WHICH SELF ARE YOU TRYING TO IMPROVE?

Self-improvement, self-analysis, self-help, etc. are not Biblical concepts. According to the scriptures, the “self” you are, is either in Adam/dead, or in Christ/alive. We were duped into partaking of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” in Adam but the good news is Jesus invites us to partake of the “Tree of Life.”

We “were” dead in sin but God has raised us up and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus! He did this by co-crucifying us with Christ. We who place our faith in the work of the cross have been joined with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension. The old self has DIED! There is no way to improve a dead man! We really have been transformed into a brand new creature in Christ and that creature needs no improvement!

When Adam joined himself to the mind of the enemy by way of the forbidden tree, the whole of the human race became deceived into thinking we could make ourselves “like God” (Isaiah 14:13-14). This is the root of the lie of self-improvement. We falsely believe we can make ourselves “Better” when God knows the deceived, corrupted self has to be disposed of entirely. After all, if we could improve why did Jesus come? If we could try and try and eventually become “Better”, God would have just waited and let us eventually get to the place where we could “keep” His law. Of course we know that’s impossible, right?

Jesus “is” not “has” the life. Jesus “is” not “has” righteousness. Jesus “is” not “has” wisdom from God. Jesus “is” not “has” sanctification”, and “redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Besides, “If righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Galatians 2:21). If we could in any way possible improve, God would not have offered us His One Unique Son.

Think about it.

Louie

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FOCUS ON THE GLORY

I recently talked with someone I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. He just came from shooting pool in a bar, and I just came out of Bible study. Oh what a difference Christ makes.

As Tracey and I spoke with him he asked, “What are you guys doing?” I thought to myself, well I sure am glad you asked. Tracey said, “We just finished Bible study!” then she invited him to come next week. He immediately seemed to glaze over and said, “I don’t have any use for the church thing.” I spoke up and said, “We’re not talking about “church” we’re talking about Jesus Christ.” We then proceeded to share a brief version of our testimony with him. As I shared with him about how I had become extremely addicted to pills and was basically killing myself, he said, “Now, that’s because of choices you made!” I quickly agreed with him and said, “You are exactly right! It was choices I had made but thankfully God rescued me and saved me from myself”, and Christ is now my life. As we ended our conversation, we shook his hand and let him go on his way. We may never know what kind of affect we had on him, but I’m believing our words will ring in his ears for a long time. My prayer is God will never stop pursuing him until he relents. He didn’t seem to have any hope but because of God I could see what God wanted for him.

The Bible clearly tells us “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” While most seem to focus on the fact we’ve all sinned, I think God’s attention is probably more on the missed glory. It seems God’s plan was for us to be joined with Him in His glory. That begs the question, just what exactly is His Glory? The Strong’s concordance tells us, the Greek word for glory is (doxa) meaning–“dignity, glory, honour, praise, worship.” If you look into the root word for doxa (dokeo) it is defined “to think, to seem truthfully, be accounted, please, be of reputation, seem good, suppose).

What can we learn from the idea that we have fallen short of God’s glory given this definition? I suppose one could say we have all fallen short of God’s dignity, honour, praise and good reputation. So, in other words, we have all failed to live up to what God designed us for. The good news is, while we failed it didn’t have to be for good. God didn’t give up on His purpose and plan for humanity. His plan was to get us back into His glory and to get His glory back into us. This is where two of the Apostle Paul’s favorite phrases come in to play:”In Christ and Christ in you.” Christ is our only hope of glory.

You see God’s plan all along was for us to be His representative on the earth. God said, “Let Us make man in our own image and let them have dominion.” So we were designed to be the visible expression of the invisible God. Of course, after the fall we found ourselves quite a bit less than God’s intention. We became earthly minded creatures who became distracted with basic animalistic needs and desires. Rather than being God-conscious we became self-conscious. Rather than being heavenly-minded we became earthly-minded and death was the only way out of the fix we were in.

So, God became a man, an earth creature, in order to rescue us from the fall and lift us back into His glory. Through Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, God joined us to Him in order to convey us back in to His glorious kingdom. Ephesians tells us, “even when we were dead in our transgressions, (He) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” Since we have been raised with Christ, we are told in Colossians “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

The salvation offered through Jesus Christ is so much more than a ticket to heaven. God’s idea of salvation is for us to be fully restored to His former glory. We are told “it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him (Jesus Christ), and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of the cross…” (Colossians 1:19-20). It doesn’t stop there either. If you read a bit further you’ll discover “in Him you have been made complete…” (Colossians 2:10). Christ in you, is the hope of glory! When God’s Spirit moved back into you through your regeneration, the Glory returned and His image was restored!

Louie

FIRST ADAM–LAST ADAM

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. Now that we are in union with Christ He can produce His fruit through our lives.

Louie

WHO YOU WERE AND WHO YOU ARE

Most people you come into contact with are walking around unaware of who they are. They think they’re just them like I used to think I’m just me. If you asked me “Who are you?” my response would be “Well, I’m me! What do you mean who are you?”

We all have some sense of identity. Some of us live with an identity that comes from our family name, some get their identity from their job, title or money or maybe they identify themselves as an addict. Which ever one it is we all have some way we look at ourselves and others in order to identify each other; you know how we love to put people in compartments. We say, “She’s one of those rich girls or he’s one of those guys that gets high or he’s a workaholic type” etc. What do you say we look at how the Bible identifies us for a minute?

The Bible breaks all of humanity down into one of two groups. According to Romans 5 we are all either in Adam or in Christ. Therefore we aren’t just ourselves we are identified as being in Adam by way of natural birth and those of us that have been born again have been placed into Christ. Either way you are born in one or the other.

Another way we are identified in the scriptures is we are either called a sinner or a saint. A sinner of course is what we are by being born in Adam. When Adam sinned we all sinned therefore we have to be forgiven and transferred out of Adam and put into Christ. The big question is how does that happen?

I’m glad you asked because it is quite the story. In Romans 6 we discover that those of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death. This means that on the cross God placed us into Christ. In other words he now sees us as having been crucified, dead and buried with him. While this is marvelous news it is really even better than that because we are also told we have been raised with him to walk in newness of life. We have been given a completely new identity. We are no longer called sinners but now we are known as saints.

All of the New Testament letters are addressed to “the Saints.” They are never written to “Sinners” because once we have been born again, by being placed into Christ, we have a brand new identity. Now there are plenty of people that will tell you, “We were born sinners and we’ll always be sinners”, but that isn’t what the Bible says. The Bible tells us that “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”

God cannot allow sin into his kingdom that’s why he changes us completely. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” Now that’s a pretty gnarly list of sinners don’t you think? But I love the next sentence. “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.” God has “transferred us into the kingdom of his dear Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” We are now identified as one of God’s sons!

Written by Louie

BREAD AND WINE

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The two main ordinances of the church are baptism and communion. While opinions differ about baptism, depending on the denomination you are affiliated with, the truth is found in Romans six.

Paul tells us in Romans 6 that those of us that have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death. Therefore when it comes to baptism in a church, such as being dunked in water, it is really a representation of being baptized into Christ’s death; hence the reason why one is dunked into the water and raised back again. Paul tells us we have been joined to Christ in his death, meaning we have been placed into Christ, which in turn means we have also subsequently been buried and raised with him too. So, being baptized into Christ is God placing us in his Son.

When it comes to the act of communion there, once again, may be differing opinions about how to conduct ones self. Some will say you are to use real wine and unleavened bread, while others aren’t so particular and will use something such as grape juice and wafers. Either way the point in this, I think, is receiving Christ.

Jesus once said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:53-56) Of course taken literally it sounds like Jesus is advocating cannibalism but if you read a little further you will see where he said, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” Jesus had a way of speaking to and from the spirit and most misunderstood him. Without the Spirit it sounds foolish but we know he meant we have to receive him or we have no life in us.

Now, when it comes to the communion table there are two elements the blood and bread. The blood is the one that tends to receive most of the focus because most hear that Jesus’ blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. This is true and is unspeakably wonderful, but what about the bread? The bread represents Jesus’ body, but what does it mean that his body was given? The blood shows us that Jesus died for us but the body side teaches us that we were joined to him and we died too. We shared in the crucifixion as well. It isn’t just that he died for us he died as us.

Jesus died as us. That is a powerful statement that needs a little thought. Like I said earlier in Romans six we discover that we are crucified with Christ. God, in the Spirit, placed us in him and we were co-crucified with Christ. This means that when Christ died we died too. That old man, the sinner, was done away with on the cross and a new man in Christ walked out of the tomb three days later. When we get baptized in water we are saying, to the watching world, this exact thing. We are saying that the old sinful creature we used to be is now gone and we have been transformed into a new creature that is now indwelt with Christ. That’s what makes us Christians. Christ is in us and us in him. Amen!!

Written by Louie

LABOR PAINS

Our pregnant model Samantha Meeks

I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated lately, but I think it just dawned on me what it is. There are a number of people in my life that I know are believers in Christ and love God, but they don’t quite understand the fullness of what God has done for and in them. The Apostle Paul dealt with the same thing. He wrote the Galatians and said, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.”

More and more I am seeing that my frustration comes from a desire for my fellow believers to know Christ in them. I’m not talking about just believing Christ can or did save them; I’m talking about him living his life in and through them.

There are so many that think Christ is there to “help them.” That may be a good start but that isn’t at all what God intends for their life. He isn’t into helping us he is into living in and through us. At first Jesus did tell his disciples he would send another helper to come alongside them. When it came right down to it though he told them He, the Father and the Spirit would take up residence within them. Thus fulfilling the promise given way back in Ezekiel 36:26-27: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.”

Jesus went on to use the illustration of vine and branch to describe our relationship with him. He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” While being a branch is great it really is only there to express the life of the vine is it not? I mean without the vine the branch couldn’t do anything but wither and dry up. We really are a vessel meant to be an expression of Christ to the world around us. A branch would never think the vine is there to help it would it? No. It would only forever be focused on the vine and letting the life of the vine flow through.

Sometimes I think the modern church is really only some new version of the Old Testament Temple. We have this idea that God lives in a building and every week we are to go meet with him there. I’m telling you that is a lie! Listen to what God says as recorded in Isaiah 66:1 thus says the Lord, “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool. Where then is a house you could build for me?” I for one think Paul had it right. He knew God’s intention was to take up residence within each of his believers. Paul even said, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

Let me conclude by saying this. If you are sensing a frustration because of “church as usual” never fear! Maybe it’s really birth pains. Paul described his feelings as “labor” in longing for Christ to be formed in the Galatians. What if this is the pains just before a great awakening, or birthing, in the very ones you are praying for?

Written by Louie

COMMUNION

Like I said before, I believe communion and baptism to be the two main ordinances of the church. In baptism we are displaying the fact that God has placed us in Christ. We are saying that we agree with what God has done, and we have been crucified, buried and raised again in him. We are placed in water as an outward showing of what has taken place in our spirit.

I would like to look at communion or “The Lord’s Supper” as some call it. In this, we “The Church,” are participating in something Jesus seemed to place importance on also. Here, in the Lord’s Supper, we are showing that we now have taken Christ into us. Before, in baptism we are placed in him, and now in Communion we are receiving him into us. So we can see the reasoning behind two of the most important phrases found in the New Testament. Being “in Christ” and “Christ in you” is what God is after; this is the bulls’ eye of Christianity. The scriptures tell us that “in him we live and move and have our being.” They also say “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Just as in baptism, communion may be understood differently depending on what denomination you belong to. Once again I am not here to debate these things but only to see what the scriptures actually tell us. If we look in the Gospel of John we read where Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” He goes on to say, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” Now that is some pretty provocative talk isn’t it? Let’s look a little further along in the text and see what Jesus truly means.

Jesus knows these statements are difficult to hear. He clarifies what he is talking about for them and says, “Does this cause you to stumble?” Those listening must have thought Jesus was advocating cannibalism. So he says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” Right here we discover Jesus is talking about spiritual food and drink and not physical. This explains that eating and drinking bread and wine, or grape juice for the teetotaler, is symbolic of taking in Christ.

Now hopefully we can see why these two ordinances of baptism and communion are so important. They are the two ways we say to everyone around, “we are in Christ and Christ is in us.” If these two statements aren’t true of you then you are not his! We are to be placed in Christ by baptism, and Christ is received into us in communion.

Written by Louie