

”For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit (Allows the Spirit to work in him, surrenders to the indwelling spirit, allows the Spirit’s power to show, who stops trying and starts trusting) will from the Spirit (it’s His work not ours) reap eternal life.”  (words in parenthesis are mine)

Abiding life, constant life, everlasting life, vibrancy, health, the real deal.  This abundant life that Jesus promised - this is how we find it.

Good works done in the flesh bring death but done in the Spirit bring life.

Galatians 6:9

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, …”

A telltale sign that you are doing good works in the flesh is you get tired. You get worn out. Your energy gets to the end.

You tried to do something nice for your spouse and they shrugged it off. And you respond – “Whatever, I quit.” That’s probably from the flesh. When you are tempted to quit, when you are weary, when you are tired – that’s a good indication that you are functioning in the flesh.

Galatians 6:9
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, (we will get fruit) if we do not give up.”  (words in parenthesis are mine)

Reap ties back to verse 8.

We need to surrender to the Spirit and we will reap this fruit of the Spirit which ties back to Galatians 5:22-23.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

So you plant the Spirit, you surrender to the Spirit and all those things happen.

Good works could also be added to this list as a fruit of the Spirit.

These are all what the Spirit does when we surrender to Him.

Galatians 6:10 
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Ephesians 2:10
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

God has prepared good works in advance for us to do. The Spirit knows all about these good works that He has prepared for you. The Spirit is going to prompt you towards those good works. If you are surrendered to Him, He will empower you into those good works. He will minister through you to people and life will happen. This is what the Christian life is about.

Galatians 6:10 
“So then, as we have opportunity (as the Spirit prompts you to do these good works that are prepared in advance for you), let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”   (words in parenthesis are mine)

Walk in the Spirit and allow Him to use you to touch those around you. Pray about who you can reach out to.

How do you know if you’ve done something in the power of the Holy Spirit or in your flesh?

The difference is the motive and the one accomplishing the work.

Works of the Spirit are those actions prompted, directed, and produced by the Holy Spirit in us and that will ultimately bring glory to Christ.

Works of the flesh are done in our own power and strength and elevate us.

The big question lies in “Who is lifted up?” Jesus or me?

Works of the Spirit means responding in a godly way to a situation.

Remember the saying, “What Would Jesus Do?”  Think about that as you are in situations.  Allow Jesus to live His life through us.

It is understanding the idea of surrender.

To surrender means to relinquish possession or control to another, to submit to the power, authority, and control of another.

It is a willingness to live your life for God’s plan no matter what that plan calls for.

Matthew 5:16
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Try to imagine what could happen if Christians started to reach out to others in the power of the Holy Spirit.  If we started to recognize the good works that God planned in advance for us to do.

These don’t have to be major big things.  In fact, I would say most of the time these things are small things that God uses in the lives of others.  It could just be a cup of coffee and a listening ear for someone who is having a hard week. Maybe you see someone who just needs a hug. Reach out.

Little things that the Spirit says go and you think that’s not that big a deal – just go – and in the Spirit you will step in and life will be breathed from you to them.  When you do things in the Spirit, you will find yourself energized, joyful, effective.

There is joy in being used by the Spirit regardless of the outcome.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Grasping the love of Christ

Ephesians 3:17b-19

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, 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.”

Paul is writing to the Christians in Ephesus. He says we are to “know this love that surpasses knowledge.” Or in other words, to know this love that you can’t know.

Do these two words mean the same thing? We can know about the love of Christ without knowing the love of Christ. We can intellectually know about love or we can experience love.

Paul wants us to experience love. He wants us to know it deeply and intimately. We can’t know it all for it surpasses knowledge.

Surpasses – exceeds any knowledge that we have. We can’t learn all about Jesus’ love for us.

That is encouraging because that means we can dive into the love of Christ today and everyday until the day we die we can never exhaust it. Everyday we can learn something new about the love of Christ for us.

Therefore, we can always know more of the love of Christ. Paul’s prayer was that we could grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Let’s think about that for a minute.

How wide is the love of Christ?

Matthew 5:43   Jesus said - “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”

There’s a certain segment of the population that we are willing to love – everyone does. It’s usually the group that loves you. If they love me, I am happy to love them in return. No problem. Jesus says that this is OK for everyone else but as a Christian, our love is going to be wider. We are to go into areas where no one would love someone and we are to love those people. We are to take it as far as loving our enemies. Because when you love your enemies, people will look at you and wonder what’s going on with you? Why would you do that? Then you can say, I’m a Christian.  I’m a disciple of Jesus. They won’t understand what’s going on but you will be known by your …….. love.

John 13:35  “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Paul went on to say grasp long the love of Christ is. So, think about it. How long will Jesus love you? How long will it last? …………  Forever!

Romans 8:35, 37-39   “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There’s nothing that can make Jesus stop loving you.

Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Next Paul says, grasp how high the love of Christ is.

John 13:1   “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

This is just before the Last Supper. Jesus is with his disciples. He has loved them but now he is going to show them the highest form of love. This is the last thing he can do for them and teach them. Do you remember what he does?

He grabs the bowl of water that is reserved for the servants and he washes the feet of his disciples. This is an unbelievable act of servitude. This is the King of kings and the Lord of lords and he is washing the smelly feet of mortal men.

How high is the love of Christ? It is so high that he humbled himself to serving others.

Lastly, Paul says grasp how deep the love of Christ is.

1 John 3:16   “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

The depth of our love can be determined by the degree of sacrifice a person is willing to make. If you want to determine how much someone loves you, observe how often they serve you and sacrifice for you.  You can’t neglect someone you really love.

So, how deep did Jesus love you? He hung on the cross for you. You can’t love any deeper than that. Try to grasp the idea that the King of kings and the Lord of lords chose to die for you.

Pray that Jesus will teach you about his love…. that he will help you experience it firsthand. Not just to intellectually know about his love but that you experience it personally. Take some time to read about his love and meditate on his love for you.

Seek Jesus.  To know him personally.  Not to just know about Jesus.