Archive for the ‘Biblical insight’ Category

Romans six teaches us: those of us who have placed our faith in Christ, and his work on the cross, are to reckon ourselves dead to sin. You see, just as all were originally born in Adam and are therefore  sinners, those of us who have been born again have been born into Christ and made righteous. In other words, the cross is the means by which God transfers us from the first Adam to the last.

Human beings have never been independent we have always been in union with another spirit. For instance we are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. Notice we are always a slave and never our own master. The good news is in Christ our old boss is out and our new one is in. This is what Paul means with his frequent use of the term “Christ in you” and “In Christ.”

As we move from Romans six into Romans seven we read about a wife who simply cannot please her husband and needs to be separated from him, but the law won’t allow it. You see unless he dies, she has to remain married to him and the truth is he simply will not die. This is a picture of our relationship with the Law/sin meaning the Law isn’t going to die, and it is the means by which sin gets its power, so she/we are in a quandary. How will she/we get away from her old husband if he won’t die? God has a solution.

You see God has always known the husband wouldn’t, die but His plan involves the wife/us dying instead. If God crucifies us with Christ and raised us back up with him there would be legal grounds for divorce from the old husband, and we could then be joined to a new one, namely Christ himself. That’s exactly what He did.

The reason Paul uses a wife here as an illustration is because God is looking to produce fruit through His people but like a wife we have to have Him to do it. Just as a wife needs a husband to produce children we too have to have God in order to produce fruit for God. This analogy is teaching us that there is absolutely no way for us to produce fruit for God by way of the Law. Us attempting to produce fruit for God by the Law is the same as a wife trying to have a baby without her husband. It just simply cannot happen. The fruit bearing process requires the husband. Just as a wife has to become one flesh with her husband we must be one spirit with the Lord.

Essentially Romans six and the first part of seven is telling us we have died to sin by being severed from our union in Adam. Through the cross, and our being co-crucified, dead, buried and risen with Christ we walk in newness of life we are now in union with Christ, so He can now produce His fruit through our lives.

Louie

The more I study the Bible the more I think our identity is key. Since the fall of Man everyone of us have struggled with who we are. Throughout the Apostle Paul’s letters we see a pattern though and he always begins his letters identifying himself, for the sake of the reader, and then he tells them who they are. For instance he says, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle…” Then he says, “To the saints at Colossae, Philippi, Ephesus, Rome” and so on. So we immediately know who he is and who we are.

While this may seem very basic to some I think many sort of gloss over it. The reason I know most don’t recognize the importance of this is because the church, made up of born-again people, are quick to identify themselves as “sinners” when the Apostle Paul clearly calls them saints. Some might say, “Okay, Louie so what’s the big deal here? Don’t we all still sin?” Ah! now we’re getting somewhere and this is exactly why how we identify ourselves is so important.

Recently while studying Romans six, and reading how we have died to sin, “for he who has died is freed from sin” (v. 7). I was struck by how most “church folks” claim to believe the Bible, but if you were to ask them if we have been freed from sin, while they might agree because it’s written there in black and white, underneath they would still be thinking ” but we still sin everyday.” This brings up another question, “Do we have to?”

Talking about our identity is crucial to how we behave. It occurred to me recently the story of Tarzan is a great illustration for us here. If I remember correctly Tarzan and his parents were shipwrecked, both his parents died, or were killed, so that’s how he ended up being raised by apes. This of course caused him to grow up thinking he was an ape rather than a human being–talk about an identity crisis! Later on he returns to civilization but has to be taught how to be human because his whole life had been spent swinging from tree to tree living as an ape. This is where the illustration fits in for us. The Apostle Paul addresses his readers as “saints” because that’s what they are, but they have spent so much of their lives thinking of themselves as “sinners” it’s difficult for them to see it any other way.

When God’s word tells us we are saints, who have died and been freed from sin, it doesn’t mean it is impossible for us to sin it simply means we don’t have to. God’s provision for us in His Son Jesus Christ is enough. The more we learn to see ourselves as dead to sin the more we will see it lose its grip on us. Just like Tarzan, we have to see ourselves in a new light.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, not idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). So we don’t deny who we were, but like Tarzan, we have to stop seeing ourselves as apes/sinners and begin to identify ourselves as “washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God.”

Louie

I believe the Promised Land spoken of in the scriptures really is an actual tangible place on the map but I also think it paints us a spiritual picture. While many church hymns would have you believe the Promised land is a picture of Heaven, I think it represents something else.

God’s plan is for His people to live in Him. In other words, the Promised land is actually a picture of life in the Spirit. The Children of Israel were delivered from slavery in Egypt and led through the wilderness by Moses yet they never entered the rest of the Promised Land. I think God’s intention was for them to grow up in their faith on their trek through the desert, yet many did not, therefore most of them died without ever entering. You see this is an example to us. We too have been delivered from slavery to sin, and hopefully we have not only gone through our wilderness experience, but have come through and are now living in the Spirit represented by the Promised land.

You see God promised a land flowing with milk and honey but He also knew only mature people would be able to maintain the land. Once they took up residence, within the Land, the supernatural manna, the water from the rock, the shade by day and fire by night would come to an end. God needed them/us to have His viewpoint on things. In order to live in the Promised Land we must be more like Moses who knew God’s ways rather than Israel who only knew His acts. As you read the story of Israel, while in the desert, their immaturity is made clear by their constant complaining. They fussed because it was too hot, they were hungry and tired and even longed to go back to being slaves in Egypt. This is the mindset of someone who isn’t ready for the responsibilities that come with living in the Spirit. In fact it is a pretty good description of living in the flesh.

The apostle Paul told us the deeds of the flesh were evident strife, envy, hatred, factions etc. but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. When it comes right down to it walking in the Spirit means we have to give up on our own ingenuity and let God be God so He can produce these things through us. Living in the Spirit (Promised land) means we are responsible and co-operate with God; whereas living in the flesh (desert) means we complain and fuss about how God provides and how others aren’t doing their part and so on.

Ultimately, Israel living in the Promised Land was meant to be a witness to the rest of the world not only of God’s faithfulness but also of His ability to make free sons out of slaves. Just as the world looks at addicts and ex-cons and thinks they’ll never amount to anything, God specializes in choosing the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. So walking in the Spirit isn’t just for us to enjoy, it is for others to start to understand who God is and how He provides.

Louie

The story of Israel, and their desert wanderings, takes up the bulk of what we call the Old Testament. God gave Abraham a promise saying, “I will make you a great nation…in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). Oddly enough Abraham believed God!

Of course Abraham’s family multiplied into what we know as “Israel”, and even after Abraham died the promise was passed down through subsequent generations. The good news is God is eternal and his promise didn’t die with Abraham. In the letter to the Galatians Paul clarifies for us what the promise to Abraham and his family was really all about. He said, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is , Christ” (Galatians 3:16).

So we now know the promise God gave to Abraham is fulfilled in Christ. This is why all of us whether Jew or Gentile can be blessed because in Christ we are all one and now are “Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). Now let’s look at what took place between the time the promise was given and when it was fulfilled in Christ.

As the nation of Israel grew in size the need for leaders came about. God appointed judges to rule over Israel until judge Samuel grew old and his sons didn’t walk in his ways. The people of Israel were unsatisfied with how Samuel’s sons did things so they came to Samuel requesting the appointment of a king “like all the other nations” (1 Samuel 8:5). Right away Samuel knew this wasn’t what God wanted, so he inquired of the Lord.

God’s response to Samuel was, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (1 Samuel 8:7). You see God’s plan was for Him to be their king and for them to be His people. Israel was meant to be a light to all the other nations (Isaiah 49:6) in order to point them to God. Can you imagine a nation filled with citizens depending upon God rather than a human king? Other nations would come to Israel and ask, “How does this nation work?” “How can a whole nation of people live together in peace without a human governmental structure to regulate them?” It’s just like God to work with us where we are. Even though He wanted to be Israel’s king, He let them have what they asked for because they, like we, have to discover our inability to run things for ourselves.

If we now jump into the New Covenant for a minute and look at the Church we can see similarities between it and Israel. God gave the church “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.” Look at why He gave them though. He gave them “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature (perfect) man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). Did you catch that? The reason God gave these gifted offices to the church was to equip the saints for the work and then there’s that little word “Until.” The word until implies there will come a time when those offices will no longer be necessary, right?

At some point, the body of Christ is to grow up into the fullness God intended all along and like Israel the church is to be a light to the rest of the world. The world will look at the church and say, “How does such a diverse group of people live in such unity?” “What is it that makes them so different?” In other words the church, while it is a body, is meant to help each part of the body do its part. Once you discover you are a hand or foot you simply listen to the Head, which is Christ, and do what He says.

The way I see it the church is struggling with their task just as Israel did. Israel told Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die” (Exodus 20:19). In the church many have adopted this same attitude and they want their pastor to be their go between. They don’t want to speak to, or hear from, God themselves they want someone in between them to do it. This is okay at first; but at some point we are called to grow up and develop a relationship with God, through His Spirit, for ourselves. Remember it is “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:13).

Louie

 

With Thanksgiving Day approaching, I  thought if I was asked to give one thing I was thankful for what would it be? Of course I would say, Jesus Christ and His salvation. Then I thought what would another thing be? The one thing that came to me was contentment. I’m thankful that I am content. I don’t live thinking to myself, if I just had___ I would be content. I truly am satisfied and thankful for where I am in life and Jesus Christ truly is enough.

As I thought about these things a few verses came to me I would like to share with you. In Philippians 4:11 Paul wrote, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” He went on to say, “I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” You see contentment is what we’re really after isn’t it? I mean when someone wishes, or wants money, power or fame what they’re really after is contentment and they think those things will give it to them.

The truth is our world has been hijacked by the enemy of contentment. I mean the world is full of people and products that promise us things they can never deliver. For instance just watch commercials on television every one of them is designed to make you feel discontent. If you want true happiness you need these jeans, this car, this beer, this diet plan and on and on. You can’t blame them, after all if we ever discover contentment with what we have we probably won’t buy their “New and Improved products.”

When I was younger, like many others I’m sure, I had an enormous sense of discontentment with my life. I thought to myself, when I get older I’m moving away from this town, there’s nothing here for me. I’m sure I’m not alone in this way of thinking; but like many others as I have aged I have come to appreciate the city in which I live. It isn’t because there’s really more here for me rather I have discovered contentment from another source which is Jesus Christ himself.

The Apostle Paul left us with some very simple and practical advice in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 he said, “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.” While this may sound “BORING” to the young ones, as you age you really do come to appreciate the peace and quiet Paul advises us on here. There are many people who say with their mouth “I hate drama!” When it comes right down to it they really love it though because if they truly didn’t their lives wouldn’t be filled with it would it?

One more piece of advice the Apostle Paul left with us is found in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 “But godliness is actually a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” There you have it! No matter how much money, or things we have, there will never be enough if we are discontent. I think I’m with the writer of Proverbs 17:1 when they said, “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife.”

Louie

The Apostle Paul spent a considerable amount of time discussing Christian liberty in the 1st Corinthian letter. Of course this isn’t the only place he talks about this but as we have been studying lately I think I came across a pretty good rule of thumb when it comes to this topic.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12 Paul said, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” So the first question to ask ourselves then would be is this thing of which I am partaking profitable? For instance does this food, drink or behavior do me, or anyone else for that matter, any good? Then we have to know if it is something that might control me. I for one come from a background in which I lived very addicted to drugs and alcohol so I know what it means to be mastered by something. In fact even now I am very mindful of overindulgence’s in my life. Either way this issue of freedom is important to us all.

The next verse is found in 1 Corinthians 10:23 where we read “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” Obviously the beginning of this is identical to the first verse about the action or behavior being profitable but look at the last part. Whereas the first verse warned against being mastered by something this one asks us if the action in question is good for edification. I think the point here is does the way in which I am using my freedom build up others? Actually that is exactly what he’s asking because if you read the next verse, verse 10:24 it says, “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.” The effect the use of our freedom on others has to be taken into consideration.

Finally, Paul’s last rule concerning our freedom in Christ is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31 “Whether, then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” So there you have it. Ultimately this is the big one isn’t it? Will my use of the freedom I have in Christ bring glory to God? There may be one more way of seeing this one. Whatever it is I’m doing the question is can I thank God for it? For instance if I’m doing drugs can I, from a clear conscience, say, thank you Lord for this? This is always a great barometer to let us know when it comes to some of the gray areas in life.

Just as Paul told the Galatians “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” So while Christians are not under the Law and we are free in Christ there are still a few things that are to regulate our choices when it comes to how we live. We are to ask ourselves four questions.

1. Is what I’m doing profitable?

2. Can what I’m doing master me (become addiction or bondage to me?)

3. Is what I’m doing edifying in anyway to others?

4. Does what I’m doing glorify God?

Louie

While focusing too much on the enemy of our souls can become unhealthy, there is a need to know how the enemy operates. Starting in Ephesians 6 we read where the enemy isn’t flesh and blood. It seems I can never hear this enough because it is so easy to be fooled into thinking family members, church members, co-workers etc. are the ones we are fighting but that is far from the truth.

Since the beginning Satan has used basically the same four things to attack God’s people and today he’s going to be exposed. His first strike at Eve in the Garden was to inject doubt into her mind about what God had said. He said to her, “Has God said…” So you see right at this moment is when Eve had to make a choice. But the enemy added a bit more to convince her to follow him when he said, “You surely will not die!” So he injected her mind with doubt and then he made what God had said sound as if it was unreasonable. Then he hit her with one final blow by telling her if she ate of the forbidden fruit her eyes would be opened and she would actually become “like” God. So we see that doubt was his first shot which lead to full on deception eventually ending with Adam and Eve hiding in fear of God because they believed a lie about who He is.

As soon as Adam ate of the forbidden tree they saw they were naked and ran to hide themselves. You see up until then their relationship with God was built on trusting Him to be a loving, caring, wonderful God but once disobedience took place their view of Him changed. This I have found is huge when it comes to understanding the enemy’s strategy. He wants to cast dispersion on God’s character. If he can get us to see God as a mean tyrant in the sky we will never find reconciliation because we will remain aloof and in fear.

We have already seen doubt is the enemy’s first punch which leads to deception. Once we are deceived and we have partook of the devil’s lie we discover he turns on us. He tempts us toward something off limits for us, gets us to agree with him and suddenly he turns on us and accuses us. He starts to tear down our identity by telling us things like—you are a fool!, you’ll never do any better!, you’ve gone too far this time!, God will never forgive you for this one! Do you see? He’s like a bully who persuades you into some disobedience and then runs away leaving you to hold the bag.

In John 8 we see Jesus dealing with the enemy as he even operated through the religious leaders of the day. Jesus announced “the truth will make you free” and the religious Jews became upset saying, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that you say, ‘You will become free?” Right away we can see they had been deceived because the story of the Jews as told in their very own scriptures is filled with the telling of Israel (Abraham’s descendants) being slaves in Egypt for over 400 years yet they claim they’ve never been enslaved to anyone. Obviously this deception ran deep.

As Jesus’ conversation with these guys continued He told them, “If Abraham was your father you would act like him but instead you’re wanting to kill me.” They could not receive Jesus’ word because they were being used by the enemy which was their father. Jesus told them they were “of their father the devil and they were doing his lusts.” He said, he was “the father of lies” so when they heard the truth they simply couldn’t receive it. Jesus clearly understood the people standing in front of Him were not the enemy but were in fact being operated by him. This is what we are called to do. We are called to fight the true enemy by seeing through those he operates in and understanding how to combat him.

My friend Sylvia Pearce says, “Don’t try to untangle the lie rather speak the truth and let the lie untangle itself.” I thought this was excellent advice because when you attempt to untangle every little detail of the lie confusion will set in and there is nothing better to clear things up than the truth. The conclusion Jesus came to in John 8 was “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” This may sound harsh but Jesus does have a way of getting to the point doesn’t He?

While there are many places we could turn to see how the real enemy operates let me show you just one more. In Revelation 12:10 we read where the devil is called “the accuser of the brethren.” So accusation is one more weapon in his arsenal we need to be aware of. In other words when we are being accused it isn’t God. You see God wants restoration with us therefore He has done all there is to do in order for that to happen meanwhile the enemy wants us to stay on the outs with God so he throws everything he can at us to keep us separated from Him.

Let’s do a quick review. The enemy’s tactics are to cast doubt about God’s word and character. He uses deception because he’s the father of lies. He accuses us before the Father in an attempt to cause division. One last thing I failed to mention and that is he loves to condemn us. The good news though is “there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ!” You see Christ took all of what the devil could throw at Him, died and rose again in order for us to be truly free from any bondage we used to live in. This is why the enemy’s tactics are only doubt, deception, accusation and condemnation because the best he can do is to get us to stop believing the truth about what God has done for us in His One and Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ. The only thing that stops Christ is our unbelief!

Louie