Some of us may say that we have never seen the world in such chaos as it is now. Earthquakes, the Coronavirus, political tensions and uncertainty are at a point where any one of us might question whether we are nearing the end of the world as we know it. Read the words of Jesus:
“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:7–8). This almost sounds like the news this morning. Jesus went on from this verse to describe much more that will take place before He returns. Whether we are still in the beginning or not, does not change His instructions that follow:
Then Jesus points to “the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time. Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” (24:45-46).
There is a great danger for believers to become so occupied with the troubles of this world, and even personal problems, that we neglect being faithful doing the Lord’s work. Having clear vision during chaos starts with your “alone time” with the Lord. That provides the only reliable source so you can feed your family and other believers the necessary spiritual food needed to sustain them.
I doubt most understand the importance of this principle, but I am praying you will take this seriously and not allow world troubles to distract you from being faithful in every area of your life!
After Paul addressed the wonderful scope of the gospel in Romans (chapters 1 to 8), and then the place of Israel in God’s plan (chapters 9 to 11), he begins to unfold how the gospel works out in a practical way in chapter 12 to 16. That begins with offering ourselves as a “living sacrifice” (12:1). Part of how the gospel works in us is by being “transformed by the renewal of our mind” (12:2).
Then Paul gets very practical about how this transformation affects our thinking. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3).
Putting this in simple terms; be humble! That helps us to think soberly, or sensibly with sound judgment. This is accomplished by the measure of faith God has given us. It is the humble person who looks to God for wisdom, understanding and direction. The “measure of faith” is exactly the amount of faith you need to function and accomplish what God wants you to do.
As verses 4 to 8 describes, each of us are placed by God the Spirit into the body of Christ with the “measure of faith” so we fit with every other member in the body. If anyone exalts themselves above others, they soon do not fit in the body of Christ as God designed them and cause problems.
Make sure you are thinking about yourself in humility so your service will exalt Christ the Head, not your head.
Part of maturity is achieved in the way we think. Immature thinking usually has very short, temporary vision which only wants immediate gratification, rather than considering the long-range impact of our decisions. Consider the wisdom Jesus refers to in this verse:
““Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). In this case, a wise person is one who hears the words of wisdom and then puts them into practice immediately. That is an evidence of maturity. The immature do not place value on the Word of God and think they can postpone acting on what they heard or read. As time goes by, the importance of what they heard becomes less and less until it is totally forgotten.
“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:22–24).
The deception comes from not seeking the wisdom of God (1:5) so that we receive and apply truth as soon as it is given us. The “doers” will build a solid foundation in their souls and lives which will protect against the subtle, and sometimes, violent storms in life. Make sure your spiritual foundation is rock solid. Then your future will be unshakable.
There is a very interesting tension in Scripture between being “like a child” and being “childish” in our thinking. Child-like humility is how we are to receive the principles of the kingdom of God into our hearts and lives. Jesus made this point clear; “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:17). That should arrest our attention.
As the Church grew in the early days of the New Testament, conditions emerged in some churches that showed dangerous immaturity. These conditions fostered division and immorality. Paul reminds the Corinthians of what changed his life; “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
Because of the way they were behaving in the church, Paul admonishes them in the next chapter;
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (14:20). As an infant without desires or experience with evil, evil (sin) should be immediately rejected. But it takes maturity to “distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).
Part of discipling is helping others mature in their walk with the Lord so they are not carried away by false teaching, fads and worldly trends. This kind of maturity wants to develop in yourself and in others a love for the simple truth of Scripture that is timeless and applies in any culture. That is our desire in ministering to you through this blog and ministry. I trust you will grow with us!
One of the descriptions in Scripture that gives us an understanding of baptism is the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8. As he rides toward home in his chariot, he has a copy of the Old Testament and is reading the prophet Isaiah. It so happens that he is reading Chapter 53 that speaks prophetically of Jesus’ death for us.
The analogy of Jesus as a sheep and lamb being led to the slaughter, captures his attention. God places Philip on the same road so this Eunuch can understand what he is reading. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). What was the result of Philip’s explanation of Isaiah 53:7-8?
“And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:36–38).
It is evident that Philip’s explanation of the Scripture brought immediate conviction with the Eunuch that he should be identified with Jesus in His death and resurrection. The only way to express that was to go into water as a symbol of death. Coming out of that water was then a clear message that this man was identified with Jesus in new life.
Do we proclaim Jesus from the Scriptures with that kind of clarity?
How do we identify in our minds and hearts with this concept of being “new”? We dealt with this subject yesterday from 2 Corinthians 5:17, but Paul has more to say about how this works. Let’s look at Romans 3 to 6 and see how a believer sees himself entering salvation.
Understanding the new life we have in Christ only becomes clear as we see ourselves through a sinful condition, weak and enemies of God. Then salvation as a free gift of grace becomes so amazing. We then want to be identified with the Savior who paid for our freedom with His own blood. We do that through baptism. We see ourselves dead and buried with Christ. But He did not stay in the grave. He was raised from death into life.
Paul’s phrase as he describes this life is; “walk in newness of life.” It becomes a daily experience of walking with Jesus in a life that always glorifies God. We have “received the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness [to] reign in life through…Jesus Christ” (5:17).
When Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17), what does he mean by “a new creation?” The word “creation” refers to something that did not exist before. In other words, God did not use anything of the “old” man or woman to make a new person in Christ.
To strengthen this meaning, Paul says “the old has passed away,” meaning that it has “ceased to exist” or “is out of existence.” Both phrases help us understand that when God saves us by grace, it is without any works on our part; entirely what God has made “in Christ” through His work
For those of us who are saved, what does this say about how we now look at ourselves and how we live, speak and act? As I mentioned yesterday, Paul reminds us in several places to “cast off” or “put off the old” and “put on the new” because “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
If we really saw the old self as “dead, out of existence,” we would live the ‘new life’ by the Holy Spirit. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). That phrase “keep in step” simply means to allow the Spirit to conform our lives to His standard. What a difference this will make in our Christian walk. Others will truly see Christ in us!
There are many sins and sinful habits that Christians face in their lives that weaken their witness and cause their service to be ineffective. I am writing, not as a person who has fully overcome and conquered every battle, but as one who has received God’s grace and power to overcome. I do know the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.
There are many places in Paul’s letters where he puts powerful truth in perspective. In his first letter, Paul writes; “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). He confirmed this principle, that allowing sin to have any place in our lives is the same thing as submitting to “slavery” (Romans 6:12-23).
He looks at sin from another angle; leaven. “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” It is like an unseen substance that works in the members of our body and spreads through pride. There is only one way to deal with sin in us; “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:6–7). Christ died so you could have freedom from sin.
Paul tells us that we must deal violently with sin as he did in himself; “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Five times in three letters, Paul exhorts us to “cast off” or “put off the old” and “put on the new.” The words should make us intentional and violent against those sins in us that hinder our relationship with the Lord and weaken our witness and service.
The Lord wants your life in Christ to be a witness to the power of God to those around you and to those you serve. Your example will inspire them to know the same relationship and power.
From our perspective 2,000 years later, we may be very critical of the disciples “disputing among themselves as to which of them was to be the greatest” (Luke 22:24). We may not do the same thing verbally, but in our hearts, we often compare ourselves with others and silently think we are better. Sadly, I confess that those have been my thoughts at times.
Jesus knew what was going on between His disciples, and wanted to make sure they did not leave the Passover with those feelings. After pointing to what kings do, He said, “But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:26–27). He, the Passover Lamb was about to give His life – the ultimate act of a servant.
Jesus puts Himself forward as the model. This is repeated in Matthew 20:28; “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
It’s the lowliest place; even foot washing according to John 13:1-17. Paul confirms that we must have this kind of thinking in Philippians 2:5-8. This attitude is not optional for any follower of Jesus, much less those in leadership. Yet, we often think just the opposite. When greatness occupies our thinking, we become ineffective in our work for the Lord because we are more concerned about what people think of us rather than their growth in attachment with Jesus.
We often think of our faith being tested by circumstances, a major crisis like illness, loss of a job, or some other upheaval in our lives. But there is a far deeper test to our faith. When we sit alone with the Lord and our conscience, what do we honestly find in our hearts? Paul challenges the believers in Corinth as he was proposing to visit them for a third time, that they should do some self-examining before he comes to see where their faith stood.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5). If their faith in the Lord Jesus was genuine, then Christ was in them and that truth should have a direct impact on how they lived.
There are times when persons question whether someone else is a true believer. Paul makes it clear that the ultimate evaluation of another’s faith is done by the Lord, not us. “God’s firm foundation stands bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19).
That statement does not prevent each of us from testing our own faith, as Paul suggests, and making sure we do not fail the test. In most cases, when we test our faith, we will realize there is a real need of strengthening and making sure we are building on the right foundation, Jesus Christ, with the right materials that build our relationship with Him (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
When did you last put your faith through this test?
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